DISCLAIMER: Olivia Spencer, Natalia River, Doris Wolfe, Emma Spencer, and all of the characters of Guiding Light are owned by Procter & Gamble, Telenext and CBS. I am borrowing them for a short time for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement is intended. No profit is being gained from this story. Please don't sue me. The title of this work of fiction is borrowed from the Billy Joel song, "And so it goes." Again, no copyright infringement is intended. No profit is being gained from the use of the song title or lyrics. Again, please don't sue me.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is the first fan fiction story I have ever written. Thank you so much to all of the fan fiction authors out there, so many of the stories I have read have been so expertly crafted.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To privia123[at]verizon.net

And So It Goes
By Privia


Chapter 11

"…and may the blessing of almighty God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, come upon you and remain with you forever."

"Amen." Natalia's voice joined those of the other Sunday morning church-goers in response to the blessing being given by Father Ray.

"This Mass has ended let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord and one another." While reciting these final words, Father Ray slowly scanned his congregation. His eyes lingered on Natalia for a moment before continuing on to the remaining attendees.

"Thanks be to God." The parishioners replied.

As the Cantor led the congregation in a final hymn, Father Ray bowed before the altar and turned to walk down the center aisle toward the front doors. It was his custom after each Mass to wait outside on the church steps so that he could acknowledge each parishioner as they departed the church and thank them for their attendance.

Natalia remained seated in the pew waiting for the last of the Sunday morning worshippers to leave the church. The brunette had noticed Father Ray glancing her way on a few occasions during the course of the Mass. She knew he wished to speak with her, and truth be told, after a month-long absence, during which time she had engaged in some rather serious soul-searching, she had things to tell him as well.

"Natalia, welcome back!" Father Ray re-entered the church alone and strode briskly toward the brunette. The priest gazed briefly at the Latina's slightly protruding belly before leaning in to give her a brief hug. "You look wonderful. How are you feeling?"

"I feel fantastic, Father, thank you." The pregnant woman's beaming smile enticed a similar response from the priest.

"It looks like spending some time with the Sisters was really good for you."

"Yes, thank you so much for recommending them to me. They are such wonderful women. My stay there really helped me to see things clearly, maybe for the first time."

"Have you had a chance to see Frank?"

"I've spoken with Olivia, Rafe and Frank."


"And, I'm here to answer your question, Father."

"My question…I don't understand."

"Before I left, we stood in this church and you asked me if I was afraid to leave Springfield because I thought being separated from Olivia would change my feelings for her.." A sense of calm and conviction was evident on the Latina's face as she confidently addressed the priest.

"To answer your question: no I'm not afraid and my feelings for Olivia only grew stronger while I was away."

Father Ray turned away from the brunette to gaze at the cross hanging above the altar. "Are you sure, Natalia?" The concern was evident in his voice.

"I love her, Father. I have never been more sure about anything or anyone in my life."

"You know that the Church does not condone this choice you are making. Have you thought about that?"

"While I was away with the Sisters those thoughts, those fears consumed me. I soon realized though, that I believe in a God of love. Loving Olivia makes me happy; she completes me. God would not punish me for that."

"What about Rafe, or the child growing within you who will be deprived of his or her father." The Priest was grasping at any argument he could think of so that Natalia would understand the error he knew she was making.

"I've already spoken with Frank about this. He understands that he will always be a part of this child's life. His role will be as a father to this baby, though, not as my husband."

"And you think that raising this baby with Olivia instead of the child's father is what's best?" The Latina saw the look of shock on Father Ray's face and heard the incredulousness in the Priest's voice.

"Yes, I do. I want my child to grow up in a home filled with love; that is what is best for the baby."

"Does Olivia feel this way as well?"

Natalia turned away from the Priest, letting her unfocused eyes stare off toward the altar. "I don't know. I hurt her by leaving. She…keeps trying to push me away, but I won't let her."

"Listen to me, Natalia. Maybe the pregnancy, Olivia pushing you away…have you considered that these may be signs from God meant to show you that you made a mistake by not marrying Frank?"

The Latina abruptly spun around to face the Priest. The anger the brunette had been burying deep inside began to bubble to the surface. "I don't love him, Father! Even if I weren't in love with Olivia, I wouldn't choose to marry Frank." Natalia could see by the look in the Priest's eyes that the vehemence in her tone had caught Father Ray off-guard. She steadied herself and searched for the right words to finally make him understand.

"Don't you see, Father? I believe with all of my heart that God led me to Springfield. Look at all of the miracles that occurred as a result of our move here. Rafe got a chance to meet his father. My family and the Coopers will be adding a new addition…" Natalia gently touched her stomach. "Rafe and I have built friendships that will last a lifetime…" The Latina smiled at the Priest. "… and God gave me Olivia."

The priest shook his head in disbelief and Natalia touched his arm to re-gain his attention.

"I love her, Father. I love her more than I ever knew was possible. Something this good and this strong can only come from God, and I thank him, Father, I thank him every day for bringing me to her."

The Priest let out a frustrated sigh. "The Bible is very clear on this subject, Natalia. Leviticus 18:22 says, 'Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.'"

Natalia took a few moments before she replied; making sure to keep her voice calm. She was tired of defending herself and her feelings for Olivia and that exhaustion was beginning to take its toll on the normally positive woman.

"The Bible also says, 'Judge not lest ye be judged.'" I may not get him to agree with me, but he will hear what I have to say. "Jesus taught us that the two most important commandments are to love God with all of your heart and all of your soul and with all your mind and to love your neighbor as you love yourself. I have lived my life trying my best to live up to those words, and here you are telling me that no matter who I am or what I do in this world, God will condemn me because of who I love?"


There it is…that 'I know what's better for you than you do' tone. "I don't want to argue with you, Father."

"I'm trying to save your eternal soul, Natalia. To do that I will argue with you until I take my last breath." Emotion filled the Priest's voice as he pleaded his case to his parishioner. If nothing else Father Ray was a man of his beliefs. He would continue what he thought of as a fight to save a member of his flock.

"The God I believe in would not forsake me for loving Olivia. My God is not consumed by vindictiveness and hatred; my God is loving and kind. He would not have given me this gift of love just to punish me because I accept it."

Both the Priest and his parishioner were quiet for the next few moments, contemplating the words of the other.

"I need to get home, Father." Natalia turned to leave the church. She was almost to the door when she heard Father Ray call out to her.

"Natalia, if you need to talk, I'm here for you," the Priest offered.

The brunette looked back at him and nodded her acknowledgment. She paused briefly at the church door before heading down the outer stairs to the parking lot. The late morning sun shone down on her face and the Latina smiled as the warmth permeated her soul. Thank you, God, for all of the gifts you have given to me. She hurried down the steps toward her future.


Chapter 12

Rafe Rivera slowly opened his sleep-filled eyes and tried to focus on his less-than-familiar surroundings. That's right, I stayed at Ma's house last night.

The teen lay on his back staring up at the ceiling while he replayed in his mind's eye the previous evening's argument with his mother. He regretted some of the hateful things he had said. Once we say the words we can't ever take them back.

Natalia had said those very words to him more times than he could count, and yet in a moment of anger he had forgotten that very important rule. Rafe knew his words had hurt his mother. He saw the look of pain that filled her eyes for a brief instant before she let loose with her angry defense of Olivia.

Olivia, it's always Olivia. I don't understand, God. Why would my mother do this? She could have Frank. She could marry the father of her child, and we could be a real family. That was always her dream, God, and yet she throws it all away for what…Olivia?

When no answers were forthcoming, the teen rubbed his tired eyes in frustration. It was time to get up and head out.

The young man was relieved that he had remembered to call Frank the previous evening to let the detective know that he would be staying at the farmhouse and Frank had seemed pleased that he would be spending some time with his mother. Since the older man hadn't mentioned the baby neither had Rafe, the teen preferring to discuss the matter of his baby brother or sister with the detective in person.

I don't get that either, God. Instead of coming here and trying to convince my mother that we should all be together as a family, Frank was with Blake.

The house was quiet except for the low hum of the clock on the bedside table.It's after 9:00. Ma must have gone to early Mass. If I hurry I can still make the late morning service.

The teen quickly showered but since all of his clothes were at the apartment, he was forced to put on the same outfit he had worn the previous day. Rafe did his best to straighten his clothes and smooth out the wrinkles. Hopefully, God will forgive the outfit. At least they're my work clothes.

Rafe hurried to the kitchen to get some breakfast before heading out. He would have to jog to church so he wanted to make sure he left himself plenty of time. The teen smiled when he saw that his mother still kept her cabinet stocked with his favorite sugar-free cereal.

As Rafe relaxed on the couch, breakfast in hand, he noticed that a picture on the side table had been knocked over. Putting his bowl on the coffee table, the young man reached out to take a look at the framed photograph. It was a picture of his mother and Olivia sitting on the back porch of the farmhouse. Rafe smiled when he saw the look of contentment on his mother's face. She seems so relaxed and happy.

The teen then turned his attention to the other woman in the picture. He stared at the photograph for long moments, not believing what he was seeing. Rafe recognized the look in Olivia's eyes; it was gentle, it was devotion, it was…love. Oh my God. It's…she's…no…no…no...no...no…no…no.

Rafe dropped the photograph onto the coffee table and bolted up from the sofa. As the teen's gaze swept across the living room he noticed more pictures of his mother, Olivia, and Emma. The photographs depicted quiet moments of the life the three of them had shared when they had lived together at the farmhouse. The young man had seen enough. I need to go. I need to go now.

The teen rushed out the door and ran across the open field behind the farmhouse. Seeing those photographs had so unsettled the young man that any thoughts he'd had of attending Sunday Mass were gone from his mind.

Rafe continued on, exiting the field and heading towards the main road: no direction, no destination. He needed to get as far away from the farmhouse as he could. The teen tried to focus on his pace and his breathing. He desperately wanted to erase the pictures from his memory, but thoughts of those photographs kept creeping into his mind.

They were smiling and not those stupid phony picture smiles either. Whether they were playing in the backyard, huddled together on the couch or sitting by the Christmas tree…in every damn picture they were smiling. I have to stop this…stop this right now…think about something else…anything else…think about your…your...breathing.

After a few moments of distraction the young man's turbulent mind had calmed. His attention now focused solely on his jogging, Rafe glanced down at his watch. Feeling that his pace was lagging, the teen quickened his stride. His tranquility was soon disturbed however as his traitorous thoughts returned to the photographs.

Emma's face was so joyful, and Olivia looked almost…human…and Ma seemed…happy, happier than I can ever remember her looking. No!

Rafe ran harder trying to purge the last unwelcome realization from his mind. His legs burned from exertion, his breathing was labored and his heart was pounding so forcefully that it felt like it would soon beat out of his chest. Still he pressed on trying to out-run his persistent demons. His attempts were derailed however when an unexpected memory from his mother's wedding day captured his thoughts.

"Ma, you look beautiful."

"You look beautiful. I can't believe you're here. I can't believe any of this."

"Look…you deserve all of this. You know you worked really hard, and I think it's great that you finally have somebody that is really going to take care of you."

"You're sure? You're sure you're ok with all of this?"

"Yeah Ma look…honestly I'm just happy with whatever makes you happy."

"You're such a good son. It's a little hard though you know, because it's always been just you and me."

"Well, Ma, it can't stay like that forever, right? I mean if you've found somebody who's special…who means something to you...then you can't let that person go. You know not for anything. And besides…the truth is you don't have to worry about me anymore."

"I'm always going to worry about you."

"Yeah…I lit a candle today."

"You did?

"I did."

"What did you ask for?"

"I asked and I prayed to God and I said, 'Dear Lord please let her have anything that her heart desires.'"

Rafe slowed his pace to a halt and bent over, hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath.

"Oh my God…I've hurt her so much." The teen collapsed to the sidewalk, physically and emotionally exhausted. He had somehow managed to navigate his way back to the center of Springfield. Slowly gathering himself, he sat up and cradled his head in his hands. Overwhelmed by a sense of desperation, Rafe turned his gaze to the heavens; calling out for guidance to someone his mother said would always hear him.

"Lord, I just want to do the right thing…please help me do the right thing." The confused young man lowered his head as tears began to flow freely down his cheeks.

Frank is a good man and he loves my mother. He'll take care of her. Her life has been so hard, you've seen that God. After I was born she had to work sometimes two or three jobs to take care of us. She was sixteen years old…sixteen! Frank can give her the security she deserves; she'll never have to worry about anything again.

At that moment Natalia's words from the previous evening invaded his thoughts. I care about Frank a great deal, Rafael. He's been a good friend to this family, but I'm not in love with him.

Ok, so she thinks she's in love with Olivia…no…no…she is in love with Olivia. Olivia, God…Olivia? Rafe ran his fingers through his hair. The teen was having a difficult time controlling his emotions.

She's not a good person, God. Ma deserves so much better than her. She's just using my mother. She'll hurt her…don't you see…one day she'll…hurt…but those pictures.

The way Olivia looked at Ma in those pictures. And, Ma…she seemed so happy…they all looked so happy…like a family. That's what I want for her…to be happy.

The teen wiped the tears from his face and once again looked skyward. "Please, dear Lord…please hear me…let my mother have the one her heart desires."

"Emma, honey…" Olivia called out to her daughter from the living area of their Beacon suite. "…let's pack some clothes for your stay with your Dad." Olivia entered Emma's bedroom as her daughter was closing her suitcase.

"All set, Mom." Emma smiled proudly at her mother as she zipped up her Little Mermaid bag.

"What do you mean 'all set', sweetheart?" The hotelier's gaze swept across her daughter's cluttered bedroom. Discarded clothes were strewn all over the girl's bed and floor. Hurricane Emma strikes again.

"I finished packing, and I'm ready to go."

"Jellybean, you won't be seeing your Dad until later today. He's going to pick you up at the farmhouse."

"I know that, silly. I'm ready to go see Natalia. Come on, let's go." Olivia looked into eyes so like her own and couldn't help but smile at the excitement she saw there.

"Honey…" Olivia cleared off a clean spot on Emma's bed so she could sit down. "…I know you want to spend some time with Natalia, but it's still early. We aren't supposed to be at the farmhouse until this afternoon."

"Why don't you call her and see if we can come over earlier? I'm sure she won't mind."

"Sweetheart…" Olivia paused for a moment as she closed her eyes and sighed. The brunette pinched the bridge of her nose trying to calm her fragile nerves. This is going to be a long day.

Opening her eyes, the hotelier saw her daughter patiently waiting for a response. After all, in Emma's eight-year-old mind the request was perfectly reasonable, and truth be told, Olivia knew that Natalia probably would love for them to come over earlier.

"…Natalia just got home, and I'm sure that she has a million things that she needs to do." Olivia looked around at the discarded clothes Emma had neither packed nor returned to her dresser.

"Plus, young lady, I think we need to clean up the path of destruction you seem to have created here." Emma's eyes followed her mother's line of sight. The young girl had been so focused on getting herself ready to go as quickly as possible that she hadn't paid much attention to the mess she was making in her room.

"Oops, sorry, Mom." Returning her gaze to her mother, Emma noticed that Olivia was having a difficult time keeping a stern look on her face. Seconds later the brunette began tickling her daughter's sides and Emma's giggles were soon joined by her mother's laughter.

"Ok, kiddo, what do you say we get this place cleaned up?" There is very little that warms a mother's heart more than seeing the joyous face of her child, and Emma's answering smile helped relieve the tension that Olivia had been feeling since Natalia's visit the day before. Maybe this day won't be so bad after all.

Mother and daughter began folding the clothing the eight-year-old had strewn about the room. They worked quietly but quickly and soon all of the items had been returned to the appropriate drawers.


Olivia was finishing her check of her daughter's suitcase. The eight-year-old had actually done a fine job of putting her things together. The only items that Olivia had to add to the bag were some socks and Emma's toothbrush.

"Yes, Em'?"

"Why aren't you excited to see Natalia? You were so sad when she left, but she's back now." The young girl was very confused. Her other Mommy had finally come home and she couldn't understand why her mother didn't want their family to be spending as much time together as possible.

Well so much for maybe it won't be such a bad day.

"Aren't you happy that she's home?" Emma knew her mother had missed Natalia. The young girl recalled the many nights she had heard her mother's muffled cries through her bedroom door. The eight-year-old had hated every minute her other Mommy was gone because her mother had stopped smiling during her absence. But that's all over now, isn't it?

"Sweetheart, of course I'm happy Natalia's back. It's just…complicated." The look the hotelier received from her daughter made it clear that the eight-year-old was expecting and would wait for a more informative answer than the one she had received.

How am I going to explain this? If there was one rule that Olivia had always followed it was that she would never lie to her daughter. She might not volunteer information that Emma was not prepared to handle, but lie?…to others, definitely, to herself, on occasion, but to Emma…never.

The brunette seated herself back on the bed and patted her lap. The young girl smiled and quickly accepted Olivia's invitation and soon mother and daughter sat cuddled together.

"I think you know that when Natalia left I was really upset." Olivia waited until she saw her daughter's acknowledging nod before continuing.

"It really hurt my feelings that she would leave town…like she did, and I'm not sure that I can forget all of that right now." Emma sat quietly for a few moments; processing what her mother had said.

"Mommy, if I ever do something to hurt your feelings, will you forgive me?"

Olivia hugged her daughter even closer to her chest then pulled away slightly so that she could look Emma in the eyes. "Of course I will, sweetheart. You're my daughter. I love you with all my heart. There is nothing you could ever do to change that."

"But Mommy, Natalia is our family, and we love her too."

Ahh Emma, Emma, Emma…you're getting too smart for me, sweetheart.

"Em', sometimes when grownups…care a great deal for one another and one of those grownups does something that really hurts the other person…it's hard for those two people to fix things…at least right away."

Olivia quickly added the last few words to her explanation. Emma was going to be dealing with enough heartbreak when she learned of her father's illness. Now was not the time for her daughter to discover that life for her and her "two Mommies" would never return to the way it had been. The eight-year-old remained quiet and Olivia could see that her attempted explanation had probably confused her daughter even more.

"Jellybean, sometimes there are no easy answers. Sometimes things are just…" The brunette paused for a moment, trying to find the right words to make her daughter understand.

"Complicated?" A smiling Emma finished her mother's sentence.

Olivia couldn't help but laugh. "Yeah…yeah…complicated." The hotelier soothingly stroked her daughter's hair. "But Emma if there is one thing in this world that isn't complicated it's how I feel about you. I will always love you 'bean, never ever doubt that."

The brunette removed her cell-phone from the pocket of her jeans and dialed an all-too-familiar number. Her call was answered after only two rings.

"Hey, Natalia, it's me." Olivia glanced down at Emma and saw the hopeful look on her daughter's face.

"Hi. Is everything ok?" Oh no, please don't tell me that you're canceling our plans for today.

"Everything's fine. Emma and I were wondering if it was ok for us to come over a little earlier today. Maybe we could pick up some Buzz Burgers and the three of us could have lunch together before we start watching movies?"

Emma jumped off of her mother's lap and began to roll her small suitcase into the living room.

"Of course! That sounds great. Get here as soon as you can." Natalia couldn't keep the excitement from her voice.

"Natalia…this doesn't mean…look, we still have a lot to talk about…and I'm not sure I can put aside everything that happened, but Emma would really love to spend some time with you right now."

"I would love to spend some time with her, too…" The Latina paused; afraid to speak the words she so desperately wanted to say for fear that Olivia would change her mind and cancel their plans.

"Ok, we'll be there soon, bye."

"Bye." A glowing smile lit up Natalia's face. I would love to spend some time with Emma and her mother.


Chapter 13

Olivia watched as Emma ran ahead of her down the path toward the door of the farmhouse. She's as excited as I am nervous. The brunette closed the door to her car and slowly followed her daughter down the walkway.

The emerald-eyed beauty reflected on how her life had been turned upside down in the last twenty-four hours as a result of Natalia's unexpected return. I finally get to the point where feel like I can let Natalia go and move forward with my life and then she shows up at my door…pregnant no less, and that plan is shot to Hell.

It seemed the faster Emma ran, the slower Olivia's progress became. She almost felt as though she was trudging through hardening cement. The closer she came to the back door the more agitated she became. With her heart beating at a too-rapid pace, the hotelier focused on steadying her breathing.

Ok, I really need to calm down here. This is not a big deal. Friends can spend a Sunday afternoon together, right? Natalia will talk to Emma about the baby…we'll have some lunch…we'll watch some movies…Philip will pick up Emma…then I'm out of here.

Those thoughts provided a small measure of comfort to the anxious woman. Head up, shoulders back, Olivia approached the farmhouse door with a more confident stride. By the time the brunette reached her daughter, Emma had already knocked on the door and was impatiently waiting for Natalia to answer. Olivia tightly clutched the bag containing their lunch that she had picked up from Company minutes earlier.

It would have appeared to any causal observer that Emma was the more nervous of the two visitors standing outside the farmhouse door as the young girl shifted her weight from one foot to the other. Hidden from view was the internal battle raging inside the hotelier. Olivia Spencer did not back down from challenges; she was not a coward, yet every fiber of her being pleaded with her to turn around and return to her car. What am I doing here? Why did I agree to this? How do I spend time with the woman I love but can never have? I can't do this. I can't…I….

Olivia glanced down at the beaming face of her young daughter and received her answer. There was nothing she wouldn't do for her daughter. If she had to walk through the fires of Hell or feel her heart painfully shatter into unrecognizable pieces she would for her little girl. Emma so wanted to spend this afternoon with Natalia and the Latina was more than willing to oblige. Olivia would never deny her daughter the chance to be with the woman she thought of as her other mother. The abrupt opening of the farmhouse door by a breathless Natalia interrupted the hotelier's musings.

"I'm sorry, I was upstairs when you knocked. Hi, sweetheart!" Natalia bent down and wrapped her arms around Emma. Neither the Latina nor the young girl was eager to release the other from their mutual embrace. Olivia looked on this familial scene and felt a small portion of her wounded heart begin to mend.

As the Latina and the young girl let go of one another, Natalia saw the confused look on Emma's face. The hug had felt different somehow to the eight-year-old, and when she stepped back from her other Mommy and looked at her stomach, she started to understand why.

"Natalia?" The young girl looked up, a question in her tone. Olivia, seeing the joyous look on her daughter's face replaced by uncertainty, decided that the time had come to discuss Natalia's pregnancy with Emma.

"You know what, why don't we all go inside. I know that Natalia has some good news that she wants to share with us." Olivia glanced at Natalia who nodded her acquiescence. The hotelier forced a smile onto her face then looked down at her daughter. "Plus, no matter how delicious Buzz burgers are they don't get any better with age, so let's go."

As mother and daughter followed the brown-eyed woman inside the farmhouse, both women could sense the tension in their eight-year-old girl. Natalia led Olivia and Emma to the couch then took the Company bag into the kitchen.

God, I could really use some help here. I know Emma felt the baby kick when I was hugging her. My poor little girl looks so confused.

Taking advantage of the few moments she had alone in the kitchen, Natalia gathered her courage and returned to the living room. Too nervous to sit, the brown-eyed beauty crouched before the youngster she considered her little girl.

"Sweetheart, your Mom is right. I do have some good news to share. I'm going to have a baby, Jellybean." Natalia beamed a brilliant smile at the girl.

Emma silently looked from Natalia to her mother then back to the Latina. After a few moments passed with no response from the child, Olivia filled the quiet void.

"Well that's just great news; right, Em'?" The Latina gratefully looked over at her love.

"OK." The girl answered her mother noncommittally.

"Frank and I…." Natalia began but was soon interrupted by Emma.

"Is Uncle Frank your baby's Daddy?"

"Yes honey he is."

"No!" Emma bolted up from her seat on the couch and ran out the farmhouse door before either woman realized what was happening.

"Emma!" Both women shouted at the retreating back of the eight-year-old girl.

"Well, that went well." Olivia let out a sigh as she rubbed the bridge of her nose to try to ease the tension she was feeling. Natalia was headed out the farmhouse door after Emma, when hotelier reached out and gently took her arm.

"Natalia, wait a minute."

"I can't wait, I have to go after her!" Natalia tried to head for the door but was stopped once again.

"No, you have to stay here. I'll go. I think I have a good idea where she's gone."

Before chasing after her daughter, the green-eyed beauty quickly got the pregnant woman settled on the sofa. Natalia reached out to take Olivia's hand and looked up at the hotelier with pleading eyes.

"Olivia, I had no idea she'd run off. I didn't mean to hurt her. I'm so sorry."

"I know." Olivia gently caressed the younger woman's cheek. "I'll find her. Just give me some time to talk with her, OK?"

A shell-shocked Natalia could only nod her agreement. The hotelier hurried out the farmhouse door in search of her daughter.

I hope I'm right about where Emma is going, because if I'm not she's going to have a bit of a head start on me.

Olivia headed to the one place she knew Emma had always considered her sanctuary at the farm...the pond. Emma loved spending time with the ducks there. When she had lived at the farmhouse, the young girl would often feed the ducks then spend time daydreaming as the frolicking of her feathered friends provided her with countless hours of entertainment. Natalia had mentioned on more than one occasion that since Olivia and Emma's move back to the Beacon, the ducks had seemed less playful and definitely much thinner.

As Olivia neared the pond she sighed with relief as she saw her daughter sitting by the water's edge watching her beloved ducks. She knew that Emma was aware of her presence, but the eight-year-old had not yet acknowledged her mother. The brunette lowered herself to the ground, and mother and daughter sat quietly for a few moments. It was Olivia who first broke the silence.

"What's going on, 'bean?" Emma saw the concern in her mother's eyes. She wanted to explain things to her, she truly did. The girl's emotions were so raw and so jumbled, though, that she couldn't find the right words to explain to her mother what she was feeling. All she could muster was a small shrug of her shoulders.

Olivia sighed in response. Emma wasn't ready to discuss things and the brunette would not push her young daughter. Providing what comfort and support she could, the loving mother began to soothingly rub her daughter's back.

"You know that I love you, right Emma?" Olivia received a nod from her daughter in response.

"You know that I'm here for you if you ever want to talk about anything?" Another nod.

"You know that there isn't anything I wouldn't do for you?"

Emma stood and turned to her mother. Seeing her daughter's eyes filled with tears nearly broke Olivia's heart. Emma, needing to feel the stability of her mother's love, wrapped her small arms around her mother's neck and felt a small measure of comfort when her embrace was immediately returned.

"Do you think we can go back to the Beacon now?" The request was barely a whisper, but the sentiment behind the words hit the brunette hard. Emma knew...there would be no more life for all of them together at the farmhouse...no more movie nights...no more ducks...no more two Mommies...she wasn't sure how but her daughter finally knew and that knowledge fractured Olivia's already battered heart.

"OK, sweetheart, but I think we need to let Natalia know that we are going to be leaving." The brunette felt her daughter's nod of agreement.

Hand-in-hand mother and daughter began their trek back to the farmhouse. Olivia wasn't quite sure what she was going to say to Natalia. She did know, though, that whatever the status of their relationship, things had changed so much that Emma was being hurt...and that was unacceptable. She'll just have to understand. I will not allow our relationship, wherever it stands right now, to hurt Emma.

A worried Natalia had been waiting on the porch bench for any sign of Olivia or Emma. A broad smile appeared on her face when she saw mother and daughter slowly approaching. However that smile quickly disappeared from the Latina's face when she saw the tearful eyes of the little girl she thought of as her own. Natalia glanced at Olivia to see if she could glean any clues as to what had upset Emma so much that she felt compelled to run away, but Olivia's face was expressionless.

Emma did her best to avert her eyes from Natalia's gaze and refused to relinquish her grasp of her mother's comforting hand. Olivia quickly glanced down at her daughter then returned her gaze to Natalia.

"I'm sorry, but I think it's time for Em' and me to go."

"Um, OK, maybe we could get together for a movie night later this week?"

Olivia shook her head. "I don't think so. I don't think we're going to be able to do that for a while."

Comprehension dawned in Natalia's eyes as she understood the magnitude of her love's words. Olivia wasn't just saying goodbye for today, she was saying goodbye for forever.

"Olivia..." Natalia started, but she was interrupted by the emerald-eyed beauty.

"No, Natalia, this needs to stop. We need to stop doing this...."

The desperate voices of the two women began to overlap; both impassioned, but neither hearing the other.

"Stop it!" Emma's voice rang out and shocked both women into silence.

"This isn't how it's supposed to be!" Tears began to flow freely down the young girl's cheeks.

"This isn't how what is supposed to be sweetheart?" It took every ounce of effort the Latina could muster to keep her voice calm. She knew whatever was going on with Emma was what had incited Olivia. To save their family, Natalia knew she had to fix things not only with Olivia but also with Emma.

"Are you going to marry Uncle Frank?" The young girl questioned in a small voice.

Natalia was so surprised by the unexpected question she didn't answer right away. Where did that come from?

"What?" Olivia was the first to respond. Emma looked up at her mother and tried to explain.

"It's just that you were so sad when Natalia left, and if Natalia marries Uncle Frank you'll be sad again. I love you, Mommy. I hate it when you're sad."

Olivia stood quietly in shock. Emma's outburst...all of this...was because her daughter didn't want her to hurt anymore. An overwhelming feeling of maternal love warmed the brunette's fragile heart. Natalia had been moved by the young girl's revelation as well. Kneeling before Emma, the Latina finally gave her answer.

"No, sweetheart, I'm not marrying Frank." There was no question, no wavering in her tone.

"But you said that Uncle Frank was the baby's daddy."

"He is, sweetheart." Natalia reached out to take Emma's free hand in her own. "Frank is going to be a part of this baby's life, just like your Dad is such an important part of your life, but Frank and I are not getting married."

Emma pondered what Natalia had said for a few moments before a joyous smile appeared on her face.

"Mommy?" The young girl looked up at her mother.

"Yes, Em'?" Olivia was still rattled by the turn the conversation had taken.

"I'm kind of hungry. Do you think we could go inside and have lunch now?"


Chapter 14

Lunch had been a surreal experience for Olivia as she was still unsettled by her daughter's emotional meltdown. She looked on quietly as Natalia and Emma, seemingly unaffected by the events from earlier in the afternoon, chatted at length about the baby, summer camp and the joyful girl's trip to San Francisco to see her big sister. Emma's excitement was infectious and her exuberant re-telling of the events of the summer brought a warm smile to the Latina's face. By the end of their meal the girl had done her best to update her other Mommy on the goings-on the woman had missed during her time away.

It mattered little to Natalia that the perspective of the eight-year-old girl might have skewed the version of the events she had been receiving. The brown-eyed woman was thrilled simply to be spending time with her family again; she knew how close she had come that morning to losing moments like this forever.

Natalia had not imagined that Emma would be so upset upon learning that Frank was the baby's father. Somehow, the eight-year-old had managed, all on her own, to figure out that their happiness would be found together, as a family. It had only taken the adults a child's school project, months of silent longing, countless family dinners and movie nights, a graveside confession, an aborted wedding, a religious retreat and numerous bottles of alcohol to reach the same conclusion. Of course, Olivia wasn't quite prepared to admit to herself or to anyone else that she would be sharing her future with the younger woman, but Natalia was confident that she would eventually win back her love's trust.

Currently the would-be family sat together on the living room couch watching Emma's latest favorite Disney movie. Olivia had purposely positioned herself so that she was on one end of the couch to her daughter's left, which forced Natalia to sit to the girl's right. Emma had been more than willing to watch the movie comfortably settled between her two Mommies. The small distance separating her from the younger woman afforded Olivia ninety-two Disney-filled minutes to try to organize her thoughts and get her emotions back under control.

I can do this. I just need to calm down and think. I can figure this out. What does Natalia want? Ok, that's easy…she says she wants us to be together.

Olivia glanced to her right and saw her daughter happily cuddling with Natalia. Emma seemed quite content to be wrapped in her other mother's arms while they watched the animated movie magic appearing on the television screen.

I think it's pretty clear after her outburst this morning and seeing her with Natalia now that Emma wants all of us to be together. But what do I want?

Trying to calm her racing nerves, the emerald-eyed beauty let her head sink back to the couch. Closing her eyes, Olivia rubbed the bridge of her nose. She tried to relax; she needed to think, but most of all she had to be honest with herself.

I want this too. I want this more than anything I have ever wanted in my life, but I don't trust it can happen. Having Natalia walk away from me nearly destroyed me. If we tried again and she quit…again… Olivia focused for a few moments on those thoughts and quiet tears began to fill her eyes. I don't think I could take it.

The peppy song playing during the movie credits interrupted the hotelier's internal musings. Natalia was already out of her seat and approaching the television in order to eject the DVD.

"Mommy, there's something I don't understand?"

"Em' you've only seen this movie six times now, you can recite the lines from memory, what can you not understand?"

"Well, Charlotte lives with both of her Mommies. Why don't we all live together, too?"

"Excuse me??"

"My friend Charlotte…I just went to her birthday party…" Emma looked questioningly at her mother.

"Yes, I remember," Olivia nodded in recognition of the girl's name. Charlotte's mother, Gloria Watson, had picked Emma up at the Beacon the day before for her daughter's birthday party. "She has another Mommy?" The hotelier did her best to keep her surprise hidden.

"Yes, Mommy." The girl gave her mother an impatient 'I just said that' look.

"Gloria Watson has a….a…" Olivia fumbled over her words.

"A partner, Mommy. Ms. Watson has a partner…her name is Ms. O'Reilly…and Charlotte has two Mommies like me."

God…yes it's me Olivia. You remember me don't you? I realize it's been a while since you've heard from me. I just wanted to tell you that I know you are laughing at me, God.

Realizing after a few brief seconds that her mother had failed to answer her, Emma decided to ask her question again.

"Natalia isn't marrying Frank, so why don't we all live together in the farmhouse like we used to?"

I know it… Olivia peeked over at Natalia who was trying very hard to keep the amused smirk from her face.

and Natalia knows it…and I just wanted to say, God, that I don't appreciate being your 'laugh track'.

Olivia could sense two sets of eyes: one chocolate brown and the other a younger version of her own, staring at her as they awaited her response. Before she had the opportunity to answer Emma's question, however, there was a knock at the farmhouse door. Emma, knowing that the visitor was most likely her father coming to pick her up, ran to the door. Philip soon entered the farmhouse living room carrying a joyful Emma who was excitedly squirming in his arms.

"I hope I'm not interrupting anything, but I just couldn't wait another minute to be able to spend some time with this young lady." Emma giggled as her father twirled her around in circle.

"No, no, not at all. Your timing is perfect!" Olivia could feel Natalia's presence immediately behind her.

"I know you think Philip saved you from answering Emma's question, Olivia, but we will be finishing this discussion after they've gone." Natalia had leaned in close to Olivia's ear since her whispered words were intended only for the hotelier. The green-eyed beauty wasn't sure if the involuntary shiver that cascaded down her spine was caused by her apprehension regarding their unavoidable discussion, the conviction in the Latina's tone, or the knowledge that Natalia's lips had just been millimeters from her ear.

Oblivious to the tension between the two women, Philip kissed his daughter on the cheek and tightened his embrace. He didn't know how many more moments like this he would be able to have with Emma in the future, and he was determined to cherish every last second.

Looking over his daughter's shoulder he was able to see tears filling Olivia's eyes as she witnessed the tender scene between father and daughter. Philip had made his ex-wife aware of his condition the prior evening so that she would be able to comfort their young daughter when she learned of the news. Unfortunately, his illness was progressing so rapidly that Philip knew he would soon have to inform the remainder of his family of his condition. But not today!

"Emma, are you all packed and ready to go for your mini-vacation? You have the run of the Spaulding mansion for the next few days." Philip proudly beamed at his daughter.

"Yup. I just have to get my bag and I'm ready to go Daddy." Emma hopped out of her father's arms before he could fully lower her to the floor and quickly collected her Little Mermaid suitcase.

"I love you, Jellybean. Have a good time with your Daddy." Olivia opened her arms and shared a loving embrace with her daughter.

"I love you too, Mommy."

Emma shared a similar hug with Natalia before heading out with her father. Standing side by side on the back porch, both of Emma's Mommies watched as the young girl drove away with her father. They remained quiet until Philip's car had faded from their view.

Olivia glanced surreptitiously at Natalia. She is so beautiful. The hotelier's breathing became uneven; she could feel her heart rate increase. I need to get out of here.

"Well, I think it's time for me to head back to the Beacon."

The look Olivia received from the Latina nearly stopped her racing heart. "No, I don't think so." Smoldering brown eyes stared confidently into emerald-green orbs. "As I said, we have a discussion to finish." Natalia reached down to take Olivia's hand. "I think it's time that you joined me inside."


Chapter 15

"Well, I think it's time for me to head back to the Beacon."

The look Olivia received from the Latina nearly stopped her racing heart. "No, I don't think so." Smoldering brown eyes stared confidently into emerald-green orbs. "As I said, we have a discussion to finish." Natalia reached down to take Olivia's hand. "I think it's time that you joined me inside."

Olivia smiled inwardly at the confident tone in the Latina's voice. This was her Natalia, the woman who would not hesitate to enter into a battle of wills with Olivia Spencer. Others may cower in her presence, but not Natalia…never Natalia.

The hotelier looked longingly at their intertwined hands. She wanted to accompany the younger woman into the farmhouse with every fiber of her being. Her heart begged her to listen to its desperate pleas to remain with Natalia. However, those pleas were soon drowned out by the reappearance of old demons reminding the emerald-eyed beauty of the betrayal and heartache she had so recently endured as a result of the Latina's actions.

"I'm not sure…" Olivia's whispered reply was as much a statement of her inner turmoil as it was a response to the younger woman's request.

"I know you're not sure, and I know that's my fault." Natalia paused for a moment, shook her head and started again. "Look, I want you to come inside with me, there is so much we need to talk about, but I won't force you, Olivia, it has to be your choice." The younger woman squeezed her love's hand before releasing it. Turning away from the hotelier, Natalia strode into the farmhouse, leaving Olivia alone on the porch.

Once inside the farmhouse, however, the Latina's air of confidence swiftly dissipated and Natalia was left to wonder whether or not Olivia would follow her. Please God... please help me. I love her. I'll keep fighting for her…for our family…for our future…I'll fight as long as it takes…but I need her to want this, too…she has to want this, too.

While Natalia was nervously waiting inside, Olivia remained standing on the back porch, battling her own uncertainties. OK, Spencer, now what?

The emerald-eyed beauty began to pace as she thought about her next step. The easiest thing to do would be to leave and go back to the Beacon…but since when do I ever take the easy route.

Olivia plopped herself down on the porch bench and sighed in frustration. The safest thing to do would be to walk away from Natalia so that she can never break my heart again…of course I've never really been one to play things safe.

"Ahhhh…I'm driving myself crazy." The ongoing point-counterpoint that was playing out in her head was further irritating her already-frazzled nerves. The brunette ran her fingers through her hair and leaned back against the bench.

Ok, God, I'm back again…I know, I know, two times in twenty minutes is a record for me; one which will probably stand for a very long time, by the way. I'm just really confused here and could use some…well…guidance I guess.

The hotelier stared out into the distance as the late afternoon sun began to cast growing shadows on the vast lawn behind the farmhouse. The tranquil sounds of birds and crickets that could be heard throughout the backyard provided Olivia with little comfort as she tried to sort through her conflicting emotions.

Natalia…she really believes in you. Me… I'm not so sure what I believe in anymore.

I used to believe in me. I used to think that there wasn't anything I couldn't face…nothing that I wouldn't be able to defeat on my own…and then I got sick. There is nothing more humbling than illness.

Olivia thought back to the days immediately following her surgery: her depression, her anger, her guilt at having lived when Gus had not.

I would have died if it weren't for Natalia…but you know that. There were moments when I wanted to die…but I'm sure you know that, too. I don't think that even she realizes how bad things got for me at times. It was her sheer will and determination that kept me going. She is the strongest person I know…to have put up with me during those darker days, she's a freakin' superhero.

I know, I know…if she's so wonderful why am I wasting time sitting out here when she's in there. She is my greatest strength and my deepest weakness and that scares me like nothing has ever scared me before…not dying…not living…nothing.

OK, there I admit it…I'm afraid. I'm sitting out here because I'm afraid. I'm afraid that if I go in there, I'll be setting myself up for more heartache, but I'm also afraid that if I walk away I'll be losing my only chance to have the family I've always wanted.

"So here I am, sitting by myself and having a one-sided conversation with someone I'm not even sure I believe exists. You are getting pathetic, Spencer." Olivia closed her eyes and rested her head against the top of the bench. She wasn't sure how long she had been sitting outside, but the late afternoon sun had shifted enough that she could now feel its soothing rays shining directly on her face. Along with the warmth that permeated her body came the sense of calm she had been seeking.

I refuse to be ruled by fear; that is not who I am. With or without Natalia, I want my life back, and I'm not going to get that by hiding out here. Her mind made up, Olivia headed for the farmhouse door.

Hearing the door open and then quietly close, Natalia looked through tear-filled eyes to see Olivia enter the farmhouse.

"I wasn't sure that you were coming in."

"Neither was I. Look, Natalia, I can't make you any promises about the future. What I can tell you is that I agree that we need to talk...." Olivia knelt before the pregnant woman and, taking both of her hands, looked deeply into chocolate-brown eyes.

"…but I need you to tell me the truth, Natalia, no matter how much you think it might hurt me. No more hiding, no more half-truths, no more lying to ourselves and to each other…agreed?" There would be no compromise on this point for the hotelier. If they were going to talk there could be no more secrets between them.

"Yes, I agree. Where should we start?" Natalia knew that this was the chance she had been hoping for. She could sense the slightest of cracks in the protective wall Olivia had built around her heart.

"How about at the beginning?" The hotelier saw a brief look of confusion in the Latina's warm eyes. "When did you find out you were pregnant?"

Olivia moved to sit next to the younger woman on the couch. For the next few minutes she listened as the Latina told her of the events that occurred the week before the Bauer barbecue. Natalia discussed her bouts with morning sickness, the harried over-the-counter pregnancy test, and the test she had taken at Cedars to confirm her worst fears. She mentioned how Blake had become a trusted friend by providing her with unconditional emotional support. And she detailed the conversation she'd had with Father Ray on the day of the Bauer barbecue that had led her to flee Springfield in search of the answers she so desperately sought.

The women sat together in silence after Natalia had finished sharing what had happened to her the week she found out she was pregnant. The passage of quiet seconds felt like excruciatingly-long minutes to the younger woman as the hotelier tried to process the information she had just received. The Latina could only stare at her love's face in a nervous attempt to uncover any insight into what Olivia might be thinking. When no clues were forthcoming, Natalia was the first to break the silence.

"Do you think I could ask you a question?" She struggled to keep her tone even, but despite her best efforts, the Latina couldn't hide the uncertainty in her voice. Natalia patiently waited until she saw the older woman's slight nod of acknowledgment before she continued.

"I know what you said yesterday, and maybe I just need to hear it again…I don't know…it's just…" She stopped her nervous stammering and took a deep breath, trying to regain her composure.

"What Natalia? What do you need to hear again?" Olivia was surprised by the uncertainty in the younger woman's tone. She was so confident just a few minutes ago. What has her so unsettled?

Natalia reached out to take the older woman's hand and looked deeply into shimmering emerald-green eyes.

"Do you still love me, Olivia?"


Chapter 16

"Do you still love me, Olivia?" Natalia could see a myriad of emotions swirl through Olivia's expressive eyes, and she felt a slight tremor in the fingers she held in her own.

Olivia removed her trembling hand from the Latina's grasp so that she could properly cradle the younger woman's face. The hotelier began to lovingly stroke the ever-so-soft skin under her fingertips. They had agreed…no more lies, no more secrets, no more hidden truths…and Olivia knew that she would never break any promise she made to this woman. Overcome by emotion she could only whisper the words Natalia longed to hear.

"I will always love you, Natalia."

The brown-eyed beauty leaned into the gentle caress her cheek was receiving from the older woman. God, this feels so good…so right. Please don't take this away from me. Once again grasping the hotelier's hand in her own, the younger woman slowly brought Olivia's palm to her lips.

The tender kiss she received sent shockwaves through the hotelier's traitorous body. She needed something…she needed to be closer…she needed…more. Olivia ignored the warnings that were blaring in her head and leaned forward until her forehead touched Natalia's. The older woman fought to control her quickened breathing as she felt the Latina tenderly stroke the fingers of her captured hand.

"Do you want me, Olivia?"

"God yes." Both women smiled at how quickly Olivia blurted out her response. They could feel the pull between them; it could not be denied, but Natalia knew that there was one more crucial question that needed to be asked and answered before the gentle caresses and loving touches spun out of control.

Her body screamed at her to remain silent. The Latina knew if she did that they would make love this very afternoon.

Yes! Her body begged her to let it happen. The younger woman couldn't help but allow herself to be lost for just a few precious seconds in the sensations she was feeling. So this is desire…this is longing…this is…incredible.

Yes…finally! Her body responded.

But if Olivia and I don't finish this conversation…I will have her for today…I may even have her for tomorrow…but I want her for forever. I need her for forever.

Regaining control over her mutinous body, Natalia knew what she had to do.

"Do you trust me, Olivia?" The Latina asked quietly.

Those five simple words doused the fire that had been raging within the green-eyed woman. She slowly disentangled herself from her love before answering.

"I want to…" Olivia sighed. "You have no idea how much I want to, but…I…can't."

After their discussion the previous day, Natalia had been expecting this type of response to her question, but actually hearing the words spoken by the woman she loved had still stung. Both women remained silent for a few moments, deep in their own thoughts.

Natalia's question reminded the hotelier once again that she could never truly have what her heart so desperately craved. She sullenly moved away from her seat on the couch. Perhaps if she could distance herself from the close proximity of the woman she loved, her heart wouldn't hurt so much. Standing with her back to the fireplace Olivia knew by the pained expression she saw in glistening brown eyes that Natalia had been wounded by her response.

The Latina meanwhile was struggling to figure out what she could do or say to prove herself to Olivia. She realized though that the only way she would win back her love was to speak from her heart.

"I love you, Olivia."

"We've already had this discussion, Natalia." The hotelier sighed and turned away from the Latina.


"I believe that right now, in this minute you feel that way, but what about tomorrow, or next week, or next month? Will you still love me then, or will something or someone cause you to doubt your love for me…again." I can't keep doing this…why do I keep doing this?

"That's not fair, Olivia."

"Isn't it? You walked away, not me." Anger seeped from the hotelier's voice as she inwardly recalled the passage of hours and days and weeks without receiving any communication from the woman she loved. "You were supposed to be different from the others, but in the end you left me, too."

No! Please Olivia, don't give up on our future together because of what happened between you and the men in your past. I have enough of my own mistakes to pay for, please don't make me pay for theirs too.

"I didn't leave you." How do I make her see, God, when I'm not sure I fully understand myself? I can't lose her. I just…can't.

"Really? Oh, I'm sorry, maybe I misunderstood. You see, I thought that since you left town a month ago without telling me you were leaving, or letting me know where you were going, or calling me to let me know you were alright or if you were ever coming back…I just assumed that you left me." Olivia's cynical laugh tore at Natalia's soul.

Months of nursing Olivia back to health after her surgeries had provided the younger woman with rare insight into the psyche of the hotelier. Natalia knew that the older woman was trying to bait her into an argument. Olivia excelled at verbal sparring; she was comfortable in that arena. But, revealing her feelings…laying herself open and exposing her heart to another person…that was a very different story. The Latina had earned the older woman's trust before and been rewarded with a love she had only previously dreamed of. She could earn her trust again…she would earn her trust again.

"I never stopped loving you, Olivia, never."

"Why the hell did you leave then? If you had just told me you were pregnant, we could have figured things out, together." The hotelier cried out in frustration.

"You know that when I was sixteen I got pregnant with Rafe."

Natalia glanced over at the older woman to make sure she was listening. Patting the cushion on the couch beside her, the younger woman invited the emerald-eyed beauty to sit next to her once again.

Olivia wasn't quite sure why the Latina was bringing up something that had happened so long ago, but if Natalia thought it was important, she would hear her out. The hotelier settled herself in her prior seat on the couch, and nodded for the younger woman to continue.

"When I told my parents about my pregnancy, they were so angry. I had never seen them that upset. They told me that they were so ashamed that they wanted nothing to do with my baby or me. I was sixteen years old, pregnant, and alone." The Latina's unfocused eyes stared out at her living room as she recalled some of the most painful memories of her life.

"They threw me out of their house; the only home I had ever known. I was so scared, I begged them not to do it…to let me stay, but they said that the baby I was carrying was a punishment from God for sleeping with Nicky, and they would not allow this 'child of sin' to remain in their home or in their lives.

"They called me a whore and a slut." The Latina took a measure of comfort in Olivia's outraged gasp. Always my protector, aren't you? "I accepted that…I knew that I had committed a mortal sin in their eyes…but they called my beautiful baby a 'child of sin' and a 'punishment from God.'" By the time Natalia had finished her voice was barely a whisper.

"I loved my parents. They were everything to me. I had spent my entire life trying to make them happy, to live up to their standards, but then I slept with Nicky. I was sixteen years old and I made a mistake…a big mistake…and they would not forgive me for it." And they never did forgive me. I never heard from them again.

"I will never forget as long as I live how much it hurt to have the two most important people in my life turn their backs on me." She took a deep breath before continuing.

"Anyway, when I found out I was pregnant a few weeks ago, I felt like that petrified sixteen-year-old girl. I had made the same huge mistake all over again. I was so afraid that I would lose you if I told you about the baby. I couldn't bear to have you think of me the same way my parents did." She saw the denial in Olivia's eyes without the older woman ever uttering a word.

"I know you would never do that. Looking back on things, I realize that how I responded to the news of my pregnancy doesn't make much sense. I understand that now, but I wasn't thinking very clearly then. I…" The Latina paused, afraid to continue.

"What, Natalia? Tell me." The older woman could see tears begin to overflow from watery brown eyes.

"This time it wasn't my parents, it was me, Olivia, God forgive me, it was me!" The Latina lowered her head and began to sob uncontrollably.

"I don't understand, Natalia. Help me understand." The hotelier rested her hand on the younger woman's back and could feel the tension coursing through her body.

"Forgive me, God…please forgive me." The Latina wrapped her arms around her pregnant belly and began to rock back and forth as she repeated her pleas for forgiveness.

Olivia reached out to take Natalia in her arms. Her hesitations forgotten for the moment, the hotelier's only thought was to try to console the crying woman.

"Shh…it's OK…I'm here, sweetheart…I'm here." Olivia continued to whisper soothing words to the younger woman until her sobs subsided. No matter what was to happen with their relationship, Natalia was the closest friend she had ever had, and she would not allow her to suffer through these painful memories alone.

Removing herself from Olivia's comforting embrace was difficult for the Latina. She had felt warm and safe and protected in the older woman's arms, but she knew that the rest of this story needed to be told. As she pulled back from her love she noticed the damage her tears had done to Olivia's clothing.

"I'm so sorry, I ruined your shirt." The brown-eyed beauty reached out for a tissue to try to blot the streaks of tears she had left behind.

"This old thing…don't worry about it." The incredulous look Olivia received from the younger woman made her laugh. Natalia knew that none of the hotelier's clothes were 'old things'.

"Look, I happen to have an entire laundering service at my disposal, so a little thing like this…pfft…no problem." She waived her hand dismissing the topic.

You always take care of me, don't you, my love? The Latina reached out to caress the hotelier's face. Her composure regained, the pregnant woman exhaled a calming breath. It was time for Natalia to finish her story. Please, God, don't let her hate me.

"I thought that my pregnancy was God's way of punishing me for sleeping with Frank or for falling in love you." She laughed deprecatingly at herself. "As you can see, I wasn't in a very good frame of mind before I left. I don't seem to handle unplanned pregnancies very well.

"I spent my time at the retreat in prayer and what the Sisters referred to as self-contemplation. I needed to find my way again. I finally came to understand that when I got the news about the baby, I was overwhelmed by the same fears and insecurities I'd had when I was a scared pregnant sixteen-year-old. I lost sight of who I am now and what I want." Natalia turned to face Olivia, focusing her attention on emerald eyes that could make her heart skip a beat.

"This baby isn't a punishment. This child is a gift of love from God; a gift I want to share with you."

"What?" She can't be saying…

"I want us to be a family, Olivia. You, me, Emma, Rafe and this baby, our family."

"I'm not sure Frank is going to be too happy with that plan, Natalia." Once he finds out that you're pregnant, there's no way he won't demand to marry you. You'll choose to be with your baby's father. It's who you are…it's what you do.

"I've already spoken with him about it. You're right, he isn't thrilled, but he will respect my wishes." When Olivia didn't respond, the younger woman continued.

"I've also spoken with Father Ray and Rafe. I was very clear with them about what it is and who it is that I want." The look of surprise she saw in Olivia's face made the younger woman smile.

"I'm not sure what to say." The hotelier was in shock; she'd had no idea that Natalia had already discussed the baby with the anti-Olivia triumvirate.

"I want to raise this child with you, not Frank, only you. I choose you, Olivia." She was determined to tear down that wall her love had built around her heart - brick by brick if she had to.

"You've said that before."

"Yes I have, and so have you. I made a mistake Olivia, I allowed ghosts from my past to get in the way of my life with you. I will never make that mistake again."

The hotelier could feel her defenses begin to falter. Panic forced her to bolt from the couch as she once again tried to get a safe distance from the woman she loved.

"What do you want from me?"

"You don't know?" When Olivia shook her head, the Latina approached the older woman and held both of her hands in her own. Natalia pulled the woman she loved closer to her so that their bodies touched. She would not allow for any distance between them when she spoke her next words.

"I want all of you…your darkness and your light…your love and your passion…your infuriating stubbornness and your incalculable strength…through good times and bad, in sickness and health…for forever…and a day." No more lies, no more secrets, no more half-truths, just her promise for unending tomorrows.

Olivia's heart soared after hearing the vow Natalia had taken. She could feel that the wall she had built to protect her fragile heart was crumbling, but she wasn't completely free of her uncertainty.

"I'm not sure if I'm ready to say those words yet."

"I know, but one day you will be…I have faith." The women shared a knowing smile at Natalia's choice of words. "And, as a beautiful woman once said to me not so long ago…you are so worth waiting for."


Chapter 17

Olivia sipped the final invigorating drops of her morning coffee as she sat alone on a park bench enjoying the peaceful stirrings of a late summer day. Owning a multi-million dollar hotel had numerous perks, not the least of which was the ability to take an unscheduled day off from work when provided sufficient incentive. Earlier that morning the hotelier had needed little time to determine that an invitation to join a gorgeous, brown-eyed, raven-haired, pregnant woman for a walk in the park before having lunch together was more than sufficient incentive.

It had been three days since Natalia had unconditionally declared her love for Olivia, three incredible days. Emma's 'mini vacation' with her father at the Spaulding mansion had afforded the women a much-needed opportunity to spend some time together.

The emerald-eyed beauty had arrived at the park a few minutes before she was to meet Natalia. Taking advantage of the quiet time, Olivia relaxed and reflected on some of the moments she had shared with the younger woman over the last few days. Dinners, a romantic picnic at the gazebo, and shopping excursions for the baby all held new meaning for the women, because they were sharing this time with each other, not just as friends but as potentially so much more.

The hotelier reached into her Gucci bag and pulled out the picture she had been given at Natalia's sonogram appointment the previous day. A growing smile lit up her face as Olivia traced the outline of the figure in the black and white image.

The technician had been slightly confused when she was asked to print three sonogram pictures of the baby girl: one for the father and one for each mommy; but she recovered quickly.

She had watched her patient tightly grasp the hand of the older woman who stood quietly by her side as all three parents tried to catch their first glimpse of the baby. She witnessed how the younger woman would steal glances at her companion while the other woman's attention was focused on the screen. She smiled when she saw the women stare joyfully into each other's eyes when they first heard that they would be having a baby girl.

The sonogram specialist handed the first picture to the father-to-be who stepped to the corner of the examination room happily staring at the photo. Next she gave a print to the pregnant mother and watched as her face radiated with excitement. Finally, she placed the third picture in the other woman's hands. Soon, a look of wondrous awe overtook the older woman's face as sparkling green eyes stared at the grainy photograph.

"Congratulations to all of you, she's beautiful." The pleasant technician shut down her equipment and prepared to leave in order to give the parents some privacy. She warmly smiled at Natalia then nodded at Olivia and Frank before exiting the room.

"Yes, she is…" The hotelier replied absently, refusing to take her eyes from the miraculous image she held in her hand.

Sitting alone on the park bench, Olivia once again gazed adoringly at the sonogram print she had received the day before.

God, our… I mean Natalia's baby is so beautiful. I think I can see her little hand and her tiny foot…and her…

"Ms. Spencer?" The questioning tone in the on-looker's voice interrupted the hotelier's musings.

"Yes…?" Olivia looked up to see the auburn-haired waitress from Towers standing in front of her and returned her precious picture to her leather bag. "Hi, Rachel, it's nice to see you."

"Thank you…Ms. Spencer, I was wondering if you had a few moments to talk," the younger woman asked quietly. Olivia could sense her unease and, truth be told, given the circumstances of how and where she last saw Doris's girlfriend, the hotelier was a little uncertain about the direction this conversation would take.

"Um…OK, sure…but please call me Olivia." The emerald-eyed beauty motioned for Rachel to sit with her on the bench.

"Ms. Spencer…Olivia…you're friends with Doris…" The waitress paused for a few moments. What the hell am I doing? I'm about to bare my soul to a virtual stranger…but to gain some insight into the woman I love…it will be worth it.

Olivia bit back the witty remark that was straining to escape her lips when she saw the serious look on the younger woman's face. "Well…yes."

"You walked in on us the other night so..."

"Yes, about that…I'm really sorry." Olivia interrupted before the younger woman could discuss that evening any further. That night provided me with more visual information than I really needed. I've never really understood the appeal of voyeurism; of course I'm much more of a 'hands on' kind of woman. The hotelier smiled to herself as she mentally tried to shake the image of Doris and her girlfriend having sex from her mind.

"It's not that…it's just…well…you know about us." The waitress waited for the hotelier to nod her acknowledgment before continuing.

"She's so afraid of people finding out that she's a lesbian that she won't even consider giving us a chance."

Olivia heard the heartbreak in the younger woman's voice and saw the tears begin to fill crystal-blue eyes. Doris…how is it that you can be this much of a pain in my ass when you aren't even here? The hotelier put her arm around Rachel's shoulders to provide the devastated woman with some measure of emotional support.

"I…care for her…a great deal… but she keeps pushing me away, and I don't know what to do." The last words came out in a rush as the tears that had filled her eyes began to steadily flow down the alabaster cheeks of the auburn-haired woman.

Olivia had always been a good judge of character, which was part of the reason she enjoyed such great success in the business world; it always helped to be able to get a proper 'read' of your adversary. Her years of experience told her that Rachel was telling her the truth.

"I don't know if I have any words of wisdom for you, and you probably aren't going to like what I have to say but…have you considered that maybe you should just move on?"

"I can't do that." The hotelier was surprised by the swiftness of the younger woman's response and the conviction in her tone.

"Why?" Olivia shook her head in confusion. "Why do you want to keep putting yourself through this kind of pain?"

"I love…I care about her, and I know she feels the same way about me. I can see it in her eyes. I can hear it in her voice. I can feel it in the way she touches me. I just can't walk away from that." The younger woman stared out into the sparsely-filled park as she continued her impassioned argument.

"Caring about someone…I mean really caring about someone…it's what we all live for isn't it? Love has inspired the most brilliant poets. Wars have been waged, and people have laid down their lives all for love."

"Well…that's…very romantic." Oh, you poor, lovesick fool.

Rachel laughed when she saw the skeptical look on Olivia's face.

"Look, I know this sounds crazy. I know I just met Doris and it's too soon for me to be having these feelings. Believe me when I tell you I've thought about this…countless times. But, the happiness I feel when I'm with Doris is worth…well…everything." A hopeful glow lit the younger woman's face.

"The only advice I have for you then is to hang on…tight. Being in a relationship is something new for Doris. She hides behind this public persona of the hardened politician, but once you get to know her you realize just how vulnerable she is. She's afraid, Rachel. She's scared to death of what falling in love would mean for her family…her career…her life. She doesn't want to risk everything, open herself up to someone and then get hurt, do you understand?"

The auburn-haired woman nodded. She truly did understand. In the short time she had been with the Mayor, she had experienced the dichotomy that was Doris Wolfe. She hated to end their conversation, but looking down at her watch, she knew she needed to get moving if she was to make it to work on time.

"I'd better get going. I'm supposed to be at Towers in fifteen minutes."

"Natalia and I will be heading there for lunch later, maybe we'll see you."

"That sounds great. I'll look for you both…God, I bet I look like a mess." The younger sighed, as she did her best to remove any evidence of her earlier tears from her cheeks.

"Don't worry about it." The hotelier squeezed the younger woman's forearm. "You look fine." The women shared a friendly smile.

"Olivia, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me about this…thank you." Rachel quickly hugged her newfound confidante and then started out for Towers.

Doris, if you push keep pushing that one away, you're an idiot. Olivia tried to quell the nagging voice in her head that suggested she should start listening to her own advice. She was so focused on her internal argument that she didn't hear Natalia approach.

"Who was that?" Olivia was so thrilled to see Natalia that she missed the stern tone in the younger woman's voice.

"Hey, I didn't know you were here already." The hotelier immediately stood up and reached out to hug the Latina, but the other woman evaded her embrace.

"Well, that's obvious."

"Hmm…what's obvious?" Let's see…your eyes are cold as ice and your arms are folded in front of you. What's obvious is you're definitely pissed off about something.

"That you didn't hear me behind you."

"Riiight…" I said that. Didn't I just say that?

"That woman you were holding in your arms…who is she?" Natalia's agitation grew exponentially with each second that passed without her hearing the answer to her question.

I don't believe it. She's jealous. She's the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, and she's jealous. Time to put a stop to this right now.

"Natalia, that was Rachel, she's Doris's…friend." Reaching out to gently unfold the angered woman's arms, the hotelier captured both of Natalia's hands in her own.

"She seemed to be rather friendly with you as well." Her tone had calmed…slightly, and she allowed their fingers to remain intertwined, but the Latina refused to meet her love's gaze. She still had questions and she would not allow herself to be lost in the depths of gorgeous emerald-green eyes until she got her answers.

Olivia didn't want to violate Rachel's trust in her, but she would not have Natalia be concerned about what she had discussed with Doris's girlfriend. After all, isn't that one of the unwritten rules of relationships…if you disclose something to one member of a couple you had to assume that he or she would tell their other half? Wait a second…did I just call Natalia my other half? The older woman noticed that the Latina was impatiently waiting for a response. OK, I don't have time to think about that now.

"Rachel and Doris are together. They've been having some issues…" Olivia was finally able to get Natalia to look at her. "…I think she's falling for Doris, and I think Doris feels the same way, but our good Mayor has been trying to keep her distance."

"She came to you for advice about how to make the woman she loves stop pushing her away?" Both women smiled at the irony of the situation.

"Well, she knew that I was aware of their relationship. I was here, and I think she just needed a shoulder to cry on. Honestly, sweetheart, that's all it was." The term of endearment unwittingly escaped her lips.

Being called 'sweetheart' by the woman she loved did wonders to sooth the Latina's aching soul. I don't think you even realize what you said. Brick by brick, my love, brick by brick.

Love had melted the coldness that had previously shone from chocolate-brown eyes and Olivia couldn't stop herself from responding. She pulled Natalia closer to her and soon both women had their arms wrapped around one another. The hotelier leaned forward so that her forehead touched the younger woman's. There the women quietly stood…eyes closed…in each other's arms…feeling the strength of their connection grow with the passage of every glorious second.

Natalia knew that Olivia was telling her the truth and she felt slightly embarrassed by the rush of possessiveness that had surged through her body when she saw the hotelier embracing the other woman. I owe you an apology, my love.

The Latina pulled her head back and reached up to caress the older woman's face. Olivia slowly opened her eyes and leaned into the tender touch.

"I'm sorry, Olivia. I guess my hormones are a little out of control."

"Don't ever apologize for loving me." The huskiness of the older woman's voice sent shivers down the Latina's spine.

"Never." Brown eyes locked onto deepening green orbs as the younger woman replied from her heart. She could sense the rising tension in both of their bodies. Oh God, this feels so good, but we are in the middle of a public park…we need to slow things down a bit.

"What do you say we go for a short walk and then grab lunch; the baby and I are getting pretty hungry."

Olivia took a deep calming breath and shared a knowing smile with the younger woman. Things had unexpectedly heated up a few moments earlier, and she was grateful for the reprieve to get her heart, mind and body back under control.

"We can't have that now can we? Come on, let's go." Hand-in-hand they slowly strolled through the park. They spoke little; both women lost in their own thoughts.

I think we are going to have your other Mommy and your big sister home where they belong very soon, baby girl. Natalia placed her free hand on her belly and smiled when she felt the baby stir. I know, sweetheart; I can't wait either.

There is something new and different with Natalia. Where before I could see love and caring in her eyes, now I see so much more. There's still love and caring but now there's also passion and desire and longing.

The emerald-eyed beauty looked down at their intertwined fingers. Before, her touches were uncertain and shy, now she confidently holds my hand in public or softly caresses my cheek or strokes my hair.

She loves me. Olivia squeezed the younger woman's hand and was rewarded with a look of undisguised adoration from the Latina.

Natalia…loves…me and she's chosen to share her life with me… and…if I choose to be with her, she'll finally be mine. She's everything I've ever wanted…so why the hell am I so scared?


Chapter 18

Olivia sat alone perusing the Towers luncheon menu. After finishing their walk, she and Natalia had arrived at the restaurant, and the very pregnant Latina had immediately excused herself and headed toward the ladies room.

The hotelier raised her eyes from her menu and noticed Doris chatting with Rachel at the bar. The couple shared discreet touches that would have gone unnoticed had Olivia not been paying particular attention to their interaction. Sensing that someone was watching her, Doris scanned the restaurant. The Mayor smiled a greeting at Olivia and raised her wine glass in the brunette's direction. The hotelier nodded her acknowledgment and returned to her menu as she awaited Natalia's return.

"Olivia, hello again." Rachel warmly welcomed the brunette. "Are you here with Natalia?"

"Yes, she's in the ladies room. Unfortunately for her, she's been remembering that you spend a great deal of time in bathrooms in the latter stages of your pregnancy. I swear, when I was in my final trimester with Emma, she treated my bladder like a soccer ball." The women's laughter rang out as Olivia continued to shares stories of her pregnancy with the waitress.

Natalia exited the ladies room and smiled when she heard her love's laughter. Her cheerfulness was short-lived, however, when she recognized the woman standing next to Olivia. You've got to be kidding me.

Before the Latina reached their table, Rachel had taken Olivia's drink order and was returning to the bar. Natalia seated herself across from the hotelier and pretended to focus on her menu.

"Are you feeling a bit better?"

"Yes." The Latina answered curtly. She refused to meet her love's gaze, choosing instead to stare at her menu.

What the hell just happened? Everything was fine. We had a great walk. Natalia couldn't wait to get to Towers for lunch. I just don't….

"Our waitress is the same woman I saw you hugging earlier today, isn't she?"

…oh shit…oh shit…oh shit…bad move coming here today, Spencer.

"Yes, Rachel works here at Towers. As a matter of fact, Doris and I were having lunch here when she first met Rachel." Olivia waited for some sort of response from the younger woman and received silence in return as the hot-blooded Latina continued to fume behind her menu.

"Natalia, we discussed this in the park." The older woman tried to reason with the perturbed pregnant woman. She understood all-too-well that emotional swings were one of the unpleasant side effects of pregnancy but she hated that the younger woman was putting herself through this much anxiety for no reason.

"You're right. I'm sorry." The Latina flung her menu onto the table and shook her head in disgust. "I really don't know what's going on with me."

Olivia reached across the table and let her fingertips caress Natalia's hand soothingly before covering it with her own. The tender touches helped the younger woman relax and for the moment all thoughts of their waitress were gone.

"Natalia, I wanted to ask you something." The younger woman could tell by the fidgeting that her love was quite anxious about whatever topic she wanted to discuss.

"Of course, you can ask me anything."

"You know that Billy and Vanessa are getting married tomorrow?" If Olivia had raised her eyes from the napkin she was crushing, she would have seen the curious look cross the Latina's face.

"Yes, they seem so happy." Why would she be so anxious about this wedding?

"Well, Emma is staying with Philip this week, so he'll be bringing her to the ceremony…" She looked up to see smiling chocolate-brown eyes and full dimples on display, which did little to slow her racing heart.

"…and I figured that we would probably see each other there anyway…" Ugh, I sound like a teenager asking a girl out for a first date.

"…and I really hate to go to these kinds of things alone…Well, you see I was wondering…"

"I'd love to." Natalia rescued the older woman from her stammering.

"But I haven't asked you anything yet." The hotelier turned confused eyes on the younger woman and glanced at their intertwined fingers as the Latina firmly grasped the hand that was covering hers.

"As long as I'm with you, it doesn't matter." The radiant smile that greeted her words warmed Natalia's soul. Before the women could continue their discussion, Rachel returned to their table.

"Hello, Ms. Rivera." The waitress cheerfully greeted the Latina. Turning to the hotelier, Rachel placed a dry martini in front of the older woman.

"I hope you like it, Olivia. I made it for you myself." Natalia's eyes darted up from her menu. Wait a minute, her voice just dropped an octave when she spoke to Olivia.

The Latina looked back and forth between the waitress and her love. Olivia was still reviewing her menu and therefore oblivious to the attention she was being paid by Rachel, but Natalia was not. Chocolate-brown eyes turned dark mahogany as they observed the particular interest the waitress paid to the plunging neckline of Olivia's silk blouse. OK, my hormones are getting the best of me again. I need to calm down. It's nothing…it's nothing…

The Latina saw the waitress once again look appreciatively at the hotelier's assets. This is most definitely not nothing!

"I'll be back in a few moments to take your order." The waitress nodded at the green-eyed beauty.

Silently fuming, Natalia waited for Rachel to leave the table so she could discuss her observations with her love.

"Olivia, that woman is interested in you."

"What woman?" The hotelier answered absently, her attention set on reviewing the new menu of her largest local restaurant competition.


"We've talked about this already. There is no way Rachel is interested in me; she's seeing Doris."

"I saw the way she was looking at you!"

"Natalia think about this for a minute: Doris is sitting right over there at the bar. Why would Rachel come on to me when her girlfriend is sitting just a few feet away?"

The hotelier's words managed to slightly stall the Latina until a few moments later when the waitress returned to the table and stood at Olivia's side.

"Do you know what you'd like?"

"I'm very impressed with the updated menu. There are so many exquisite choices here, I'll have to make sure that my chefs at the Beacon are up to this new challenge." The emerald-eyed beauty smiled at the auburn-haired waitress.

Touching the hotelier's shoulder, Rachel held on to the older woman's gaze. "Perhaps I could help you with your selection. Sometimes the best choices at Towers aren't on the menu."

Uh oh. Olivia was startled. She had truly believed that Natalia was seeing things that just weren't there. But if there was one thing that the emerald-eyed, oft-married beauty understood…it was flirting…and Doris's girlfriend was definitely flirting with her. She could sense it in her tone…hear it in her invitation…see it in her face.

The hotelier peaked past the waitress to see that the Mayor was paying more attention to her drink than her girlfriend. Quickly glancing across the table, it was clear to Olivia that Natalia had sensed, heard, and seen the same things she had and was rapidly losing the battle to rein in her anger. OK, I think it's time to send Doris's girlfriend to a neutral corner.

"You know, I think it would be best if you gave us a few more minutes, don't you agree Natalia?"

"Yes." Chocolate-brown eyes bored into crystal-blue orbs. "I think you should go away…now." Rachel smiled pleasantly and headed off toward her next table.

In the next few seconds, Olivia searched her memory for a time she had seen Natalia this angry. If she could just remember what she had said or done back then to calm the hot-blooded Latina, perhaps she would be able to repeat the process now. Unfortunately, nothing came to mind.

"Natalia…" Olivia tried to reason with the younger woman as she reached across the table to grasp her hand. The Latina evaded the older woman's touch, closed her eyes and took in a deep, cleansing breath. Opening her eyes, she leveled her gaze on the emerald-eyed beauty who was nervously awaiting her response.

"I am going to go outside and get some fresh air. You…" She pointed at Olivia. "…are going to pay that…woman…for your drink and then take me to Company for lunch. Then we…" The Latina motioned between the older woman and herself. "…are going to discuss under what circumstances you will be eating at Towers in the future."

Before Olivia could respond, Natalia left the table and stormed out of the restaurant. Well…that could have gone…better. The hotelier shook her head in amazement. I can't believe what happened here. How did we get from I love Doris to 'sometimes some of the best choices at Towers aren't on the menu'? You're laughing at me again, God. I swear it's so loud I think I can hear it now, too.

Having witnessed the Latina's departure, Rachel hurried to Olivia's table.

"What the hell were you doing?" The hotelier could only stare incredulously at the younger woman.

"I am so sorry, Olivia. I didn't know…Doris said…it was just supposed to be a joke."

"Doris put you up to this?" The embarrassed waitress could merely nod. The infuriated beauty turned away from the auburn-haired woman and strode across Towers to confront the Mayor at the bar.

"What the hell were you thinking? Why would you do this?"

"Oh come on, Spencer, you didn't think that interrupting the best sex of my life would go un-punished did you?"


"I really don't understand why you're so upset. Did I embarrass you a bit by having my girlfriend hit on you in front of me? Absolutely, that was the point.. As an unexpected bonus, I got to tweak Saint Natalia Rivera…the woman who broke your heart a month ago, for which you should be thanking me, by the way. I thought you were going to be keeping your distance on that front?"

"I don't want to talk about that right now. I want to explain to you how I'm going to kick your ass if you don't fix things with Natalia right now!"

"Fix what?" Doris studied Olivia. Suddenly the Mayor slammed her glass down to the bar. Her face lit up with understanding.

"Holy shit!" Doris exclaimed with excitement. "You're back with Natalia!" Her thoughtful expression soon turned downtrodden. "Oh my God…you're back with Natalia….and you were just sitting with her…" She gestured toward the table where the couple had been sitting. "…when Rachel…ahh…"

"Exactly! Now…fix…it!!

Oh no, Doris, what did we do? Rachel hurried after Natalia. The waitress replayed the Latina's reactions at lunch in her mind. She's in love with Olivia. I just threw myself at the woman she loves...right in front of her. I'm not sure what I'm going to say.

"Ms. Rivera…Ms. Rivera…please wait…" The auburn-haired woman chased after the brown-eyed beauty.

Natalia heard her name being called and turned to see the waitress from Towers chasing after her. I really don't need this now.

"Ms. Rivera, please I need to speak with you."

"No…no you don't. You need to listen to me. You need to stay away from Olivia. You need to worry about your relationship with Doris, and you need to stay the hell out of mine." The Latina stared into crystal blue eyes with a laser-like intensity.

"Ms. Rivera…"

"Wait, I'm not finished yet. I am not a violent woman, but believe me…believe me when I tell you that I would fight the devil himself for Olivia."

"Ms. Rivera, I'm not interested in Olivia."

"Oh really?" The brunette snickered. "You could have fooled me."

"Please wait, what you saw…what I did…it wasn't real…it was just one big, stupid joke that Doris wanted to play on Olivia for…well…interrupting us the other night."

"Interrupting you?"

"Yes, it's a long story, but please believe me, Ms. Rivera."

"Why should I?" Natalia inwardly cringed at the unfamiliar hostility in her voice but after what she had witnessed earlier; she was suspicious of the auburn-haired woman. "Every time I saw you today, you were throwing yourself at Olivia, so tell me, why should I believe you now?"

"Olivia is a very beautiful woman…" Rachel saw a slight twitch in the Latina's left eye and saw the tension mount in her body. "…but I am so crazy about Doris that I can't even imagine wanting to be with anyone else. Sometimes when she looks at me, I feel like I can't even breathe. When she smiles at me I swear I can feel my heart skip a beat. I have never felt so…so…" The waitress searched for the right word to convey the enormity of her feelings.

"Complete." The raven-haired beauty answered. She recognized the look of love that radiated from the other woman's azure eyes when she spoke of Doris. She's telling the truth.

"Yes…complete…that's it. I've never felt so complete. I know it sounds crazy, but it's what I feel. Do you understand?"

"For the first time in my life, I think I understand exactly what you're feeling. This feeling…it's incredible isn't it?" Rachel nodded, and the women shared a nervous laugh. They had each given a virtual stranger a glimpse at the deepest part of her soul, but somehow they just knew that they were both experiencing the same awe-inspiring feelings.

"I really am sorry, Ms. Rivera. I knew this joke was a bad idea. Doris said that she and Olivia do this type of thing to one another all the time; this was the type of friendship they have. She said that at first Olivia would explode at her, but then after she thought about it and had a drink or two, she'd laugh and start planning ways to exact her revenge."

Olivia, we really need to have a talk about this crazy friendship you have with Doris.

"First off, please call me Natalia." The Latina smiled warmly at Doris's girlfriend. "Secondly, I don't blame you, although I would like to have a discussion with our illustrious Mayor; but right now we'd better get back inside Towers." A look of curiosity crossed the auburn-haired woman's face; she didn't quite grasp the reason for the urgency in the Latina's tone.

"Our misguided Mayor is right, Rachel, Olivia will explode, but I don't think she's going to laugh this one off as quickly as Doris thinks. The timing of this joke of hers couldn't have been worse." The Latina could see the comprehension in crystal-blue eyes.

"Ah…you're right. We'd better get back in there before they destroy the place."

Hurrying back into Towers, the women headed directly to the bar in order to calm the rising tensions between the two friends. The restaurant staff and the other patrons had given Doris and Olivia a wide berth; no one was too eager to interfere in their verbal battle. The hotelier was projecting her most intimidating Olivia Spencer stare and the Mayor was gulping down her drink, pretending not to notice.

Olivia was surprised to see the Latina return to her side with Doris's girlfriend in tow. Her mind raced through the various scenarios as to how this unlikely duo got together, and none of them were good.

"Natalia, you have to believe me. There is nothing going on between Rachel and me." Olivia pleaded with the Latina. She pretended not to hear Doris tell her that she was whipped, continuing instead to focus on Natalia's face.

"Rachel and I had a long talk. I'm not thrilled about what happened, but I know you had nothing to do with it." She cast an angry glance at Doris.

"See, no harm, no foul…everybody's happy…bartender…pour me another...we're celebrating." Doris smirked and pointed at her now empty glass.

"I don't think so, Doris. You're shut off for now. I have to finish my shift, but tonight you and I are going to have a long talk about all of this." Rachel stood confidently in front of the Mayor waiting for the woman to voice an objection that did not come.

A smug grin lit Olivia's face. And you tell me I'm whipped. However, before she could engage in another verbal battle with Doris, the Latina said her good-byes and headed out of Towers. As she expected, the hotelier soon followed her and the couple walked hand-in-hand toward Company.

"I really am sorry about this." Olivia shook her head in amazement. I still can't believe that Doris would do something this foolish. After a few moments a bright smile lit the older woman's face as she realized that Doris would have deal with the repercussions of an upset and embarrassed Rachel this evening. You won't have to worry about anyone walking in on you any time soon.

"I know it wasn't your fault, Olivia. It was another one of Doris's crazy ideas." Natalia paused for a few moments. "Although one day, you are going to have to tell me exactly what it was you interrupted that would inspire her to respond like this."

"Maybe someday I'll demonstrate what I interrupted." Flirtatious green eyes penetrated chocolate-brown orbs.

"Something tells me I'd like that…very much." A slight blush infused the younger woman's cheeks.

"I think we both will." And with that exchange a sense of hope and excitement for her future bolstered Olivia's spirits. Having now reached Company, the hotelier opened the restaurant's door and motioned for Natalia to precede her inside.

"Natalia…now that you know that Rachel isn't interested in me, there are no issues with my going to Towers in the future, right?"

As the younger woman began to pass through the door, she stopped inches from Olivia, gazed lovingly into her eyes, and softly caressed the side of her face.

"Hmmm…we'll see." Smiling contentedly, she entered the Cooper's restaurant.


Chapter 19

Olivia stood alone in her Beacon suite staring at her reflection in the Cheval mirror next to her bureau. The hotelier was quite aware that Natalia was due to arrive at her door very soon. They had agreed to attend Billy and Vanessa's wedding together. Nerves, which had been rock-steady earlier in the day when she had supervised the final preparations for the wedding reception in Beacon Ballroom, were becoming more frazzled with the passage of each unforgiving minute.

It is often said that mirrors do not lie, and this full-length mirror displayed emerald-green eyes tinged with apprehension. It hadn't been that long ago that Natalia had promised to accompany her to another function attended by their friends and family, the Bauer barbecue. Her love had never met her that day; and try as she might to silence her demons, those memories still haunted Olivia. But she told herself that this was a new day and from what she had witnessed since the Latina's return, a new Natalia.

God help me, I'm beginning to believe again. The brunette lifted her eyes skyward. Yes, I know I've been talking to you more and more lately...don't worry…it scares the hell out of me, too.

Refocusing on her reflection in the mirror, Olivia was determined to look her absolute best today. Numerous rejected outfits lay strewn atop her bed. Turning from side to side so she could view herself from various angles, the brunette made sure that the Persian red dress she was currently wearing accentuated her sensuous lines and luscious curves. This is it…this is the one.

The dress fell to just below her knees and clung lovingly to her body in all the right places. Full-length sleeves complemented strong, toned arms, and the plunging neckline highlighted perfectly shaped breasts. Deciding to wear her hair down, Olivia chose dangling gold earrings that shimmered in the light. After little debate, the hotelier left her neck un-adorned; she didn't need jewelry to draw attention to that part of her body. Twelve hundred dollar Jimmy Choos completed the outfit.

The confident smile she saw beaming back at her only confirmed what she already knew, she looked good…she looked damned good.

Across town, Natalia Rivera was racing around the master bedroom of her farmhouse; she was running late…very late. The Latina wasn't quite sure how she had gotten so far behind schedule. She had been dressed and ready to head out to the Beacon to meet Olivia but that was before she caught a full glimpse of the outfit she was wearing. She had originally chosen a conservatively cut, light blue dress. However, Natalia soon abandoned that choice when she saw how little it flattered her ripening figure.

I can't wear this! This is our first public function together as a couple. Olivia will look fabulous. Of course she could wear sweatpants and a t-shirt and look incredible…Ugh, I must have something better than this!

The frantic Latina ransacked her closet trying desperately to find a different outfit for Billy and Vanessa's wedding. Her choices were limited since most of the formal attire in her closet consisted of pre-pregnancy outfits and the maternity clothes she had recently purchased did not provide the "wow" factor she was looking for. . Wait a second …I have it.

Her hand touched an outfit still covered in department store plastic. Removing the hanger from the closet, Natalia lifted the protective covering to reveal a stunning two-piece ensemble. The sapphire blue, sleeveless, tea-length dress was simple in its design. The scoop neck was cut low enough to show just a glimpse of the Latina's growing breasts without being too risqué. The accompanying jacket, which was similar in color and material, was cut to the same length as the dress. Natalia understood that the other guests would easily recognize that she was pregnant, but the flow and the line of this ensemble complemented her new figure.

Smiling, the raven-haired beauty clutched the outfit to her chest. The dress had been purchased as part of Natalia's plan to win back her love. Of course in her fantasy, she wore the ensemble to a quiet candlelight dinner for two. At that dinner the Latina would profess her love for Olivia and the older woman would realize that their shared future could no longer be denied.

Oh well, it isn't the romantic dinner I had hoped for, but we will be together and that's what matters.

Realizing how late the hour was getting, Natalia quickly readied herself and within minutes, she was in her car headed toward the Beacon.

A knock on her suite door interrupted the hotelier's musings. Taking one more glance in the mirror, Olivia made a final check of her appearance. After rearranging a strand of hair that was imperceptibly out of place, she took a deep, settling breath, and opened the door to an unexpected visitor.

"Wow, you could stop time in that dress." Doris Wolfe was not subtle in her admiration of the hotelier's body.

"Hey…" The brunette waived her hand in front of the Mayor's glazed eyes. "My eyes are up here."

Slowly raising her gaze, Doris smirked at her friend. "Of course they are, and they're lovely, as well."

"Oh, that was smooth. Do you use that one often?" The women shared a laugh. "Come in and tell me what you want, or are you just here to leer at my breasts." Doris followed the brunette into the suite.

"Is that an offer? Because if it is, I'd gladly accept." When she saw Olivia's responding smirk, Doris raised her hands in surrender and sat down.

"Rumor has it, Ms. Spencer, that you will be accompanying someone to Billy and Vanessa's wedding today." She looked on in amazement as the hotelier once again focused on her reflection and resumed her nervous primping.

Oh, this is just too much, no one would ever believe this. I wouldn't believe it if I weren't seeing it with my own eyes. Olivia freakin' Spencer…man-eater…seductress…business maven is as scared as a teenager before her first date. I hope this goes well for you, my friend.

"How did you find out? I mean, other than me who the hell in this town actually speaks to you?"

"Oh, I have my ways…so…stop stalling and start talking."

Olivia sighed then took a seat on her bed. Closing her eyes for a few seconds to collect her thoughts, the hotelier did her best to calm her restless nerves.

"OK…" Resting her hands in her lap, she focused her gaze on Doris. "…I asked Natalia to go with me to the wedding today. She should be here any minute…and I don't know if I've ever been so nervous about a date in my life."

"Well, you look fantastic." Olivia's skeptical smirk turned to a shy smile when it became clear from her tone that Doris was being sincere with her compliment.

"Thank you."

The women sat quietly for a moment. Most of Springfield would have been shocked to learn that their abrasive Mayor could lend a sympathetic ear to anyone. But Olivia was her friend and Doris knew she needed someone to talk to, so she would wait; she would listen.

"I don't know, maybe I'm just being silly." Olivia shook her head self-deprecatingly. "This is just a date; I've done this thousands of times before. It's no big deal, right?"

"Well, I'm not sure that would be such a good thing to say to Natalia." The icy glare she received in return made Doris laugh. "Look, have you considered that maybe you just aren't ready? Natalia just came home, maybe you're rushing things too much."

"Wait a second here…maybe I'm rushing things? Weren't you the one who told me that this relationship was worth fighting for and not to give up hope?" Incredulous green eyes drilled into blue orbs.

"Are you sure that was me? I'm not really the optimistic type." The Mayor tried to relieve the tension in the room by reverting to the playful banter that was their usual mode of communication.

"Well then bring her back here. She's the one I want to talk to." The brunette responded with an expected sarcastic retort, but Doris could tell by the look in cloudy green eyes, that there was more Olivia needed to discuss.

"I'll tell you what, pour me a drink, and she'll be at your disposal."

Olivia rose from her seat and went to the bar. Without uttering a word, she walked to the seated Mayor and handed her a glass containing an inch worth of a golden elixir. Doris sipped her drink and a warm sensation traveled down her throat.

"Very nice, you gave me the good stuff." She nodded her thanks to the brunette. "Now, tell me what's making you so crazy."

Having retaken her seat on her bed, Olivia expelled a deep breath. It wasn't easy for her to admit she was afraid of anything, even to herself, so revealing her weakness to others was a foreign and uncomfortable concept for the brunette.

It still amazed Olivia that Doris Wolfe, a woman whose reputation for being a bitch rivaled her own, had become her confidante. When the hotelier first admitted to herself that she had unusually strong feelings for her best friend, she had turned to the Mayor for advice since she was the only lesbian Olivia knew. As time went on however, Doris had proven herself to be a loyal friend.

"I'm afraid." Emerald eyes avoided Doris's gaze. "I love her like I have never loved anyone before. If it were up to me, I would spend the rest of my life with her, but it isn't just up to me." The brunette abruptly got up from her seat and began to pace back and forth in front of the sandy-blonde.

"I'm beginning to believe in our future again, but what if I'm wrong? What if I let her in, and she breaks my heart again?" Olivia let out a frustrated sigh, and pinched the bridge of her nose trying to release some of her pent up tension.

Doris watched as her friend fought her internal battle. Taking another sip of her drink, she placed the glass on the bedside table and stood in front of the brunette, effectively ending her pacing.

"Let me tell you what I believe, then." Smiling blue eyes focused on uncertain emerald-green pools. "I believe that you love Natalia with all your heart. I'm not exactly sure why, by the way…I mean she's gorgeous, but you could have any man or woman you want…" Doris stopped that train of thought when she caught a glimpse of the glare she was receiving.

"…but I digress. I believe that Natalia Rivera loves you and wants to spend the rest of her life with you…may her God help her." Doris forestalled any comment Olivia was going to interject by taking the hotelier's hands in her own. "I believe that a love like the two of you share just cannot be denied. And, I believe that you are the bravest person I know, because regardless of what's happened in the past, you won't let fear prevent you from having the future you both deserve."

Natalia never realized how excruciatingly slow the Beacon's private suite elevator was until this moment. She had raced to the hotel from the farmhouse, uncharacteristically pushing the speed limit in her attempt to make up some of the time she had lost by changing her outfit. Her efforts had been rewarded when she arrived in the Beacon parking lot two minutes before she was to meet Olivia. Her relief was short-lived, however, as she now stood in the elevator watching the snail-like progression of the hotel floors pass by.

Come on…come on… The elevator doors finally bent to her will and opened, giving her access to Olivia's floor. Hurrying to the suite door, she composed herself before knocking. Barely managing to contain her excitement, the Latina's knuckles lightly wrapped against the door. She could hear movement and then her love's voice rang out from inside the hotel room.

"Damn it, Doris, I'm not giving you anymore Midleton! Go buy your own whiskey. I told you that Natalia would be here any min…" The suite door abruptly swung open and there before the Latina was the woman she loved in the sexiest red dress she had ever seen.

The rest of Olivia's words died on her lips as she saw that it wasn't her meddlesome, well-intentioned friend but Natalia at her door. Nice going, Spencer. This was not the greeting she had planned.

"Hey, I'm sorry about that. Doris stopped by earlier to chat, and I thought…"

Natalia knew that Olivia was speaking to her, but the older woman's words were unintelligible as chocolate brown eyes scanned the hotelier up and down before resting for a brief moment on a plunging neckline that made the younger woman's heart race and left her mouth dry.

"You look fantastic." The Latina lifted her gaze as a slight blush infused her dimpled cheeks.

She just checked me out. Maybe this greeting didn't go as badly as I thought. Now that Olivia's uneasiness had calmed she was able to focus on the woman in front of her. She looks incredible.

"Thank you. You look beautiful." Smoldering emerald eyes bore deeply into Natalia's soul. The pull between them intensified as they refused to release each other's gaze. There they stood, unmoving, in the doorway, lost in one another.

She wasn't clear on how long they had been standing together, but Olivia knew that if they were going to be at the ceremony on time, they needed to leave. Before they could head to the wedding however the hotelier needed to ask one last question.

"Are you ready?" Her voice was casual, but both women understood the unspoken meaning behind the older woman's words. They were attending this very public function not as roommates, not as best friends, but as a couple. Some of their friends would be surprised by their relationship, others perhaps not. Either way, the hotelier gave Natalia one last chance to change her mind.

Oh my love, how much did that hurt you? No more running, Olivia, I swear to you, no more running. Natalia grasped the older woman's hands in her own and brought their intertwined fingers to her heart.

"I've searched for you my entire life. I just got you back. There's no way I'm letting you go now."

The younger woman looked at her with such adoration that Olivia felt the last vestiges of the wall she had constructed to protect her broken heart quietly crumble. She was once again fully exposed. She was lost, but perhaps for the first time in her life she was truly found.

Part 20

Return to Guiding Light Fiction

Return to Main Page