DISCLAIMER: Any resemblance to real people or situations is completely coincidental and unintentional.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thank you to my betas, you know who you are!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Slivers of sunlight seeped through the blinds and slowly brought her out of her sleep. Eyes still closed, she rolled over onto her side and pressed her head further into the pillow. She could hear voices downstairs and figured her father was up already. Her mother wasn't due back home from her night shift at the hospital until later that morning. She slowly opened her eyes, wondering who her father could've been conversing with.
'Probably the T.V. or radio,' she thought to herself. She stretched out her limbs and slowly looked around the bedroom. It felt strange being back in her old room, and stranger still was the fact that not much had changed about it. Sure, all her things from her childhood and teenage years were no longer in the room, but the walls were still the same color, the furniture was still in the same places, and on the wall behind the door, the marks that charted her growth were still left untouched. She reached over and turned on the radio on the night table to catch the morning news.
This wasn't the first time she'd been home since she left the country after high school. She had come back for visits over the Christmas and Easter breaks and some summer vacations, but this time wasn't a visit. This time, she was moving back, after having been gone for twelve years.
Jayde Phoenix Merrick had left her family and friends behind after high school to study abroad in the U.K. There had been much argument and fighting over her desire to study outside of the country, but eventually her parents had acquiesced, knowing that deep down inside, their objection was simply borne of their own denial of the fact that their baby girl had grown up and was ready to face the world on her own.
She spent four years at Cambridge and graduated with a Petroleum Engineering degree with a minor in Psychology. Upon graduation, she had been scooped up by an international oil and gas software company and was posted in their U.K. office. Eight years later, she had posted sales records, became manager of the sales team in the UK office and based on her performance, was sought after to transfer to the North American office. The sales force in North America had been struggling over the last couple of years under poor leadership, and so they needed someone who could turn the team around, thus resulting in her selling her flat in London and packing her bags to return to her hometown, Houston, Texas.
Her plane had arrived yesterday morning and she kept herself busy with making sure she had all her paperwork filled out for her new position and had all her banking in order, thanks to having an uncle who was a bank manager. She had also arranged for a storage facility for when her things arrived from London. She had taken a week of vacation each before the move and after to settle all her affairs and get her things in order before taking on the new role at her new office. Eventually by early nightfall, the traveling and errand running had gotten to her and she fell asleep effortlessly. Today was Saturday and she had one thing on her agenda, a meeting which she had coordinated and setup as soon as her transfer had been finalized. Once this meeting was taken care of, her next objective throughout the rest of the week was to find a place to live. She was thirty years old and there was no way in hell she was going to live with her parents any longer than she had to.
It wasn't like she didn't love her parents, because she did. She was the younger of two children in the family and both she and her older sister, Caitlyn, had been extremely close to their parents growing up. But since her sister had gone off and studied Medicine like their mother, the expectations of carrying on the Merrick tradition of enlisting fell on her shoulders. Their father was of Irish descent and came from a long line of service men and women. He himself had served in the U.S. Marine Corp and fought in Vietnam, where he had met their mother who was a young doctor fresh out of school. He had managed to bring her back with him to the U.S. after his tour of duty where they married and started a family. It took Jayde's mother a few years, but eventually she got her medical degree in the U.S. Her father retired from the Marines and joined the FBI, investigating violent crimes. As Jayde entered high school and her sister began her pre-med studies, there were expectations that Jayde would enlist in the military or also become a doctor. Her parent's ultimate dream was that she'd do both and become a military doctor or physician. Naturally, being the offspring of two strong willed people, Jayde had other ideas. It wasn't until she finished her Engineering degree and accepted the job in London did they finally give up on the military and medical school idea.
She sat up and threw the covers off. She was about to get up off the bed when there was a soft knock at the door. "Baby, you up?" her father's voice called out.
"Yeah, just got up," she answered, shaking her head at her father's use of her nickname. The door opened and her father, Cole Merrick, stepped into the bedroom, wearing a pair of grey sweat pants and a white t-shirt, wet with perspiration. It was obvious he had been out for a run like he's always done, every morning for as long as Jayde could remember.
"Something's come up and I gotta go to work," he said and came over to the bed and sat down on it. Jayde nodded. 'Some things never change,' she thought to herself. 'The life of an FBI agent and his family.'
"But we are having your 'Welcome home' dinner tonight though, okay?" he reminded her and then added with a smile. "So don't go running off anywhere."
Jayde held out her hand, fingers curled into a fist with just the pinky extended. "Promise."
Her father mimicked the gesture and they hooked their pinkies together. He smiled and pulled her into a warm embrace. "We're really happy you're back."
Finally they pulled apart. "Me too," she said. It was only a partial lie she told herself. She was happy to be back home and be close to her family again, but she hadn't been too thrilled about leaving behind the culture and nightlife that London had offered her.
"I'm going to shower and get dressed. Your mom should be home in about an hour," he said.
"Dad," she said, trying hard not to roll her eyes. "I'm thirty. I can take care of myself."
"I know." he nodded. "It's just that you're 'The Baby'." He pressed the point by tousling her brown hair like he used to when she was a kid.
"Dad, can we go easy on 'The Baby'?" Jayde asked, rolling her eyes.
"What? You've always been 'Baby'," Cole rationalized.
"Yeah, but -" Jayde began but her father interrupted.
"Yes, I know, you're thirty and not a baby anymore. But you will always be our baby, and that nickname isn't going anywhere."
Jayde gave him a stern look. "Okay, okay, we'll ease up on calling you 'The Baby', but you can't just go changing the rules after thirty years and expect us to follow 'em to a T right away."
She gave him a warm smile and kissed him on his cheek. "Thanks, Dad." She reached up and gave his hair a quick tousle in return. She noticed that his light brown hair now had a sparse sprinkling of greys near his temples. After he left, she threw on some running pants and a tank top. She washed her face, brushed her teeth and headed downstairs for some water before she went for a jog herself. She entered the kitchen and pulled open the fridge door without noticing the figure sitting at the breakfast table reading the newspaper.
The sound of the fridge door opening alerted the woman at the table that she was no longer alone. Assuming it was her partner, she called out, without moving the newspaper in front of her face, "Jesus, Merrick, if I had a dime for every time I've had to wait for you to get ready for work, I'd be retired and sitting on a warm tropical beach by now."
The voice startled Jayde and made her jump as she spun around to see who the voice belonged to. "What the fuck!" she blurted out.
The newspaper was quickly folded down in half and Jayde saw Abbie Weston, her father's partner of twenty years sitting at the table, peering at her over the paper.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you I just " the woman apologized, setting the paper down, her eyes fixed on Jayde, a look of confusion and then recognition passing over them. "Jayde?"
Jayde smiled, amused at the other woman's confusion. "Yeah," she answered in the affirmative. Her heart was racing, partially due to the startle she just had but more because of who the voice turned out to belong to. "It's been a long time, Abbie."
"Yes it has," the older woman found her voice and collected herself. "Your father mentioned you were coming home yesterday but it completely slipped my mind."
"Some FBI Agent you are," Jayde teased her.
Standing up, she walked over to her partner's daughter and gave her a warm hug. "Welcome home. Look at you, you're so grown up now!"
"Thanks," Jayde said smiling and quickly grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge. They walked over to the counter and sat side by side on the bar stools. "Are you coming over for dinner tonight?"
"Right, your home coming party," Abbie said, her memory having not entirely abandoned her. "Yeah, I was gonna pop by for a bit. I'm sure you have lots to catch up on with everyone else."
"Well, it's not like I wasn't in touch with any of them, but yeah, I haven't seen everyone in a few years," Jayde commented. "So how've you been? Still surviving putting up with my dad I see."
"He's tolerable at times," Abbie teased with a smile.
"How's Jake?" Jayde asked and took a drink from her bottle.
Abbie was about to answer but then slightly knotted her eyebrows together. "Your dad didn't tell you?"
"Didn't tell me what?"
"Jake and I are divorced," Abbie answered. "Couple of years ago."
"Shit," Jayde said, almost choking on her water. "I'm so sorry."
Abbie smiled a genuine smile. "I'm not." At the questioning look Jayde gave her, she added, "Things just didn't work out for us. We make better friends than spouses."
"So it was amicable?" Jayde asked slowly. She had never met anyone who had divorced and remained on good terms with their exes.
"For the most part, yeah," Abbie answered and it was the truth. She and Jake had decided that after fourteen years together and ten years of marriage, they really were better off as friends than as husband and wife. Not to mention the little fact that a few months after the divorce, through intense soul searching and many sessions with a shrink, she came out to herself.
Jayde simply nodded her understanding and the older woman took the opportunity to study her. Although she had frequently visited with the Merrick family and spent countless evenings having dinner with them over the course of hers and Cole's partnership, she hadn't seen much of Jayde since the girl had moved to the U.K. Of course Jayde had been back at least twice a year every year to visit with her parents, but they had always missed each other during the visits and so it had been twelve years since Abbie had last seen and spoken with Jayde in person.
Over the years, Abbie had seen pictures of Jayde, but the photos had not done the girl justice as Abbie noticed that those twelve years had definitely had a positive impact on the young woman. Jayde looked more mature, her hair longer and slightly wavier, her chocolate brown eyes held more depth that only life experiences could give, and her oval face was now more angular as she had lost the roundness of youth. Being interracial children, Jayde and Caitlyn always had a pretty look to them, with Caitlyn taking on more of the Irish genes with fairer hair and skin and grey eyes while Jayde had a hint more Vietnamese in her with darker hair and eyes and olive skin. As an adult, though, Jayde was purely exotic. Then there was her body. It was much more toned and tanned, at least the parts that Abbie could see, which was mostly her arms and shoulders. Yes, the last twelve years had treated Jayde's body well. She had transformed from a pretty teenager to a beautiful woman. Then there was her accent. It wasn't a strong British accent, very light in fact, but was noticeable enough for a stranger to question it
'Weston! Stop gawking at your partner's daughter. Exotic should not be in the same sentence as her name,' Abbie chastised herself.
What Abbie didn't realize was that while she was admiring the beauty that time had graced upon Jayde, the younger woman had been discreetly cataloging the older woman's features. Abbie's long blond tresses which Jayde remembered her having had for the longest time were now clipped short, which Jayde decided suited the older woman far better than long hair. Although she was wearing a pant suit, Jayde could tell that Abbie had slimmed down slightly, not that she had ever needed to lose weight. She noticed that there were new lines at the corners of the older woman's mouth when she smiled, something which Jayde had recently discovered was an endearingly sexy feature on a woman. And last but not least, Abbie had the greenest eyes she had ever seen and they always held an intensity in them which Jayde swore made her knees turned to jell-o.
"You guys getting re-acquainted?" Cole's voice broke through Abbie's thoughts. She looked up to find her partner walking towards them.
"I just realized it's been about twelve years since I last saw Jayde," Abbie disclosed part of her thoughts.
"Well, hopefully we'll be seeing a lot more of her now," Cole said, clipping his gun and holster to his hip.
"Dad, you do realize that I'm going to start looking for a place of my own, yeah?" Jayde asked.
"Yeah, I know, but it doesn't mean you can't come visit your parents, no matter how embarrassing they may be to you," he teased her.
"Get outta here will you?" Jayde ushered them out the door. She followed them out to the driveway where Abbie's car was parked. She gave her father a quick peck on the cheek and added, "Be safe you two!" She went over to the lawn beside the drive way, tied her hair up into a ponytail and started to stretch her arms and legs before her run, her back to the car.
Cole looked out the passenger window as Abbie started the car. He spotted the bare shoulder blade that was exposed by the racer back tank top Jayde was wearing. Only it wasn't bare. There was something on it. Cole squinted slightly and realized that his daughter, The Baby, indeed had a phoenix with outstretched wings and a feathery tail tattooed on her shoulder blade. "Sonofabitch," he muttered and fumbled for the window switch. He managed to get the window rolled down and yelled out, "Hey! What the hell is that on your shoulder?"
Jayde turned her head and smirked when she saw the expression on his face. "Like father like daughter!" she tossed back to him, grinning, and gave him a wink. "Remember, you've got three. I've only got one. So far."
Abbie couldn't help but chuckle. "She is so your daughter," she commented to her partner who was clearly not amused. Pulling the car out of the drive way, Abbie couldn't help but glance over at the younger woman one more time. "Christ, when did she grow up?" she asked absentmindedly.
"While she was on the other side of the world," Cole answered, a hint of melancholy and regret in his voice.
After she showered and changed into a pair of jeans and a white button shirt, Jayde headed down to the kitchen to find something to eat for breakfast. As she turned the corner and entered the kitchen, she saw her mom and sister.
"Well, well, well, if it isn't the prodigal daughter," Caitlyn said sitting at the counter sipping a cup of coffee.
"Well, well, well, if it ain't Dr. Goody Two Shoes," Jayde countered and walked over to her sister. They broke out into smiles and hugged each other tightly.
"Aw, my baby girls are together again," Thanh Merrick commented, smiling at the sight of her daughters embracing.
"Mom!" "Mum!" both girls said in unison as they released each other.
"Don't 'Mom' me," Thanh scolded them. "I don't care if you're thirty and you're thirty-four, you'll always be my babies."
Jayde smiled and went over and kissed her mom on her cheek on her way to look in the fridge for something to eat. "Speaking of which, can we ix-nay on the aby-bay?"
"Pardon me?" Thanh asked, her tone a mixture of surprise and indignant. "You're the baby in the family and you will always be The Baby." Jayde let out an exaggerated sigh and decided not to argue. There were some battles that were worth fighting and this was not one of them. She grabbed some precooked bacon, bread, mayonnaise, tomatoes and lettuce to make herself a sandwich.
"You're going to eat a BLT sandwich for breakfast? Baby, it's nine-thirty in the morning," Caitlyn asked incredulously which earned her a glare from the younger sister.
"You eat like your father," Thanh mused out loud, smiling.
"I work out so I can eat whatever I want," Jayde informed them as she prepared her sandwich. "You guys want me to make you a sandwich?"
"Thanks, honey, but I'm going to get out of these scrubs, shower and go to bed," their mom replied. "Whatever you do or wherever you go, just make sure you're back here for dinner tonight. Everyone's coming over."
"You invited both clans?" Caitlyn asked.
Thanh gave her daughter a playful warning look. "Yes, we invited both clans. So don't be late." With one last warning look, she headed upstairs.
"Want one?" Jayde asked, putting her sandwich together.
"I don't eat that kind of stuff so I don't have to work out," Caitlyn answered, pouring herself another cup of coffee.
"And that's why you're a bitch," Jayde deadpanned. "Granted, a skinny bitch, but a bitch nonetheless because you don't let yourself enjoy the little things in life, like bacon."
Caitlyn eyed her sister for a moment and then held out her hand. "Okay, give me a bite."
Jayde handed over the sandwich and grabbed the coffee cup in exchange. She had forgotten how much she enjoyed the bantering she always had with her sister. They talked at least once a week the entire time Jayde had been away from home, but being in their parents kitchen together again was a different feeling altogether. It was the feeling of being home.
"So, what's The Baby got lined up for today?" Caitlyn asked after they finished eating the sandwich, grinning at her sister's annoyance at the nickname.
"I have an appointment to pick up a car," Jayde answered, putting the food back into the fridge. At her sister's questioning look, she added, "I need to start looking for a place to live so I'm gonna need some wheels."
"You're renting a car?"
"You think you're gonna buy a car in one day?"
"I don't think, I know," Jayde said, throwing an arm around her sister's shoulder and led her out of the house. "Give The Baby some credit will you? I've been doing my homework and I've got all my ducks lined up in a row."
They hopped into Caitlyn's white BMW X5 parked in the drive way. "So, where to?"
"Maserati of Houston." Jayde couldn't help but smile when she saw Caitlyn's jaw drop.
It had been a hectic day for the two FBI agents as they investigated what looked like the latest murder from a serial killer they had been tracking all over the state. They had worked with the local authorities to gather statements and now were waiting for the evidence to get processed. By three in the afternoon, they called it a day and headed out of the office. It was decided that they'd stop at Abbie's place first for her to change and then she'd drive Cole home.
She had quickly changed from her suit into a pair of tan linen pants and a white long sleeved cotton shirt that hugged her body in all the right places. She grabbed her brown three quarter length leather jacket as well, knowing how November nights in Houston tended to get pretty cool. She checked herself one last time in the mirror. She looked pretty good for a forty-five year old. Her job required her to stay in shape and she was thankful for it. She grabbed her purse and headed back out to the car where Cole had been waiting for her while he read over their case notes again.
Even though they had left the office, their work often came home with them and as they drove to the Merrick house, they continued to discuss the case and threw out ideas and possibilities that might help them solve the case and catch their killer. They pulled up to the house and saw a catering van on the circular driveway in front of the house. Abbie passed it and parked in front of the garage, beside what looked to be a shiny new black Maserati GranTursimo on the far side of the drive way.
"Wow," Abbie commented and let out a low whistle.
"If I'd known catering would be such a lucrative business, I'da gone to cooking school," Cole said. They got out and headed to the front door, after having both inspected the sports car thoroughly.
Dodging the caterers who were busy ushering food into the house from the van, they made their way into the kitchen where Thanh was busy directing the caterers where to place the food in the kitchen and in the back yard. She waved to them as Abbie settled onto one of the bar stools at the counter.
"Okay, mom, the chairs and tables are all set up," Jayde called out, entering into the kitchen from the patio. She had changed out of her button shirt from earlier that morning into a white tank top. "Hey Abbie."
Abbie nodded her greeting.
"Thanks, Baby. Everything's ready then with some time to spare yet," Thanh told her. Cole came over and gave his wife a kiss. "Now both of you, go upstairs and change."
Jayde looked at her mom, her expression serious. "Why can't I wear this?"
"'Cause your mother's gonna see your tattoo and have a heart attack," Cole told her, as he stood over her shoulder and pulled the back of the shirt just enough to reveal the ink.
"A what?" Thanh said, her eyes growing wide.
Abbie watched the exchange with pure amusement as the two parents huddled behind their daughter to exam the art on her back. Jayde looked over at Abbie with a mischievous smirk which only caused a quickening of the pulse in the older woman.
"I can't believe you did that!" Thanh exclaimed and turned to her husband and glared at him.
"What? I just found out about it this morning!" Cole defended himself.
"Baby, how are you going to find a husband and have a family when you're running around with a tattoo, wearing boys clothes and buying expensive toys? Men are intimidated by women who drive nicer cars than them!" Thanh chastised her daughter.
"I'm not exactly going to be meeting lots of guys if you keep calling me 'The Baby'," Jayde shot back.
"That Maserati's yours?" Cole asked, excitement evident on his face. Abbie smiled at Jayde's referral to the nickname. She had heard Cole and Thanh use the term of endearment when they'd talk about Jayde while she was away and had wondered if the girl would ever outgrow or outrun the name.
"You're not helping," Thanh told her husband.
"I'm gonna go change," Cole said, ignoring the disapproving look his wife was giving him. he turned to go upstairs and then looked over at Jayde and winked. "Then we're taking that thing out for a spin." Thanh threw a dish towel in his direction but missed.
"You know, Mum, I'm thirty," Jayde said, settling down onto a bar stool beside Abbie. "I'm supposed to run around and have fun."
"When I was thirty, I had a career and two daughters."
"Well, I'm not you."
A silence passed between them and finally Thanh had a small smile on her lips. "It is a nice car."
Jayde grinned at the compliment. The phone rang and Thanh went to answer it.
"You sure didn't waste any time," Abbie commented with a smile.
"I've been wanting that car for a long time," Jayde explained. "It's quite cheaper here than in the U.K. So when I found out I was transferring back home, I did my research. I test drove one in London and when I decided on which one I wanted, I made the arrangements with the dealership here to have one ready for me for when I got here."
Abbie smiled, appreciating the young woman's organization and taste in cars. "So you know I have to ask. How does a thirty year old afford a Maserati?"
"I'm very good at what I do," Jayde said vaguely, a smirk growing on her lips.
"And what is it that you do?" Abbie asked, smiling, enjoying the light conversation. "Your dad said you worked for a oil and gas software company."
Jayde nodded. "It was my job to understand my clients, understand their business and give them what they needed. I did well and I was compensated well. Add to that, I got lucky and made a good profit selling my flat before moving here."
"Well, congratulations," Abbie said with a genuine smile. She was actually curious to know more about this woman whom she had watched grow up for a number of years, and yet had become somewhat of a stranger to her. "So what will you be doing here?"
"I was brought here to take over the sales team and get them back on track," Jayde explained simply.
"It's the sales guys who are nervous," Jayde answered. "They're afraid they're going to lose their jobs."
"Have you ever had to fire anyone before?" Abbie asked, making a mental note of how Jayde had skillfully avoided answering her question.
"Not yet," Jayde said. "I'm willing to see things from their perspective and hear them out. All I ask is for them to be willing to try something new. Even if they doubt my abilities because of my age, my record should speak for itself."
"You're that good, huh?" Abbie teased.
"I'm that good, yeah," Jayde agreed, smiling, but Abbie could see a hint of blush on her cheeks and thought it was adorable.
Cole came into the kitchen wearing a polo shirt and a pair of khakis, looking conspiratorial. "Let's go before your mother sees me."
"I heard that," Thanh's voice broke in from the patio door.
"I promise we'll be back for dinner," Jayde said, giving her mother her best puppy dog eyes look.
Thanh smiled and shook her head. "You've got two hours."
"Come on, Abbie," Jayde invited the older woman. "Let's see what my Baby can do."
The three headed out to the car with Abbie in the back passenger seat and Cole in the front. Jayde turned on the ignition and the car came to life, purring. She revved the engine a couple of times and the roars were music to their ears. Cole looked like he was in heaven. Jayde put it into reverse to back up out of the driveway.
"Wait," Abbie called out. "Are you okay with driving? You've been in the U.K. for the last twelve years and they drive on the wrong side of the road!"
"Don't worry, I only turned the wrong way a few times today on my way home," Jayde answered with a smirk and proceeded to back out of the drive way. Once on the road, she navigated them east of the city. Sitting in the back passenger seat gave Abbie the opportunity to study the young woman again. Despite having lived in a country where they drove on the left side of the road, Jayde was completely comfortable behind the wheel. Not only was she comfortable, she drove the car well, changing the gears smoothly as they drove along. The girl whom Abbie had watched grow up from the age of ten to eighteen had been a shy tomboy who often followed her father around the house helping him fix things. She had definitely been Daddy's girl while Caitlyn was Mommy's girl. The woman in the driver's seat was still a tomboy, wearing jeans and a tank top which showed the muscles flexing in her lean and tanned arms as she expertly shifted gears, but the shyness was gone. Obviously she had come out of her shell to become successful at what she did, but her relationship with her parents seemed to have changed as well. Perhaps it was a combination of her maturity and assertiveness and their recognition that she was no longer a little girl that helped to nurture a more mutually respectful relationship.
"At this point in time, I'd like to ask that you forget you're federal agents for a short while," Jayde announced, pulling onto US 90 and she put the car to the test as it effortlessly began to accelerate, the needle steadily approaching 100 mph and passing it without hesitation. Jayde let it go to 120 mph and kept it steady, enjoying the rush of adrenaline as the car hummed and sped down the road. Eventually she eased off and slowed down and offered for Cole to drive it back. They found an exit and swapped places, Jayde in the back, letting her father take the wheel and Abbie to enjoy the view from the front passenger seat.
They returned to the house just in time as their guests began to arrive. Cole and Thanh had invited their families and some of their friends and Jayde's friends for the informal dinner to welcome their daughter back home. Cole's three brothers and their families as well as Thanh's sister and brother and their families were in attendance. Jayde spent the evening visiting with her cousins and their kids and her childhood best friend, Jamie, who was now a successful dentist and as gay as sun was bright. He had come out in high school and his parents weren't ready to hear the news, so Jayde and her family had taken him in until his family was ready to accept him for who he was. If anyone in Houston knew her best, it was Jamie as they had kept in close touch throughout the years.
Jayde was sitting at a table with Jamie, Abbie and Caitlyn when Thanh came over to their table with a tall and handsome man.
"Hey Keith," Caitlyn greeted him and stood up and gave him a hug. Jayde remembered Keith. He had gone to high school and studied pre-Med with the elder sister, and Caitlyn had had a crush on him for as long as Jayde could remember, but they had never been anything more than friends.
Thanh introduced Keith to Jamie and Abbie and then turned to Jayde. "And you remember Jayde?"
Keith had an uncertain look on his face.
"The Baby," Caitlyn clarified and recognition dawned. Abbie and Jamie looked at each other, both suppressing their amusement.
"Baby!" he said, smiling and then shook his head. "Not a baby anymore."
"No, not a baby anymore," Jayde said and stood up and shook his hand.
"Keith's a surgeon at the same hospital as me," Thanh explained and Jayde knew exactly what her mother was up to.
"Congratulations," Jayde told him and then lowered her voice, "But my condolences for having to work with my mother."
"Be nice!" Thanh told her and left Keith in their company.
"I don't know if you remember my friend, Jamie," Jayde said. "He lived with us for awhile."
"Yeah, I think so," Keith answered.
"Jamie's a surgeon too," Jayde added.
"Oral surgeon,' Jamie corrected her and it was quite obvious the dentist was taken with Dr. Keith.
"I need another drink, anyone want anything?" Jayde asked. Everyone shook their heads but Jayde picked up Abbie's beer bottle and inspected it. "You need a refill. Come on, woman."
Jayde led the way into the kitchen and began to make some drinks. She cut up a lime, muddled it with some sugar in a shaker, added ice and some Cachaca liquor and shook the mixture vigorously. She poured the drink into a glass and handed it to Abbie who had been watching her with rapt attention. Abbie took a sip of the cold citrus cocktail and smiled her approval. "Last time I saw you, you weren't old enough to drink. Now you're making me a drink."
Jayde pulled out another lime to make herself a drink. Smiling while she cut it, she said, "I learned a lot while I was away."
"I'll bet you did,' Abbie commented, taking another drink. 'Oh my God! You're flirting with her! Stop it!' she admonished herself.
Thanh came into the house to get some drinks and saw the two women at the kitchen counter.
"Baby, why aren't you out there talking with Keith?" she asked, no longer trying to be subtle about her intentions. "He's a very smart man and very handsome!"
"Mum, Caity's been in love with him for as long as I can remember," Jayde said calmly. "I'm not going to betray my sister for a man."
Abbie smiled inwardly at the young woman's loyalty.
Thanh shook her head. "I swear, God doesn't want me to be a grandmother."
Handing some beers to her mother, Jayde added, "God doesn't want your guests to go thirsty."
Thanh gave her daughter one last shake of her head and turned to Abbie before leaving, "Will you talk some sense into her please?"
Abbie simply smiled.
"Your mother means well," the federal agent said after the older Vietnamese woman had left.
Jayde opened her mouth to protest or at least give some snarky comment but Abbie cut her off. "Your parents just wanna see you happy."
Jayde closed her mouth and nodded silently as if she was letting the words sink in, but in reality, she really didn't want to get into an argument with Abbie when the argument was meant to be had with her own parents. They picked up their drinks and returned to the backyard and Jayde played nice and was the polite hostess the rest of the evening.
After everyone had left, Jayde was helping her parents to clean up the aftermath. It hadn't taken them too long as most of the cups, plates and cutlery were disposable. They had finished loading the dishes into the dishwasher when Jayde decided to broach the subject.
"Mum, why do you try to set me up all the time?" she asked, wiping down the counter.
"What do you mean all the time?" Thanh asked without answering the question.
"I mean every time I come home for a visit and even tonight, you try to introduce me to a guy," Jayde clarified. "I mean why don't you try to fix up Caity? Why just me?"
"Because Caity dates and brings home boyfriends," Thanh explained. "So I know she's meeting men."
"It's true," Cole nodded in agreement with his wife. "You've never talked about anyone special and you've never brought anyone home."
"Doesn't mean I don't date," Jayde said a hint of defensiveness in her voice.
"I'm just trying to help, Baby," Thanh said, treading lightly, having caught onto the tone of Jayde's last statement.
"I know," Jayde conceded and nodded. She took a deep breath and decided that it was now or never. "Listen, Mum, Dad, there's something I need to tell you."
"You're not sick are you?" Thanh asked, the doctor in her emerging involuntarily.
"No, Mum, I'm not sick," Jayde replied.
Sensing the heaviness of the ensuing conversation, Cole stood behind his wife and wrapped his arms around her. He had always had a sense for when he knew something big was going to happen whenever it involved Jayde. They had a special bond that way.
"You know I love you both and although I didn't follow the path you wanted me to take or live the life you had hoped for, I've always tried to make you proud," Jayde began. When she saw her mom about to speak, she held up her hand, indicating she needed to continue. "I've been proud of what I've done with my life, how far I've come, and you taught me that. But there's one thing I'm not proud of and it's that I haven't been completely honest with you about one thing and I'm tired of keeping this secret all these years." Jayde took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "Mum, Dad...I'm gay."
The silence that hung in the air between them was deafening and Jayde could feel her heartbeat throbbing in her ears. She looked from her mother to her father and swallowed hard. She was about to ask them if they had heard her when they both spoke up at the same time.
"What?" "I know."
It took a couple of seconds before the two word comment was fully understood when two sets of eyes turned to Cole. "What?" the two Merrick women asked him. Jayde's eyes held confusion while Thanh's were accusing.
"I know," Cole repeated, looking at Jayde and loosening his arms around his wife as he had felt her stiffen in his embrace and he knew it to be a sign that she was upset. "I've suspected since you were a kid, following me around with a tool belt helping me to fix things while your sister played with your dolls. Then when you were five, we'd go to the beach and you'd run around without a shirt on, telling people your name was 'Jay'."
"She was just being a tomboy," Thanh argued.
Cole shook his head slightly to tell his wife that it wasn't just a phase. "When we visited you on your twenty-fifth birthday, your mom and sister and I had gone out for breakfast but I had forgotten my camera at your place. I went back to get it and saw you at the front door, kissing a woman and then you let her inside."
The blood drained from both women's faces. Somehow, Jayde found her voice. "I remember. You called me to tell me you were coming back..." Jayde looked into her father's eyes which held nothing but love and warmth. "You were giving me time to hide her." Cole nodded slightly.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Thanh asked, anger rising in her voice. She felt like her husband had betrayed her.
"Because I figured that she wasn't ready to tell us yet," he said. His other reason at the time was that he too was in denial for a short while after he had seen what he did.
Thanh shook her head. "I love you and you'll always be my daughter," she began, tears welling up in her eyes. "But I can't - I can't handle this right now." She turned and headed up the stairs, leaving Cole and Jayde in the kitchen.
Jayde swallowed the lump in her throat and bit back the tears. Her mother was the one who had comforted Jamie when his parents turned their backs on him when they were kids. Her mother had been the one who held him and soothed him those nights when he had stayed at their house. And yet she had turned her back when Jayde spoke the same two words - "I'm gay."
Cole went over to his daughter and pulled her into his arms. "I love you, Baby," he told her and she closed her eyes. The use of her nickname confirmed his unwavering love. "She just needs some time to deal with it. It's a shock for her. Go get some sleep. I'll work on her." He gave her a kiss on her forehead and went upstairs.
"You told them?" Jamie asked, handing her a cup of coffee as they sat at his breakfast table in his loft apartment the next day.
"Yeah, last night," Jayde replied.
"Ironically enough, my mother, the one who supported you and talked to your parents, said she couldn't handle it right now, whatever that means," Jayde said.
"And your dad?"
"He knew," Jayde answered, still flabbergasted by the admission from her father the previous night.
"Yeah, he knew. He was just waiting for me to come out."
"I'm serious," Jayde insisted and smiled and counted her blessings.
"So when you gonna tell him you're in love with his partner?"
"Shut up. I'm not in love with Abbie."
"Please, girl, we both know that's why you ran away," Jamie said, drawing out his inner diva.
"I didn't run away."
"Then what do you call packing your bags and flying to the other side of the ocean for twelve years?"
"It's called making your own life and living."
"Alright, fine," Jayde said grudgingly. "I was in love with her and I left because I was confused and as cliche as it sounds, I needed to get away from here to find myself."
"And now that you've found your very gay self, what oh what is The Baby going to do?"
"We are going to go house hunting," Jayde said and threw a stack of papers of real estate listings at her best friend.
Abbie sat back in her chair on the cafe's patio, letting the warm sun envelope her. Being an FBI Field Agent didn't always afford her regular weekends off to relax, so whenever she had a Saturday or Sunday off, she would take full advantage of it and do nothing but indulge herself and enjoy a day away from the mayhem of work. She was in an oddly happy mood and she chalked it up to the fact that she was able to spend a Sunday with her best friend, Maddison Starr. Abbie had met Maddison twenty years ago at an open house when Abbie first moved to Houston and was looking for a home. Although their appearances could be said to be polar opposites with Maddison's jet black hair and dark eyes a stark contrast to Abbie's platinum blonde hair and green eyes, the two women had found they shared many common interests. They hit it off and became fast friends. Over the years, Maddison progressed from a rookie residential realtor to owning her own commercial real estate company, which meant she worked a lot of weekends and weeknights. It was not often the two women were able to get together for a casual meal on the weekends, however now that Maddison had other realtors working for her, she made the time to spend it with Abbie whenever the agent had a day off.
"You look happy," Maddison observed from across the table. "I haven't seen you this laid back in a long time."
"I'm sitting outside, enjoying coffee with my best friend," Abbie explained. "What's not to be happy about?"
Maddison eyed her suspiciously. "No, there's something else. Have you met someone?"
"No, I haven't met someone," Abbie said a little to quickly.
"Have you been getting laid?"
"Say, is that partner of yours still delicious to look at?"
"And still very married," Abbie warned her friend. "Don't get any ideas."
"Me? Get ideas?" Maddison asked innocently.
"Yes, you. You're always stirring up - " she stopped mid-sentence.
Maddison looked at her, waiting for her to finish and realized she wasn't going to complete her sentence when she saw Abbie wave to someone behind her. Maddison turned around and saw two people, a man and a woman, approaching the cafe patio and entrance from the parking lot.
"Hey, long time no see," the young woman with a broad smile said to Abbie when they reached the table.
"Hey, kiddo," Abbie greeted the woman in return and began the introductions. "Maddie, this is Jayde and Jamie. Guys, this is Maddie." Maddison shook their hands and began to wonder how her friend was acquainted with the exotic looking young woman and the obviously gay man. Abbie hadn't mention anyone matching their description to Maddison before.
As if her mind had been read, Abbie said, "Jayde is Cole's youngest daughter."
"Oh, I see," Maddison said and smiled.
"And Jamie's my oldest friend," Jayde added.
"Girl, do not call me old," Jamie protested.
"Would you rather I refer to you as my gayest friend?" Jayde asked.
The two older women at the table smiled, enjoying the lighthearted joking. "Do you guys want to join us?" Abbie asked. For some reason, the question triggered an alert in Maddison's head and she watched the exchange between the two women.
"Thanks, but we're just grabbing some coffees to go," Jayde said regretfully. "We're gonna go see some houses."
"You're house hunting already? Yesterday the car, now a house? You do know you can't buy a house in one day right?" Abbie asked teasingly.
"Yeah, I know. It's just that I'd like to find a place as soon as possible," Jayde replied. "You wouldn't happen to know a realtor would you?"
"Actually, she's sitting right here," Abbie said, grinning. "Mind you, Maddie does commercial real estate these days."
"Doesn't mean I've forgotten how to do residential realty," Maddison reminded her. "I'd be happy to help you out."
"Really? Wow, that's great," Jayde said excitedly and held up her collection of listings she was going to try to go see that day. "Would you mind taking a look at these and let me know what you think?"
"Sure thing," Maddie said and took the papers. "You guys go get your coffee while I look this over and we'll go find you a house."
Jayde and Jamie went into the cafe for their coffees and Maddie turned her attention to the papers which Jayde had just given her.
"Thanks, Maddie," Abbie said. "I realize I kinda put you on the spot there."
"Nonsense," Maddison brushed it off. "I'd be happy to do it."
By the time Jayde and Jamie returned to their table, Maddison had already given a thorough skimming through the various properties Jayde had shown her and had picked out which ones were overpriced, which ones had key words that mean the place was a money pit and which ones would be worth the time to look at. She explained her findings to Jayde who had listened intently. Maddison had wondered if it would be better for Jayde to rent instead of buying so soon and Jayde explained that given the current state of the economy and the the real estate market, she felt that the advantages of buying a home outweighed the risk, and that even if she were to relocate again before six months her company would cover the costs to sell. Furthermore, she felt that if she did have to relocate again, she could afford to rent out a home in Houston. Having ascertained that the young woman was not a rookie or naive about buying a property, Maddison discussed what Jayde was looking for in a home made a mental note of all the key points and features Jayde had listed. They gathered their coffees and prepared to head out. "Will you come and take a look with us?" Jayde asked Abbie in a tone that the older woman had never heard before. It was a mixture of uncertainty, childlike honesty and an implied raw trust and desire for the older woman's opinions on a big investment.
"Of course," Abbie replied what she felt was the only answer to the question.
Jayde and Jamie drove in the Maserati and followed the other two women who were in Maddison's car.
"Nice car," Maddison said, pulling out of the parking lot.
"Mmhmm," Abbie answered looking in the side mirror to make sure the black sports car was in her view.
"Pretty girl," Maddison added and glanced over at Abbie to gauge her reaction.
"Mmhmm," Abbie answered again, preoccupied with looking in the mirror. "Wait, what?"
Maddison only grinned and shook her head. "Gotcha."
"What?" Abbie questioned again but only received a laugh in return from her friend.
They spent the day viewing two houses and two condos from Jayde's list but none of them really stood out for her. One of them had too small of a kitchen; one had three bedrooms but each room was smaller than what Jayde wanted; one condo didn't have a nice enough view for the price tag while the other had felt too "sterile" with it's white walls and metal rails along the staircase. When she had commented on the square footage of the kitchens and bedrooms in the houses, Jamie had teased her that her flat in London had been a fraction of the size of houses. Jayde reminded him that she was still a Texan despite having been away and when in Texas, things had to be Texas-sized. After they left the fourth property, Jayde had resigned to the idea of doing some more research to find more listings to look at over the next week.
"Listen, there's one more place I'd like to take you," Maddison said while they walked back to their cars. "It wasn't in your list, but had one of my guys searched for what you wanted. Are you interested in taking a look?"
"I guess I've got nothing to lose now do I?" Jayde joked.
"Well, if you like the place, it'll probably empty your bank account, honey," Jamie commented as he knew all too well just how expensive Jayde's tastes could be.
"And still put me in debt for twenty-five years," Jayde added with a chuckle. She turned to Maddison and smiled. "Let's go!"
Maddison led the way to Central North area of the city and they pulled up to a three story contemporary modern style home that looked out onto a park across the street. From the front, the first level was a double-garage which had a frosted glass panel door, above which were two wrap around balconies, one on the second floor and one on the third floor. The house was white with black trim and Jayde was beginning to wonder if it was going to be as sterile on the inside as the last condo they had seen. Maddison led the way to the front door and paused before she let them in.
"They just completed building and furnishing this place on Friday and will start showing next weekend," she told them. "In other words, the public hasn't seen it yet."
"So how is it that we're getting to see it?" Jayde asked curiously.
"Because someone owes me a favor and I cashed in," Maddison replied. "I think you're going to like it."
Jayde nodded and Maddison opened the door and turned on the first set of lights. Instead of the white hospital walls and hard ceramic tile floors she was expecting to see, the interior of the house had cream colored walls and light colored bamboo hardwood, which, coupled with the soft glow of the lights gave the house a warm and inviting feeling. They went up to the second floor to the open and spacious kitchen, living room and dining room area which had a vaulted ceiling. The living room had French doors that led out to the balcony. On the same floor was a guest bedroom and a bathroom. On the third floor was the master bedroom which too had French doors to the balcony looking out at the park across the street. The ensuite bathroom had a jacuzzi tub and a shower which Jayde noted had two shower heads and had ample room for two people. Then there was the walk in closet which was as large as Jayde's bedroom in her London flat. There was a second bedroom on the same floor as well as a bathroom and then a third room which had been furnished as a home office but could just as easily been a third bedroom.
There was certainly enough space and the view in the front was nice, but what caught Jayde's eye about the house was the decor theme. The house was decorated in a Japanese theme with the windows and doors throughout the house covered with shoji sliding doors. The furniture and even the kitchen cupboards and drawers were all a dark wood color which was a perfect contrast to the cream colored walls. She had never seen a Japanese style home before and she was sold. They went back down to the first floor where the games and exercise rooms were. Again, there were French doors, covered by shoji sliding doors, which led out to the spacious back yard. Jayde was speechless as she looked out at the patio and rock garden. There were bamboo trees and two cherry trees and a bamboo water fountain which fed water into a fish pond.
Jamie and Maddison went back up to the second floor as the dentist had wanted to scope out the floor plan so he could get some decorating ideas for his friend. Jayde walked over to the fountain and ran a finger through the small water fall. She looked up and saw Abbie watching her intently. Abbie raised her eyebrows in silent question.
"What do you think?" Jayde asked her in the same tone she had used at the cafe when she asked Abbie to join them.
"I think it's you," Abbie replied smiling.
"It's a bit big for one person," Jayde tried to rationalize but they both knew it was pointless. "Not to mention, I've only seen four other homes before this one."
Abbie walked over to her and they stood side by side, looking at the fish pond and plants and flowers surrounding it. "If you researched for homes like you researched for your car, I have no doubt in my mind that this house is for you," Abbie encouraged her. "My only concern is the price tag on this monster."
Jayde looked over at Abbie and for the first time in twelve years, she felt nervous again in the presence of the older woman. 'Breathe. If you should be nervous about anything, it's about signing a twenty-five year mortgage!' she thought to herself.
Abbie sensed the change in Jayde and she reached out and put her hand on the brunette's upper arm. "Hey, you okay?" she asked softly.
The touch sent shivers through Jayde's body and she had to swallow hard to find her voice. Finally she nodded. "Let's go ask Maddie how much this is going to cost me."
After the financial discussions between Jayde and Maddison, Jayde opted to make an offer on not just the house but on the furnishings as well. She figured that way, she'd save herself the trouble of furniture shopping, much to Jamie's dismay who had his heart set on decorating the place for her. While Maddison made phone calls to start the negotiations, they headed out for dinner. By the time dinner was over, a final offer had been accepted by both parties, Jayde and the seller, pending financial approval.
As Maddison drove Abbie home, she decided to do a little poking and prodding.
"So you gonna tell me about this kid who drives a Maserati and pretty much just bought a house on the spot?" Maddison asked.
"What's to tell - she's smart and good at what she does and is paid well for it," Abbie explained.
"Okay, so tell me how you feel about her?" Maddison dove in with both feet.
"What? What the hell are you talking about?"
"Oh come one, Abbie, it's me. You can lie to yourself but you can't lie to me. I saw the way you were looking at her all day." After Abbie had come to terms with her sexuality, the only other person she had told was Maddison, who had been nothing but full of support.
"She's just a kid. And not just any kid, she's my partner's kid," Abbie countered, not denying the chemistry which Maddison had referred to.
"So you are attracted to her," Maddison stated more than asked.
"I don't know," Abbie said quietly. "Last time I saw her, she was eighteen, a baby. And that's how I've pictured her all these years. Then all of a sudden she's back and she's...she's..."
"A beautiful young woman," Maddison finished for her. Abbie could not deny the fact and so she sat in silence, looking out the window.
After going for a drink with Jamie, Jayde returned to her parents house and both her mother and father were sitting in the living room, her father watching T.V., her mother reading.
"Hey," she greeted them and flopped onto the couch beside her dad.
"Are you hungry? There's leftovers in the fridge," her mother asked her, not looking up from her book.
"No, I've eaten already, thanks," Jayde said. "Hey, I have some news to share." She saw her mother hesitantly close her book. "I went house hunting today."
"Yeah? See anything you like?" Cole asked.
"I did actually," Jayde answered. "I ran into Abbie and met her friend, Maddison who's a realtor and she showed me a few places. I've made an offer on a place in Central North."
"What?" her parents said in unison.
"It's a great place - you'll like it," she said. "Abbie thinks it suits me."
Cole nodded. He felt relieved knowing that Abbie thought the place was good enough for his baby girl. He trusted Abbie with his life and valued her opinions. He was more than happy that Abbie was there to look out for Jayde.
"So when do we get to see it?" Thanh finally asked. "Did you talk to your uncle yet about getting financing?"
"Yes, I called him and I'm going to see him tomorrow," Jayde replied. "And hopefully you can see it sometime this week. I just need to get things in order and get this deal done."
"Congratulations," Thanh told her and came over to give her a hug. Jayde was relieved that her mother wasn't giving her the silent treatment after the previous day's revelation.
"Well, I'm gonna head upstairs and call it a night," Jayde said and kissed her parents good night.
She went upstairs, changed into her pajama pants and tank top and pulled out her Blackberry to schedule all the things she needed to do for the house purchase. Once all the items were listed and saved, she paused for a moment and then began to type.
*Thanks for your help today.* She looked at the screen one more time and then sent the message. She went to brush her teeth and heard her phone beep. She picked it up. There was a message from Abbie.
*Anytime. Thanks for inviting me along.* Jayde smiled and typed in a reply.
*Once this goes through, I'll need to do some shopping. Think you'll be up for that?* She hit send.
Beep. *Jamie would be crushed if you didn't take him.*
*He'll live. What do you say?* Send.
Beep. *Sure. Just give me a holler when you want to go.*
*Will do. Thanks. Goodnight!* Send.
Smiling, Jayde put her phone away and went to bed.
Across town in Abbie's house, she sat on her couch, staring at her phone in her hand. She felt a flutter in her stomach at the thought of Jayde inviting her out to go shopping. Her mind had been spinning all night ever since Maddie had verbally voiced feelings she had been having all weekend. As much as she denied it, Maddie was right. She was attracted to her partner's young daughter and she was becoming more and more curious about who this young woman had become.
The week proved to be hectic for Jayde as she had to visit her office to get some paperwork and meet her boss, meet with Maddie and a real estate lawyer and of course meet with her uncle at the bank to get the required financing. By Saturday, she had put some serious mileage on her new car and had not seen much of her parents as her father was working long hours on the serial killer case and her mother was working the afternoon-to-evening shift at the hospital ER. All the financing and paperwork had been completed for the house and now all she had to do was wait for the deal to close and the house would be hers. Maddie had told her that the process would take several weeks, much to the ire of the young woman who was used to making fast paced deals in her line of work.
She was at her parent's house, busying herself with making dinner as Caitlyn was going to come over and they would have a family dinner. She had been craving some traditional Vietnamese cooking and so took it upon herself to crack open her mother's handwritten recipe book. She had a pot of sweet and sour soup with fish and shrimp simmering away in one corner of the stove, while she had some sliced pork braising in a sweet fish sauce mixture with black pepper in another pot. The scent of Jasmine rice cooking in the rice cooker filled the house.
"Where's mom?" Caitlyn asked as she entered the kitchen.
"She's still at work," Jayde answered, cleaning up the kitchen.
"So who cooked dinner?"
"I did, smart ass."
"Yes. Me. Cook."
"This I gotta see," Caitlyn said chuckling and went over to the stove. She opened up the pot lids and inspected the food. To her surprise, it all looked quite appetizing. "I guess you're not such a fuck up after all."
"Suck it, Barbie," Jayde said, smirking. She grabbed a beer out of the fridge and handed her sister a bottle.
Caitlyn sat down on one of the bar stools at the counter and looked at her sister. "So, do you enjoy being the black sheep or is it just pure coincidence that you find ways to test mom and dad?"
"What are you babbling about?" Jayde asked setting her bottle down on the counter.
"You being gay," Caitlyn stated simply.
"Who told you?"
"I guess I should be relieved she talked about ir and isn't ignoring it, hoping it'll go away."
"No, she's pretty upset about it. I do have to thank you, 'cause now I really look like the golden child," Caitlyn said flippantly and then turned serious. "She's got NIMBY syndrome, you know, Not In My Back Yard?"
"Yeah, that's becoming quite clear," Jayde signed.
"Give her some time," the elder sister advised and gave a wink. "Dad and I will work on her."
"Thanks," Jayde said quietly with a grateful smile.
"So, you're for sure gay? Like, not just curious?"
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure," Jayde said with an affirmative nod.
"How many women have you dated?"
"Don't ask, don't tell, Barbie," Jayde said and took a drink of her beer.
"Oh come on, I'm your sister," Caitlyn whined.
"A few," Jayde answered with a cryptic smile.
"So what's it like being with another woman?"
"You'll just have to try it for yourself," Jayde said with a smirk. The phone rang and it was Cole calling to let them know he would be home shortly. Jayde extended the dinner invitation to Abbie and Cole said he'd pass along the message.
After hanging up the phone, Cole passed on the message to Abbie who was hesitant at first, but Cole insisted and said "Jayde made dinner - that's a rarity. I'd grab this opportunity if I were you." She finally agreed, despite the voice in her head telling her she should stay away from the young woman as much as possible. She had found that over the course of the week, she had been spending too much time wondering and thinking about the Merrick daughter. It didn't help matters that Jayde had stopped by at their office one morning and brought coffee and bagels for them. And it wasn't just any coffee and any bagel. Jayde had somehow known to bring them both their favorite coffees and bagels, made exactly how they liked them. Abbie had wondered if Cole had told his daughter about her preferences for breakfast foods but when asked, Jayde had just simply smiled and said "I have a good memory."
To everyone's delight, dinner turned out to be delicious, with Thanh inquiring why her daughter didn't cook more often. Jayde replied that it was just easier to eat out which earned a "You're too spoiled" comment from her dad. After dinner, Abbie received a phone call from an excited Maddison who claimed to have a surprise for Abbie that night. So she bid her hosts goodnight and left. After cleaning up, Jayde received a call from Jamie and they made plans to go out because according to Jamie, his best friend was in dire need of getting laid.
The music flowed through her body, coursing through her veins, mixing and mingling with the alcohol from the few drinks already making the way through her system. She felt happy. Happy to be out with her best friend; happy to not have to think about her new position she was starting on Monday; happy not to have to think about the house and most of all, happy to not have to think of her mother's reaction to her coming out. Plain and simple, she was happy to not have to think at all.
"I need the restroom," she informed Jamie, making her way out of the booth. "Don't go home with some hot guy and leave me stranded here alone."
"I got your back, girl," Jamie called after her as she laughed and weaved through the masses of women and few men in the nightclub.
Abbie and Maddison entered the nightclub behind a group of twenty or so women.
"Why are we here again?" Abbie leaned into the realtor so that she could be heard over the thumping of the music.
"Because I've decided that you needed to get out," Maddison replied. "When was the last time you got laid?"
"Probably the last time you two took me out to a place not unlike this one," Abbie answered.
"I'm not interested in another one night stand," Abbie said.
"From what I heard, she wanted more. It was you who wasn't interested!"
Abbie caught sight of a young brunette gliding through the crowd, her hair obstructing Abbie from seeing her face, and she disappeared towards the restrooms. There was something familiar about her but Abbie wasn't quite sure what it was.
"I suppose I could get interested in her," she said when Maddison had followed her gaze and saw who had caught her attention.
"You can thank me later for dragging your sorry ass off your couch," Maddison said laughingly as they headed to the bar.
On her way back from the restroom, Jayde saw that the nightclub had quickly filled up during her brief absence. She squeezed by the crowds of women, side-stepping in between the bar and behind a tall and slender blond with short hair. The blond spun around to call the bartender over and nearly knocked her over.
"Shit, I'm sorry!" the blond said and reached out, holding her steady by her shoulders. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine, thanks," Jayde replied, straightening up and brushing her hair off her face. She finally looked into the face of the blond whose hands were still on her shoulders and they both froze. "Abbie?"
"Jayde?" Abbie asked in complete amazement. It was the older woman's turn to be knocked off balance. "Wh-what are you doing here?"
"I'm here with Jamie," Jayde replied. She knew her answer was cryptic but she was still to shocked at seeing Abbie to tell her the complete truth. A sense of disappointed washed over Abbie as she realized that Jamie was probably on the prowl for a new boyfriend and Jayde had come along to keep him company. Jayde saw Maddison and smiled. "Hey Maddie! What are you guys doing here?"
"I figured Abbie needed to get out a little more," Maddison answered truthfully.
Jayde looked at both of the women quizzically but decided to wait to clear up the questions that were swimming around in her mind. "Listen, Jamie and I have a table over there if you want to join us."
"Thanks, we'd love to," Maddison told her and Jayde led the way across the nightclub. Maddison tugged on Abbie's arm while they walked and told her, "Is this not fate? You were just ogling her and it turns you, you already knew her!" Abbie did all she could to not blush, knowing full well her best friend knew what had gone through her mind when she eyed the young brunette from across the club.
When Jamie saw the two older women behind Jayde, he excitedly jumped up from his seat and gave them hugs and greeted them with kisses on their cheeks. After everyone was seated, a waitress came by and Maddison and Abbie ordered their drinks.
"So you guys been here long?" Abbie asked.
"About an hour," Jamie answered. "I've been trying to find this girl a date - or at least get her laid but she's been content with just sitting here with me." Abbie was now confused more than ever. Why would Jamie take Jayde out to a gay bar to meet someone? She noted the look that passed between the two young friends. If she interpreted it correctly, it almost seemed as if Jayde was telling Jamie to stop talking.
"Personally, I think that butch over there in the blue plaid shirt might do this girl some good," Jamie continued, ignoring Jayde's warning looks.
"Wait a minute," Maddison said, looking at the woman a few tables away from them and then back at Jamie and Jayde. "Jayde, are you ...are you gay?"
"Honey, you hadn't told them yet?" Jamie asked her, feigning contriteness for having outed his friend.
"Unlike you, I'm not a walking open flaming book," Jayde told him with a sneer which eventually turned into a smile. She turned to Maddison who was sitting across from her, beside Jamie. "And yes, I'm gay."
Jamie clapped his hands together. "Oh how I love hearing those words!" Then he turned to Maddison and invited her to join him on the dance floor. She grinned, happily accepting his invitation.
"Did you want to join them?" Abbie asked.
Jayde shook her head. "No, I've had one too many already and need to let the buzz wear off. Besides, I'd rather sit and talk with you."
"Well, it would appear that I've missed a few key things while you were away all those years," Abbie joked.
"As have I," Jayde said with a raised eyebrow.
Abbie laughed. It was a strange yet comfortable feeling, talking to Jayde Merrick, the woman, and not Jayde, Cole's daughter.
"You wanna get outta here? Go get a cup of coffee?" Jayde asked.
"Yes, please," Abbie accepted without hesitation.
They said their goodbyes to their friends and made their way to a coffee shop down the street from the nightclub. They ordered their drinks and found a small table with a couple of arm chairs in a corner beside a fireplace.
"So, does your father know you're partying it up in a lesbian bar?" Abbie asked settling into one of the chairs. She kept her voice and mood light, so as to not make Jayde feel like she was being interrogated or talked down to.
"Does he know you do?" Jayde replied with a smirk.
"I'm not his daughter."
"Good point," Jayde conceded. "I came out to them last week."
"How'd they take it?"
"My mom's acting like if she doesn't talk about it, it didn't happen," Jayde said, a hint of sadness in her eyes. "Surprisingly though, my dad knew."
"He did?" Abbie asked, completely surprised. Cole had not mentioned anything to her in the twenty years they had been partners, and given his devout Catholic upbringing, she thought he would've been the one to have taken it harder and not Thanh.
"Yeah, he said he'd suspected it all along since I was little," Jayde explained. "But a few years ago, I guess he caught me without my knowing it. But he never said anything because he figured I wasn't ready to come out. Leave it to a fed to sit on some knowledge and let me squirm!"
"Hey, you got a problem with feds?" Abbie joked.
"Not all feds," Jayde answered, sipping her coffee, gazing into green eyes over the top of her coffee mug.
"So, are you enjoying your car?" Abbie asked, changing the topic as she was feeling slightly affected by the younger woman's gaze.
"Immensely," Jayde replied and put her mug down on the table in between them. "So, am I right in assuming that you and Jake divorced because you're gay?"
Surprised by the young woman's directness, Abbie was momentarily speechless but eventually regained her composure. "Yeah. As corny as it sounds, I did a lot of soul searching after my divorce and finally was able to come out to myself."
"Congratulations," Jayde said with a warm and supportive smile. The flame of hope which she had long ago tried to suppress sprung back to life.
"How about you? Did you discover yourself while you were abroad?"
"Me? No, I kinda knew I was gay when I was sixteen. But I did come into my own so to speak after I went away," Jayde answered.
"You know, I never really understood or knew why you wanted to go all the way to Cambridge for school," Abbie asked, without really asking.
Jayde looked up from her coffee and into Abbie's eyes and they locked gazes. "There were too many distractions here," she said quietly. Abbie's heart started to beat faster as she coudn't help but feel like the woman sitting across from her was flirting with her.
"So how did you feel about coming back. Weren't you concerned about the distractions?" Abbie teased her softly.
"I was hesitant at first," Jayde admitted. "But then I realized that it was time for me to stop running away."
"I'm sure your mom will come around. She just needs some time," Abbie tried to reassure her. Abbie didn't allow herself to go down the path which Jayde was hinting at and so she had diverted her interpretation of Jayde's statement and played it safe.
Jayde realized that Abbie had misinterpreted her intentions and decided to let it go. She could tell that Abbie still saw her as Cole's daughter and not her own woman. Besides, hitting on the older woman after having confessed to being slightly buzzed wouldn't have been the brightest of ideas. It would take some time, but she vowed to show Abbie that she wasn't a kid anymore. They spent the next couple of hours talking about Jayde's life in London - Jayde intent on letting Abbie get a glimpse into her life outside of her parent's house while Abbie's internal struggle between seeing Jayde as a grown woman and keeping her lust in check only grew more and more.
Her first week in her new office had been nothing short of overwhelming and frenzied. She had been used to meeting with clients everyday when she was in sales. When she became the manager of the sales team in the U.K. office, her meetings with clients became less frequent, but the larger clients still wanted to meet with her. She'd often have impromptu meetings with her direct reports but they were mostly informal as she knew them all quite well. But her new post in Houston was different. She was brought on with a mission and she had more people reporting to her, not only from the sales team in Houston but from all the sales teams worldwide. The pressure was on and her boss had high expectations of her. She had had meetings all day, every day, during that first week. First, she formally met with her boss as he outlined and impressed upon her what results the company was expecting from her and the time line in which she had to achieve these results. Then she met with with all the sales managers who had flown in from the various offices from around the world. After that, she had individual meetings with the sales managers to let them know of her expectations and for her to hear their concerns and issues. And lastly, she met with each sales person in the Houston office to get to know them better firstly as people, and secondly as account managers. Her philosophy was that if she could understand their human nature and what drove each of them, she could re-arrange and re-organize their responsibilities and accounts accordingly.
She had just finished her last meeting for the week and returned to her office. It was approaching lunch time and she was already tired and ready to call it a day. It was only Thursday. She started to check her email when her phone rang. It was the Houston sales manager, one of her direct reports. She let out a sigh and picked up the phone. She just didn't have the energy or attention span for another meeting today, but the fact was, this was her job now - to attend meetings. The sales manager sounded quite upbeat and happy when he told her that he had been able to line up a full day of golfing on Friday for her, himself and Presidents from four of their largest clients. The schedule was for them to golf with two of their clients in the morning, and then again with the other two in the afternoon. She knew this was a big feat to have been able to line up these meetings, even if they were informal, but she knew that this was another key way of doing business. She agreed with the schedule he proposed and thanked him.
As soon as she hung up the phone, there was a knock on the glass door of her office. "Christ almighty," she sighed and waved at the executive assistant on the other side of her door to enter. The young woman walked in, obviously still nervous around her and said quietly, "There are some FBI agents here to see you."
"What?" Jayde asked, confused momentarily until she saw who the agents were outside her office through the glass walls. She let out her breath and smiled. "Please let them in."
The young woman nodded and turned back to the door way. She motioned for the agents to enter who were looking around the large office with subtle awe. "Thank you, Carol," Jayde said. "Can you please hold my calls?"
"Yes, ma'am," Carol answered.
"Please, call me Jayde."
"Yes, Jayde," the assistant said and left the office, closing the door behind her.
"I can't believe you told them you were FBI," Jayde said, shaking her head and coming out from around her desk. She gave Cole and Abbie brief hugs.
"I can't believe I needed an appointment to see if my daughter wanted to go for lunch," Cole told her, still looking around the spacious office which had all glass walls and a nice view of the park across the street from the office building. There was a large mahogany desk which Jayde was sitting at, two book shelves and filing cabinets, two leather guest chairs facing the desk and a leather couch against the wall beside the door. "You told me you were going to manage the sales team. You didn't tell me about those two little letters in front of your name on that name plate out there."
Jayde motioned for them to sit in the guest chairs and she went back around the desk and sat in her own chair. "I didn't want to make a bid deal of it. Besides, this is kind of an interim position because the last guy was doing so horrible."
"You're VP of Sales - that's a bid deal," Cole said, pride written all over his face. "I'm proud of you, kiddo."
"Thanks," Jayde said smiling. "So why did you feel the need to tell them you were FBI?"
"We had to get clearance through the metal detectors in the lobby so had to identify ourselves," Abbie explained. "The security guard and your assistant there just naturally assumed we were here on business."
"Great," Jayde said and closed her eyes briefly. "I can hear the rumors starting already."
"Humor your old man and come out for lunch with us," Cole invited her.
"Hang on," Jayde said and checked her calendar on her computer.
"Can you believe this? She's seeing if she can fit us in," Cole said to Abbie beside him and then turned to his daughter, "So, Miss VP, think you can pencil us in."
Jayde pretended to contemplate the idea. "Yeah, I think I can pencil you in for lunch today," she said with a thoughtful look on her face and then smiled. "Please, get me outta here before someone else pulls me into another meeting." She stood up and grabbed her purse.
Abbie had been in complete awe since she had seen the nameplate outside of Jayde's office. No wonder the kid was driving a Maserati and didn't even bat an eye when Maddie had told her the price of the house. She had certainly moved up the corporate ladder and quite quickly too. Taking in the image of Jayde in her office, wearing charcoal dress pants and a black button shirt with French cuffs, it finally hit her that this young woman really was a woman with a successful career and no longer the shy teenager she had remembered.
Jayde opened the door for them and they saw an older man in a blue dress shirt and black dress pants talking to Carol at her desk.
Cole and Abbie walked out first and Jayde followed them out and stopped at the assistant's desk. "Carol, I'm heading out for lunch. Call me if you need anything. See you later, Kirk."
Carol nodded and the man put his hand on Jayde's arm. "Jayde, is everything okay?"
Jayde looked at him and then at Carol and realized she must have told him about her visitors. She smiled. "Yes, everything's okay. Yes, they're FBI, but I'm not under investigation," she explained and then introduced her visitors. "Kirk, this is my father, Special Agent Cole Merrick and his partner, Special Agent Abbie Weston. Guys, this is Kirk Johnson, my boss."
The three of them shook hands and Cole added, "We just came by to see if she was free for lunch."
"Good to know," Kirk said with relief. "Enjoy your lunch. Jayde, can you come see me when you get back?"
"Sure thing," Jayde replied and led her father and Abbie out.
They made their way down the street from Jayde's building to a steak restaurant where they had a nice meal and Jayde shared with them what she had been doing for the past week. Cole was brimming with pride seeing his daughter shaking hands with men in suits when they had entered the restaurant and some even came over to say hello to her during their meal. It was obvious they were clients who had heard of her arrival and her new position and all had expressed an interest in meeting with her over lunch or for a round of golf. He felt like they were dining with a Hollywood celebrity.
After lunch, they walked Jayde back to her office and Cole and Abbie drove back to their office. In the car, Abbie couldn't help but chuckle at the smile that had imprinted itself on Cole's face. "Congratulations, old man, your kid's a star," Abbie told him.
"You know, she had always taken on the roll of the black sheep in the family whenever we'd have a get together and let Caitlyn have the limelight," Cole mused out loud. "I just never really knew how humble or modest she was."
"You did a good job with her," Abbie complimented him. "Between you and Thanh, was there ever any doubt how smart she'd turn out to be?"
"Think she'll buy me a Maserati?" Cole deadpanned.
"I'm sure if you asked her nicely," Abbie commented.
Cole shook his head. "My kid's a VP. How cool is that?"
Abbie smiled and shook her head. *She might be your kid, but she's all grown up now," she thought. Despite her hesitations, after having seen just how much Jayde had matured and that she was now a career woman, Abbie finally allowed herself to embrace her attraction to the younger woman.
3 weeks later
Jayde had spent the last three weeks traveling around to all of her companies various offices to meet with the local sales forces and work out plans with them for the next quarter. Some of the sales guys were hesitant about having someone so young in her position but once they met with her and got to know her, they saw her interest in getting to know them and they felt comfortable with her and supportive of her proposed initiatives. By the time she was enroute back to Houston on Thursday night, she was slightly jet lagged and tired. When the plane landed, she turned on her Blackberry and there was a message for her from Maddison to call her back.
As soon as she got off the plane and was greeted by her driver, hired by her company. They headed to the baggage claim carousel as she dialed Maddison's number. She had been expecting to hear about her house deal.
"Maddison Starr," came the greeting.
"Hey Maddie, it's Jayde."
"Jayde, how are you?"
"Tired. My plane just landed. Please tell me you have good news."
"I do have good news. The deal closed. The house is yours."
"Thank God for that," Jayde said, relieved. "So, when do I get my keys?"
"That's up to you," Maddison replied. "I have the keys. I can meet you as soon as you want."
"Okay, I'm just grabbing my luggage. Lemme drop my stuff off first and then I can meet you at the house," Jayde proposed. "So two hours?"
"Okay, I'll see you then."
Jayde spotted her suitcase and her driver grabbed it and off they went to his car. She relaxed in the back seat and pulled out her phone.
*Hey. Got plans tonight?* She sent the message to Abbie's cell phone.
Beep. *No, but I heard from Maddie you're getting your house. Congrats!*
*Thanks. Wanna meet me there?*
Beep. *You sure you wouldn't rather have your parents or Jamie there?*
Beep. *Okay. I'll see you there.*
Jayde put her phone away and smiled. There was no one else she'd rather share the momentous occasion with. Over the past three weeks, she had not had much communication with Abbie other than pictures of the various airports she had been to. It had started with Jayde having been unable to call her father when she had landed in Beijing at the start of her trip, so she had texted Abbie instead to pass on the message to her father. From that point on, Jayde would take a picture of every airport she landed in and sent it to Abbie who would then update Cole on the whereabouts of his daughter, even though his phone had been fixed and Jayde could've called him herself.
She finally arrived at her parent's home and dropped off her luggage and quickly showered and changed into a pair of jeans and black knit sweater with a white t-shirt underneath. Her parents were off at a fund raiser for Thanh's hospital and so she was out of the house in no time without distractions. She hopped into her Maserati, her fatigue having quickly dissipated, and headed to her new house. When she pulled up to the house, Maddison and Abbie were already there.
She parked in the driveway beside Maddie's car and got out. Maddie held the keys out in front of her and Jayde took them and opened the door to her house. They went up to the second floor and Jayde flopped herself onto the lazy boy arm chair in the living room, grinning.
"Congratulations!" Maddison told her as she pulled out a bottle of champagne from the fridge. It was then that Jayde noticed there were champagne glasses on the counter of the kitchen island. Maddie had been prepared. The champagne bottle was opened and three glasses were filled. The three women gathered around the counter and made a toast to Jayde's new house.
"Alright," Jayde said, taking a sip of her champagne. "House warming party, Saturday night."
"You just got back and just got your house. Are you ready for a party?" Abbie asked, awed by Jayde's energy. "Don't you need to settle in first?"
"Bah," Jayde brushed off her concerns. "Maddie's already taken care of making sure the house is ready with all the utilities so the house is ready to go. I'll put Jamie in charge of getting the refreshments and Caitlyn to pick up the food."
"You got it all figured out, huh?" Abbie asked admiringly.
"I didn't get to be VP without some planning skills, you know," Jayde informed her and gave her a wink. She pulled out her phone and sent text messages to Jamie, Caitlyn and her parents about the party, to spread the news to friends and family. The three women wandered around the house, admiring the craftsmanship and shared decorating ideas. There really wasn't much to add to the house as Jayde had bought it with all the existing furnishings, but she still needed to get things such as towels and linens, dishes, glasses and flatware. After giving some advice on where to shop for such items, Maddison excused herself. Abbie stood up to leave as well since she had caught a ride with Maddie, but Jayde caught her eye.
"Stay for awhile?" Jayde asked softly. "I can give you a ride home."
"Yeah, keep the girl company in her new house will ya?" Maddison encouraged her with a wink and a smile. Abbie agreed and they saw Maddie out and then retreated to the back yard. There was a gas fireplace on the patio which after some comical tries and searching for instructions, they were able to finally turn it on.
Sitting back in an Adirondack chair, Abbie said, "I was right."
Jayde gave her an inquiring look.
"This house suits you."
Jayde smiled and nodded. "Thanks. And thanks for your support."
"Well, I don't think I could've talked you out of it even if I tried."
"I guess you could say that once I have my mind set on something, I'm not easily dissuaded."
"Somehow, I don't doubt that at all," Abbie commented. "So, how was your trip?"
"Exhausting," Jayde said with a sigh. "I haven't been in that many time zones before in my life." Her trip had started off in Beijing, which was the company's Asia-Pacific headquarters, then to London, the European/Middle Eastern and African headquarters, down to Buenos Aires, the Latin American office, up to Calgary, the Canadian office, and then back home. It had been a whirlwind of a tour and although she enjoyed spending time on the road, she hadn't slept well. She was told that once she started traveling more often, she'd learn to sleep anywhere, anytime.
"Oh, hang on, I almost forgot," Jayde said and dug into her pocket and pulled out a small black velvet pouch. "This is for you. I picked this up in Beijing." She handed it to a surprised looking Abbie.
"You didn't have to get me anything."
Abbie opened the pouch and extracted a white gold necklace with a bright green jade phoenix pendant attached to it.
"It's beautiful," Abbie said, admiring the stone. "But shouldn't it be for you, seeing as you're the Jayde Phoenix?"
"No, it's for you," Jayde said simply with an enigmatic smile.
"Thank you," Abbie said, looking into Jayde's eyes, trying to gauge the younger woman's mood. "Would you mind?" Abbie asked, holding up the necklace and turned in her chair so her back was to the other woman.
"Sure," Jayde answered and took the necklace. She unclasped the necklace, put it around Abbie's neck and clasped it back together, taking her time to admire the curvatures where Abbie's neck met with her collarbones. She had to fight the urge to plant her lips on the older woman's neck. "There you go," she said quietly, almost too quiet.
Abbie turned her head, realizing how close Jayde was to her. She could smell the fresh scent of soap and shampoo emanating from the other woman. She looked into Jayde's chocolate brown eyes and then down to her luscious lips and licked her own lips. In Jayde's head, a voice called out to her telling her that it was now or never. Slowly, she leaned towards Abbie and both their eyes drifted closed in anticipation until they were interrupted by the ringing of Jayde's Blackberry. *it's raining men, alleluia, it's raining men!* The ring tone belonged to one person and only one person in Jayde's contact list. Jayde pulled back and picked up the call.
"You've got terrible timing," she said into the phone.
"And greetings to you too, honey," Jamie greeted her.
"What do you want, Jamie?" Jayde said, a warning tone in her voice and Abbie had to try hard not to laugh.
"I wanted to know what kind of refreshments you want and when we're going shopping for stuff for your house," Jamie explained.
"You can get whatever your heart desires and I kinda had other plans for the shopping," Jayde answered.
"You should invite Abbie to go with you," Jamie suggested.
"That was the plan before you so rudely interrupted," Jayde said, which earned her a raised eyebrow from Abbie.
"Oh my god, is she there with you at the house?"
"Are you making your move?"
"Not anymore." Another raised eyebrow from Abbie.
"Okay, bye," Jamie said hastily.
"Bye." Jayde put her phone away. "Sorry about that."
"So what were these plans that Jamie had interrupted?" Abbie asked, curious and teasingly at the same time. She knew she was playing with fire, but she didn't care.
Jayde smiled, embarrassed at what her words to Jamie had implied. "I was going to ask you if you wanted to go shopping with me tomorrow," she admitted.
"I have to work but I'd love to go afterwards," Abbie told her. Jayde nodded, a silence hanging in between them as brown eyes held green ones. "Speaking of work, I should get going. And you need to get some sleep."
"Okay, I'll drive you home," Jayde said as they got up and made their way out of the house. As they got to the car, Jayde smiled and arched an eyebrow at Abbie holding out her keys. "Wanna drive?"
Without missing a beat, Abbie grabbed the keys. "Thought you'd never ask."
Jayde spent Friday finishing up some paperwork and dropped it off at her office. Then she took the rest of the day off and moved her stuff from her parent's house to her own place. She also made some calls to order food for the housewarming party. By around five o'clock, she was starting to get antsy about spending the evening with Abbie when her phone rang. Abbie called to let her know that she had to work late as they had a break in their case. Jayde was disappointed at the news, but understood that for a Federal Agent, sometimes work did have to come first. She heard the regret in Abbie's voice as well which gave her some consolation.
After she hung up with Abbie, her phone rang. It was her mother. No doubt her father had just made the same call to her mom.
"Hi, Mum," Jayde answered.
"Hi, Baby,' Thanh said. "Your father's working late. Do you want to go out for dinner?"
Jayde saw an opportunity. "I was going to go shopping for stuff for the house. Maybe you can come with me and we'll grab dinner too?"
Her mom agreed. It had been a month since she had come out to her parents and her mother had still not acknowledged the situation. She figured a girl's night out would give them a chance to talk about it. Thanh was more than happy to help her daughter shop and they went out for dinner at a nice sushi restaurant. Jayde was still nervous about broaching the subject as she was having a good time with her mother and didn't want to spoil it by forcing her mother to talk about something that she was clearly uncomfortable with. Finally, they got to Jayde's house and her mom helped her to put things away. As the put the new dishes and flatware into the dishwasher to wash, Jayde bit the bullet.
"Mum?" she asked.
"It's been a month," Jayde began. "You haven't said anything."
Thanh knew exactly what her daughter was referring to. She stopped what she was doing and she looked at her baby. "What do you want me to say?" Despite being close to her daughters, sometimes she found it difficult to discuss things with them simply because culturally, she wasn't used to talking about certain topics, especially sexuality.
"Something, anything," Jayde said, trying hard to not let the tears overtake her. "Maybe I need to hear that you still love me, or that you're okay with it."
"Of course I love you," Thanh told her. "You're my baby. I will always love you."
"But you're not okay with it," Jayde stated more than asked.
"Call me selfish, but it's hard for me to know that I won't get to be a grandmother," Thanh said, knowing full well she was being irrational.
"Caitlyn likes men," Jayde offered. "She'll get married one day and have kids."
"Oh, you and I both know your sister's too vain," Thanh dismissed. "She's afraid of getting stretch marks."
Jayde nodded what she knew to be the truth. "Listen, just because I'm gay doesn't mean I can't have kids."
"Would you want kids?" Thanh asked and Jayde took the question to be a glimmer of hope - for both of them.
"If I was with the right person yeah," Jayde answered. "Really, Mum? Is that all that's bugging you?"
Thanh sighed. "It was tough for your father and me, being an interracial couple in this city. And then for you and your sister, being mixed kids, I know it wasn't easy. I've seen the discrimination against gay people. I don't want you to have to carry that burden as well. It was hard enough for you to grow up being teased about your ethnicity. It breaks my heart to think of what you'll have to go through being a gay person as well."
Jayde pulled her mom into a hug and they stayed that way for some time, both women allowing their tears to fall, tears of fear and tears of relief. Finally, they pulled apart and Jayde got them some facial tissues.
"Mum, I know it'll be hard, but it's who I am. Denying that part of me is like asking you to deny that you're Vietnamese," Jayde told her. "I've come to terms with the fact that my life will never be smooth sailing, but I've learned to handle it. You and dad taught me that."
Thanh nodded her understanding. Then she knitted her eyebrows together. "You're not going to turn vegetarian on me are you because that's going to be too much for me to handle."
Jayde laughed. "No, Mum, I'm not turning vegetarian."
Despite the last minute party preparations, there was a good turn out at Jayde's house warming party. Jamie had wrangled up a bunch of old friends and Caitlyn had gotten the word out to their extended family who were quite curious to see the "black sheep's" new house. Even a few of Jayde's colleagues and Kirk, her boss showed up for a while that evening. Jayde kept the atmosphere casual with a backyard barbeque which Cole and his brothers manned as all men were required to do in the presence of an outdoor grill. Jamie happily played bartender, ensuring that no one ever had an empty glass. Abbie had kept the guests entertained with stories ranging from Jayde's childhood to different cases she and Cole had worked on. Jayde spent the majority of the evening showing her guests around the house but somehow always managed to replenish Abbie with a new drink whenever her cup was getting low. At one point, when Jayde handed her a new cup of some fruity concoction that Jamie had made, she eyed the hostess wearily. "Are you trying to get me liquored up?" she had teased.
"Maybe," Jayde had replied with a twinkle in her eye.
At one point, Abbie was telling a story about a do-it-yourself project which Cole and Jayde had undertaken and that had gone horribly wrong. Jayde was by the drink table with Jamie.
"So, any progress on project 'Humbert Humbert'?" Jamie inquired, referring to the character from the Vladimir Nabokov novel.
"Shut up," Jayde playfully scolded him, her eyes all the while on Abbie who was on the other side of the backyard. Jamie followed his best friend's eyes and saw the older woman returning the gaze while she told her story to an attentive audience.
"Oh my god, are you going to just eye fuck her all night or actually fuck her?" Jamie asked, getting impatient with his oldest friend.
"Who's fucking who?" Maddison joined them and gave Jamie a wink.
"No one's fucking anyone," Jayde answered. She gave Jamie a threatening look. "You, keep your mouth closed and the drinks coming." She left Jamie and Maddison at the drink table to check in on her guests who were inside the house.
"The drinks won't be the only things coming if I can help it," Jamie sing-songed under his breath, to which Maddison had to laugh whole heartedly.
"You can try, but Abbie's freaked out by the age difference and the fact that Jayde's her partner's daughter," Maddison told the gay dentist. "For some reason, they're both irrationally shy. I don't know what they're waiting for."
"So you're saying Abbie's interested?"
"Oh, she is most definitely interested."
"For God's sakes, I guess I'm just going to have to do everything," Jamie said and handed Maddison his bar towel and made a bee-line for Abbie.
Abbie had just finished her story to a laughing audience when Jamie sat down beside her. Jayde's old friends from high school began to reminisce about the antics and pranks that they had pulled as kids. Jamie took the opportunity to ask Abbie how she was doing with her drink to which she answered that she was fine and had better slowed down if she intended on leaving the party sober.
"You don't want to do that," Jamie told her.
"What, leave sober?" Abbie asked him.
"Leave. You should stay. As long as possible."
"Jamie, what are you talking about?"
"Look, she may have invited a shit load of people here tonight, but she only cared about whether or not you'd be here," Jamie informed the blond woman.
Abbie turned and looked at Jamie and then turned back to the patio doors where Jayde was talking to her boss. Jayde glanced over at her and smiled. Abbie smiled back at her.
"She's a beautiful, isn't she?" Jamie whispered into Abbie's ear. Abbie nodded involuntarily and Jamie grinned.
"You know why she left after high school don't you?" he asked.
"Actually, no, I don't, not really. She just recently told me it was something about distractions," she answered, shaking her head.
"She left because of you," Jamie said quietly and waited for Abbie's reaction.
"What?" Abbie asked, taken by surprise.
"She left because of you," Jamie repeated. "You should talk to her about it."
"I'm not going to ask her why she left if it was because of me," Abbie refused.
"It wasn't a bad reason," Jamie told her. "I mean it. You should talk to her about it. She was really torn about coming back here after all these years. But I can tell that she's happy to be back now."
Abbie simply nodded her head.
"Want a refill on that drink now?" Jamie asked.
Jamie took her cup and scurried off. He returned a short while later and handed her a cup of steaming coffee. She looked at him questioningly.
"You need to sober up for tonight," he told her with a wink and disappeared.
She shrugged and happily began to sip at the hot aromatic beverage.
"Hey you," Jayde's soft voice called out from beside her. Jayde settled down onto a chair beside her.
"Jamie cut you off already?" Jayde asked, indicating the coffee mug.
"Apparently, yeah." They shared a smile and Abbie was speechless, her mind running off with thoughts from what Jamie had told her and the implications he had made. "So, finally getting a chance to sit down?"
"Yeah, for now," Jayde answered, and no sooner did she finish her sentence, some of her guests were waving to her from the patio door. "I'll be right back. Just gonna see them out."
As the first wave of people began to leave, the remaining guests began to trickle out until all that were left were Jayde's parents, Jamie, who was happily passed out on the couch in the living room from having tried too many of his own concoctions, Abbie and Maddison. They began to clean up the house, much to Jayde's appreciation. By the time all the left over food was put away and garbage had been collected, Thanh and Cole left.
"I'm gonna head out too," Maddison said and then leaned into Abbie and whispered, "Go for it!" Abbie just rolled her eyes and smiled.
They walked the three guests out and returned to the kitchen and surveyed what was left for them to do.
"Let's put this queen to bed already," Jayde suggested, looking at Jamie and then at Abbie. "I think between the two of us, we can haul his sorry ass down the hall."
They walked over to the couch and Jayde tapped him on the cheek to wake him up. "J, c'mon, help us out here," she called out to him and he mumbled something incoherent. Realizing that he was probably not going to get up on his own, Abbie and Jayde each grabbed an arm and hoisted his lanky six-foot two frame onto their shoulders and walked him to the guest bedroom. After agreeing that he would have to sleep in his clothes as neither one of them was going to strip him down, they put him under the covers and left him to sleep off the alcohol. Jayde fetched a bottle of water and left it on the night table beside the bed.
Returning to the kitchen, she found Abbie leaning against the counter, checking her messages on her cell phone.
"Don't tell me you have to go," Jayde said quietly with a lopsided smile.
"It is getting late," Abbie pointed out. The way the brunette was smiling at her and looking at her, she knew that if she didn't leave then and there, something was going to happen that Cole Merrick wouldn't be too thrilled about.
Jayde walked over to the cupboard and pulled out two glasses and filled them with ice. "You don't have to work tomorrow do you?"
Abbie simply shook her head. Jayde walked over to her and hopped up onto the counter, sitting beside her. She handed a glass to Abbie and then magically produced a bottle of gin and a bottle of tonic. She poured a shot of gin into each glass and topped it off with the tonic water. She held up her glass silently and Abbie clinked their glasses together. They each took a drink, enjoying the comfortable silence that hung between them.
"Hungry?" Jayde asked.
"Are you kidding me? You had enough food to feed an army!"
"That's the Vietnamese in me."
Taking another drink and a deep breath, Abbie finally said, "Jamie told me you left Houston because of me."
Jayde, who was in mid-sip almost choked. She put her glass down beside her and swallowed the alcohol in her mouth. "Huh...Jamie needs to keep his mouth shut."
"So it's true?" Abbie asked, finally looking at the brunette.
Unable to avoid the other woman's gaze, Jayde turned her head and looked into the familiar intense green eyes. She nodded almost imperceptibly. "Yeah."
"Why? Did I do something wrong?" Abbie asked quietly.
Jayde let out an ironic chuckle. "No, you didn't do anything wrong. Quite the contrary, actually."
"I don't understand."
"Abbie, I left because I was in love with you and I didn't know what to do," Jayde confessed, looking at the floor. "It started when I was sixteen and at first it was just a crush, but it wouldn't go away. I mean, you were my dad's partner; you were with Jake; and I was just a stupid awkward kid. Everything was so confusing so I figured the best thing for me was to leave. I figured that if I didn't see you anymore, outta sight is outta mind, that it would all go away, everything I felt for you."
Abbie put her glass down onto the counter. She turned to face the young woman who had just opened up her heart and moved closer to stand right beside her. "And has it? All gone away?" she asked in a low and soft voice that sounded foreign even to herself.
Jayde closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She slowly exhaled and opened her eyes. She slowly turned her head and came face to face with the woman she'd been in love with for almost half her life. "No."
All inhibitions within Abbie broke and abandoned her as she saw the vulnerability in the brown eyes that were piercing into her soul. She reached up her left hand to cup Jayde's face and leaned into her, their lips a hairbreadth apart. She wanted to give the younger woman a chance to back off if by some chance she had changed her mind. Jayde, sensing the hesitation in Abbie, closed the minute gap between them and brought their lips together, softly, chastely. Jayde had spent many nights imagining what kissing Abbie would feel like and now the reality of it was more than she could've ever imagined. The brunette willed herself to take it slow and to enjoy every touch and feel and taste of the blond's lips, but as soon as she felt Abbie's lips part, hers responded in kind and she invited Abbie into her mouth reveling in the velvet touch of the other woman's tongue, slowly at first, then with surer movements. Jayde left Abbie to set the pace which the older woman seemed to have no qualms about as she moved her body closer to the woman sitting on the counter until she had insinuated herself in between Jayde's legs. Jayde wrapped her arms around the object of her desire and pulled her closer, the kiss deepening. Desire started to flood Abbie's senses, from her brain down through her body, settling most prominently in between her legs. Just as Jayde ran a hand into Abbie's short hair, the sound of Abbie's cell phone broke through their moment of passion.
"Ignore it," Jayde said in between kisses.
"I can't." Abbie's lips were occupied again.
"I'll turn it off for you." Their lips fused again.
"I can't," Abbie repeated and pulled her head back breathlessly. "It's your dad."
Jayde groaned and buried her head into the crook of Abbie's neck. "Talk about a buzz kill." They both smiled as Abbie pulled out her phone and answered it.
"Hey, Cole," she answered the phone, her free hand having found it's way to Jayde's back and was absentmindedly massaging it while Jayde began to plant kisses on her neck. It took all of her brain functions to force herself to concentrate on the voice on the phone. "You're kidding. Yeah, no, I'll be there. No, I'm sober. I'll just grab a coffee on the way. Okay. See you soon." She hung up the phone and put it away.
"Lemme guess," Jayde said, still planting kisses on Abbie's neck and collarbone. "Duty calls."
"Yeah, we got a lead on the location on our prime suspect," Abbie explained, her arms wrapped around the younger woman. "Gotta go kick down some doors."
Jayde smiled at the image of Abbie planting a foot on a door and knocking it off its hinges. "I'd pay to see that."
"I gotta run," Abbie said regretfully. "I'm sorry."
Jayde lifted her head and looked deep into Abbie's eyes and smiled. "I've waited for fourteen years. One more night won't kill me."
Abbie nodded and gave her a soft kiss.
"Would you like to have dinner with me tomorrow?" Jayde asked shyly.
"Are you asking me out?" Abbie asked teasingly.
"Well, it seems like the least I can do after having made out with you," the brunette answered lightly with a smile on her face.
"I'd love to have dinner with you," the blond answered and they leaned in for one more kiss which grew intense immediately. Abbie finally came up for air. "Keep that up and I'll miss the raid."
Jayde simply smirked, satisfied with the affect she was having on the other woman. "Do you want me to make you a coffee to go?"
"No, I'll just grab something on the way," Abbie answered and Jayde hopped off the counter. She walked Abbie to her car and they parted after another kiss which made both their knees weak.
They had gotten a lead on their prime suspect in the serial killer case and had zeroed in on his location. Working with Houston Homicide, Cole and Abbie agreed on the middle of the night raid - the best time to catch their suspects - while they were sleeping. They had busted into a house on the outskirts of the city and apprehended the suspect with minimal incident and as they searched the home, found things that would've made even Hannibal Lecter envious. Despite having investigated violent crimes for twenty odd years, it was a bit much for Abbie to handle and so she chose to accompany Cole and the suspect back to the police station for questioning, leaving the house to be processed by the experts. She agreed to observe the interrogation which was carried out by the Homicide detectives and her partner. After several hours, they got what they needed with the help of evidence gathered by the crime unit.
Cole joined her in the observation room and after some discussion between the Houston ADA and the USDA, the Federal Agents were more than happy to leave the rest to the local authorities. As far as they were concerned, the suspect was in custody and the local prosecutor would cooperate with the USDA's office in terms of how they would prosecute him.
"You're pretty happy to hand this over to the locals," Cole observed when they had returned to their own offices.
"I don't need the glory. We got him and hopefully he'll get put away for a long time," Abbie brushed off. "Besides, I've been up close to thirty hours straight now. I could use some shut eye."
Just then, her cell phone rang and she answered it. "Weston."
"It still amazes me how much authority you're able to put into those two syllables," Jayde's soft voice came through.
"Hey, you," Abbie answered, her mood lifting immediately. Her tone didn't go by unnoticed by her partner sitting across from her. He busied himself with the mountain of paperwork on his desk, but he kept his ears keen on the one sided conversation. He knew it was wrong, but he found it intriguing that Abbie was talking in a very soft and light tone, one which he had not heard her use in a long time with anyone.
"I'm still at work but about to call it a day," Abbie said, elbows on her desk, her head lowered as to obscure her face while she spoke. "Sure, that sounds great, I'd like that. See you tonight. Bye." She ended the call and put her phone away. When she looked up, Cole's eyes were on her, a half smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye.
"No wonder you're eager to get outta here," he commented. "Sounds like someone's got a hot date."
Abbie was going to make a wise crack but then decided to just go with it. Besides, it wasn't like he was off base with his guess. "Yeah, actually I do," she said with a smile. She gathered her things and waved goodbye to him as she headed out.
She got back to her house and without even changing out of her jeans and shirt, dropped onto her bed and fell fast asleep.
She was dreaming that she was locked in a small room full of cell phones that had all began to ring, one after another until the entire room was filled with the digital ringing sounds. She was jarred out of her sleep and realized that the ringing had not stopped. Finally aware that she was lying on her bed, she slowly looked around for the source of the sound and realized that it was her own cell phone on her hip that was making the racket.
"Weston," Abbie answered the phone groggily.
"You sound adorable when you've been woken," Jayde teased her. Abbie sat up immediately and looked at the clock on her nightstand. It was almost seven o'clock.
"Oh shit!" the blond exclaimed. "You were gonna come over at six. Where are you?"
"Relax," Jayde said and Abbie could hear the smile in her voice. "I'm parked in your driveway. I think you'd better let me in or else your neighbors are about to call the cops on me."
"Okay, bye," Abbie said and threw her phone on her bed. She all but ran down the stairs without even checking her appearance and opened the front door. Jayde came up the front steps carrying a paper bag of groceries. Abbie apologized profusely for having slept in but Jayde only grinned at her.
"What?" Abbie asked innocently and let her visitor into the house and closing the door behind her.
Jayde turned to her. "You're adorable with bed head."
Instinctively, Abbie's hand went to her head to smooth down her hair while Jayde remained grinning. "Stop grinning. You'll give me a complex."
"Why don't you go shower and freshen up and I'll start on dinner?" Jayde suggested and Abbie reached out and took the bag from her. They headed into the kitchen and Abbie set the grocery bag on the counter and showed Jayde where the pots and pans and utensils were.
"So how long were you sitting in my driveway?" Abbie asked meekly.
"About an hour," Jayde said with no hint of annoyance despite her usual 'I want it and I want it now' attitude. "I figured you were sleeping so I wanted to let you get your rest. When I saw your neighbors peeking out their windows at me every minute or so, I figured it was time to wake you up." If Jayde had learned anything in the last month of her life, it was that when it came to the subject matter of one Abbie Weston, patience would pay off.
"You sat in my driveway for an hour?"
"I kept busy checking my emails."
"Thank you," Abbie said and reached out and took one of Jayde's hands in hers. "For waiting in my driveway; for offering to come over and cook me dinner."
"I thought you might've been a bit too tired to go out for dinner," Jayde explained. "As for waiting, well, I've learned to be patient."
Abbie looked into Jayde's eyes and saw honesty and want. Affected by Abbie's intense gaze, Jayde had to blink to break the spell and said, "Go shower. I need to start on dinner."
Abbie left her in the kitchen and headed upstairs. Jayde pulled out a couple of pans and a pot and started slicing and dicing the vegetables. She quickly seasoned the meat and seared it in one of the pans and then placed it in the oven to continue cooking. By the time Abbie had finished showering and had changed into a pair of jeans and a white t-shirt and headed downstairs, the sounds and smells wafting from the kitchen made her stomach growl with hunger.
"Anything left for me to help with?" she asked, standing behind Jayde who was facing the stove, her hands on the brunette's hips. Jayde tasted the deglazed sauce from the pan in which the meat had been cooked and then offered Abbie a taste.
"Wow, that's delicious," Abbie said, licking her lips. Jayde turned around and Abbie wrapped her arms around her. She indicated the fridge with a nod of her head. "You can open the bottle of wine that's in there."
Abbie did as she was told and took the bottle of white wine over to the table which Jayde had already set with candles, wine glasses and silverware. She poured the wine into their glasses and returned to the kitchen. Jayde had just finished plating their meal of wilted greens and spicy pork chops on a bed of mashed sweet potatoes. Abbie eyed the plates appreciatively and they sat down at the table.
They drank a toast to what they hoped would be an un-interrupted evening and ate the delicious meal. Abbie inquired about when and where Jayde had learned to cook so well since Cole had made it sounded like Jayde rarely ever cooked. Jayde explained that when she moved to London after university, eating out was expensive on an entry level engineer's salary so she learned to cook from her friends and it turned into a hobby. Eventually, her long hours at work and frequent business trips left little time to cook, but upon returning to Houston, now that she had a place of her own, she was hoping to get back into her favorite hobby.
Over dinner, they talked about everything, from first lesbian dating experiences to types of music and movies they each liked and had found that they had quite a bit in common. When they finished eating, they took their plates and cutlery to the kitchen. Abbie put the leftover food away as Jayde prepared to wash the dishes. The blond protested and said to just use the dishwasher instead, but Jayde argued that it was silly to turn on the dishwasher for a few pots and pans and two plates.
"Fine, I'll wash them, since you cooked," Abbie relented and turned on the faucet. There was a plate that was sitting flat on top of the pots and pans and when the faucet came on, the spray hit the dish and splashed back at Abbie who gave a yelp. She quickly turned off the tap, the water having sprayed all over her face and chest. It was dead silent in the kitchen and when she turned to look at Jayde, the younger woman looked like she was about to explode with laughter.
"I've never heard a federal agent yelp before," Jayde said and then broke out into hysterics. The laughter caused Abbie to turn the water back on, where upon she stuck her hands under the spray and then brought them out in front of her and she flicked her fingers at Jayde, who in turn yelped at the feeling of water on her face.
"Who's yelping now?" Abbie called out as she continued to flick water at her guest.
Shielding her face with her hands, Jayde made her way closer to her attacker and reached over to the sink and turned off the water, her other hand moved out to grasp at Abbie's wrists. The federal agent backed away and then turned and ran out of the kitchen with Jayde in hot pursuit. It didn't take long for long slender arms to grab Abbie's waist and pull her down onto the couch in the living room.
Lying on their sides with Jayde in between Abbie and the back of the couch, she still had her arms around the blond's waist, pinning Abbie's arms. "If I let you go, will you promise to play nice?" Jayde asked in a very teacher like tone.
Abbie nodded in the affirmative. "I promise." Jayde lifted the top arm off and leaned back against the couch and propped her head up with her other arm. Abbie turned over onto her back and looked up into dark chocolate brown eyes. She reached up and tucked a strand of hair behind the brunette's ear. Jayde leaned her face down and brushed her lips with Abbie's. The kiss was soft, yet firm in its intent. Jayde pulled back slowly and watched Abbie's eyes, looking for any sign of discomfort.
Abbie shifted slightly so that she could cup the brunette's face with her right hand and pulled her back for another kiss. As if it had been choreographed, they both parted their lips and their tongues met, sliding, twirling, playing, tasting. Without pulling their lips apart, the two women slowly and gracefully adjusted their positions so that Abbie's hands were free and her right hand ran through Jayde's hair and her left hand caressed the brunette's back.
Jayde laid on top of the blond, her legs straddling Abbie's left leg, their stomachs and breasts pressed against one another. Jayde could feel a burning sensation building in her stomach and between her legs, but she forced herself to just enjoy the oral sensations of the moment. She wanted to let the older woman set the pace. Just because she had been waiting for fourteen years for this moment didn't mean that Abbie was ready for anything more than just kissing. Abbie was first to break away from the kiss to regain her breath and slow down her breathing.
"This is magnitudes better than anything I've ever fantasized about," Abbie admitted with a grin.
"You've fantasized about this?"
"Yeah," Abbie confessed. "When I first saw you in the nightclub last week, I um, well, I didn't know it was you and well, I didn't have very pure thoughts on what I wanted to do to you."
"Well how about you show me what you want to do to me?"
"Gladly," Abbie said and sealed their lips together again.
Jayde felt like her body was on fire, like every neuron and synapses in her body were in overdrive. Her heart rate was like a runaway train; her stomach was tight and moved as if she was on a roller coaster; and lower still, she felt herself growing wetter by the second. She supported herself on one elbow as she moved her other hand along Abbie's arm, from her hand along down to her elbow, then to her shoulder and then she ran her hand along the blond's side, her hand brushing the outside of Abbie's breast.
She continued to move her hand down to the hem of Abbie's t-shirt and her fingers caressed the exposed strip of flesh between her shirt and her jeans. Slowly her fingers crept their way under the shirt, feeling the soft skin underneath. One thing she noted was the heat that emanated from Abbie's skin.
"You're warm," Jayde said in between kisses.
"Yeah, I'm one of those warm body types," Abbie confirmed.
"I like," Jayde said and covered Abbie's mouth with her own. Her hand began to explore the flesh beneath her. She thought she couldn't possibly get turned on anymore than she already was until she felt the muscles of Abbie's midsection. The contradiction of the baby soft skin with hard muscles underneath was sexier than she could've ever imagined. She trailed her fingers over Abbie's abdomen and then higher yet until her fingertips were brushing against the underside of Abbie's breasts.
At this point, Abbie's control was bordering between being thrown into the wind and being snapped in two. The moment Jayde's hand had ventured under her t-shirt, Abbie had wanted nothing but to slide her own hand under Jayde's shirt. And so she did. She slid her left hand under Jayde's shirt and ran her hand along the brunette's lower back. She noticed that when her hand made contact with Jayde's skin, the younger woman had let out a soft moan into her mouth and that her hips were slowly grinding against Abbie's thigh.
Jayde's hand cupped Abbie's right breast, her thumb brushing over the hard nipple that was straining against the lacy bra. Abbie moaned at the touch. Jayde smile, somewhat self satisfied. "That turns me on more than you can ever imagine...hearing how I can make you moan," Jayde whispered into Abbie's ear and then wrapped her lips around the agent's ear lobe, which elicited an even louder moan from the older woman.
Abbie's self control was waving goodbye to her from a mile away as she continued to caress Jayde's lower back with her left hand, and then slid her right hand under the waistband of the other woman's jeans. "You're not..." Abbie said surprisingly as she felt the absence of underwear underneath the jeans.
"No, I'm not," Jayde confirmed in between kisses along Abbie's neck.
"Very naughty," Abbie said. "And very sexy."
"I"m glad you approve," Jayde said, chuckling.
"Wanna take this upstairs?" Abbie asked in between kisses.
"Lead the way," Jayde responded and moved off of her.
Abbie stood up and held out her hand to the brunette, but as soon as Jayde stood up, their lips locked again. They continued to kiss as Abbie led them slowly up the stairs and into the master bedroom. In the dark room, Abbie led them to the bed. She turned on the desk lamp on the night table and then the stereo. The grooves and sounds of Enigma filled the room. She turned back to the Jayde. With hearts beating loudly, she closed the gap between them and kissed the brunette. They broke apart, their bodies still close, their hips touching. Jayde took hold of the hem of Abbie's t-shirt and slowly raised it and then pulled it off the older woman. She brought her hands to Abbie's hips and then slowly ran them over the naked skin, first in front, over her stomach, then up to cup Abbie's breasts. She brought her lips to Abbie's neck once again, placing random kisses and nibbles along the soft skin. She reached a hand around Abbie's back and deftly unhooked her bra.
"I think that's the smoothest unhook I've ever had," Abbie said smiling.
"Hopefully it won't be the last," Jayde said, her lips smiling against the other woman's warm skin along the collar bone. She slid the bra off and gently cupped the bare breasts again with her hands, her thumb and fingers softly teasing the erect nipples. The sensations made Abbie crave for contact with Jayde's skin, and so she quickly unbuttoned Jayde's shirt and opened it, exposing the brunette's front. She slid the shirt off Jayde's shoulders and let it fall to the floor. Abbie noted how Jayde had grown into and filled out her black bra quite nicely.
With hips pressed together, Abbie unhooked Jayde's bra and when the obstructing piece of underwear was removed, the blond wrapped her arms around the brunette and they kissed again. Mouth against mouth, bare skin against bare skin, breasts against breasts. It was the most magnificent feeling Jayde had ever felt in her life. Abbie turned them so that Jayde's back was to the bed and she maneuvered them onto the bed. Hovering over the brunette, Abbie continued kissing her and then moved downwards to give her breasts and nipples some attention. Jayde felt electric currents course through her body from Abbie's tender and soft licks, flicks and rolling of her tongue over her nipples. Just when the sensations became unbearable and Jayde felt she was going to come while still half dressed, Abbie moved lower and slid her jeans off, leaving her completely naked. She didn't feel exposed or vulnerable under the older woman's gaze. She felt safe.
As Abbie moved back up along Jayde's length, the younger woman reached down to slide Abbie's jeans down her hips to reveal a pair of black lace panties. Abbie discarded the pants and continued to tease the brunette's nipples with her talented lips and tongue. Jayde ran one hand into Abbie's short hair while her other hand ran across the blond's back and side. Abbie continued the nipple play on one breast while her hand caressed and played with the other breast.
"I need you. Now," Jayde managed to get out as her breathing grew ragged.
Abbie took that as her cue to move downwards, licking and kissing down Jayde's stomach, lower abdomen and then settled herself in between the brunette's legs. She could smell the want and wetness of the woman lying before her. She placed kisses along each inner thigh and when Jayde's hand snaked into her hair once again, she placed her mouth onto the young woman's sex and slid her tongue into the wet folds. The woman beneath her let out a loud moan and she smiled. She found the brunette's clit and gently sucked on it. She applied steady but light pressure with her mouth and felt the younger woman start to move and grind against her mouth. She let Jayde find her rhythm and just enjoyed the moment. As Jayde increased her pace, Abbie increased the suction on her clit. Finally when Abbie felt that the other woman was close, she slid her middle finger into the warm and wet folds, pushing in as far as her finger could go. She slid her finger in and out in rhythm with Jayde's bucking hips. Without missing a beat, Abbie slid up Jayde's body and latched onto a nipple while her finger stroked Jayde's G-spot, the base of her hand grinding against her throbbing clit. Seeing Abbie's tongue and lips on her breast, Jayde's breath grew ragged and shallow and she let out a cry as her orgasm seized her and her walls gripped Abbie's finger. Abbie continued to stroke her as she rode out her orgasm. When the brunette calmed, she slid her finger out and licked the juices off of the digit with a smile.
"C'mere," Jayde tugged at her and smiled. Jayde pulled her down for a kiss and licked her own juices from the older woman's mouth and tongue.
With lips still pressed together, Jayde slowly sat up and with her hands, guided Abbie to straddle her lap. The move put her in the most optimal position to appreciate the supple breasts of Special Agent Abbie Weston. She ran her hands along Abbie's sides and broke away from the kiss. Without hesitation, she started kissing the breasts in front of her, purposefully avoiding the nipples and areolas. She placed gentle but firm kisses on the sides, the top and the underside of both breasts. Her hands had been running along Abbie's lower back and as they slid under the lace material of Abbie's underwear to cup the firm cheeks, she latched her mouth to one nipple, her tongue running slowly and flatly against the hard point. She slowly began to trace patterns around and over the nipple which elicited quite a few moans from the woman on top of her.
Her hands slid the lace panties down Abbie's hips and she moved momentarily for Abbie to discard of the skimpy piece of underwear. The loss of contact for the brief moment made Jayde ache for the blond's warmth almost immediately. When Abbie returned to straddling her, her mouth instantly found its way back to the second breast. Her arms were wrapped around Abbie's slim hips and she relished the feel of the agent's soft skin. She simply could not get enough of touching and feeling Abbie's flesh. With her mouth still closed over a nipple, she slid a hand over Abbie's ass once again, only this time, she continued to move her hand down along Abbie's buttocks and then in between her legs. As warm as Abbie's body already was, she felt even more heat between the blond's legs; heat and moisture. She slowly dipped a finger into Abbie's folds. She felt like she had died and gone to heaven.
How long had she imagined and fantasized about this day, and finally it was here. And the feelings, the sights, the smells were more than she could've ever dreamed up. She pulled her hand away from Abbie's pussy and brought the finger to her mouth. She sucked on her finger. She tasted Abbie Weston. And it was good. With a smile, she licked in between the blond's breasts and lowered her hand in between them. She cupped Abbie's sex in her hand and then slowly slid her fingers into the other woman's wetness. Abbie raised her hips as the brunette filled her with one finger, than two. With her fingers inside the woman straddling her, Jayde felt herself grow wet again. She felt the hot flesh surround her fingers, feeling the silky smoothness that was slick with juices. Jayde lifted her chin and Abbie's mouth met hers. Their tongues explored and danced as Abbie started moving her hips, riding the brunette's fingers that were curled and stroking her. Jayde flattened the base of her hand against Abbie's clit which brought out a loud moan from the brunette. Jayde brought her mouth back to Abbie's breasts and started to trace patterns over one nipple and she felt Abbie's pace pick up. She stroked Abbie's G-spot with slightly more pressure. Feeling that Abbie was close, Jayde looked up at her and said, her voice full of lust, "I want to taste you."
Abbie nodded, knowing that at this point, she was not going to deny the young woman anything. She slid down off of Jayde's hips and legs and leaned back onto the bed, all the while with Jayde still inside of her. Leaning forward and kissing Abbie's chest and down her stomach, Jayde slid down, lying in between Abbie's legs. Her fingers picked up the rhythm again, which had ceased momentarily for their change in position, and she brought her mouth to Abbie's clit. She gave it a slow and broad lick. She pulled out her fingers and slid her tongue into Abbie's soaking wet folds. The scent and taste of Abbie Weston was beyond this world. She stroked Abbie with her tongue and when the other woman's hips began to pick up in pace, she replaced her tongue with her fingers again and wrapped her lips around her clit, applying gentle suction. Abbie began to buck wildly and felt her senses go into overdrive. Jayde's tongue was doing things to her clit that she had never felt before and her fingers were stroking her in the most magical way she had ever imagined. As she ground her pelvis faster and harder into Jayde's mouth, she felt the explosion between her legs and she cried out. She continued to grind into Jayde's fingers and mouth and the brunette continued to stroke her until she slowed her movements. When she was spent, she opened her eyes and looked down into dark eyes. Jayde had removed her fingers and was now sucking them clean.
With a Cheshire Cat grin, Jayde moved up Abbie's body and claimed her lips. They settled down under the covers with Jayde pressing her back against the blond and Abbie's arms wrapped tightly around her. For the first time, Abbie saw the tattoo on the young woman's back up close. The artwork was quite intricate and beautiful.
"So when did you get the tattoo?"
"On my thirtieth birthday. It was a celebration of who I am."
"Thank you. I waited for a long time to get the right artist and design."
As she studied the permanent ink lines on the flesh before her, recognition struck her. "That necklace you gave me, the jade phoenix. It's the same design!"
Jayde turned her head slightly and smiled. "Yeah. I had the jeweler custom make it."
"I never realized...wow. You were giving me a piece of you. Thank you."
"Abbie Weston, you've always had a piece of me, whether you knew it or not."
"Now I do," Abbie said, kissing the back of her neck.
A couple of hours later
"Did your dad ever tell you about my past? About why I joined the bureau?" Abbie asked quietly into the brunette's hair as they laid under the covers, her arms wrapped firmly around Jayde. Unlike in her past relationship and even her marriage, she wanted Jayde to know about her past and how it had affected her throughout her life.
"He never told me, but I overheard bits and pieces when he told my mom one time," Jayde answered and pressed a kiss onto Abbie's forearm.
"I was ten years old," Abbie began. "My father worked for the FBI as a criminal psychologist and was attending a conference in New York City. My mother and I went with him for a vacation and one night, we went out to a baseball game. On the way back to the car, a couple of junkies stopped us and asked for money. My dad gave them whatever cash he had in his pocket but they saw his watch and my mom's purse and wanted more. The next thing I knew, they started to beat on him and my mom. My parents yelled at me to run and I was scared, so I ran. They beat my parents to death. I was raised by my grandmother, my father's mother. I know she loved me but I also know that in her grief, she blamed me for their death. They all did, all my relatives. I lived with survivor's guilt for a long time."
Jayde turned in Abbie's arms to face her. "I'm so sorry," she said and softly stroked the older woman's face. "Abbie, you were ten years old. If you hadn't run, you probably wouldn't be here right now."
Abbie nodded. "I know that now. But it took a lot of therapy for me to let go of the guilt. And I'm still not always at ease talking about it or myself for that matter. In case you didn't know, I internalize a lot. And what I do for a living isn't always dinner conversation either."
"I know, I've seen my parents struggle with that while I was growing up, how my father couldn't always talk about his work, even if the cases really upset him," Jayde said and then asked quietly, "Did they ever find those guys?"
"No," Abbie replied shaking her head. "Partly why I joined the FBI."
The brunette cupped her face. "I'm glad you joined the FBI. It brought you into my life."
Abbie looked pensive for a moment and then offered a small smile. "It's all about you isn't it?"
"Yes, it is," Jayde joked back lightly. She kissed Abbie gently. "I'm sorry about what happened to your parents. But I'm glad you're here with me."
Abbie buried her face into Jayde's neck and they held each other quietly until they fell into a peaceful slumber.
About an hour later, Jayde stirred awake and it took her a few seconds to realize where she was. They had not moved at all and she was still lying in Abbie's embrace. She smiled to herself. Slowly she rolled over in Abbie's arms onto her back and turned her head to look at the woman beside her. Abbie, ever the light sleeper, was awakened by the movement. She opened her eyes and saw Jayde smiling at her.
"Hey," Abbie whispered softly in the quiet night.
"Hey," Jayde returned the whisper. "I'm gonna have to get going. I have a conference call with a client at seven tomorrow. And I can't exactly show up in the same clothes I wore here."
"If it's a conference call, can't you just call in remotely?" Abbie asked.
"The sales manager's sitting in on the call as well so we were going to call from the office," Jayde answered but then contemplated Abbie's question. "I suppose I could call in remotely. I'm sure the manager wouldn't mind calling in from home either."
"And you call yourself a VP," Abbie teased her, which earned her a sheepish smile.
"What can I say, hot sex makes me dumb," Jayde joked. She reached down to the floor beside the bed and picked up her jeans. She fished out her Blackberry from one of the pockets and quickly typed in a message to her sales manager regarding the morning meeting. After she sent the message, she put the phone away and returned to the middle of the bed. Abbie snuggled against her, draping a long lean leg over hers and resting her head on the brunette's shoulder. Jayde wrapped her arms around her lover.
"You know, if I died tonight, I'd die happy," Jayde thought out loud. Seeing Abbie's raised eyebrow, she continued. "I've got a great job, a new house which I love, an awesome car that makes all the guys in the office cream their pants, and the woman of my dreams, naked in bed with me. What more could I want?"
"How about a naked woman of your dreams giving you another orgasm?" Abbie asked with a huge grin and before Jayde could reply, she disappeared under the covers.
Eight months later
"So, you got any plans for vacation this summer?" Cole asked his partner, sitting back in his chair with his feet on his desk, his fingers laced behind his head.
She shook her head, closing up a folder and tosed it aside on her desk. "You?"
"Thanh wants to go to Australia, visit some cousins she hasn't seen in a while," he answered.
"That'll be nice," Abbie added. "Wait, wouldn't it be winter down there?"
"Yeah, but they have pretty mild winters," Cole answered. "Besides, it'll get us away from the Houston summer heat though."
"Your new boyfriend.....or girlfriend not taking you anywhere?" Cole asked, ready for any projectile objects coming his way.
"What?" Abbie asked, her eyebrows knotted together, completely surprised by the question.
"Weston, you think I'm blind?" Cole asked rhetorically. "Over the last few months, you've been flying outta here as soon as you can, you don't come over for dinner when we've invited you, and you come in here most mornings with an 'I've been fucked senseless' grin on your face."
It was a good thing they shared an office and not cubicles as she had not wanted anyone else hearing the last part of his observation.
"I have not," she tried to deny.
He gave her an "oh please, I'm not stupid" look.
"Why the hell would you think I'd have a girlfriend?" she tried to throw him off the obvious trail.
"Hey, I'm a modern man." Cole shrugged. "I've got a gay daughter who has a gay best friend. I'm learning that anything is possible in this life."
Abbie stood up and grabbed her leather bag and looked at him matter-of-factly. "I have no vacation plans. Have a good weekend."
Cole grinned and she simply sighed, shook her head and left the office.
"Enjoy your date tonight!" he called out after her, to which she responded by holding up her middle finger to him without looking back.
Standing in the hot stream of water, Abbie heard the door to the bathroom open, followed by Jayde's voice. "Hey, babe."
Abbie slid the shower door open and poked her head out. "Hey, you." Jayde walked over and gave her a kiss.
"You look like you could use a hot shower," Abbie told her tired looking girlfriend. "Wanna join me?"
Jayde smiled and without replying, undressed and stepped into the steamy tub. Abbie stepped aside so that Jayde could stand under the spray and wet her hair, after which Jayde opened her eyes and pulled Abbie to her and kissed her thoroughly, their tongues dancing. Jayde turned them so that Abbie's back was to the spray of the water and started to kiss her neck and then down to her breasts which she had grown especially fond of over the course of their relationship. She sucked and licked the hard nipples, her hands caressing Abbie's ass. Slowly she descended and got down on her knees in front of the blond, her face at the optimal height to inhale her lover's arousal. With her hands still on Abbie's ass, she brought her mouth to Abbie's folds and licked her slowly, devouring every drop of her. Abbie ran her hands into the brunette's hair and Jayde got a mental image of them in her head and her clit began to throb. Her focus, however, was solely on Abbie and her arousal. She wanted Abbie to come for her. She had become addicted to the sounds that the older woman made when her orgasms overtook her, and the lazy moans that usually escaped her lips when her orgasms were building was an aphrodisiac for Jayde.
As she swirled her tongue around her clit, Abbie moaned even louder and Jayde wrapped her lips around the sensitive bud and sucked on it. The blond's hips began to move in a more rhythmic pattern, the pace picking up when Jayde slid her tongue inside of her. The younger woman switched between penetrating her with her tongue and sucking on her folds until she felt Abbie's hands form fists in her hair and her bucking came faster. Jayde slid a finger inside her and sucked on her clit and her lover cried out in ecstasy. Jayde ate her pussy until she rode out the last of the aftershocks and afterwards, kissed her way up Abbie's body. Abbie wrapped her arms around the brunette and they stood in the spray, lips locked. Leaving Abbie to regain her breath, Jayde shampooed her hair and washed her body and Abbie's with body wash.
"What do you wanna to this weekend?" Jayde asked, running the body sponge over Abbie's arms and chest.
"Relax? Eat breakfast in bed? Veg out?" Abbie suggested.
Continuing to wash her lover, Jayde commented, "Babe, I love lazying around with you and making love all weekend, but we don't really go out anywhere or see anybody, aside of Maddie or Jamie. Sometimes I feel like we're having some kind of secret affair. I mean, my company's having a get together in a couple of weeks to celebrate our successful sales for the last quarter, and I get the feeling I'll be attending that alone."
"Sweetie..." Abbie began but Jayde cut her off.
"I know, you're not ready to come out," the young woman finished the thought. "More importantly, you're not ready for my father to find out about us."
Abbie nodded, pleading with her eyes for Jayde's understanding. "Speaking of your father and not going anywhere, he asked me today if my new boyfriend or girlfriend was going to take me somewhere for a vacation this summer."
"You're kidding," Jayde said incredulously. "What'd you say?"
"I questioned why he'd think I'd have a girlfriend to which he replied that he was a modern man, whatever that meant," Abbie answered. "And I just told him that no, I didn't have vacation plans."
"Speaking of vacation plans," Jayde said, her eyes lighting up. "I'm heading to the London office next month for some meetings. Why don't you come with me and we'll turn it into a vacation? I can take you to see where I went to school, show you the sights around London and maybe hop over to Spain for a few days?"
"That sounds wonderful," Abbie said with excitement in her eyes. "I'll put in my request for vacation on Monday."
"And you can tell your partner that your new girlfriend is taking you to Europe," Jayde teased and broke out into an amused grin at the worried look that etched itself onto Abbie's forehead. "You are so deathly afraid of him finding out aren't you?" Jayde asked tenderly, running a finger along Abbie's jaw line.
"He has a gun."
"So do you."
Abbie didn't offer any further comment but just looked pensive and reluctant. Jayde knew that Abbie wasn't interested in discussing the topic any further and decided to ease up on the teasing. She cupped Abbie's face in her hand, her thumb softly caressing her girlfriend's cheek. "I know you keep a lot of things inside. I think that part of it is because at the end of the day, you just want to forget. I also think that you want to protect me from what you see in your job. A lot of things scare me, Abbie, but the thing that scares me above all else is feeling that I'll always be on the outside looking in on the person I love the most."
Abbie had never before met anyone for whom she felt such a fierce protectiveness as she had for Jayde. Yet at the same time, she had found in the last few months of their relationship, she felt relaxed and a sense of comfort whenever she was with the young woman. She felt that Jayde never pushed her to talk when she didn't want to, but was always there if her thoughts were troubled. Over the years, Abbie had confided in Maddison to a certain degree, and despite her long partnership with Cole, she felt that there were parts of her life that he wouldn't understand even if he seemed opened minded to the idea that she might be gay. As she spent more time with Jayde, she developed a deep sense of trust which she reserved for only a select few in her life. She discovered an easiness in being and talking with the young woman that was foreign to her, yet not the least bit frightening.
Abbie noticed the blush in the brunette's cheeks and realized what she had just said. "Did you just say..?"
"Yeah...I love you," Jayde said, her hesitation a mixture of shyness and embarrassment. Despite having admitted that she had been in love with Abbie since she was sixteen on that first night they kissed, Jayde had never actually said the words out right until now. "I've been in love with you for a very long time," she added quietly.
The worried look that was etched onto Abbie's brow and forehead dissipated and she smiled, her heart warming at the sight of her girlfriend suddenly being shy. "I love you too," she whispered back. "I'm just worried that your parents won't take it well," she finally admitted.
"I know," Jayde agreed and kissed her again. "Even though I tease you about it, it makes me nervous to tell them too."
Two months later
Abbie walked into her office and tossed her bag onto her desk. She felt refreshed and relaxed after having spent two weeks in Europe with Jayde.
"Shit, you look good," Cole complimented her. "Nice tan. Not to mentioned that 'I've been fucked senseless' smile again."
"Good to see you too," Abbie told him and handed him the coffee she had picked up for him on the way in.
"Thanks," he said taking the paper cup. "So where did you go?"
"Somewhere warm and sunny," she answered vaguely. She had not mentioned her destination since he knew Jayde was going to Europe and didn't want him to make any connections, and so it had become a game between them as he would pester her everyday until she left for her vacation.
"Well it clearly did you some good," he observed. "I take it someone treated you well?" He was fishing and he knew she knew.
"Yes, we had a wonderful time," she answered, knowing her answer would just enhance his curiosity. She also noticed that he didn't use a gender specific pronoun. Had he caught her somehow like he had 'caught' Jayde but wasn't showing his cards? No, it wasn't possible because if he had caught her, he would've known she was dating his daughter and there would be no way in hell he'd be teasing her about dating Jayde.
"So when do I get to meet this special someone?" he asked, not giving up so easily.
Before she could answer "Never", they were called into their boss's office and given a new assignment.
That night, as she and Jayde were lying in bed at Jayde's house, Abbie felt a nervousness in her girlfriend. Just as she was about to ask her about it, Jayde turned to her. "Hey, babe," Jayde said, propping her head up with one hand, facing her girlfriend. "There's something I need to tell you."
Abbie braced herself for bad news.
"I got offered a chance to move back to London," Jayde said. "A position opened up which management had had in mind for me before I came back here."
"What kind of position?"
"VP of European Operations," Jayde answered. "I know the market, I know the people, both in the company and our clients. It'd be a lateral move. I'd still report to Kirk. They figured that since I spent so much time in London that I'd want to return if the opportunity arose."
"You miss London don't you?" Abbie asked. "I saw how happy you were when we were there."
Jayde nodded her head. "Yeah, well, when I was there before, I was running away. Things have kinda changed, you know?"
"I think you may have been born here, but your heart belongs to Europe," Abbie observed.
"My heart doesn't belong to Europe," Jayde said quietly. 'It belongs to you.' her mind screamed. "They gave me a month to think about it. The choice is completely up to me. If I want to stay as VP of Sales here, they'd be happy with it. If I move to London, they'd be happy with that as well."
"I don't want to stand in the way of your career or where you really want to be," Abbie said slowly, knowing her heart would break if Jayde chose to move back to London. "I want you to do what's best for you."
Jayde leaned over and kissed her and despite the new uncertainty that had been brought into their relationship, they made love slowly and tenderly.
"Jayde told us she's got an opportunity to move back to London," Cole told his partner a couple of weeks later as they sat in the car, on a stake out as they watched the home of a suspect on their most recent case.
"How do you guys feel about that?" Abbie asked, trying to sound neutral.
"It sucks 'cause it's like we just got her back here in our lives, you know?" Cole admitted. "But I know she loved living over there and well, it's her career. She's done well on her own without any of our help or interference. Whatever she chooses, I know it'll be the right choice for her."
"Has she indicated which way she's leaning?" It had been two weeks and they had not discussed the offer since Jayde had first brought it up.
"I somehow get the feeling like she's waiting for something, or someone," Cole said, his eyes on the house across the street. Abbie studied his face but it was normal and just full of concern for his daughter. "I know she's been seeing someone but I have no idea how serious it is, whether or not it's serious enough for her to stay here."
Abbie thought about Cole's words and tried not to cringe. She didn't want to be the reason for Jayde to turn down the offer. They had been together for nearly ten months and she was still in the closet. It wasn't fair to Jayde who was proud of her sexuality to have to keep their relationship a secret all this time, but Abbie still wasn't ready to proclaim their love publicly. She feared Cole and Thanh's reaction to the fact that she was in love with their baby girl and she feared being an out lesbian in the boy's club of the FBI. It took her a long time to gain the respect that she got from the other agents she worked with and she knew that quite a few of them were homophobic. She just wasn't ready to deal with the backlash or discrimination if they knew. Being an FBI Agent was what defined her. She didn't know what she would do if she left the Bureau.
She was resolved to take the heartbreak of Jayde's leaving simply because she knew she couldn't be for the young woman what she needed or wanted, and it was becoming clear each day that keeping their relationship quiet was taking its toll on Jayde. The youngest Merrick daughter had always been close to her parents, and the one thing that she had been most happy about, being in love, she had been unable to share that with them and Abbie knew it tore her up inside. The agent knew she had to stand back and let Jayde go and live the happy life she once knew.
A week later, Jayde came over to Abbie's house after work. They were cooking dinner together when Jayde quietly said, "They're asking me if I've made a decision yet."
"Have you?" Abbie asked hesitantly.
Jayde stopped what she was doing and turned to look at her girlfriend. "Do you think you'll ever be ready to come out?"
Abbie swallowed hard and tried to keep her breathing even. "I don't know, Jayde."
"Are you ashamed to be with me?"
"Then why? Are you still afraid of my dad?"
Abbie couldn't answer her because she knew it was irrational to fear Cole's reaction.
"I want to stay here, Abbie," Jayde finally told her. "But I need to know that I have something to stay for."
Abbie couldn't look her in the eye and so she dropped her gaze down to the floor. Jayde moved closer to her and lifted her chin, forcing her green eyes to look into brown ones.
"I can't make you any promises," Abbie said and she knew both their hearts were breaking upon hearing those words. Jayde simply nodded and then leaned in to kiss her one last time. The brunette pulled back and whispered, "I love you, Abbie Weston." Then she left the kitchen and out the front door. She got into her car and backed out of the drive way and pulled away.
As she navigated her way through the city towards her house, her vision grew increasing blurry with the tears that had welled up and began to spill. She just needed a reason to stay. She wanted Abbie to give her a reason to stay. Jayde knew that Abbie wasn't comfortable about coming out, given her profession, but she thought that if they loved each other enough, it wouldn't matter. Jayde was used to being open about who she was in terms of her sexual orientation and so to have been in a secret relationship was difficult for her, but she was so in love with Abbie that she was willing to wait. She had waited for so long and had finally gotten the woman of her dreams. Going public about their relationship would've been the icing on the cake, but Jayde was willing to wait for that day. She just needed to know that Abbie would even consider coming out, but because even after ten months of being together and Abbie was still unsure, she wasn't going to stay in a hopeless situation, no matter how much she loved the blond. She pulled up to a red traffic light and wiped her cheeks with her sleeves. The light turned green.
Thanh checked her watch one last time as she signed some charts by the nurse's station with a fellow ER doctor. Only ten more minutes and her shift would be over. She was looking forward to going home, having a hot bath with a nice glass of wine and then go out for dinner with her husband.
"So, where you guys going for dinner tonight?" the head nurse asked her.
"I don't know," Thanh replied. "I told him to surprise me."
"I'm constantly amazed at how you two have kept your marriage so lively after all these years."
"Well, between my job here and his work, we don't always see each other on a regular basis," Thanh explained. "If I saw him every night for thirty-five years, I'm sure I'd be sick of him."
They shared a laugh and just then, the radio cackled to life.
"Memorial Hermann, we're coming in with a car crash victim. ETA is three minutes," the voice called out through the speaker.
The nurse picked up the transceiver. "We'll be ready for you."
The other doctor, a male resident, with whom she had spent countless shifts in the past five years turned to her. "Sorry, Doc. Guess you're not getting outta here too early."
Thanh sighed and smiled. "Won't be the first time and won't be the last."
They pulled on latex gloves and he said to her, "I promise I'll get you outta here as soon as I can."
They readied themselves and waited. The sirens grew louder until they saw the ambulance pull up to the sliding doors. Together they walked out to the truck as the paramedics pulled the victim out of the back. "Victim's female, thirty. Car got t-boned at an intersection. BP is 90 over 60 and dropping," one paramedic began to inform the doctors. As they wheeled the gurney into the ER, it was surrounded by the paramedics, two nurses and the two doctors. The woman had a neck brace on and her face was covered with streaks of blood from shards of glass that had been embedded in her skin at her left temple. She was unconscious and her right pant leg had a huge blood stain below her knee.
"Minor lacerations on the face and head, but she's got an open fracture of the right tibia; the ninth and tenth ribs on the left are also fractured. Abdomen's pretty rigid," the one paramedic continued. "We checked her license. Name's Jayde Merrick."
At hearing the name, Dr. Nick Hall and the two nurses looked over at Thanh. Seeing the silent pause during what was an emergency, the paramedics cut through the silence. "Is there a problem here?"
Thanh, who had been inspecting the broken leg moved up to look at the face of the woman on the gurney. "That's my daughter," Thanh managed to say.
"I got it," Nick told her softly as he placed his hand gently on her arm. Hospital policy did not recommend that doctors treat their own family members, and further to that, the hospital staff knew that as soon as the victim had been identified, despite Thanh's professionalism, her role had turned from doctor to mother.
"Nick, that's my baby," Thanh protested.
"I know," he told her. "And we'll take care of her. I won't keep you out of triage, but you need to let me take over."
Thanh absentmindedly nodded, watching them as they wheeled her daughter into triage to assess her injuries. The head nurse had overheard the commotion and walked over to Thanh. "Why don't I call Cole?" Thanh nodded silently. She had been an ER doctor for decades and had never lost her composure before. Even when her kids were little and she had taken them to the Emergency Room numerous times, she was always cool and collected. But this time, seeing her daughter's broken body, something inside of her froze. She kept telling herself that Nick was a great doctor, after all, she had trained him herself, and that Jayde was in good hands. She watched him assess Jayde and her injuries thoroughly and once they stabilized her blood pressure, he turned to one of the nurses. "Call Keith. I need to send her upstairs to his OR." The nurse nodded and did as she was told.
Nick walked over to Thanh who was standing against the far wall. "She's bleeding internally and I'm thinking it's a lacerated spleen. Keith will know once he gets her up there. Depending on the severity of her internal injuries, they may just have to stabilize her leg and then wait 'til she's more stable to operate on it."
Thanh nodded silently knowing full well that she had come to that same conclusion herself based on what she had observed and heard.
"Keith's our best surgeon," Nick reassured her. "She's going to be okay." He touched her elbow and indicated that it was okay for her to go over to her daughter while they waited for the OR to prepare for Jayde.
The nurse who went to make the phone call had returned and now both nurses were removing the glass shards from Jayde's face and scalp and cleaning up the blood. Thanh reached out and grasped her daughter's hand and did a quick evaluation. She stood there, silently, watching the nurses clean up her daughter, offering as much strength as she could to her baby girl. Eventually the Operating Room nurses came down to the ER and they moved her. Thanh and Nick went with them up to the OR and Keith greeted her in the scrub room. "From what I remember, she's a tough one."
"Take care of my baby, Keith," Thanh told him quietly. He nodded and entered the operating room. Thanh knew that now all she could do was wait. She and Nick returned to the ER and changed out of their blood stained scrubs. As they walked back to the nurse's station, Cole came running in through the sliding doors.
"Where is she?" he asked, panic in his eyes as he wrapped his arms around his wife.
"She's up in surgery," Thanh answered. "She's got a couple of broken ribs, a broken tibia and we suspect her spleen is bleeding. Keith's going to operate and find out."
"Mr. and Dr. Merrick?" a voice called from the ER waiting room. They looked over and saw a uniformed police officer. It was the first time Thanh had noticed him even though he had arrived at the hospital with the paramedics and Jayde.
"Yes," they answered together.
"I'm Officer Mueller and I was called to the scene of your daughter's accident," the policeman informed them.
"What happened?" Cole asked.
"Ms. Merrick was eastbound on Westheimer. According to witnesses, she pulled into an intersection on a green light and a truck going northbound ran a red light and crashed into her," Officer Mueller explained.
"How's the other driver?" Cole asked.
"I wouldn't worry to much about him, sir," the policeman replied and then added, "He reeked of booze when we showed up at the scene."
The Merricks shook their heads. "I hope the best for Ms. Merrick," Officer Mueller said and then gave them his card. "Please call me once she's stable."
The officer left them and Thanh and Cole went up to the surgery floor to the waiting room. Thanh pulled out her phone and called Caitlyn. Cole, standing at a window and looking outside but not seeing anything debated his next move. Slowly he pulled out his cell phone and typed in a message.
*Jayde's been in an accident. She's in surgery. We're at Memorial Hermann Hospital.* He pressed the send button.
Less than twenty seconds later, his phone beeped. *I'll be right there.*
He put his phone away and went to sit down in a chair. Thanh hung up her phone after letting Caitlyn know where to find them and sat down beside him. Cole put an arm around his wife who had finally let her silent tears fall down her face. Within ten minutes Caitlyn was by her parents' side having run over from her hospital two blocks away. She talked to Nick about his assessment and checked Jayde's chart. Then she sat with her parents and called Jamie as she knew Jayde would want her best friend to be informed.
A nurse from the OR came out to let them know that it was indeed Jayde's spleen that had been severely injured and would have to be removed. Because she had lost so much blood, they would not operate on her leg but would stabilize it until she recovered enough from the splenectomy and then later on go in and set the bone. The nurse retreated back to the operating room and left them alone again.
After a few moments of silence, Caitlyn asked, "Do you think she'll cry when she finds out her precious car's totaled?"
"Probably," Cole answered and they allowed themselves to finally laugh. They began to tell stories of all the different times Jayde had had to visit the hospital throughout her childhood, from having stuck a marble up her nose to breaking her arm skateboarding when she was thirteen and all the different childhood illnesses and mishaps in between.
As they laughed over the marble up the nose incident, Cole saw Abbie walk out of the elevator. She quickly looked around and saw them and walked over to them.
"What happened?" she asked, her face pale.
Thanh and Caitlyn filled her in about what had happened and the news that they had been given from the OR nurse. Abbie's face was grave with worry and she sat down by the window, giving the Merrick family some privacy as well as giving herself some breathing room to deal with her rising guilt.
'If she hadn't left my place in such a hurry, we wouldn't be here,' she said to herself, cursing her cowardice at not being able to give her girlfriend what she needed.
After a few minutes, Cole sat down beside her.
"Thanks for letting me know," Abbie said to him and he nodded.
Cole Merrick took a deep breath and looked over at his partner. "Do you love her?"
Abbie's head snapped around to look at him, her instincts wanting to deny what he was implying. When she saw the seriousness in his eyes, she thought better than to lie to him. "How did you know?"
"You don't stay partners with someone for twenty plus years and not know a thing or two on how to read them," he told her. "Do you love her?"
Abbie nodded. "I do."
"About ten months."
"And you didn't have the courtesy to tell me?"
"Jayde wanted to," Abbie confessed. "I'm sorry to have kept it from you, Cole, but I was scared. I was scared of how you and Thanh would react to the fact that your partner was in love with your baby girl. I've been scared to come out. I was afraid of what would happen if the guys at work found out that I'm gay."
He looked out the window and then back at her. "It all seems pretty insignificant now doesn't it?"
Abbie looked at her partner and nodded. She saw in his eyes just how much he loved his daughter. She should have trusted him and should have known that even if he had gotten upset over their relationship, his fatherly love for Jayde would always prevail.
"She's a tough kid," Cole finally said. "She' gonna to pull through this, and when she does, love her like she deserves to be loved, okay?"
Abbie nodded once again. "How did you know we were seeing each other?"
Cole shrugged. "I cheated. One night I followed you after work and you led me right to Jayde's house. I knew you guys were friends, but the way you came in the next morning with your shit eating grin, I knew you guys were probably more than just friends. Then I confirmed it when you went on your vacation. I used my badge to get the passenger manifest for Jayde's flight and your name was on it too."
"Sneaky sonofabitch," Abbie said and they shared a smile.
After several hours of waiting, Keith finally emerged from the operating room to let them know that the surgery went well, however he would have to operate on her again to fix her fractured leg. For now, they had given her a blood transfusion to replace the blood which she had lost and she was on an antibiotic IV for the splenectomy as well as for the open leg fracture which was at high risk for infection. He told them that she was in stable but critical condition because of the blood loss and then allowed them to see her, two at a time.
Cole and Thanh went in to see her first in the recovery room and then Caitlyn and Jamie went in. Abbie elected to wait and go last as she wanted some privacy. When she entered the recovery room, she had to bite back her tears. Jayde was lying on the bed with nicks and bruises on her face and a nasal cannula to provide her with oxygen. She had an IV hooked up to her right hand and her bed had various monitors beside it. She looked pale and fragile and not at all the firecracker that Abbie had been used to seeing.
Abbie stood beside the bed and took Jayde's left hand in hers.
"I guess this is one way to make a statement about how you feel," she tried to joke but her dam had broke and the tears began to spill down her cheeks. "I should've told you this when I had the chance, but I love you and I don't want you to go to London. For the first time in my life, I feel at peace with myself and it's been because of you. All those fears I had, I've come to realize that what really scares me is forty years from now, looking back at this time in my life and regretting that I didn't do what I should've done. I don't want to have that kind of regret. And what scares me most of all is losing you. I love you, Jayde Merrick. Don't you dare leave me."
She reached up with one hand to wipe away her tears and froze when she felt the tiniest of movement from Jayde's hand. She looked at the woman in the bed and her eyes were still closed, her breathing still even. Abbie leaned down closer to Jayde's ear and whispered, "I love you." Again, she felt a small movement from Jayde's hand which she was still holding onto for dear life. She smiled and gently kissed her girlfriend's lips
After a couple of days, falling in and out of consciousness from the drugs that were pumping through her body, Jayde went in for surgery on her leg. After she was moved from the Recovery Unit to a private room, she slowly regained consciousness. Slowly opening her eyes, she felt disoriented and heavy, physically and mentally. The first person she saw was her mother in a pair of blue scrubs underneath her white doctor's coat, standing at the end of her bed, reading a chart and talking to a male doctor in green scrubs. She recognized him as Dr.Keith whom her mother had tried to introduce to her at her Welcome Home party.
"Mum?" Jayde managed to croak out.
Thanh's head snapped up from the chart and she rushed to her daughter's side. "Hi, Baby. How you feeling?"
"Like I got hit by a truck," Jayde said slowly.
"Well, you were," Thanh told her. "You were in a car accident."
"I don't remember," Jayde said. "What happened?"
"A drunk driver ran a light and hit your car," Thanh explained. "You came here and Keith took care of you up in surgery." Thanh's head tilted in the direction of the male surgeon on the other side of Jayde's bed.
"Thank you," Jayde said to him. "What happened to me?"
"Your head hit your window during the collision which resulted in some cuts and abrasions on the left side of your head in and around your temple," Dr. Keith Sanders began to tell her. "You also suffered two broken ribs and your spleen ruptured so you lost quite a bit of blood. And you sustained a fracture in your right tibia, your shin. It was an open fracture, meaning the bone broke through your skin."
As the doctor listed her injuries, Jayde's left hand immediately went to her head and then her abdominal section in reaction to the news about her ribs and then she looked down at her right leg which was encased in a long plaster cast from above her knee down to her foot.
"You were quite lucky in that we were able to use plates and screws to set your shin bone instead of an external fixator," Keith continued. "We did have to give you an emergency splenectomy."
Once again, her hand drifted to her abdomen. "I don't know why I'm trying to feel it. It's not like I was able to feel it before when it was there," she said shaking her head. She looked down at her right hand which had an IV needle and tube attached to it. Her left hand came up to her nose and felt the nasal cannula that was feeding her oxygen. "What do I have attached to me?"
"Your IV contains some antibiotics for your splenectomy and your leg, as well as some Demerol for the pain," Thanh answered and then nodded at the nasal cannula. "That's just to help you get a little more oxygen until you regain your strength."
"And?" Jayde asked, silently questioning the odd feeling she was experiencing under her blankets.
"Because you can't get out of bed just yet, we have you hooked up with a catheter," her mom explained.
Jayde nodded and her eyes felt heavy again. "That's what that is," she said. She tried to open her eyes again but her mom gently placed a hand on her forehead and told her to rest. She heard her mom and Dr. Keith discuss her prognosis but soon their voices faded and she fell asleep.
When Jayde opened her eyes again, the room was dark, save for a soft glowing light on the table in the opposite corner of the room. She saw her father and Abbie sitting at the table, across from one another looking at various folders that were spread out on the table top. She looked over to the window and it was dark outside.
"Don't you guys have an office?" she asked them and both heads turned to look at her. She managed a weak smile and soon, both agents were by her sides.
"How you doing, Baby?" her father asked.
"Given my condition and the fact that I'm not really feeling anything, the drugs are obviously working, so I guess I'm feeling pretty good," she said lazily.
"You are so stoned," Cole teased her. Then his expression grew serious. "You gave us quite a scare, Baby."
Jayde nodded. "I'm a Merrick. Gonna take a lot more than a car accident to get rid of me."
He leaned down and kissed her on the forehead. "Hey," Jayde said, her eyebrows knitted together. "What happened to my car?"
"I'm afraid it's finished," Cole said morosely and Jayde closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
"Well, hopefully it'll get replaced by the time I'm able to drive again."
Cole pretended to inspect his daughter's eyes. "Damn! We thought for sure you'd shed some tears over that car."
Jayde smiled. "I'm crying on the inside."
Cole kissed his daughter one more time. "I'm gonna go grab some coffee." He looked over at Abbie and gave her a slight nod and disappeared out the door.
As soon as the door closed behind him, Abbie moved up closer to Jayde and picked up her hand in her own. She leaned down and their lips touched gently. "Hey, you," she said quietly.
Jayde couldn't help but smile. "Hey, you." They kissed again, still chastely and softly. "So what was that look between you and my dad?"
Abbie slowly sat down on the edge of the bed, her one hand playing with Jayde's long slender fingers while the other caressed Jayde's cheek.
"He knows. About us."
Jayde sought out any telltale emotions in her girlfriend's eyes, namely fear, but didn't find it. "You told him?"
Abbie shook her head. "He already knew."
"Christ, is there anything my father doesn't know about me?" Jayde asked, rolling her eyes.
Abbie ran a thumb over Jayde's smiling llps. "Jayde?"
Abbie swallowed hard. "Please don't go to London."
"Well, given the fact that I can't even get out of this bed and have to piss in a bag, I'm not going anywhere anytime soon," the brunette commented.
"No, I'm serious. I love you and I don't want to be without you. I want to give you a reason to stay. I want to be your reason for staying."
"Are you sure?"
Abbie nodded and smiled, a tear rolling down her cheek. Jayde, ignoring her own tears, reached up with her right hand and wiped the stray tear away off of the blond's face.
After a week, and much pleading from Jayde, Thanh, Keith and Nick all agreed that she could go home. As she helped her daughter pack up her things, Thanh insisted her daughter come home to her house so she could take care of her, but the young woman was stubborn and said she just wanted to go to her own home. When it was pointed out that Jayde's house had too many stairs for her to navigate around with the long leg cast, she realized she would have to admit that she wasn't going to return to her own house.
It was at that moment that Cole an Abbie entered the hospital room.
Leaning on her crutches, Jayde zipped up her bag which was laying on the bed.
"Will you talk some sense into your daughter?" Thanh addressed her husband. "She insists on going home to her house. I told her that her place is riddled with stairs and in case she had forgotten, she's got one leg in a cast."
Cole gave his daughter the "let's be reasonable look" until Jayde rolled her eyes and sighed. "Alright, I'm not going to my house," she conceded, and before her parents could rejoice in their assumption that she had agreed to come home with them, she added, "I'm going to stay with Abbie."
Both parents looked at Abbie who merely smiled and shrugged. "I've got a guest bedroom on the main floor," she reasoned and then looked at the brunette. "And I've taken a month off from work to stay home and take care of her."
Thanh looked at her daughter and then at Cole. "You knew about this didn't you?"
"Have you forgotten how demanding she gets when she's sick?" Cole asked his wife. "I'd rather take my wife out for a nice dinner and leave someone else to deal with 'her royal pain in the hindness'."
Thanh looked at him skeptically like she was about to scold him but then smiled. "You're taking me to Perry's Steakhouse because I'm dying for Chateau Briand."
"I've already made the reservations," Cole said smugly, and pulled over the wheelchair in the corner. "Hop in, Princess."
"I'm not getting wheeled out," Jayde refused.
"You say it like you have a choice," Thanh told her. "Sit your butt down or I don't sign your discharge papers."
Jayde grudgingly agreed and shook her head. Abbie picked up her bag off the bed and the four of them headed out of the hospital.
8 weeks later
Jayde had been on the brink of going stir crazy after two weeks at Abbie's place, not for lack of attention from her girlfriend, but from the frustrations of not being able to do everyday things like showering on her own or even cooking a simple meal. Being independent and stubborn, she hated having to rely on Abbie for a lot of things which she used to be able to do on her own like simply walking up and down the front steps to the house or putting her clothes on as her leg cast presented an obstacle to putting on pants and her broken ribs prevented her from lifting her left arm up very high.
But what frustrated her the most was not being able to make love with Abbie, who was adamant that Jayde was to recover first and foremost and their sex life would have to wait. Jayde had insisted that even though she had broken ribs and a broken leg, neither her mouth nor her fingers were broken and in fact were in perfectly working order as she demonstrated one night when they were in bed and Jayde's hands began to restlessly roam over Abbie's body.
She kept reminding herself to have patience and that they had all the time in the world together, now that she had told her boss she wanted to stay in Houston. Patience got her the girl and patience will help her keep her girl, she told herself repeatedly. And although their relationship was now known to Jayde's family, the younger woman could tell that Abbie was still unsure and not quite comfortable about telling people they were a couple. Case in point were Jayde's visits to the hospital for her check ups on her ribs and her leg. Whenever a nurse would ask if Abbie was family, she'd reply with a smile and say "Friend." When Jayde went to the physiotherapy clinic for an assessment, again, she was asked if she was family and she gave the same answer, that she was a friend, and so was asked to wait in the waiting room while Jayde met with the physiotherapist.
Abbie knew she was being unfair and a coward but she still wasn't prepared to say the words, "girlfriend", even to strangers. Why did she care so much what other people thought of their relationship? She tried to remind herself of what Cole had told her on that uncertain night at the hospital - that fears of what others thought of you were insignificant in the grand scheme of things. And she knew that her fears would drive Jayde away, again. Abbie's willpower had been strong in her determination to let the brunette heal completely before they resumed their sex life. However, by the time Jayde began her physiotherapy sessions, she had felt that the combination of their lack of sex life and her closetedness was having an impact on the woman she loved and Jayde was slowly slipping away from her.
She had dropped the brunette off at the clinic about an hour ago and was sitting at her desk staring at a report, reading the same sentence over and over again for the nth time.
"You okay?" Cole asked her.
"Huh?" she asked, looking up from the page on her desk.
"You're reading but I know your head's not in it. You've got that glazed look in your eyes," Cole told her. "Kinda like how my girls used to look at me when I'd start lecturing them."
"Thanh included?" Abbie teased.
"Yup," Cole nodded and sat back in his chair. "How's Jayde's physio going?"
"Fine, I think," Abbie replied.
"You think? You don't go with her?"
"She doesn't need me there distracting her."
Abbie knew she couldn't lie to her partner. They'd known each other too long. "I think I'm losing her."
"What makes you think that?"
Abbie raised an eyebrow and fixed him a look. He put up his hands in mock surrender. "Alright, I don't wanna know or hear or think about your sex life. That's my daughter for chrissakes."
"I'm still afraid of what other people think," Abbie said quietly.
Cole took in her words and nodded. "She doesn't need for you to come out to everyone or march in a parade. She wants to know that you'll be there for her when she does need you; that you won't back down when the shit starts stirring. I've known you a long time Abbie, and I know you've come a long way from what some people have thought about you in your life. I think you just need to find that part of yourself again."
Abbie knew he was right. She had told Jayde that she wanted to be the reason for her staying and yet she hadn't lived up to her words. She had grown comfortable with having the younger woman back in her life that she took her second chance for granted. That had to stop. She had to embrace this second chance with everything she had. "Mind if I take an early lunch?" she asked her partner who simply smiled and shook his head.
Memorial Hermann Hospital
"C'mon, Princess, move your ass," Jenna, the physiotherapist, called out to her from the other end of the parallel bars, which Jayde was hanging onto for dear life. Jayde and her therapist had had instant chemistry and built a good rapport in the two weeks that she'd been at the clinic and Jenna knew how to motivate the stubborn executive.
She had been upgraded to a plastic walking cast and had to learn to put some weight onto her right leg so she could start walking again without the aid of her crutches.
Sweat beads rolled down her forehead and she wiped them away with the sleeve of her t-shirt. The rehab was painful but she knew she had to do it if she was ever to completely heal from the fracture in her leg. The first week was excruciating but this second week was slightly better. She was half way down the walk way and knew she could push herself to go all the way.
"What do you tell your sales guys when they don't want to do something?" Jenna asked.
"Suck it up, Princess," Jayde answered.
"That's right, suck it up, Princess," Jenna told her. "A little pain and then you'll get to go to the pool after this."
Jayde liked the pool and the water therapy. It was what she looked forward to at every session. She took a deep breath and took another step with her left foot, placing about half her weight on her right leg. She let out a loud grunt as the pain shot through her entire leg.
She brought her right leg forward up to her left leg and took her weight off the healing leg, resting on her left foot and arms on the support bars. She closed her eyes and took deep slow breath, preparing herself for the next step.
"Can I help you?" Jenna's voice called out. Jayde looked up at her therapist to see that she was looking over at the doors behind Jayde. The brunette followed Jenna's gaze to the entrance of the gym and saw Abbie standing hesitantly, her hands in her jeans pockets.
Abbie smiled at Jayde and answered, "Yeah, I'm here to support my girlfriend."
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