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, ďItís the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.Ē 
One Kiss
Otaliaís first kiss told from one of the characterís perspective. ĎNuff 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: Violating the Rules
Author: CN Winters
Rating:
PG-13 (some minimal naughty stuff like language; drug use; sexual situations) to NC-17 
Genre: Love and Angst and Love and Angst
Pairing: Blis/Otalia
Authorís Note: This story is set during the ĎYear Laterí time of GLís finale so fall/winter 2010. It's a Doris/Blake fic that 'mirrors' the Otalia story, but don't worry, there's still plenty of Otalia moments too you can enjoy.
Standard Disclaimer Ahead
: Guiding Light is a product of Proctor & Gamble (like Tide, Charmin and Olay), and appeared on CBS. The characters are the creative property of the show and its producers Ė Iím just borrowing them for my amusement, and, as always, hopefully for those few souls who read this.

Chapter 1

"Turkey on Rye?" Blake asked as Doris strolled up to the counter at Company. The mayor had a newspaper in her hand.

"Am I that predictable?" Doris asked as she slapped the paper down on the bar.

"Slightly." Blake grinned. "For the past year youíre here at least twice a week - sometimes three times. Itís usually turkey."

"Then letís do something different. Hmmm...Ham with swiss on wheat."

"Extra mayo?"

"Hold the mayo. Iím trying to lose ten pounds."

"Why? You look fantastic," Blake gushed.

"Awwww, youíre sweet... Youíre a liar. But youíre sweet nonetheless. I guess itís true - all the good ones are straight, taken or both," Doris replied with a slight smile.

The redhead blushed. "One ham on swiss coming up," Blake said and then walked to the back for a few moments. She returned and proceeded to put a glass of water in front of Doris with two lemon wedges on the side.

Doris looked at the glass and smiled. "I noticed you donít even ask anymore. You just bring two lemons."

"Itís either this or... maybe wine instead?"

"Again, Iíll ask...am I that predictable?"

"You look a little tired."

"I thought I looked fantastic."

"You do, but with the slumped shoulders it looks like itís already been a long morning and itís going to be a longer afternoon without a drink."

"Youíre a perceptive woman, Mrs. Cooper."

"Iím not officially Mrs. Cooper yet."

"Thatís right. Whenís the big day again?"

Blake playfully swatted at Doris with her dishtowel from her shoulder.

"You know itís December, Silly. You always ask me."

Doris grinned. "And you always end up telling me again."

"You win... So, wine?" Blake asked holding the bottle.

"Just one. I drove here and I donít want your Loverboy throwing the book at me for drunk driving."

"And you donít want to endanger anyone."

Doris paused. "Sure. That too I guess."

Blake shook her head. "Youíre something else."

"What?"

"You act like you donít care about others, but itís obvious you do."

"Of course I care about the citizens of our fine community, particularly the registered voters."

Blake poured Dorisís wine.

"Say what you will, but I know the truth about you, Doris Wolfe." She re-corked the bottle and asked, "Anyway, howíre things at the F-O-L?"

Doris looked confused. "F-O-L?"

"The farmhouse of love."

Doris chuckled. "How would I know?"

"Youíre best friends with Olivia so I figured youíd know the real story."

"First, I know Olivia Spencer. I wouldnít say weíre best friends and if I were, the first rule of friendship is keeping confidences."

"Not best friends, huh? Thatís not the way Natalia explains it. She says sheís come to the Beacon, on more than one occasion mind you, and found you two gossiping like chatty schoolgirls."

Doris snorted and waved between them. "You mean like what youíre doing now."

"Come on, whatís the story?!"

"You and Natalia seem close. You donít believe what she tells you."

"She really doesnít say much anymore. Itís kind of sad in a way. I think itís because Iím Chessieís step-mom - okay, not officially, but soon enough. I think sheís afraid to say anything for fear I might go back to Frank. I miss the friendship I had with her before he and I got involved... Wait. You donít think the reason sheís quiet now is because sheís jealous, do you?"

"Jealous that youíre with Frank?"

Blake nodded in response.

"Trust me. No one is jealous of that," Doris replied.

Buzz yelled that Dorisís order was up and Blake turned to the window.

What Blake didnít see was the melancholy, yearning expression that came over Dorisís face as she watched Blake silently reach for the plate.

Chapter 2

"Iím breaking rule number one of the Lesbian Handbook," Doris said.

"A handbook?" Olivia asked. "Thereís a handbook?"

"No. Itís more of an unwritten code than a handbook per se, " Doris replied.

The two of them were sitting in Oliviaís office.

"So whatís in this metaphorical Ďhandbookí of yours?"

"Rule #1: Never fall for the straight girl."

Olivia smiled. "Yeah, that turned out horrible for me."

"No." Doris waved her finger. "You and Natalia - youíre different."

"How so?"

"Neither one of you were attracted to women before you met."

"So two Ďnegativesí make a positive, then?" Olivia asked looking confused.

"Yes, and therefore, nullifies the rule."

"Now thereís nullification to rules?"

"Yes."

Olivia snorted. "I didnít know being a lesbian carried so much homework with it. So whoís the straight girl?"

Doris only bit her bottom lip.

"Doris, who is it?"

"If I tell you, you have to promise me you wonít laugh."

"Fine."

"Or groan."

"Fine."

"Or-."

"Who it is!"

"Itís Blake," Doris whispered.

Olivia paused a beat. "Frankieís Blake?"

Doris just nodded.

Olivia sat up a bit straighter. "The soon to be Mrs. Frank Cooper? The man who got dumped by his last fiancťe for a woman? THAT Blake?" Reactionary, Olivia let out a moaned in uncertainty.

"You promised you wouldnít groan."

"Yeah, that was before I knew who it was. I thought it was gonna be some trollop whoís a few years older than your daughter."

"Welllll, itís not, okay? And for some reason Blakeís under the impression that you and are best friends."

"We are... arenít we?"

"Of course, but I donít want her to know that."

"So youíre ashamed of me?"

"What?! No!"

"Then why-?"

"Sheís nosy, okay? I donít want her digging for info on me is all. Itís already bad enough youíre sleeping with one of HER closest friends."

"Iím not going to stop sleeping with Natalia to please you, Doris."

"Fine, just donít tell Natalia this, alright? Keep it between us. If Natalia knows Iím attracted to Blake Iím sure Blake will get it out of her."

"Why?"

"Why? Blakeís pushy. And funny. And attentive. And gorgeous. And...Oh, god..."

"Straight?"

Doris sighed deeply and nodded.

Olivia cleared her throat. "Well, that answers the question of ĎWhy Blake?í but tell me...Do you think she feels the same?"

"No," Doris said firmly. "Weíre on two totally different levels and sheís...clueless about how I feel, because, again...the straight gal...I think itís best if it stays that way."

"Her in the dark?"

Doris nodded again.

"Why?"

"She deserves to be happy."

"And you canít make her happy?"

"She has FRANK! Frank can make her happy. And yeah, Iíll admit it. Heís a good man - he wonít cheat on her, heíll provide for her, protect her..." Doris sighed again.

Olivia chuckled.

"Iím glad youíre amused," Doris said flatly.

"Boy, where have I heard all that before? Oh right! Itís what I used to tell myself, and the WORLD, when Natalia was engaged to him."

"Itís different!" Doris insisted.

"How so?"

"Natalia was head over heels for you and Blake thinks Iím just a regular at the restaurant...You know, I find reasons to go into Company. Iím there so much that sheís learned what I like to eat and drink before I even say it. How sad is that?" Doris finished with a groan and put her head on Oliviaís desk.

"So what are you going to do about this?" Olivia heard the mayor mumble something. "What?"

"Wallow in my misery," Doris said more pronounced, but still refused to raise her head.

On the other side of town, Blake was balancing an overnight bag and Francesca as she knocked on the farmhouse door. A few seconds later, Natalia opened the door with a smile.

"Mama!" Francesca exclaimed and lunged for Natalia, who managed to catch her.

"She missed Mama," Blake said as she walked inside closing the door behind her.

"MumMum?" Francesca asked as looked around the living room while Natalia settled her on her hip.

"MumMumís at work, Pumpkin," Natalia answered.

"MumMum ByeBye?"

"Yes, Mum went Bye-Bye, but sheíll be home tonight."

Francesca began to wiggle so Natalia put her down and immediately the toddler crawled to her toy box by the gated staircase.

"Would you like some coffee, Blake?" Natalia asked.

Blake considered it. "Yeah, Iíve got time. Besides, I wanted to talk to you."

Natalia looked concerned. "Did something happen with Francesca?"

"Oh, no! Sheís fine. Iíve never see a child with such a sweet disposition. Unless she decides she wants something - then all bets are off."

"Iím convinced she gets that from her Mum." Natalia smiled and waved Blake to follow her.

"I was curious about something is all," Blake said once they were in the kitchen.

"What about?" Natalia asked with her back turned toward the mug cupboard.

Blake licked her lips and asked, "When did you realize you were gay?"

Chapter 3

"When did I realize I was gay?" Natalia repeated Blakeís question. ĎAbout three seconds after I slept with Frank,í she thought. But she didnít bluntly voice the words. Besides, Blake was Frankís fiancťe now - it just wouldnít seem proper.

"Yeah," Blake went on as she grabbed a mug and poured a cup of coffee in the farmhouse kitchen. "Was it gradual? Did you wake up one day and then think, ĎHey! Iím gay!í Tell me...howíd it happen?" Natalia chuckled slightly at her friendís curiosity. "Iím serious here," Blake added.

"Why? Do you fancy someone of the... fairer sex?" Natalia teased.

Blake waved her off. "No." Natalia just looked at her with a raised eyebrow. "Okay," Blake admitted. "Iím curious about somebody. I wouldnít say itís an attraction because Iím engaged to Frank and-and heís a sweet man."

"He is," Natalia concurred with a nod. "But is he the right man, sorry... is he the right PERSON for you?"

Blake took a drink and shrugged as both women took a seat at the table.

"Iíd be crazy to walk away from him," she answered. "Is it like what I had with Ross? No. Ross was one of those once in a lifetime loves, and you know what I mean." Natalia nodded again. "So with Frank itís not fireworks, but more of a...slow burn." She then quickly added, "Not that a slow burn is a bad thing. Some great infernos start with the smallest of embers...With Frank, itís just, you know...different from Ross. But I donít want to talk about me. I want to talk about you. When did you know?"

"I wouldnít say Iím gay."

"You live with a woman."

"Really? Thanks for pointing that out."

"Then what would you call yourself?"

Natalia paused. "Oliviaís wife, well, in Iowa, and hopefully everywhere someday."

"Iím confused."

"Iíve never looked at a woman and said, ĎYowza, sheís gorgeous!í except for Olivia."

"Thereís been no other woman at all."

"Nope."

"Sheís your one and only?"

Again, Natalia nodded and this time she said, "She's my Ross, you could say - the one I was meant to be with. It doesnít matter what the town thinks - we know the truth, and that's all that matters. You faced ageism with Ross probably and I face homophobia with Olivia. So on a certain level you get how biased people are hurtful, right?" Blake nodded. "And no matter how much people might hurt you, you probably felt the way I do. I'd face anything because she's the greatest love I've ever known...she just happens to be a woman."

"So if youíre not sexually attracted to her...?"

Natalia laughed. "Oh, Iím attracted."

"But you said youíre not a les-."

"Blake," Natalia stopped her. "I fell in love with Oliviaís personality, but even that took time...lots of time, actually, because the woman can be a royal pain in the butt. HOWEVER, once I started to see the real person inside, I knew she was someone I loved. It was only then that I began to wonder what it might be like to kiss her and hold her and..." Natalia blushed. "You get the point."

"No, please go on," Blake teased. "Iím toying with the idea of a lesbian romance novel."

"What Iím saying," Natalia said ignoring her, "...is the emotional attraction came before sex appeal. Now all she has to do is look at me from across the room and I...well..." Natalia blushed again and took a drink of coffee.

"You still didnít really answer my question."

"Yes, I did. Iím not gay."

"Fair enough. New question then...When did you know what you felt was more than friendship?"

"When I had an inkling or when I knew for sure?"

"Both."

"Iíd say the first inkling was when I made a dinner for Olivia and her boss, Mr. Decker, and some business associates, here at the farmhouse before I ever considered buying it. At one point that night she looked at me like...I donít know...Like a husband might look at a wife that heís proud to show off."

"She made you feel like a trophy?"

"No, I felt...cherished. For the first time since I was a small child, I felt I was important to someone; that she prized the fact I was in her life. And the thing is, she never said a word that night. I could see everything in her eyes. I think thatís when I realized my connection to her went beyond employee loyalty or friendship. It was becoming a love affair. And I told myself I was falling for the house, but I think the truth is I was falling for them both." Natalia smiled.

"When did you know for sure?"

"Immediately after Francesca was conceived," she answered honestly. "I knew at that moment I was running from her. I...I used Frank to try to escape what I was feeling about Olivia and...I donít regret the act because we have Francesca. She wouldnít be who she is without Frank and I wouldnít trade her for anything. But... I do regret the pain I caused Frank."

For a long moment, neither of them said anything.

"Doris," Blake muttered.

"What?"

"I, uh, I think Iím falling for Doris Wolfe."

Nataliaís jaw drooped - not instantly; more like a slow motion slide as the knowledge and the tone of Blakeís words sunk in. "Thatís, uhhh, wow..."

"You canít say anything to Olivia, please. Doris said yesterday that she and Liv arenít best friends but-."

"Oh, please. Theyíre Butch and Sundance - Iíll leave you to decide whoís who," Natalia joked. Blake snorted, but then looked serious as she faced Natalia. Before Blake could make her request again, Natalia read her expression. "I wonít mention this conversation to Olivia. I promise. But I think youíve got a bigger question to consider."

"Which is?"

"What are you going to do about this growing affection?"

Blake sighed. "Wallow in my uncertain maybe?"

"Does she feel the same? Has she expressed any interest in you?"

"Honestly? I donít know. I think she speaks in double entendres sometimes. You know, a phrase that could be understood in two ways, with one way thatís usually risquť or flirty?"

"Give me an example," Natalia replied.

She looked down to see Francesca crawling toward her, dragging along her favorite stuffed bunny rabbit. The young one gripped the chair with her little hands and used her mouth to hold the rabbit by the ear. Natalia smiled down at her ingenuity and then settled her daughter, and her pet rabbit, in her lap. That didnít stop Francesca from continuing to chew on the bunnyís ear though.

Blake thought for a moment about Nataliaís question. Then she snapped her fingers. She remembered the week before when Doris was eating her turkey sandwich at the counter of Company.

"You can cook?" Blake asked skeptically as they chatted.

"Yes, I can," Doris replied confidently.

"I think youíre making that up," Blake jabbed.

"Well..." Doris leaned slightly over the bar, cocking her head slightly to one side. "...Iíd love to have you for dinner sometime..."

Dorisís eyes locked unflinching on Blakeís. A devious, sexy smirk hung on the mayorís lips. In response, Blake found she too leaned a little closer and she began to lick her own lips. She didnít realize it immediately, but she was actually holding her breath waiting for the mayorís next move. Doris cleared her throat and leaned away slightly, breaking the spell.

"...oh, and Frank too, of course," Doris added and took a bite of her sandwich.

Back in the farmhouse kitchen, Blake told Natalia, "Itís almost like she wanted to..."

"Have YOU for dinner." Natalia nodded.

"Exactly! And I gotta admit if sheíd leaned across the counter anymore I might have dragged her back to the kitchen...Does that make me gay?"

Natalia busted out laughing, but it was obvious that Blake was not amused.

"Iím sorry," she apologized. "Do you want my opinion, really?" Blake only nodded. "Youíve got just under two months until the wedding, right?" Again, Blake nodded. "Maybe you should tell Doris the truth."

"Which is?"

"You think sheís hitting on you, but you canít tell."

"And then what? Whether she is or isnít, whatís the point? I donít know what comes next."

"True. I guess I wouldnít want to be in your shoes. Wait. I was in your shoes. I chose Olivia...Sorry. Iím horrible at helping you here," Natalia said honestly.

Blake groaned. She crossed her arms on the table and then rested her chin there. Almost as if sensing she needed a pick me up, Francesca held out her bunny to Blake. Both women smiled and Blake took the offered stuffed animal.

"Will this make Mama Blake happy?" Blake asked as she hugged the bunny.

The nearly one-year-old nodded emphatically.

Even in spite of her indecision at the moment, Blake had to smile.

Chapter 4

Doris was drinking her iced tea, minding her own business, when Blake walked up.

"Youíre coming, right?"

Doris looked behind her to see if she was the one being asked the question.

"Coming?"

"To the Company Halloween Costume Party this Saturday?" Blake pointed to the flyer behind her. "Olivia and Natalia are coming."

"Uhhh, no," Doris chuckled.

"Oh, come on! Thereíll be games! You can dress up and everything."

"Why would I do that?"

"Itís fun."

"Iím the mayor."

"Mayors canít have fun?"

"Historically, mayors in costumes end up not getting re-elected."

"Iím not saying dress up like a Nazi for cryiní out loud."

"Thatís scary."

"What?"

"When you think Ďcostume partyí your mind automatically goes to ĎNazií outfit."

"No! Iím saying you can have a costume thatís not a public relations disaster."

"Like what?" Doris countered. ĎI canít believe Iím actually considering this.í

"I donít know. Letís go shopping."

"Youíre gonna dress me up for Halloween?"

"Yeah! Itíll be fun!"

ĎDonít do it, Doris. Donít do it, Doris. Donít do it, Doris.í

The mayor sighed, "Fine."

"Yayyyy!" Blake said as she did a little clap at the same time. "How about tonight at seven? The Halloween shop is open late all this week."

"Which one? Thereís like 100 in town right now."

"The Westwood Plaza on Elm and Main. Theyíve got the biggest selection and for the record thereís only six."

"Six what?"

"Six Halloween shops."

"You know how many there are?"

"Of course! I love Halloween."

"Obviously," Doris said dryly and then started to grin.

"What?" Blake asked indignant.

"Youíre like a big kid," Doris said fondly.

"Itís not a bad thing."

"Not at all - itís actually rather endearing." There was no mockery or condescension in Dorisís voice.

Blake smiled. "Whyís that?"

"You can find child-like joy in something in this world, even if it is only one night a year."

Blake smiled even bigger. "So you will go?"

"Yes," Doris replied and then chuckled softly. "God help my reputation, but yeah, Iíll go."

About an hour later, Olivia was in her office when she heard a knock on her doorframe.

"Do you even work?" Olivia teased. Doris didnít say anything. She slowly walked inside and took a seat. "What rule did you violate THIS time?" Olivia asked when Doris remained silent.

"I agreed to let her take me Halloween shopping tonight."

Olivia howled. "Oh, you MUST be whipped."

"Oh yeah, well, what about you, huh?"

"What about me?"

"Did Natalia finally decide on your costume?" Olivia looked away guiltily. "Ha! Iím not the only one whipped."

"Hey, I like her idea because Captain Jack Sparrow is really cool and I can do the accent pretty damn good. Plus, Natalia thinks heís sexy so Iím game."

"And are you gonna wear all the accessories like...the sword?" Doris laughed at the suggestive nature of her words.

Olivia looked taken aback, but she then started to grin. "Well, now that you mention it..." Doris and Olivia both laughed as Olivia added, "That might be a cool surprise for her. I wonder what itíd be like to walk around all night with something like that-."

"Donít shiver me timbers here, okay?" Doris she shook her hand to stop further comments. "I donít need the visual, alright?"

"Well, what about you? What are you going to be?"

"I have no idea," Doris replied. "Maybe Iíll dress up like a cop. Blake likes cops, right? Sheís gonna marry one soon."

"Not just a cop, but THE cop. The man who could make your life realllllllly uncomfortable."

"Thanks, Liv. A little insecurity is just what I needed now."

Olivia grinned and wrinkled her nose. "Anytime...So when are you going costume shopping?"

"Tonight at seven - the one on Elm and Main."

"Hmm, You know, we still need our costumes. Maybe tonight we can..."

"No."

"Why?"

"I donít want you spying."

"I wonít spy. Iíll just...shop."

"Youíll spy."

"Itíll stop you from being alone with her for too long," Olivia offered. Doris sighed. "You know Iím right. And didnít you say the other day that the less youíre alone with her, the less-."

"Okay-okay-okay," Doris answered quickly. She sighed again and added, "You win."

Olivia held up a finger and dialed her phone.

"Hey Sweetie. How about we grab dinner out and do our Halloween shopping tonight?...Great...Nope, thatís it. Love you...Bye." Olivia hung up and turned to Doris. "All set! Looks like itís a double date at the costume shop"

"Double date? Youíre an ass."

Olivia only laughed.

Chapter 5

Olivia had on Captainís Jacksí bandana, hat and dreadlocks, along with a fake beard and goatee. She applied more eyeliner and then turned around to Doris, who was sharing her dressing room and trying to decide which outfit to put on first.

Olivia swiveled around and with an English, almost drunk-sounding accent she asked, "Do you have the courage and fortitude to follow orders and stay true in the face of danger and almost certain death?"

Doris grinned as she slipped the white, tight dress over her head. "Not bad," she complimented. "Nice accent."

 

Olivia held up her finger, her body swaying slightly. She swaggered over and adjust Dorisís lapel, which showed off much of her cleavage. "So Blake picked this one for you, huh?" she whispered. Doris nodded and rolled her eyes. "Then Iíll repeat... Ms. Wolfe! Do you have the courage and fortitude to follow orders and stay true in the face of danger and almost certain death?"

"Hey!" They both heard Natalia voice from the other side. "Are you in there playing pirates with Doris?"

"Are you jealous?" Olivia teased.

"A little," Natalia chuckled. "Get out here. I wanna see."

"Donít worry Natalia," Doris said before Olivia moved the curtain back, "Your swash is the only one she wants to buckle...or unbuckle, I should say."

Olivia hopped out, sword and pistol in hand, reading for action. But she stopped in her tracks, with the fake weapons slipping to the ground.

"Am I that disarming?" Natalia asked in her Elizabeth Swan outfit and then smiled. "Should I take that look to mean yes?" she asked when the hotelier didnít say anything and stood slack jawed.

With a cat that ate the canary grin, Olivia closed the short distance between them and said, "My eyes are confused."

"Confused?" Natalia chuckled.

She came mere inches from Nataliaís ear. "Confused....Do I focus on the blonde locks or the busty vest?"

"If you stand a few feet away you can see both, oh Captín my Captín," Natalia offered. "Nice goatee by the way."

"You should see my sword," Olivia countered sexily.

"I see it over there. Itís pretty big."

"No, not that one." She smirked.

"Do tell," Natalia said as she pulled Olivia closer by the hips.

"I think I like the pirates idea," Olivia growled and began to nip at Nataliaís ear. Any thought of going any further now was cut short by Emmaís squeal.

"Mommy! You look like Jack Sparrow!"

"Captain..." Olivia held up her finger, her body swaying slightly slipping into character. "Captain Jack Sparrow."

Emma laughed, "You sound like him too."

"So the vote is yes for pirates this year?" Olivia asked her daughter in her normal voice.

"Yep, and Blake and I found a costume for Chessie too," Emma said holding it up as Blake walked over, holding Francesca.

"What is it, Bean?" Olivia asked.

"An Octopus! See?"

"You want to dress your sister as an Octopus for her first Halloween?" Natalia asked.

"Yeah, it goes with the whole sea theme. Besides, it was this or the lobster and I like this one more."

Blake nodded in agreement. "True. The lobster looks more like a cockroach, huh, Emí?"

Emma nodded. "I was going put it on her, but sheís getting cranky."

"So a pirate for you too, Em?" Olivia asked.

"Nope, Iím gonna be this," she said as she held out the bag with a mermaid on it. "Itís still a water kinda person, right? Besides, I think this is much prettier than pirates."

"I think Ma looks very pretty," Olivia replied and then raised an eyebrow at Natalia.

"Mom, that outfit of Maís isnít pretty," Emma replied. Olivia was going to reprimand her when she immediately added, "Sheís sexy. I donít wanna look sexy - I wanna be pretty."

Natalia was thankful when Emma darted away, going back to the showroom floor.

"I canít believe she said that," Natalia replied.

"She didnít lie. You are sexy," Olivia replied.

"Iím mortified," Natalia whispered.

"No, donít go there," Olivia said firmly. "You are sexy and beautiful and Iíll be the envy of just about every man there...and a few women, like Doris."

"I heard that," Doris said from the other side of the dressing room.

"Come on," Olivia said. "Blakeís out here. Show her the outfit she picked for you," Olivia called over.

"No."

"Why not?"

"I said no!"

"Youíve got it on, so just step out."

"No, Olivia."

"Time to walk the plank," Olivia said.

She pulled back the curtain and tugged Doris out of the dressing room.

"Oh, wow," Natalia said and began to grin appreciatively. She turned to Blake. "I take back what I said about not noticing other women."

Olivia did a double take of her wifeís reaction. "Oh, hell no," she giggled. "Eyes on the captain," she said pointing to herself.

Natalia blushed and turned away for a moment. Thatís when she noticed Blake staring at Doris and licking her lips. Natalia smiled even wider and leaned over to Blakeís ear.

"Youíre lookiní at her like a yummy piece of candy."

Immediately, Blake took her eyes off of Doris and focused on arranging Francescaís sweatshirt Ďjust soí as a form of distraction.

"I gotta admit Doris," Olivia said as she waved her hand up and down in front of the mayor. "You, uh, you got quite a rack there."

Playing along, Doris smiled and asked, "Thanks! Ya think so?"

Olivia just nodded.

Then Dorisís mood shifted from one of merriment to incredulousness. She gave an exaggerated, frustrated sigh. "Iím teasing, Liv. You realize there is no waaaaaay Iím wearing this in public."

"You look great," Natalia offered, to which Blake happily nodded.

"Itís an optical illusion - trust me," Doris replied. "Gravity didnít suddenly stop, okay? I can barely breath in this thing and... no. Just no. I canít be seen in this."

Suddenly, she heard a camera click and looked over to see Blake snapping a shot on her cell phone.

"Give me that," Doris said with an outstretched hand.

"No."

"Yes, I said give it here."

"No, itís mine."

"You publish those photos anywhere and youíll ruin my career."

"I wonít publish it. Itís for me."

"Yeah, right, this from the woman who ran SpringfieldBurns and aired everyoneís dirty laundry online."

It was obvious Doris regretted the words as soon as they left her mouth. Shaken, Blake handed Francesca to a confused Natalia and Olivia looked at everyone trying to think of what to do next as Blake stormed out.

"Rule six," Doris muttered. "Donít insult her unintentionally...Shit."

Chapter 6

"Blake?" Doris called out as she trailed behind the woman, trying to catch up to her without Ďspilling outí of the naughty nurse costume. "Blake stop," she tried again. When Blake was almost at the door she yelled, "Christina Blake Thorpe Marler!"

Blake came to a grinding halt and turned around sharply to face Doris.

"Not even my mother-!"

"Iím not your momma," Doris said as she closed the distance. "Iím not your sugar daddy either. But I am an ass whoís trying to apologize. So will you stand there and listen? You donít have to accept it, but I do expect enough respect that you hear what I have to say, if for no other reason than I put on this ridiculous outfit for you."

Blake folded her arms across her chest. "Talk."

Doris reached up and pulled Blakeís arms free so she could wrangle her wrists. She held Blakeís arms down at her side.

"Body language says a lot," Doris said coming inches from Blake, yet still not releasing her. She could feel the younger womanís pulse quickening as she held her wrists. "You cross your arms and it tells me that anything I say will go in one ear and out the other, so do I have your attention now?"

ĎHell yes I do,í Doris thought silently with great confidence. She could feel Blakeís blood rushing under her fingertips and see the younger womanís breathing still hadnít slowed, although sheíd stopped. In fact, she was perhaps breathing even harder since sheíd been captured.

"Yes," Blake replied and looked over at some shoppers who were watching them. "People are staring," she whispered.

"I donít give a damn what they think right now. But I do care what you think and Iím sorry I hurt you with my comment. I got scared with the thought of what might happen with that picture. And yet, here I am, in the middle of the store now." Doris realized but quickly shrugged it off.

"I told you I wouldnít hurt you. I figured youíd trust me by now, but..."

"Why do you want that picture anyway?"

Doris really wanted to hear what Blake had to say. Why was a picture of her in a sexy outfit so important if is she had no intention of displaying it for the world to see?

ĎWhy do I want it?í Blake considered silently. She was about to be married soon. She wasnít gay and Doris, well, Doris did flirt with her, but really she would flirt with Olivia too the same way. The truth was ever since she came out, Doris was just...a flirt. Period. ĎThe truth is you shouldnít need it and getting rid of itíll make her feel better.í

"Here," Blake said instead as she reached into her purse, breaking their connection. She pulled out her phone. She turned it around to Doris and pressed the button to erase it. The image disappeared and Blake put it back into her purse. "I donít blame you for not trusting me. Iíve hurt lots of people, but... it really wasnít my intention to hurt you," Blake replied. "I-I like you, Doris. Only god knows why, but I do."

"Thanks," Doris said indignant.

"I just know how many times you went up against Ross and the Coopers and..."

"Yes, most of Springfield. Your point would be...?"

"In spite of it, or maybe because of it, I think youíre pretty intrigue and I canít say that about many people in this town after all these years. I was just having fun, and yeah, I have to say, youíre quite beautiful. This is a side most people donít see behind the Ann Taylor suits."

"Anne Klein and Yves Saint Laurent, too, but whatever," Doris corrected.

"Fine. And Evan Picone too. You know the one? That blue one with the black buttons..."

Doris smiled. "My favorite foods and now my wardrobe?" she teased. "If I didnít know any better, Iíd say youíve taken quite an interest indeed."

"I have," Blake said as she took Dorisís hands in hers.

Suddenly, despite wearing next to nothing, it began to feel warm for the mayor in the store. "The point is..." Blake continued, "...that picture confirmed something I suspected."

"Which is?" said confidently, while trying to ignore her growing provocation of having her fingers locked with Blake.

"Youíve got an... aphrodisiacal...side."

"Aphrodisiacal? Is that even a word?" Doris tried to joke, but her voice shook slightly.

Blake nodded and licked her lips.

"It means arousing or intensifying sexual desire." Doris swallowed hard as Blakeís eyes practically caressed a path down her body and back up again until they locked eyes. "Whether you care to acknowledge it or not, Doris Wolfe... I can see..."

"See what?" Doris muttered.

Blake licked her lips as she focused on Dorisís mouth.

"...youíre very desirable and Iím sure someday youíll make some lucky lady verrrrry happy," she drawled.

"Mom!"

Both woman heard the noise and then turned to see Ashlee Wolfe there and struggling with her words.

"Wha-Whhy-Who put you in that?"

First, Doris was shocked to see Ashlee, and second, she forgot what she was wearing and appeared confused by her remarks until she looked back to see her cleavage staring back up at her. Blake let go of Dorisís hands and it took all of Dorisís strength not to reach back for them again. Realizing the moment was lost between them, she turned to her daughter.

"What are you doing here?" Doris asked.

ĎDamn it! Rule eight,í the mayor thought, ĎWhen planning a seduction, make sure your kids arenít around to interrupt the festivities."

Chapter 7

"What am I doing here?" Ashlee parroted her mother. "No, ĎNice to see youí or ĎIím happy youíre hereí?"

Doris shook her head.

"Of course Iím happy! I just thought you were at school." She closed the distance as she pulled Ashlee into an awkward embrace given the cumbersomeness of the outfit.

"Can you...get dressed?" Ashlee asked. "This costume is both disturbing and distracting."

"Itís Blake fault," Doris said as she waved toward the woman, who had now vanished. ĎDamn.í

"Blake?"

"She wanted me to wear this."

"Are you and Blake...?"

"No, no! No...no...no, weíre not, ya know...no."

"Thatís a lot of noís. Is this a case of she doth protest too much?" Ashlee teased.

"Please. Sheís marrying Frank Cooper in two months."

Ashlee snorted. "Like Natalia Rivera?"

"Stop," Doris said with a wave of her finger.

"Fine. As long as you promise to get dressed."

Doris sighed and headed toward the dressing room.

"So how did you get here? I didnít buy a ticket."

"Olivia did."

"Olivia?"

"She said the Coopers were having a big party this weekend and asked if I could get away early from school and here I am."

"She didnít say a word."

"She wanted to surprise you, but I have to say that outfit is more surprising than anything."

"It was just for fun."

Ashlee stopped Doris for a moment before she could get back into the changing room.

"Whatís really going on, Mom?"

"What do you mean?" Doris said fudging any knowledge.

"With Blake," Ashlee stressed.

"Thereís nothing between us - not...like that. She and I are friends. I told you."

Ashlee paused a moment. "You know she tried to seduce Coop while we were dating?"

"Ashlee," Doris sighed. "Everyone makes mistakes."

"No, I get it and Iím beyond it. Whatís done is done and Iíve formed a great relationship with her when we finished his book. So Iím okay with it if you two are... you know-?"

"Ashlee!" Doris said frustrated. "I told you. Sheís straight," she insisted. "She is my friend - only a friend, and one whoís engaged to Frank."

"Thatís twice youíve mentioned her engagement," Ashlee pointed out.

"So what?"

"So who are you trying to convince - me or you?"

Doris growled. "Do you think Iíd be with someone who tried to seduce your boyfriend?"

Ashlee giggled. "Everyone in this town tries to sleep with everyone at some point, so why not?"

Doris opened her mouth to speak, but the words never had a chance to come out.

"I did have a reason for approaching Coop," Blake said from behind Doris. The mayor stiffened when she realized Blake probably heard her fervent refusal of being interested in her. ĎShit,í Doris thought, but didnít say anything. Both Wolfe women turned to her and waited for her answer. "Iíd been a very long time since Iíd had sex."

"Thatís it?" Ashlee asked.

Blake shrugged. "Yeah, pretty much... But he was in love," she said with a grin.

"I told you I donít hold it against you, Blake," Ashlee said.

"I know. Youíre quite forgiving. Doris is a good mother whoís raised a pretty terrific kid," Blake complimented.

"Thank you," Doris replied. "Now if you donít mind, my Anne Kline is calling me."

With that, Doris slipped into the dressing room to change.

Olivia, still in costume, walked up to Ashlee.

"I see you made it."

Ashlee did a double take and then started laughing.

"I thought you were a dude, Olivia. Thatís some fancy costume. Is that real chest hair," Ashlee asked as she began to reach up to feel it.

"Hey! Hands off the Captain," Natalia said from behind, making Ashlee jump.

"Oh! I wasnít...I mean, I didnít wanna, you know...It just...Is that glued on?"

"Yeah, Iím covered in paste," Olivia replied. "This is my test run... So it works?" She held out her hands and did a small twirl.

"I honestly thought you were a guy," Ashlee chuckled again.

"Then the illusion is complete!"

"Well maybe not entirely completely. If you wanted to go all out you could..." she said as she motioned to Oliviaís crotch.

"You are soooooo much like your mother sometimes," Olivia chuckled. "In fact, sheís the one that gave me the idea."

"You mean youíve got...?" Ashlee then looked to Natalia who began to blush. "You know what? I donít want to know. Between naughty nurses and... well-hung pirates...Iíve had enough for one evening."

Chapter 8

"So?" Ashlee asked her mother they sat on the sofa. They were both dressed in PJís, each with a cookie and a glass of milk.

"So what?"

"Are you seeing anyone?"

"No."

"Are you...interested in anyone?"

"No."

"Are you running back into the closet since the electionís coming up?"

"No."

"Do you say anything besides no?"

Doris sighed. "Why the third degree?"

"No, third degree. Iím just curious."

"What about you? Any special guys in your life?"

"Weíre talking about you right now."

"Iíd rather discuss you."

"Too bad Mom. Tell me the truth. Thereís no one youíre interested in?"

Doris paused. "No, not really."

"Not really isnít an outright denial."

"Ashlee..." Doris sighed. "Yes, I am interested in someone."

"Who is it?! Do I know her?!"

Doris paused again. She opened her mouth, but then closed it without a word.

"Mom, you promised me, remember? No more secrets?"

"Itís pointless because sheís straight."

"Who is it? Someone at work?"

Doris said nothing at first. "Sure."

Ashlee groaned. "Thatís a lie."

"Yes, it is. Thatís very perceptive of you."

"So it is someone I know?"

"What makes you say that?"

"Because you wonít tell me who, which means, chances are, I know this person. Itís not Olivia, is it?"

"Oliv-NO!"

"Well, you two seem so Ďbuddy-buddyí and she did pay to have me come home."

"No, Liv only has eyes for her...hot tamale."

"Arenít tamales Mexican? I thought Natalia was Puerto Rican?"

"Fine. Her hot pastel then."

"Oh god! Itís not Natalia, is it?"

"Ashlee!"

"They say the person mostly likely to have an affair with your spouse is your best friend."

"Not in this case."

"Whatís wrong with Natalia?"

"Thereís nothing wrong with Natalia."

"I think sheís very pretty, and sweet, and funny... and Iím not even gay."

"Are you sure? Because it sounds like YOU want to date her."

"Mom!"

Doris grinned. "Trust me. Sheís just as taken with Olivia. Friendship aside, they have what most people would die for."

"What?"

"True love. I wouldnít mess that up. I...I wouldnít come between two people who deserve happiness."

Ashlee cocked her head. "So this mystery person is married too, huh?"

"Ashlee?"

"Umm?"

"Eat your cookie already and go to bed."

The next day Doris was in Oliviaís office again at 11:45 in the morning.

"Lunch?" the mayor asked as she knocked on the open door frame.

Olivia looked up. "Yeah," she said and held up a finger. She dialed her phone. "Keira? Iím off to lunch. Iíll be back for that 2 PM meeting."

"Yes, Ms. Spencer," she replied.

"Thank you again for bringing Ashlee home," Doris said as she walked in deeper.

Olivia beamed. "I thought youíd be surprised."

"I was. I figured I wouldnít see her until Thanksgiving. Of course, sheís like a dog with a bone now since she thinks Iím interested in someone."

"Arenít you?"

"Yes, but thatís someone I canít have, and knowing Ashlee, if I tell her then sheíll go blabbing to Blake. I donít want that."

"Honestly?"

Doris thought a moment. "Yeah, Blake and Frank deserve some happiness."

"And what about you?"

"What about me?"

"Donít you deserve some happiness?"

"Yeah, and I will. Once sheís officially married itíll be easier to...move on, you know? Perhaps focus on someone else? Besides, itís not that long before the big day - itís less than two months. I can hold out that long and keep my mouth shut."

A short silence passed between them. "Whatever you think is best," Olivia said.

Doris just nodded.

"So," Olivia said upbeat to lighten the mood. "Did you decide on a costume for Saturday? You said the sexy nurse was out of the question."

"Yes," Doris groaned. "Itís really hard to find something."

"Why?"

"Why? Because I have to pick something that wonít offended voters."

"It canít be THAT hard, can it?"

"Consider this: I canít do a Ďprofessioní because then voters might say Iím making a mockery of their jobs. I canít do any goddesses or witches because then Iíll be called a pagan lover. No devils, vampires, demons or ghouls because the Christian conservatives would say Iím pushing Satanís Ďagendaí. I canít do any Superheros - Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Supergirl - because, letís face it, they just look weird. Oh, and no Ďanimalí costume because the Peta crowd would have my head for exploiting creatures who canít speak for themselves."

Olivia laughed. "I didnít realize finding a costume was such a difficult task."

"See why I didnít plan on going?"

"Well, would you like to be a pirate too? Get in on our costume theme?"

"A pirate? Are you kidding? Thatís up there with gangsters and pimps. No felon outfits of any kind."

Olivia laughed. "So DID you ever decide on something?"

"Yes," Doris replied. "Itís something thatís sexy, but not too over the top. Plus, it seems like a choice that wonít offend anyone."

"What is it?" Olivia asked.

"Youíll see on Saturday."

"Oh, come on."

"No, you might try to talk me into something else and I am NOT trying on another costume."

"Thatís violating one of your rules, isn't it?"

"By not telling you my costume?"

"Exactly. Rule 27: Always tell your best friend what you plan to wear for Halloween so she can critique you."

"Thatís not a rule."

"No?" Olivia asked with a smile. "Well, it should be. Besides, why should you be the only one making up rules here?"

Doris grinned. "Iíll give you that...but Iím still not telling."

Olivia pouted.

Doris chuckled. "Does that look work on Natalia? Because it sure as hell doesnít work on me."

"Really? Not even a little?"

"Nope, not in the slightest."

"Damn," Olivia pouted again.

"Come on. You bought my daughter a plane ticket. Least I can do is buy lunch."

Doris motioned with her head for Olivia to follow as she left the room.

Chapter 9

While Olivia was heading to Towers with Doris for lunch, Blake and Natalia were at the farmhouse. Blake watched with a grin as Natalia was changing Francescaís diaper, or at least attempting to. The baby kept squirming. She laughed as she continued to try rolling over and away from her mother.

"Chessie, please," Natalia said in frustration. "Stay still."

"Look what Momma Blake has," she says as she held up a stuffed toy that looked like a red, black and white worm. She held it above Francescaís head just out of reach. "Itís Mr. DirtyPuss!"

Natalia grinned. "That is the worst name for childís toy."

"Blame Frank. I wanted to call him Mr. Squirmy."

"Letís go with that," she said as she rapidly finished up Francescaís diaper, thankful for the distraction. "All done," she announced to Francesca. "Now you get Mr. Squirmy back."

Blake gave Francesca the worm and the child happily began to chew on him.

"So? You got the invitations back from the printer?" Natalia asked.

"Oh, yeah! I brought one."

They walked into the kitchen and Blake took it out of her purse and handed it to her. The wedding invitation opened from the center. It had two rings on the front, which locked the pages together.

"Oohh fancy," Natalia teased.

"Stop," Blake chuckled. "Iím...trying to do this right."

"Seriously, they look beautiful, Blake. Are you excited?"

Blake paused a moment. "Yeah."

"Oh boy, hold her back!" Natalia teased.

"Iím not sure if excited is the word Iíd use. Nervous maybe?"

"Why nervous?"

"Mmm...Frank is a sweetheart. He pulls back chairs, opens doors, helps with coats..."

"I remember - a real gentleman."

"Yes, and thatís so rare, you know?"

Natalia nodded. "But is there more?"

"What do you mean?"

"Being polite is great, but what other qualities do you love?"

"Heís considerate."

"Doesnít that fall under polite?"

"Well, yeah, I guess, but by considerate I mean heís concerned about me and my feelings. Heís not buried in the 19th century, but then again, I think heíd like me to stay home. Heís given me that option, but I canít NOT work!" Suddenly, Blakeís eyes went wide. "Not that staying home is a bad thing! Or-or that you donít work by staying home! You work all day long and all night, Natalia! And-and-."

Natalia healed up a hand. "No, I get it. I planned on working outside the home after Francesca was born, because it didnít seem fair to Liv."

"So what changed your mind?"

"Olivia. She mentioned that I worked so many jobs outside the home until that point that Iíd done more than my share. Moneyís not a concern for us, thankfully, and she wanted Emma and Francesca to have a stable home life, which was something I could give them."

"Are you happy?"

"Very." Natalia smiled. "In fact, when we discussed it the first time, she said something interesting. "

"What?"

"She said she knew what she was asking from me was a lot - Iíd be taking on a 24/7 job. At the time, it seemed silly, but she was right. She also said if I decided I needed a break - a nanny, a housekeeper, whatever - all I had to do was asked, but Iíve managed everything."

"Whatever happened to uh...Jane! I think it was Jane, wasnít it?"

Natalia nodded. "She works for the Beacon now. She researches and scouts out properties to consider for the franchise, so Livís kept her on payroll."

"Thatís cool."

"Yeah, but what about you?"

"What about me?"

Natalia bit her lip. "How can I put this?"

"Just say whatever you want."

"Okay. Are you in love with Frank or are you just Ďin likeí? Know what I mean?"

"Yes, actually I know exactly what you mean."

"Then whatís the answer?"

Blake was silent for a long moment. "Iím not sure." Natalia shifted uncomfortably at her answer. "Thatís bad, huh?" Blake added.

"Not necessarily," Natalia said, waving her off. "You might just have a case of wedding jitters; cold feet."

"Yeah."

"Itís not like you have Ďbutterflyí feelings for anyone else, right?"

Blake looked away.

"Oh no," Natalia shook her head. "Who?"

"I told you," Blake replied still not meeting her eyes.

Natalia tired to recall and then asked, "Doris? Youíre still hung up on this?"

Blake nodded guiltily. "Itís crazy. I know! But thereís just something about this woman that I canít get out of my head." Natalia sat there shaking her head in disbelief. "What?!"

"Doris is...trouble, okay?"

"How so?"

Natalia grumbled a bit before she spoke. "Olivia loves her - as a friend. And I think if I needed anything sheíd help me because of Liv. When it comes to her love life though..."

"What?" Blake asked again.

"Sheís... a player. A love Ďem and leave Ďem kinda woman. She Ďdatesí a lot and never seems to have the same woman on her arm at any function. I quit trying to remember the names of who she steps out with. And as for getting to know them, forget it. I know the next event sheíll be bringing someone new, so why bother or get attached?"

"People said the same thing about Liv, until she met you. Maybe Doris hasnít met the right one yet either?"

"Do you think youíre the one?" Natalia asked point blank.

Blake didnít quite have an answer, but she did have to smile when she looked behind Natalia. Unsure why Blakeís mood had turned from solemn to cheerful, she looked over her shoulder.

Chessie stood naked from the waist down, holding her diaper with a great sense of accomplishment. Natalia could only shake her head and smile.

"Letís get her dressed and go to Towers for lunch," Natalia said. "Iíll get the diaper. You get Mr. Squirmy."

"One stuffed worm coming up," Blake said and gave a thumbs up sign.

Chapter 10

"Mum-Mum-Mum-Mum-Mum-Mum-Mum-Mum!"

Francesca continued to jabber excitedly as Natalia held her at the Towers restaurant lobby, waiting for the maÓtre d' to return.

The baby stretched her arms out, and made a grabbing motion, toward the table behind them. Natalia turned and smiled instantly upon seeing Olivia and Doris where Francesca pointed.

Olivia was already rising to her feet before Natalia arrived at their table. She opened her arms and Francesca practically leapt into them, making all three of them chuckle. Even Doris and Blake had to smile at the display.

"Is Baby AhGoo happy to see MumMum?" Olivia asked Francesca.

Francesca nodded emphatically.

"Really? I couldn't tell," Olivia said more to her wife than her child.

Francesca leaned over and gave Olivia a sloppy kiss on the cheek, which Olivia returned.

"What about you, huh?" Olivia asked Natalia and then tapped her other cheek.

Natalia leaned over and kissed Olivia softly.

"Better?" Natalia asked.

"It's a start," Olivia replied nonchalantly, which earned her a gentle slap on the arm.

"I should warn you," Natalia began to say as she motioned to Francesca. "She had a Zwieback biscuit in the car, so she's a little-."

"Sticky," Olivia and Natalia both finished at the same time.

Olivia turned to Francesca, who had her sticky little hand, gripping her neck and Armani wool jacket.

"I'm sorry," Natalia said meekly as she tried to set about cleaning Olivia and their daughter with the diaper wipe. "We didn't expect to see you here. And you know how excited she gets when you're in a room."

"Yeah," Doris teased, "that's not your kid at all," she told Olivia.

Francesca, upon hearing Doris's voice, turned around and began to reach for the mayor.

"What? Am I chopped liver now that you notice Aunt D's here?" Olivia asked as she tickled Francesca's belly to try to divert her daughter's attention, and perhaps spare Dorisí Donna Karan suit.

Doris stood up and took the jacket off.

"See Spencer? I'm doing this the right way," Doris teased. Only then did she reach for the baby, who went willingly.

"Don't fall for it, Chessie," Olivia said as the baby settled on Doris's hip. "I hear she kisses allllll the babies in town."

Doris leaned down to Francesca's ear and softly said, "Sure, but you, Princess, well, you are my favorite 11-month-old."

Francesca smiled and giggled as Doris got her belly button.

Natalia looked over at Blake who seemed to be beaming as she watched Doris play with the baby. There is an unspoken admiration that hinted on the prospect of something more. Natalia knew the look well - it was the same one she felt herself giving Olivia anytime she thought of them moving beyond friendship in the early days. But now wasn't the time or the place to discuss it... again. Natalia turned and watched as Olivia's eyes narrowed just a slight bit as she watched Blake, who continued to admire Doris. Just as quickly as the look came, however, Natalia could see Olivia was dismissing the idea.

Blake cleared her throat. "Chessie seems like she's really taken a shine to you."

"What can I say? The kidís got good taste," Doris gloated.

"She doesn't always warm up to people like that," Blake complemented.

"Well," Natalia offered, "she does see Doris more than others."

The maÓtre d' came back and told Natalia, "When you're ready, we have a table available for you."

"Oh wait," Blake told the maÓtre d', who had begun to walk away. "Is it a table for four?"

"Yes ma'am," he answered and pointed to the staircase above. "It's right there."

"Thank you," Blake replied. "Perhaps you two could stay longer for lunch?" She asked Olivia and Doris, although her eyes never left Dorisí.

"I don't see why not," Doris answered.

Blakeís smile was large and instantaneous.

"Doris?" Olivia began, sounding somewhat authoritative, "Didn't you say you had, uh, a meeting this afternoon? The Road Commission I think?"

Doris didn't take her eyes off of Blake as she replied to Olivia.

"That's tomorrow, so I'm free right now. You two lovely ladies lead the way," she said as she motioned Natalia and Blake to the upper level.

Olivia squinted again because she swore she saw Blake blush for a moment before they began to the table above them. Instead of commenting on it, Olivia gently took Doris by the elbow.

"You realize I was trying to get you out of spending more time with her, right?"

"It's just lunch. How harmful can it be?" Doris said brushing her off. She then looked at Francesca in her arms as she began to walk away. "Your Mum Mum takes things too seriously sometimes."

The mention of her mother started Francesca into another round of jabbering the word "Mum".

Olivia could only follow behind and shake her head.

Chapter 11

"Last week Clarissa said it was a veterinarian. This week itís law. I never know what she intends to do. But thatís okay Ė sheís got tons of time to figure it out," Blake said to the table of four women (and one baby).

She took another scoop from the sundae bowl that she and Doris were sharing. The mayor watched the spoon travel to Blakeís lips with much interest.

When they first sat down, Olivia tried to position Doris and Blake on opposite ends of the small table, the farthest away. But Doris maneuvered around her at the last minute. As a result, Olivia sat with Doris on one side and Natalia, with Francesca in a high chair between them, on the other. Blake, however, was seated Dorisí immediately left, with their kneecaps touching.

"Here," Doris said as she raised her cloth napkin.

"What?" Blake asked.

"You missed some."

Doris gently wiped the chocolate syrup off of Blakeís chin while she steadied her face with her other hand, softly capturing her face. Their eyes locked on one another as Dorisís fingertips grazed Blakeís skin.

Olivia was in the process of drinking her water when the scene began to unfold and she started to cough and wheeze, breaking them from their revere of each other.

Natalia reached over and rubbed Oliviaís back.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

Olivia only nodded.

Reluctantly, Doris moved her hands away and Olivia thought she recognized disappointment on Blakeís face.

"Drink much?" Doris teased. "Well, quite a bit some nights," she said answering her own question. "You should be in better practice, Spencer."

"Ha. Ha," Olivia said without merriment. "Are we about done here Madam Mayor?"

"You guys can take off," Doris offered.

"You drove me here," Olivia countered.

Natalia began to open her mouth.

"Well, I..." she stopped, however, when she felt Olivia lightly kick her from under the table. "I-I-I would take you, but I need to get the baby home for her nap."

"Thatís okay," Olivia said to Natalia grateful that her wife took the hint. She turned to Doris. "Besides, I need to talk to you about that thing."

"What thing?" Doris said, baiting her.

"You know, that thing."

"Thereís a thing?"

Olivia took a deep breath and blew it out slowly as if formulating what to say next. "The tax break for the Beacon," she whispered.

Doris looked confused for a moment and then she felt Oliviaís toe hit her shin too. The mayor winced slightly and through clinched teeth said, "Oh, that thing." She reached down and tried to nonchalantly rub the pain away.

"Yeah, grab your purse," Olivia ordered Doris. With a soft expression she turned to her whip cream covered daughter. "You be good for Ma, Baby Agoo. You hear me?" She leaned over and gave her a raspberry on the cheek, making the baby squeal.

Olivia rose, taking Doris by the elbow with her. Natalia stood too.

"Will you be late?" she asked.

"No, Iíll try to get out early actually," Olivia said.

She briefly released Doris and pulled Natalia closer by the hip. Using her nose, she nuzzled the hair away from Nataliaís face. Then she kissed Natalia partially on the cheek and partially on the earlobe, making the younger woman moan involuntarily. When she pulled away, she had a look of accomplishment.

"Early is good," Natalia sighed contently as she briefly locked hands to say goodbye.

"Natalia," Doris nodded politely. She then turned to Blake and gave her a polite nod too, her eyes lingering on Blake in a more than friendly adieu.

"Ms. Marler," Doris purred.

Blake grinned slyly.

"No ĎMrs. Cooperí this time?" she provoked.

Unable to help herself, a seductive grin took shape on Dorisís face.

"As you like to remind me...Youíre not Mrs. Cooper..." Doris licked her lips and then added, "... yet."

Blake rose to her feet and stood mere inches from Doris, coming eye to eye with her. Another inch closer and their breasts would be touching. The mayor looked unnerved and she flinched when Blake cupped her cheek. Doris held her breath and her eyes fluttered closed for just a brief second. The next sensation she felt was Blake wiping her other cheek with her cloth napkin.

"You missed a spot too," Blake cooed.

Dorisís legs looked like they were about to buckle, but Olivia gave her a tug.

"Great! Everyoneís clean! Letís go!" Olivia said a little louder than necessary. "Ladies," Olivia said as a means of goodbye, again. She didnít wait for a response and literally dragged Doris to the elevators.

The doors opened and Olivia pushed the button. They stood wordless. Once they were inside the closed elevator car, she faced off with Doris.

"What the hell was that?!"

"I donít know," Doris practically cried. "I get around her and I-I canít help it. Now thereís another rule broken: Number 11."

"Listen to your best friend when sheís trying to save your ass?!"

"Donít let the straight girl know sheís turning you on. She saw it Olivia. I know she saw it."

"Ha! She saw it? Are you kidding ?! All of Towers saw it!" Olivia began to mimic Doris, "It's just lunch. How harmful can it be?... Oh for the love of God, Doris."

Back at the table, Blake sat wordless as Natalia finished cleaning up Francesca.

Blake cleared her throat. "Did it seem that I liked it when she...?"

"Yep."

"Did Doris seem to like when I...?"

"Oh yeaaaah," Natalia drawled.

Blake sighed. "Oh boy."

Natalia tossed the dirty wet nap on the table.

"Again, the question is...what are you going to do about it?"

Blake still didnít have an answer.

Chapter 12

"Can I ask a question?"

Natalia pushed her peas around on her plate as she and Olivia sat at the dinner table. Olivia was looking at a newspaper and Emma had already finished and left, going up stairs to finish her homework.

"Sure," Olivia replied, her eyes not leaving the page.

Natalia watched Olivia intently.

"Does Doris have the hots for Blake?"

Olivia rustled the paper and held it up a little higher to shield her face. "What?"

"Donít Ďwhatí me, here." Natalia stole the paper away. Olivia sighed. "Did a pod person take your place at lunch today? You saw what happened."

"It... was nothing. They... Theyíre messy eaters."

"Like when you used to clean my face, right?"

"Exactly."

"Like when you were in love with me and couldnít tell me."

"Exac-...well, no, this is different."

"How so?"

Oliviaís tongue skimmed across her teeth she thought about the question.

Finally, she said, "I have no idea. Besides, what about Blake?"

Natalia suddenly took an interest in her peas again. "What about her?" she asked.

"Licking the spoon, undressing Doris with her eyes, the blushing. I mean she practically had her boobs pressed against Doris."

"You sound jealous." Natalia teased.

"Thereís only one set of breasts I want pressed against mine and they donít belong to Doris or Blake."

"Tell me the truth or they might not be pressed against you for a long time," Natalia retorted.

Olivia looked flustered and conflicted. "T-Thatís...extortion. No using sex as a weapon, Mrs. Spencer."

Natalia grinned in response. "Please, we both know I couldnít hold out," she admitted as she stood up with her plate in hand.

"Damn right," Olivia said, swatting her wifeís backside as she walked toward the sink.

"Watch it," Natalia warned.

With a devilish grin, Olivia followed. She pressed the front of her body snuggly against Nataliaís back.

"If youíre forced to, ummm, take matters in your own hands... Iíd love to watch it."

"Oh would you now?"

Olivia pulled Nataliaís hair to one side and her lips began to suck on the exposed neckline.

The younger woman whimpered in response. "Liv? What do you think youíre doing?"

"Turning on my wife," Olivia mumbled, her lips refusing to give up its prize of Nataliaís skin. "Is it working?"

Natalia giggled at first. "Emma is still awake and Chessie will be up from her nap any minute."

"You didnít answer my question."

Natalia didnít reply. She took one of Oliviaís hands, led it up to her breast, and instigated a squeeze.

"Iíll take that as a yes," Olivia replied as she clutched a bit harder.

Nataliaís first reaction was a deep moan, but then she asked, "Whatís gotten into you tonight?"

"With any luck? You," Olivia giggled.

Natalia chuckled too and turned in Oliviaís arms. Their lips met for a moment and then she asked, "No, really. What is it?"

Olivia shrugged. "Iím not sure. Seeing Doris and Blake flirt all through lunch-."

"Ha! You saw it too! So I didnít imagine it."

Olivia said nothing and looked away.

"Okay," Natalia continued. "I get it. I see now. Doris wants Blake too but sheís sworn you to secrecy and you canít say anything because it might get back to Blake. Am I warm?"

Olivia didnít show any emotion at all.

"Come on, Liv! Does Doris like Blake or not?"

"Wait." Olivia held up a finger.

"What?"

"You said Doris wants Blake too."

"So?"

"So that means Blake is into Doris."

Natalia cleared her throat nervously. "Well, not exactly."

"Oh really? Then what else does it mean?"

Natalia paused and then looked frustrated. "Does Doris like Blake or not?! Just tell me!"

"You know..." Olivia smirked and walked back to the table to get her dinner plate. "...the old Olivia Spencer might have broke confidences and answered that question. But the new and improved one that youíve helped create, well, she understands the value of friendship and intimacy and knows there are certain rules to abide by."

"Bullshit," Natalia replied.

"Oooh! Look at you with the vulgarity and everything," Olivia giggled.

"Iím serious."

"So am I! You rarely swear!"

Natalia threw her dishtowel at her wife.

"Would you be serious please? All jokes aside?"

Olivia released a heavy sigh. "Iíll try," she said honestly. "But you only get one question. Agreed?"

Nataliaís jaw set for a moment in frustration then she asked, "Fine. Does Doris like Blake or not?"

"If I answer this question do you promise it stays between us?"

"I promise."

"Swear to God?"

"Yes."

"Fine. Doris does like Blake. She enjoys her company."

"She enjoys her company? Thatís it?"

"You asked your question and I answered, did I not?"

"Liv, I meant does Doris-?"

"Nuh ah." Olivia tisked her finger. "You asked one question and you got an answer. End of discussion."

"Son of a bitch."

"Thatís two you owe the swear jar, Sister," Olivia retorted.

Before Natalia could reply the sounds of Francesca cooing from the baby monitor interrupted her.

"Our daughter has great timing," Olivia said as she left the room to retrieve her.

Chapter 13

Doris was in front of Company...pacing.

"This is crazy. This is crazy. This is crazy," she muttered to herself.

Suddenly, the door opened and she found ĎCaptain Jackí looking at her.

"Dammmmn. You did it. Sexy, not slutty and no particular group should hate you. Youíre a smart woman, Doris Wolfe."

"Is that a compliment, Olivia Spencer?" she shot back.

Olivia waved her finger. "Captain Jack Sparrow," she corrected her in a drunken English accent.

"Please stop doing that."

"But Iím having fun," Olivia pouted. "And later tonight, Iíll have more fun."

"So did you, uhhh?" Doris tried to motion to Oliviaís nether regions.

"Go for the Ďswordí?" Olivia asked. Doris just giggled. "Iíll never tell...Anyway, you better get in here. Thereís a pretty pussy inside waiting for you."

Doris crossed the threshold and Olivia pointed to Blake, who was dressed in a spandex Catwoman outfit serving drinks. The body-hugging garment accented every curve.

"Oh dear God," Doris mumbled.

Olivia giggled quietly and said, "Here kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty," which earned her a slap from Doris.

"She looks like Julie Newmar," Doris said in amazement.

"You like Julie Newmar?"

"Are you kidding? She was my childhood crush. The red hair, the skin-tight leotard...Oh dear, God," Doris muttered again. She turned to face Olivia. "This was such a bad idea. Did she see me yet? Can I duck out?"

Olivia looked over at Blake. The younger woman spotted Doris and nearly dropped the drink tray. Fortunately, Frank - in his Adam West Batman get-up - saved the day. She handed the tray to him and made her way over.

"No escape," Olivia said. "And get that confident smirk ready because sheís making her way over here." When Blake was a few feet away Olivia said, "Iíll see ya later," and made a hasty exit back to Natalia, who was talking with Phillip and Beth.

Doris reached to pull Olivia back, but it was pointless. So with as much false bravado she could muster she turned to Blake.

Blake was still a little slack jawed, which settled Dorisís nerves a bit.

"You look..." Blake didnít continue. She reached out and began to finger the blue chiffon of Dorisís bikini bottom.

"Good choice?" Doris asked with assurance.

Blake only nodded.

"Better than the naughty nurse then?"

Again, Blake just nodded. She let the material fall from her fingertips.

Doris bit her lip. "Be honest. Itís not too risquť, is it? You havenít really said anything."

Finally, Blake found her voice and said, "No," but it sounded gravely so she cleared her throat before she continued. "You, uh, pulled it off - sexy, but not over the top. Iíd say if you were in pink youíd look like Barbara Eden from ĎI Dream of Jeanieí."

Doris motioned to Blakeís costume, looking a bit tongue-tied.

"You look..."

"You like?" Blake said as she did a little twirl.

Doris smirked and said, "Nice tail."

"You mean this thing, of course?" Blake said as she grabbed the cattail attached to the suit and gave it a circular twirl.

Doris grinned and then hesitated a bit and said, "Yeah, of course."

"Iím glad you approve," Blake said cocking her head slightly to one side, exposing her neck slightly.

Doris knew when a woman was flirting and she was certain Blake was baiting her. Doris didnít take it automatically though. After all, there was a benefit in playing hard to get.

"Looks like itís 60ís TV night around here." Doris then motioned over to Frank. "I donít see Robin anywhere though."

"Well, whereís Major Nelson?" Blake shot back.

"Didnít you hear? She was tossed out before the ĎDonít Ask, Donít Tellí repeal," Doris retorted.

Blake laughed. "Iím sorry. Thatís horrible. I shouldnít laugh."

"It would be horrible if I had a real Major Nelson, but I donít...Iím flying solo."

Blake stood looking at Doris, neither woman spoke. Thereís eyes just continued to devour each other silently. Blake didnít notice that Frank was calling her. Doris did but she ignored it. She didnít want the moment to end. After the third time of saying her name, Doris motioned her head to Frank.

"Chief Cooperís calling you, Kitty."

"Huh?" she said unsure what Doris was talking about.

"Blake!" Frank said louder.

The noise startled Blake and she snapped her head around to look. She held up her finger and then turned to Doris again.

"Looks like we need more wine," she said as she walked away, returning to Frank.

Just then, Ashlee walked up, nonchalantly, dressed like Bozo the Clown. She moved so casually youíd think she was dressed in normal attire, rather than crazy hair, face paint and huge shoes.

She was holding a tray of wine glasses. Doris took one and then two. She downed one immediately and held the other in her hand.

"A clown," Doris finally said, looking her daughter up and down. "Really?"

"Everybody loves a clown." Ashlee remarked dryly. Doris smiled. "Besides, I donít need a sexy outfit. Unlike you, Iím not here to woe Blake Marler."

"Ashlee," Doris sighed.

Before she could say anything more, Natalia omitted a flabbergasted cackle that made everyone look over. They all wondered what had surprised her so much to make such an outburst. She and Olivia were standing in the secluded corner and Olivia had a firm hold on Nataliaís wrist as if she was guiding her wifeís hand.

Natalia was completely red as she waved to the group and gave a meek, "Sorry."

Olivia began to chuckle too and Natalia buried her face in Oliviaís neck trying to hide. Olivia said something, that made Natalia pulled back with a smile. Then she motioned her head down to Oliviaís waist, and the older woman shrugged in response.

"What was that about?" Ashlee asked her mom.

Doris shrugged and Ashlee walked away to serve more drinks.

To no one in particular Doris said, "Iím betting Natalia found the sword."

Chapter 14

Natalia nodded in approval as Doris walked over.

"Nice threads," she complimented Doris.

"Donít be getting any ideas Ms. Swann - the Captain might chop off my head."

Natalia just snickered.

Near the snack table, Olivia was checking out the spread that Ďgangsterí and Ďmollí Buzz and Lillian just finished placing on the table. She reached for a carrot when Reva came over dressed as a witch. Olivia stopped and looked her up and down.

"Reva, itís supposed to be a costume party. Why arenít you dressed?" Olivia smirked.

"Ha. Ha," Reva shot back. "Josh wanted me to wear this Iíll have you know."

She pointed to him and Olivia looked over to see him dressed as a vampire.

"He does know you better than anyone judging by that outfit."

Reva grinned. "So, tell me, is this a dry run for your sex change operation Iíve heard about?" She waved her hand up and down at Oliviaís costume. The Ďcaptainí just smiled. "Really," Reva continued. "You look like a dude. Is Natalia getting bored with the Sapphic side of life?"

"You seem awful interested in my sex life, Reva. Iíll just save you the trouble and tell you now...youíre not my type."

Olivia popped an olive in her mouth and headed back to Natalia and Doris before Reva could reply.

"Gather Ďround everyone," Blake announced. "Weíd like to start the games since everyoneís here now."

From the door, Phillip and Beth - dressed as zombies - and Rick and Mindy - dressed in togas - waved at the gathering. Matt entered behind them dressed as a gladiator.

"I canít believe you talked me into this," Rick grumbled to Phillip.

"What are you complaining about? You didnít even buy a costume. Thatís a sheet from your linen closet."

Rick pitched his thumb to Matt. "Make way for Mr. Studly over here."

"Donít be jealous because I still have the physique to pull this costume off," Matt gloated as he passed them and walked deeper into the room.

"Now," Blake continued to the crowd, "since Ashlee is overseeing the kitchen and acting as judge in the contests, weíve got equal number of guys and gals, I thought weíd have a battle of the sexes. Girls on one team and Guys on the other, okay?"

The crowd nodded and shrugged, but they lacked the enthusiasm that Blake conveyed.

"Come on everyone! This is gonna be fun! Whoís with me?!"

Crickets chirped from a nearby open window.

Finally, Doris offered a, "Yay!! Whatís first?!" She tried to sound engrossed, but it didnít quite work.

"Thank you for that fake fervor, Doris," Blake remarked dry.

"Hey." Doris shook her finger. "Itís more than your getting now. Itís not a group of party-goers; itís an oil painting."

"True. But letís change that. Now we have seven contests-.

"Seven?" Rick whined. "I just came for the booze," he said. "Can I just go drink in the corner?"

"No!" Blake replied.

"Well, technically," Mindy began, "the first team to four would win. We could stop after that."

"Weíre not stopping!" Blake said. "The first game is bobbing for apples. Each team will pick a gladiator for their side and the first one to get three apples wins!"

"Gladiator, huh?" Josh chuckled. "Matt is perfect for it."

"It was a figure of speech," he argued.

"Yes," Rick added, "But you donít have to worry about getting wet and being soaked the rest of the night. Just take off your plastic armor."

"Heís got a point," Josh replied.

Matt sighed. "Fine, Iíll do it."

Blake turned to the women. "What about us?"

"Itís your party," Reva said. "You should do the first game."

Natalia, Doris, Mindy, Beth and Lillian all nodded while Olivia said, "For once I agree with Reva. Besides, Iím not getting my goatee wet."

"Yet," Doris muttered to Olivia under her breath. Olivia tried her best to look offended, but she ended up smiling anyway.

"No one wants to do it?" Blake asked. All the ladies shook their heads. "Fine. Looks like itís you and me, Matt."

"I changed my mind," Olivia said.

"Youíll do it?" Blake asked hopefully.

"Oh hell, no. I just think Reva should do it since her mouth is the biggest one here. Sheíll catch more apples."

"Behave," Natalia warned and Olivia pouted.

Reva giggled. "Sheís got you on a short leash, doesnít she?"

"Reva," Josh grumbled. "Youíre team mates. Play nice together."

It was Revaís turn to pout. "Fine," she mumbled.

Ashlee had wheeled out one red wagon that contained an oval bucket filled with water and three apples. Buzz followed behind her with the same thing. One was placed in front of Matt, who finished taking off his silver plastic torso shield to reveal a set of six-pack abs that mimicked the armor. After he did, he looked over to see all the women grinning. In particular, Olivia and Natalia were grinning at each other and whispering.

"Hey," Matt said indignant. "Iím in shape."

"Oh no!" Olivia said, "Natalia and I agree. I just told her all that bicycling paid off." Natalia nodded in agreement.

"NOWWWWW you two notice?" Matt teased. They both shrugged. "Check this out," he said and then started to make his pecks intermediately move up and down.

As if on cue, all the women began to chuckle at once.

"You should have stopped while you were ahead," Natalia told him.

"A bit too much?" Matt smiled.

"Just a tad," Reva added.

"Enough of the sexy poses," Ashlee said. "On your mark." Matt and Blake settled on their knees in front of their buckets. "Get set!" They both put their hands behind their back. The groups began to get a bit more vocal with a few cheers. "Goooo!"

Matt and Blake began to fish around for the apples as their fellow teammates rooted them on. Matt was the first to snag some fruit and the men gave up a loud cheer.

"Come on, Blake!" Reva yelled. "You hear that! Get your head in the game!"

Even as Reva was talking, Blake had her first apple in her mouth.

"One to one!" Ashlee yelled.

Matt got the next one immediately after and Rick said, "Prove youíve got the biggest mouth here, Matt! One more to go!"

Matt shot Rick a dirty look before he dove in to snag the final apple. At the same time, Blake managed to get her second. Before he could get it out of the bucket though, it slipped from his teeth.

"Two and two!" Ashlee yelled.

Both teams got a bit louder and rowdier as the combatants went into the final stretch.

"Come on Matt! Get it! You canít let a girl beat you!" Frank yelled and then chuckled.

Matt looked over his shoulder in annoyance. "Next time YOUíRE THE ONE doiní this."

"Come on Blake!" Olivia yelled. "This is war!!"

After the third time of missing her final apple, Blake took a deep breath and then plunged her head completely into the tub. The women cheering around her laughed for a moment.

Although it wasnít super deep, half of Blakeís head was submerged. Her mouth forced the apple to the bottom of the bucket as her teeth dug into the skin. She quickly immerged and spit the apple to the floor.

"Ladies win!" Ashlee announced. As the men groaned, the women all cheered.

Blakeís face and hairline was totally soaked...along with the top of her cat leotard from the splashing water.

Ashlee tossed Matt and Blake a towel and they began to wipe off their faces.

Doris couldnít help but grin.

"We won," Blake said as she watched the happy expression on Dorisís face.

"Yes we did..." She then leaned over and asked in a whisper, "Is it cold in here?"

"Well, the water felt pretty cold."

Doris nodded down to Blakeís bust line and her erect nipples that were straining against the spandex material.

"You donít say?" Doris teased.

Blake looked down. "Oh, god," she said mortified. She hung the towel around her neck, covering the rigid peaks. "Iím sorry," she added as she quickly shuffled toward the kitchen.

"Iím not." Doris called out to Blake retreating form while admiring the womanís backside. She had to chuckle immediately afterward.

Chapter 15

The ladies ended up winning the next three games. One was Pass the Orange, which involved transferring an orange down a line only using their chins. Olivia, being the supportive friend, swapped places with Doris at the last second so the mayor could Ďhand offí to Blake. Doris did her best not to inhale too deeply when her nose was buried in Blake hair. The second game was Push the Peanut, in which Natalia thoroughly crushed Phillip. Each person had to push a peanut, still in its shell, with only a toothpick in his or her mouth to a finish line. Reva beat Josh in the third game, Ghostly Waiter. She had to blow up a three balloons and then balance each one on itís own plate. Walking as fast as she could she had to move across the room to set up the Ďthree courseí meal without the balloons falling off. With no hope of coming back to win the night, the men conceded defeat and the group begged for no more games.

"Then what are we gonna do the rest of the night?" Blake argued.

"Get drunk?" Rick suggested. "Iím not on call and I plan to take full advantage."

"How about spin the bottle?" Phillip asked.

"We havenít played that in years," Beth added excited by the idea. "Well, I havenít. I canít say about anyone else."

"So? What do you say?" Frank asked, "We get in a circle of boy, girl, boy, girl and the closet the bottle goes to the opposite sex we kiss?"

"Thatís not really fair," Blake pointed out.

"Why not?"

"Not everyone here kisses the opposite sex. I say you kiss where it lands."

Frank scratched his head. "I donít know," he said.

"Iím secure enough in my sexuality to kiss anyone in this room," Josh replied with a smug grin. "What are you worried about, Frank?"

"For starters, your father isnít here."

"True," Josh conceded to Frank.

"Or your son," Buzz added.

"Fine," Blake said. "No family, but no gender bias. Oh! And if it lands between two people you get to pick who," Blake said. "Agreed?"

"Spin the bottle is kind of...old hat. What about something different?" Doris suggested.

"Like?" Blake asked.

"If you want to do a game that involves sucking face why not...In the Dark or Kiss for a Reason or Animal Kisses...At least those take skill and not just random chance."

Blake looked around and some people seemed to know the games while others appeared confused.

"How do you play them?" Blake asked.

"With In the Dark you select a group of spectators and a group to be blindfolded. Everyone walks around and when you bump into someone, you kiss them and then take off the blindfold to see who it is. Itís fun for the people watching too because they can see whatís coming while the folks kissing donít."

"That sounds pretty fun actually," Matt replied.

"Even if youíre locking lips with me?" Rick asked.

"Itís 50/50 in a room full of beautiful ladies. Iíll take my chances." Matt grinned.

"Whatís the animal game?" Reva asked.

"Animal Kisses is where everyone chooses a partner, then each person selects an animal and writes it down on a piece of paper," Doris explained. "Each group then has to guess their partner's animal. If they guess right, then they kiss the person who wrote that animal. If they are wrong, the next person goes and so on. Of course, chances are Iíll be paired with Matt, which isnít terrible, but the chance of him kissing a woman whoíd have the slightest bit of interest in him as a man would be pointless. No offense," she added to him.

"None taken," he said with a nod and a polite smile.

"Now, Kiss for a Reason, can be fun," Doris said. "Every person playing writes on a sheet of paper where on their body they would most like to be kissed, or where their most intimate kiss was. Next, all the pieces go into a hat. Everyone then draws a paper and reads what they selected. After reading the paper, they take one guess as to who they think it belongs to."

"Then what happens?" Lillian asked, sounding interested.

"Well, if they get it right, they don't do anything and the next person goes. If they get it wrong though, the person who it belongs to must come forward and the two must have a long, intimate kiss."

Everyone began to nod.

"That one!" Blake said. "Everybody agree?" She got a chorus of agreements. "Cool! Doris, come help me get the paper and pencils!"

As the rest of the group enjoyed the food and drinks, Doris walked with Blake back into the kitchen until they reached another door. Inside was a small office. There was a tiny desk and barely room for one body, let alone two.

"Over in that filing cabinet..." Blake pointed. Doris looked. "... Thereíre pencils inside. We should use all pencils or all pens, right? That way no one knows for sure who wrote what?"

"Yes," Doris nodded. She found about six of them. There wasnít enough for everyone, but they could share.

"Iím not sure if I said it yet, but...thanks for coming," Blake said sincerely as she cut up several slips of paper, trying to keep them even.

"Thank you for inviting me."

"Be honest. You didnít want to come."

"Not at first, but Iím glad I did. That catwoman suit was not to be missed."

Doris smiled as she nervously played with the pencils in her hand.

"Can I be honest now?" the redhead asked.

Blake rose with the finished papers in hand.

"Sure."

Doris swallowed hard as Blake came within inches of her. The office was so small, suffocating almost, that Doris had nowhere to turn away even if she wanted to.

"I was wondering what youíd think of this outfit."

"You did?"

Blake nodded. "Do you like it?"

Doris could feel her palms sweating. She bit her lip.

"Yes," she said above a whisper. She then cleared her throat and in a slightly louder voice she asked, "What did Frank think of it?"

Blakeís expression hardened. "Why do you do that?"

"Do what?"

"Bring up Frank."

"He is your fiancť," Doris challenged. "If youíre in a sexy outfit then it should be for his benefit, shouldnít it?"

Blake reached out and gently grabbed Dorisís hands that held the pencils. The mayorís hand was practically in a fist. Blake took a step closer in the already cramped office. Before she could say or do anything else though they heard Frankís voice.

"Did you find the stuff?"

Blake dropped Dorisís hand but their eyes never looked away for a moment.

"Yes," Blake replied, still focusing her gaze on Doris. "Weíre on our way."

Chapter 16

"Now everyone did this correctly, right?" Blake asked as she went around and let everybody drop their slip of paper into Mattís gladiator helmet.

"Yes, Blakie," Frank answered.

Doris leaned over to Natalia and whispered, "You lost your shot."

"What shot?"

"If youíd married him youíd be the one with the cutesy nickname like Natie."

Natalia snorted. "Olivia calls me Tali sometimes."

"Yeah, but that sounds sexier than Blakie or Natie Ė Golden Retrievers are called Blakie or Natie for Godís sake."

Natalia grinned. "You seem a bit jealous Frank has a nickname for Blake."

Doris paused a moment; then grinned mischievously. "I donít want Frank giving me a nickname."

"That wasnít what I meant." Natalia slapped her arm with a giggle and Doris grinned larger.

Olivia walked up with two cups of punch. "Every time I turn my back I swear youíre making time with my lady, Wolfe."

"Aye Aye Captiní ," Doris teased. "Sheís a beauty, but donít worry. No mutiny yet. Sheís still happy with your...rudder skills."

"Oh god, that was awful," Olivia replied. "Even for you."

"Iíll give you that," Doris agreed.

"Okay, now remember..." Blake continued. "Listing where your most intimate kiss was doesnít mean Ďbody part.í Itís physical location like under an apple tree. Got it?"

"You mean I canít write penis?" Rick asked seriously.

"Rick," Blake sighed. "Did you write penis?"

The group giggled.

"No. Relax, Blake."

She ignored him and went on. "Now remember, you reach in. Grab a slip of paper and read it out loud. If you get it right, you don't do anything and the next person goes. If you guess wrong though, that person has to come forward and the two of you must have a long, intimate kiss."

"But no family," Buzz repeated. "I love you, Son. But..." he let the sentence hang.

"I hear ya," Frank agreed. "So whoís first?

"Doris," Blake said. "You read yours first."

Doris opened up her sheet of paper. She looked at it for a moment and grinned slightly.

"Bedroom in a blackout," she said.

As soon as Doris read the words, she knew whom it belonged to. Years before, after court one afternoon, she ended up chatting with Ross Marler about their lives. The reason she remembered him talking about how he and Blake got together was because of the blackout. Of course, it could have been someone else who wrote that slip, but chances are it was Blake. If she fledged ignorance, sheíd have a kiss. Finally, sheíd know for sure just how soft her lips were. She looked around the room to see everyone looking at everybody else. She narrowed in on Blake, who looked hopeful and, incidentally, licked her lips.

"Iíd say... itís Blake Marler."

Blakeís hopeful expression seemed to fall for a moment, but she quickly recovered before everyone looked her way.

"Y-Yes, sheís right," Blake answered. "How did you know?"

"Ross," Doris answered. "He mentioned the blackout and how he helped you back to your room and that one simply act, well, it changed his life forever." The group, for the most part, gave an awwww. "He loved you, Blake, but itís good to know youíve found love again."

Doris sincerely meant it, but she couldnít hold her happy express for too long. She began to play with the end of her paper. When she looked up, she wasnít sure what she saw in Blakeís eyes. It was a mix of doubtful gratitude. Blake was thankful for the well wishes, but she didnít quite believe the happiness Doris perceived really existed. At least, not the type of love she had before Ė one built on passion, respect and understanding.

"So whoís next?" Doris asked, trying to keep things moving.

"Iíll go," Olivia replied. She opened her paper. "Under bleachers at a softball game," she read. "Oh this could be just about anyone...I swear if this is Reva and I get it wrong, Natalia you better lie and say itís you. Hell, anyone but Reva will do."

As the group laughed, Doris and Blake both grinned. But when they looked over at each other there was still an undecided tension between them. If Doris didnít know any better Blake seemed Ďwoundedí Ė that rather than miss the question and get a kiss, Doris did answer correctly.

ĎIf thatís true,í Blake thought, ĎThen she really doesnít want me.í

Blake shook it off and went back to enjoying the game. Doris sighed inwardly.

ĎRule 28: Never make a woman you admire feel rejected...Damn.í

Chapter 17

After playing three rounds of Kiss for a Reason, and losing constantly, Frank managed to talk them into playing spin the bottle instead. Rick gave the bottle a spin and it landed between Phillip and Lillian.

"I get my pick, huh? My best friend or my former mother-in-lawÖlucky me."

"We did say family was off limits," Buzz mentioned.

"Youíre just afraid your wife will succumb to my skills at lip locking," Rick taunted Buzz. Everyone in the room laughed, including Mindy. "Hey, itís the truth."

"Somehow I donít think youíre lips are that powerful," Josh added.

"Oh yeah? Pucker up, Pal and see for yourself!" he taunted.

Unexpectedly, Josh took the challenge. He kissed Rick forcefully on the lips for a good three seconds and then sat down again.

"Iím not that impressed," Josh said as he took his seat as everyone around him chuckled.

"Iím offended," Rick said as he folded his arms across his chest. "Iím a great kisser when itís not a sneak attack."

"Aww, donít worry," Mindy complimented. "Your kisses are perfect, Dear."

The room gave a collective, ĎAwwww.í

"You know," Matt says as he looked around, "ÖI was thinking... just about everyone in this room is related," Matt chuckled. "But technically Phillip and Rick arenít related so they should kiss."

Rick wagged a finger. "Your timeís coming buddy and if you pick me, Iím gonna make it memorable. Believe me."

"Maybe." Matt shrugged and then he added, "but for now you need to pucker up for Phillip."

Rick motioned Phillip toward him and then they met in the middle. They gave a quick peck and then began to move back to their seat. The crowd around them grumbled.

"That doesnít count!" Reva complained.

"Fine!" Rick said as he leaned forward again. He wrapped his hand around the back of Phillipís head and kissed him soundly on the lips for 4 seconds as everyone hooted and hollered. "Happy now?" he asked the group. Without waiting for an answer, he rolled the bottle to his best friend. "Phillip. Spin!"

Phillip laughed as he gave the bottle a whirl. His spin ended between Doris and Beth.

"Gee," Matt teased. "I wonder who Phillip HAS to pick here."

Everyone chuckled.

"Iíve always wondered what itís like to kiss a lesbian," Phillip joked.

"Not to mention another of your fatherís ex-wives," Rick mentioned to a few chuckles.

"Well, nowís your chance," Beth offered Phillip. "Because it ainít happening again. At least not with me in the same room at the same time."

"I think my daughterís saying this is the closest you can expect to a threesome," Lillian joked.

Everyone chuckled again.

Beth laughed. "Exactly. Iím strictly..." She blushed and purposely didnít finish the sentence.

"Dickly?" Reva piped in.

"Yes, Reva," Beth answered red-faced.

"You know, Phillip, this whole not kissing a lesbian thing... technically..." Reva let the sentence hang as she waved toward Olivia. "Been there, done her."

Natalia grinned and tossed her empty plastic cup at Revaís head, which she deflected.

"No, Olivia doesnít count," Phillip replied. "She was very straight at the time."

Blake chuckled. "Thatís right. Natalia hadnít Ďturned herí yet."

"Heyyyyy," Olivia and Natalia both whined as the group giggled. Olivia added, "No one Ďturnedí anyone gay here...Except for maybe Rick Ė Phillip seems to have a little gleam in his eye that wasnít there before."

The group chuckled again and then Doris asked, "Are we gonna do this or not?"

"Donít sound too excited, Doris," Frank teased sarcastically.

"No doubt," Natalia agreed. "Quick! Hold her back!"

The party chuckled again.

Phillip looked to Beth for confirmation one last time. She grinned and waved her hand in invitation so he leaned over to the mayor. Doris took a deep breath and blew it out slowly in disgust. Phillip moved back for a moment.

"Iím actually a pretty damn good kisser, Iíll have you know," he added indignant. "Donít be so morose."

Doris and the rest of the group had to laugh. She regrouped and nodded.

"Make it worth his while, Doris. Like I said, it ainít happening again," Beth added.

Doris started to giggle again, but then she recuperated once more and she moved toward him again. She closed her eyes when she was inches away. She reached up and put her fingers under his chin drawing him in closer. Her lips nipped a few times at his before she pulled him in deeper. Their lips and tongues explored each other for a few seconds.

Blake had imagined what kind of kisser Doris might be, but to actually see it Ė even if it was with Phillip Spaulding Ė was more than she anticipated. Her mouth felt dry and she began to subconsciously lick her lips. Olivia was seated next to Blake and turned to see the womanís reaction. Olivia was certain now... Blake wanted Doris too.

That prospect though opened up so many possibilities... and problems. The biggest issue was the man who sat to Blakeís left Ė Frank Cooper. Having one woman leave you for a lady was one thing...but two women back to back?

Doris, for her part, could only think about Blake while she kissed Phillip. She knew the younger woman was watching her every action. She couldn't help imagining it was Blake's lips repeatedly seeking contact. Thank goodness Phillip's cologne was more unisex rather than manly. It wasnít an overly powerful fragrance so it helped create the illusion in her mind that the lips taking hers was Blake. When Phillipís large hand made contact with her face though, the fantasy was shattered and she came back down to reality with a crash, although she didnít let it show to the onlookers.

The group began to laugh and cheer the pair on as the kiss continued Ė except for Blake. She stayed fixed on the sight before her, imagining what it might be like if she was lucky enough. Doris was the next spin and maybe, just maybe...

"Wow," Phillip complimented as he pulled away. "You, uh, know how to kiss," he complimented.

"For a guy, youíre not so bad yourself Phillip," Doris teased, which made the room laugh. "My turn?" she asked.

He nodded toward the bottle and Doris gave it a spin. It slowed down and almost stopped as it came near Natalia and Olivia. It moved even slower when it got to Olivia and Blake. But it came to a complete stop between Blake and Frank.

The crowd giggled and chuckled at the location and Olivia and Natalia shared a glance of happiness and optimism. Of all the places it could land, Doris was in luck. Blake tried not to show her excitement too much. Now sheíd finally have her wish. Sheíd know what Phillip Spaulding just found out. Sheíd discover how soft and lush those lips of Ms. Wolfe felt.

Her heart fell when she heard Doris say, "Frank. I pick Frank."

Chapter 18

Olivia and Natalia were confused as they looked at each other.

Olivia started to ask, "Why Frank?" but the question only got as far as a ĎWaaaí sound before she stopped herself. She quickly made up for it and instead said, "Whhhy you little minx. Taking all the fellas for yourself, huh? What the hell kinda lesbian are you anyway?" Olivia teased.

The group laughed, Doris included.

"Olivia," Doris continued the banter, "Remember what I said this week? Itís my goal to kiss every man youíve ever kissed in Springfield." She looked over at Josh and pointed. "Youíre next," she warned him.

"Uh! Hello?!" Buzz said pointing at himself.

"Fine," Doris sighed. "Iíll flip a coin."

Everyone around the group was heartily laughing and smiling...except Blake. She did grin and she chuckled slightly, but she didnít have the level of merriment. She couldnít. Once again, Doris was purposely avoiding anything physical with her, particularly when she had the chance to be physically close. She thought she was going a job of hiding her disappointment, but someone noticed.

"Donít look so glum, Blake," Ashlee said. "Itís not like sheíll steal Frank away from you."

"Iím not glum," Blake replied. "Iím just getting bored is all."

"Sheís just jealous she didnít get picked," Natalia teased.

To the group, it was a good-natured jab. They had no idea about Blakeís recent indecision. She smiled at Natalia in a way that, to an outsider, looked natural. To the two of them though, Blake was annoyed and it was an unspoken warning to shut up.

Ignoring Nataliaís remark, Doris turned to Frank.

"Come here, Chief. Give me my kiss and your wife can move onto a new game to torture us all."

Everyone chuckled. It was on the tip of Blakeís tongue to yell, yet again, that they werenít married. However, she stopped herself and snapped her jaw shut. She turned to Frank and then motioned to Doris.

"Go for it, Frank Ė the ladyís waiting!"

Frank blushed awkwardly, but didnít move. So, Doris slid across the small divide and took a seat in front of Frank, sitting cross-legged. She put her hands on his knees and stroked his legs as a few gathers hooted and whistled.

"Like she said... Iím waiting Frank. Show me what you got."

In that instant, Olivia realized exactly what Doris was doing. Sure, she probably didnít want to kiss Blake in a roomful of spectators, but it was more than that. Doris was sizing up the competition. Olivia grinned at her friendsí cunning.

Unknown to him of Dorisí intent, Frank decided to meet the challenge. He captured the back of Dorisís head and led her to his lips. It wasnít exceedingly forceful Ė not like Josh kissing Rick Ė but it wasnít as smooth, calculated or graceful as Phillipís kiss either. He wasnít overly Ďsloppyí or overly Ďdryí. Truth be told, Frank was...average Ė not horrible, but no potential fireworks either. In that instant she wondered, just what the hell Blake saw in Frank. Blake was a woman who wrote romance novels for god sakes Ė she loved action, adventure... sex. And Frank was... as vanilla as they come.

When they pulled away, Frank asked, "So?" as if wanting a critique.

Doris grinned. "So far in the ĎOlivia lip offí, Phillip is the guy to beat."

"Damn it," Frank muttered as the rest of the group laughed. "Thatís okay. Thereís only one woman whose opinion matters on the subject."

Doris looked over and caught the expression on Blakeís face. It was a smile that masked the unease she was feeling. When Frank leaned over and awkwardly kissed Blake, Doris had no choice but to look away. She used the guise of going back to her position to avoid seeing the excruciating display.

The rest of the night was spent drinking and talking, with no more games. Even Blake was grateful. She wasnít sure how much more rejection from Doris she could muster.

Doris ended up having more drinks than she expected. She spent the evening ruminating if she made the right choice about not kissing Blake. The alcohol, however, provided no answers Ė if anything, it all seemed even cloudier than before. Now wasnít the time or place to do anything about it.

A couple of hours later, Olivia and Natalia were the first to announce they were leaving. Doris agreed it was time to call it a night for her too. Ashlee offered to give her mom a lift home, but Olivia and Natalia beat her to it. Besides, they were already set to go so Doris took their offer instead, saying sheíd see Ashlee later that night, or the next morning.

While the others bid their adieu with waves and good-byes, Blake excused herself to walk them outside. She thanked them for coming, but before Doris could climb into the backseat of the Nissan, Blake moved Doris out of the doorís way and shut it to give them some privacy.

"What time are you picking up your car tomorrow?" she asked.

Doris took her time as she examined Blake head to toe in her cat costume. She found herself licking her lips.

"Why?" Doris asked.

"Iíd like to talk to you."

Doris swayed slightly. "About what?" she asked.

Blake reached for Dorisí shoulders to steady her. "About tonight."

Doris looked at Blakeís palms against her and smiled. Perhaps she found some courage. Maybe it was just a few too many rum and cokes. Doris couldnít say.

Either way though, she put her hands on Blakeís hips and switched positions so Blake was against the back door of the car. She could hear Blakeís breath catch in her throat. Immediately, she placed her thigh between the apex of Blakeís legs, pressing their bodies firmly together. She ground into the younger woman slightly as her lips came so close to Blakeís ear it tickled the flesh.

"What about tonight?" On the word Ďtonightí Dorisís lips lightly snared Blakeís earlobe, making the redhead whimper. "I have no interest in Frank Cooper..." Doris slurred, "...if thatís what youíre worried about." Her lip then nipped ever so slightly at Blakeís neckline. "His fiancťe on the other hand..." She pulled back, but not before nuzzling her cheek against Blakeís. "Now sheís a different story."

Chapter 19

Dorisís hands were still holding onto Blakeís hips as Blakeís back rested against the backdoor of Oliviaís car.

"D-Doris..." Blake tripped over her tongue. She opened her mouth again, but no words came. She felt her palms perspire. They somehow slipped from Dorisís shoulders to her biceps now and her fingers began to knead the flesh of the mayorsí upper arm.

Doris didnít reply. She simply looked down at Blake, focusing on the shorter womanís lips. A few more inches and Dorisís lips would be able to cover the strawberry blondeís.

Oliviaís door suddenly opened, shaking each woman from her admiration.

"We have to leave," Olivia said annoyed. When neither woman moved immediately, she added, "...now."

"Sheís so pushy," Doris said with a smile as she stepped back two paces.

The move was enough to give Blake space to open the backdoor. She widened it and took Doris, by the hand, leading the woman inside. Upon making sure the genie costume had cleared the door, Blake leaned inside.

"Thank you all for coming," she told everyone inside the car. She got some expected pleasantries in return. She then turned to Doris. "Iím really glad you made it."

Blake closed the distance and kissed Doris - partially on the cheek and partially on the lips; completely slow burning.

"Iíll see you soon," she whispered. She pulled back and said, "Night, ladies," before she closed the door and headed back toward Company in what seemed without a second glance.

Olivia put the car in gear and pulled away. Doris looked out the back window and noticed that Blake stopped just short of the door and watched the Nissan as it pulled out of sight. She turned forward again with a grin.

"What the fuck?" Olivia said, looking at Doris through the rearview mirror.

"Olivia!" Natalia admonished.

"Really?" Olivia asked again, ignoring Nataliaís reprimand. "Sheís going to be married soon."

"I know," Doris whined.

"Doris...?"

"I know."

"What in the world are you thinking?"

"I know!" she whined again, but more annoyed this time.

"You canít steal Frankís girl."

Doris snorted. "Do as I say not as I do?"

Both women began to squawk their arguments at that remark, which only made Doris laugh.

"You didnít steal Nat; settle down. Iím just teasing," Doris said.

"Youíre drunk," Olivia added.

"Maybe a little," Doris replied and then giggled.

"Well, if youíre gonna get sick tell me and Iíll pull over."

"Iím not THAT drunk for Peteís sake!" There was a brief silence and then Doris said, "Frank is a boring kisser." Olivia and Natalia both began to laugh. "Really," Doris stressed. "Why did you two ever fuck him?"

Rather than be upset by the question or the vulgarity, Natalia chuckled.

"Wait!" Olivia said with a wave of her hand. "She can swear, but I canít?"

"Thereís a difference."

"How so?"

"Sheís not the woman Iím fucking," Natalia said dryly before everyone started to chuckle.

"I could be, ya know?" Doris said leaning forward so she was between the pair.

"Over my dead body," Olivia replied.

"As tempting as your wife is Ms. Spencer...Nah, Iíd rather have you alive and well than your hot chick in my bed," Doris replied. Natalia seemed to blush and look offended at the same time. "Honestly... Why did either of you fuck him?" When the car went silent again, Doris laughed once more, "Please, quiet down. One at a time."

Olivia and Natalia both laughed.

"She slept with him first," Natalia said. "She should go first."

"Why did I sleep with Frank?" Olivia repeated the question. She thought a moment. "I was in love with someone else."

"Same answer," Natalia replied and then laced her fingers with Oliviaís.

The two women smiled at each other. Doris watched the pair holding hands.

"Do you think Blake could ever love me? Or is that dumb? Be honest."

Olivia looked into the rear view mirror to see Dorisís hopeless expression. Her own heart broke a little. She turned to Natalia to measure her reaction. She watched her wife literally biting her lip to keep quiet. Natalia knew something and whatever it was, she was trying her hardest to keep quiet. Knowing she expected an answer, Olivia cleared her throat.

"I think when you let down those walls... when youíre really yourself...anyone could love you...even Blake Marler."

Doris still looked sad as they approached the mayorís estate. Rather than turn down the drive, Olivia went beyond it. Doris and Natalia both spoke up and pointed as they passed by.

"Not tonight," Olivia replied. "Youíre coming home with us."

"Olivia," Doris started.

"No arguments," Olivia replied. "I remember what it was like being love-sick over a beautiful woman and feeling isolated. I had one person who listened to me ramble so itís only right I return the favor. So no...Tonight youíre coming home with us. Case closed Ms. Prosecutor."

Doris grinned from the backseat.

Chapter 20

Doris was tucked away in the spare guest room. In their bedroom, a freshly showered Olivia slipped between the sheets where Natalia was reading a book.

"Hey, Captín Jack. No sword?" Natalia teased without looking up.

"No sword. My plans to play ĎShiver Me Timbersí fell apart when my First Mate had too much rum... Iím sorry."

Natalia closed the book and looked over at Olivia with great affection.

"I thought I was your First Mate."

"Nah, youíre my favorite lass and a lovely one at that."

Natalia smiled. "You took good care of Doris tonight. Youíre a wonderful friend, Olivia Spencer."

"Thanks. Now spill it," Olivia whispered.

"Huh?"

"You know something about Blake."

Natalia fledged being ignorant and went back to her book.

"I donít know what you mean."

"You lie. You lie like a rug, woman!" Olivia pointed a disapproving finger while Natalia giggled. "I saw you tonight when Doris asked if Blake could love her. You were biting your tongue so hard Iím shocked itís still attached."

"Oh, donít worry. My tongue is still fully functional," Natalia purred as she let the book slid to the floor and she captured Oliviaís earlobe between her lips.

"Oh God," Olivia groaned in arousal. Suddenly, she pulled away and waved her finger again. "No!" she said forcefully, but keeping her voice low. "Youíre not distracting me here!"

Natalia straddled Oliviaís lap.

"Are you sure?" she asked as she cupped Oliviaís face in her hands.

Olivia stuttered. "St-stop seducing me."

"Is it working?"

"Yes!" she answered flustered which made Natalia giggle again. "Iím trying to help my friend here!"

"Fine," Natalia sighed, yet stayed in her position. "One question. You get one."

"Does Blake love Doris?"

"Thatís your question?"

"Yes."

Natalia began to grin. "Blake does love Doris. She enjoys her company and she values their relationship."

Oliviaís jaw tightened. "Is this payback for my answer to the same question last week?"

Natalia shrugged. "Payback, comeuppance Ė personally, I like retribution... it sounds more...biblical."

"Ha. Ha."

Natalia dropped a kiss on Oliviaís nose. "Goodnight, Dear."

She quickly left Oliviaís lap and made her way back to her side of the bed. But Olivia followed her and pinned her to the bed Ė her hands locked around Nataliaís wrists as her center held down the younger womanís thigh.

"Two can play this game, Rivera," Olivia whispered huskily in Nataliaís ear. By the sound of the moan, the older woman knew she had her full attention.

"No fair," she muttered as Olivia hovered just inches above Nataliaís lips.

The younger woman tried to reach them, but couldnít.

Olivia tisked her. "Nuh, nuh, nuh, my Dear. Turnaboutís fair play."

Natalia groaned again as Olivia chuckled and sat up. She took a place in the center of the bed and was quiet for a moment.

"All jokes and all kidding aside, Natalia...Doris is really smitten. Is it all one-sided?"

Natalia sat up too and cleared her throat.

"Itís not." Then she groaned again, buried her face in her pillow for a moment, and made a frustrated noise. "M-a-brey-dend," she muttered unrecognizably.

"What?" Olivia asked as she took the pillow away.

"Iím a terrible friend," she repeated. "Blake made me promise not to tell anyone, Olivia. Not even you, so you canít say anything."

"Didnít you see Blake tonight?" Olivia continued.

"Yes," Natalia replied as if knowing exactly what Olivia was going with the conversation.

"No one else noticed, but she seemed shattered that Doris let every opportunity to kiss her go by."

"I know."

"And at the car when we were leaving-."

"I know."

"If anything Blake might be relieved to have a way to bridge the gap of getting to know Doris in a new way."

"Honestly, Liv, sheís not sure how she feels about Doris. Sheís attracted and sheís scared and sheís...sheís Ďmeí about a year and a half ago...I donít think sheís ready to make any kind of leap."

"If sheís this undecided maybe she shouldnít be marrying Frank yet?" Olivia suggested.

Natalia grinned for a moment. "Yeah, itís not like anyoneís dragging HER down the aisle to marry the guy."

Olivia snorted and then said, "Again. Ha.Ha."

Both women smiled at each other and a small silence passed between them.

"What are we going to do?" Olivia asked.

"Nothing."

"Nothing?"

"There are rules to friendship and one of them is keeping a secret. I canít let Blake know I said anything."

"Tali," Olivia whined.

"I know youíre the hopeless romantic Ė itís one of your most endearing qualities Ė but if itís meant to be then God will find a way."

Olivia sighed heavily. "Maybe you could talk to Blake and ask if she might be interested in-."

"No," Natalia answered before Olivia could finish. She started to settle back into bed. Once set, she turned out the light.

There was a brief pause and Olivia said into the darkness...

"Youíre no fun." She made a noise like she was goosed and then added, "I stand corrected."

Natalia giggled.

Chapter 21

Doris was driving Ashlee to the airport.

"Youíre pretty quiet today," Ashlee replied.

"Hung over," was Dorisís only reply. She wore sunglasses although it wasnít that bright outside, to keep the light at bay.

After a few seconds Ashlee said, "I think she really likes you."

"Who?"

"Who do you think?"

"Ashlee..."

"Yes?"

"Please drop this."

"I canít. Iíve waited years to see you happy with someone. You deserve this. Sure, you havenít always been the most honest or kind."

"Thanks," Doris said sarcastically.

"But neither has Blake," she went on. "Thatís why youíre perfect for each other. Two battered souls looking for redemptions in a world thatís-."

"Ashlee," Doris sighed. "My head hurts. And weíve only got a few more minutes together so Iíd rather not spend it talking about Blake Ma-Cooper."

"Sheís not a Cooper yet."

"Ashlee," Doris growled in warning.

"You should go for it, Mom. I think she really likes you."

Doris pulled into the parking area and stopped to pull a ticket. She drove a short distance and found a spot. She pulled in and when she put the car in park she faced her daughter.

"Iím glad youíre interested in my life. I am. But Blake is not a free woman. Sheís not even a gay woman. So this conversation is moot." Ashlee opened her mouth to speak. Doris held up a finger. "And trust me, Iíve been a lesbian a lot longer than youíve played lesbian matchmaker. I know how these things go. Women are curious and when that curiosity is gone itís back to the Ole Boys Club. I am TOO damn old to be anyoneís fling."

"Can I talk now?" Ashlee asked.

Doris nodded.

"I donít think you would be, Mom." Doris sighed. "No, hear me out. I heard you now please hear me."

"Fair enough."

"After you left last night she moped around. Frank couldnít figure out why she was sulking, but I do. She wants you. And even if she doesnít quite know how it all fits together I think if you opened that door and showed her you were interested in more than being a friend sheíd explore that."

"Exactly," Doris nodded. "Sheíd explore and Iíd be left high and dry. Well, maybe not dry. Sheís pretty sexy."

"Mother, no," Ashlee said waving her hands.

Doris smirked. "Hey, youíre the one that wants to talk about my love life. Deal with it."

"Sure, but there are limits, Doris."

The mayor smiled. "Itís been awhile since you called me Doris."

"True, but I just had to distance myself there for a moment so I wasnít scarred for life."

"I think youíll survive," Doris told her. "And I will too. With or without Blake Mar-Cooper."

"I like how you keep calling her Cooper," Ashlee remarked. "Just remember though...as she keeps saying too...sheís not married yet."

"Iím not going to steal her away from my police chief...at least if I have any hope of being re-elected. Itís hard enough to get people to vote for a lesbian let alone one whoís a wife stealer."

Ashlee let out a heavy sigh. "What would it take Mom?"

"What do you mean?"

"To even think of Blake as a partner...what would it take?"

Doris considered it. "Sheíd have to choose me."

"Iím telling you, she would. She just needs a sign. You know, something that makes her know sheís got a shot?"

"She told you this?"

"Well, not in so many words, no. But-."

"Ashlee, I love you. I love that you want me to find someone, but my life is not empty. I have a beautiful daughter, a great job, great friends and maybe someday a great woman on my arm. If that happens, well, great. And if not then thatís fine too. So thank you for your concern. Thank you for the inside information. But if anything does happen...itís going to have to be her to make a move."

Ashlee was a bit disappointed but she heard the finality in her motherís voice and knew this conversation was over.

Chapter 22

Doris got back from driving Ashlee to the airport, with a promise from her that she'd be home for Christmas break. At the moment, she was sitting in the small parking lot of Company. She looked at her watch and wondered why no one was around since it was just after eight o'clock in the morning.

Then she remembered... it was Sunday. They would be opening at nine. She couldn't put her finger on what possessed her to drive to the diner, but she was here now. She reached down to put the car in reverse to leave when she watched Blake walked out the door.

She noticed Blake's body language first. The woman paced back and forth with her arms wrapped tight around herself. Yes, it was a little bit cold that day, but there was more to the gesture. It appeared as if she was trying to cocoon herself from the world.

Doris felt torn.

Should she get out or just wait and hope that Blake didnít notice her there? As soon as the thought formed in Doris's head, Blake seemed to look over and they made eye contact. Her decision was then made for and she turned off the car.

Doris then noticed that Blake's mood shifted - she suddenly seemed more relaxed and her hands dropped to her sides as she smiled. Against her better judgment, Doris found herself smiling as she exited the car, carrying her coat, which she pulled from the backseat.

"You're going to freeze out here," Doris said as she walked up the steps, the coat extended. Before Blake could offer a protest, Doris put it over the younger woman's shoulders and secured it with a slight tug. Blake lost her balance a little bit and lean towards Doris, but the mayor caught her by the upper arms and held her in place. Like the night before, they stood inches apart again, only this time they were both stone sober.

"W-What are you doing here?" Blake asked.

Suddenly, Doris felt as if she wasn't supposed to be there, but she recovered enough and said, "I could ask you the same thing. Do you often just stand around outside?"

Blake blushed. "Noooo, I just needed a break. Get some air."

Doris paused and contemplated a response for moment.

"Does it often get suffocating in there?" she asked as she nodded her head towards Company.

Blake realized Doris was hinting at more than just the building itself.

"Frank's here," she said.

Doris chuckled. "That really doesn't answer my question. Soooo, does that attempt at an answer mean yes?" she teased.

Blake began to chuckle too, but the opening of the door distracted both of them. They turned see Frank standing there holding Blakeís coat, a slightly confused expression on his face.

It was then that both women noticed Doris was still holding onto Blakeís arms. The mayor didnít want to pull way too fast because she may look guilty. Besides, all she was doing was letting a friend borrow her coat. Girls love to share each other's clothes all the time. This is no different. That's what Doris told herself. But the expression on Frank's face hinted that he realized something else was happening... And it wouldnít be crazy to think that he was right if he thought Doris had an interest in Blake that went beyond friendship.

"I guess I'm too late," Frank said. Neither woman moved... or breathed. "I see you have a coat. Hello, Doris," he greeted her in a friendly tone.

Doris realized in that instant Frank's shock didn't come from Doris holding his fiancťe. It came from the fact Blake was wearing a coat already. He was totally oblivious and she wondered silently how this man became the police chief and the owner of Blake's heart.

"Frank," she said in polite acknowledgment of his greeting.

Blake motion back to the door. "Thanks, but Iím set. I'll be back in after a little bit," she told him.

Frank did take the clue and nodded before he made his way back to the restaurant.

Doris decided in that instant that whatever was happening between them, no matter what they wanted to call it, it had to end. No matter how attractive she was to the publisher, Doris had to put those feelings aside.

"Listen," Doris sighed at the same time as Blake said, "I wanted to ask-."

They both smiled for moment, and against her better judgment, Doris said, "You go first."

"This Friday, Olivia and Natalia are coming over for dinner - it's just a small little get-together to say thanks for bringing Ashlee back home for the weekend. I really would like you to be there too. You're taking them out on Saturday, right?"

Doris was confused. "Well, yes, but I'm not sure why you're having a party when it's my daughter."

"Are you kidding? I love Ashlee."

"You do?"

Blake snorted. "Of course. You mean you don't?"

"Yes, I love Ashlee, she's my daughter!"

Blake laughed, "You seem so shocked to hear that she's lovable."

"It's not that. I never knew another woman that... loves her the way I do."

"There are few people in this world worth dying for, but if it came down to it, she's one of them. She's smart, beautiful, and funny in her own quirky way. She has a good heart... Not unlike her mom." Blake grinned affectionately. "The difference is, sheís not afraid to show the world."

"So unlike me, huh?"

Blake nodded slightly. "I think there's only a select few that you let your guard down with. I've seen it before and I like what I see."

Doris began to look uncomfortable and she knew she had to say something. But before she got the words out, Blake went on.

"I was sad to see Ashlee leave me and go to California Ė because, letís face it, great help is hard to find. But I know she's doing well there. So, I'm happy for her. Still, it was great to see her for the weekend and I want to thank Olivia for bringing her here to see us. It was a nice surprise. So my offer still stands, will you please come to my dinner to celebrate Ashlee and Olivia's generosity?"

Doris was now stuck. How could you say no? She knew she couldn't.

"Red or white?"

"Excuse me?"

"What kind of wine should I bring?" Doris sighed.

Blake smiled. "Iíll let you know...Now you were going to say something, remember?"

Doris grinned too. "I just wanted to say..." We canít see each other? Yesterday was a mistake? "... in spite of having a few too many and..." Rubbing my body against you? Nearly kissing you? "...perhaps coming across like..." A horny teenager? A sex starved lesbo? "... an ass... I just want to say I did have a good time and I hope nothing I did or said embarrassed you."

"Embarrassed?" Blake thought about the word and then grinned. "No, I wasnít embarrassed last night."

"Well, uncomfortable then."

"No, I wasnít uncomfortable either."

"Blake," Doris said in frustration. "Iím trying to say Iím sorry for groping you last night."

"Why should you be sorry?" Blake asked and took two steps closer.

"Because..."

"Iím not sorry," Blake said with a shrug. Doris looked both confused and happy all at once but she didnít let it show for more than two seconds.

"You had a few, yes, and youíre inhibitions were down," Blake said. "Who can blame you for wanting this?" she teased with a dramatic wave of her head from her head to her feet. "Iím all that and a bag of chips!"

Both women chuckled slightly, but it subsided as Blake took a step closer. She took Dorisís hands in hers and the mayor held her breath a moment. Doris looked over her shoulder to the door. She wasnít sure if she was wishing Frank would come back or if heíd be firing bullets any moment in her direction to make her stop.

"Iím flattered," Blake told her. "Itís not everyday one of the most gorgeous lesbians in Springfield has her arms around me. Well, correction... single gorgeous lesbians Ė I do hug Natalia quite a bit."

Doris wasnít sure what to say and she remained still has Blake leaned over and kissed her cheek. "Can I keep the coat until this weekend?"

"Uhh, sure," Doris said still dumbstruck.

"Thanks... See ya Friday."

"Friday." It came out like a mumble.

And with that, Doris felt Blake release her hands and watched the woman walk back into the restaurant. She turned and made her way to her car. But as she opened the door, she looked straight ahead into the restaurant. She watched Blake raise the lapels of the coat and inhale deeply before taking it off.

Doris was certain. More than flattery was happening here. Blake Marler wanted her...and Blake wasnít a Cooper yet.

Chapter 23

Doris wasnít looking at anything in particular. Her mind was still reeling as she sat in her office. All she could think about were ways to get out of Friday evening but her mind was coming up empty. She was actually startled when she looked up and saw Olivia standing there.

"Earth to Doris," Olivia teased as she waved her hand. In her other hand, was the Springfield Journal.

Doris grinned and looked embarrassed. "I'm sorry."

"Don't let it bother you. I know the truth."

"The truth?"

"Yeah, it'll be okay."

"It's easy for you to say. She has my coat - or more to the point, she sniffed my coat. And now I'm roped into dinner on Friday."

Olivia paused. "What are you talk about?"

"Blake. What are you talking about?"

"You didn't see the story, did you?"

"What story?"

Olivia looked nervous and took two steps back. "Nothing. I remembered I'm late for... something at the Beacon... yeah."

"Stop Spencer. Show me." She nodded toward the newspaper.

Olivia put the newspaper down on the desk, which was open to the editorial section. The headline read, "Mayor Wolf Mocks Arabians." The story was accompanied by a picture of her going into Company dressed in her Genie costume for the party.

"Are you serious?" Doris said out loud to no one in particular. She then looked up at Olivia. "See? This is why I didn't want to get dressed up."

"Hey, on the bright side you look pretty damn good. Over half the women in Springfield couldn't pull off this outfit, but you rocked it. So I say kudos!"

"I should have just dressed up as a ninja. That way they wouldn't know it was me."

"True. But then Blake's jaw wouldnít have dropped like it did when you walked in the room. And chances are youíd then here from some Japanese defamation league. "

Doris grinned slightly. "Her jaw really did drop, didn't it?" she asked conspiratorially.

Olivia nodded. "Umm hmm and there were quite a few times throughout the night I caught her staring at your... assets."

Doris closed her eyes and let out a sigh. "Why is she marrying Frank? Do you know? I'm honestly asking."

"Well, Frankís a g-."

"Don't say good man."

"He is."

"So what? There's more to finding a partner than just picking someone who's good. What about attraction? What about passion?!"

Olivia shrugged. "They've both been hurt. Maybe it's just easier for them to play it safe? I don't know."

Doris shook her head and then she grinned slightly. She waved her finger at Olivia.

"You and Natalia."

"Yes? What about us?"

"You have passion for her. She has desire for you. You can see it when one of you walks in a room - you positively.... light up. The two of them, it's like... seeing a good friend. There's no spark, no friction."

"No desire," Olivia added.

Doris began to stare off in thought. "Exactly," she muttered. "I might've spent years in the closet, afraid to be who I was to the world, but I didn't lie to myself. There was genuine passion for the women I was with. I see Blake now and I feel... sad. I know she's missing out on being in love. She loves Frank. I know she does, but she's not in love with him." Doris looked back at Olivia. "I'm mad too -- angry with her."

"Mad?"

Doris nodded. "She's being a coward. I know because... she sniffed my coat."

Olivia couldn't help but smile and giggle. "Come again?"

Doris snorted. "I went to Company this morning. Why? I don't know. Because I'm masochistic perhaps." Olivia grinned. "The point is I saw her there, outside; it was cold so I gave her my coat. As I was leaving I saw her through the window... she sniffed my coat and brought it closer to her like she was..."

"Remembering you fondly."

"Yeah," Doris bit her nails for a moment. "You know I've always known how to handle myself. I've been in court with cold-blooded killers. I've ran an entire city with... cold-blooded councilman." She grinned slightly, but then looked serious. "This woman though... when it comes to her, I don't know what to do here, Olivia. It's like I'm lost."

On the other side of town, Natalia and Blake sat in the farmhouse kitchen drinking coffee.

"Lost?" Natalia asked.

"Yeah, it's kind of like time stands still when I'm with her. I don't know what day it is. I don't know what time it is... All I can see or hear or think is... her. But it's probably just cold feet, right? I'm having second thoughts on getting married next month so I'm creating this infatuation in my head. That makes sense, doesn't it?"

Natalia paused and then asked, "Are you crazy?"

"Not the last time I checked."

Natalia pursed her lips.

"Out with it," Blake told her.

"I just don't think it's my place to say anything."

"Natalia, you're the only one I can talk to about this; the only one who might understand."

"Understand what exactly?"

Blake held her tongue for a moment and then admitted, "I'm scared."

Natalia seem confused at first. "What are you afraid of?"

"Everything?" Blake offered as if unsure where to start.

Natalia grinned sympathetically. "That's a bit broad, wouldn't you say? How about we start with just one thing?"

Blake opened her mouth and then closed it before she actually began to speak. Everything seemed to come out in a rush at that point.

"What if Iím gay? What will the people in town say? What will my mother say? My kids? The boys are overseas, at boarding school, but Clarissa? She's here. What will happen to her? Will she lose her friends? Will she resent me? Oh, and letís not forget Frank. How on earth is he going to work for Doris if I'm with her. He's already had one woman leave him for another woman. How will he deal with this? How much will this hurt him? And honestly, all this is pretty moot if Doris isn't genuinely interested in me? And even if she is interested, is that something that I want to pursue? Because what if I'm not gay? Am I throwing away my last chance at happiness with Frank?"

Finally, Blake took a breath.

Natalia cleared her throat. "This is going to take a while. Let's start with the first question, ĎWhat if youíre gay?í" Natalia paused and considered the question. "You're right. This is tough. I can't answer that question for you. But if you really want my opinion...?" Blake nodded in response. "The first thing I'd recommend is postponing the wedding. Don't make the same mistake I made... with the same man I made a mistake with. I think that would hurt him more than anything."

Blake sighed heavily. "Easier said than done."

"I know. Believe me, I know."

Back in the mayor's office, the deputy mayor walked in with a copy of the newspaper that Olivia had brought.

"Youíre a day late and a dollar short, Randall," Doris told him.

"I'm sorry," he apologized. "I just got in and read the news. Should we issue a statement?"

"Go ahead and type something up and let me see it. We'll take it from there."

"Very good." He nodded and left the room.

"Maybe I can send him to dinner on Friday. Issue a statement on my behalf."

Doris smiled and Olivia followed suit.

"Something tells Ms. Marler wouldn't stand for that," Olivia observed.

Doris sighed. "I did it again you know?"

"What?"

"Rule 23 - Never let a woman take one of your garments if you're not sure where you stand romantically. I gave her the damn coat and she looked good in it. She looked like..."

"What??"

Doris grinned and then said, "...mine. She looked like she could be mine."

Chapter 24

Doris had her hand in the air and a lump in her throat. She let her fist make the connection, knocking on the door of the house Frank and Blake were renting.

The door opened so swiftly it startled Doris a little.

Clarissa had a large smile that turned into confusion.

"Oh, hey," the teenager said. "I was expecting someone else. Doris, right?"

"Uh, yeah is your mom and Frank here?" she asked.

"Momís in the kitchen," she nodded.

A car pulled into the driveway and Clarissa waved to them.

"Come on in," she told Doris. "Iím on the way out." She turned and shouted inside. "Iíll see you tomorrow, Mom!" With a backpack in her hand, she bounded down the porch steps to the waiting car and climbed inside.

Doris was closing the door as Blake came around the corner talking loudly.

"Did you remember to bring-?"

"The wine?" Doris asked as she held up the bottle.

Blake blushed. "Iím sorry for shouting. I thought Clarissa was here. I was going to tell her to remember her overnight bag."

"She did leave with a bag in her hand," Doris offered. "She invited me in and left. I hope thatís okay."

"Was she at least civil?" Blake asked as she closed the distance between them.

"Completely," Doris answered.

"Good. Sheís 13 and suddenly knows-it-all. Iím sure Ashlee skipped right over that phase."

"Ha! You must be thinking of another Ashlee and not mine," Doris countered.

Blake reached up and tugged on the collar of Dorisís brown leather bomber jacket.

"I think I might end up taking another coat of yours," she said. "I love this one too."

"You seem to really like my outerwear," Doris teased. "If you take all my coats, Iíll be pretty cold."

"Maybe Iíll just trade your coat from Monday with this one?" Blake suggested, her hands still not leaving Dorisí collar.

"Let me see if I understand this: You want me to trade my coat for...my coat?... That seems fair."

"Like you said, I could take both and leave you with nothing. Iím willing to make sacrifices."

Doris chuckled. "Well, since you put it that way..."

Blake gave her a little tug. "Come on in the kitchen."

When they rounded the corner to the empty kitchen, Doris looked toward the living room / dining room area.

"Whereís Frank?"

"Work," Blake sighed. "Duty calls. Heís not going to be making it tonight."

For a moment, Doris panicked. She wasnít sure she could handle time alone with Blake without doing something wildly inappropriate. But then she remembered, she wouldnít be alone long. Olivia and Natalia would be coming over. Itíll be a nice...double date...

Oh god I need a drink, Doris thought.

"Thatís too bad," Doris answered, realizing she needed to say something about Frankís absence. "Do you mind if I open the wine?"

"Oh, thatís great," she said. "Let me get you a corkscrew."

Doris went to work on the wine bottle when the phone rang.

"Hello...Hey! I hope youíre both hungry. Weíll have extra food tonight since Frankís stuck at the office."

On the other end of the phone, Nataliaís eyes went wide and she grinned. She started to snap her fingers to get Oliviaís attention. Her wife stopped zipping up Francescaís coat to see what the commotion was about.

"Yeah, thatís why Iím calling," Natalia said trying to sound disappointed. "Weíre not going to be able to make it."

"Youíre canceling too?" Blake asked.

Dorisís eyes went wide and she pulled the cork out of the bottle fast with a pop. Back at the farmhouse, Olivia looked confused.

"Yeah, Francesca seems to have a case of the sniffles. I told Olivia to go over but she doesnít want to leave us here while sheís off having fun. Anyway, Iím sure you and Doris will have a great time without us." She winked at Olivia, who began to see what was happening. She grinned at the deviousness of her wife.

"Iím sure we will, but I have all this food I was going to make. How about tomorrow night then? I know Doris planned to take you guys out but maybe you could all meet here if Chessieís feeling better?"

"That sounds like a plan. Iíll give you a call tomorrow."

Blake turned to Doris as she still spoke to Natalia. Doris began to fish around her in her pocket. "Okay, I hope she feels better...Okay...Bye." Blake shook her head. "That was Natalia. Seems Chessie isnít feeling well."

"Whatís wrong with her?" Doris asked.

"Natalia didnít say exactly."

Doris nodded. "If you donít mind I need to step out and make a call. I meant to do it earlier today and I forgot. Iíll just be a minute."

"No, go ahead," Blake said. "Iíll see what I can do for dinner since I have five pounds of marinating salmon to decide what to do with now."

Doris didnít reply. She walked to the porch and at the second ring a voice picked up without even saying hello. Instead, Doris heard, "Youíre welcome, Madam Mayor."

"Youíre wel-?" Doris hissed. "So tell me Spencer, whatís wrong with Chessie?"

"Not a thing," Olivia replied honestly. "My wife lies like a rug..." Doris heard the sound of a slap followed by Olivia saying, "Ooooouch."

"Give me that," the woman heard Natalia say through the phone before a brief rustle, "Doris? Sheís on the fence. Sheís scared. She wants to make a move, but doesnít know how. You have to step up." Doris didnít say anything. She considered Nataliaís words. "Doris?"

"Iím here. Iím just thinking. I donít...I donít know what to do either."

"Oh for goodness sake," Natalia sighed. "Pour on the charm, just not too heavy. Be genuine. Be yourself. Be flirtatious. Compliment her. Get in her personal space now and then like a touch on her hand, a pat on the knee, a rub on the shoulder... I canít believe Iím giving pointers to you on how to be a lesbian," Natalia sighed.

"You and me both," Doris muttered.

"Look, just do it."

"Are you sure?"

Natalia sighed in frustration. "You know those Ďrulesí you have that you keep telling my wife? Well, Iím breaking one of mine right now. Iím telling you that Blake is attracted to you, okay? I told Olivia we needed to stay out of this. But weíre getting involved by staying away tonight. This confession is the last confidence Iím breaking. Got it? So go back in there and... be the woman!"

With that, the phone line disconnected.

Chapter 25

Doris rounded the corner and found Blake looking worried in her kitchen.

"Youíre not leaving me too, are you?" she asked.

Doris seemed confused. "No. Why would I?"

"You walked out to make a call. I figured youíre having someone call back in five minutes to say youíve got to leave so you can ditch too."

Doris grinned. "If I donít want to be somewhere Iíll just get up and walk away. So for the record, I do want to be here...if youíll have me?"

At first, Doris didnít mean it as an innuendo but thatís how it came out in the end. Blake grinned and bit her lip.

"Absolutely. Iím just not sure what to make now for dinner," she added in clarification. "I want to save the fish for tomorrow."

"How about I cook for you?"

"You? Cook?"

"Me. Cook. Yes."

"You were serious about being able to cook?"

Doris giggled. "Yes, let me make you something."

"What are you going to make?"

"Well, what do you have? Iím going to assume Irish dishes are out. You donít seem like youíd have any corned beef brisket or lamb readily available around here."

"No. No cabbage and potatoes either," Blake added, with a slight grin.

"Do you like pasta?"

"I love pasta."

"Well, letís see," Doris said as she took off her jacket and tossed it on the chair before walking back into the kitchen. "Do you have a food processor or blender of some kind?"

Blake said nothing at first. She simply stared and grinned at Doris.

"Sorry. I, uh, yes. I do."

"Okay, why donít you get that out? Whereíre your herbs and spices?"

Blake was still watching Doris.

"Oh, huh, over here," she said as she opened the cabinet.

Doris put her hands on her hips.

"Is there something wrong with me?" she asked as she examined her own body the best she could.

"No, not at all! Iím just surprised is all!"

"Surprised?"

"You look... casual."

"You said to dress casual. Is this... too laid back?"

"No! Iím just used to seeing you with your hair up and in the suits. The jeans and white oxford is a switch, but itís not a bad thing. Not at all. You look... softer." Suddenly, Blake looked concerned. "Not that youíre not soft. Iím sure youíre plenty soft-ish. You know... Itís just... Iím going to shut up." Blake chuckled nervously.

Doris took a steady breath to calm her racing nerves as she remembered Nataliaís advice. She took two steps toward Blake, until inches separated them. With confidence she wasnít entirely sure she possessed, she reached up and gently captured Blakeís chin with her thumb and forefinger.

"I know what you mean," she said calmly.

Blake took a ragged breath as she debated about reaching up to hold Dorisís hand in place a moment longer. Realizing she might miss her chance to feel Dorisís hand touching her skin, Blake did reach up and stroked the back of Dorisís hand. The touch was electric but Doris didnít dare show the effect it had on her.

"Business or casual," Blake said. "You look... majestic."

 

"Majestic, huh?" Doris prodded. "Not sure I've ever been called regal before."

Blake nodded. "But you are. Your shoulders are always square; your head high, every time you enter a room... you always look so confident; dignified."

Blake's mouth was open slightly and her eyes looked somewhat half lidded. Doris grinned inwardly at the effect her own touch was having on the younger woman. She knew if she closed the distance, Blake would offer no resistance. She knew it wasnít quite time though. Besides, sheíd rather work Blake into an irresistible frenzy and have the strawberry blonde come to her. Doris let her finger slide from the tip of Blakeís chin as she pulled her hand away.

"Now. Pasta. What kind do we have?"

She grinned inwardly when she swore she heard Blake stifle a frustrated sigh.

"Uhhh, spaghetti and um, fettuccine, I think."

Doris grinned openly now. She knew the inability to remember what was in her pantry was partly brought on by her attention.

"Iíll need a few other things," Doris said getting back to work. "Fresh basil leaves are better," she said as she pulled down a bottle of dried ones. "But these will do if you donít have any."

"Sorry, I donít."

"No problem. What about Parmesan or Romano cheese?"

"I have parmesan," she said going to the refrigerator.

"Now. Olive oil, minced garlic and pine nuts?"

"Yes, yes and no." Blake pulled out the jar of minced garlic along with the parmesan cheese.

"How about walnuts or pecans instead?"

"I do have pecans!" Blake said as she went to another cupboard. "So what are we making?"

"Iím making YOU pesto," Doris told her with a wink. She turned her back to the younger woman and went to work.

Doris began to put the ingredients into the blender as Blake handed her some measuring spoons. She was surprised half the ingredients were already in.

"Arenít you going to measure how much to put in there?" Blake asked.

Doris shook her head. "Nope. Iím good. Oh, but I will need a spoon for the minced garlic or my fingers will smell for days."

Blake giggled. "I think youíre just showing off now Madame Mayor."

"Of course I am," Doris retorted. "Is my attempt to impress you working?"

"Yes, it is," Blake giggled again. She blushed at how adolescent she sounded. "Of course, I havenít tasted what you have for me."

Doris quirked an eyebrow and turned to Blake slowly. Blake laughed even harder. "You know what I mean!"

"Do I ever," Doris shot back.

Blake slapped her playfully on the arm.

Chapter 26

"This was delicious," Blake said as she as she took her last bite of her pesto fettuccine.

"It was okay," Doris said. "Iím not totally embarrassed by it, but I can do better. Fresh basil really makes a big difference."

"Maybe you can let me compare sometime soon?" Blake asked hopefully.

"What do you mean?"

"Why donít we meet at your place this week? You make the pesto and Iíll bring dessert."

"You want to have dinner at my house?"

Blake suddenly felt insecure. "Unless you think itís a bad idea since itís an election year."

Doris went from a look of astonishment to one of confusion.

"Iím not sure Iím following you."

"Well, you know, the female mayor, whoís dated women, is now entertaining the soon-to-be wife of the police chief. It could be seen as... scandalous."

Doris smiled. "Scandalous? In this den of depravity? How long have you lived in Springfield?" she teased.

"You hush," Blake said with a smile as she threw her napkin at the mayor, which she caught and tossed on the table.

"Thanks for protecting my... standing in the community, but weíd have to do a whole lot more than have dinner to cause waves with these people," Doris laughed.

"You arenít the least bit worried about this election?"

"Itís hard to unseat an incumbent. People see the name Wolfe, recognize it and check the box."

"Is that why youíre not out campaigning much this time?"

Doris gave a non-committal shrug. "Sure."

Blake could sense something more. As Doris got up to start to clear the table, she rose too and grabbed Dorisís wrist.

"No, you cooked. Iíll clean. Thatís only fair."

Doris looked down and realized Blake still hadnít let go of her wrist.

"Technically, we both cooked," Doris answered.

"Fine, then weíll both clean. Meet me at the sink," she said with a smile as she let go and reached for some of the plates. "Then you can tell me why youíre lying about not campaigning," she added.

Doris giggled nervously and sat down. "I didnít lie. I just..."

"Fine. Youíre not lying. Youíre not being entirely truthful then." Blake sat again too.

Doris snorted and shook her head. "How could you possibly know that?"

"That youíre not being truthful?"

Doris just nodded.

Blake pinned Doris with an affectionate yet uncompromising gaze.

"I could see it in those baby blues of yours...Now spill it."

"Itís dumb."

"Is it the lesbian thing?"

Doris chuckled slightly. "The lesbian thing?" she parroted.

"Well, is it?"

"Yeah, in some way it is."

"How so?"

Doris knew Blake wasnít going to let this go so she resigned herself to answering the question.

"It makes me uncomfortable."

"What makes you uncomfortable? Being a lesbian? Or being out?"

Doris considered her response. "Neither. I just donít want to discuss my love life." Blake waited for Doris to explain. "Not with you Ė I mean with the public... It took a long time for me to come to terms with who I am. I tried to be straight ó I dated boys in high school and a few men at college, but it was always women who really turned my head and made my heart thump. Then when I got to college, I started to think maybe I was bisexual. At least I did until Sharon Abberway kissed me at a frat party. Three seconds after my initial shock, I realized immediately why I never felt that thunderbolt girls talk about feeling when kissing their boyfriends." Blake smiled affectionately. "Even after that though, I tried to hide from it...run away. Iíd just float from one lady to the next. I wouldnít say I had relationships with women. It was more like... encounters. But after awhile I felt hollow, like something was missing. I wanted more out of life. I wanted a family, and at the time, well, I never imagined people would be as out as they are today. So given the climate at the time, and knowing Iíd never have a man in my life, I went to the sperm bank... and I had Ashlee," Doris said affectionately.

"And you never told her, huh?"

"Noooo," Doris replied. "I still kept my life to encounters; not relationships. When I was young, I didnít want to own up to who I really was. I was afraid of how people would treat me. After Ashlee, my reluctance was about how narrow-minded homophobes would treat her. Then, by the time she was old enough to understand what a lesbian was, well, I felt like Iíd lied to her for too long and sheíd never be able to forgive me if she knew the truth. So I spent twenty years or so..."

"Lonely."

Doris just nodded and went back to picking up their wine glasses.

Blake stopped her again, sensing her pain. "Hey, itís like you said, itís different today. You could have a real relationship with a woman."

"I could, huh?"

Doris looked down to see that Blakeís fingers were now intertwined with hers. Whether it was a supportive gesture or one of invitation she wasnít sure.

Blake nodded and gently released her. "So tell me, why the reluctance to campaign this year?"

"The world is still filled with homophobes."

"Iím not sure if itís as bad as you think."

"Blake, Iím running independently because my party dropped me for not conveying the proper family values."

"Your FORMER party is filled with assholes on many issues. Sorry, but itís true."

Doris grinned. "Perhaps. But the last thing I want is to be standing at the mall, talking about job creation, and instead fending off questions about my sex life...or lack thereof." Doris giggled. "Itís just easier if I stay away. I send postcards, mail brochures, do radio spots...Of course this is all thanks to the backing of a large financial donor who runs a hotel and has a vested interest in gay rights."

"The Hiltons?" Blake teased knowing. Both women chuckled. "Seriously," Blake continued, "youíre a very clever woman, Doris. Iím sure you could spin it and get people back on target about your message if they prod."

"Your faith is astounding," Doris replied. "And unfounded."

Blake was taking a sip of wine and held up her finger.

"Astounding to you perhaps, but not unfounded," she insisted. "Iíve heard alllllllll about you, Doris Wolfe."

"Again, the rumor mill-."

"Not rumors. Ross."

"Ross Marler?"

"Yep."

"Ross talked about me?"

"Oh, all the time," Blake chuckled.

"Really?"

"Yeah, because you scared him."

Doris laughed heartily. "What the hell does that mean?"

"The whole Santos trials for starters. You were the Assistant District Attorney and Ross hated to go against you in court. He didnít respect many people in the D.A.ís office, but you were one of them. However, he said there was something he had in his favor since you never seemed to win a case." Blake grinned playfully.

"Hey! It wasnít my fault! It was-!"

"An incompetent police department," Blake finished. Doris seemed surprised Blake knew what she was about to say. "The cops were often Rossís saving grace and he admitted as much. On more than one occasion, he mentioned how worried it made him to go up against you in court. And Ross was not a man who was easily scared."

Doris grinned nervously. "Just what else do you know about me?"

Blake smiled back. "Oh lots. Wanna hear what Buzz Cooper thinks?"

Doris groaned and hung her head.

Chapter 27

"I wasnít the most supportive person when it came to Coop and Ashlee," Doris replied in understatement.

"Yeah, me neither," Blake confessed embarrassed. "I have no idea what I was thinking by trying to seduce him. I was just lonely and he was... just there."

"Iíve had nights like that," Doris said as she raised her wine glass.

Blake grinned. "You want a testament to how wonderful your daughter is? She forgave me for being an ass."

"Ashlee is anything if not forgiving. Donít know where the hell she gets THAT from since vendetta is my middle name sometimes." Blake smiled at Dorisís statement. "Buzz and Ashlee are a lot alike, I think," Doris ruminated aloud. "Thatís why she got along so well with the Coopers... even after the whole election thing." She ended with a groan.

"Buzz mentioned how he gave you a job when he thought he won."

"He didnít have to do that," Doris said. "Heís... heís a good man."

"He said one of the first duties was meeting the school board superintendent to discuss the budget. Do you remember that?"

"Yeah, that guy was an ass."

"Well, Buzz remembers too. In fact, he never forgot. You forced the superintendent to pay him the respect he deserved as the new mayor. He also never forgot how you didnít fight Marinaís reinstatement to the force a few days later."

"Well, there was no point in being... petty."

Blake grinned. "And what about Frank?"

"What about him?" Doris asked.

"When Frank was part of some trumped up charge of unprofessional conduct at a crime scene for flirting with someone, you appointed Mallet to take his place. Why?"

Doris grinned uncomfortable. "Okay, hereís the situation. Iíve inflicted my fair share of pain on that family, so I figured I owed them. By naming Mallet, it would be easier to get Frank in again once everything blew over."

"How so?"

"Another person, like my pain-in-the-ass cousin, might not have been so willing to vacate the position of Chief once Frank was cleared."

"True, although you kept Mallet on until your cousin took over. But then after Chief Wolfe stepped down..." Blake let the sentence hang knowingly.

"Yes, I gave Frank the Police Chief position again, but he needed it. So much had gone wrong for the guy that year and with my Ďnieceí on the way, I figured he could use the extra money."

Blake laughed, "Are you listening to yourself? Youíre making excuses for being nice."

This time Doris did stand up and take a couple of her dishes to the sink.

"Iím not making excuses," she insisted.

"Then what is it?" Blake asked as she followed.

Doris considered the question as she started the water. "I donít know, but itís not excuses."

Blake chuckled again as she walked over with a few dishes. "Youíre afraid to let people see you, Doris -- the real you anyway."

Doris felt a little annoyed now. "The real me, huh?"

Blake nodded.

"I donít think Iím the one whoís hiding here."

"What does that mean?" Blake asked.

Doris turned completely away from the sink and faced Blake who was still putting the dishes in one side. Her fingers took the courageous journey of hooking around Blakeís ear to put some wayward hair behind it. Blake didnít turn to face Doris. Instead, she reached over and turned off the water.

"W-what are you doing?" Blake asked.

Doris didnít answer right away. She watched as Blake tried to look at Doris out of the corner of her eye without turning to face her. She grinned as she leaned over slightly to the now exposed ear.

"You seem to know me so well," Doris taunted. "You tell me... What am I doing now?" Her voice was slow; methodic,

The only noise for a few moments was the sound of tiny drips that left the faucet and tapped against the stainless steel sink.

"I-Iíd say youíre trying to distract me," Blake said as she slowly moved dishes and pots into the sink, although her mind didnít really register the act. She moved mindlessly; her eyes avoiding Dorisís at all cost.

"Hmmm... well... you seem...distracted..." Blake closed her eyes briefly at Dorisís words. She only opened them when Doris added, "Iíve got an idea."

"What?" Blake said, sounding almost breathless.

"Weíve talked about my life for a while -- tell me something about yours now."

Blake licked her lips before asking, "What do you want to know?"

Doris took a long moment to look at Blake from head to toe. Although Blake was still focused on the dishes, she could feel Dorisís eyes casing every curve of her body. For her part, Doris didnít hide her admiration of her. In fact, she moved closer and cocked her head slightly to one side.

"Have you ever kissed a woman?" Doris whispered.

Doris swore she watched Blake swallow hard.

"No," Blake giggled nervously.

"Not even once?" Doris teased gently.

Blake could only shake her head.

"Have you ever thought about it? ... Be honest."

"Honest?" Blake asked, her voice cracking slightly.

"Honest," Doris whispered as her nose began to nuzzle Blakeís hair slightly.

"Yes, I have."

Doris smiled at the answer and licked her own lips before she asked, "More than once?"

Blake could only nod. Her hands were shaking now and she reached out to grip the steel in front of her for support. Doris covered her hand over Blakeís and was rewarded when Blake parted her fingers slightly so their digits could lock.

"Whenís the last time?" Doris asked in response. "Again, be honest."

Blake chuckled nervously again, and tightened her grip on Dorisís fingers. Their proximity was so close that Blake could feel Dorisís growing erect nipples straining against the fabric of her bra and shirt, pushing against her arm.

Doris remembered Nataliaís advice and stayed rooted, unshaken by Blakeís anxiety. She was sure Blake could feel her arousal for her, but rather than run, she forged ahead.

"Tell me," Doris moaned tenderly. It sounded almost as if she were in physical pain as she burrowed her nose deeper into Blakeís hair. "Tell me please," she whispered.

Quicksilver shot to Blakeís center at the timbre and need in Dorisís voice and she found herself moaning in response. She finally turned and jade eyes met azure. Blake was noticeably distracted by how dark and sapphire-like Dorisís eyes had become.

"So," Doris said, "Whenís the last time you thought of kissing a woman?"

Blake reached up with her free hand and stroked Dorisís chin. "A half second ago," she said with a slight grin.

Doris smiled as well. "Me too. The question now is...what are you going to do about it?" she asked self-assuredly.

Blakeís palm cupped Dorisís face. Her fingers worked into the ash blonde tresses as her fingertips gently squeezed her scalp. Blake pulled Doris toward her and her mouth literally watered in anticipation. She was millimeters from Dorisís lips when the back door opened with a slight bang, making both women jump and shoot away from each other.

"Sorry, I got stuck at work ladies," Frank yelled as he closed the door and took off his coat in the unseen laundry room. "Blake? You here?"

Blake stayed at the sink while Doris walked over to the table to collect the last of the dishes.

"In the kitchen," she called out, her voice cracking slightly.

Frank walked into the room with a smile.

"Hey Frank," the mayor said as she picked up the final two plates, talking them to the sink as her hands shook slightly. She tried her best to hide the adrenaline rush she was feeling and quickly placed them in the sink with a slight clatter.

"Hey, Doris," he replied as he made his way over to Blake. He kissed his fiancťe on the cheek, but the affectionate gesture barely registered with her. Her eyes still followed Dorisís movements.

"Whereís the rest of the gang?" he added as he looked around the kitchen.

"Just us," Blake said, her voice still sounding a bit shaken. "Chessie was feeling under the weather."

"Whatís wrong?" Frank asked concerned. "Is she okay?"

Doris could hear the genuine concern in his voice and felt about two inches tall for what might have happened moments before. Sure, Frank Cooper might be as exciting as watching plaster dry, but he genuinely cared about other people Ė in particular, his family.

"Nothing serious," Blake offered. "Just cranky and probably teething. No need to worry."

"Oh. Thatís good," Frank said, "So you gals got to hang out then?"

"Yeah," Doris replied. "But itís getting late and Iíve got a busy day tomorrow. I have some bids I need to review for... park equipment... and other things I didnít get to during the week. So Iím going to call it a night I think."

"I didnít mean to run you off, Doris," Frank said apologetically. "Iím pretty beat so Iíll be heading to bed soon anyway. You gals can have the whole place to yourselves."

"No," Doris said decidedly. "Iíve... overstayed my welcome, Iím sure and I do have things to do in the morning." She quickly turned and walked back to Blake and extended her hand. "Thank you for having me over."

Blake looked at the offered appendage a moment. Knowing she wouldnít get the moment back from a few minutes ago, she took Dorisís hand and gave a halfhearted shake.

"Youíll be back again tomorrow though, wonít you? Olivia and Natalia are coming, remember?"

Doris seemed torn.

"It depends on how much I get done tomorrow. But if not, give them my regards and be sure to thank Olivia again for bringing Ashlee home." Doris looked at both of them and then waved as she said, "Goodnight."

She picked up her leather coat on the way out and didnít look back.

Chapter 28

Olivia, Natalia and Blake sat in Blakeís living room the next night.

"And she bolted?" Olivia asked.

Blake nodded and took a sip of her wine as Chessie slept in the crook of her arm. "She said, ĎIt depends on how much I get done tomorrowí so, as you see..." Blake motioned around them. "No Doris... And no Frank since heís working."

"Are you still going to marry Frank?" Natalia asked.

"Of course," Blake replied. "Iím convinced this is just... a distraction. Cold feet. And as for Doris...letís be honest, sheís got a reputation of not really having a steady woman in her life. I donít want to throw away this chance for something with Frank just to have a fling with Doris. With you two, it was different -- you truly loved each other; went to hell and back for each other... this thing with Doris seems Ďcasualí by comparison... know what I mean?"

Natalia nodded in agreement while Olivia gave a frustrated, "No!" Both women looked in the hotelierís direction. "Our life has been... a soap opera, okay?" Olivia continued. "You can build a real relationship on mutual attraction alone. Besides, how did you end up with Frank this last time? You meet Ďon-lineí, right? Nothing about your relationship screams to hell and back yet you decided to get married. Why not go for Doris?"

"Itís her choice, Olivia," Natalia said.

"I know itís her choice but that doesnít means sheís making the right one. If anything, why not just postpone the wedding?" Olivia suggested.

"Can we talk about something else?" Blake asked. "Howís the franchising going of the Beacon?"

"It goes," Olivia answered, annoyed.

"Why are you being grumpy?" Natalia asked.

"Because Frankís gonna get his heart broke again. Mark my words," Olivia replied.

"Since when do you care about Frankís heart?" Natalia asked.

"Heís the father of our daughter," Olivia replied.

"Another reason right there," Blake said. "Chessie. If I give up Frank then I give up Chessie too."

"Bullshit," Olivia muttered.

"Liv!" Natalia reprimanded in a heated whisper.

"Itís an excuse, Blake."

There was a knock on the door and Blake unsure of whom it might be. She did appear somewhat hopeful though.

"Maybe she made it after all."

Since Blakeís arms were filled with the sleeping baby, Olivia said, "Iíll get it" and walked to the door. Unseen by Natalia and Blake, they heard Oliviaís laugh and the muttered sounds of joyful expressions.

"You have a nomad visitor here," Olivia said happily.

Blake turned around and looked surprised.

"Mom! What are you doing here?"

"Do I have to have a reason to visit?" Holly asked as she leaned over and kissed Blake on the cheek.

"Holly, this is Natalia," Olivia introduced. "Natalia, Holly Bauer."

"Itís nice to meet you," Natalia came over and extended her hand. "Iíve heard a lot about you."

"Oh my. The good or the bad?" she teased.

Natalia smiled. "All good. Both of these ladies love you very much."

"I could say the same about you too," Holly replied. She turned to Olivia and said, "Sheís more gorgeous than her picture. You did well for yourself, didnít you, Honey?"

Olivia promptly blushed. "Yes I did," she still managed to say confidently.

Chapter 29

Francesca began to stir in Blakeís arms, rubbing her eyes, as she woke up from her nap.

"Awww," Holly said softly as she looked over the top of the sofa. "She looks like an angel."

She began to play with Francescaís dark curls and the baby cooed, which made Holly chuckle softly.

"How old are you little lady?" she asked the baby.

"Sheíll be a year November 26th," Blake answered.

Francesca moved to her bottom and then scaled the sofa pillow so she could stand. Once on her feet, she tried to balance herself and raise her hands to Holly to be picked up, but she promptly fell on her backside. Blake, however, had her hand on the babyís back so she didnít fall completely off the couch.

"What a brave and friendly girl you are," Holly complimented the baby.

A look of determination took shape on Francescaís face and she stood up again with an annoyed grunt, which made Olivia and Holly both chuckle.

"Oh this oneís got spunk," Holly teased. "Youíve got your hands full. Believe me. I know the type." She stroked the back of Blakeís hair for good measure.

Before Francesca fell again, Holly reached for her and pulled her into her arms. Once the baby was resting on Hollyís hip, Francesca immediately began to play with Hollyís large shinny necklace, captivated by the sparkle. Holly turned to Olivia.

"Okay, you HAVE to tell me...How did she get your eyes?" she asked and turned to Blake. "Natalia has brown eyes I know. Does Frank have green eyes?"

"Nope. Blue," Blake answered.

"Thatís amazing," Holly marveled as she went back to look at Francesca again, who was still entranced by the medallion.

"Olivia said itís from all the eye sex we used to have," Natalia remarked.

Holly giggled. "Is that some lesbian slang us straight folks donít know?"

"No," Olivia replied with a chuckle. "Natalia and I spent a lot of time looking intently at each other although we never said we were in love." Olivia paused a beat. "Not unlike a certain author and attorney who shall remain nameless."

"Oh for Peteís sake," Blake sighed while her mother said conspiratorially, "Doooo tellllll."

"Youíll love this," Olivia replied captivatingly.

Holly smiled. "I arrived at the right time then?"

Olivia nodded while Blake insisted, "Thereís nothing to tell."

Olivia and Natalia both laughed at that, but Olivia continued in a proper sounding voice and asked Holly, "You know Doris Wolfe, Esquire, do you not?"

"The attorney at the D.A.ís office?"

Olivia nodded. "Yes, but sheís not in the D.A.ís office anymore. Sheís in the mayorís office."

"She works for the mayor?"

"She IS the mayor. And, believe it or not, your daughter has the hots for her."

"Is that true?" Holly asked incredulous with a smile.

"Are you trying to Ďoutí me to my mother, Olivia? Sheesh."

"ĎOut you?í Please," Olivia waved her off. "Youíre not gay. You never kissed her. You sat here tonight and swore youíre going to marry Frank." Under her breath she muttered, "God knows why."

There was a small stretch of silence until Holly said, "You didnít deny it."

"Mother," Blake whined.

"So...?" Holly pressed.

Blake gathered her thoughts. "I am fond of her. Yes."

Holly walked around the sofa, Francesca still in her arms, as she took a seat.

"So let me see if Iíve got this right..."

"Oh, here we go," Blake muttered.

"Sheís older than you, Iím assuming?"

"Yes."

"...And an Attorney?"

"Yes."

"... Who is now the Mayor of Springfield?"

"Yes."

Holly muffled a laugh. "... I can see how sheís soooo not your type."

"Mother," Blake whined again as the trio laughed.

Chapter 30

"Are you sure you donít want to stay here tonight, Mom?" Blake asked. "We have the room."

Olivia, Natalia, Holly and Francesca were all bundled up to leave.

"Iím positive. I have a room at the best hotel in town Ė that Super 8 by Elm Avenue."

"Youíre not funny," Olivia giggled.

"Youíre laughing," Holly retorted and turned to Blake. "Seriously, Iíll stay here before I leave, I promise."

"Youíre not going to sneak out of town?"

"No. Like I said, Iím going to be here for the Thanksgiving Ball, so before I leave weíll do a ĎGirls Night Iní. Tonight though, Iím Beacon bound. Besides, I need to be Oliviaís eyes and ears to make sure the standards are still up to par."

"Okay," Blake said as she opened the door. "You guys drive safe."

They exchanged kisses and Blake closed the door behind them. Natalia moved swiftly ahead to get Francesca into the warmth of the car as Olivia and Holly walked side-by-side.

"Is Doris a good woman?" Holly asked.

"She hasnít always done good things," Olivia admitted.

"Welcome to Springfield."

Olivia grinned. "But yes, she is and she really likes Blake... a lot. And Blake likes her too, but I think sheís more afraid of failing at love with Doris and being alone so sheís settling for Frank. Know what I mean? Donít get me wrong Frankís..."

"A good man."

"Yes. Heís safe, dependable...like a Subaru or a German Sheppard."

"But she needs more."

"Yeah... you do know what I mean." Olivia nodded. "Now Doris, on the other hand Ė sheís unpredictable. She makes Blake laugh, makes her heart race, challenges her...supports her...Iím not dumb. I know my opinion is biased, but... they click in a way that Blake and Frank just donít and I think sheís making a huge mistake by...settling. Not just for her sake, but for Frankieís too."

Holly took a deep breath and blew it out slowly, but then she smiled.

"Thank you for your candor as always, Olivia."

Olivia began to grin slowly watching Hollyís demeanor.

"Whatís up?" she asked.

"What ever do you mean?" Holly asked, her smile turning devilish.

"Youíre up to something," Olivia remarked. "What is it?"

"Oh, youíll know soon enough," Holly replied and started to her car. "Lunch tomorrow? Towers at noon?" she said over her shoulder.

"Sure," Olivia replied. She watched Holly for a moment longer and then caught up to Natalia who was waiting in their car.

Olivia hopped into the driver seat and shook off the chill.

"So thatís Holly, huh?" Natalia said casually.

"Yeah, it was good to see her tonight. I really miss her sometimes." Olivia put the car in drive and began to pull away.

"I could tell. You really... have a connection with her."

Natalia seemed to force a smile and Olivia picked up on it. Rather than be annoyed, she started to chuckle.

"Oh my! Is that the green eyed monster I see?"

"What?" Natalia asked.

"Are you jealous of Holly?"

"Noooooo. Thatís crazy," Natalia answered automatically. After a moment of Oliviaís continued glances in her direction as she drove, Natalia shifted in her seat to face her lover and said, "Okay. A little." Olivia laughed harder. "Donít laugh at me."

"You have no reason to be jealous," Olivia assured her and took her hand.

"Logically, I know that. Emotionally, itís a different story."

"Doris is my friend too. Iíve never see this side of you with her."

"Doris is your friend. But this is different. I never saw you look so in tune with another woman like that... beside me, I mean. It was a little unnerving is all. The two of you together just ooze sex appeal."

Olivia chuckled. "Ooze sex appeal? What does that mean?"

"You both talk with your hands when you get excited about something. You draw out some of your words so they roll off your tongue. You both have a naughty sexy smirk."

"Iím not into Holly, but Iím thinkiní you might be."

"Stop," Natalia giggled and playfully swatted at Olivia. "Donít tell me you canít see it."

Olivia thought for a moment as they pulled up to a stoplight. "Maybe a little. But Holly and I arenít lovers. Never have been; never will be. Iím quite taken by you, Dear." Olivia took Nataliaís hand and gave it a lingering kiss.

Natalia joined their fingers together. "Good answer," she complimented as they drove on.

The next morning, Doris was at her computer, typing an email, when her assistant, Marsha, knocked on the door.

"Come in," she said without looking up.

"You have someone here to see you, Mayor Wolfe."

Doris continued to type. "Youíll have to be a little more specific, Marsha."

"She says you had a meeting, but I donít see it on your calendar."

"Then send her away or tell her to reschedule."

"Time is of the essence, Madam Mayor," a voice said from the doorway. Both Doris and Marsha turned to see Holly standing there. "I need to talk with you... privately."

Marsha looked unsure of what to do. "Mayor Wolfe, should I call security and-."

"No, itís okay." Doris cut her off. "This is Chief Coopersí mother-in-law."

"Well, not officially. Theyíre not married yet," Holly mentioned.

Doris ignored the remark and turned to Marsha. "Leave us and please close the door on your way out."

Marsha didnít question the direction. She merely nodded and gave Holly a polite nod as she left the room.

"So what brings you by the mayorís office?" Doris started.

Holly smiled deviously. "Rumor has it you donít have a date for the Thanksgiving Ball this weekend."

"That is true," Doris answered honestly, unsure of where Holly was going with this.

"Neither do I so... wanna go together?"

Chapter 31

"You want to date me?" Doris asked Holly.

"Just for one night."

Doris smiled. "If I had dollar every time Iíve heard a woman say that, Iíd retire. Iím not interested in one night stands anymore, but thanks for the offer," she added diplomatically.

Holly sighed. "I donít REALLY want to date you."

Doris didnít seem too shocked by that answer and looked for a moment as she was considering the womanís words. "Okay, I get it," she said as she got up and made her way around her office desk to stand face-to-face with Holly. "I see whatís happening here. You were into Ross, but Blake stole him away. So now, since Blake seems to be into me, you want me. Is that it?"

"No, again, I donít really want you, but I want Blake to think that very scenario you mentioned."

"Why?"

"To get her goat? Force her hand?" Holly said throwing out options.

"To get even? Is this a little Ďbest revenge served coldí?"" Doris countered.

"No. Itís to show her that youíre not going to sit and wait for her to make up her mind. She needs to see that someone else, a real potential love interest, might someday take you away from her. In short... something to get her ass in gear."

"Why would you do this? You donít really know me? Revenge against the Coopers?"

"Fuck the Coopers."

"No thank you..." Doris said dryly. "Now tell me why you want to help."

"Youíre special to Olivia Spencer and Olivia Spencer is special to me. Sheíd rather see my daughter with you than Frank and I trust Olivia with my life and my familyís life...And thatís all I need to know... So what do you say?"

Holly smiled charismatically and Doris began to grin for a moment, but the expression left as soon as it came.

"You could lose her, you know?" Doris warned. "We both could. This could backfire tremendously and sheíll stop speaking to both of us."

"Perhaps. Perhaps not. But I have faith it could be just what she needs."

"What makes you so confident?"

"Olivia and Natalia are on your side so I donít see Blake forsaking either of us... in the long run. I will admit in the immediate it might be...difficult."

"You mean horrendous."

"Sure, horrendous but the pay off is worth the pain up front." Doris seemed unmoved by Hollyís words so she added, "No one ever earned anything worthwhile without some sacrifice or risk, Doris. You know that Iím sure."

Doris considered Hollyís words and then smiled.

"Iím wearing blue sequence, v-neck. Donít clash."

"Would a silver, one-shoulder evening gown work?"

 

Doris snorted. "Itís a date."

A few hours later, Holly walked into Towers to see Olivia sitting at a table alone so she made her way over.

"My plan is in motion!" Holly whispered excitedly.

"I knew you had something going on."

"I have a date for the Thanksgiving Ball."

"Really?"

Holly nodded as Olivia took a drink of her water. "Doris Wolfe."

Olivia immediately wheezed into her glass.

"Are you insane?" Olivia asked after she caught her breath.

"I have been, but right now, no. This is perfect."

"This is suicide."

"Itíll make Blake jealous if she really wants Doris."

Olivia chuckled. "Blakeís smart. Sheís never going to believe youíre really there WITH Doris just because you show up arm in arm."

Holly considered it. "Youíre probably right. Iíll have to kiss her or, you know, something like that."

"Something like that?"

"Yeah, kiss, cuddle... play a game of grab ass."

Olivia laughed and rubbed her temple. "You think you can do all of that?"

"I could try."

"You have to be pretty convincing to fool Blake."

Holly considered Oliviaís words and then said, "Kiss me."

"What?"

"Yeah, kiss me so I can make kissing Doris look convincing."

Holly didnít wait for an invitation. Rather than sit across from Olivia as sheíd been doing, she slid over to the seat immediately to Oliviaís right.

"Iím not kissing you," Olivia laughed.

"Why? Are you afraid someone might think youíre gay. Hello, Olivia. Everyone knows."

"Exactly. Everyone knows Iím with Natalia and if they see me kissing you in the middle of the room, theyíll talk."

"Fine." Holly looked around. "Over there then." Holly pointed to a corner by the elevators.

Olivia looked at her watch and then sighed, "Forget it. Here is fine. But Iím telling you, even if youíve never kissed a woman, it doesnít matter. Itís no different."

"Look any help is appreciated, okay?"

Olivia sighed. "Fine. Do this."

Olivia motioned Holly toward her. She placed her fingertips under Hollyís chin to draw her even closer. Her lips touched Hollyís gently and first, as if testing the waters. Then she became more self-assured and snared Hollyís top lip and then her bottom lip before completely enveloping both lips. When they pulled away Olivia said, "See? No different. If you do that, then people will buy it."

Holly nodded and then looked over Oliviaís shoulders and pointed. "Uh oh...You mean people like Natalia?"

Olivia turned to see Natalia standing there with a shell-shocked expression. She stood up and from half way across the room said, "Itís not what it looks like."

Nataliaís bottom lip began to quiver before she began to rush toward the elevator.

Chapter 32

"Natalia! Come back!" Olivia said as she gave chase.

She was fortunate that the elevator wasnít waiting and Natalia had to push the button.

"Donít," Natalia whimpered.

"Itís not what it looks like. Please come back to the table," Olivia stressed.

"Itís my fault," Holly said from behind them.

Natalia glanced at Holly for a moment, but then turned her back to the woman and proceeded to repeatedly push the elevator button again.

Holly walked over. "Last summer I came to visit Blake and Olivia told me about you." That got Nataliaís attention and she turned to face Holly. "I could see she was in love, probably more in love than sheíd ever been. I could see it in her eyes, but she was torn. She didnít trust you so I told her to ignore her fear and follow her heart...And now Francesca has two Mommies."

"Lovely," Natalia said unenthused. She turned back toward the elevator and pressed the button again.

The doors opened, but before she could get on the elevator Holly stood in the way blocking her path and looked to Olivia. She told her, "Call Doris," and then turned to Natalia and said, "I wanted practice kissing a woman. Thatís all."

"So my wife just offered her lips?" Natalia complained.

"Nooo, I badgered her and she knows how insistent I can be," Holly said. "You see I have a date to the Thanksgiving Ball with Mayor Wolfe. My goal is to force my stubborn daughter to take a chance on genuine, scary, head-over-heels love, which I believe she feels for Doris, but again... note the stubborn part. I need to make my night with Doris look convincing, to show Blake what sheís missing, so I asked Olivia for some tips. Thatís all."

By now, Olivia had Doris on the line. "Hey Doris, Iím not sure why Iím calling you." Holly began to snap her fingers and motion for the phone. "One sec," Olivia said as she handed it over to Holly.

"Hey," Holly said with no introduction. "We need you to tell Natalia whoís taking you to the Thanksgiving Ball. Here she is."

Holly handed Natalia the phone with a nod for her to take it.

"Hello, Doris?" Natalia said unsure. Holly and Olivia watched the conversation from one side. "Iím not sure. Thatís what I need you to tell me." There was another pause and both Olivia and Holly seemed to collectively hold their breath. "You are...So basically you want to make my friend jealous...No, that sounds kind of mean actually..." Holly and Olivia looked at each other concerned. "Yeah, I know itís couples only... I walked into Towers and I found Olivia kissing Holly Ė or Holly kissing Olivia Ė I donít know. I was told it was innocent Ďpracticingí... I agree. It does sound pretty asinine and juvenile." Her voice was harsh as she looked at Olivia and Holly while agreeing with Doris. "Okay. Thank you Doris." She handed the phone back to her wife. "She wants to talk to you."

Reluctantly, Olivia took the phone and said, "Yeah?" Although Holly and Natalia couldnít make out the words, they could tell by the volume and inflection on the other end that Doris was not happy. All Olivia could say repeatedly was a meek, "I know" in between Dorisís rants. Finally, Olivia said, "Look, yell at me later. Right now my wife needs to shout." She hung up and put the phone in her pocket.

"Iím sorry," Olivia said. "It was dumb. I was stupid. I didnít-."

"Everything Iíve heard so far about all of this is dumb and stupid," Natalia replied firmly. "And what about Blake? Huh? This will hurt her."

"I agree," Olivia replied.

"At first," Holly added. "It might. But she could ruin her life by marrying Frank. You know what I mean... literally. Do you want that for her? Or would you rather her see what life would be like for her if Doris found someone else?"

"Iíd rather the two of them just talk about how they really feel," Natalia answered.

"Like you and Olivia did when you first lived together? How easy was that?" Holly countered.

Natalia sighed reluctantly. "Point taken."

"So will you help?" Holly asked.

"No," Natalia replied immediately. "Blake should know the truth."

Chapter 33

"Blake should know the truth," Natalia repeated, "But itís not my place to say. So no, I wonít help you, but Iíll forget this conversation ever happened. Thatís as far as it goes."

"Iím doing it for her benefit," Holly stressed.

"And another thing," Natalia went on, ignoring the comment, as she waved a finger at Holly. "If I catch your lips on my wifeís, for whatever reason ever again, you wonít need to fear the devil because I WILL beat the HELL out of you. Do we understand each other?" Natalia didnít wait for an answer to her rhetorical question. She reached and took Oliviaís hand, pulling her to the elevator, telling her, "Weíre having lunch at home... alone." As they both made their way into the elevator and the doors began to close, Natalia told Holly, "Iíll see you this weekend."

The doors closed. Holly stood slack-jawed for a moment, but then she began to smile.

"You finally found the one you always wanted, Olivia," she muttered to herself. "Good for you."

~~~~

The end of the week came and Doris found herself in the backseat of a limousine seated next to Holly.

"Nataliaís right," Doris said as the car slowed down and approached the Springfield Country Club, site of the Annual Thanksgiving Ball. "This is a huge mistake."

"Itíll be fine," Holly assured her. "Youíll see. If thereís one thing I know about Blake, itís that she HATES coming in second. Her whole life sheís come in second to someone. This will prompt her. Believe me."

"What do you mean?" Doris asked.

"Sheís never had anyone pick her over someone else; not really. She was always the Ďrunner upí."

"How so?" Doris asked.

Holly shrugged. "Well, if you look at her track record, itís clear."

Doris began to get aggravated with Hollyís lack of explanation.

"Why not take it from the top?" she said frustrated.

"I was Rossís first choice," Holly said.

"Lucky you," Doris said sarcastically.

"Back in the day, Eleni was Frank's first choice and Alan Michael's first choice too actually. If you consider it, Frankís first choice this last time was Natalia, but since sheís smitten with Olivia, and Blake is single... See the pattern?"

Doris began to get a sad look on her face as Holly finished.

"What is it?" Holly asked.

Doris bit her lip for a minute. "Iíve never been anyoneís first choice either," she offered.

Before Holly could reply, the car came to a stop and someone outside opened the door.

A young man held out his hand and said upon seeing her offered, "Good evening, Madam Mayor, and welcome."

"Thank you," she said politely as she took his hand and let him help her from the car. She turned and did the same for Holly and immediately some lights flashed from cameras.

"Paparazzi?" Holly giggled.

Doris smiled and nodded. "Yeah, everyone wants to know whoís on the Mayorís arm."

One of the reporters waved for Doris to approach so she walked over.

"Mayor Wolfe," a young man asked who held a camera that said WSPR-TV. "Is Ms. Bauer accompanying you tonight?"

"Yes," Doris said politely. "Sheís doing me the honor of celebrating this holiday event, which Iím sure will be a great success as always. Itís wonderful to see so many Springfield residents lending their support to help the less fortunate by attending this evening. I hope we have another record breaking year."

"Speaking of," the reporter continued, "Unemployment this summer hit an all-time high. With the election coming up in the next month, are you concerned voters will turn to new leadership? Rumor has it your cousin, former Police Chief Wolfe, has entertained the idea of running."

"Actually, a report due to come out next week shows that the unemployment rates dropped and job growth rose in the months of September and October, while the rest of the country did the opposite. While this job growth isnít as high as I would like, Iíll admit, Springfield is fairing much better than other areas of the state and the country. Iíve maintained that lowering the tax rate for businesses has allowed them to hire more staff."

"What about the rumors regarding your cousin?" another reporter asked.

Doris smiled and took Hollyís hand. "You shouldnít believe everything you hear," she told him. "And even if it is true, Iím not concern. While I love my cousin Ė heís family, after all Ė Iíll handle him as I would any opponent. Now if youíll excuse us, we have an event to attend."

Doris gave Holly a slight pull and she followed. Some reporters continued to ask questions as the pair made their way into the foyer of the club to the coat check station.

"You have grace Madam Mayor," Holly complimented.

"Pphhff," Doris waved her off. "That was nothing. You should have seen this summer when I came out. Once I let them ask every question they could think of, they finally let it go. Tonight though is not about self-promotion."

"What is it about exactly?" Holly asked as she took a number for her coat.

"Having fun," Doris told her. "Some good times with good friends. Thatís something I havenít had much of in my life."

"Then lead the way," Holly said optimistically as she wrapped her arm around Dorisís.

Doris grinned and they walked into the cocktail lounge that led to the reception hall. Doris looked around and shook a few hands as they made their way through the bar area. Her eyes scanned the area but then stopped at the bar. She automatically smiled as she watched Blake sitting at the bar in a red sequin dress, with a slit that ran up her right leg. She was laughing with someone about something. Everything else seemed to slip away for a moment and the only thing that Doris could focus on was Blake. She was so engrossed that she didnít hear Hollyís question.

"Iím sorry," Doris apologized. "What did you say?"

Holly giggled. "Sheís not the only woman in this room, ya know?"

"Iím sorry," Doris apologized again and gave Holly her full attention. "Iím being impolite."

"Not impolite," Holly said. "Grant it, if you were a man who I was interested in, Iíd be spitting nails right now. But as a mom who truly does want the best for her daughter... your reaction is a good thing."

Doris grinned and reached a hand up. She tenderly cupped Hollyís face and kissed her softly on the lips. She was grateful that she had Hollyís support when she knew so many people would condemn her for falling for the Chiefís Ďwomaní. Having Holly in her corner made Doris think, even if only for a few fleeting seconds, that Blake could be hers someday.

It wasnít a kiss of passion, far from it...but thatís not exactly what Blake witnessed as she looked over to see Dorisís lips covet her mothersí.

Chapter 34

"What the fuck?" Blake muttered under her breath as she watched Doris kiss her mother. Buzz and Lillian, whom she was talking to moments earlier, didnít hear the profanity given their nosy surroundings.

"What was that, Dear?" Lillian asked.

Blake took a long swig of her drink while she was seated at the bar. She turned back to face Buzz and Lillian.

"I'm just surprised to see my mother here... with Doris Wolfe."

She pointed in their direction and they looked to see Doris and Holly approaching, hand-in-hand.

Buzz looked back at Blake, who seemed to wear an angry expression. He opened his mouth to ask about the reaction, but thought better of it and shut it without a word.

Before the Ďnewí couple could say anything upon arriving, Blake asked her mother, "What are you doing here? With her?"

Holly didn't immediately answer. She turned to Buzz and Lillian and wished them a good evening. Then she told her daughter, "It's a Ďcouples onlyí function - no singles allowed. Speaking of, where's Frank?"

"He's meeting me here. He's running late."

"Well, we could stay out here and keep you company."

Blake looked directly at Doris and said, "Please. Don't let me hold you two back from your evening."

Doris had a pained expression and she opened her mouth to speak. Before she could say anything though, Holly took her hand and pulled her away.

"She's upset," Doris said concerned as they made their way to the hall entrance.

"She should be," Holly said defiantly.

"If I didn't know any better, Iíd say you took great delight in hurting her back there."

"Well, you donít know. Okay?"

"Yeah, Ross might've wanted you first, but she ended up with him in the end. I think that still sticks in your craw. Tonight has very little to do with me winning her attention and everything to do with you getting even."

"That's not true."

"Really?"

By now, they had arrived at the entrance and Doris handed her tickets to a well-dressed young man, who thanked her by name, having recognized her. He opened up the access of the velvet rope so she and Holly could enter.

The hall itself looked exquisite. Round tables encompassed a dance floor on all sides. The area was filled with festive fall colors of red, brown, yellow and orange. On the far end, sat a buffet being loaded with various kinds of h'ordeuvres. The gatherers were dressed in formal attire Ė women in evening gowns and men in suits and tuxes.

"Doris," Holly began as they walked along, "I promise I'm not trying to intentionally hurt Blake. She needs to understand that if she doesn't take action soon with you, she could lose you."

"So you know me that well, huh? You think Iíll find some Ďdistractioní that will make me forget about her?... I'm not sure who you think smaller of - me or her?"

"Are we fighting?" Holly asked with a slight grin. "Because usually it takes me a little longer to piss someone off on a date."

"Consider me a new record then," Doris retorted.

"I see you made it," Olivia said as she and Natalia approached the pair. "No Blake yet though."

"She's in the lobby waiting for Frank," Doris offered. Then she added, "which is where I'm heading... You're in Holly." Doris motioned around them. "Have fun."

With that, Doris turned heel and walked back out to the bar.

A few moments later, as Blake sat alone at the bar nursing a vodka tonic, she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned to see Doris standing there.

"Frank doesn't know heís missing. And in case I don't get a chance to say it later, you look wonderful tonight."

Blake cleared her throat. "That little... display... the one I witnessed a few minutes ago..."

"What display?"

"Why did you kiss my mother?" Blake asked, cutting to the quick.

"It wasn't a Ďdisplayí as you call it. She said something that touched me."

"Really? I think you did it to make me jealous?"

Doris didn't seem to know how to answer at first. "Uhhh..."

"It did, you know? I'm not sure why though," Blake answered honestly. "I mean...Well, it's obvious that the two of you are not a couple and even if you are I shouldn't care, right? I have someone... although it doesnít appear so at this moment," she added as she acted like she was looking for Frank.

"Blake," Doris tried to intercede in her ramble, but failed.

"Maybe seeing you two reminded me of Ross? Maybe... maybe itís something more. Maybe I didnít like..." Blake seemed to be struggling with her words. She closed her eyes for a moment and then opened them to look squarely at Doris. "Maybe I didn't like you kissing any woman, no matter who it was?" Blake began to giggle and held up her glass. "Maybe I've just had too much vodka tonic," she said before taking a drink.

Doris looked back at the reception hall. "Why are we sitting here? Let's go inside."

"Couples only, remember? You have a date. I'm the one who apparently is going stag."

Doris got a determined look on her face and opened her palm to Blake.

"Not tonight. We're going in together."

Blake looked at the offered appendage and then met Doris's eyes.

"Arenít you concerned what people will say?" she teased.

"At one point in my life, I would have. But the truth is, if I had my wish... no, if I had my choice," she corrected herself, "... you would be the one I walked in with tonight." Dorisís voice got small, almost child-like, and she added, "...even if Iím never your first choice."

Doris started to lower her offered hand in disappointment, as she hung her head, but Blake took Dorisís hand into hers. She reached up and stroked Dorisís cheek with her free hand.

"Hey," Blake said softly as she stood up, yet been released her grip, "Let's see if we can make some waves tonight. Springfieldís gotten waaaaay too boring lately."

Doris giggled like a naughty schoolgirl, and Blake soon joined in as she pulled her towards the entrance of the reception hall. The ticket taker from a few moments ago looked between her and Blake.

"She's with me," Doris said to him as she nodded her head toward Blake, who still held onto her hand. She gave her ticket to Doris, who then gave it to the young man.

For good measure, Blake not only tightened her hold on Doris's fingers, her free hand began to grip Dorisís bicep in a rather possessive fashion. Doris took the opportunity to allow her hand to encompass Blake's, which held her arm tightly. To anyone they look very much like a couple, especially by the smile on Blakeís face.

"Mayor Wolfe," the young man began nervously, "I saw you bring someone else in here only a few moments ago."

"True," Doris replied, "but I'm trading that one in for this newer model."

Blake laughed and slapped Doris lightly on the arm before resuming her grip.

"You're bad," she whispered, not so quietly in Dorisís ear.

"Ma'am," the young man continued, "I know Ms. Marler is engaged to Police Chief Cooper and Ė."

"Great, then when he finally arrives you can show him in," Doris interrupted.

"Maíam, I'm not sure if he would appreciate you escorting his fiancťe to the Ė."

Doris reached out, grabbed the young man by one of his lapels, and brought him closer so she could speak directly into his ear.

"Do you really think it's wise to let the police chiefsí fiancťe wait in the lobby rather than letting her join the party? Or maybe the better question should be... do you want to pay parking tickets for the rest of your natural life in Springfield? I'm giving you the chance to get in good with the mayor's office AND the police station. So here's how it's going to be: You're going to open that velvet rope so this lovely woman and I can walk inside. Understand?"

She pulled back slowly and logic won out as the young man release the rope. He motioned them to walk through.

Doris complemented the young man on his intelligence as she led Blake inside the hall, still clinging to her arm.

"Thank you for getting me inside," Blake said.

"Youíre very welcome."

"But donít think for an instant that weíre done talking about you dating my mom."

Doris began to stumble in her speech for a starting place, but couldnít find one.

Continue to Part II of III

 

Since 1997 and Beyond | © All rights reserved | LINKS |