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 20

"The ceremony was beautiful wasn't it, Olivia?" The Latina glanced at the hotelier awaiting her response as they walked hand-in-hand toward the Beacon ballroom. The older woman appeared to be quite pensive and merely nodded her agreement at the question. Natalia was curious at her love's understated response but decided against pressing the issue any further, at least for now.

In fact, the wedding ceremony had been beautiful and highlighted by an unforgettable surprise. Billy and Vanessa had exchanged their vows on the grounds near the Springfield Lighthouse just before sunset, as planned. What hadn't been expected was that they would be joined by two of their friends. Earlier that afternoon, perhaps inspired by the feelings of love that infused the day, Buzz had lowered himself to one knee and proposed to Lillian, who had joyfully accepted. Upon witnessing the spur-of-the-moment proposal, Billy and Vanessa convinced their friends to join in their ceremony, and thus the attendees got the added bonus of seeing two sets of friends joined in matrimony that day.

The setting was absolutely stunning as the orange-blazed sky glowed with the last remnants of the day's light. A sea of white folding chairs filled the luscious green lawn while a softly lit pergola served as a picturesque backdrop for both couples. Billy and Vanessa's declarations to finally get things right this time were greeted by joyous knowing smiles, and many of the guests shed happy tears as they watched Buzz get one last shot at love and Lillian finally get the brass, or in this case gold, ring.

The residents of Springfield would remember the dual wedding for years to come, but the truth was that Olivia had paid little attention to the setting or the words of devotion that had been exchanged by the loving couples. How could she, when the woman she loved sat so closely by her side, possessively resting a gentle hand on her leg?

Throughout the ceremony Olivia had been filled with a sense of rightness and fulfillment that she was sure she had never felt before. Her heart knew the truth she had been so afraid to accept: for the first time in her life, the hotelier had fully and completely given her damaged heart to another. Yes, Natalia had made a mistake, and it had hurt, but Olivia had experience letting go of mistakes from the past and chose to focus on their present and future. Today Natalia was proudly at her side and promised to be there through all of their tomorrows.

The emerald-eyed beauty scanned the other guests and caught a glimpse of Rafe sitting with his arm around Ashlee and another of Emma cuddled close to her father. Yes, they still had some huge issues to address and resolve, but this was her family, and she knew that she would do everything in her formidable power to bring this family together and keep them together.

The hotelier had to admit that, even to her critical eye, the ballroom looked fantastic. Her staff had even adjusted for the last minute addition of a second bride and groom to the festivities. Greg, I just might have to give you a raise after all of this.

"Congratulations!" Natalia cheerfully hugged Buzz then turned to embrace Lillian. The Latina extended her good wishes and Lillian, ever the diligent nurse, inquired as to the younger woman's health.

"So old man, you finally got it right." Olivia leaned in toward Buzz and kissed him on the cheek.

"Yeah, well, I still can't believe she said yes." He shook his head, amazed at his good fortune. He glanced at his new wife and saw that she was still focused on her conversation with Natalia. "I'd given up hoping for my future a long time ago, but Lillian…she just came into my heart and lit up all of the darkness. I can't imagine my life without her."

"You're a very lucky man." Tears of happiness filled emerald-green eyes. This member of the Cooper family would always hold a special place in Olivia's heart. She couldn't have been more happy for him. Buzz closed the distance between them and whispered in the brunette's ear.

"You know that I wish this for you, don't you?" The hotelier briefly closed her eyes and then slightly turned her lowered head to gaze at the younger woman. "One day, Olivia, you'll find the one who lights up your heart."

At that moment, Natalia and Lillian finished their conversation and returned their attention to Buzz and Olivia. The Latina lovingly placed her hand on the hotelier's back. The need for a physical connection with Olivia felt so natural and right that Natalia had given her action little thought.

Lillian smiled at them; she had suspected that the younger women were more than just best friends, and seeing their current interaction had confirmed her previous suspicions. They're an unlikely match, but…Olivia appears to finally be at peace with herself, and Natalia seems so happy. In the end, that's all that really matters.

Buzz gazed back and forth between the hotelier and the Latina before settling his gaze on Olivia. A silent communication passed between the former lovers and understanding dawned in blue eyes.

"…or perhaps you already have."

"Mommy! Natalia!" Emma raced across the ballroom to greet her two Mommies. Skidding to a halt in front of Olivia, the young girl threw herself into her mother's arms.

"I've missed you, Mommy." The older woman bent down to kiss her daughter on the top of her head. Natalia took a moment to watch the loving embrace between mother and daughter before wrapping her arms around both of her girls.

"I've missed you too, baby." Emerald-green pools glanced into chocolate-brown eyes. "We both have." The hotelier allowed herself a few seconds to soak in the feelings of love that were overwhelming her senses before pulling back slightly to look into her daughter's eyes.

"Did you have a good time with your Dad, Jellybean?"

"We had so much fun!" Emma's exuberance was infectious and soon both women were smiling.

"We had a fabulous few days together. Olivia, I can't thank you enough for giving me this time with Emma." The hotelier released her daughter and Natalia and turned toward Philip and Beth who had followed Emma across the ballroom.

"I'm so glad you had the chance to do this Philip, truly. Emma loves you very much. Whatever you need…whatever we can do to have you spend some quality time with Emma…just let me know." Olivia could see a brief moment of sadness fill her former husband's eyes, which was quickly replaced by gratitude.

I still can't believe that I'm actually offering to let him take Emma. A year ago, if I had heard that Philip Spaulding was dying, I would have thrown a party. It's so unfair: Emma finally gets the loving father she deserves, and now she's going to lose him.

"Thank you, Olivia." Smiling, Philip glanced at Beth and squeezed her hand. "I think it's time for us to congratulate Buzz and give our sympathies to your mother. Emma, honey, we'll see you in a bit. Don't forget you promised your old Dad at least one dance."

"I won't forget, Daddy." The radiant smile he received from his daughter warmed his heart. Philip nodded at Olivia and Natalia and, taking the blonde's arm in his own, began to escort Beth across the dance floor toward her mother.

"You know…Olivia and Natalia seem…close." Beth smiled quizzically at her former husband as they slowly approached Buzz and Lillian.

"Ah…they are…they're very close." Philip covered the blonde's hand that was resting on his arm and continued on.

As her father and Beth walked across the dance floor, Emma led her two Mommies toward their table. Olivia silently took Natalia's hand in her own, and the Latina gazed adoringly at the older woman. Their all-too-brief connection was broken when they heard the exuberant yell of their daughter.

"Rafe!" Emma was the first to spot the teenager sitting at their table along with Doris and Ashlee Wolfe.

"Hey squirt, it's good to see you, too." Rafe left his seat to gather the giggling girl in his arms.

The sight of her son embracing the little girl she thought of as her own filled Natalia with a sense of love and wonder. She quickly glanced into liquid green pools and could see similar emotions in Olivia's eyes. The Latina squeezed the long warm fingers that were intertwined with her own before releasing the older woman's hand.

"You look very handsome in that suit, Rafael." Natalia straightened Rafe's tie before hugging her blushing son. He was embarrassed by the attention, but she could tell that her son had been warmed by the compliment.

"Hello, everyone." While Natalia was embracing Rafe, Olivia greeted Doris and Ashlee. Soon the women and the young girl were seated. The hotelier was to Doris's right while Natalia sat to Rafe's left which gave Emma what she considered to be the best seat, between her two Mommies. At first the air around the table was filled with tension, but the mood soon changed as the young girl began to share the events of her last few days with her Dad in the Spaulding Mansion. They sat and laughed and joked as the group listened to the toasts given by both best-men and watched as the happy couples shared their first dances.

After the food was served and enjoyed, the guests began mingling. Emma kept her word and joined her father on the crowed dance floor. Ashlee was chatting with Daisy at the Cooper's table while Doris was at the bar. Sensing that Natalia and her son could use some time alone, Olivia excused herself and headed toward the Mayor to join her in a drink. Before she could reach the bar however, she felt a hand on her arm. Turning, she looked into the smiling blue eyes of Josh Lewis.

"You look stunning, Olivia. May I have this dance?"

"Reva's busy, I take it?" The former lovers shared a knowing grin. They both understood that Josh's heart belonged to Reva Shayne, always had…always would.

"Actually, she's with Billy and Vanessa at the moment." Josh grinned sheepishly.

"Well then, Mr. Lewis, I would be happy to join you for a spin around the dance floor."

"So, you and Natalia, huh?" Josh Lewis twirled Olivia in his arms as the pair swayed to the slow rhythms of yet another 80's love song.

"I don't know what you're talking about." Olivia coyly smiled at her former husband. She knew exactly what he was asking, but she would play the same game they always did. He would have to work a little harder before he got the answer he was looking for.

"By the way, would you mind telling me whatever possessed your brother to hire this particular DJ? I swear if he plays 'the Chicken Dance' I'm pulling the plug on the entire sound system. It will be sacrificed in the name of music appreciation."

"Ah…ah…ah, stop avoiding my question." Blue eyes beamed in amusement; Josh knew that Olivia was trying to distract him from discussing Natalia, although he had to admit, she did have a point about the music selection.

"Is that what I'm doing?" The brunette twirled away and then gracefully spun back into her dance partner's arms.

"Definitely…but that's fine. I know exactly how you feel about her; I can see it in your eyes. I've seen that look before, you know."

Oh Josh, I don't think you or anyone else has ever seen this look in my eyes before.

"It's wonderful to see you so happy, Olivia. How long have the two of you been together?" The hotelier thought for a moment before answering.

"It's complicated."

"Things with you usually are." She gave him a playful slap and her best faux outraged glare.

"I've been in love with her for a while now, I'm not sure how long it has been for Natalia." The brunette turned to gaze wistfully toward the table where the younger woman was speaking with her son.

"We finally admitted to each other how we felt back in April…" She paused, "…on the day of her wedding to Frank." Olivia told Josh of her graveside declaration of love and Natalia's similar acknowledgment in the gazebo later that morning. She waited to see how her revelation would be received by her friend and former husband. She was somewhat surprised when Josh burst out laughing.

"So you're the reason she bolted back down the aisle. I wondered about that." The song they had been dancing to soon ended and the green-eyed beauty started to head back to her table. Josh gently took her arm and spun her back toward the dance-floor as a similar melody began to play.

"Oh, no…no…no, I know there's more to this story; you're not leaving just yet." Josh smiled and their dance began once again.


Chapter 21

"You look beautiful, Ma." Rafe smiled cautiously. Although her warm greeting earlier had put him more at ease, the teen was still unsettled by the hateful words he had said to his mother the last time they had spoken to each other.

"Thank you." Natalia brushed imaginary lint from the lapel of his suit. "You know I've always thought that you looked exceptionally handsome in blue."

Mother and son shared a nervous laugh. Their last conversation had gone so poorly that neither the Latina nor her son was certain where to begin. Their unease with one another was palpable.

How did things get so crazy? Rafe thought back to when he was younger; his mother had been his confidante and friend. She had been everything to him. So much had happened since then, but one thing had remained the same, Rafael Rivera loved his mother.

"I'm sorry about all of the things I said the other night at the farmhouse…I just…" The teen paused, he didn't want to argue with his mother again.

"What Rafe? Tell me." Natalia reached across the table to cover her son's hand with her own. She didn't want to have this argument again, but if it meant saving her relationship with her son, she would have this conversation as many times as Rafe needed. She would make him understand…she had to make him understand.

"When I think of all of the things that Olivia has done in the past to hurt our family, I get so angry." She could see the pain in her son's face, but his eyes no longer housed the hostility that had been so evident in their last conversation.

"Oh honey, we've all done things that we aren't proud of…" The Latina had more to tell her son, but was interrupted by the teen.

"Ma, I know I've disappointed you." Unable to meet his mother's gaze, the young man stared down at their joined hands.

"I'm not talking about you, Rafe." She squeezed the teen's hand and regained his attention. The raven-haired beauty took a deep breath and paused to collect her thoughts. She was not proud of the memories she was about to share, but the Latina knew that her son needed to hear them.

"I almost killed her, Rafael." The Latina's voice became quiet, almost a whisper, as she thought back to the day of her wedding to Nicky. "The day I married your father. I…did some things…to make sure Olivia stayed away from Nicky. The hospital had a heart for her that day, but she couldn't get to Cedars in time, because of what I did. She lost out on that chance at life, because of me." The teen remained still, unsure of what to say, and Natalia took the opportunity to move closer to her son.

"She forgave me. She could have died because of my stupidity that day, and yet she…forgave …me." Even after all this time, even after all they had been through; it still amazed her.

"Is that why you gave her Gus's heart?" Is that why you did it Ma…you felt guilty?

"Oh honey…I'm not sure that even I know all of the reasons I made the choice I did back then. I'm just incredibly grateful that God led me to the right decision that day." Thank you, God.

"You saved her."

"Yes, and she saved me." The Latina gently ran her fingers through her son's dark, curly hair, willing him to understand.

"How?" The teen shook his head in confusion.

Natalia searched her heart for the right words as she gazed into questioning, brown eyes, so much like her own. No more lies…no more avoiding the truth…it causes too much pain and heartache, but how do I explain to my son that the woman he resents so much is the love of my life?

"Rafe, sometimes you can go through life like you're sleepwalking. Life is good, you're content but there's something…missing. You might not be quite sure of what it is…it's just a feeling of…well…emptiness, I guess. If enough time goes by, you just learn to accept it. It's the life you have…and it's good…so why complain?" Unfocused eyes gazed out at the dance the floor.

"I never thought I would fall in love with a woman…let alone Olivia Spencer. I mean really who would have predicted that?" The Latina laughed.

"But when she came into my life…she started to fill that emptiness I felt inside." A joyous glow warmed the Latina's face. "It was like a part of me, that I didn't even realize existed, just came to life."

Look at her face; her eyes light up when she talks about Olivia. Listen to how her voice softens; I can hear the love she feels for her. I want this for her God, I do…but did it have to be Olivia Spencer?

They remained like that, in silence, for the next few minutes, appearing to observe the merriment surrounding them, when really they were lost in their own thoughts. It was Rafe who spoke first.

"I know you want me to forget everything she did, Ma..."

"I'm not asking you to forget, Rafael. I'm asking you to forgive. Rafe, none of us should be judged for the rest our lives for mistakes we made in the past, not you, not me and not Olivia. She makes me happy, Rafe. Instead of thinking about who Olivia was, perhaps you could focus on the fact that she's the one who makes your mother happy?"

I got involved with gangs in Chicago, and my mother worked two jobs to save enough money to get us out of the city. I got Daisy pregnant, she had an abortion, and yet the Coopers treat me as if I'm one of their own. Jeffrey…I shot Jeffrey…but he still spoke on my behalf at my trial.

A litany of past mistakes continued to flash through Rafe's mind. Do I want people to judge who I am now because of what I did in the past? Is that what I'm doing to Olivia?

"I'll try Ma, I promise…I'll try."

"So, I'm guessing that Frank knows about the two of you?" Josh maneuvered Olivia to a less crowded area the dance floor so they could continue their discussion with some measure of privacy.

"Yes, he knows and so does Rafe." Her ex-husband could feel the rising tension in the hotelier's body at the mention of Natalia's former fiancé and son.

"From the tone of your voice I'm guessing that neither one of them took the news very well."

"Oh, what a master of understatement you are." The brunette was only marginally successful in tempering the sarcasm in her voice. Olivia regretted her tone almost immediately; after all her ex-husband wasn't responsible for the difficulties she and Natalia were having with Frank and Rafe. Josh could tell that his question had inadvertently touched on a sensitive subject, so when Olivia offered a quick apologetic smile; he readily accepted the gesture.

Emerald-green eyes glanced over toward the table where Frank was sitting…with his arm around Blake. The couple was chatting with Marina and Shayne, and by the pleasant expressions on everyone's face, they all seemed to be having a very enjoyable time.

"Actually, I think Frankie may be finally moving on." And, it's about damn time.

"Rafe on the other hand…let's just say that he's a work in progress." A quick check of her table confirmed that Natalia was still sitting with her son. They're still talking, at least. I haven't heard any yelling; nothing's been thrown. All good signs, I hope.

"Have you told Emma yet?" Josh's question pulled the hotelier away from her musings.

"I haven't specifically discussed my feelings for Natalia with her, no." The brunette recalled their recent afternoon with the Latina at the farmhouse. "Although, I think she may have a pretty good idea about what's going on."

"What makes you say that?" Josh looked at her quizzically.

"Well, for one thing she told me in no uncertain terms that since Natalia isn't going to marry Frank, we should be moving back into the farmhouse. I guess one of her friends from camp has two Mothers, and my incredibly perceptive daughter doesn't understand why her friend's family lives together when we don't." Olivia sighed. I think I'm beginning to see your point on this one, Jellybean.

"She's a very bright girl."

"She's too smart and stubborn for my own good." The brunette smiled self-deprecatingly, but Josh could hear the motherly pride in his ex-wife's voice.

"When there's something she wants…she goes after it until she gets it." Olivia shook her head. "I don't know..." The sound of boisterous laughter interrupted the brunette before she could finish her thought. "What's so funny?"

"She is her mother's daughter." A warm smile reached kind, ocean-blue eyes.

"She's better than her mother, but thank you." The former couple remained quiet for a few moments, continuing to sway to the slow beat of the current song.

"Speaking of going after things, I'm glad you asked me to dance, because there's something I need to discuss with you."

"You mean other than your having fallen in love with the second most beautiful woman in Springfield?"

"Oh, that was a nice one. Remind me to mention your little Rico Suave moment the next time I see Reva. Now where was I? Oh, do you remember when I helped you arrange Billy's marriage proposal to Vanessa at the gazebo?"


"You said that if I helped you, you would owe me a favor, and, by the way, since we're currently dancing at Billy and Vanessa's wedding, I'd say I did a damn fine job with that, wouldn't you?"

"You have a point…" Why do I sense trouble coming?

"Well, I'm calling in my marker, pretty boy." The brunette patted her ex-husband on his upper arm.

Because I'm dealing with Olivia Spencer, of course there'll be trouble. Even though Josh was slightly apprehensive about what Olivia's calling in her marker would entail, he was thrilled to see that the gleam had returned to his former wife's emerald-green eyes. She had been so withdrawn during Natalia's absence; too often finding her solace in the bottom of a bottle. At least now I understand why. But this woman…this beautiful, sexy, take-charge, confident woman…this was the friend that he knew. God bless you, Natalia. Your love is just what Olivia needs to heal her battered heart.

"OK, Ma' Barker…what exactly do you want me to do?" They shared a conspiratorial grin.

"It's not much really…for starters I need you to hijack the DJ'ing duties…" The hotelier quickly glanced at the DJ, who looked like he had stepped out of an eighties John Hughes film, then returned her penetrating gaze to her ex-husband. "…preferably by force."

Josh took little time to agree to her first request. "I'm good with that, then what?"

"Then I need you to…"


Chapter 22

"Soda water with lime, please." Olivia placed her order with the bartender. She was a bit parched after her time with Josh on the dance floor. After revealing her feelings for Natalia to her ex-husband, it had taken Olivia an additional dance to completely outline the plan to her willing accomplice. As she awaited her drink, the hotelier scanned the reception hall trying to locate her love.

"That's a little light-weight for you, isn't it, especially since Billy's picking up the tab tonight?" Doris casually took the seat next to the standing brunette and sipped from her drink.

"Maybe, but this is a big day for me, and I want to remember every single minute." Olivia nodded her thanks to the bartender, and took a long draw from her club soda.

"It does lack something without the Goose, doesn't it?" Olivia's distaste for the beverage was clearly evident by the expression on her face.

"Yes it does, my friend, yes it does." The women's glasses clinked as they toasted one another.

"So tell me, Madame Mayor, what has you drinking the hard-stuff today? You started early this afternoon in my suite, and it looks like you haven't stopped since." Doris turned in her seat so that she was facing the bar and took another long sip of her drink. "Seriously, Doris, what's going on?"

"It's just that…" She paused for a moment and took a deep breath before turning crystal blue eyes to her friend. "I see you here at this function with Natalia, and I want that. I want to feel like I can come to events like this with the person I love."

"OK, well…why don't you do something about it, then? I see the way Rachel looks at you. I've spoken with her, I know how deeply she cares for you; of course I have no idea why." Olivia laughed at the outraged glare she received.

"Seriously though, you can have this, Doris. Just…do something about it…invite her…be honest with yourself and the people around you for once in your life."

The women were quiet for an instant as the strawberry-blonde pondered the hotelier's words. Finishing her drink in one final gulp, the mayor returned her glass to the bar and signaled the bartender for another.

"Yes, I could do that, I could show up at functions with her on my arm, but at what cost…my friends…my daughter…my career?"

"Well…" Olivia appeared to ponder the Mayor's concerns thoughtfully. "…you don't have any friends, so that's one thing you don't have to worry about, right?" The comment served its purpose as Doris burst out laughing and she was soon joined by her friend. The women took a few seconds to regain their composure.

"Oh, Doris, I can't even pretend to have the all of the answers that you need to hear." The brunette shook her head and turned to her friend. "What I do know, though, is that your daughter is one of the kindest and most thoughtful kids around. It may take some time, but I don't believe that she'd turn her back on you because of who you love."

"As for your career," she continued, "there are gay and lesbian politicians, but you're right, it is possible that if you come out, you wouldn't be re-elected next term. You need to decide, Doris…would you rather share your life with the woman you love, or be alone with your career. Your choice."

The bartender returned at that moment with the Mayor's next drink. She stared at the glass filled with a magical elixir that would help her to forget her inner turmoil, at least for a few hours. Doris abruptly stood and turned away from its call. Looking out at the dance floor, the Mayor saw a very irritated Natalia heading toward the bar.

"Ah, Spencer, I'm not exactly sure what you did this time, but Hurricane Natalia is fast approaching." Olivia followed Doris's line of sight and saw one very upset Latina.

"I'm not sure…" The hotelier whispered as the subject of their conversation soon stood in front of her.

"Hi, sweetheart, are you feeling ok? Can I get you something to drink…water…maybe some juice?"

"I'm fine." Natalia responded in a clipped tone. "It's getting late, and Emma needs to turn in soon. Jane is waiting upstairs in your suite. She'll stay with Em' until the reception is over. If you can pull yourself away from Josh Lewis long enough, you might want to say goodnight to your daughter."

"Natalia…" The hotelier was surprised by the anger in the younger woman's tone.

"Not now, Olivia." The Latina started to walk away.

"Wait a minute…Natalia." The emerald-eyed beauty followed her love. Reaching out, she gently took the younger woman's arm in her hand and guided her to a more secluded area of the reception hall. When she was certain they would not be overheard, Olivia stopped walking and turned to face the woman she loved.

"Natalia, what's going on?" The younger woman could hear the confusion in Olivia's voice.

"You seemed to enjoy dancing with Josh." The Latina averted her eyes.

"Wait…what?" When she failed to answer or meet her gaze, Olivia continued. "Natalia…please look at me."

The Latina couldn't help but respond to her love's request. Their eyes met and emerald green pools studied chocolate brown orbs. The anger had dissipated, but what Olivia saw in those beautiful dark eyes that she adored was pain…pain that she had caused. This stops now.

"Sweetheart…" Olivia caressed the younger woman's cheek. "I wanted to give you and Rafe some time to talk, so I left the table. When Josh asked me to dance, I agreed since I wanted to speak with him anyway." The hotelier leaned toward the younger woman so that their foreheads met. "I'm so sorry if I hurt you; that's the last thing I want to do."

"God…" Natalia gently pulled away from the older woman. As she did, Olivia could see the tears spilling from chocolate brown eyes. "I don't know what's wrong with me sometimes." The Latina shook her head in frustration.

The hotelier wiped the errant tears away from the younger woman's cheeks, and gently cradled Natalia's face in her hands. Both women stood in silence as the brunette stared deeply into warm brown eyes.

"There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. If I had seen you dancing with Frank earlier, I would have felt the same way." Olivia re-assured the younger woman.

"Really?" Her tone was more confident and a shy smile returned to Natalia's face.

"Oh…most definitely. We're in a delicate place right now…things are not really settled between us. I think that's causing a lot of the insecurity we both feel."

"So how do we fix that?"

"Well, I have an idea." A sexy smile lit darkening green eyes. "How about, after I put Emma to bed upstairs, I meet you back down here and we light up the dance floor. What do you think? Will you dance with me, Natalia?"

The Latina's heart nearly skipped a beat. God when she looks at me like that…she makes me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world. I didn't know if I would ever see that look in her eyes again, at least directed at me.

"Are you sure that's what you want?" As soon as the words left her lips, Natalia berated herself. Are you crazy…why are you giving her a chance to change her mind…because you love her…and would do anything for her…even if it means you have to continue to wait for her…that's why.

"There isn't anyone I would rather hold in my arms." The tone of her voice sent shivers down Natalia's spine.

"Let's go find Emma so you can take her upstairs. After you've put her to bed, come back down to the reception." Natalia leaned toward Olivia, her lips tantalizingly close as she whispered in the older woman's ear. "I'll be waiting for you."

"Mommy, I don't see why I couldn't stay at the party longer, I was having fun." Emma sat on her bed with her arms crossed in front of her refusing to change out of her dress and into the pajamas her mother was holding. The battle of wills had been going on for several minutes and the younger Spencer was showing no signs of surrendering.

"Em' come on, you know it's way past your bedtime."

"But my whole family is downstairs, I never get to spend time with everyone all together."

"Sweetheart, you need to get to bed, and…" Olivia paused for a moment. "I wanted to talk to you about something very important."

"What is it, Mommy?" Emma could hear the seriousness in her mother's tone and forgot all about the party downstairs.

"I'll tell you what, Jellybean, I have to go discuss something with Jane for a minute, while I'm gone why don't you get changed into your night clothes and wait for me under the covers, ok?"

"OK, Mommy."

After a few short minutes, Olivia returned to Emma's bedroom and sat down next to her on the bed. Well, it's now or never, I guess.

"Em', I'm thinking about talking to Natalia tonight about all of us living together again in the farmhouse. How do you feel about that?"

"Really!" There is little that warms a mother's heart more than seeing her child's face come alive with absolute joy. "When Mommy…should I start packing?" Olivia stopped her daughter from getting out of bed to begin boxing up her things.

"Sweetheart, I haven't even spoken with Natalia yet. There'll be plenty of time for us to talk more about this in the morning, but 'bean…there's something else." It was easy to tell Doris to talk to Ashlee…it's a little more difficult to discuss this with your own kid.

"Em' do you ever talk to your friend, Charlotte, about what it means to have two Mommies?"

"Sometimes… Charlotte says that instead of having a Mommy and a Daddy she has two Mommies." Emma shrugged; it all seemed simple enough to her.

"Charlotte says that a couple of kids at school are mean and tease her about having two Mommies and not having a Daddy, but she says that they're just stupid, and she doesn't want to be friends with stupid people anyway."

Hmm…I knew I liked that kid. "What do you think about that, Emma?"

"I don't want to waste my time with stupid people either." That's my girl.

"Sweetheart, Natalia and I…we love each other very much…just like Charlotte's Mommies love each other. Do you understand?"

"Of course I do, Mommy…it means kissing and hugging and stuff."

"Right…that's…right, so when we move back to the farmhouse, Natalia and I will be together, just like Charlotte's Mommies are together. Do you have any questions about that, honey?" Olivia could feel her blood pressure rise as Emma remained silent for the next few moments deep in thought.

"So, Natalia will be my other Mommy for real?"

"Yes sweetheart, Natalia is your other mother."

"And Rafe will really be my big brother?"


"And the baby will be my little sister?" The hotelier warmly laughed at the excitement in her young daughter's voice.

"Yes, honey, we'll all be a family." Emma hugged Olivia as hard as her small body would allow. Mother and daughter sat quietly wrapped up in each other's arms. For so long it had just been the two of them, but with Philip's return and Olivia and Natalia's relationship, the Spencers had become part of a larger extended family. That thought was both exciting and a little daunting.


"Yes 'bean?"

Emma looked up at her mother with innocent, questioning eyes. "Do you think that Natalia will let me call her Mama?"

"Oh honey, I think she'll be thrilled, but I tell you what, why don't you ask her tomorrow when we see her?"

"OK." The eight-year-old settled comfortably under the covers as Olivia tucked her into bed. "I love you, Mommy."

Leaning down, the adoring mother gently kissed her daughter on her forehead. "And I love you Emma…with all my heart."

Olivia shut off the light and quietly left her daughter's room. Nodding to Jane as she exited the suite, the hotelier walked to the elevator to head back down to the reception. As she waited for the elevator doors to open, Olivia gathered her courage. It was time to put her plan into action.


Chapter 23

The penthouse elevator doors opened, and Olivia immediately realized that the car wasn't empty. Standing before her, rather uncomfortably, was Rafael Rivera.

"Hi, Rafe, is there something I can help you with?" Olivia was curious as to why the young man had come to her floor.

"Um…yeah…I told Emma I'd hug her goodnight…and I didn't get a chance to do it downstairs and Ma' said you brought her up here so I thought…well, you know…I didn't want to disappoint her…" His voice tailed off as he saw understanding dawn in Olivia's eyes.

"Sure, I was just with her. If she hasn't fallen asleep yet, I'm sure she'd love to say goodnight to you." Rafe followed as Olivia led them back into her suite. Jane was reading a book on the couch and looked up questioningly at the hotelier who had unexpectedly returned after leaving just moments before.

"Jane, would you mind checking to see if Emma is still awake. If she is, please let her know that Rafe is here to say goodnight to her." The nanny nodded at her employer and went to check on the young girl, leaving Olivia and Rafe alone in the living area of the suite. It was evident that neither the brunette nor the teen was comfortable in the other's presence, and the awkward silence grew while they waited for word on Emma. Their wait ended abruptly as an eight-year-old ball of fire stormed out of her bedroom.

"Rafe!" Natalia's son lowered himself to one knee and welcomed the young girl into his waiting arms. Any signs of sleepiness that Emma felt moments earlier had disappeared as the girl shared a warm hug with the young man she thought of as her big brother. After a moment, Emma took a half-step back and looked at Rafe.

"I knew you'd keep your word." The eight-year old's smile was infectious, and the teen couldn't help but allow a mirroring grin to appear on his face.

"Well, I couldn't let you go to sleep without saying goodnight, now could I?" Emma shook her head. "Thank you for saving a dance for me. Now I can say that I danced with the prettiest girl at the reception."

"You're silly." The joyous sound of an eight-year-old girl's giggling filled the suite. God, I don't ever think I've seen a happier kid.

"I'm telling you the truth." Rafe glanced over at Olivia for confirmation, and Emma's gaze soon followed. "Wasn't she the prettiest girl at the wedding?"

"Absolutely." Olivia moved to stand next to her daughter and happily looked on as Emma once again hugged the teen. The loving mother could see, however, that her child was beginning to fade.

"OK, Jellybean, say goodnight to Rafe, it's time for you to get back to bed."

"Good night, Rafe."

"G'night, Munchkin."

Olivia once again hugged and kissed her daughter and then let Jane lead the girl back to her bedroom. The brunette and the teen left the suite and waited for the elevator to arrive without exchanging any words. Rafe was relieved that they didn't have to wait long for the doors to open. As the two passengers began their descent, Olivia decided it was time to end the silence.

"You're really good with her, thank you." The hotelier could tell that the teen genuinely cared for her daughter, so she tried to break the ice with a safe topic…Emma.

"Yeah, well…she makes it easy." It was true. He had never had anyone treat him the way Emma did. Even with all of the mistakes he made, the young girl still idolized him. He never really considered himself 'role model' material, but from now on, for Emma Spencer, he would try.

"You and I have a lot to talk about don't we?" Olivia turned to face the teen, allowing her back to rest against the elevator wall.

"Yeah…I think we do." Rafe's stance mirrored the older woman's as he kept a safe distance by leaning against the opposite wall. To the teen's surprise, Olivia reached out and hit the emergency stop button of the elevator.

"OK." The hotelier braced herself for the onslaught she knew was coming. "You go first."

Doris tried to take more of an interest in the conversations going on around her, but her heart just wasn't in it. She hated to admit it, but her heart was currently across town at Towers, with a beautiful, blonde, blue-eyed waitress.

"…of course Olivia and Natalia are together." The Mayor tuned back into the conversation her daughter was having with Daisy and Christina in time to hear Ashlee's pronouncement.

Daisy shook her head in denial. "No way, Ashlee, I think you're way off base here. Natalia almost married my Uncle Frank a few months ago."

"The key word there is 'almost'. Frank is dating Blake now, and did you see the two of them together earlier…Natalia appears to be very much with Olivia." The tablemates were quiet for a few moments, as they each pondered Ashlee's theory.

"OK, what about the baby? Natalia is pregnant with Frank's baby." Daisy stated confidently. She looked to Christina for support, but the only response she received from the other woman was a non-committal shrug of her shoulders.

"I'm not sure. A few months ago when I was helping Olivia with her physical therapy, I went out to the farmhouse to work with her. She was very vocal about there being nothing going on between her and Natalia, but even back then there was just this…I don't know to describe it…this…vibe between them."

"Ha, you see!" Feeling vindicated, Ashlee turned toward her mother for additional support. "What do you think, Mom?"

Doris almost spit out the sip of water she had just taken. "What do I think about what, honey?"

"You know…about Olivia and Natalia…you're Olivia's friend…she talks to you…are they together or not?" the blonde prodded her mother. As Doris glanced at the other faces at the table, all focused intently on her, she could tell that they were eagerly awaiting her reply. Damn it! I knew I shouldn't have stopped drinking earlier.

"To be honest, I'm not 100% sure what the exact status of their relationship is. Why? Does it make any difference if they are together?"

"No way! Actually, I think they're smokin' hot together. I'm surprised, though, that it doesn't bother you more." Ashlee looked questioningly at her mother.

"Well, let's just say I've broadened my horizons." Doris took another sip of her water and tried to appear as nonchalant as possible. "Ashlee, are you sure that the thought of two women together…in that way…doesn't bother you?" She hoped Olivia would forgive her, but her friend's relationship with Natalia had provided Doris with the perfect opportunity to safely explore her daughter's feelings about same-sex couples.

"No, why should it?" The tone of the blonde's voice grew louder as she became more irritated with her mother. Sensing another battle of the Wolfe women, Daisy and Christina quickly excused themselves leaving Doris and her daughter as the only two people at the table.

"You know, Mom, people are people and they shouldn't be judged because of their race, or their religion…how much money they have…or who they love. It's just wrong!"

Doris, still unable to gather enough courage to look at her daughter, stared at the glass she was tightly grasping in her hand. "A lot of people wouldn't agree with you." The words were spoken quietly, and if Ashlee hadn't been so agitated by the discussion she thought she was having with her mother, she would have heard the pain in Doris' voice.

"Yeah, well, I'm not a lot of people." And if you knew me better, maybe you'd finally realize that.

"I know." Doris turned toward Ashlee and gazed at her daughter with a look of pride that surprised the teen. "Sweetheart, I'm feeling a bit under the weather, so I'm going to head out. Do you think that you could meet me for lunch tomorrow in the park? There's something very important I want to discuss with you."

"Sure, Mom…are you ok?" Ashlee was confused by the unexpected turn their conversation had taken and concerned by her mother's early departure from the reception. However, the responding smile the teen received to her inquiry helped put her more at ease.

"You know honey, for the first time in a very long time, I think I'm going to be just fine."

Natalia sat by herself at the back of the reception hall waiting for Olivia's return. Although to the casual observer she appeared quite calm, inwardly she was having a difficult time keeping her emotions under control. The younger woman had secretly hoped that attending Billy and Vanessa's wedding with Olivia was a sign that the older woman was ready to take another step forward in their relationship. Seeing the hotelier dancing with her former husband had briefly put a damper on those hopes, but after talking with Olivia earlier in the evening, the Latina sensed that something had changed with the older woman. God, you know I will wait for her as long as it takes, but I think she might be ready to let me back in again.

"Hi, Natalia, you look absolutely lovely this evening." Blake leaned down to hug her pregnant friend. "It was a beautiful ceremony, wasn't it?"

The publisher joined the Latina, and the women talked about the surprise addition of a second bride and groom to the wedding party, the service and the reception thus far. After chatting for a few minutes, Natalia decided to broach the topic they both had been avoiding.

"It looks like things are working out really well for you and Frank." Blake briefly paused before answering. She studied the younger woman's expression but could see nothing but happiness for her.

"I think…maybe…yes." It was still too early in their relationship to tell what the future would hold for her and Frank, but Blake felt as though they were headed in the right direction.

The Latina reached out to cover her former boss's hand with her own. "You've been a true friend to me Blake. I can't thank you enough for everything that you've done for me. I hope you know that I couldn't be more thrilled for you and Frank."

"Thank you so much, Natalia, that means a great deal to me. You're my friend, and I don't want things to be awkward between us now that…" She let the rest of her thought trail off.

"Neither do I." The Latina hoped that their discussion would alleviate her friend's concerns. Natalia wasn't in love with Frank; truth be told she was never in love with him. However, she did care deeply for both Blake and Frank and was hopeful that they could each find what they were looking for with one another.

"By the way, I'm very happy to see that you've worked things out with Olivia."

Natalia sighed and slightly shook her head before replying. "I was just wondering about that myself before you sat down. I think we're moving forward, but I can't be certain."

Blake reassuringly patted the younger woman's hand and smiled warmly at the raven-haired beauty. "Oh, honey…I saw how she's been with you today…the way she looks at you…believe me, you have nothing to be uncertain about."

"Here you are. I've been looking all over for you." Reva sipped her glass of wine as she approached her ex-husband while he busily selected the next songs he would play to entertain the wedding guests.

"Well, I've been right here." Josh returned his attention to the stacks of CDs the DJ had brought to the reception. To his surprise and great relief, he was finding that if he dug past the Culture Club and Wham! discs there were actually some intriguing selections in the collection.

"Why aren't you out there on the dance floor enjoying this day with your family? Didn't Billy hire someone to do this?" The blonde dismissively waved her hand at the music her ex-husband was searching.

"Yes, he did. Unfortunately, the DJ became...ill suddenly…and had to step away for a bit. I'm just filling in." Josh turned his attention back to his scavenging. Huh, REO Speedwagon, I don't think I've listened to them in years.

If there was one person on this earth that Reva O'Neill knew, perhaps even better than herself, it was Josh Lewis. They shared too much history for his charming smile and shining blue eyes to distract her. He was up to something, and she was determined to find out what it was.

"Unhuh, let's try this again." Smiling, the blonde removed the CDs from her ex-husband's grasp and placed them on the table by her side. "What are you doing, Joshua?"

Josh could feel the heat of Reva's stare. He glanced up to see a confident smirk on his former wife's face that matched her tone. He knew he was busted. Even worse, he could tell that Reva knew that he knew he was busted. She knows me too damn well.

"I'm helping a friend." He tried to be coy. He didn't want to betray Olivia's trust in him, but he refused to lie, not to Reva. She'd see right through it anyway.

"Which friend?" She continued to press; as she was even more certain that there was something he was hiding from her.

Josh shifted nervously under the weight of her scrutiny. Saved, at least for the moment, by what he determined must have been divine intervention, the doomed man heard the final notes of the current song begin to fade away. He held up his hand to forestall his ex-wife's additional questions.

"Hold that thought for one second while I set up the next song." He was stalling, for what he wasn't sure, since he really had no hope of rescue. Josh quickly chose the next tune so that there was no interruption in the dancers' merriment. Deciding that his conversation with Reva would take more than three minutes and twenty-six seconds, he queued up the next few musical selections, before returning his attention to his now even testier ex-wife.

"I'm sorry about that…so…where were we?" He was only delaying the inevitable.

"Which friend?" Each word was painstakingly enunciated, and Josh could tell by the tone of her voice that his attempts to distract Reva were causing her patience to run quite thin.

"It's Olivia…I'm helping Olivia." As expected, the blonde's reaction was instantaneous.

"Are you out of your mind?" Oh Josh, how could you have let that woman sucker you into helping her with one of her schemes?

Oh boy, here we go. "It's not what you think, Reva." Josh sighed. The last thing he wanted to do was argue with one of his ex-wives in defense of another, but he had promised to help Olivia, and he would not break his word.

"Well, then…" Reva's voice dripped with sarcasm. "…why don't you tell me exactly what it is then?"


Chapter 24

There was an uneasy standoff in the halted elevator as Rafe and Olivia stared at one another from opposite sides of the otherwise empty car. Seconds felt like hours as the two opponents continued to focus all of their attention on each other, both knowing that this conversation was long overdue, but not quite sure of where to begin.

The hotelier remained quiet, determined to let Natalia's son make the first move. Oh, she had plenty to say. Rafe had treated her like a pariah, blaming her for Natalia's departure. Accusing her of somehow damaging his mother when all the while it was his hateful words that were breaking his mother's heart. She knew though that if she immediately escalated this discussion into a confrontation, the teen would just tune her out.

The brunette appeared quite confident in her demeanor, but her nerves were in turmoil. A great deal was riding on this next conversation. Natalia loved her, of that she was sure, but the Latina also loved her son and needed to have him in her life. Olivia was bound and determined to find a way to make that happen.

Rafe finally broke the silence, accusations filling angry brown eyes. "You're not good enough for her, you know."

OK, not exactly the start to this conversation I was hoping for, but it's a beginning, I guess. "Agreed." She answered simply. Her reply caught the teen off-guard, and the hotelier inwardly laughed as she watched Rafe try to regroup for his next verbal assault.

"I don't think you heard me…I said you're not good enough for her." They were the same words, but this time they were spit in a much more venomous tone.

"I heard you just fine the first time." Knowing that he was trying to provoke her, she forced herself to remain calm. Crossing her arms in front of her chest, Olivia silently observed the young man standing across from her waiting to see what his next move would be.

"And?" Believing that the brunette was toying with him, the teen was having difficulty controlling his frustration.

"And, I already answered you. You're right, I'm not good enough for her, but then I don't believe that anyone is." Rafe suspected that Olivia was playing some sort 'mind game', but in truth, she had spoken from her heart: no one was good enough for her Natalia.

"So then why are you doing this to her…to us?" Although his angry tone would soon return, it was momentarily absent. In its place was a son's plea to save the mother he thought he knew.

"Because I love her…" Unable to listen to the hotelier speak this way about his mother, Rafe quickly interjected.

"Don't say that…don't you say that! You don't even know what love is. All you do is use people. You take what you can get from them and then when you're done, you throw them away like they're nothing. I won't let that happen to her!"

OK, that's it, kid. I've taken enough of your shit. Olivia pushed away from the wall and strode toward Rafe. Stopping in front of him so they now stood toe-to-toe, the hotelier glared at the teen. Realizing too late that he had pushed the older woman too far, Rafe saw a brief flicker of the Olivia Spencer of old in darkening green eyes. Glancing at the elevator doors, he willed them to open, wanting desperately to be anywhere but stranded in a halted elevator car with a very perturbed Olivia Spencer.

Enjoying the rush of adrenaline that was coursing through her body, the brunette paused for a moment to watch Rafe squirm under her intense scrutiny. She could sense the apprehension in the nervous teen, smell his fear.

In the past she had lived for moments like this, when she knew her prey was in her grasp. Power is truly a tempting seductress, and in that second the hotelier wanted nothing more than to answer its siren's song. It called out to that part of her that wanted to intimidate the teen into submission.

How many times had she tried to reach out to him? During Natalia's absence, how many times had she tried to speak with him…to comfort him? He had repaid her kindness with hatred and insults.

Look at him…look at how scared he is right now. It would be so easy to verbally eviscerate him. He wouldn't have the courage to ever say another word to me.

The seductive voice she heard inside her head sounded so much like her own. It lulled her with promises of success, but when forest green eyes stared intently into chocolate brown orbs, so much like his mother's, the intoxicating spell was broken.

What the hell was that? This isn't just some business competitor. This is Natalia's son! I can't do this, not this way. If I don't stop, I'll just be proving his point for him: that I haven't really changed, and Natalia…she'll never be able to have the relationship she wants with her son. I will have ruined her chances for that.

Olivia closed her eyes, calmed her breathing and waited for her racing heartbeat to slow. She took a step away from the teen and, given the cut of her dress, carefully lowered herself to a seated position on the elevator floor.

"No Rafe, I won't let that happen to her." The green-eyed beauty cast her unfocused gaze across the otherwise empty car. She had wanted to lash out, to vehemently deny the allegations Rafe had just made, but she couldn't. Everything he had said was true. She had blurred the lines of sex and love and even marriage countless times in the past.

"I'm not proud to say it, but you're right. I have used people in the past to get what I want, but not with her, Rafe…never with her."

The teen heard the conviction in the older woman's voice, but was trying to regain his composure after experiencing first-hand the wrath of Olivia Spencer. His legs weren't as steady as they had been minutes earlier, so he took a seat next to the hotelier. There they sat side-by-side, both trying to make sense of what had just transpired between them.

Rafe glanced at the brunette who, with her eyes closed, was resting her head against the elevator wall. Damn…she's…wow…that was close. She looked like she was going to squash me like a bug.

"Look Rafe, I'm sorry about what just happened." Olivia pinched the bridge of her nose, in an attempt to release some of the tension that had built up inside of her. "We both love your mother and if we want her to be happy, we need to try to find some neutral ground here."

"If you love my mother so much, why did you encourage her to marry Frank in the first place?" He had been curious about this for some time. He had never been able to discern Olivia's motive, unless of course it was to just mess with his mother's life, and to hurt Frank, of course.

Or not…I guess we could just keep going with the questions and answers until we either figure something out or you grow to despise me even more.

"Awhile back I promised myself that if I was to ever fall in love again I would handle things differently. I wouldn't put myself first anymore." She turned to face the teen. "That's why I was helping Frank court your mother. I knew he loved her and that he could provide the kind of family life and stability I thought your mother wanted."

"Then why did you get in the way?"

"It wasn't like that, Rafe; I stepped aside, remember? I agreed to stand at that church altar and watch the woman I love marry someone else. I convinced myself that I was keeping my promise to put your mother's happiness ahead of my own."

"OK, then what went wrong?"

"I wouldn't say that anything went 'wrong', but…if you're asking me what happened…I think I underestimated your mother and her feelings for me." A small smile lit Olivia's face as she recalled finding Natalia at the gazebo after the younger woman had bolted from the church on the day of her wedding. "She told me that she couldn't stand before God and pledge herself to Frank when she was in love with me."

Rafe shook his head, trying to drown out the words he didn't want to hear. "I don't understand it. She's a good woman, how can she be in love with you? How can she be so blind about who and what you are?"

"Now you're the one underestimating her. She sees me, Rafe, all of me: the good…and well…let's just say the parts of me that I'm not so proud of." The teen could see a look of wonder appear on the older woman's face.

"Natalia knows me better than I know myself at times, and even with all of that she still loves me. I can't explain it or claim to understand it. I've never had anyone love me like she does."

"She claims that you make her happy, and that's what I want for her…to be happy. It's just…" He shook his head in confusion, unable to vocalize his conflicting thoughts.

"I would do anything for your mother, Rafe…anything…even try to help salvage her relationship with her son who hates me by stranding myself in an elevator with him." Of course at this point I'm not sure if I'm making things better or worse.

"How do you expect me to feel? You tried to take my father away from me, but you couldn't do that so now you've taken my mother."

It was as if a light bulb had turned on for the hotelier as she gained some insight into what was fueling Rafe's bitterness. I've really turned this kid's world upside down, first with Gus and now with Natalia.

All that anger the teen had exhibited toward her was a desperate attempt to mask what he was really feeling…pain at missing out on a relationship with a father he had dreamed of for so many years and fear of losing the mother who had been his sole source of strength for most of his life. He needed a target for his pain and fear, and the common denominator in all of this turmoil was Olivia Spencer.

"Rafe…" The brunette kept her tone as gentle as possible. How do I make him understand? "Gus was there for me and for Emma when no one was sure if I would live or die. I will be forever grateful to him for that."

"Yeah…well, maybe I needed him then, too." She could see the young man's grief still so evident on his face. He had finally found his father, and Gus had been taken from him far too soon. It was unfair, but then sometimes life was like that.

"I know that, Rafe, I do. I'm so sorry about what happened to your father."

"Sorry…are you kidding? How can you say that? If Gus didn't die, you wouldn't be alive right now." Rafe looked away. "He and Ma would still be together, and we'd be happy."

"Do you think I wanted Gus to die?" Olivia shouted in an incredulous tone, drawing the teen's focus back to her. "After I woke up from my surgery and found out that it was his heart that had saved me…" Tears began to fill her eyes. "…I wanted to die."

The hotelier recalled those desolate days after awakening from her heart transplant. She was alive, so what? The man who had stood by her during her illness, the man she thought she loved, was dead. During those endless days of recovery she had convinced herself that she didn't want to go on living; not for Ava, not for Emma and most definitely not for herself. The brunette ignored her health and was perfectly content to throw her life away…until Natalia.

"Do you know why I'm still alive today?"

The teen shook his head. It was difficult to re-live this part of his past. His emotions at losing Gus were still so raw; his memories of that time so clouded by his own rage. After Jeffrey's shooting, he had run off to Europe then returned home to face imprisonment. He was still ashamed at not being there to comfort his mother after Gus' death.

"Your mother saved me. At first, I think she was just trying to keep a piece of Gus alive, and then Emma stole her heart. She couldn't bear to think of Jellybean growing up without her mother. She became a one-woman army; she was really something else. I have never had anyone boss me around like your mother did during my recovery." The pair shared an understanding smile since they were both quite familiar with Natalia's mothering skills.

Olivia got a faraway look as she recalled the progression of her relationship with Natalia. "After that, I'm not really sure what happened. We became roommates and friends, and eventually I realized how integral a part of my life your mother had become."

She turned to face Natalia's son and tried to give him a window into her heart. "I know you still have your reservations about me. Natalia's your mother and you want to protect her, but know this…with everything I am, I…love…her. I have never felt for anyone what I feel for her, and I will spend the rest of my days trying to be worthy of her love."

The teen silently studied the older woman. She's telling me the truth. I can see it in her eyes when she speaks about Ma…and Ma…she glows when she talks about Olivia. This is what I've wanted for her…this kind of love. I just never thought it would be with Olivia Spencer.

Rafe roughly ran his hand through short, curly black locks as he continued to process his thoughts. OK, she's the one Ma wants, Olivia is not going away anytime soon. I want Ma back in my life, I miss her. So what are you gonna do about it, Rivera? Are you gonna continue to bitch and whine about their relationship or are you gonna 'man-up' and put Ma's happiness first?

In the end, the decision was far easier to make than he could have ever imagined. "Make her happy, Olivia, or I swear, you'll have me to deal with."

The hotelier smiled, and inwardly expelled a huge sigh of relief. It had been touch-and-go there for a while, but in the end the common ground they discovered had been their love of Natalia. Olivia hoped it would prove to be a building block for her relationship with Rafe in the future, but for now, she would be satisfied with their tentative truce.

"I'll do my best, Rafe, for your mother and for our family." The hotelier stood up, carefully straightened her dress and walked over toward the elevator controls to re-start their descent to the first floor. Moments later, the doors opened and their emotionally tumultuous journey had finally come to an end. The brunette took one step out of the car, then turned back to gaze at the still-seated Rafe.

"I know we aren't the family you expected, but your mother, Emma, and I, we'd all like you to be a part of it."

"Olivia…I…." He stood up quickly, but the hotelier forestalled any response he might have made.

"Just think about it, OK?" With that, Olivia finished exiting the elevator car, leaving a stunned teen in her wake, and headed toward the Beacon ballroom and the woman she hoped would agree to share her future.


Chapter 25

"You're kidding!" An incredulous snicker burst from Reva's lips. She couldn't believe what Josh had just told her. Olivia Spencer…in love with a woman, and not just any woman…Natalia Rivera?

"Nope." He stated matter-of-factly. Josh knew he would probably regret telling Reva about Olivia and Natalia, but he really never had any choice. She always was his greatest weakness.

"Oh come on, Josh, the spawn of Satan and the thirteenth apostle? No way."

"Believe it or not, but I'm telling you the truth: Olivia and Natalia are in love with each other."

"You're serious?" She stared at her ex-husband trying to glimpse some sign that her former husband was joking. She was shocked to see that there was none.

"Yes, now would you please leave me alone, so I can do my job here?" Josh quickly scanned the guests but saw no sign of Olivia. At least I haven't missed my cue.

Reva started to walk away, but soon stopped and turned back toward her former husband. It was no secret that she and Olivia Spencer were not the best of friends but then again, after Olivia's illness and Reva's marriage to Jeffrey O'Neill, they were no longer the worst of enemies either.

"What does Olivia want you to do? Maybe I can help." Her request sounded sincere, but given Olivia and Reva's checkered history, Josh wasn't sure that he could believe his ears. He studied her closely for a moment but couldn't detect any measure of insincerity.

"What?" Reva appeared to be the picture of innocence.

"Who are you and what have you done with Reva?" His former wife awarded his attempted humor with a slap to the arm.

"Really, I couldn't be more…pleased…for Olivia." After all, now that her attention is elsewhere, maybe she'll leave you the hell alone. "Of course, I do feel rather sorry for Natalia but…"

"Reva!" Josh interrupted, though he couldn't help but smile at the blonde's boisterous laughter; it had been so long since he had heard it.

"A joke…it was a joke." She hadn't felt this good in what seemed like forever, but as her laughter died down a wistful look appeared in misty blue eyes. "The one thing I learned from losing Jeffrey is that time is just too precious to waste. We take for granted that the people we love will always be a part of our lives, and then one day, they're just gone."

Her vision blurred as tears filled her eyes. She paused for a moment to re-gain her composure, but waved off Josh's attempt to comfort her. "I'm fine."

Removing a tissue from her purse, the blonde wiped away the most recent signs of her lingering pain at the loss of her husband. "Look, if Olivia and Natalia love each other and want to be together, I'm all for it, so seriously Josh, what can I do to help?"

Olivia rapidly returned to the reception and excitedly scanned the crowded room for Natalia. Spotting the Latina speaking to Blake and Ashlee, the hotelier then looked for Josh to make sure that he was ready and in position. What she saw next caused a bit of trepidation in an already-weakened heart. There, standing next to her ex-husband, was Reva O'Neill f/k/a Lewis f/k/a Shayne. Other than the Spauldings, Reva had caused the hotelier more grief than anyone else in Springfield.

God damn it, Josh. I told you how important this was to me. Olivia fired an icy cold stare at her ex-husband that sent shivers up his spine. Joshua Lewis was no coward, but even he shriveled when faced with the wrath of Olivia Spencer. Even after averting his eyes, he could still almost feel the daggers piercing his skin. Knowing that he couldn't avoid the brunette's glare forever, Josh sheepishly lifted his gaze to meet furious green orbs. He just hoped that Olivia could sense the remorse he felt and see the apology in his eyes.

Ugh, Lewis you are so predictable; you've never really been able to deny that woman anything, have you? She was soon distracted from her musings by Reva's exuberant waving. Glancing at the blonde, Olivia noticed the older woman excitedly gesture across the ballroom in Natalia's direction.

Not helping, Shayne, so not helping. Expelling a deep breath in order to calm her unsettled nerves, Olivia gave her co-conspirators a nod and received four thumbs-up in return.

OK, Spencer, they're ready…are you? God, if you're really up there and you're actually listening to me, I could really use your help here. I have never been one of your more dedicated followers…but she has. Look, I admit it, you owe me absolutely nothing, but Natalia...she deserves your help. If I'm really the one she's chosen, then please help make this happen.

Olivia focused her sights on the beautiful Latina who had come to mean the world to her.

OK…here goes…everything.

Natalia surreptitiously peeked at her watch as Blake and Ashlee continued to ramble on about the new authors the publisher was currently attempting to sign. The older woman had proven herself to be a loyal friend, and the raven-haired beauty was quite please to hear that her publishing business was doing so well. However, more than forty minutes had passed since Olivia had left the reception to put Emma to bed, and Natalia was getting quite anxious awaiting the hotelier's return. Olivia had promised her a dance, and the younger woman was determined that the green-eyed beauty would keep her promise.

Glancing over Blake's shoulder, Natalia was relieved to see Olivia approach across the ballroom. Smoldering green eyes locked onto chestnut orbs, and the Latina felt her pulse begin to quicken in response. It had always been this way, her body reacting to Olivia's gaze, her words, her touch, even before she had ever acknowledged the depth of her feelings for the older woman.

Following the hotelier's progress, which was moving far too slowly for Natalia's liking, the raven-haired beauty was lost to the conversation that continued around her. Even something as ordinary as walking, when done by Olivia Spencer, was a sight to behold. She had a confident swagger to her stride that the Latina secretly adored. A warm blush rapidly infused the younger woman's cheeks as gloriously impure thoughts began to run rampant in her mind. The responding smile that lit Olivia's face suggested that perhaps Natalia's admiration of her gait wasn't so secret after all.

Stopping inches from the raven-haired beauty, the hotelier briefly acknowledged Blake and Ashlee before returning her attention to the woman she loved. Olivia lovingly gazed into sparkling brown eyes. The silent communication that passed between the women in that moment confirmed for the Latina that her patience had finally been rewarded; this was to be their night.

"Get off the dance floor." While Olivia and Natalia were focused on one another, Reva was putting into effect an additional wrinkle she had added to the hotelier's plan, and the blonde was none too subtle in accomplishing her self-appointed task. At first she had been curious as to why Olivia had picked this particular song for her dance with Natalia. When she read the lyrics however, she understood how perfectly they captured the emotional struggles of the enigma that was Olivia Spencer. The hotelier had words she needed to say to Natalia, and Reva was determined to give her the opportunity to do just that with no distractions and no other couples invading their space. This dance would be Olivia and Natalia's moment to share.

"Reva, what the hell are you talking about? I'm dancing with my beautiful bride here, so why don't you just move along." Dismissing his former sister-in-law with a quick wave of his hand, Billy Lewis turned back to his glowing wife. He had never thought of himself as the romantic type, at least not until he came up with his plan for courting Vanessa with 365 dates, but he couldn't help but be filled with giddiness at the thought of having another chance for a future with the woman he loved.

"Billy…" Reva grabbed the groom's arm to regain his attention. "I need you and Vanessa need to leave the dance floor…now."

"Right now?" The couple stopped dancing and stared at the blonde, confusion apparent on both of their faces. "Reva…the song isn't even over with yet. What the hell is going on?"

"Look, think of it is a mission of mercy to save Vanessa's feet. I'm sure you've been stomping on them all night." The bride snickered and patted her husband's arm reassuringly. Reva could see, however, that her former brother-in-law did not appreciate her comment. At least Vanessa laughed.

"It's just for one dance, Billy…come on…do it for your favorite former sister-in-law."

"Honey, let's go sit for a minute." Vanessa gently kissed Billy to silence the protest that was on his lips. "I'm sure whatever Reva's reason is, it's a good one; besides, my feet are a bit tired." The women shared a meaningful look, and the blonde nodded her thanks to the new bride.

As the newlyweds headed toward their table, Reva motioned to a stunned Josh to end the song that was currently playing. It took a few seconds for him to regain his composure from the shock of seeing his ex-wife force his brother and Vanessa off the dance floor, but he soon got on board with Reva's unexpected addition to Olivia's plan. Moments later, the remaining dancers were caught off-guard by the abrupt end to the song that had been playing. Reva took advantage of their confusion and easily rounded up the pairs and escorted them from the dance floor.

"Dance with me?" The whispered words Natalia had been waiting for finally reached her ears.

"Yes, always." Hand-in-hand the women stepped on to the now vacant dance floor. They were so focused on one another, however, they failed to notice that they were alone. The sounds of quiet piano chords began to fill the room, as the couple moved into each other's arms.

The song was unfamiliar to her but that made little difference to Natalia. The love of her life was wrapped in her arms, and she could almost swear that in that moment their hearts beat as one.

The Latina's senses were on overload. She slowly ran her hands down Olivia's back, wanting…needing to be closer to the woman she loved and felt the responding ripple of sensation course through the hotelier's body. Then the most gorgeous eyes Natalia had ever seen captured her own, and the younger woman gasped in surprise as Olivia quietly began to sing.

In every heart there is a room
A sanctuary safe and strong
To heal the wounds from lovers past
Until a new one comes along

I spoke to you in cautious tones
You answered me with no pretense
And still I feel I said too much
My silence is my self-defense

And every time I've held a rose
It seems I only felt the thorns
And so it goes, and so it goes
And so will you soon I suppose

But if my silence made you leave
Then that would be my worst mistake
So I will share this room with you
And you can have this heart to break

And this is why my eyes are closed
It's just as well for all I've seen
And so it goes, and so it goes
And you're the only one who knows

So I would choose to be with you
That's if the choice were mine to make
But you can make decisions too
And you can have this heart to break

And so it goes, and so it goes
And you're the only one who knows

Tears flowed freely down her cheeks as Natalia finally understood the extent of the devastation her time away had inflicted on the woman she loved. Olivia had been abandoned so many times in the past, and then she, the one who claimed to love her beyond words, had left. The Latina leaned forward until their foreheads touched. Even after the all the pain she had caused, Olivia still chose her. The younger woman closed her eyes and silently vowed to never again betray that trust.

Entranced by one another, neither woman noticed when the final notes of the piano faded away. Olivia was mere millimeters from the Latina's luscious lips. She had longed to taste them again ever since their impromptu kiss following Emma's 'My Two Mommies' presentation. For months she had waited, only to have her hopes dashed time after time; she could wait no longer.

During her month with the Sisters, Natalia had often dreamed of the moment when she and Olivia would share their first true kiss. They had kissed before, but that kiss had been meant to demonstrate how the other parents at Emma's school viewed their relationship. This kiss would be an expression of their love for and commitment to one another.

Years later, as they recounted the story of this moment to their embarrassed children and giggling grandchildren, Olivia and Natalia would often disagree about who had actually made the first move. However, they both would speak of feeling an undeniable pull toward one another and the resulting explosion of sensation they felt when their lips met. In those few precious seconds the rest of the world seemed to fall away. They were not standing in the middle of a crowed ballroom, surrounded by friends and loved ones; they were just Olivia and Natalia, two women who were finally able to admit to themselves and to each other how much they loved one another.

The hotelier nearly gasped in surprise as she felt Natalia's tentative tongue softly caress her lower lip. Willingly parting her lips further to allow the younger woman entrance, the already-heated kiss escalated in its intensity. Olivia buried her hands in soft raven tresses in an attempt to draw the Latina impossibly closer to her. As the women ended their kiss and slowly pulled away from one another, emerald orbs lovingly gazed into chocolate-brown pools filled with wonder.

It isn't supposed to feel like this…this…insatiable desire…just from one kiss? Natalia feels it too…I can see it in her eyes, but I've lived too long and experienced too much to believe in this kind of love. You don't believe in fairy tales remember, Spencer? But, I've never felt like this before.

When she had been a child on San Cristobel, Olivia had heard a tale of people spending their lives searching for the other half of their soul. The hotelier had always thought the notion of soulmates was a story spun by liars to manipulate fools, but as she stood in Natalia's arms, she could swear that she heard her soul scream, FINALLY, and she wasn't so sure anymore.

For years her soul's pleas had been stifled by a body that had succumbed to sexual cravings and a mind that had been willing to use that body as a means to achieve her goals. As a result, Olivia's heart had been badly battered, almost beyond repair, and all the while her soul had laid dormant waiting for the one who would make it whole once again.

"What you said…the other day at the farmhouse…about how you feel, about wanting Emma and me to live there with you…is it still true?" No one who knew Olivia Spencer would ever guess that she could fall prey to uncertainty. Although the hotelier knew Natalia loved her, there was a part of her that needed to hear the Latina speak the words once again.

"Oh, Olivia, I love you so much. Of course I want you and Emma to come home." The Latina cradled the most beautiful face she had ever seen in trembling hands. The younger woman's voice cracked as she tried to explain what was in her heart. "I want to share my life with you. I want to grow old with you. I will love you forever and a day Olivia, I promise you, forever and a day." A breathtaking smile lit up emerald-green eyes, and the hotelier gently wiped away the younger woman's errant tears.

"I love you too…" Olivia paused, slowly scanning the eerily silent room filled with very interested on-lookers. She nodded her thanks to her co-conspirators and laughed when she saw Matt glumly approach her jubilant ex-husband, presenting a twenty-dollar bill which Josh gleefully snatched from his hand.

"…and I don't think I'm the only one who knows." The older woman's words brought Natalia back to her senses. She quickly realized where they were and what had just transpired.

I just kissed Olivia Spencer in the middle of a dance floor surrounded by everyone we know in Springfield…and I think it's one of the happiest moments of my life.

"That's as it should be, Ms. Spencer. It's about time that the people in this town knew that you're mine." The Latina's mood was jovial, but the hotelier heard the possessive tone in the younger woman's voice. All of her adult life, Olivia had bolted when confronted with such feelings. She had never truly belonged to anyone except herself and her children. However, this time she didn't want to run, she wanted with all of her heart to be part of this woman's life. For the first time in her life, she wanted to belong.

"Oh, is that so, Ms. Rivera?" The women shared a loving smile as they continued to remain in each other's arms. Sensing other couples begin to join them as the soft strains of another love song began to play, the soulmates began their never-ending dance once again.

"That is most definitely so, Ms. Spencer." A teasing smile enveloped her face.

"Well then, perhaps we should re-emphasize that point…just to make sure everyone's clear?" Soft lips once again came together in a loving kiss that was filled with hope for tomorrow and un-ending promises of things to come.

And so it goes, and so it goes, and you're the only one who knows….

The End

The image of a dance between these two women was actually the inspiration for this story. I hope the scene lives up to expectations. By the way, if you've never heard the song, "And So It Goes", you can listen to it on youtube:


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