DISCLAIMER: I was going to write a really technical, legal version here about how I am not earning any money off of this fictional story and am merely offering it for the entertainment value (in a much more impressive format, of course); forget that—you all know. Plus, I'm a real piss-ant, so if you are the owner of the characters, book, movie—whatever—and want to sue me, go ahead and try. Bring it on. I have a law degree, and I'm not afraid to use it.
SPECIAL THANKS: To Chrissy Taff for beta-reading this story. She gave me great insight on some of the practical aspects and helped immensely. You should thank her for a better read! Thanks also must go to taoduck who caught several embarrassing errors. Thank you for lending your eyes! The story is infinitely better through your efforts. Also thanks must go to Dy who provided me with detailed feedback on the first version. Many of her comments guided me toward rewriting the story.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This was a AU challenge on the Janeway/7 Faction board a couple of years ago. I have rewritten it substantially so the narrative is consistent and the storyline more complete. Hope you all like it!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Associate
By JAZwriter13


Part 1

"I want you to pick up an order of lobster for a party I'm hosting tonight. Do you know how to get to Route 107 in Revere? It's down there—called Joe's Lobster Shack. They close at five, which only gives you an hour and traffic's heavy, so you'd better get going. Then, bring them to my house. You do know where I live, don't you?" Flicking her glance up toward Ana for confirmation, the auburn-haired attorney waited a beat before returning her gaze to the brief in front of her.

Dismissed, Ana thought. "Right. I'll just go, then." Ana backed out the door and made a mad dash for her purse and attaché case muttering under her breath, Joe's Lobster Shack, route 107, five o'clock. She had no idea how she'd make it in time. It was three cities away, and rush hour had already begun for Christ's sake! But, what could she do? She'd been hired as a junior associate five months ago at the top Boston law firm, Janeway, Picard & Riker, PC, and this was the first time Kathryn Janeway had seen fit to address her directly. She just had to succeed. So what if this was a menial task? Plus, Ana had been dying to see Janeway's home; she'd heard it was a beautiful brownstone on Beacon Hill.

Janeway was the youngest senior partner, earning her spot among the old boys' network of stalwart, boring attorneys. Intelligent, quick-witted, sharp, and ruthless—these words were often bandied around to describe the formidable lawyer. She had made policemen cry on the stands, had shredded the credibility of many an expert—ruining their careers in the process—had sued state agencies, federal departments, large conglomerates—nothing was too large for her to challenge and defeat. Nor was any case too small; she often adopted pro bono cases that peers directed her way, knowing she had the ability to defend the weak and protect the underdog. People hired her because she was a pitbull, attacking the other side with a ferocious offense, instilling fear and often eliciting fair settlements lest she rip apart the opposing party in the courtroom.

The senior partner was also reputed to chew up and spit out lowly law associates with glee. However, Ana was determined to make a positive impression. She had studied many of the brilliant woman's cases and wanted to learn from her. If that meant picking up lobsters, her dry-cleaning, or anything else to appease the auburn-haired beauty, so be it. And she is beautiful, Ana confirmed.

Ever since she saw the charismatic attorney two years ago while clerking that summer, Ana had been hopelessly in love with the older woman. It wasn't smart, it wasn't safe, but there it was. Her emotions had guided her to her final destination: Janeway's law firm. Once an associate, Ana had heard more about the allusive woman and fallen harder. She lived for the days when their paths crossed, when she'd receive a quirk of the lips or a nod in passing. The young associate shook her head to refocus her thoughts.

Ana was no slouch. She'd graduated top of her law class. Several firms had sought to woo her onto their team, but she knew where she wanted to go—she knew where she belonged. Although Janeway would never know, Ana had spent many days in the courtroom gallery watching the talented attorney decimate the other side. It was fascinating, stimulating, and inspiring. So although Ana played it cool when Janeway's law firm contacted her for an interview, she was ecstatic.

Then the reality of working in a highly-renowned law firm hit her full-force. What a reality check. At the end of the first day, she'd felt like a balled up paper bag. Since then, she'd worked long hours doing whatever anyone asked without complaint. It wasn't long before she became the go-to gal for the tough assignments, particularly for researching case law. Ana had to admit, she loved piecing together the legal theories best. It was like putting together parts of a extremely complex puzzle—worth the effort because of the beautiful and often surprising picture it revealed once completely assembled.

Striding to the T, Ana hopped onto the outbound subway train to Revere. Forty-five minutes later found the suave blonde rushing to her car while calling Joe's, begging him to wait just a few more minutes for her to arrive. Once there, Ana realized that Janeway had neglected to pay for two hundred forty-seven dollars worth of lobster. Ana huffed back to her car while trying to resolve the next dilemma in this arduous quest: should she drive into Boston or take the T back? Ana decided to take the subway, guessing it would be quicker during rush hour traffic on a Friday night. What she had not anticipated was how hard it'd be while hemmed by commuters to hold the plastic bag of lobsters without getting snapped by their claws. Although their claws were fastened, the creatures were alive and angry.

A bit past six in the evening found the young associate stomping uphill in high heels, hands fully extended, arms flexed by the weight of the bag, and a thunderous expression on her Nordic features as she canvassed the Back Bay searching for Janeway's residence. Reaching the correct walkway, Janeway surprised her by throwing the front door open and rushing forward.

"What took you so long? They'll be here in an hour." Janeway turned around, leading Ana inside the brownstone. "You'll have to assist me. This way." Janeway pointed toward what Ana presumed was the kitchen. A large pot of water sat boiling on the stove.

You're welcome, Ana thought as she walked through the house with her burden.

"Set the lobsters down there," Janeway continued, indicating the butcher's block in the middle of a huge kitchen. Top of the line pots and pans hung above the stove while a large, open hearth reminiscent of Puritan days dominated one side. The entire room boasted complex brickwork and detailed brass etchings. The hardwood flooring complemented the earthy tones, as did the throw rugs interspersed throughout the room. "My personal assistant is sick, so I have no one to help me except you."

Ana didn't know how to feel about this development. However, when she'd agreed to the errand, she had hoped to impress the older woman or to at least gain her attention. Staying to assist seemed to be her best option. Maybe Janeway would remember her in the future. It was a step in the right direction.


Part 2

Kathryn studied the young woman, observing the flushed face, mussed hair, and small run in her left stocking. I didn't see that earlier, not that I was checking out her legs.…" Kathryn mused. Pushing such thoughts away, she also noted that, although a bit worse for wear, Ana still presented a professional appearance in her powder blue power suit, crème silk blouse, and matching high heels, heels that caused Ana's legs to flex in a most pleasing fashion whenever she walked. Yet Ana's hair and cheek color made the associate look less in control, less like the icy persona Kathryn had witnessed over the last several months. She liked the effect. A lot.

The senior partner knew her reputation among the associates. She didn't care as long as she got the best work possible from her subordinates. Life was tough, and the legal field was cutthroat—better that her new attorneys learn early. However, Kathryn wasn't made of stone. A pretty face could still turn her head, and a beautiful mind was even more enticing. She'd learned a long time ago, however, how to ignore those needs when necessary. She wondered whether it was necessary. I'd love to melt that icy reserve, Kathryn thought idly as she finished removing the lobsters from the pot.

Watching the lithe blonde return to the dining room to complete her latest task, setting the table, Kathryn speculated on her errant thoughts and how wise it would be to entertain them. The astute attorney decided to observe Ana's behavior to determine whether the attraction was mutual or merely the product of an overworked imagination. As Ana walked toward her, Kathryn wondered what the alluring beauty would do next.

"Do you need me for anything else?" the young associate inquired politely. Kathryn maintained a noncommittal look even as she chuckled inwardly. So, she wants to leave, does she? Not so fast. She felt a certain glee spark within her from the carefully worded question, knowing exactly what she needed from this seemingly unflappable woman. Instead of answering, Kathryn countered with her own question.

"You don't plan on deserting me do you? Surely you must realize I still need you?" Kathryn secretly enjoyed making the tall beauty squirm, perhaps a bit too much, she readily admitted. She watched avidly as a guilty look flitted across Ana's face and knew she'd nailed her.

"Uh, no, of course not," the rattled associate was quick to assure.

"Good. They should be here soon. Why don't you open this bottle of wine while I freshen up a bit?" Dissecting Ana's appearance openly, she added, "It doesn't look like you need to clean up, but you can once I return if you'd like." Kathryn swept away, ignoring Ana's look of consternation.

She had neatly maneuvered Ana and could see the flash of resignation in her young associate's powder-blue eyes. Hearing the doorbell ring, Kathryn called out for Ana to answer as she began to dress. In the background, Kathryn heard Ana welcoming her guests inside, making excuses for Kathryn, and offering them wine while they waited for her. The older woman grinned in amusement, knowing that Ana was probably feeling pretty uncomfortable right about now. I might kiss her just for making such an effort.

Giving herself a once over, she exited her bedroom to join the party. The next few hours were a blur as Ana catered to Kathryn's guests. In return, the senior partner was very generous, even insisting that Ana join them in the feast. The senior partner introduced Ana as her newest and brightest junior associate. Seemingly impressed, the visitors drew Ana into conversation by inquiring about her education, family, and background.

All the while, Kathryn listened to Ana with growing interest, filing the information away. Ana Hansen was twenty-six years old, top of her law class, former editor of the Harvard Law Review, current ABA Young Lawyers section leader, and the person senior associates and junior partners leaned on when in a pinch. She also volunteered once a month as Lawyer of the Day at the Boston Municipal Court.

While this was interesting, Kathryn was much more intrigued by Ana's personal information. With no siblings—her younger brother had died of a rare blood disease when she was two—her parents had doted on her. They had been well-renowned scientists teaching at MIT when an experiment gone terribly wrong had taken their lives. The chemical fires had lasted for days, robbing a twelve-year old Ana of her parents. Ana had lived with a kind aunt until she'd left for college. Now she lived on the North Shore in a small coastal town called Swampscott in a huge house she'd restored to its former glory by working on it little by little, mostly without help.

Upon further inquiry and much deflection on Ana's part, the young associate finally admitted she was not "seeing anyone." That piqued Kathryn's interest. Her guests had inquired whether there was "anyone special." Kathryn wondered at the change in wording.

At long last all the guests were gone except Ana. As the young attorney picked up the rest of the dirty dishes, deposited them into the dishwasher, and glanced around to confirm she had not missed anything, Kathryn leaned against the door jamb waiting to be noticed. Once she had Ana's attention, she raised the two wine glasses and an opened bottle of wine in her hands and suggested, "Let's go sit on the back patio. It's a magnificent night."

Walking through the door, Kathryn acknowledged how thankful she felt at finding her home with its secret treasure: the back patio. Kathryn watched Ana stop short, widening her eyes in wonder as she slowly turned her head to take in the view. To the right, a flower garden spewed forth a myriad of vibrant reds, purples, yellows, and oranges: a feast for the eyes. To the left, a waterfall fountain burbled, lit from within. Straight ahead sat two mosaic tables with comfortable chairs arranged around them. But it was the city view that seemed to take Ana's breath away. Below them stretched the Boston skyline and the Boston Commons—a vast grassy area with a lake surrounded by mature willow trees. Obviously mesmerized, Ana stood still absorbing the ambiance.

Kathryn watched Ana's reaction, as mesmerized by the sight as was Ana. Such pure reactions—she'd never seen such honest emotion. It made her hungry to know how Ana would react to other stimuli.

Pouring the wine, Kathryn crossed over to one of the tables and deposited the bottle. Turning to the stunning lady, Kathryn passed one of the crystal goblets to her. "Here. You earned this." At Ana's quizzical look, she explained. "I know I didn't give you a choice with helping me tonight. So, thank you, Ana. You are, indeed, the go-to gal." Although she saw the look of surprise cover the lovely associate's face, Kathryn acted as if she did not notice and drank deeply from her glass. After a pronounced hesitation, Ana also drank. "Have a seat," Kathryn offered solicitously, gracing Ana with an inviting smile as she sat down by way of example.

Once Ana acquiesced, Kathryn allowed a comfortable silence to envelop them, relaxing into the sounds of the city and the feel of the evening air. Turning her head, the senior partner studied her companion. She's beautiful, and I want her, Kathryn acknowledged. I wonder whether she feels the same. Kathryn could no longer deny that she had to possess this angel. She ruthlessly beat back the fear of sexual harassment, trusting her instincts. She had watched Ana for months, had seen the younger woman's lascivious glances and keen interest. The question remained whether Ana was willing to act on any feelings she harbored for the senior partner.

Acknowledging the risk was outweighed by the possibility of her desire being returned, she decided to find out.


Part 3

Ana's eyes connected with Janeway's heated look, and she blushed—hard. Ana could read the desire reflected plainly in Janeway's turbulent slate blue eyes. The appealing, compact attorney had changed into a forest-green sheath for dinner, bringing out the vibrancy of her hair and seemingly her fiery personality, too. Ana, recognizing the familiar burn of desire shoot through her, so prevalent where this woman was concerned, felt vulnerable. Does she know how I feel about her? Did I give myself away somehow? Ana questioned herself in a panic.

"Your feet must be sore by now," Janeway observed softly while running an elegant hand down the nearer leg. Ana gasped, her leg on fire, as Janeway gently lifted it by the calf and slipped the shoe off. Ana's eyes widened as Janeway lightly scratched the arch. As she watched, Janeway's magical fingers wrapped themselves around her foot, an erotic vision, massaging the tired appendage firmly. The overwhelmed blonde groaned her pleasure. Never could she have dreamed of Janeway's hands on her body feeling this way.

Janeway repositioned her chair so that she was directly facing the younger lady. After rubbing the foot until it felt like butter, the sexy woman lowered the leg onto her lap and then reached for the other foot to repeat the special treatment. Ana's eyes closed as she tried futilely to control her erratic breathing. Ana's hormones were running rampant. When she felt those talented hands massaging her calf, then thigh, Ana's eyes flew open to gaze into the hot blooded woman's eyes. Janeway was staring back at her, eyes dark with desire. Janeway's hands stalled over the run on Ana's left upper thigh. "What happened here?" she questioned.

"The lobsters," Ana answered breathlessly, finding it hard to concentrate on anything other than Janeway's stimulating hands and the reactions they evoked. What the hell is happening here? Is she seducing me, or am I overreacting? Hearing Janeway's voice, Ana struggled to focus on the words.

"Mean lobsters," Janeway murmured as she leaned forward and kissed the slightly inflamed scratch. Ana watched her every movement, drinking in the sensual way Janeway's lips puckered as she delivered the healing kiss.

"Mmmhmmm," Ana agreed breathlessly.

"Well, you won't be wearing these again, now will you?" Janeway mused in a low voice. Before Ana could understand what she meant, she felt both of Janeway's hands slowly gliding up her thighs and inward. An excited pulse of arousal shot through her a moment before she felt the most exquisite sensation: Janeway's thumbs coming to rest on either edge of her panties. Sipping in some air, Ana's eyes bulged as Janeway leaned forward and, with a seductive glint in her cobalt eyes, suggested, "Let's see if there are holes anywhere else, shall we?"

Ana just knew Janeway could feel her arousal; she was so hot, so wet.

Ana's legs fell to either side of the older woman's hips as Kathryn touched Ana through the drenched panties. Ana could hardly believe that the passionate woman wanted her nearly as much as she desired the older woman's touch. Moments later Kathryn's competent fingers converged at the hosiery seams over Ana's crease and ripped forcefully. Ana thought she would pass out from pure bliss as a hot mouth briefly covered the now more accessible soaked panties. The over-stimulated associate emitted a drawn-out moan, drowning in glorious sensations.

Ana was astonished and incredibly aroused. She's taking me, and I'm not going to do a damn thing to stop her. How could she? Her body, bombarded with so many strong responses, begged for the older woman's touch. Ana could not believe what was happening. This was the incredible woman she loved and had dreamed of loving for so long. The reality was more shocking, more overwhelming than she could ever have anticipated.

As Kathryn's fingers played with the edge of Ana's panties, Ana's stomach muscles clenched in anticipation. The passionate attorney's other hand found the catch on Ana's skirt, drawing it down without pausing the maddening, feather-light circular motions she had begun through the paper-thin barrier. Reaching up, Kathryn drew down skirt, hosiery, and panties in one fell swoop, baring Ana from the waist down. However, the ardent woman was not finished. She next unbuttoned the silk shirt and bra, leaving them hanging on Ana's heaving frame, now glistening with perspiration and need.

Pulling Ana forward by the legs so that her center rested against Kathryn's abdomen, the experienced woman touched Ana's breasts with capable fingers, twisting and pulling as Ana squirmed in ecstasy. Suddenly, Ana felt both hands supporting her backside and then breasts brushing her abdomen as wine-stained lips sucked hers lightly. Opening her eyes, she saw Kathryn kneeling before her, pressed tightly against her as she leaned in to torture Ana's breasts with those incredible lips. Ana's stomach muscles fluttered against her—so close to orgasm. Alternating with lips and tongue, the auburn-haired beauty made a show of laving each peak delicately with the same circular motion her fingers used on Ana's wet sex. Ana was in heaven. She reveled in these feelings—Kathryn's hands and mouth, these visions—Kathryn's dark depthless blue eyes, as deep as the ocean, focused solely on her, these sounds—Kathryn's low, smoky voice urging her on, and these smells—arousal pure and strong. Ana was overwhelmed, laden with desire and want and need and excitement. She became immediately addicted.

Clearly, no one else would ever make her feel this way.

Ana's responses seemed to heighten Kathryn's passion —lusty moans, guttural groans, hips moved provocatively back and forth against the older woman's dexterous fingers and flat belly. Ana's chest heaved and neck arched, feeling herself falling into an abyss of emotion. Ana's stomach tightened as Kathryn kissed a path down it, arriving at the touchstone of her womanhood. The younger woman nearly hyperventilated when the auburn-haired woman bent toward Ana's legs and replaced fingers with tongue, licking the dripping, engorged folds with relish. Heavy-lidded Ana watched Kathryn as she continued to kneel in front of Ana's chair, placing legs over shoulders and resting elegant hands securely on rocking hips. Looking down, Ana fell into darkened eyes as Kathryn leisurely licked around the bundle of nerves now fluttering rapidly. Keeping their eyes locked, the older woman drew away from Ana's body so that her actions could be easily watched. Slowly, oh so slowly, she extended her tongue and roughly licked the aroused blonde two, three times. Ana felt herself begin to convulse, and Kathryn held on, drinking Ana's essence as it ran freely.

Once Ana's jerked movements eased, Kathryn began the dance again, but now she used longer, stronger strokes, alternating with sucking and gentle nipping. Ana's body hummed knowing she would soon lose control again. Ana moaned, "Yes, yes!" as Kathryn circled her vagina with two fingers. With permission granted, the experienced woman thrust into Ana, sucking hard on the clitoris during each counterthrust. As her climax rolled over her, Ana's eyes slammed shut and she issued a primal scream while continuing to move in time to draw out the exquisite feeling.

Ana stared into wild, hooded eyes as she attempted to regain her breath. Gently Kathryn removed her fingers and licked them ravenously. A small amount of blood appeared on her fingers. The older woman glanced up, surprised. "Did I hurt you?" Kathryn asked with a husky burr.

Boneless, the speechless young lady laid a hand over her eyes, trying to regain some semblance of composure. But how could she? She'd just experienced her first sexual encounter with the woman who held her heart. And she was blown away. Not to mention Ana was having trouble wrapping her mind around the vision of the powerful, intense, magnificent Kathryn Janeway kneeling before her. It seemed sacrilegious.

"No. Not at all," Ana answered, standing on shaky legs and extending a hand to Kathryn so she could also rise. Reaching for her drink, Ana sipped to quench her parched throat, now a bit sore from screaming her passion. Replacing the goblet on the table, she felt Kathryn behind her. Ana quivered as her attractive companion began to stroke her sides with languid movements.

"Bend over," Kathryn commanded in a soft voice. Walking over to the other table, Ana did as directed, bracing her hands on the edge as the older woman's hands began to squeeze her backside in a sensual dance, getting closer and closer to her vagina. Entering Ana from behind with three exquisite digits, Kathryn leaned against Ana while wrapping her other hand around to stimulate the clitoris. Nibbling on Ana's ear, Kathryn declared, "I'm going to make you scream again." Ana moaned heartily, moving with wanton abandon as the passion swept through her once more. Pushing back strongly in time to Kathryn's strokes, the flushed associate ground her derriere against the magnetic woman, who began to thrust her hips forward in response.

Recognizing the striking redhead's need for release, Ana positioned one hand behind her, stroking Kathryn's thigh, then lifting the edge of Kathryn's dress and slipping fingers into hosiery and lingerie. Here she found the desired destination deep within Kathryn's drenched channel. Kathryn grunted, pushing in time to Ana's gyrations. Once again, Ana felt herself sliding toward oblivion—so close, so close—and welcomed it.

With a primal wail, Ana's world exploded as she felt Kathryn peak, gratified to hear her voice comingling with Kathryn's passionate cries. Slowing her fingers, she reveled in the moment of closeness their simultaneous release created.

As Ana removed her fingers from their warm haven, she surprised the irresistible woman by turning in place, dropping to her knees, and summarily stripping Kathryn of hosiery and panties. Swiftly, she impaled the dazed lady, who cried out lustily. Ana lifted one toned leg over her strong shoulder and begun to lick, suck, and nibble Kathryn, causing the excited woman's hips to jerk frenetically. As the sensual redhead's body began to shudder, Ana was gratified to hear her keen, then shriek her satisfaction. Ana held her securely, never stopping her agreeable assault until Kathryn began to sag totally spent.

Carefully lowering Kathryn's leg from her shoulder, Ana rose and turned away to give the obviously shaken woman time to recover. Having just experienced similar emotions, she understood perfectly just how exhilarating and scary they were. What she wanted to do was embrace the enticing senior partner, but Ana instinctively knew that Kathryn was not ready for such intimacy. Not tonight. Retrieving her drink, Ana reveled in the mixture of good wine and even better Essence de Janeway. Ana smirked in satisfaction. Picking up her clothing, Ana hazarded a glance behind her. The older woman, leaning with one hip against the table, stared across the city, seemingly lost in thought as she sipped her wine.

To Ana, it seemed as if the very air had changed. Kathryn's face held a shuttered, faraway look. It was as if they were now miles apart, so distant and disconnected did she feel from her passionate, fiery lover. Ana winced. Although Ana despaired that Kathryn would not want her as a lover, she did not regret one moment of this incredible night. She hoped that by giving Kathryn some space, some time to accept what had occurred, that the senior partner would find her way back into Ana's waiting arms. Kathryn was her first and would remain her only lover, regardless of whether the auburn-haired beauty ever realized her place was meant to be beside Ana. The young associate would live on the memories of tonight's events if necessary, but she fervently hoped she wouldn't have to.


Part 4

Kathryn's composure was irrevocably shattered. She had never felt so affected in her life. What she had expected was a pleasurable, passionate sexual encounter, but this had turned into so much more. She had just been loved in the most erotic way she had ever experienced. She had felt completely out of control, and she hadn't cared. Simply put, she had been overwhelmed by her desire to lose herself in the waves of pleasure only Ana could coax from her, seemingly with little effort.

Surprised by her intense feelings, Kathryn realized she shouldn't be. She had been fascinated by Ana from the moment the brilliant yet aloof woman had joined the firm. Although she'd tried to keep her distance, she was glad, for once, to have failed so convincingly. Noticing that Ana had redressed sans pantyhose, she fought to quiet her chaotic mind. Looking utterly adorable if not a bit rumpled, Ana quietly suggested she should leave. Kathryn's heart clenched, but she couldn't think of any plausible reason she could give to keep Ana with her without appearing vulnerable. So, instead she asked, "Where's your car?"

"At Wonderland station…"

"You took the T into town with the lobsters?!" Kathryn broke in, amazed.

"I wouldn't have made it into town for another hour if I had driven," Ana replied.

Seeing the spark igniting in Ana's cornflower blue eyes as she defended her decision nearly drove Kathryn to embrace the fierce woman—so stunning, so intense, so—God! Instead, Kathryn said, "I'll drive you to your car." Her tone brooked no argument. During the drive, Kathryn warred with herself. Understanding at a visceral level just how different her reaction to Ana was compared to past trysts, she yearned to keep this tenuous connection alive. Yet, she'd spent so many years perfecting the art of taking what she wanted and moving on that she felt ill-equipped to act. So, she remained paralyzed, silent even as her heart shouted at her to do something, say something—anything!

Then, a stray moment flashed past her eyes. Like the tumblers on a lock, Kathryn suddenly understood how very momentous tonight was. Kathryn remembered the tightness surrounding her fingers, the taste of copper in her mouth as she licked them after bringing Ana to a resounding climax. "Ana…was tonight your first, I mean, am I your first," Kathryn hesitated. "Lover?" she finished reverently.

"Yes," Ana answered in a hushed tone.

"I, I don't know what to say. Why didn't you stop me?" Kathryn asked in a pained voice.

"I wanted to be with you and gave myself freely. I will never regret our time together." Ana answered firmly.

For Christ's sake! Kathryn thought frantically. I didn't even kiss her! I treated her so casually. I was so rough with her. How can she act like that was acceptable? Oh my God! What have I done? Her silent diatribe was stopped by a warm hand settling over hers. Looking at Ana, she saw soft eyes, warm yet serious, focused on her.

"I may not have prior experience, but I know my feelings well," Ana explained sincerely. "I had a choice. I could have stopped you. But I didn't want to. I hope you don't regret what we shared."

"No!" Kathryn took a deep breath to calm her roiling emotions before continuing. "No, Ana, I don't regret what we shared. I just might have done things a bit differently."

"Then I'm glad you didn't know. What you did, how you touched me, was perfect. I wouldn't want to change a moment," Ana declared, her clear blue eyes shining as brightly as the stars overhead. "You don't have to worry. This was entirely consensual. I can separate this from our professional relationship."

As the senior partner mulled over their conversation, she turned into the parking lot and, prompted by Ana's instructions, pulled up next to a silver Mercedes. I know I don't pay that well, Kathryn thought, intrigued by yet another mystery she wanted to solve regarding Ana. Shifting the car into park, Kathryn turned to face Ana fully, taking the riveting lady's hands into her as she gazed into pure eyes.

"Ana, I'm starting a new trial on Monday. It will run for several weeks. Can we put this," Kathryn motioned her hand back and forth between them, frustrated with her inability to grasp the words she needed to reach Ana, "whatever this is between us on hold until its conclusion? I don't know what you want after tonight, if anything. I only know that you've turned my life upside down…"

Kathryn felt exposed, uncertain of Ana's reaction to what they had shared. To the older woman's immense relief, Ana answered sweetly, "I'll wait for you, Kathryn. When your case is over, when you are ready, I'll be here."

Kathryn's head swam with the implications, with the way her name sounded on Ana's breath, and with the desire that coursed through her, urging her to taste those luscious lips—a luxury she had not dared allow herself earlier when she had been under the naïve assumption that she'd be able to walk away. Cupping Ana's cheek, Kathryn smiled in wonder, finding it hard to believe that this lovely creature would wait for her.

"Thank you," she whispered. Tilting her head, she brushed against chaste lips, just enough to convey her gratitude, her hope, and her promise to return in the not-too-distant future. "Drive safely." Nodding, Ana got into her car and waved before leaving with Kathryn's heart.

Kathryn worked from dawn until late into each night, strategizing over the best legal arguments to present on her client's behalf. When she lay in bed exhausted, however, her mind wandered over voluptuous curves, endless legs, tantalizing breasts, and glistening skin. She relived their lovemaking session incessantly, obsessively—a balm to her lonely heart. Only in her imaginings she added two crucial components: Ana called out her name as the passion overtook her, and they kissed and kissed and kissed.

Kathryn sorely regretted treating Ana with the same callous disregard as she had with past dalliances. Never had she granted her passing fancies any familiarity such as the privilege of using her first name or the meeting of lips. Now Kathryn thirsted for Ana's kisses. She imagined drinking the blonde in, tasting every part of her body, loving her completely.

She had resorted to one-night stands after her husband had left her for his client. He was a prominent attorney, too. Kathryn's heart was broken. She'd promised herself not to become that vulnerable ever again. Yet here she was pining for a junior associate, someone who could easily slap her with a sexual harassment suit or brag to others in the office, or flaunt herself teasingly day in and day out. Ana had done none of those things. Instead, she remained silent, offering polite nods when their paths crossed and quality work when required.

On the first day of trial, Kathryn made a point of leaving a check for the lobster purchase and a new package of hosiery on Ana's desk—a message that she had not forgotten what they had shared. The fiery redhead readily acknowledged that she was conflicted by her need to focus on the case and her need to see Ana. That battle was promptly settled when she found Ana seated in the courtroom gallery. Thereafter, each day, the older woman's gaze was drawn toward the gallery where Ana's glowing eyes captured her completely.

Some days Kathryn was too raw from the hard-fought legal battle to hide her desire behind the unaffected expression she normally maintained. Her mask would slip, and her heart would show plainly through fierce eyes. At such times Kathryn fought to regain her balance by tamping down such feelings beneath propriety, duty, and reputation. She had a job to do, and many were watching closely. Still, she learned quickly to not look toward the gallery until directly before the lunch break.

Ana kept her promise of not pushing or even hinting at what they had shared. It was as if they had never discovered how magical, how essential, they were together. If it weren't for the emotions she saw in those bright eyes, Kathryn might have believed she had imagined everything. Those brief yet intense soul connections fortified Kathryn, strengthening her resolve to focus on the case and not worry about her future with Ana.

After the first few days, the beguiling associate began to accompany Kathryn back to the office during the lunch recess, discussing the case and offering her views. It became commonplace for them to argue the salient points of the case. In addition, Kathryn began to alter some of her strategies as a result of Ana's remarkable insight.

Two weeks into the trial, Kathryn looked into the gallery expecting to see Ana's pure, steadying gaze. However, Ana was absent. Troubled, Kathryn made the walk back to the office alone. Twenty minutes later, the driven woman glanced toward the door when she heard a knock. Ana stood there with lunch in hand for both of them. Kathryn smiled fully, delighted by Ana's thoughtfulness and ecstatic to see the young woman.

Oh, I'm in deep, Kathryn acknowledged as the intense emotions flowed over her. She frowned, uncertain she could control her emotions.

Ana moved toward the desk quickly. "What is it?" Embarrassed, Kathryn looked down, gasping when she felt warm breath on her bent neck. As she hesitantly caught Ana's gaze, noting the younger woman's look of astonishment, she felt a hot flush spread across her face and neck. "What?" Ana repeated softly, kneeling in front of the spooked woman and slowly reaching for Kathryn's hand.

"When I looked into the gallery," the older woman admitted in a low voice, "and you weren't there, I didn't like it. I've grown to depend on you, on your being close by me. I don't know how to deal with these feelings. I've never needed someone before, not the way I find myself needing you." Kathryn looked away, disconcerted by how strongly she felt. She was this close to crossing the distance between them and taking Ana into her arms. At work.

Impossible. Unthinkable. Yet, she had to grip her seat arms to prevent herself from doing so.

Kathryn's jaw twitched and her nostrils flared as Ana gently stroked her cheek and whispered, "I am always with you. Don't you understand that? I'm sorry I wasn't there today. It was my turn to be Lawyer of the Day at the BMC. I have to finish up after lunch. Otherwise, I would have been right there, waiting for that moment when your eyes capture mine."


Part 5

"I live for that moment," Ana continued to whisper in a husky voice. "The weekends are the worst, knowing I won't see you. I miss you so much, it drives me to distraction. But I know you need to focus on the case. I'm trying to give you the space you need." Using one finger to stroke Kathryn's lower lip, Ana allowed all her anguish, all her desire, all her impatience, all her love for this wonderful, alluring woman to shine through her eyes. "Please don't ever think that this is one-sided. I need you, too."

Kathryn's lips trembled from emotion as she said hoarsely, "Ana, I won't be able to hold back much longer, and I can't allow myself to…I can't let these emotions loose. I don't know that I'll be able to rein them in, and I have to get back to the courtroom within the hour. Please, Ana, please understand. I have a responsibility to my clients, to this firm—"

As she viewed the senior partner's pleading expression, the young associate felt her heart ache. "I know. But you can't lock your heart away forever, Kathryn." Releasing the distraught woman from her touch, Ana backed up and retrieved their lunch, spreading it out on the conference table as Kathryn regained her equilibrium.

"Thank you," Ana heard Kathryn say, and she wondered if the older woman was thanking her for the food or for the reprieve. Probably both.

At Ana's prompting, Kathryn recapped the events of the morning. A gleam in the auburn haired woman's eyes and a shrewd, measuring look aimed her way caused Ana to pause mid-sentence. "Yes?" she questioned hesitantly.

"What's your schedule like for the next few weeks?" Kathryn inquired.

"Nothing special: research, briefs, discovery," the associate answered, excitement building within her as she guessed what Kathryn was thinking. "Why?"

"I want you to work exclusively on this case with me, if you're interested. You've proven your mastery of the case law—if I didn't know any better, I'd suspect you've been researching it…" the senior partner's arched eyebrow and quirked lips belied her words, indicating that Ana had been found out. In fact, she had researched the relevant legal theories to better equip herself for their lunchtime discussions. Still, assigning a junior associate to such a complex, high-profile case was virtually unheard of. Ana was so stunned her sandwich, half-way toward her open mouth, dropped without notice. Kathryn grinned in amusement. "Is that a yes?" she teased.

"Yes. Yes! I…thank you! You won't regret it. I have copies of several cases that might prove useful," Ana gushed, ecstatic, while Kathryn rested her chin on her hand and listened attentively. Ana would prove to the older woman that she'd made the right decision.

As lunch drew to a close, Kathryn dropped another bombshell. "I'm adding you onto the record as second chair. You'll want to start prepping cross examination questions for next week's witnesses. The transcripts are there," Kathryn pointed toward several stacks. "I'll meet you here after court tonight."

Ana did not begrudge Kathryn's amused expression, knowing her visage sported a delighted yet incredulous expression. Eager to impress, Ana squirmed in her seat. She would do everything in her power to help Kathryn win this trial. She would demonstrate that the woman's confidence in her abilities was well warranted.

"One more thing, Ana," the senior partner began. "I want you to understand that I am not assigning you to this case because we were together," she said. Ana watched as Kathryn struggled to voice her thoughts. "I've kept track of your progress since you joined the firm." At Ana's gasp, Kathryn smirked. "Why are you surprised? Our firm has great expectations for you, and so far you have met every one of them."

"You are right. I shouldn't be surprised. I know my work is monitored, and it should be. I guess I didn't realize that you, in particular, would take an interest," Ana attempted to explain.

"I like to know everything happening and everyone working in my firm. It was my decision to hire you," Kathryn volunteered. "I realize we have a power disparity between us, and that complicates any personal relationship we may share; however, when it comes to firm business, I will always expect you to treat me in the same way as you'd treat any other senior partner."

Ana nodded her understanding. "I can do this. We can do this." Ana smiled at Kathryn. "Just wait and see. We're going to make a great team."

The younger woman was heartened when she heard Kathryn whisper, "I agree."


Part 6

As the trial progressed, Kathryn watched Ana become more confident in her abilities, exuding a calm, controlled persona most experienced attorneys would envy. Kathryn reveled in her young love's successes, knowing they made an undefeatable team. Although the senior partner could no longer indulge in those magnificent, soul-consuming stares—how could she when they were working so closely together—she felt their bond strengthening with each day's progression.

The firm's annual harbor cruise rolled around before the trial had concluded. Although Kathryn would have preferred spending her Friday night eating Chinese food at the office and arguing legal theories with Ana as they had the week before, it was a foregone conclusion that all partners would attend. She hoped that Ana would go, too, if only to catch a glimpse of the enthralling lady.

After circling the deck and greeting the other partners and their companions, Kathryn scoured the area for the captivating young associate. She'd glimpsed the young associate earlier and had nearly thrown away all pretenses of decorum, wanting to feel those pouty lips on hers. Ana wore a shimmery silver cocktail dress that accented her tempting cleavage, tiny waist, and muscular legs. She remembered how those legs felt wrapped around her waist, her shoulders. She wanted to feel those legs around her again.

However, Kathryn held back, keeping well away from her heart's desire, recognizing how dangerously close to uncontainable her emotions were. Instead, the elegant woman made a point of talking to colleagues and subordinates alike, generating many shy smiles and speculative looks. She'd changed over the last month. Kathryn had always demanded respect and engendered fear; now she wanted to shift those reactions into a more caring, close-knit working atmosphere. She was beginning to understand that caring for those who surrounded her would not weaken her. On the contrary, Ana's affection made her feel invincible. Kathryn was ready to let others see who she truly was.

Stepping out for a breath of fresh air, the fiery redhead heard Ana's angelic voice floating on the wind. Turning in that direction, the senior partner stopped short when she realized Charles Cote, city solicitor and all-around general sleazebag, was engaging her young love in conversation. Kathryn listened as Ana politely but firmly deflected his clumsy advances. How dare he? How DARE he! Kathryn was incensed. Of course, how could he or anyone else for that matter know that Ana was off limits? She's mine! Kathryn's mind screamed. Deciding to make sure Charles and everyone else knew it, the enraged woman stormed toward them as grim thoughts of throwing the lout overboard filled her jealous mind.

As Kathryn strode within spitting range of the mismatched couple, she heard Ana saying goodnight to Charles. "It's okay," Ana reassured as she took hold of Kathryn's bicep firmly and guided her to a deserted part of the boat.

"It's not okay," Kathryn replied heatedly. All her frustrations bubbled to the surface. "When I asked you to wait for me until the trial was over, I didn't mean for you to go playing around with everyone else in the meantime—"

"I am not playing around!" Ana argued just as intensely. "I'd never do that! Don't shout at me because you're frustrated by your own rules." Ana crossed her arms and turned away. Not nearly done with this conversation, Kathryn startled the feisty associate even while fighting to control her rising emotions by swinging Ana around forcefully as she growled, actually growled, her displeasure.

"Don't you understand? I can't just declare to the world that I'm madly, undeniably in love with you! It's reckless. I have to consider our reputations, our careers! This isn't all about me; it's for you, too. I'm trying to protect you!" Kathryn was beside herself. She was so angry, so agitated, that she could spit nails. It struck her as ironic that she was making a scene when she was the one who had demanded secrecy. The echoing silence and frozen look on Ana's porcelain features seemed to emphasize Kathryn's passionate exclamation.

Realizing what she had just revealed, the senior partner's face paled. Obstinately, Kathryn set her jaw, refusing to retract the words, those life-altering words.

A slow smile spread across Ana's face, becoming so pronounced her cheek muscles flexed. Kathryn felt her face, her entire body, heat with pleasure at Ana's reaction. Kathryn yelped, startled when Ana pulled her into a fierce hug. For long moments she reveled in the feel of those strong arms. When she felt the embrace loosen, the invigorated woman surprised her once more by swooping in and delivering the kiss Kathryn had fantasized over for weeks. Kathryn nearly swooned as Ana boldly plundered her lips repeatedly. Ana's beguiling, intoxicating kisses spurred Kathryn to explore the texture of the young associate's lips, tongue, gums, teeth—every inch of that talented mouth. Finally slowing the pleasurable invasion, Kathryn rubbed her tongue against Ana's in long strokes, loving the friction, the unique taste, the low moans they were creating. Gently disengaging, Kathryn stared into eyes so dilated by desire she could hardly see the blue rims of Ana's pupils.

Sometimes Kathryn's heart stopped beating only to resume in triple time when she glanced up from the law books to find that smoky, hungry gaze pinning her in place. It took all her resolve not to cover the distance that separated them and feed this voracious woman, to slake her thirst and drink from her in kind. The attractive redhead would feel the electricity arcing between them, and she'd fight the need to feel those hands on her, in her, again. Instead of acting on these feelings, though, the moment would pass, and they would maintain the professional behavior expected in the office.

By tacit agreement they worked only, always, in the office. Kathryn knew, and she suspected Ana was also well aware, that if they worked at one of their homes, she would not be able to hold her desires in check. It was hard enough to not jump on the appealing woman knowing what a naturally skilled and all-consuming lover Ana was. To think she was Ana's only lover. And here, confronted with that molten gaze once more, Kathryn struggled with the intense desire to break the rules she had created. It seemed to be a losing battle, attempting to beat back such a potent emotion as love.

Reining in her desires, Kathryn held Ana loosely as they caught their breath. Pulling back from Kathryn, Ana said, "I love you. I could never love another. And I am waiting for you, although I admit it is so hard, particularly since you are so damn sexy. If I had the choice, I'd take you home tonight and never let you go. But I respect your wishes." Kathryn trembled as Ana stroked her cheek and uttered the next words in a broken voice. "Please don't make me wait much longer." With those words. Ana walked away with long strides.

Her knees shook with desire as Kathryn sought to calm herself by taking several deep breaths. Once the trembling abated, she rejoined her colleagues. Sensitive to Ana's every move, she felt her respect grow for the beautiful associate, knowing how she chafed at the restrictions she'd agreed to honor. Kathryn's elegant face reflected her pensive, lost feeling. She was waging a silent war of duty to her work versus duty to her feelings. Kathryn hated how she was hurting her young love.

After the ship anchored, Kathryn saw the young associate preparing to leave. Kathryn came beside her, placing her hand on Ana's forearm as she said her farewells to several of her peers, Kathryn glittering eyes watched as Ana fought to remain nonchalant in front of their audience. "Have a good weekend, Ana. I'll see you Monday morning." At Ana's nod, Kathryn left.

Last weekend they had crafted their offense for hours at the office. Ana had worn form-fitting jeans and a t-shirt that had made Kathryn salivate. Yet, she could not risk meeting with Ana this weekend. Their emotions were too raw, too turbulent to be controlled. If Ana didn't take her on the desk, Kathryn was quite sure she would take Ana against the door. Best not to meet since she plainly wasn't ready. Kathryn smiled bitterly, sure she would return to those erotic thoughts once she was safely in bed. Her smile faded as she thought of their earlier discussion. As pleasurable as it had been, they had taken a great risk by kissing earlier. If they'd been seen….Kathryn shuddered at the thought. The last thing she wanted was to cause a scandal at their place of work.

They would have to discuss their future together and how it would affect their careers….soon.

Moving woodenly back to her car, Kathryn tried to clear her mind of the kiss, that incredible, all-encompassing, scorching kiss. Because if she couldn't clear her mind, she'd drive straight to Ana's home and ravish her, world be damned. Thank God this was the last week of trial. After it finished, Kathryn was contemplating taking some time off. She was resolute in persuading Ana to spend some uninterrupted vacation time with her. As she began to formulate a plan, Kathryn felt her spirits rise. Ana wouldn't know what hit her.

Wednesday afternoon found the pair huddled over their trial notes, reviewing them for tomorrow's closing arguments. Unbeknownst to Ana, Kathryn had several surprises for the younger woman. She decided to reveal the first one. "Ana." The senior partner paused to make sure she had the clever blonde's full attention. "I want you to deliver the closing argument tomorrow. You know this case as well as I do, and I have complete confidence in your abilities."

The flabbergasted young attorney stuttered, absolutely flummoxed. Panic filled her lovely visage, spurring Kathryn to calm the distraught woman even as she heard a small voice say, "I can't." Kathryn understood only too well the pressures of winning or losing one's first major case. However, she would not allow Ana to give into such insecurities. She was better than that.

Firmly, she framed Ana's shaking shoulders as she pitched her voice to penetrate her young love's crumbling demeanor with heartfelt words. "You can, Ana. Do you think I would set you up to fail? Do you think I would place this responsibility on your shoulders if I didn't believe you would succeed? You have an agile, gifted mind—I've seen you outmaneuver experienced witnesses while showcasing our experts' strengths. You're ready, Ana. You are."

Kathryn sighed in relief, seeing how her words had the desired effect. Reluctantly releasing Ana, she consoled herself with the thought that tomorrow she would reveal her other surprises to her beloved. Soon, darling, soon, she promised silently. Knowing she needed to finish her preparations, she excused herself after arranging to meet Ana early the next morning.

Kathryn couldn't wait to have Ana in her arms again. Each day spent with the intriguing woman fueled her desires. A hundred different ways to make this woman hers streamed through Kathryn's mind, and she wanted to try them all.

Smiling at the beguiling beauty for long moments, the senior partner attempted to transmit all her love, confidence, and admiration before leaving her to work on the final argument. Judging by Ana's astonished expression, the redhead determined she'd been successful. Squeezing her young love's hand in parting, Kathryn departed to execute her carefully-crafted plans. If she only knew what I have in store for her, Kathryn chortled inwardly.


Part 7

Sitting in Kathryn's office, still quite thunderstruck by this turn of events, Ana's mind bounced all over, unable to focus. She was both elated and terrified. Tomorrow was the final day of trial and also Ana's birthday. Although friends and family had contacted her to celebrate, she had not committed to any plans, hoping to share that time with Kathryn. She was determined to woo the stubborn woman into a relationship. She'd patiently abided by the irresistible woman's wishes, but once this trial ended she would do everything in her power to break down the barriers separating them. Knowing how much Kathryn desired her, how hard it was for the compact powerhouse to restrain her unruly emotions, Ana intended to seduce the older woman into submission. Kathryn won't know what hit her. Ana grinned devilishly. Her face turned sober as she turned her limber mind toward creating an incredible closing argument.

Ana walked like a zombie, or a sleepwalker, or a mindless fool—she was sure all of those descriptions were accurate at the moment—down the court hallways, barely recognizing that she was being guided by Kathryn, who unceremoniously pulled her into an empty conference room and embraced the overwhelmed woman. Knowing the press was swarming on the court steps, Ana tried to control her breathing, to get herself under control as she felt Kathryn run her hands tenderly over taut back muscles while whispering endearments into her ear. Once Ana's breathing calmed, Kathryn stepped back.

"I am so proud of you," the attractive dynamo stated as she massaged Ana's shoulders briskly. "Are you ready to face the press?" Ana nodded. "Good. After that we're going out to celebrate—I won't take no for an answer." Ana, pleased at this announcement, heard Kathryn chuckle. After receiving one more shoulder squeeze, Ana followed Kathryn through the exit to deliver their statement.

Two hours later found Ana, yet again, absolutely amazed by Kathryn's behavior. Sitting at the best table in the Top of the Hub restaurant, Ana felt like she had been run over by an amorous, determined lover. She didn't stand a chance—not that she had intended to hold out. As Kathryn held her closely, swaying to the gentle melody the jazz band played, Ana felt like she was in heaven. And she knew the night was young; Kathryn's constant touches promised as much. Returning to their seats to order nightcaps, Ana was startled to see a present placed in front of her.

"Happy birthday, Ana. I hope you like it." Trying not to weep, the emotional lady carefully unwrapped the gift, revealing a Cartier box. Opening it, Ana gasped as tears flooded her eyes. Nestled inside the box sat a gold and diamond designer pendant necklace of a lobster. Ana laughed, utterly delighted. The pendant was designed with ruby-encrusted claws, large diamond eyes, and a sculpted golden exoskeleton shell. Turning it over, the amazed blonde spotted an engraving underneath a ruby heart. Reading the words, Ana surged out of her chair and pulled Kathryn into a heated lip-lock. With difficulty, Ana tempered her rising passion enough to release Kathryn and return to her seat after indulging in the taste of those satisfying lips for a mere few moments. What she wanted to do was rip the white skirt suit off Kathryn's firm body and devour her regardless of where they were. Ana grinned unrepentantly at the image that thought evoked.

Ana's hands trembled, delirious with happiness, prompting Kathryn to take the necklace from her hands and gently fasten it. The words engraved on the pendant were simple but meant the world to Ana: You own my heart. Always. However, Ana quickly learned that Kathryn was not nearly done.

Ana looked deeply into sparkling blue eyes as Kathryn took her hands and said, "Ana, I want to spend time with you. I feel that I cheated us both horribly, and I wish to do this right, to build a lasting relationship." Pausing, the normally unflappable attorney nervously continued. "Will you go away with me this weekend? Everything's planned; you need only say yes." Shocked, Ana gazed into sincere eyes as Kathryn whispered, "Please say yes."

Realizing that any pause on her part must be torturous, seconds seeming for centuries, Ana quickly replied, "Of course I will go away with you! How could you doubt it? I want to be with you every second of every day. Yes!" Ana squeezed Kathryn's hands in emphasis, delighted by the thought of being the sole focus of this dynamic woman for days on end without interruption.

"Will you come home with me tonight? I promise to give you plenty of time to pack tomorrow." Kathryn held up her fingers in a Scout's honor sign, grinning rakishly.

Ana's joyous laugh could not be contained. "Like you could keep me away!"

Soon they were in Kathryn's brownstone, where a very nervous and enamored young blonde struggled to keep her desires in check. However, Kathryn would not rush their lovemaking. Ana was touched by the preparations Kathryn had made: rose petals covered the bed, candles were strategically placed just waiting to be lit, champagne sat in a chilled pail, and soft piano played in the background.

Undressed by her amorous lover, Ana was seduced by the auburn-haired beauty's words as she told Ana in no uncertain terms that she would always love her, always need her, always want her. Ana felt cherished as the older woman kissed each and every area of skin revealed to her ravenous eyes. Ana made sure to kiss Kathryn's intoxicating lips every few moments, needing to draw sustenance from them. It was hard for Ana to keep control as Kathryn mapped her ribs with burning fingers, the older woman kissing the spaces in between each one devotedly. When Ana began to sway in place, overcome by the effect Kathryn had on her, the older woman tenderly positioned Ana's body on the bed.

Enthralled by Kathryn's magnificence, she wept as they made love, feeling her lover's reverence, her determination to convey how deeply she cared through every touch. As Ana cried out her soulmate's name into the night, she felt tears of gratitude fall onto her face. Looking up, she cupped the older woman's face, kissing away the tears as she vowed to always love the fiery woman. For the rest of her days, she resolved to make sure Kathryn knew just how much she adored her. Today was just the beginning.

"I hope you aren't planning on getting much sleep," Ana growled seductively just before her luscious lips covered a pebbled breast.

"No," Kathryn's husky voice answered, "not much at all."



Hearing a throat cleared, Kathryn looked up from the file she was reviewing. She smiled as she waved in her visitor, happy to take a break. Reaching out, she accepted the proffered hand and rose to receive a tight hug. Stepping away from the enticing arms of her lover, Kathryn said, "I'm so glad to see you. All done for the day?"

"Finally. I though the deposition would last forever. Do you have much longer?" Ana answered as she settled into a chair across from the desk.

"Not long." After two years they had settled into a routine where they would alternate weekends at each other's houses. Kathryn wanted Ana to move in with her but loathed asking her to give up her Swampscott home. She knew how much time and effort Ana had invested in restoring the old house. More importantly, it symbolized Ana's family heritage. Ana had inherited the home when her parents died, along with a hefty fortune. Most of that money remained in trust while Ana lived off the interest and the salary she made as an attorney.

They had discussed Ana leaving the firm so no backlash would occur once their relationship was discovered. The problem was that, although Ana was a brilliant attorney, she was at the beginning of her career. A shift to another firm would be viewed as a negative. Instead, they had informed the Board of Directors of their relationship and signed love contracts. In addition, Ana did not work on Kathryn's files, much to the senior partner's displeasure. Still, compromise was needed, and Kathryn was content with the knowledge that Ana's career was blossoming.

Ana settled in, passing the time by reading the newspapers while Kathryn finished her tasks. She loved Ana's easy-going manner. She never complained when she had to wait around for Kathryn at the office; many times she would deliver lunch or dinner without any expectation of capturing Kathryn's attention. Kathryn shook her head. Ana always held her attention.

"I thought we might have a late dinner at the Landing. Shall I make reservations?" Ana asked. It was one of their favorite haunts in Marblehead. The seafood was delicious and the view, directly on the Atlantic ocean, unrivaled.

"That sounds perfect, darling," Kathryn said as she marked up the motion before her. Distractedly, she heard Ana murmuring into her phone. The older woman turned to the final page, scanning the rest of the document determinedly. With a sigh of relief, Kathryn finished her notations and set the document aside.

Feeling strong fingers knead her tight neck muscles, Kathryn groaned her appreciation. "Kathryn, I want to throw an idea onto the table, but I don't want you to feel you have to make a decision or even discuss it right now," Ana said softly.

Struggling not to tighten up as fear surged through her, Kathryn nodded mutely. She didn't know why she was expecting the worst. Their romance had been fiery, passionate, and extremely volatile. Yet, they had weathered all disagreements with the understanding that they were building a strong foundation meant to last. Kathryn knew she wanted this woman in her life indefinitely.

"I hate not holding you in my arms every night. With our schedules limiting our time together to the weekends, I find myself missing you terribly. I'd like to discuss moving in together." Ana paused, shifting to rub Kathryn's shoulders. "I know we'll need to work out where to live and what to do with the other home, but I want to share my life completely with you—home, finances, lives—everything. If you don't want that, too, if you aren't ready or don't think you'll ever want that type of relationship, I'll drop the subject."

Not able to bear the uncertainty so apparent in her lover's voice, Kathryn swiveled her chair around so she faced Ana and grasped her hands. "Don't you dare drop this subject. I want to live with you. I want to share my life with you." Kathryn shook her head sadly. "I'm sorry I haven't made that clear to you. We'll work out the details. For this moment, though, just know that I am ready, and I do want this type of relationship."

Kathryn felt a devious grin curl her lips as she added, "Is this your generation's way of proposing? Because it's awfully casual. Or does your age group only believe in living together instead of publicly declaring one's love through a legally binding ceremony?"

Kathryn fought to keep from laughing at the flabbergasted look on her love's face. She had a feeling that Ana had not seriously considered marriage. That was okay. Now the young woman would.

"I…you…what—" Ana sputtered.

Kathryn's throaty laughed filled the office. Her expression softened as she tilted her head to one side, gazing into eyes she knew so well. "I'm just teasing you." Rising, Kathryn affectionately squeezed the hands still in hers before letting go. Gathering her belongings, Kathryn walked to the office door and turned off the lights. She felt strong arms wind around her waist stopping her progress.

"You will marry me, Kathryn. You are my soulmate, my other half. We belong together. I knew it the first day I laid eyes on you." Ana kissed the back of Kathryn's neck before letting go.

Turning to face her beloved, Kathryn stared at Ana solemnly. "I knew, too." The older woman smiled suddenly as a thought crossed her mind. "I think lobster is appropriate for tonight's meal, don't you, darling?" At Ana's chuckle, Kathryn led them from the room. "Perhaps we can recreate our first night together afterwards…you have a porch overlooking the ocean, don't you?" Kathryn mused, already knowing the answer. "That will work nicely."

"I'm game. However, I propose two important changes," Ana said as they walked to the car garage.

"Which are?" Kathryn asked curiously.

"One: there will be kissing, lots of kissing. And two: I will be screaming your name into the night even as you shout out mine."

Kathryn stopped short and walked into Ana's space, stopping so closely that their breath mingled. "That sounds manageable, counselor, if not downright necessary." As Ana's eyes dropped toward Kathryn's lips, the senior partner leaned in, stealing a kiss. "I look forward to implementing these changes of yours." Kathryn stole another kiss before stepping away.

"Why do I get the feeling that not only will I forget your name but also my own?" Kathryn heard Ana mutter.

Kathryn just laughed. She had plans to render this woman insensate by the end of the night. Smiling broadly, Kathryn shrugged innocently as Ana's eyebrow hiked up. "Oh, love, not only tonight but whenever I can hold you in my arms I will love you so completely you will be unable to formulate any thoughts other than how wonderful you feel," Kathryn promised, already eager to begin demonstrating her love through touch.

Kathryn watched with satisfaction as Ana shivered in response. Yes, tonight would be a memorable night, as they always were when shared with her lover. They were together and always would be. Kathryn would make it so.

The End

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