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  • Adrienne



FANDOM: Law and Order SVU

PAIRING: Alex Cabot / Olivia Benson

DATE: December 13, 2003 to May 9, 2008

FEEDBACK: Yes, please. We'd love to know whether you like this or not!!!

ARCHIVE: Ok, just let us know where.

RATING: Mature. If same-sex relationships bother you though, you might want to read something else.

LEGAL STUFF: Copyrighted 2004 to 2007 by Adrienne Lee and Miranda Rafferty. Non-original characters, if applicable, are used without permission under "Fair Use" doctrine. The authors reserve all rights attached to all original aspects of this work. This is a work of fiction; any similarity to characters or persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.

SUMMARY FOR STORY: Alex haunted by her family's past; Olivia feared the worst.

SPOILER: Post "Loss". There also might be other bits and pieces from various episodes.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Continuation of the Lemon Seed and Orange Tree universe. This spoils THE SECRETS OF THE HOARY DEEP, Adrienne’s unfinished X:WP story.


Chapter 0

It had taken no time at all for the suburbs of Paris to disappear. For a few minutes, Olivia let her eyes follow the changing landscape. Invariably, her attention returned to her lover’s profile, her lashes golden and her lips pink, against the blur of grey blue sky and yellow green fields. **You’re beautiful,** she wanted to whisper, but she didn’t. Instead, her gaze drifted to their linked hands resting on her thigh. Her muscles twitched.

It would be so easy to reach into her bag and pull out the ring. She could slip it onto the blonde’s finger while she was asleep and unaware. It would be a surprise to wake up to. **A pleasant one, hopefully,** she thought as she watched the steady rise and fall of her lover’s chest.

**No.** She couldn’t do it; not like that. Any proposal she were to make had to be special. She knew it would never be as grand or as full of finesse as she wanted. Still, it would be an occasion to remember. One they would treasure, with details they would never forget. **On a bullet train to Anjou’s definitely not it.**

Olivia sighed, her stomach feeling funny as her emotions twisted and turned. It was inexplicable, the way she felt. **What is it?** She tried to finger the cause. There was a sense of foreboding. Over what though, she could not possibly fathom.

**Maybe it’s just nerves. From excitement. Plain and simple.

**Or maybe…** Abruptly, her musings stopped. Her brain voided while her mouth curved involuntarily into a smile.

”What?” Alex asked, pulling her body upright and her hand from her lover’s grasp.


“You’re smiling.”


“Why?” The blonde blinked away her sleep.

“No reason, except that you make me smile.”


Catching her lover’s wrist, Olivia dodged the playful punch. “You laugh, but I’m serious,” she said, and pressed a kiss to the back of the woman’s hand. “Every time I look at you, I think about how lucky I am. Gets me right here,” she tapped her heart with her fist.

Self-consciously, Alex pushed her hair behind her ear.

“I’m serious, Sweetheart.”

“I believe you.” Briefly, their eyes locked. Then Alex tossed her head back and laughed softly. “This is crazy,” she said.

Olivia’s smile grew. “I’m crazy about you.”

“God, we’re sickening.”


“We’re too old to act like this.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Olivia’s voice light and slow. “Is there an age limit on love?”

“There should be one on lust.”

This time, Olivia laughed. That was not the response she expected. Now she saw the faint glow dusting fair skin; she felt the tension in the woman’s bearing. “Are we feeling lusty?” She tightened the space between them.

“Stop it,” Alex warned, blocking her lover’s face with her palm. “Leave me alone.”

“But the sexy beast…”

“Leave her alone, too.”

Fighting the urge to tickle with her tongue, she pressed a kiss gently into the center of the blonde’s hand. “All right,” she allowed, taking her lover’s wrist and lacing their fingers together. “I’ll behave. Under duress, let the record state.”

“Thank you.”

Olivia waited for Alex to find her center, to relax once more into her seat. “So,” she began.


“What surprise was Fifi talking about?”

“If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise.”

“But I wanna know.”

“You cant’ wait a coupla hours?” Alex met her lover’s eyes. She had prepared for this moment; it was overdue. “All right,” she sighed dramatically. “We’re going to have our own car while we’re there.”

“We are?”

“Yep. We can get around the countryside. And horses, too, if we want to ride.”

“I don’t know how.”

“I’ll teach you, it’s easy.”

“Right.” Somehow, Olivia didn’t quite believe the blonde. Letting her doubts go for now, she pushed, “What else?”

Alex delayed, “You know it might be fun to wait and not find out everything all at once.”

“So there are more surprises?”


“Oh, goodie.”

“I’ll tell you one more,” she waited, to build suspense. “The proprietress of the chateau has an agreement with Angelina’s. We can have chocolate every morning if we want.”

“But that’s more a surprise for you. Although what’s good for you is good for me,” Olivia provided, holding her tongue about chocolate being an aphrodisiac.

Finding the sincerity of the statement almost overwhelming, Alex swallowed. “Yes,” she agreed with more confidence than she felt. Drawing the cover of silence, she placed her head on the brunette’s steadying shoulders and closed her eyes again.

Chapter 1

“You getting in or not?” Alex asked impatiently, her eager hands grasping the steering wheel.

“Just a sec.”

“C’mon Liv, let’s go.” She checked the rearview mirror and licked her lips. When her lover failed to reply, she pressed, “What are you doing anyway?”

“It’s gotta be a kit.”

“A kit?”

“Kit car. You know, an antique shell on a chassis? Probably an old VW Beetle? Well, a Renault in this case?”

“Just get in, will you?” Alex sighed. “If you do, I’ll tell you all about the car.”

Something in the woman’s voice convinced Olivia to comply. “Okay…” She barely had her seat belt on when the blonde stepped down on the gas pedal. Nervously, her eyes searched for any signs posting the speed limit, and found none. When the acceleration finally leveled out, she felt she could exhale again. “Definitely a kit.”

“No, just custom-made and very well maintained.”


“Used to belong to the owner’s grandmother,” Alex provided, the tone of her voice convincingly casual. “It’s a real Delahaye, from the late teens early twenties.”

“What’s a Delahaye?”

“Brand from back then?” Alex shrugged, and wet her lips again, letting her excitement show. “They used to make race cars.”

“Ah.” ”I’ve always wanted to drive it, when we stayed here.”

“But you were too young.”


“Okay.” With a laugh, Olivia leaned back and closed her eyes. “Then I’ll leave you two alone.”

“What are you doing?”

“Trying to go to sleep and keep breakfast in my stomach.”

Alex took the good-natured teasing for what it was and kept the speed steady. “But don’t you want to see the countryside? It’s beautiful.”

“Maybe some other time.” The brunette added with a smile, “When you’re not driving.”

“Okay! Love you!”

Olivia chuckled. “You too, Sweetheart.”

With her lover’s blessings, Alex focused on the road ahead. What she didn’t tell the brunette was that after her great-grandmother had ceased driving, the car became her father’s. All along, the resident mechanic had kept up its maintenance. If she had wanted, they would have shipped it to her at any time. Somehow, she felt this was where the red Delahaye belonged.

**The glory of the Loire.** For the first time in her life, the blonde imagined how it must have been for her great-grandparents, to live in seclusion, in such tranquility. How they must have loved each other to spend all that time alone without distractions of daily lives. **Hope we have that, one day,** she glanced fondly at the woman beside her.

When she looked up again, something in the rearview mirror caught her eyes. She blinked, and the spectre was gone. **Great, just fucking great,** she swore silently. **First vacation I take in years, and I’m hallucinating, Or do I really need that much approval? Christ! How pathetic.** She wiped the smiling image from her mind, and concentrated on driving.

Before long, the ghost was forgotten. With the wind in her hair, Alex zipped along, enjoying the sense of freedom the open fields provided…

Chapter 2

Olivia felt the car slow, and opened her eyes. She didn’t think she would actually fall asleep, but apparently she did. “Sorry.”

“For what?” Alex asked while reaching into the glove compartment for the remote.

“Zonking out? How long have I been asleep?”

“Doesn’t matter. I did keep you up most of the night.”

The husky honeyed voice made Olivia blush. “All right, I promise I won’t do that again.”

“Do what again?”

“Tease you, about keeping you up,” she explained, watching her lover fiddle with the buttons on the control. She wondered briefly about the relaxed attitude of the owner of the establishment, if they provided unescorted access to all their guests. Then she decided some level of familiarity must have been established during Celine Cabot and her daughter’s previous visits. “Need help with that?”

Alex shook her head. “Oh, I don’t know, I like teasing you, you’re so tease-able,” she said while punching in the code to unlock the device. Soon, there was a click, and then the metal door glided open.

Olivia looked around as they pulled through the gate. “So where’s this castle?”

“Down there.”

“Down where?” All she could see were scores of old trees and nothing beyond.

Alex smiled. “At the end of the path.”

“Haha. Very funny.”

“Well, how else should I answer? Through the woods?”

“Guess you’re right.” Olivia let out a high pitched laugh. “Reminds me of fairytales. Spooky ones. You know, like Hansel and Gretel and the witch’s house.”

“Hm. Meanwhile, it makes me think Sleeping Beauty. Only the bravest princes and princesses would try to go through with all the trees.”

“I’d believe you, especially if there’s a lyme outbreak.”

“That’s rude,” Alex backhanded the brunette on the arm. “But true.” She laughed with her lover.

“Whoa!” Suddenly, the overgrown forest ended; the path opened, leading them towards the river. “Is that… the Loire?” Olivia breathed, “It’s beautiful.”

“Yes, it is. And peaceful.”

She had to agree. “And someone lived here? At one point?”

**My great-grandparents.** Alex saw the opportunity to tell and balked. “At one point. Now it’s just a place for weary tourists.”

“Nice place to recharge.”

“I’m counting on it.”

The tiredness in the woman’s voice, though just a tinge, hit Olivia hard. She reached over and gently touched her lover’s arm. “I’ll make sure you get tons of rest… and stay relaxed.”

“Thank you…” Alex smiled. “I’m definitely looking forward to that. The room we’re staying in has the most gorgeous and decadent bed.”


“Super thick mattress. I remember jumping up and down on it with Ling when we were little and getting yelled at.”

That image made Olivia laugh. Somehow she could see the two of them being hellions growing up, getting into trouble because they were super smart and curious. And willful, she remembered the old photos she saw and the almost identical rebellious smile the pair wore. “How little?”

“I don’t know, maybe six? Seven? Can’t remember.”

“Wow. Have you always stayed here then, when you visited?”

“Yeah, every time we come to France.”

“So you have a history with the owners?”

Alex chewed on the inside of her lower lip, while her gaze appeared focused on the latest turn of the gravelly path. “You could say that.”

“Can’t wait to see it.”

“We’re almost there. If I remember correctly, it’s just a little further down.”

“Down?” They were almost falling into the river, Olivia felt.

“Well, down and around and then up. It’s carved out of the cliff, kind of. The back part of the castle is actually built into the rocks. Quite interesting, I think.”

“Good thing we’re not sitting on a fault.”

“God, you can be so unromantic when you want to be.”

“I’m planning on being romantic later,” Olivia provided, her hand drifting down to stroke her lover’s thigh, feeling a jolt of arousal when the trim muscles tensed to her caress.

Alex swallowed, hard. “You don’t want to do that.”

“Why not?”

“Distracting. Driving. You know, cliff. God, I can’t even put a proper sentence together.”

“Did I do that to you?”

“You have to ask?”

“Good.” Olivia let her palm rest on her lover’s knee. “That’s all I wanna know. That, and that you’re wet...”



The blonde laughed, as tension she didn’t know she was carrying began slipping away. “Shut up!”

“Only if you kiss me.”

“Not here. Cliff. Rocks. Remember? Besides, we’re almost there.”


“See that blue tip?”

Obediently, Olivia followed her lover’s eyes and saw the tip expand into a turret. “Damn…”

“It’s not as grand as some of the other castles around here. There’s one in the center of the village…”

She didn’t let the blonde finish. “Who cares, it’s a castle. We’re staying in a castle. An actual effing castle.”

**It’s just a castle,** Alex wanted to say. The waving figure at the window stole the words.

Chapter 3

“Bienvenue! Welcome to Mondestin!” A friendly woman around their age greeted them at the front door. “We have been expecting you. How do you do?”

“We’re well, thank you,” Alex replied extending her hand. “I don’t believe we’ve met.”

“I’m new here; I started last summer.” The woman with jet black hair and deep set eyes said pleasantly. “My name is Olga.”

“I see. Pleasure to meet you Olga. I am Jaime, and this is Olivia,” Alex introduced, wondering if the new manager knew who they were. She looked around for her mother’s cousin, surprised that she wasn’t there to greet them. “Madame Nicole, is she here?”

“Madame is… how do you say, eh, held up. She’s held up in Paris. Business meetings. She should be returning as soon as possible.” Olga went on, “Madame left instructions for all of us to make sure you have everything you need. We want you to enjoy your stay.”

“Are we the only ones here?” Olivia asked.

“Qui. Yes. We don’t usually have guests until later, maybe June, or July. But sometimes we host special guests, like you.”

“May we see our room now?” Alex interjected. She wanted her lover to find out just how ‘special’ they were, but not necessarily from a perfect stranger.

“Yes, of course. Please follow me. You have the Elyseé, correct?”


“Yes, each of our rooms is named after a place in Greece,” Olga turned to Olivia and explained. “Montparnasse, Delphi, and so on. The previous owner, la Marquise d’Estin, had a fondness for Greek things.”

“Oh, a marquise,” the brunette half-whispered to her lover clearly impressed. “You didn’t tell me that.”

Internally, Alex winced. “Yeah, that’s where the name of the place came from. d’Estin, with the d apostrophe, not destiny.”

“Not like your mother’s foundation.”


“Ah, I’ve been wondering. Thought maybe your mom named it after this place.” Olivia admired, “It’s magical.”

“Yes, it is,” Alex had to agree. **In more ways than you want to know, I’m sure,** she added to herself.

“Your room used to be la Marquise’s,” Olga continued her introduction as she led them through the ancient corridor. “Our main library is over there,” she pointed to a door at the end of the hallway. “You may peruse the collection. Bring them up to your room if you please. We just ask you not to reshelve the books. A member of our staff will do that for you. And if you would like something from one of the higher shelves, please let us bring it down for you.”

“No sense breaking our necks, eh?” Olivia remarked, her grin disappearing when the woman furrowed her brows. **Some people have no sense of humor.** She shrugged.

“This library leads to the garden. The flowers are blooming beautifully this Spring. Our gardener works very hard on it.”

“It was the former owner’s pride and joy,” Alex provided for her lover.

“Madame is very familiar with our establishment?”

“Yes, I’ve been here, many times, years ago.”

“Ah, then perhaps you’re more familiar than I am.”

Alex returned the woman’s smile and tried not to speed up her pace. The chill in the air was affecting her and she couldn’t wait to get to their room and sit in front of the fireplace. “It’s been a long time since I last visited.”

“I understand Madame Nicole tries to keep everything the same,” Olga offered as she led the way upstairs. “Just like when her grandmother was alive.”

“Her grandmother the Marquise.”

**Very astute, Detective,** Alex thought, relieved that all she needed was connect that final dot for her lover. Hopefully, she would find the courage to do so before her mother’s cousin arrived. Involuntarily, she shivered.

Olivia noticed. “Cold, Jaime?”

“Yeah, just a little bit.”

“I’m sorry. This time of the year, the air is a bit damp,” the manager apologized. “And it is impossible to heat an old building this size with modern equipments. We prepared a fire in your room, however; it should be more comfortable.”

“Wonderful.” Alex smiled, pleased that they didn’t have far to go.

“Interesting portrait,” Olivia commented as they reached the landing.

“Yes, interesting,” Olga agreed. “Very realistic. She looks like she’s smiling and watching you.”

“Kind of like the Mona Lisa,” Alex jumped in.

“Yes, like the Mona Lisa.”

The detective watched the exchange between the two women, and then turned her head back towards the painting. “You and she look alike, a little bit.”

“Madame said so too.” Olga smiled. “I think it’s our hair style. She’s much more beautiful. Don’t you love the color of her eyes? They look like turquoise stones.”

“No relation then?”

“No, not that I know of,” she said, and hurried to open a door a few steps away. With reserved drama, she waved her arm. “Here we are, Mesdames. We have arrived at the Elyseé.”

Chapter 4

“That Olga, she’s somethin’,” Olivia said, flopping onto the bed, and patting the space beside her.

Almost hesitantly, Alex approached. Carefully, she sat, on the edge and far from her lover’s reach. “What do you mean?”

Brown eyes narrowed, just briefly. “I don’t know. She seems kinda weird.”

“Weird? She seems friendly to me.”

“I don’t know. Can’t put a finger on it.”

“I’m sure she isn’t any weirder than the normal French person, you know, in the eyes of an American. And vice-versa, I’m sure.” Alex smiled. “Then there’s the language issue. Maybe she was translating in her head.”

“I guess.” Olivia shrugged, and laced her hands across her stomach. “So.”


“You wanna tell me what’s wrong?”

“What do you mean?”

“You seem nervous. Like you’re hiding something.”

“What possibly could I be hiding?” Alex hedged.

“If I knew, I wouldn’t be asking.” Olivia sighed internally. **It’s like teeth-pulling. Am I that difficult to deal with?** She wondered. “You know you can tell me anything.”


The look on her lover’s face, the lift of her brow, they betrayed nothing. “Anything,” she crossed her heart.

“What if I told you this place is haunted?”

“Haunted? As in ghosts?”

Alex nodded.

“I’m not sure I believe in things that go bump in the night.” Olivia laughed. “I’m a cop, remember? Concrete science goes a long way.”

“But you’re Catholic.”

“Recovering Catholic, who doesn’t necessarily believe in the Holy Ghost,” she preempted the blonde.

“What about residual energies? Haven’t you ever been in places where you could almost sense the people who lived there? Like who or what kind of person they were?”

“You can tell a lot by the décor, or the books on the shelves. It’s pure observation and deduction, like which side of the sink they put their toothbrush tell you if he or she’s a lefty,” the detective explained her method. “Sometimes your subconscious picks those things up even when you’re not aware.”

“I guess.”

“I suspected the kind of woman you are when I first smelled your perfume, or rather, perfumes.”


“You have many...”

“I used to,” Alex corrected. “And some were gifts I didn’t even open.”

“But most people just have one scent. It’s either by choice, or that’s just the way the society taught us,” Olivia illustrated. “Meanwhile, you like variety. You get bored with one.”

Alex shrugged, not denying her lover’s observation. “Okay.”

“The ones you use most often though, they’re all flowery on the surface, elegant and reserved. You used to have one that smelled like someone’s ancient aunt.” She flinched, expecting to be hit.

Predictably, Alex smacked her lover’s leg. “Shut up!”

“Anyway, that was your way of keeping people away. Not approachable.”

“Didn’t stop you.”

“Yeah, well, I have a great nose. I could tell how much you want me, every time I got near you.”

“You did not!”

“No.” Olivia moved in time to block her lover’s strike. She scooted down the mattress, and laced their fingers together. “I found the underlying note.”

“Which is?”

“Something spicy, and sweet. Very, very tasty.” She crooked her index finger at her lover, hoping to sample, and to show the blonde just how delectable she thought she was.

“They should be bringing the luggage up soon,” Alex reminded, shaking her head.

“How’bout a kiss?”

She crossed her arms about herself. “Later, I want more than just a kiss.”

“I see.” Olivia grinned, content with the reply. “Then what do we do now?”

**We can keep talking about ghosts,** Alex wanted to say, but stopped herself. “You want to go see the garden? Maybe we could bring a few flowers for our room?”

“Okey doke!” Cheerfully, Olivia agreed, looking forward to the distraction. Quickly, she sat and swung her feet to the side of the bed. With a huge smile, she accepted Alex’s help, and let her pull her from the bed. And using the momentum, she gathered the woman in her arms, crushing their lips together. Her tongue swept her lover’s mouth and tickled her teeth, previewing the things she would do to other parts of her body the next time they were alone…

Pulling away and gasping for air, Alex whimpered her objection, “Liv.”

“What?” She said with innocent eyes, taking the woman’s slender hand and leading the way to the door.

Chapter 5

“That was mean,” Alex complained as they pushed open the glass door that led to the garden.

Olivia offered another innocent smile. “What was?”

“You know what.”

“Just making sure you don’t get bored,” she justified, her eyes taking in their surroundings, marveling at the picturesque views and the now clear, blue sky.


“Well, then think of it as payback.”

“For what?”

“The frustrating things you did on the damn train. What am I? Made of stone?” Olivia said, turning around to follow a butterfly’s flight. When was the last time she paid enough attention to notice one? She couldn’t remember. “It’s beautiful.”

“Kind of early for butterflies, don’t you think?” Alex squinted towards sky. “Come on, I just played with your fingers.”

“Yeah. You got a bridge you wanna sell?”

“Are you saying…” Alex contended; then abruptly, she stopped. “Henri!” She exclaimed, waving at the figure bending over the rose bushes.

**Henri?** Olivia watched the man straighten; then his face split into a smile. “We’re not through,” she whispered as her lover grabbed her arm.

“Ma puce!” The old man pushed his thick beard against the blonde’s cheeks. He then pulled back, to look up. “Ma petite puce!”

“Not so petite anymore.” Alex laughed.

“Ah, yes, you’re all grown up, but you’re still my little flea, in my heart,” he patted his chest. “And such a beauty, Mon Dieu.” He shook his head, sighing. “She’s smiling right now, so happy to see you, I can feel it.”

**Who’s smiling?** The detective’s brain raced to put everything in place. **He’s clearly the gardener… But what happened to decorum and formality?**

“Oh, Henri, I’d like you to meet Olivia,” Alex said, pulling her lover forward.

The old man took the brunette’s hand from Alex, and kissed the air above it. “My pleasure to meet you, friend of the little flea.”

“Little flea?”

“Her pet name. Always getting into everything, she was. Beaucoup trouble.”

“Like a flea. I can see that.” Olivia laughed, ignoring the friendly blue daggers casting her way. “Your garden, it’s very beautiful,” she admired.

“Merci.” He nodded proudly. “This is my life’s work. My mistress.” His light brown eyes twinkled. “My wife will tell you.”

“Yes, Henri has been the gardener here for as long as I’ve known,” Alex provided.

“Before that, my father, and before that, my father’s father.”

“Wow. That’s amazing,” Olivia sighed. “Not too many people do that nowadays, following their parents’ footsteps.”

“You’re right,” Henri sighed along, stroking his beard, clearly charmed.

Alex had seen this a thousand times before with unsuspecting vendors or witnesses, basically anyone with something or some information the detective wanted. Her lover could talk candy out of a toddler if she tried. And she had to act, before too much conversation could take place. “Henri?”


“I want to show Olivia the stables before lunch.”

“And the chapel?”

“Maybe, if we’re not too tired. We had to get up early to catch the train,” Alex provided the obvious. ”But you should go… I’m sure…”

“I will, if not today, tomorrow,” Alex said, taking the old man’s hand and holding it between her palms. “I promise.”

“And you will come back to see me?”

“Yes, we will. And maybe we could steal a few flowers for our rooms?”

His smile unwavering, he man nodded. “Come back, before you go in for lunch,” he said, “And I will have some ready for you.”

“Merci, Henri!”

“Merci, Henri. Pleasure to meet you, Henri!” Olivia chimed in, quickly formulating a list of questions to ask.

Chapter 6

“So, who…”

Alex hushed and motioned for her lover to follow. “Come, there’s something I want to show you. Afterwards, you can ask all the questions you want.”

“Where are we going?” Olivia asked, looking around, trying to remember her surroundings while her legs hurried to stay even with the blonde’s long, quick strides.

“To the chapel.”


“The horses can wait.”

The tone of Alex’s voice had already told the detective that much. “What’s in the chapel?”

“Dead people.”

“Dead people?”

“Well, there’s an altar also, and a few pews, just enough for a close service. Oh, and the most beautiful stained glass windows, telling the story of Joan of Arc.”

“Okay…” Olivia consciously relaxed her brows. “And dead people?”


“Crypts?” She felt like an echo.

“Past generations of d’Estins,” Alex provided concisely. “And their spouses,” she added in afterthought.

“I see,” Olivia said even though she didn’t quite understand. **Not at all.** She sighed internally. “This is not about your ghosts, is it?”

Alex stopped. Brusquely, she turned around. “You could say that it is.”

“Jesus Christ, Alex!” The detective insisted, “There’s no such thing as ghosts.”

“Not everything has to be literal, Liv.” Alex explained with surprising patience. “History can haunt. I’m sure many people are still haunted by the Holocaust.” ”I guess.”

“And you’re haunted by your memories.”

“My mother stuck to the floor by her own vomit doesn’t haunt me,” Olivia spat. True, it still at times made her angry, and sometimes even sad, when she thought about how Serena Benson wasted her life, but she didn’t have nightmares about it. No, she had hardly even imagined how the woman had spent the last few seconds of her life, freefalling from the subway stairs.

“No, but me stuck to the sidewalk by my own blood does.”

“How’d you… know?”

“Sometimes you talk in your sleep,” Alex explained. “I could hear the panic in your voice, repeating ‘stay with me’ over and over again.” In a twisted way, it had reassured her how her lover felt. It gave her the courage to ride the speeding train of their relationship.

“I’m sorry, to have kept you awake, during,” Olivia whispered. What else could she say? The woman was right, maybe ghosts existed after all.

“Good God, Liv. Why are you… that’s not something you need to apologize.” The blonde sighed. “And if anyone should, it’d be I… For putting you and everyone I love through that. And for what? A picture of me on the front page?”

“Alex, Sweetheart.” Following her instinct, Olivia tried to console. But where was the sorrow? Or even anguish? “You did what was right,” she repeated the well-rehearsed phrase. Maybe if she said it enough, she would convince at least herself.

“Whatever,” Alex shrugged. The next moment, she was all smiles. “We’re not here to discuss what I did or if I did the right thing, again. It’s the past and there’s nothing anyone can do to change it now.”

“Then why are we talking about ghosts?”

“We’re not. When we started, we were talking about the dead former owners of Mondestin.”

“But you want me to believe they haunt this place.”

“In a way, they do. They’re part of history,” Alex argued, resuming their walk. “Anyway, I just want you to see. Some of the crypts are gorgeous and expertly carved with the people’s likeness. Thought you might find that interesting.”

“Hm. Sculptures and stained glass. Sounds like another museum.” Olivia chuckled, eager to bring lightness to their interaction, strained ever since the morning. Then she assumed it was just her lover hating being rushed as they got ready. Now she wasn’t so sure. “All right,” she sighed exaggeratedly, her cheesy grin plastered on her face. “I guess I can do another museum.”

“Be glad we’re not going to the mushroom museum.”

“We’re not? Dang!”

How unfailingly the brunette made her smile. Alex shook her head and rolled her eyes. “You can try acting a little more sincere.”

“I’m saving my sincerity, just in case I meet your ghosts.” Before Alex could hit her, she added, “Boo!”

“Shut up!”

“Make me,” she challenged, pointing to her mouth.

Alex licked her lips and slowed her pace until they stood, face to face. Slowly, deliberately, she trailed her fingers along her lover’s neck and down her shirt front. **Payback,** her eyes glittered in warning, as her hand returned to cup full heavy breast. She smiled, pleased with the woman’s speechlessness, and closed their distance…

Chapter 7

With her arms wrapped around herself, Alex watched her lover walk from one end of the chapel to another. The woman stopped at every station, admiring every detail. And as if in conspiracy, the bright late morning sun hit the glass just right, exaggerating the window’s brilliance. **Are you done yet?** She wanted to ask, her patience pushed to the limit.

“This is really beautiful.” Olivia’s awe echoed through the small chamber. “Did you see…” She began, looking up at the familiar tableau. But her lover’s sigh interrupted. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. But do you have to look at everything?”

“But I thought you wanted me to.”

Suppose that was true. She wanted Olivia here, so she could see for herself what she was too cowardly to tell. **But does it have to take forever?**

Another one of her lover’s sigh brought the viewing to a stop. The detective walked to the side of the aisle and paused. “Should we be sitting on this?”

Alex checked the cold marble surface for residual dust. Finding none, she shrugged. “I don’t see why not.”

“But it’s a crypt.”

“But it’s empty.”

“But your grandmother…”

“She was never buried here, Liv. This was probably installed just in case she didn’t survive childhood, or something,” Alex explained. “If we sit on the pews, I’d feel the need to be quiet.”

Lacking better arguments, Olivia answered Alex’s shrug with one of her own. Gingerly, she sat beside her lover, feeling more disturbed than she cared to admit. **She was never buried here,** she reminded herself. “So.”


“You wanna talk?”

Alex paused. Then she realized what she said about needing to be quiet told Olivia she did want to talk. “I’m ready. Go ahead.”

“Go ahead with what?”

“Freak. You can go ahead and freak.”

The detective held her lover’s eyes for several long moments. Then she smiled. “Why? I hadn’t planned on freaking.”

“You hadn’t? You mean you’re not?”

“I don’t see a reason to. Should I?” She asked, and didn’t wait for an answer. “I can see where you get your looks though. Your ancestors were all beautiful people.”

“That’s it? You’re not going to have a cow about this being my great-grandparents’ house?” Olivia’s reaction or the lack there of, wasn’t what Alex expected at all. She couldn’t believe she had worried for nothing.

“Why should I? I think it’s wonderful, marvelous that we’re staying here. I feel closer to you. And to this place, now that I know it’s not just any random castle,” Olivia explained sincerely.

“You really are not going to have a cow?”

“About what? That your family owned a castle?”


“All right, owns.” Olivia kept the smile in her voice. “I freaked when you took me to Hyde Park. We knew you were from money, probably came off the Mayflower or something. But a three hundred acre estate? Man, did I feel out of place.” She shook her head, feeling a little incongruous still.

“I know. That’s why I thought you would again.”

“Hm.” Now the blonde had put the thought in her head, she wondered why she didn’t feel the same. Familiarity? Or because she had already gathered from Celine that her family had roots in aristocracy. Seriously, who went around displaying their family crests? How many people had crests to display, for that matter? She tried to explain, “From what little I’ve seen, this place feels like a home, lived in. It’s very different from the other place.”


“Okay, let me try this another way: Where you grew up, it’s practically down the street from the Vanderbilt’s, a national historical site. And yours looked even more… posh, for lack of a better word.”

Alex shrugged, and waited for Olivia to continue.

“Sure, this is a castle. But compared to Versailles, this is like a… um, a house. No offense.”

“More like a shed,” Alex provided with a quiet laugh.

“A comfortable, well-loved home for someone. Kind of like your mom’s place in Yonkers. It’s huge compared to the neighboring houses, but it isn’t oppressive.”

Her lover was right, certainly reasonable. “I guess I never looked at it like that.”

“Of course not, you grew up in wealth. You’re used to society reacting a certain way to people with wealth,” Olivia offered, trying to reassure the blonde. “But you know I don’t have that luxury, not with my job. If your mother isn’t your mother, she’d be just some rich broad to me, and I’d arrest her like I’d arrest the next perp.”

Alex laughed. “I’m sure she’d love to hear that.”

“And I’m sure this is between you, me and your ancestors.” Olivia leaned in to nuzzle her lover’s neck. “Right?”

Chapter 8

“We’ll see,” Alex replied, her brows lifting. “What are you doing?”

“Trying to get a little friendly?”

“Are you insane?” She pushed the brunette away.

“Why? Your ancestors can witness our love.”

“No, Liv. No!”

“All right,” Olivia sighed exaggeratedly and pouted. “You’re no fun.”

“You know I hate bugs. Who knows what’s crawling around here.” Alex shivered, just thinking about the potential critters lurking in the dark corners and crevices. “I’m not even sure when the last time they had seriously cleaned this place,” she said, and made a face.

“That’s your worry?” Olivia cracked up. “You kill me.”

She frowned and reflexively touched the bridge of her nose. “What?”

“I thought you were blocking cuz I was being blasphemous.”


“It’s not the most proper thing to do. Here. In a chapel,” Olivia justified. “Even though it’s your family’s chapel,” she appended. Who was she kidding? She was freaking out. **Maybe just a little bit. Not enough to make a big deal out of definitely,** she had herself convinced. Considering how ill at ease her lover had been, she did not need to add to her discomfort.

“That’s true.”

**Uh-oh…** Her Cheshire cat smile froze when suddenly she recognized that look in her lover’s blue eyes. “Whatcha thinking?” She managed not to squeak.


“Don’t gimme that!” This time, Olivia half shrieked, jumping from the empty crypt. “Whatever you’re thinking, stop it.”

“Why?” Alex followed, advancing on the brunette. “I thought you wanted testament of our love,” she said, and wet her lips slowly, seductively.

“Not here, not like this.” Olivia backed up until a hard and cold corner pushed into her shoulder blades. “Jesus.” She turned to check what she had run into, and quickly faced forward again. “Remember the bugs? Alex? I don’t think your great-grandparents would appreciate us…” She gasped, and tried to forget Michelle d’Estin’s lifelike smile hovering over her head.

“Oh, I don’t know. Something tells me they’d think it’s funny.”

“Sweetheart!” She yelped. Her eyes slammed involuntarily shut when pink lips pressed against hers. She whimpered, when soft tongue pierced her mouth. One day maybe she would learn not to put naughty ideas into Alex’s head. **Or maybe that’s part of the fun,** she thought while the blonde robbed air from her lungs. Almost desperately, she clung to the woman’s trim waist, falling into their kiss…

The wet stroke of her lover’s tongue sent her heart beating wildly. It felt like she was trying to reach her sex through her throat. The tingle of guilty pleasure roared into a fierce ache. Her nails dug into the leather of the woman’s belt while she writhed whimpering against her body despite herself. She wanted Alex to make love to her there; it was insane.

**Take me,** she pleaded silently, sagging against the carved marble, and climbing her lover’s legs. She wanted Alex to take her in front of all her dead ancestors. She wanted her to do it under god’s roof and made her hers.

As if reading her mind and choosing prudence, Alex contained the hunger in their kiss, tuning it down to something sweet. Their lips touched; their fingers caressed. They spent the next long minutes tasting each other’s mouth, mingling their breaths. When the blonde finally let go of her face and broke off their connection, she felt empty. “Baby?”

“There,” Alex said, smiling broadly.

“Huh?” She blinked, her kiss-bruised lips quivering.

“We showed whoever’s around.”

The look in her lover’s blue eyes held promise, that she had picked her to be the person to spend eternity with, just like all the couples entombed in this room. “With your ancestors as witness?” Olivia breathed.

“Yep,” Alex replied, glancing up and meeting her great-grandparents’ smile. “Oh, look, Liv.”

Olivia followed the woman’s whisper and turned to see a butterfly perched on top of the monument’s head. “The same one?” She mouthed.

Alex shrugged and kept her voice low, “Let’s go.”

Reluctantly, the brunette followed. When she thought they were far enough away to not disturb the butterfly, she laughed. “I can’t believe… we had a live witness.”

“Witnesses,” Alex corrected and pointed to the one in flight.

“Think they’re a pair?”

“Maybe.” Alex took her lover’s hand. “Or maybe the cliché is true, that when you’re in love, you want the whole world to be, too.”

Olivia fought the giggle rising from her stomach. “Are you hungry?”

“Famished, actually now that you mentioned it.”



“Can I be lunch?” Olivia asked. The way she felt, she wanted to be dinner as well.

Alex licked her lips. “And dessert.”

Chapter 9

“You said I could ask questions,” Olivia said, reaching to tear off a piece of the roasted chicken with her fingers.

“Go ahead.”

She watched her lover, leaning against the pillows, her pearly teeth biting into a mushroom, her full lips moving as she chewed. **How could anyone look so sexy chewing?** She shook her head and returned her attention to her food. She still couldn’t believe Alex actually agreed to eat in bed.


What to ask? Where to start? There were so many things she wanted to know, but none that she couldn’t leave alone. The brunette had mainly wanted distractions enough at least to help her through lunch. “Why did you tell Henri we have rooms?” She began, her voice more accusatory than she intended. To make it up, she rested her tray beside her crossed legs, and extended her hand. “Need help with that?”

“Sure,” Alex moved to relinquish her knife and fork, stopping when she saw her lover fingers poise over the wing. “Go ahead,” she responded to the raised dark brow.

“Breast? Leg?”

Blue eyes scanned the offering.

“I meant the chicken, Sweetheart,” Olivia managed. **God, this is going to be a long meal.**

“I’ll take the other wing, if you don’t mind,” Alex decided. That was the safest choice. “Thank you,” she said as her lover filled her plate.


“We do have rooms.”

“We do?” As far as she knew, they had the bedroom and an oversized closet. **Suppose that’s a room by City standards.**

“Through the closet, there’s another room,” Alex motioned with her head. She looked down at her food, and decided to set her silverware aside. It wouldn’t kill her to loosen up a little. “I think my great-grandparents used it as their private study. There’s a set of stairs, from there you could reach the roof.”

“Sounds like an escape.”

“I’m sure it was, to have a little time to themselves to watch the night sky.”

“No, I meant literally. Like maybe during the war.”

“Hm. That’s possible. We should ask Nicole when she gets here.”

“Didn’t they help with the Resistance? This place screams isolation and hiding places and escape routes.”

“All of France would like people to believe they had a part in the Resistance.” Alex shrugged. “Anyway, I’d like to think seclusion. Yeah, it’s definitely a better word.”

The blonde’s dismissive tone about her family’s accomplishments surprised Olivia. “All right, seclusion,” she said, wondering if she should let the topic drop. “You don’t think they helped during the war?”

“I’m sure they did.”

“Your mom told me your great-grandfather was awarded with the Legion of Honor.”

“He was a career diplomat,” Alex replied, seemingly more interested in her food. “You know Edith would kill me if she saw me doing this.”

“What? Eating in bed?”

“And with my hands.”

The twinkle in her lover’s eyes made Olivia smile. “Actually, my mom’s probably rolling in her grave, too. Took her a while to accept that I wanted to be a cop,” she said, as if there were logic to her train of thoughts.

“I really wish I had met your mom. Elliot said she made the best eggplant parmesan.”

Olivia nodded in remembrance. “She wasn’t such a bad mom, at least when she was sober. We had some good times,” she said with a genuine laugh and pointed to Alex’s plate. “More chicken?”

“That’s okay, I can do this,” Alex rejected the brunette’s offer of help. She stared at the bird as if looking for a point of attack. Finally, she pulled off a drumstick. “See?”

The triumphant grin touched Olivia in ways she didn’t expect. It made her unreasonably happy that her lover felt free enough to abandon her ingrained manners. “Very good, Sweetheart!” She offered a teasing praise.

“You’re making fun of me.”

“Yes, I am. Ms-I-need-utensils-with-my-pizza.”

“Shut up!”

“Make me.”

“Oh, you just wait,” Alex threatened. Her seductive smile widened into a grin when her lover sighed and re-crossed her legs.

Chapter 10

“Jesus.” Olivia laughed. “That was a trek,” she commented while closing the door to their room. “Well, at least we’re clean.”

“Probably why people used chamber pots, back in the day,” Alex replied, putting their toiletries on the dressing table.

“You’re probably right. Can you imagine having to go in the middle of the night?” Olivia said and laughed again, just to be funny. Meanwhile, to make sure they would not be disturbed, she slid in the bolt. As she did so, she wondered if that was part of the original décor. Did people lock their doors back then? Was it installed during the war? Or in the present day, for the tourists’ benefit? The detective in her found the entire situation interesting, or maybe it was the romantic notion of spy stories and clandestine intrigue. “So,” she said, and stretched her muscles, ready for an afternoon of delight.

“God, I can’t believe we ate a whole chicken,” Alex sighed, leaning into the pillows once more. “I’m stuffed.”

Kicking off her shoes, Olivia joined her lover in bed. “I’d like to be.”

Alex shook her head at the crude remark and laughed softly. “I think I need a nap.”

“Right now?”

She ignored the whine in her lover’s voice. “I’ll have more energy afterwards,” she said, and closed her eyes.

Olivia sat and stared at the blonde, then at the canopy. She traced the patterns of the heavy brocade while the other woman’s breathing deepened. **Not fair,** she complained, wishing she could be more like Alex. Sleep never came quite so easily for her, especially when she was horny as hell. The repeated teasing from the morning didn’t help either.

Almost roughly, she shucked off her jeans. All the while, she glanced at her lover, to see if the shifting around would wake her. “Nope,” she whispered her frustration and fell back into bed. She felt like she could claw out of her skin.

She thought about the toys they bought in Paris. There were a few things in there, any one of which she could use to relieve some of the pressure. There were other items she would much prefer using on the blonde… And they were easily within reach; they were sitting in her bedside drawer, sparkling in alluring bright colors and fun shapes. Fantasies swam in her mind.

Running her fingers through her hair, Olivia tried to clear her head. She rolled onto her side and gazed at the slumbering woman. “So beautiful,” she whispered her awe, resisting the urge to touch. Sometimes, like now, she wondered if fairy dust would fall if she brushed her finger along the soft golden lashes fanning her lover’s cheeks. She watched her lips, pink and enticing, parting in sleep; and she wanted to kiss them. Even more, she craved to feel them on her, sucking on her hardened nipples, closing around her flesh.

Brown eyes slammed shut; large hands squeezed into fists. She wanted to scream.

**One Mississippi, two Mississippi…** She counted to ten. Then she retraced her steps since this morning, mentally revisiting the parts of the chateau she had been. There were so many places she hadn’t seen, the main library, for instance; she could go fetch a book. A long musty novel would surely dull her senses and numb her mind. **Yeah, with my luck, it’d be Balzac or something.** She sighed and set the idea aside. Briefly, she thought about getting dressed and exploring on her own. It wouldn’t be fun without her lover. It also didn’t seem proper, to go wandering around the woman’s ancestral home, even if it was supposed to be a B&B.

**Is it really?** She wondered momentarily. **The brochures looked genuine,** she reminded herself. **And there’s Olga… It’s gotta be expensive to keep this place up. Renting it out at least part of the year would help.** She looked around room with the twenty-foot ceiling, and rested her gaze on the flickering fire. The stone fireplace was huge, larger than any she had even seen; her whole kitchen could fit inside it. She wondered if there were some sort of ladder inside, so people could climb up or down in a pinch. And she imagined Michelle and Bernard during the war, smuggling people to safety. And she didn’t understand why her lover seemed so blasé. **Really just so I’d feel better about my roots, my less than glorious roots? That’s totally asinine.**

She shook her head, while pieces of childhood memory fell out from nowhere. Her grandparents lived in a big house. At least it seemed big to a child. She could remember the chandeliers and the dark colored furniture, and the colorful chintz that covered everything. She could recall her grandmother’s thin hands wringing the wash cloth she was using to wash the dirt from her skinned knees. If she allowed herself, she could still vaguely hear her grandfather apologizing to his wife for buying their granddaughter a bike, letting her ride it in the garden, and not catching her before she hit the old tree. And there was her grandmother cooing, asking if it hurt, and the family doctor showing up with his leather bag, smelly from medicine and antiseptic, to check on her wounds. It wasn’t just figments of Olivia imagination. If she looked hard enough, she could still see the bumpy scars.

She wish she could remember her past, at least enough to tell her lover, to reassure her that not everything was as lousy as people thought, or as bad as she had let them believe. Why did she let people think the worst anyway? Because it would be easier? It would be easier for her to understand why her grandparents abandoned her? And why hadn’t she tried to look for them? It shouldn’t be hard with her resources. Because they were probably long dead? Or did she fear the rejection? Or was she afraid that it had nothing to do with her at all, and she had to stop feeling sorry for herself?

**It’s so easy to feel sorry for yourself,** Olivia thought, her eyes lingering on the sleeping blonde. **It’s so easy to sit here, do nothing, and blame others for everything that’s wrong with your world.**

Carefully, she shifted closer to her lover. Reaching out, she touched Alex’s cheek, and let her fingertips trail a path to her chin. Then she leaned in and pressed their lips together, softly stealing and tasting the woman’s breath, sweet and more intoxicating than the rosé that accompanied their lunch.

Gently, she brushed kisses against the velvety flesh. Her hand drifted down the pink knit shirt; her fingers deftly un-looped the top buttons from the fabric holes. When Alex sighed and shifted onto her back, she stopped.

Then she raised herself up on her elbows. Slowly, almost gingerly, she maneuvered her body until she hovered over Alex’s. It was hard to keep in the position, with her legs outside her lover’s not touching, her toes holding her up. She had to work fast.

With the tip of her tongue and directed breath, she tickled the blonde’s skin, until her sleeping hand moved to scratch. She remained silent, when slender fingers collided with her flesh. When blue eyes blinked opened, she smiled.

Chapter 11

“What are you doing?” Alex asked. Her lover’s intent should be clear, judging by their bodies’ position, but the look in her dark brown eyes was not. It was everything but clear.

“Trying not to fall on you?”

The reply made Alex smile. With a light laugh, she pulled the woman forward and made room for her between her legs. “Better?”

Olivia shifted, relaxing her muscles, pressing their bodies closer, until she could feel her lover’s heartbeat picking up its pace. She sighed and nodded in appreciation.

Reaching up, Alex touched the brunette’s face. “Got something to tell me?”

“You’re beautiful.”

“Besides that?”

“I love you.”

Gently, Alex shook her head, cutting to the chase. “You were thinking about something else, before you woke me up.”

“How d’you know?” Olivia asked, wondering what gave her away. She was not at all surprised that her lover had picked it up. The woman was perceptive, to say the least. And sometimes she wondered if Alex didn’t know her better than Olivia did herself.

“I just do?”

“There’s gotta be something else.”

Alex smiled, and traced the contour of the brunette’s lips, watching the look fade away. “Just…” She shrugged. “Something in your eyes.”

Olivia laughed lightly; the movement caused her chest to push against her lover’s. “Windows to my soul?” When Alex swallowed, she asked, “Then what else do you see?”

**Hunger,** the blonde thought, as her body melted to the heat. Outwardly, she tried to maintain her control. “I see that you want to tell me what you were thinking. That if you didn’t, it’d start eating you up.”

Olivia laughed again. The woman was amazing. No wonder witnesses cooperated with her. Who could resist that level of tenacity?

“So, give.”

“All right. I was thinking about my grandmother.”


“Remembering things from my childhood.”

”What kind of things?”

“The place they lived. How I ran into a tree trying to learn how to bike. I think my grandparents actually loved me, at least at some point, at least they tried, even though I was a bastard.”

The word made Alex ache. She wanted to lean up, and kiss away everything that was bad from her lover’s past. She wished she had that power. “Liv…”

“No, that’s what my grandmother called me, before my mom took me home. That was the last time I saw them. I think I was eight or nine,” Olivia pushed the words out, for fear she would lose the courage to tell.

“She called you that to your face?’

Olivia shook her head. “She and my mom were arguing in my grandparent’s bedroom. I overheard them. She called me an infidel, too. An infidel bastard to be exact. I didn’t know what that meant until later.”

“Infidel? You were a kid.”

“I didn’t think it made sense either. But...” Olivia shrugged and let the sentence die. There were no other reasonable explanations for what her grandmother said, or for her mother’s reaction. Anyway, it felt good to tell the secret she had been carrying for almost three decades. Maybe now it would cease to have any control over her.

“Don’t you think maybe you heard wrong?”

“I’m pretty sure I didn’t.”

“But you didn’t hear the entire argument either. Things could’ve been out of context.”

“I thought about that, too,” Olivia admitted. “Anyway, it really doesn’t matter now. It’s so long ago, and everyone’s dead, except for me. And I have much better things to do than dwell on the ugly past.”

How could Alex argue with that logic? Especially with the dark passionate storm now brewing in the deep brown eyes. She arched against her lover’s body, to tell the woman she agreed. “For instance?”

“My beautiful girlfriend, for instance,” Olivia whispered, letting the words slide along the blonde’s throat. “So many things I’d like to do.”

“I thought you wanted me to do,” Alex replied, her eyes closing to her lover’s sucking kisses.

“Later. Right now, I want to. I want to do things to you, nasty things,” Olivia talked dirty, her voice had taken on a honeyed tone, warm and sticky and sweet. “Things that’ll make you feel good, really, really good.”

Alex sighed, a strangled whimper, her fingers gripping the fabrics of the brunette’s shirt.

“So, can I? Can I do nasty things to you?” Olivia asked, dotting kisses along the exposed valley of her lover’s breasts. She smiled when eager hands tugged at her shirt, pulling it from her jeans.

Chapter 12

“You’re asking?” Alex laughed, her eyes twinkling, her neck craning to make contact with the brunette’s lips as she peeled the shirt from her arms.

“Yeah?” Olivia replied, tossing her hair from her face before diving once more into Alex’s embrace, her hands cupping and pushing her lover’s breasts, until they spilled over the lace edges of her bra, until the pink tips jutted out in attention.

“Considering you’d already started,” Alex gasped, and arched, as hot breath seared her skin. “Maybe I should just go back to sleep and leave you and my body alone,” she teased, and hissed when still hotter lips closed around her skin.

“Didn’t think, you’d mind…” Olivia mumbled, her tongue busily circling and pulling and curling around the erect flesh. “Did you?”

“We’re a little beyond that, don’t you think?”

“What d’you mean?”

“Just tell me what you were going to do.”

“Things. Nice things.”

“You said nasty,” Alex arched again, her fingers gripping her lover’s shoulder, feeling the muscles bunch and flex as the woman painted wet kisses across her chest.

“Well…” Olivia paused, and squeezed her lips together.

“God,” Alex sighed, and closed her eyes. Desperately, she held her lover close. “What did you have in mind?”

“It was just a figure of speech.”

“I see.” She bit her lip against a scream. The brunette’s intensity, her frantic moves, they made her head spin.

Then, her hands sweeping down Alex’s body, pulling her closer still, Olivia breathed, “I love you… Want you…”

“Tell me.” Tell me everything you want to do to me, blue eyes urged.

“I, I can’t,” Olivia said, her voice husky and breathless. “Much rather show you.”

“Then show me.” The brunette’s verbal reserve, so completely in contrast with her physical aggression, made Alex dizzy. It was exciting. She demanded, “How much.” Show me how much you want me, her body shouted, pushing against her lover’s, curving into an offering arch.

Rising quickly, Olivia grabbed the pink shirt tails and yanked the placket open. “Oops.” She grinned crookedly, when a button pinged against something made of wood. There was no time for apology. Almost frantically, she unclasped and peeled off her lover’s bra. Then she fell back against the woman, moaning when their bare breasts touched and mashed together.

Alex laughed, bending her body into her lover’s, savoring the sensation. “Animal,” she scolded playfully.

“Grrr,” Olivia growled, matching the blonde’s humor. Then her arms loosened about the woman’s waist. “Turn around,” she implored, her voice high and breathy.


“I wanna kiss you, all over.”

Alex rolled onto her stomach. “All over?” She giggled when her lover nibbled on her shoulder. When gentle fingers brushed aside her hair and the nibbling traveled to her neck, her laughter shuddered to a stop. Olivia’s intent to mark made her moan; it made her wetter still. She pushed back against the woman’s flesh.

“All over,” Olivia promised, rubbing their bodies together while her hands busied. Blind and almost harried, they unclasped the blonde’s belt. “Christ,” she cursed when the button fly couldn’t become undone fast enough. “Next time, I want you naked before you get in bed,” she half-barked, satisfied when the jeans landed on the floor with a thump. Quickly, her own underwear joined the pile.


“I mean it,” she demanded, folding her body around her lover’s once more.

“So I can be ready and available?”

“Yes,” Olivia hissed, her hands roaming, spreading Alex’s heat, more emphasizing than seeking proof, “And open and dripping wet.”

“What happened to, anticipation?”

In reply, the brunette pushed downwards, dotting kisses along her lover’s spine.

“Liv?” Arching back, Alex tried to catch Olivia’s eye. She saw hunger, raw and stark in the woman’s countenance. Then brown eyes flicked up, and she found tenderness, rich and strong. Deeply, she sighed; she thought she might dissolve.

“So beautiful,” Olivia admired, stroking blonde fur, watching her lover squirm.

“Please,” Alex heaved, lifting her hips, offering her sex.

“Such a luscious ass,” she said, hovering above the cleft. Impulsively, she lowered her teeth.

“Hey!” Alex yelped. “You bit me.”

Chapter 13

“Always wanted to,” Olivia said, coating the spot with wet kisses. “Reminds me of an apple.”

“Liv.” Alex had to laugh.

“Why do you bother with these?” Olivia tugged at the thin strip of elastic nestled between her lover’s firm cheeks. Really, what was the point of the underwear? It covered almost nothing and she could easily shred it with her fingers. Except, she adored the way the strings emphasized the lushness of the woman’s flesh. And the deepening pink of the fabric made her sex well up in sympathy. “Mm?”



“You could’ve pulled them off with my jeans,” Alex reminded Olivia, telling her in other words that she knew having to remove them added to her lover’s thrill.

Olivia finished peeling off the satiny thong, slower and more deliberate than she needed to be. She watched it reveal the deep pink slit, quivering and glistening like a flower in morning dew. She inhaled, deeply, savoring the heady sweet scent. Her head swam.

“Well?” Alex teased, laughing lightly and shaking her tail to tempt. Her merriment hitched when she felt her lover’s breath near her center. Instinctively, she pushed her legs further apart, as wide as they could go. “Liv,” she sighed into the pillow when the woman’s tongue pushed through her opening, stoking her fire. Then she felt the tongue drag upwards. Momentarily, she tensed, relaxing when the undeniably sexy probing continued. The pressure grew to her lover cupping and kneading her mons. She could feel herself melting; she was certain she would drown.

“Raise up.” Olivia directed with her hands.


“On your knees…” she half-growled. The sight before her made her tremble; it fueled her need to conquer, to keep. “God, I want… do you mind?” She reached forward and rested her hand on the night stand.

Almost desperately, the blonde shook her head.

“Which? What do you want?”

“Don’t care, your choice,” Alex breathed her reply. Then she thought better. “Everything,” she whispered, her voice shook.

**Everything.** The simple, three-syllable word flipped Olivia’s switch. Somehow she couldn’t see the controlled blonde saying that to anyone else, allowing anybody besides her that kind of power. It was an arrogant thought, she knew; but she was certain of its accuracy. She pushed against her lover’s body, rubbing their flesh together as she yanked open the drawer. Then swiftly, she pulled out the bag.

“Need help?” Alex asked, hoarse with anticipation.

“No.” Blindly, Olivia dumped the contents onto the bed. “Touch yourself,” she instructed, her eyes transfixed on her lover’s undulating movements. She ached to take over; she wanted her hands, her mouth all over the blonde, all at once. Ideas twirled in her mind. “God, Alex.”


“Don’t stop.” Olivia ordered, reaching for the leather straps. “Jesus, I feel crazy. You drive me crazy,” she croaked when her lover work fingertips inside herself, pulling out completely from time to time, to show her secrets, to drive Olivia out of her mind. “Finally,” she sighed, relieved, when all the buckles were tight and the silicon plastic stuck out obscenely from between her legs. She yearned to bury it deep inside her lover; she needed to. Instead, she bent forward again, and shoved her tongue once more into the woman’s heat. The sharp moan that filled the tight canopied space made her insides swell.

Hungrily, greedily, she lapped at the blonde. She dragged her tongue against every supple fold and crevice. She could feel the slender frame tensing, the woman’s hot flesh clenching. And she slowed her assault, drawing out her lover’s arousal. Whimpers tingled in her ears.

Then she picked the other toy from the pile, and slipped it between her lips, wetting it with her tongue. Then with swirling motions, she coated it with Alex’s juice. When whimpers turned into strangled, needful cries, she drew the plug out and upwards.

“Liv,” Alex panted in alarm.

“Relax. It’ll feel good; I’ll go slow,” she promised, stroking and massaging her lover’s sex with her palm, while smoothing the silicone bulb forward, watching it disappear into the pink pucker. When it was in, she lowered her lips once more, to kiss around the purple base. When the quivering of the blonde’s legs grew violent, she stopped. Supporting herself on her hand and knees, she teased her lover with the soft ridges of her plastic erection. She asked, “Ready?”

“God, yeah.” To punctuate, Alex reached down and guided Olivia to her gate.

She needed no further encouragement. Slowly, steadily, she nudged forward, feeling the friction, delicious and tight. When their hips met, and her lover’s flesh slapped against her own, she stopped. “Lie down,” she breathed, barely able to control her own excitement, and helped the woman onto her stomach.

Carefully, Olivia arranged their bodies, making sure her weight pressed down on the right places. Then she snaked her arms under, one hand spanning the blonde’s breasts, trapping her nipples; her other hand stroked down her flat stomach to hug her sex. “How’s this?” She asked, nibbling on her lover’s shoulder.

Quite unexpectedly, Alex laughed, her lashes fluttering in amusement.

Chapter 14

“What’s so funny?” Olivia asked, trying to not feel offended by her lover’s mirth. There had to be a reasonable explanation after all.

Alex let out another breathy laugh. “I think I know what they mean, in wild life documentaries, when they say the female got covered.”

**I think they meant the female got fucked,** Olivia thought, amused. Moving her fingers in circles, slowly rolling her lover’s nipples and clit, she asked, “Like this?”


“Doesn’t feel good?”

“Shut up,” Alex scolded softly, her eyes hooded in pleasure as she glanced back at her captor. “And don’t stop.”

“You sure?”

“Don’t you dare.”

Olivia wasn’t going to. She would gladly do this forever. Slowly, thrusting upwards, she watched her lover’s face. The pink flush of her cheeks, her quivering lips, they reflected the pleasure she was giving her. “You like the feeling?”

Trapped, as she was, there was nothing Alex could do, or needed to do, but to lie there and take it. Take the brunette’s loving, so thorough, and so tender. She felt subdued, overpowered, yet adored. “Mmhmm…” she murmured, beyond words.

“Tell me how it feels,” Olivia grunted, barely able to contain her movements as she pushed at her lover’s flesh. She imagined her wetness welling up and spilling over, the sexy noises as she stroked in and out of her slippery heat. Hot, fast, that was how she wanted to take the woman, maybe just a little rougher than she should. She wanted her to remember; she wanted to be everywhere, and everything. “Tell me,” she repeated, and held the body tighter, straining to stay still, to keep her emotions under control.


“Nice?” It was more than nice, she knew. It was a game they play, both of them grasping for the last threads of restraints, drawing out their want, building the intensity.

“Hot.” Alex gasped and arched up, impaling herself deeper on the toy. “Makes me hot.”

“You make me hot.”

“Liv,” she howled when her lover trapped her clit between her thumb and the silicon. “Oh, god,” she moaned, and squirmed, wishing, urging the brunette to go faster. She craved to feel the force of her corded muscles pounding, fucking her.

“I want you,” Olivia demanded, holding the blonde tighter, deeper.

“You have me.” Alex gritted her teeth, wanting more.

“You sure?”

“Yes,” she hissed, her patience wearing thin. “God,” she groaned. **Just fuck me,** she almost screamed. **Just fuck me hard and make me yours.**

Olivia wanted something else. She wanted everything. Rubbing her lover’s hardened bits, stretching and spreading her pleasure, she asked, "Are you mine?"

"Yes,” Alex replied, arching higher.

In answer, Olivia pushed down, her thrusts punctuating her words, "Really… mine?"


Tersely, she rotated her hips. "Mine?"


Somehow, at some point, the game stopped. And the jerking movements stopped. Olivia insisted, her voice a distorted whisper, "Who do you belong to?"

Alex sighed, and relaxed her limbs, trembling, yielding to her lover’s want, to what they both wanted. "You," she said sweetly, sincerely. She sighed again when the stroking resumed, more subtle, less desperate.

"Tell me."

"You, Liv."


"You. Yours. Always." She meant every word. She hoped Olivia believed.

"And I'm yours, too, Alex,” the brunette promised. Her hands tightened, clasping her lover to her heart. “Always."

“Please, Liv,” she pleaded softly, shivering, her own desperation overflowing. “Please, make me… Please…”

Olivia peered at her lover, watching her face and preparing to rock onto her knees. “Want me to move?”

Alex shook her head. Covered, she wanted to feel covered and helpless and overwhelmed. “Just your fingers. I want…”

“What do you want?”

“Feel you. Your weight, on top.”

“Covered?” Olivia caught on. “Like this?”

“Oh, god,” her breath shook.

Chapter 15

“I love you,” Olivia whispered, bearing down on her lover, sliding in deeper with each word. “Love you, Babe.”

“You, too,” Alex gasped, voicelessly, her excitement rising. She arched, higher, spreading her legs wider, almost painfully so. The intensity, the pressure, Olivia sucking her flesh against her teeth, the angry red marks she imagined blooming across her shoulders, they made her breathe faster. And she pushed back, harder. And she grew wetter to the pleasure of the staccato rocking, to the furious circling of her lover’s fingers and thumbs.

Back and forth, carefully, the brunette rationed her movements. She wanted to draw out their passion, to make it last. At the same time, her lover’s compliance, her urgent heaves, they made her greedy. She wanted more. She wanted to be the woman’s past, her future, her everything and more. “Alex,” she said, her voice a strangled cry, her chest swelling in impossible tenderness, her nerves turning inside out.

For a flash, as if lightning, in her mind’s eye, Olivia saw wider shoulders, felt fuller breasts, then none at all, while a different sensation hit her palm. She shook her head and hugged her lover’s sex, squeezing, stroking, searching for the reassuring familiarity, and finding it. “Alex,” she sighed in relief. “God, Alex,” she moaned, confused and kicking herself for the mental infidelity, no matter how brief it was.

“Liv?” There was something in the brunette’s tone. It stabbed through the sensual fog. “What’s…” **Wrong?** She wanted to ask when her lover’s arms tensed around her, pulling her in tighter, pushing deeper into her womb. “Oh, god…” She couldn’t resist. “So good…”

“Yeah?” Olivia sighed, keeping her eyes closed. Maybe the visions were just her mind’s way of letting go. Tabula rasa, she had promised the woman in her arms. Maybe that was it; it had to be. “Tell me,” she said, sinking in, just fractionally. “Tell me,” she demanded, inhaling, letting herself drown in the scent of her lover’s skin, the sweet fragrant undeniably and satisfactorily hers. “How good?”

“Just… good,” Alex replied with difficulty, her insides tightening. “I’m…” She couldn’t finish her thought.

The climax was impossible to miss. So sharp, Olivia swore she could feel it against her fingers, and in her loins. Before the quivering stopped, she pushed her torso upwards, staving off the end. She wasn’t through; she wanted more. And she wished she were taller, so she could reach her lover’s lips. Instead, she kissed the woman’s hair, soft sunny blonde as it had always been. “Love you,” she whispered, for them both.

“You, too,” Alex sighed, purring with pleasure, still dazed by the intensity of the feeling, meltingly delicious, inside and out. Slowly, her limbs still trembling, she responded to the gentle rocking. “God, Liv,” she moaned. **It’s ridiculous. Crazy.** But she wanted… “More. Please?”

Two simple words, they were music to Olivia’s ears. They were a call for action; they made her blood rage. “Baby, I’ve got to,” she groaned, her toes pressed against the plush mattress, her hands holding the blonde’s body close. Her muscles twitched, lurching forward. “Move, I’ve got to, I can’t,” she panted, rocking higher. She needed to ravish, to take; she needed her senses assailed, overwhelmed by her lover’s hoarse cries.

“Ok,” Alex nodded, her eyes closed, her fingers gripping the pillows as the brunette surged in tight, upward jerks she seemed powerless to restrain. “Liv…, God, Liv,” she heaved while their flesh slapped together. “Oh, god,” she shouted; she sobbed. She cried helpless pleasure with her forearms braced against the headboard, while her lover pushed deeper and deeper into her sex, intent on reaching her heart.

Harder, deeper, Olivia thrust, unable to control herself. Riding on pure instinct, driving hungrily forward, she wanted to join their bodies together, to mash them together until they become one - as they should be; as they had always been.

Her heart thundering, Alex held her breath as the sweet pressure grew and spread from somewhere within, a small tight knot that coiled tighter still. Olivia knew where she was, exactly. The woman nudged in, still deeper, filling her desperation. She inhaled, and breathed out her release in her lover’s name.

Unraveling, Olivia jerked, her hips moving in quick sharp moves. She strained, her muscles shaking. Her heart, her sex joined her lover’s in one wonderfully brutal beat.

It seemed the world had stopped moving. Then Alex sighed, sinking into the mattress, her heart, her body too gorged to move. Her head, the room, they were still shrouded by their passion, heavy and comforting. She could fall asleep, just like that, with her lover sheltering and filling, both outside and in. Her consciousness drifted. Then a wet drop hit her shoulder. For a brief instant, she thought she had dreamt it. When the one was joined by another, she wondered if it was rain. Then she heard the unmistakable hitch. And she moved and extracted herself from under her lover, and turned around. “Liv?” She asked, searching the woman’s face for signs of distress.

Shyly, Olivia laughed. Supporting herself on an elbow, she pushed the tears from her eyes, and smiled. “Sorry. Just got a little intense. Was it okay?”

**God,** Alex swallowed. “More than okay.”

Their eyes locked onto each other’s, Olivia’s glittering from her emotions, still dark with unbridled desire. Alex could not believe the hunger this woman had caused in her soul, and how she made her full. It was dangerous; it was insane. And she wouldn’t want it any other way.


“Yes,” she replied, her voice raw and hoarse, while her body sang loudly, eagerly. Her hands gripped for Olivia’s hips and pulled her forward. “You make it feel so good.”

Olivia laughed. “Just wait. I read about a new trick, when we were at the store.”

“You’re crazy.” She arched up to tap her lips to her lover’s nose. **And so am I.**

“Just crazy mad, about you.”

Chapter 16

Outside the castle door, Olivia stretched her muscles. The morning air had been good for her lungs; she felt invigorated after her run. And she was in such a good mood, it was almost surreal. She had a smile on her face that she couldn’t wipe off if she tried. At first, she thought it was the hours of sex; knowing she had pleasured Alex always made her smug. But when she saw the woman in the painting smiling at her as she bounced down the stairs, she knew it was more than that.

With a deep relaxing breath, she arched, to loosen her lower back. Her gaze rested on the d’Estin family emblem guarding the doorway. “God is Grace,” she muttered the translation. She could see how easily the inhabitants could believe that. If she had grown up living such privileged and idyllic lives, she would too. The prospect of returning in future vacations made the brunette giddy. Honestly, if one could fall in love with a place, she had done so at first sight. Her eyes traveled to the stag with the crescent on its head. **Yep, definitely projecting.** She laughed, just to hear her own laughter. Even the stone carving looked like it was grinning, smiling with her.

A few more breaths to fill her lungs with air, sweet and unpolluted compared to Paris, or the City, and then she pulled open the ancient door.

“Bonjour, Olga,” she greeted the woman once more.

“Bonjour! Good news, we’re expecting Madame Nicole tonight,” Olga said, appearing relieved.

“Great, I’ll tell Jaime.” Olivia rocked on her heels, eager to get upstairs.

“Your breakfast...”

“We’d like to take it in the garden, if that’s okay.”

“Bien sûr, of course. When shall I have it set up?”

“Hm… I don’t know,” Olivia replied. The look on the woman face made her add, “I mean, in an hour. If we’re ready before that, we’ll just walk around, and enjoy the flowers. Will that be all right?”

“Of course. We’re here to serve. Your breakfast will be ready for you in an hour.”

“Merci!” Without waiting, Olivia quick-walked down the hallway. Maybe Alex was right, Olga was just nervous being new and running the place by herself, and having to see to the needs of special guests. **Sometimes, things are just as simple as they seem,** she decided, rounding the corner to the stairs.

“And sometimes paintings do smile at you.** She chuckled as she passed the portrait. **Whoever painted it did a great job,** she admired without stopping. That her lover was waiting at the end of the hallway made her quicken her pace.

Eagerly, she turned the key, and pushed open the door. “Lucy, I’m home,” she mimicked as she walked in. Then she saw her lover’s frown. “Sorry, is my Cuban accent that bad?”

“I lost my ring.”


“I lost my ring,” Alex repeated, burying her face in her hands in frustration. “The claddah.”

“Isn’t it with your watch?” Quickly, Olivia joined her lover by their bed and saw the empty bureau. “Maybe it’s on the floor?” She bent to check.

“I’ve looked all over already.”

“I’m sure it’s here somewhere. Maybe it fell off, or fell behind this thing. Here, let’s me move it,” she grabbed the corners of the table and pulled. “Man, it’s heavier than it looks.”

Alex peered behind the furniture. “It’s not there.”

"Hm…” Olivia searched her memory, while leaning into the wooden edge, to push the small dressing table back in place. “I can’t remember for sure, but I think I saw it earlier too, well, at least something was glinting in the light. It could’ve been your watch though. Wasn’t it there when you got up?"

“It’d be on my finger if it were,” Alex snapped. The she caught herself. “Sorry,” she sighed and retraced her steps for her lover. “After you left, I napped a little. Then I was awake and couldn’t go back to sleep. So I got up, went down the hall, took a shower, came back. Then I put on my makeup, got dressed. And when I went to put on my watch and ring, I noticed the ring was missing."

“Did you lock the door?”

“Yes, Olivia, I did.”

“How’bout the windows, were they closed? Maybe a magpie…”

“That’s not funny, Olivia.”

“I didn’t say it was.” She was trying to lighten the mood, the brunette had to admit.

“It’s just you and me here, and the staff. I know most of them.”

“Not Olga.”

“No, but she’s family, I’m sure. One way or another, everyone here is. It doesn’t matter whether we’re related by blood or not. And they’re all incredibly loyal.”

“Sounds like the mafia.” Olivia laughed, but then she remembered how Edith was related to Destiny’s nanny. It made sense. Family reference was as good as any, if not better. “I’m sorry, that was a bad joke.”

“Yes, it was,” Alex said. “Anyway, no one here is going to steal a silver ring.”

“Except for magpies and ghosts?”


The shake in her lover’s voice make Olivia’s brows knit.

Chapter 17

"Why don’t you go on down, and I'll stay here and look for your ring. Sometimes a second pair of eyes is all it takes," Olivia tried to console her lover. “Meanwhile, take a walk around the garden, smell the flowers, just relax.”

“How am I supposed to relax, Olivia? My ring is missing.”

“It’s just…” A ring, the brunette wanted to say, but the look on the woman’s face stopped her. Maybe this would be a good time to dig out the one burning a hole at the bottom of her bag, to replace the other. Except she had wanted the occasion to be romantic, and special, and perfect; she didn’t want Alex to remember it like this. In a way, it was sweet for her lover to care so much about the simple claddah; and she decided to ask instead, “It’s just, well, where could it be?”

"I put it on the table last night, Olivia; I’m sure I did. I'm not crazy."

'"I know you're not crazy, Sweetheart. So it didn’t fall behind the table. Maybe it’s under the bed.” She put on a wide, hopeful smile. “Yeah, that’s probably it.”

At the mention of the massive piece of furniture, Alex cringed. “You think so?”

Olivia nodded, and suggested an alternative, “Let's both go down for breakfast. Afterwards, we'll come right back and I'll help you look again. All right?" She reached out to her lover and stroked her hands comfortingly with her thumbs. “Maybe they have a broom or something with a long handle we can borrow.”

“It’s like a giant black hole under there, I looked. We’ll never find it.”

"Then I'll just have to get you a new one.” Olivia ducked her head, to catch her lover’s eye. “One with lots of bling,” she offered, trying to make the woman feel better.

"I’m not interested in another ring," Alex said, pulling her hands back and burying her face in her palms.

“Baby…” Olivia was at a loss. She had not expected her lover to get so emotional over a lost piece of jewelry. Granted, jewelry she gave her; and she should be proud that the blonde cared so much. She sighed, and handed the woman a box of tissue.

“Thank you.”

This was definitely not the time to present the other ring, Olivia decided and stood up.

“Where are you going?”

“To check the bathroom? Maybe you left it there this morning.”

“But I told you…”

“I know what you told me. But how many times have I put my phone on your dresser only to find it in my pocket later?” Never, in truth, at least not while she was clear-headed, but Olivia wasn’t going to bring that up.

“I don’t know.” Alex swallowed and blew her nose. “But I thought the same thing, and I’d already checked.”

“All right then.” Silently, Olivia sighed and got onto her hands and knees. Her lover was right; they would never find anything under the bed, at least not without a flashlight. Even then, it would be hard. With another internal sigh, she brushed the imaginary dust off her pants, and began checking other drawers and surfaces. “Now, if I were a tiny little ring, where would I be?” She asked, while running her hand along the mantel. “Hmm… not here.”

“I’m not sure why it’d be up there.”

“Me neither, but you never know, right?” Olivia smiled widely, hoping to infect the woman with her lighthearted mood, and walked over to the armoire. “Have you looked in here?”

“No? Why would I?”

“Or up here?” She asked, and brushed her palm across the top shelf. Something cold and hard hit her skin unexpectedly. Quickly, she scooped it up. “Aha! Gotcha,” she said and began to step away when a piece of paper fluttered to the floor.

“What did you catch?” Alex winced. “Not a bug?”

Olivia picked up the paper and turned it around. “How strange.”


“I found a picture,” she replied, and in several quick strides, returned to her lover’s side. “And this,” she opened her hand.

“My ring!” Alex exclaimed, visibly happy when Olivia slid it back onto her finger. She seemed almost relaxed when the brunette hugged her close and kissed her.

“Feel better?”

She nodded. Then her brows furrowed. “How did it get up there?”

“Maybe it rolled off the dresser and whoever came in this morning found it and put it up?”

“But I didn’t think anyone…” Alex shook her head and smile. “I guess they could’ve. I didn’t leave the do not disturb sign on, and I was gone quite a while.”

“Well then.” Without reservation, Olivia concurred, “That totally explains it.”

“Why did they put it up there though?”

“Maybe they got distracted? Who knows? The most important thing is, it’s back where it belongs,” she insisted, and lifted her lover’s hand, to touch the silver band to her lips.

“I’m never taking it off again.”

“That’s cool with me.” Olivia smiled. “Well, shall we?” She stood. “Breakfast is probably ready.”

“But you said you found a photograph?”

Chapter 18

“Oh, right. Here, here it is,” Olivia replied, and pulled the photograph from her jacket pocket. How could she have forgotten it so soon? She wondered.


“Do you know who they were?”

Alex looked again at the two young men standing next to the statue of Joan of Arc with their arms around each other’s shoulders. Flipping the photo over, she saw ‘Printemps 1912’, and did a quick mental calculation. “I think that’s Bernard. The other must be Etienne.”


“My great-uncle, or great-great? Whatever.” Alex shrugged. “My great-grandmother’s brother.”

“They look friendly.”

“What do you mean?”

“Friendly. I don’t know.” Her lover’s suppressed hostility made her hedge. “I didn’t mean anything by it.”

“They grew up together, I guess.”

“They did?”

“Well, sort of. Michelle’s father adopted Bernard, unofficially really. After his mother died, I think. For all practical purposes, she was a single parent.” Alex revealed, hesitating along the way. “Anyway, I think he was in his teens when that happened. So it’s not like they grew up, grew up together, you know, he and Michelle.”

“You mean not like brother and sister?” Olivia smiled. Here was an instant where her job affected her less than it did her old ADA. She wasn’t as jaded when it comes to things like that. Maybe it was the romantic in her. Then there was the historical context. At least Bernard wasn’t some old man and his bride, fresh out of the convent. **Or a thirty-one year old man with a sixteen year old girl,** she thought with mild distaste.

“Don’t even go there!”

“I think it’s kind of sweet, actually. They were lucky then, to find each other so young.”

“I doubt they fell in love right away.” Alex stuck her tongue out playfully. “I think she was six or seven years younger.”

“I don’t know.” Olivia spoke slowly, drawing out her words. “Who do you think took the picture?”

“Who cares?”

“Whoever took the picture, sure made him smile.”

“What are you taking about?” Alex refused to see.

“Look at him.” Olivia pointed to the thin curve with her fingertip. “He’s got the same stupid, loopy grin I have on my face when I look at you.”

Alex tried her damnest not to smile. “If you say so. How do you think it got there?”

“Huh?” That question never crossed the detective’s mind. “Probably someone forgot it when they were cleaning out the armoire? Why?”

“I don’t know. I just… I’ve never seen any photographs of them when they were young, at least not that I can remember.”

“Maybe your cousin Nicole has more. You should ask.”

“Maybe.” Alex replied off-handedly. “Anyway, let’s go get breakfast. I’m starving,” she announced, hopping onto her feet and setting the photograph aside.



“Don’t you wanna know?”

“About what?”

“Your ancestors? How your great-grandparents lived? That sort of stuff?”

“Not really.”

“Are you serious?” Olivia was shocked. She would give anything to find out more about her great-grandparents, who they were, how they looked like, where they came from. And she told her lover exactly that.

Alex simply shrugged again.

“How can you be so blasé about your ancestry? I mean, you’re descended from Joan of Arc, for crying out loud,” the brunette referenced the various tributes to the warrior saint she saw on the castle ground.

“I’m sure not literally.” Alex sneered. “Besides, I’m sure it’s like my father descended from Sebastian Cabot, the great explorer – a big load of bull crap.”

“Sweetheart?” Olivia simply couldn’t understand. “Why do you…” she began, but her lover cut her off.

“You want to know why I pooh-pooh my magnificently glorious ancestry?”

Chapter 19

The sarcasm in Alex’s voice, even the deaf could hear. But was there also bitterness? Resentment maybe? Olivia wondered as she nodded in reply.

“How would you feel if people treated you differently because of your roots?”

“Well,” Olivia forced a laugh. “People do treat me differently, once they find out who my father was. That’s why I don’t usually tell people.”

“Well, then you should understand why I don’t like talking about my ancestry.”

“But it’s different. Yours is positive.”

“Is it? Bernard was a career diplomat. Every politician is dirty, one way or another, we all know.” Alex picked up the photograph and stared at it before slapping it back onto the night table top. “He was involved with the Vichy government.”

“Undercover, your mom told me. He was doing whatever necessary to gain the German’s trust,” Olivia defended. “So your great-grandmother could…” She would have gone on, but the cold scrutiny in her lover’s eyes stopped her. Perhaps she had revealed that she knew too much.

“My grandfather was a communist.”

The detective had known that inconsequential fact, too. This time, she only said, “The Cold War’s over, Sweetheart.”

“Fine. But my father’s father. Do you know how he made his money?”

Olivia shrugged. She knew Alexander Cabot took over the family business that included some sort of trucking line and had dealings with Bobby Anagapoulos, the shipping magnate and Celine’s friend. “I don’t know. Import export?”

“Not even close.” Alex made a face. “Let’s just say every family has its skeleton in the closet. In Grandfather Cabot’s case, the bones could fill a stockyard.”

“I guess.” What else could Olivia say? It seemed her lover was bent on thinking the worst of her family history. Why? The detective still couldn’t grasp.

“Your mother was a college professor.”

“Yeah?” The sudden change of topic took Olivia aback. “What does that have to do with the rain in Spain?”

“Going to college and getting your first degree was expected of you.”

“It was never a question.”


“Sweetheart, I’m sorry.” Olivia shook her head. “I’m not sure I get it…”

“For the longest time, my mother was Mrs. Alexander Cabot,” the blonde explained. “She didn’t have her own name. I can’t even tell you what my paternal grandmother’s first name was.”


“I grew up wondering when I was going to stop being Alex Cabot, when I would lose my identity.” She laughed. “I never thought it’d be courtesy of Uncle Sam.”

“I’m sorry…”

“Don’t be.” Alex patted her lover’s knee. “It’s just part of the deal.”

“What deal?”

“After my father died, I became Celine Cabot the philanthropist’s daughter. Instead of marrying some well-to-do schmuck and make spoiled rotten babies, I was expected to be successful, and self-sacrificing.” Alex laughed again. “You know, a public servant, like my Uncle Jack, if I couldn’t be a servant to God like my Aunt Maureen. My mother’s family took their noble obligations seriously, like you’ve pointed out.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that.”

“No, of course not. I’m sure my mother’s secretly happy that her daughter died for a greater cause, like Joan of Arc.”

“Alex.” The brunette started to reach for her lover’s hand. In the end, she let her hand drop to her own lap. “I really don’t think your mom…”

“How much do you know my mom, after spending a few weekends with her?”

**More than you’ll ever suspect,** Olivia thought, recalling the things she found out from the government, and from the woman herself. “I think I’m a pretty good judge of character, and I don’t think…”

Alex had already moved on. “Sometimes I get tired of hearing how successful and wonderful and giving everybody is. And unless I win the Nobel Peace prize or something, I’m just going to be a disappointment.”

“To whom, Sweetheart? Yourself?”

“To everyone.”

“But Alex, your cousins, Jack Francis, for instance, he’s a day trader. There’s nothing laudable about that.”

“Jack Francis doesn’t have Saint Celine as a mother.”

Chapter 20

“Sweetheart.” Olivia could no longer resist. “Don’t you think you’re being unfair?”

“Fair? Is it fair for a mother to harp on her child everyday telling her what kind of person she should be?”

**Probably no less fair than for a mother to inform all her daughter’s teachers that she’s a bastard child of rape.** Olivia kept her counter-argument quiet. This wasn’t about her. This was her time to listen, to lend her lover her ear. It was also a rare chance for her to find out about the blonde, to hear her talk about herself. “Well…”

“No one cared about who I wanted to be.”

**I do,** her eyes conveyed, while she moved her hand to rest on the woman’s thigh. “Who do you want to be?”

“I don’t know,” Alex lied. “Not a judge or a prosecutor. Definitely not the Governor of New York.”

“A photographer. That’s what you wanted, right?”

“At one point, sure. At one point I also wanted to be a doctor.”


“Or a forensic pathologist. Don’t you think that would be interesting?”

Olivia had to laugh. “The first time you went to the morgue with us, you turned green. We took bets on whether you’d keep your lunch.”

“I got better the second time.”

“True. And my money was on you, for the record.”

Alex gave the hand on her leg a gentle squeeze. “Sorry you lost.”

“That’s okay. It was a good thing.”

“How so?”

“It showed us you were human; that you have a heart.” Olivia grinned widely and winced, expecting to be hit. This time, her lover disappointed her. “Anyway, it made me feel protective; made me question my feelings.”

“About me?”

“More about us.”

“’Us’ didn’t exist then.”

Olivia shook her head. “That’s true. Helped it along though.”

“Guess I emptied my stomach for a good cause then,” Alex said and expelled a laugh.

“You were talking about what you wanted to do.”

“Well, it’s moot anyway.” Alex shrugged and gave her lover a smile, more genuine this time. “And I’m not unhappy being who I am, not really.”

“But you feel like you’re a disappointment to your mother,” Olivia stated as a matter of fact. “At least sometimes you wonder.”

“And sometimes I wonder if that’s just who my mom is. That nothing will make her truly happy. Sometimes I think she should take a lover, you know. My dad’s been dead for so long.”

Growing bolder, the brunette reached out, and took her companion’s hands. “The last time I saw your mom, we talked about what she wanted. Well, she told me what she wanted. From you.”

Alex tried to pull away. Failing that, she fired, “Do you two just sit around and talk about me?”

“Eh, I wouldn’t put it quite like that.”

“Then how would you put it?”

“Mm… It’s more like we commiserate. We both love you and miss you. And I don’t really have anyone else to share that with; and I think your mom doesn’t feel like she needs to be strong, since I’m such a miserable mess.”

With that kind of response, Alex had to really smile. She shook her head. “You’re such a charmer.”

“I’m just telling you the truth.”

“So what does my mom want from me?”

“Actually, what she wants, she wants from us.” Olivia admitted. “I don’t think it matters who ultimately does the giving.”

The funny look on the brunette’s face piqued Alex’s interest. Her lover almost seemed… **Shy?** She arched her brow – a signal for the woman to continue.

Olivia fought to keep the squeak from her voice. “She wants grandchildren.”

“Grandchildren.” Alex nearly choked.

“She mentioned both our biological clocks. That they’re ticking.”

“My mother told you she wanted grandchildren.”

“She expects them. And like you, she’s not very patient, she said.”

Alex pressed her forehead against her lover’s shoulder. ’“Jesus Christ,” she muttered, and buried her face.

Chapter 21

For a minute, Alex thought she had it all under control. She hated losing her temper. It made her despise herself and gave her a splitting headache afterwards. Shakily, she inhaled, and then took a deeper breath. “Grandchildren,” she managed, without gritting her teeth.

“Yep,” Olivia replied with a light smile.

Abruptly, Alex pulled away and crossed her arms. When that didn’t help, she stood, and paced along the bed. “Just who does she think she is?”


“How dare her, to tell you… I mean, to expect things, from you.”

“I’m not offended,” Olivia said, throwing her hands open, without trying to catch her lover’s eye. She didn’t want to see the woman’s rage, directed at her mother though it might have been. Ever since Celine broached the subject, she had been guilty of watching mothers in the park and on the street, and wondering how it would be like to have a child of their own. Truth be known, she had even decided on at least two children, so their first one wouldn’t be lonely growing up. Blame it on her biological clock. “I, uh, I actually kind of liked it, after I got over the shock,” she added quietly.

Alex spun around on her heels and stood rooted to the floor. “What?”

Seizing the opportunity, Olivia reached for her lover’s hands and held on. “I mean, in a way, she told me she accepts me,” she explained, trying to stay afloat. “As your… um… as your future?”

“I guess.”

“And she just wants what every mother wants, to enjoy her grandchildren before she becomes senile.”

“My mother? Senile?” Alex tossed her hair and laughed. “Somehow I can’t see that happening.”

“Me neither, but those were her words.”

“Her words?”

“Actually, yes.” Sensing her lover’s ebbing anger, Olivia grew bolder. “I think your mom realized she wasn’t a very good mother when you were growing up, and she’s trying to change, and you should let her,” she said, and froze when Alex pulled from her grasp. She exhaled when the blonde sank back onto the mattress.

“Sometimes I just wish I grew up middle class and plain.”

The sincerity in the statement made Olivia laugh. She teased, “Boy, we’re full of ourselves, aren’t we?”

“You’re the one who keeps telling me I’m beautiful.”

“Not just beautiful. A knock out. Drop dead gorgeous.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

“Your mom said something about having come from good stock… Like you, she seemed kind of bitter about it, too.”

For a long moment, Alex remained silent. Then she sighed. “If my mother were just a Wellesley grad…”

“But your grandfather, he owned a publishing company.” He was educated, he was smart and he had a good job; those were the important things in Serena Benson’s book.

“But he wasn’t Simon, or Schuster.” Alex let out a low laugh. “If my mother were just a printer’s daughter who went to Wellesley, without the blue blood, or this,” she insisted, motioning the space surrounding them. “My paternal grandfather would not have been as accepting of my parents’ marriage. He would’ve much preferred my father married Martha, or someone like her. Someone from the neighborhood, you know?”

“Something tells me if your father were just a nouveau riche playboy, your maternal grandparents wouldn’t have been as accepting either.”

Were they accepting? It never occurred to the blonde to question. Her maternal grandparents were just nice, loving people, polar opposites of her father’s parents. Come to think of it, her father’s family was the epitome of everything the O’Bryan’s or the d’Estin’s fought against. Suppose the little red car parked outside was a testament to that acceptance, in a way. Michelle d’Estin loved that Delahaye. Alex would never give away her own beloved Sun Bird, even if she were never going to drive it again; and they always claimed she was an apple from her great-grandmother’s tree. “Guess not.” She sighed, and placed her hand on her lover’s thigh. “Sorry I sounded like a poor little rich brat earlier.”

Olivia shook her head and smiled. Taking the woman’s hand, she laced their fingers together. “You grew up in what most people would think a pretty picture, an enviable one. Meanwhile, you just wanted to be normal.”

“Yeah, with a mom who made cookies and went to PTA’s. Not paid staff and tutors.”

“Edith loves you,” Olivia reminded. “Like her own daughter.”

“Don’t you think I know that? Although I must admit, growing up, I wondered if she didn’t care just because she was hired to do so.” Alex twisted her lips into a smile of her own. “But now I know better. And I know my mom loves me, in her way. And she’s trying very hard to be the kind of mom she thinks I wanted, or what moms should be, whatever that may be.”

“Someone I interviewed, a victim who didn’t want to press charges, she said every family has a difficult bible, and that I should leave hers alone. I didn’t understand then,” Olivia shared. “I think maybe this is what she meant?”

“That every family is dysfunctional?” Alex laughed, and tugged on her lover’s hand. “We should probably go downstairs and see if we still have breakfast.”

**What about our future? Grandbabies for your mother?** They had time; they could wait to have that discussion, Olivia decided, and shelved the questions. She agreed, “Yeah, we should.”

Chapter 22

Hand in hand the lovers hurried down the corridor, hoping to catch breakfast, when Alex slowed her steps. "Do you hear that?" She asked, twisting her head to locate the source of the sound.

Olivia stopped along her companion’s side, "Hear what?"

"The music. It's beautiful," Alex said quietly, enraptured by the melody.

"What music?" Olivia looked at her lover curiously, wondering if she was playing some sort of joke. “I can’t hear anything.”

"It's Schubert," Alex insisted.

"I wouldn't know Schubert from Chopin."

"It's the Trio," Alex explained with utter seriousness, “You know, the one from the Hunger? I thought you’d remember.”

"God, Sweetheart. That was how many years ago? Besides I don’t hear a thing," Olivia said, and stared, not knowing what to think.

"You really don't hear it?”

“No, Alex.”

“But it's getting louder." The blonde looked around. “I can’t tell where it’s coming from though.”

“Maybe someone left the radio on or something?” Olivia suggested more for her own benefit. She rubbed her ears, and swallowed hard, wondering if that would help her hear.

“Maybe you’re right. Let’s go check it out.”

“What about breakfast?” Olivia asked, but her lover was already moving towards the other end of the hallway. She followed.

They stopped by every room and looked into the opened door. Nothing. As far as the brunette could tell, their footsteps and their conversation were the only sounds on the floor.

“How strange.”


“It stopped.”

“The music?”

“Yeah. I can’t hear it anymore.”

“Are you sure it’s not just a figment of your imagination?” Olivia kidded without thinking. It was too late to take back now.

“You really didn’t hear it?”

“No, Sweetheart.”

“Huh.” Alex looked around once more, and began retracing her steps. “What I heard was really beautiful. It sounded like it was coming from somewhere, around us.”

“Not from downstairs?” Any reasonable explanation would be acceptable to Olivia at this point. “Or maybe they were playing it for us in the garden?”

“I’m not sure… Can we hear through brick walls? Is that possible?”

“Anything is possible.”

“Hm. The music, it was so beautiful… almost ethereal.”

“Were there celestial choirs too?" Olivia asked with a slight smile.

"You don't have to be sarcastic," Alex scolded, clearly annoyed.

To show her contrition, Olivia made a funny face, and offered sincerely, “The acoustics… If someone had the CD playing on a different floor…”

“I guess. But why did it stop?”

“Maybe it was one of those websites with the music background, and whoever was on the net, navigated from the page.”

“But then why couldn’t you hear it?”

"Could be one of those freak things.”

Alex saw the deep laughter in her lover’s eyes. She asked, "What freak things?"

"You know, like people picking up radio signals in their fillings?" Olivia suggested. The excuse sounded lame, but at the moment, it was a plausible as any. She honestly couldn’t explain what happened or why. “Oh, hell, maybe it was hallucination from hunger.”

The blonde’s stomach chose that moment to growl; the sound echoed loudly through the ancient corridor. Alex stuck out her tongue and smiled. "I thought it was metal plates in your head, and I don't have one."

"Maybe your head's so hard you don't need one."

“You didn’t just say that!”

“Say what? I didn’t say anything. Did you see my mouth move?”


The brunette took off down the hallway. “Catch me if you can!”

Alex followed, the incident forgotten.

Chapter 23

“Where are you taking me?”

Alex turned back and smiled at her lover. “Hm…”

“I mean, where are we going?” Olivia rephrased her question, hoping the sun was too bright for the blonde to see her wild blush.

“Nowhere, just here.” Alex looked around and nodded. “Yeah, here’s good.”

“You sure?”

“Yep. Let’s set up here.”

“Good. Finally.” Olivia sighed and sat the old fashioned basket down on the grass. It felt like they had been walking for miles, even though it was probably closer to one. She was hungry, famished. Luckily, Olga was able to pull together a picnic lunch for them without too much hassle or explanation. “Shall I put both down?”

“No, I’ll take that.” Alex walked over, took one of the blankets from her lover, and draped it around her shoulders like a shawl. She stood, and watched the brunette lay out their simple fare. “Sorry I made us miss breakfast.”

“Don’t be.” Olivia smiled and crossed her legs. “This is nice.” She put the cork screw to the bottle and motioned with her elbow the field surrounding them, open and overgrown with wild flowers. “Peaceful. Feels like we’re far, far away from civilization.”

“But we are.”

In no time, Olivia had uncorked the wine and returned it to the basket, making sure it was securely upright. “Voila!” She said, “We’re in a village of thirty thousand. That’s hardly…”

“Yes, but we can pretend otherwise. We’re in the middle of the valley. Reminds me of Elysium.”

The brunette laughed.

“What’s so funny?”

“Elysium? You serious?”

“Aren’t you happy?”

“Yes,” Olivia replied, waving the baguette at her lover, “But I’ll be happier with a full belly.”

Now it was Alex’s turn to crack up. “Hunger kills your romantic bone?”

“Yep. Aren’t you starved?”


“Then why are you still standing up there? Come down, to Earth.” Olivia patted the space next to her. “And eat. You waiting for the engraved invitation?”

“Nope. Just for you to cut up the stuff.”

Olivia shook her head and smiled. “Good God, you want me to feed you, too?”

With a twinkle in her eye, Alex sat. While her lover watched with amusement, she turned and leaned backwards, until her head rested in the woman’s lap.

“You’re so spoiled.”

“Not enough.”

“You’re right,” Olivia agreed. She sliced open an apple and dangled a section over her lover’s mouth. “Would my angel like some?”

In reply, Alex reached for the brunette’s wrist.

When warm lips sealed around her fingers, Olivia closed her eyes. She held her breath when soft tongue tickled her skin. And she felt the emptiness when the woman let go. “Not nice,” she sighed.

“Thought you’re hungry,” Alex teased, “For food.”

The self-satisfied grin on her lover’s face only deepened the brunette’s hunger. “I am,” she said. “It’s just going to be a very long lunch.”

“Why? What do you expect to happen after lunch?”

“Huh? Uh, nothing?”

“Nothing? Not even dessert?”

“Well.” Olivia rifled the basket blindly. “I don’t think we have any, except fruit.”

With a gentle smile, Alex ruffled her lover’s hair. She let her fingers drift down to stroke the woman’s cheek, almost hot to the touch. “You’re so easy.”

“Shut up.”

A laugh bubbled from Alex’s chest. Responding to the furrow of her lover’s brow, “It’s really cheesy,” she offered. Laughter lingered lightly in her voice.

“What is?”

“What just dropped into my head.”

“Oh?” When the blonde remained silent, Olivia encouraged, “Tell me.”

For a moment, Alex hesitated. Then their gaze met. The smile in her lover’s eyes felt like a tender caress, and her own smile grew. “I would so give up my innocence, and fall for you,” she replied, her voice a deep whisper, “If we were in Eden.”

Chapter 24

Eden. Olivia smiled. She couldn’t stop, couldn’t wipe the goofy smile off her face if she tried. Yeah, being here with Alex, to hear those words from her mouth, this was bliss. Absolutely. No doubt about it.

“It’s all right, you can say it.”

Olivia remained tongue-tied, still dazzled by the moment.

“Come on,” Alex rolled her eyes and pursed her lips, ignoring the look on her lover’s face. “Let’s get it over with.”

**Stay calm,** Olivia coached herself and breathed deeply. Then she cleared her throat, hoping her voice didn’t sound as high and squeaky, like she was nervous or overly excited. “Say what, Sweetheart?”

“It’s lame and schmaltzy.”

“What is?”

“What I just said.” Alex frowned and plucked out a leaf of grass, then tossed it away in disgust. “I can’t believe I…”

Olivia didn’t let her finish. She took the woman’s hand, and silenced her with a kiss to her palm, acknowledging the sentiment. “I think it’s sweet.” And many other things she couldn’t describe. It made her feel warm and fuzzy and gooey inside, and gave her a pleasant ache in her chest. She wanted to hold her lover, and wrap her legs and arms around her, and never ever let go.

“Yeah, glucose poisoning.”

“No, I’m serious, Alex.” She smiled into clear blue eyes. “I think it’s sweet.”

The blonde looked away. “You really think so?”



“Because I know you don’t say stuff like that to just anyone,” she explained, engaging her lover’s gaze and grinning as if she was sharing a secret she shouldn’t, and feeling giddy and loopy all over again, or still.

“That’s true, I don’t. Yuck. Gross.”

She watched Alex shrug her shoulders and she touched a finger to silent pink lips. “It’s okay to be mushy.”

“That’s more your M.O.”

“It’s okay, you can blame it on me. I can be your bad influence.”

“But you are.” Alex let her smile grow. “But I think I meant what I said,” she added softly, revealing her truth.

“I know,” Olivia said, and sighed. “Baby?”


“Can I have a hug?” She asked, deliberately not containing the squeak. She wanted her lover to see her vulnerability, to know that they were in this together.

In reply, Alex turned around, and dragged her body along the brunette’s, molding their curves, fitting them comfortably together. She pressed a kiss to her lover’s chin, and tucked her head against her neck. “How’s this?”

Olivia remained silent. Her arms circling her lover’s shoulders while her eyes pricked fiercely. This was the love she had always wanted and never dared prayed for. Someone who she could devote her heart to. Someone she could call home.

As if sensing her turmoil, Alex leaned up and nudged their nose together. “Love you,” she exhaled, her smile as bright as sunshine, “And thank you.”

“For what?”

“Being so accepting.”

She waited for the blonde to shift again, and to return to her embrace. Then she pressed a gentle kiss to her hair. “My pleasure,” she whispered, feeling another sort of ache. She felt sad for the woman in her arms, that she felt like she had to hide herself, just to fit other people’s expectations. “And thank you.”

“For what?”