DISCLAIMER: Guiding Light and its characters are the property of Proctor & Gamble. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I would like to stress, once again, that I do not watch this show... so there are probably going to be some major errors. But I hope I've seen enough of these compliation clips of Otalia to get as close to 'in character' as possible, and I just couldn't let it end there... this story has taken on a life of it's own... and I make no apologies for its length.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Lattes By Firelight
By devlinof9


Part One

Olivia heaved out a breath and let her head thump back against the heavy door, barely noticing the slight ache it caused. With a hand pressed to her rapidly beating heart, she couldn't keep from smiling. And in the half-light of her suite, where no one could see, the hotelier couldn't even bring herself to care about how rediculously goofy her expression might look. An uncomfortable day had turned into an absolutely wonderful evening with Natalia.

Saying goodnight hadn't been the easiest, but Olivia knew with certainty that it was something that had to be. After all that had happened, they both needed time and space to process. She'd tried and tried so hard to push Natalia away, especially in the last several days. Every word spoken from her lips about how Frank was a good man, how he'd give her everything she ever wanted, was like a knife in her chest, slowly carving out the new heart she'd been given.

Even after the failed wedding, and Natalia's declaration in the gazeebo, Olivia had pushed, believing what she was doing was for the younger woman's own good. All the while, dying a little inside with each breath. Wanting nothing more than to escape and curl into a ball in her rooms at the Beacon, waiting to die from the pain she was feeling in her very soul.

Natalia was stubborn though, and wouldn't be forced away, no matter what she tried. Olivia didn't know why she'd been surprised. The younger woman had always been that way. From the transplant surgery, through her recovery, the heart attack, even the battery scare; Natalia never backed down. Never gave up.

God, what did I do to deserve her? Olivia thought, her smile fading as she remembered all the indiscretions and transgressions in her life. "I know why I love her," she heard herself whisper, looking up to the heavens for answers, as she'd caught herself doing more and more lately, "But why does she love me?"

A long pause followed, and then Olivia closed her eyes and snorted softly. Suddenly I'm waiting for God to answer me back? her inner voice scoffed silently, Next thing you know I'm going to have my very own Virgin Mary figurine above the fireplace. With a sigh of aggrivation, Olivia pulled her jacket off and tossed it over to the bed, not caring if it landed in a heap on the floor during her musings.

The uncharitable thoughts probably would have continued longer, but for a sudden knock on the very door that she was leaning against, startling her out of her musings. "Jesus," Olivia muttered, checking her watch for the time, and wondering who it could be. The hotelier was amazed that she'd been lost in thought for nearly half an hour. She spun around, grousing; "This better be good."

Olivia threw the latch lock and yanked the door open, ready to throw her 'Boss-attitude' at the hapless employee who dared disturb her, and stared right into the chocolate brown eyes she'd said goodnight to, such a short time ago. Brain shorting out immediately, the hotelier simply blinked in surprise at Natalia. She was bundled against the cold in her big black parka and multicoloured scarf, and brandishing a tray with coffee cups from the cafe down the road.

"Hi," Natalia said, smiling shakily, "Um.. Latte's?"

Olivia blinked rapidly for a moment, a confused smile emerging. "I thought..." She shook her head and stepped back, allowing Natalia to enter the suite before gently pushing the door closed. "You were going home," she finally managed to force out, through the mix of trepidation at the younger woman's presence, and the soul stirring joy that infused her for the same reason.

Natalia turned to face her. "I was," she admitted, seeming to shrink further into her parka, as if it was protecting her from the world, "But I got halfway there and..." She broke off, the beginnings of a blush darkening her cheeks.

"And you realized you really needed a caffine fix?" Olivia raised an eyebrow, trying to relax the situation with a little sarcasm that was her usual defense.

Natalia's expression morphed into the same annoyed tollerance that usually followed one of the older woman's sarcastic comments and it made her grin slightly. "You're not funny you know," the younger woman said, as she often did, but the smile across her soft features took any bite out of the words.

"Then stop smiling," Olivia countered, her grin widening as she reached for the tray, "Take off that coat before you overheat." She very nearly choked when she heard herself speak, her imagination taking that statement and running with it. Shaking the mental Etch-A-Sketch so that she could start over without stammering like a moron, Olivia gestured to the sofa in front of the gas fireplace her suite contained, and sat down at one end.

Olivia hit the remote to activate the flames and sat back with one of the paper cups, curled around it's warmth like she was freezing. "So, you almost made it home," the hotelier finally said, watching Natalia stare into the flames as she worked things through in her head. She didn't want to push, but felt a panic growing inside her at the thought of what the younger woman might be pondering.

"I did," Natalia confirmed, a shaky smile crossing her face as she briefly looked up, "But it was so quiet there last night. I just..." She took a deep breath and her gaze dropped to the steaming latte she had been handed. "I just needed to be here."

"Why?" Olivia asked quietly, scanning the other woman's face for some sign. What she could see of it of course, since it was in profile and draped with the long dark hair she had such an urge to run her fingers through.

Deep brown eyes looked up once more, fear and confusion making them shiny with unshed tears. "I'm scared." Natalia's admission was a hitched whisper, and Olivia felt a stab of pain in her chest at those words, assuming the worst.

Her expression must have darkened perceptably as well, even though she was consciously trying to school it neutral, because Natalia instantly put her latte down on the coffee table and lurched forward. She stopped herself mere inches from touching Olivia though, panic on her face as she began stammering an explaination. "I'm scared that when I wake up tomorrow, this will all have been a dream," she blurted, a lone tear escaping and trailing down one perfectly tanned cheek.

Olivia's shock was nearly a physical manifestation. Her entire body felt jolted with electricity at those hurried words, and she almost dropped the latte she was holding. Blinking a few times to restart her brain, the hotelier carefully leaned forward and set down her cup beside Natalia's so she didn't end up wearing it.

"I know it's silly," Natalia resumed her babbling when the other woman had remained silent, and Olivia reached up and silenced her with a finger to her lips. A touch that she instantly pulled back, realizing too late what she'd done with a look of apology.

"It's not," Olivia countered, her voice surprisingly calm. It still amazed her that as much as she felt for Natalia, she was still able to keep her voice trained to somewhat of a normal tone. She tried to put a reassuring smile on her face and reached forward again, taking one of the younger woman's hands in her own and willing it to stop shaking.

"I know I said I wanted normal. That I needed us to just be ourselves for a while," Natalia blurted, the lone tear having been joined by it's pals as they tracked down her face rebelliously, "But can I... I need..." Her body was gravitating into Olivia's personal space.

The hotelier understood in a way that only best friends could, remembering how many times she'd held Natalia through her pain. Tugging on the hand she held, Olivia gently pulled her into the comforting embrace she'd never realized she could perform for anyone but Emma, until they had met.

Natalia collapsed against her chest, breathing shakily as she tried to get her tears under control, and Olivia closed her eyes at the feeing of warmth that infused her entire body. Wrapping one arm securely around the younger woman's back, the other gratefully tangling in the dark brown locks as she had craved most of the evening, she leaned back against the arm of the sofa, cradling her precious cargo.

Olivia dropped her face into that hair and breathed deeply, memorizing the smell of shampoo and body lotion that invaded her senses. She had known the first time she held Natalia in such a way, perfectly content to stay that way for the rest of the night, that what she felt was really love. The old Olivia would have found a way to turn it into sex or at least heavy petting, but the new Olivia was simply comforting, and extremely grateful to be able to do so. I would do anything for her, she thought for what must be the millionth time, a smile blossoming on her face.

After long, silent minutes, Natalia sniffled and pulled back slightly, murmuring apologies. Though she didn't want to let go, Olivia relaxed her grip just enough to tip Natalia's chin up so their eyes could meet. "Stop apologizing," she scolded softly, "You've been so strong for me for so long. It's okay to let me be strong once in a while."

Natalia didn't pull away from the embrace once she met the intense eyes looking down into hers. She was surprised at how much she wanted to stay just where she was forever. But it didn't stop her from trying to argue the point. "You've been so strong all week," she countered, fresh tears threatening when she thought again of how much the other woman must have gone through in trying to do what she thought was right.

"Hey, no more of that," Olivia cut in, a thumb wiping away dampness on a tanned cheek, "I don't want to keep going over this with you."

Natalia's smile was watery and shaky, but she nodded, turning her head to press a hesitantly soft kiss on the thumb that still stroked her cheek. The hotelier gasped quietly at the bolt of heat that seared the pad of her digit where Natalia's lips had connected, amazed at her body's reaction, and couldn't stop herself from leaning forward and placing an equally soft kiss to Natalia's forehead.

Her lips rested there for a long moment, and Natalia's eyes closed reflexively, revelling in the gentle touch. She knew she still struggled with her emotions, but they no longer warred against her faith. God is love, she thought over and over for most of the day, and came to a realization, as Olivia's lips pulled away from her forehead, only to place another comforting peck on her cheek. Such gentle expression from one so usually hard and brash can only BE love.

Olivia felt Natalia pull back slightly and silently scolded herself for the kisses that she knew lingered a little too long. Way to go, idiot, she thought mockingly, her eyes looking down and away to keep from seeing the panic she knew would be looking back at her. A soft hand brushed across her cheek, cradling her face, and she forced her gaze up once more, amazed at what she saw. Contentment and wonder had replaced the fear and pain she had seen early, and Olivia couldn't help but be drawn into the chocolatey brown pools before her.

Olivia searched those beautiful brown eyes for any hint of the former trepidation that she had witnessed, but could only find love. She knew she was quickly becoming lost, pulled forward to fall into them and couldn't muster even one thread of worry for what was happening. She'd never felt so calm and peaceful in her life.

An eternity passed for the two women. Lost in each other's eyes. Lost in the soft brushing of fingertips over cheekbones. As she was drawn forward by some unseen force, Natalia felt Olivia's heated breath on her face, once, twice, three times. A moment's hesitation, each searching the other's eyes, looking for any doubt, and finally the waiting was over. All the pain and fear and anxiety melted away, as lips brushed lightly.

The spark of pleasure to both women felt like electricity, jolting their entire bodies. Natalia's hand moved from where it had cradled Olivia's cheek to thread into her hair ever so gently. A barely there touch that neither was sure was actually real. "Oh, God," Natalia whispered, her lips tingling with each expulsion she felt against them from the hotelier's shaky breath.

Olivia couldn't believe it had happened. The touch so very light at first, her eyes had slipped closed to memorize the sensations, so different than the shocking kiss she'd laid on Natalia months earlier after Emma's school presentation. She had wanted to feel it for so long, but the brief touch wasn't enough and she felt herself pulled forward again.

Where the last kiss had been barely that, a whisper of a touch, this time it was sure. Natalia whimpered softly against Olivia's lips, pressing intently, yet still ever so gentle. She had never felt this type of emotion before, not even with Gus, so consuming in its power over her. "Liv," she murmered against the older woman's lips, feeling them respond to her voice, and part softly, returning the pressure.

Olivia's head swam at hearing Natalia's soft voice, feeling tremors of desire shake her body. Cradling Natalia's face in both her hands, she let her lips open, accepting the younger womans' breath into her body as she tasted those sweet lips, exchanging the gift for her own tongue. She let it slide between her teeth to brush lightly over Natalia's lips, hoping it wasn't too much, and then bolstered by the soft groan of approval she recieved.

Natalia's lips parted on that groan and her own tongue hesitantly met it's counterpart, a new, yet so very ancient dance beginning. Her free hand slid around Olivia's waist, pulling her closer as her need grew stronger with every moment. While the kiss was still infinitely gentle and tender, an urgency had developed, both needing to feel each other more than they were being permitted by positon.

But with urgency, came trepidation, and Olivia was the first to recognize it. "God," she groaned, pulling back from the sweet warmth of Natalia's mouth, trying to ignore the soft protesting mewl of disappointment. She was panting for breath, and desperately trying to ignore the heat that had formed in the pit of her stomach.

Natalia realized what had just transpired, and felt the shock of it to her very core. But rather than pull away in fear as she would have done even just the day before, she leaned in against Olivia's body, revelling in the warmth she found there. She was panting like she'd just run a marathon, but smiling at the thunderously rapid heartbeat she felt from the other woman. Without even thinking, she wound her arms around Olivia's back and squeezed tightly.

Olivia was just as shocked at Natalia's movements as she had been by the intensity of their first 'official' kiss, but said nothing. She merely wrapped her arms around the younger woman nestled against her chest and held her securely, trying to get her breathing under control. A soft hum of contentment answered her squeeze and she smiled, dropping her face into the mass of hair rested against her.

Natalia hummed her approval as she felt lips at her crown, and closed her eyes. Gone was the fear of what came after. How to deal with Frank, and the rest of the Coopers. She was happy. Finally, after years of struggle, taking care of her son and herself, Natalia finally realized what true peace felt like. "I love you, Olivia," she whispered, dropping a gentle kiss on the alabaster skin under her cheek, and smiling when she felt the heartbeat lurge slightly, "So very much."

Olivia felt tears spring to her eyes at the soft expression from the other woman, and held her tighter. She knew she didn't have to speak, having made her feelings very clear over the last week, but the wild side of her just couldn't let it go without some comment, and she smiled widely, her joy making her almost giddy.

"What exactly were in those latte's?"

"You're not funny, you know"

"Then stop smiling."


Part Two

Olivia had no idea how long she had sat there, nestled on the sofa in front of the fireplace. Cradling the precious woman she loved in her arms, staring into the flames, she had even stopped thinking. None of the worries and self recriminations that had plagued her for months were swirling around in her mind, and for the moment, she refused to try and find them again. It was the most perfect evening she could remember in her entire life, and the hotelier wanted to imprint every moment of it in her brain forever.

A quiet yawn was felt against her chest, more than heard, and Olivia tore her eyes away from the dancing light of the fire to look down at the quiet bundle. "Hey there," she whispered, tucking a lock of dark hair behind the other woman's ear, "It's getting late. You should probably head home before you fall asleep."

After a long pause, punctuated by another yawn, Natalia finally answered. "I am home," she said, impulsively, ducking her head so that her hair fell forward again, hiding the blush. Olivia chuckled quietly, letting her head fall back against the arm of the sofa that was her backrest.

Natalia heaved a sigh and began pushing herself upright, knowing that the other woman was right, but still not wanting to leave. The farmhouse would be just as dark and quiet as it would have been had she made her way home earlier, and the thought of it was even more unappealing after the kiss that they had shared.

"You probably have an early day," Natalia rationalized, running a hand through her hair after moving away from the tempting embrace she had been revelling in.

"Not really," Olivia admitted, pushing herself off the sofa arm and watching Natalia's expression carefully. She really didn't want to see the fear and shame returne to her face, but half expected it anyway.

Natalia wrapped her arms around herself and looked up when she felt Olivia's eyes on her. "It scares me that I really don't want to go," she whispered, a self depreciating smile on her face. Those shoulders hunched again, and Olivia recognized it as her natural defense maneuver. In that instant, she wanted to jump forward and wrap around the younger woman again. Willpower girl! Honestly! her mind screamed at her.

"Hey," Olivia whispered, reaching forward to brush the soft brown hair away from the other woman's beautiful face, "It terrifies me that I don't want you to go." Her admission got Natalia's attention, and shining brown eyes focused on her again.

For a brief moment, Natalia thought about the meaning behind both their words, and worried that things were moving too fast. The panic must have showed on her face, because she saw the self recriminating frown appear on Olivia's face in response just before she looked away.

"What happens now?" the younger woman couldn't help but ask, just as she had earlier in the evening, her confusion warring with her need to be close to the woman who meant everything to her.

"We say goodnight," Olivia whispered, remembering the moment as well, it seemed, though her expression said it was the last thing she wanted to do.

A long pause followed, neither moving from the sofa. Two sets of eyes stared into the flames of the fire, lost in their own thoughts. One examining her feelings, the other, second guessing herself with more than a few colorful words silently running through her head.

"I don't want to go," Natalia finally said, looking down at her hands where they were clenched on her lap and shaking.

Olivia squeezed her eyes shut against the sudden flood of tears she felt threatening to fall. Some of the sweetest words that had ever been spoken now rolled around in her head, suffusing her with warmth. "Then stay," she replied, turning her eyes down to Natalia's shaking hands and covering them with her own.

Another look of panic and uncertainty crossed the younger woman's face and Olivia smiled, knowing what was already running through her head. She reached up with one hand and pulled up the fleece throw that was draped over the back of the sofa. "Hey, it's okay," she reassured, squeezing the clenched hands, "You're too tired to drive safely. Take the bed, and I'll sleep here."

Natalia caught sight of the throw and visibly relaxed, a beautiful smile appearing on her face. "Movie night, only without the movie?" she said, seeing the classic Olivia-smirk appear.

"Well I can rummage for one of Emma's dvd's if you think it would help," the hotelier quipped, her heart soaring at the sudden relaxation of Natalia's shoulders.

"Some how I don't think you're really in the mood for Dora the Explorer right now," came the reply, and both women laughed softly, the tension melting away.

"No way," Olivia smirked, waving a hand expressively at the latte's and flickering fire, "All this is too sophisticated for Dora. It's much more Scooby Doo."

Natalia chuckled again, and batted a hand lightly on Olivia's arm. "You are not funny," she stated again.

"Then stop smiling." Olivia patted Natalia's hands and reluctantly pulled away, getting up from the sofa and heading for the bureau. "C'mon, it's time for bed. We've both had a hell of a long day." When the other woman didn't rise immediately, Olivia turned back and adopted, what she hoped, was one of her more confident grins, complete with raised eyebrow. "I think I can even pull out that set of sweats that kept magically finding their way into your laundry pile."

Natalia blushed deeply, and laughed, knowing that her 'borrowing' of Olivia's most comfortable pair of grey sweats hadn't gone as unnoticed as she'd hoped. Even though she'd had to roll the sleeves and legs a few times to make them fit, the younger woman had managed to convince herself that it was for the sheer enjoyment of their softness, rather than the fact that they smelled like Olivia. Once she admitted what was in her heart, she knew that she had been lying to herself for longer than even she realized.

Olivia caught sight of the blush and smirked that triumphant grin that most men in the board room found to be a bad omen, but that just seemed to inspire a deeper blush in Natalia. "Busted," she remarked smugly, tossing the aforementioned sweats at the younger woman.

Natalia caught the clothes and hugged them to her chest. She headed for the bathroom without arguement to change, accepting that Olivia was right, and it wouldn't be safe for her to try and navigate the slippery roads. As mentally and physically exhausted as she was, it was more likely she'd end up in a ditch somewhere, rather than make it back to the empty farmhouse.

While the younger woman was occupied, Olivia busied herself with turning down the bed, after stealing a pillow for the sofa. It was incredibly plush and comfortable, but she didn't want to wake up in the morning with a stiff neck from the armrest.


What the hell? Olivia paused on her way back to the sofa and looked around for the source of the sudden noise. Sounds like Natalia's phone, she thought after the second noise, and looked down at the floor. There, leaned against the edge of the sofa, was the younger woman's purse, and clipped to the side, a cellphone. Bingo. The display on it was lit as it continued to ring quietly.

Olivia was suddenly torn between happiness at the knowledge that the volume had been turned down so it wouldn't disturb them, and sorrow at who was most likely calling. It would mean a swift departure, she was sure, once Natalia answered and heard Frank's voice. The guilt would resurface, along with the shame, and she'd run again.

The pillow ended up flung onto the sofa with less care than originally intended, and Olivia heaved a sigh. I could just not tell her, the hotelier thought for a moment, but dismissed it almost instantly. I can't do that to her. Natalia has to be with the one she wants to be with, no matter how much it will hurt. Olivia had just about convinced herself that it wouldn't be her, when the bathroom door opened again.

She spun around, a surprised look on her face. "Oh, hey," she said, trying not to think about how cute Natalia looked in her sweats with the cuffs all rolled up, "Your phone just started ringing."

"Thanks," the younger woman responded with a sheepish grin,"Sorry. I thought I turned it off." She unclipped the phone and answered, listening for a moment.

Olivia schooled her features to neutral and moved over to the bureau, retrieving her own night clothes, and trying very hard not to listen to the quiet conversation that began to take place behind her.

"There's a good reason why all the lights are out," Natalia said patiently, "Because I'm not there." A long pause, and then; "Yes I know we have to talk, but it's late. Can we just talk tomorrow?" Another pause, and Olivia looked back to see a frown creasing the younger woman's face. "No, don't wait for me, I'm staying at the Beacon tonight..... because the house was to quiet, that's why........... No, Frank, not tonight."

The tone of the conversation turned so quickly that Olivia had become concerned. A large part of her wanted to take the phone away from Natalia and yell into it that he was upsetting the woman she loved, but she resisted. Instead, she approached slowly, wanting to offer her presence as comfort. She hesistated far enough back though, that the younger woman wouldn't feel crowded, and could easily cross the remaining distance if she needed the support.

"How much have you had to drink, Frank?" Natalia asked, feeling the other woman's strong presence and looking up to meet green eyes that immediately widened at the question. She waited a moment for the answer and then; "Because you shouldn't be driving around in that state. It's not safe."

Olivia tossed her night clothes back onto the bureau and headed for the night stand. Picking up the suite's phone, she dialed the front desk. "Get a phone book and find Buzz Cooper's number," she commanded the front desk clerk, her tone completely business. A stammered and rushed reply convinced her that she hadn't completely gone soft since falling head over heels, and the hotelier felt a surge of pride at the knowledge that she still firmly held her title as 'corporate bitch' to the rest of the world.

With one ear listening to Natalia end the phone call, Olivia wrote down the number given to her by the desk clerk and disconnected. She tried not to think about how hard she was punching numbers into the keypad, even though it made her finger ache, and looked up to see watery brown eyes, filled with concern, staring right back at her.

She extended her hand, and huffed out a startled breath when Natalia rushed into her embrace. Olivia curled her free arm over the younger woman's shoulders, holding her as tightly as possible in support as she spoke into the reciever.

"Hey Buzz, it's Olivia," she clipped, "I need you to get over to the farmhouse and pick up your son... Yes I know what time it is, I do have a watch... Because he's aparently been drinking and he needs a ride home before he does something stupid." She wasn't in the mood for his 'my son is sensitive and going through a rough time' speech.

Natalia sniffled and hid her face against the hotelier's shoulder at the harsh tone, and Olivia closed her eyes, trying to school her temper back down. "Look," she calmly interrupted his rambling, "I know he's hurting right now, that's why I'm calling you. If I didn't give a rat's ass, I would have called his buddies on the force."

That seemed to do the trick in getting through to the stubborn older man, and she disconnected the call once he had confirmed he was on his way. Olivia put the reciever back on it's cradle and fully enveloped Natalia in a hug, trying to offer reassurances that she didn't, herself, feel. "It'll be okay," she whispered into dark brown locks, "Buzz will take Frank home and make sure he sleeps it off. He'll be fine in the morning and you can talk to him then."

"He was so upset," Natalia's tortured voice sounded, filled with guilt, "I hurt him so much."

Here we go, Olivia's little inner voice piped up, Now she pulls away and tells you that she can't do this, and runs off to Frank. The dark self loathing reappeared as well, like a demented Jimminy freakin' Cricket, telling her, once again, that she should have kept her mouth shut at Gus's grave.

Natalia pulled back in that moment, causing a bolt of pain in Olivia's very soul, convincing herself she was right. "He heard your voice," the younger woman blurted, and then chocolate brown eyes widened as realization came to her. "You don't think he'll come here do you?"

"Afraid he'll figure things out?" Olivia snapped, then covered her rebellious mouth with a hand and looked down in shame at the instant hurt on Natalia's face. "I'm sorry. I just..." She trailed off and sat down heavily on the edge of the bed, clenching her hands together in her lap to stop them from shaking.

"How can you still think I'm ashamed of this? Of what I feel for you?" Natalia questioned, her voice tight with blossoming anger, "Do you really think I could just walk away from my family?" When Olivia didn't reply, only dipped her head further down, the younger woman's anger instantly vanished. She sank to her knees, close enough so that she could cover the hotelier's hands with her own, and felt a tear splash onto the back of her hand.

"How could you think I would just walk away from you?" she whispered, willing the older woman to look at her.

"Everyone else has," came the reply. It was spoken so softly that Natalia nearly missed it at first, then wished she had, as the three simple words carved pain into her chest. Tears sprang to her eyes and she pulled Olivia's trembling hands to her own face, pressing her lips against them.

The warmth that blossomed under those soft lips, raced up her arms, and Olivia did finally look up. Tear filled brown eyes met hers, and the hotelier saw the love and devotion in them. That's for me, she realized, in awe. Just wait, it'll be gone when by the time she sees Frank tomorrow, the demented Jimminy Cricket appeared in her mind again, and she immediately pictured sticking an olive fork in his throat. Piss off, you little insect, she thought.

Natalia watched the play of emotions across the other woman's face and wondered what she was thinking. But just as she opened her mouth to ask that very question, the suite phone rang, jarring them out of the intimate moment.

Olivia heaved a frustrated sigh and freed one of her hands to reach for the reciever. "Yes?" she croaked, then cleared her throat of the heavy emotion that had clogged it, "Put him through." She looked down at where Natalia was still watching her intently. "What do you mean he's not there, Buzz?"

Just then, a sudden pounding rattled the locked door of the suite, and Natalia's name was slurred angrily through the wood. Both women jumped at the disturbance and Olivia frowned in concern. "Nevermind, Buzz," she said, "I've got a pretty good idea where he is."


Part Three

Olivia hung up the phone after assuring Buzz that she wouldn't call the police on Frank. He had promised to hurry right over, and she related that to upset woman standing at her side. The pounding on the door hadn't eased, but hadn't increased either, so she was hopeful that the situation could be ended quickly, for everyone's sake.

"Maybe I should go out into the hall and talk to him," Natalia said, looking to the hotelier for some kind of direction, "It might calm him down."

Olivia had no idea what to say to that. Part of her was seething at Frank's callous disregard for Natalia's feelings by showing up and causing a scene, but in a way she understood what had driven him to try and drown his sorrows. She had stumbled home to the farmhouse more than once after spending the evening in a bottle; a feeble attempt to lessen the pain of watching the woman she loved in the arms of another.

"C'mon, Natalia," Frank's voice sounded through the knocking, slurred by alcohol, "I just want to talk to you. Open the door." The younger woman tore her eyes away from Olivia's with an expression of apology on her face, and took a few hesitant steps toward just that purpose. But she paused again, when the pounding and the voice changed dramatically.

"Damnit, Olivia," came the hateful growl, "I know she's in there, you bitch. Open the fucking door before I kick it in!" Natalia had never heard such malice in the voice of the man she had nearly married. She tensed and darted a glance back at Olivia, shock clearly evident on her face.

I just wanted a quiet night, she thought darkly, nice latte, maybe even a goodnight kiss. But nooooo.... I have to deal with Frankus Interruptus. Olivia pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed quietly in resignation. She stepped past Natalia, making sure to leave a gently comforting squeeze on her shoulder as she moved toward the door. "Call the front desk and have them send security," the hotelier instructed.

She squared her shoulders and threw the lock on the door, her alpha personality completely taking over, regardless of how ill advised it might be. Nobody called her bitch in her own damn hotel, no matter how drunk they might be. The door got flung open impatiently and she confronted the emotional man, hands on her hips. "Natalia's unavailable, Frank," she clipped, her tone incredibly business-like, "She's tired and wants to rest. You both need to take the night to relax and approch things tomorrow when you're up to it."

Frank stepped forward and Olivia felt her heartbeat increase with a sudden adrenaline rush of anger. She held a hand up that he walked directly into, and stopped, looking at her in shock, as though he finally realized she was there. "I need to talk to her," he said, though for the moment, he didn't move.

Olivia lowered her hand slowly and sighed. "I know, Frank," she answered, her tone softening slightly, "But you need to go home and sleep it off. She's dealing with a lot right now, and I understand how much you love her, but..." She didn't manage to finish, however, as the upset man brushed by her harshly and walked right in.

"Natalia!" Frank called, looking around for a moment, before spotting her by the bed. "I need to talk to you," he blurted, grabbing her arms. "What are you wearing?"

Both women had forgotten that Natalia was already changed for bed, and the younger woman's eyes widened as she struggled to find something to say. "What is this?" he demanded, his hands tightening painfully where they held her.

"Ow," Natalia winced, "Frank, let go." She struggled to free herself, but he only squeezed harder.

Okay that's it, Olivia snarled silently. She had followed Frank back into the room, but wasn't fast enough to stop him from grabbing the younger woman. "That's enough, Frank!" she barked, reaching out to put a hand on his arm, "You're hurting her!" The arm that she touched suddenly tensed and wrenched away from her, and she barely saw it's rapid return path, let alone had time to move, before a vicious backhand collided with her jaw.

The world inverted and spun, and suddenly the hotelier found herself face down on the floor, a strong copper taste filling her mouth. Not good, her mind helpfully supplied as she rolled over and blinked, trying to focus her double vision through the haze of instant headache the blow had given her. But the upside is now I won't feel guilty about relocating his testicles into his throat, her inner voice helpfully supplied, as soon as I can figure out which Frank is the real one.

"Olivia!" Natalia cried, wrenching away from Frank and shoving him harshly, "Oh my God, Frank! What have you done!" She darted around him and dropped to her knees by the prone woman's side, just as the security she had called, finally arrived.

"Ms. Spencer!" one of the security guards called as they lunged forward at Frank, quickly manhandling him into submission, "Are you all right?" Not that much effort was needed. The inebriated man was so shocked at his own actions in striking the hotel owner that he just stood in stunned silence, blinking at the trickle of blood flowing down her chin.

Olivia winced and struggled to her feet with Natalia's help. She tried not to be too obvious about using the younger woman as balance support while her head swam. "I'm fine," she snapped, waving a hand dismissively, "But your timing needs some work."

"Sorry, Ma'am," the shorter of the two guards said, "Would you like us to call the police?" He jostled, the now docile, Frank, for emphasis.

"No," she said wearily, looking over at Natalia's tear filled eyes, "His father is on the way. Just take him to the office holding cell until he gets here." She gently pulled away from the younger woman's frantic embrace of her arm, and headed to the bathroom. She tried to convince herself it was to check the damage done to her face, but that damn inner voice kept insisting it was to escape the stares of any who would see her vulnerability.

Natalia watched the security guards take Frank out, and closed the door quietly behind them. She was in shock, unable to believe what had just happened. I've never seen him so angry, she thought, her mind replaying the horror of his arm lashing out, and Olivia going down over and over. God, please help me to forgive him, she prayed silently as she headed for the bathroom and rapped quietly on the door.

"Olivia?" she called quietly, "Can I come in?" Silence was the only response, and Natalia worried her bottom lip with her teeth for a moment, wondering if she should give the other woman her space. Screw it, her heart decided for her, it's not like she hasn't yelled at me before. She turned the knob, relieved that it hadn't been locked, and slowly pushed the heavy door open.

"Olivia?" Natalia peered around the edge of the door and gasped softly at the sight before her. The hotelier was sitting on the rim of the large jacuzzi tub, a wet facecloth held to her mouth, but she looked horribly pale. Her vibrant green eyes were glazed over and wide as she stared off into space, her entire body trembling.

The first thought that went through the younger woman's head was that something must be wrong with Olivia's heart. It was such a common worry in the first few months that Natalia had been taking care of her, that it was still the first thought that jumped into her head. But then her rational mind took over, remembering the events of the previous few minutes and realized it was nothing like the previous problems. Shock, she realized, reaching out to touch an ice cold hand.

"Hey," Natalia whispered, sitting down on the edge of the tub, beside the woman she loved, "They're gone. C'mon back to the sofa. I need to get you warmed up."

"I'm fine," came the soft reply through chattering teeth. Eyes barely blinked and continued to stare straight ahead.

"Yes I can see that," Natalia responded, not unkindly, tenderly brushing a lock of hair away from Olivia's face as she inched impossibly closer, "But you're gonna fray the seams of that horribly overpriced pantsuit if you keep shaking like that."

"I got it on sale," the hotelier shot back quietly through the compress on her lip, some of her personality breaking through, although not without effort.

"Ah, I see. So it was only slightly more expensive than my sofa, you mean?" Natalia joked back, trying to put an easy smile on her face, "Ms. Spencer, I'm shocked."

"If it gets out, you're fired."

Natalia chuckled softly. "Don't worry," she assured, wrapping an arm around the trembling woman's back and rubbing her hand across a still quivering shoulder, "Your secret is safe with me."

Olivia's head finally tipped forward, her eyes closing, The quaking decreased slightly at the continued physical contact and Natalia took it to be a good sign. She breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed a bit, the tension in her shoulders seeping away as she pulled the hotelier's shivering body close. Wrapping both arms around her, Natalia held on as tightly as she dared, pressing her lips into fragrant hair and closing her eyes.

Olivia felt the emotion she was holding back start to break free at the tender embrace, and she squeezed her eyes more tightly closed, as if hoping to hold back the flood. Don't cave now, you sissy, her mind shouted, but it was too late. A sob caught painfully in her throat like a rock and she swallowed around it, though her shoulders began to heave from the strain. It had been so long since she was struck in such a fashion, she'd conveniently forgotten, or blocked, the memory of it's sensation out of her mind.

Natalia felt the change in her posture and knew the other woman enough to recognise it for what it was. "It's okay," she whispered, shifting to pull Olivia's head down under her chin, as though she was cradling Emma after a nightmare, "I'm here, Olivia. I've got you."

As though given permission, the dam finally broke. The compress dropped forgotten to the floor and Olivia sank into the embrace, her arms latching onto the younger woman desperately as she sobbed. Her entire body shook with the force of emotion tumbling free, but Natalia only held on tighter, whispering nonsense and words of love to the distraught woman in her arms.

She had no idea how long they stayed like that, perched on the edge of the jacuzzi tub. Her legs had cramped slightly, and her butt was numb from the cold porcelain, but she ignored both. All that mattered to Natalia was supporting the woman she loved in her time of need.

The sobs had died away some time earlier, almost as quickly as they started, but Olivia had made no move to leave the warm embrace, and so Natalia continued to rub her back and stroke her hair. The younger woman had to admit that she loved the feeling of holding the hotelier, and wanted it to last forever, though she would have prefered it not be for the turn of events that had transpired.

A solid knock on the suite door startled both women and reluctantly they both pulled back. "Sorry," Olivia muttered, eyes cast down at the floor as she sniffled and tried to regain some of her composure.

"You have nothing to be sorry about," Natalia reassured, stroking soft hair once more before retrieving the facecloth from where it had fallen, "Let me see who's at the door and then we'll get you cleaned up."

Olivia frowned and was about to protest that she wasn't a child when a soft kiss was deposited on her cheek, followed by a whispered, "I love you." Natalia then rose from her position and exited the bathroom, leaving the hotelier to reboot her brain.

The younger woman made sure to close the bathroom door behind her, knowing how much Olivia valued her privacy around others, and made her way to the suite door. A quick look through the peep hole confirmed her suspicions that it was Frank's father and she promptly opened the door.

"Hello, Buzz," she said neutrally, staying in the doorway, rather than stepping aside to let him in. It was the most cordial she could be at the moment, finding that her anger at Frank transfering to his father, no matter how much she tried to prevent it. But before she could let him know where to pick up the inebriated man, his eyes widened.

"My God, Natalia," the older man blurted, staring at her shoulder, "What happened? Are you okay?"

She looked down and saw a smear of blood on the sweater she was wearing, and instantly wished she hadn't. It only served to fuel her anger further. "I'm fine," she clipped harshly, "It's not my blood. It's Olivia's."

"Olivia's?" Buzz parrotted, blinking in shock, "Is she..."

"He hit her, Buzz," Natalia barked angrily, pulling at the stained fabric on her shoulder to emphasize the point, "Frank hit her!"

The older man was completely at a loss for words, simply standing with his mouth open in shock while the sweet woman he had come to know, raged at him like a mother bear protecting her cub. "Frank barged in here, drunk, and grabbed me. She only tried to stop him, damnit, and he hit her! She was trying to protect me!" Her tirade fizzled out when the older man took a step back in surprise.

"Natalia, I'm sorry," Buzz apologised for his son, as he seemed to be doing more and more these days, "I know he's hurting right now."

"That's not a valid excuse," she snapped, and then closed her eyes and took a steadying breath. "I'm sorry," she continued, "I shouldn't be taking it out on you. Security took him down to their office but Olivia wouldn't let them call the police. I know we'll need to talk about this at some point but will you do something for me?"

"Of course, if I can," Buzz nodded, and watched in silent horror as Natalia took off the ring his son had given her, and hold it out.

"Please give him this when he sobers up." Buzz nodded silently, knowing there was nothing he could say that would change her mind. In truth, he knew it was coming anyway, always believing her heart hadn't really belonged to his son, but never had he expected a turn of events such as the ones that had just transpired.

"Thank you," Natalia said, stepping back into the room.

"Natalia," Buzz said, halting her from closing the door entirely. He met her eyes and said with complete sincerity; "I really am sorry about all this."

"I know," she nodded, her expression one of profound sadness, "But please tell him it would be a good idea to stay away from us both for a while."

"I will." With that final acknowledgement, Natalia closed the door. Buzz shook his head, walking away to retrieve his errant son, and muttering quietly; "You really screwed up this time, my boy." And knowing what Olivia Spencer could be like in a mood, things were going to get much worse for him, before they got better.


Part Four

What a night, Natalia thought, resting her head against the door of the suite after she had locked it. The emotional upheaval of the entire day had been a strain, from the low of having to say goodbye to Rafe, yet again, to the unbelieveable high of dinner with Olivia and Emma. To have it all crash down again, because of her earlier actions, left the young woman feeling incredibly guilty. She felt responsible for Frank's drinking, and the resulting injury he had caused to the hotelier.

"Heavenly Father. Please help me to have strength through all this, "she whispered softly, trying very hard not to let the tears that were threatening to fall, escape her tightly shut lids, "I need You now more than ever." She sniffed once, and pushed away from the door, silently rationalizing that there was time for her own pain later. First, the woman she loved needed her to be strong.

Natalia headed back to the bathroom, after a quick stop to change the sweater for one of Olivia's t-shirts. She didn't want to carry evidence of the hotelier's injury on her, and definitely didn't want the other woman to see it. "Olivia?" she called quietly at the door, rapping gently before turning the knob and letting herself in.

The older woman was standing at the mirror, examining the side of her face intently as she rinsed a facecloth in the sink. Emerald green eyes looked at by way of the reflective surface, but gone was the warmth and expressiveness of earlier. A cloud of anger and coldness had replaced it, turning them to chips of ice that would chill most who dared look directly into them.

Natalia was an exception to that and she knew it. After months of looking after the hotelier through her transplant and resulting medical issues, she had grown an immunity to the glare. She knew it was a natural defense that Olivia had little control over, and the walls that had to be carefully taken down to show her wounded soul, had a habit of slamming back up, twice as thick, at the slightest hint of vulnerability.

"Thank you for your help with Buzz," the hotelier said quietly, turning her attention back to the mirror and resuming her attempt to clean the bits of blood away from her nose and lip, "But you should probably be getting home now."

Natalia simply watched her, biting back a sigh of frustration. Arms ended up crossing, in her typical show of defiance to the other woman, and she leaned back against the door jam, showing that she wasn't even slightly intimidated. She really didn't want to argue tonight on top of everything else, but knew that it would be the only way to get past those walls again before they were reinforced with plate steel. The longer it was left, the worse it would get.

Olivia glanced over again and saw that the younger woman wasn't moving. It prompted her to speak again as Natalia knew it would. "Really," she said quietly, trying to put a bit of a relaxed smile on her face, "I'm fine. You should go and get some sleep before dealing with Frank in the morning. I'm sure he's going to need you when he wakes up."

Natalia continued to wait, trying to school her expression into staying neutral, though she could feel her brow furrowing slowly. She knew Olivia's passive aggressive comments about Frank were carefully calculated to make her angry, but she wasn't going to take the bait as she had so many times before.

"You don't have to worry about me," Olivia continued, moving the cloth down to dab at the drops of blood that had fallen onto her vest, "I'm just going to get the worst of this out, and then go to bed myself. I'll have housekeeping pick it up in the morning for the drycleaner." She shook her head, visibly becoming frustrated with how little of the stain was actually lifting. "Damnit! I can't believe how hard it is to get blood out of cashmere."

Natalia raised an eyebrow as she watched the other woman carefully. Once she saw Olivia's controlled motions become jittery, she realized her opening. "Are you finished?" she asked quietly, her only movement a slightly raised eyebrow, "Or would you like to yell a little too?"

Olivia threw the facecloth into the sink and slammed her palms down on the counter. Her emerald eyes pinned Natalia's by way of the mirror and she simply glared. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?" she demanded, a scowl tugging at her perfectly arched eyebrows as her voice rose, "Just because I would like to be alone, doesn't mean I'm going to start raving like a bitch."

Neither mentioned that it's exactly what she was doing. Natalia went silent again, simply watching her with compassion filled eyes. The lack of arguement back seemed to fuel Olivia's temper further, as the younger woman knew it would. "What exactly about this bothers you?" the hotelier demanded harshly, "The fact that I think Frank needs you, or the fact that I don't?" She spun away from the mirror and looked directly into Natalia's eyes, the pain not as carefully hidden as she undoubtedly hoped. "You're the one that's been doing your best to get me to think of others first, you know."

Natalia sighed quietly and looked down at the floor for a moment. Okay, time to end this, she thought, and brought her eyes back up to meet the glare with one of her own. "What bothers me," she bit off slowly, making sure to form each word with great emphasis, "Is that you think I care, even slightly, about WHAT Frank needs right now."

Olivia opened her mouth to argue right back, but Natalia pushed away from the door jam and held up a hand. "No," she interrupted befor the other woman even had a chance to speak, "You had your turn. Now you are going to listen to me, Olivia Spencer." The older woman's mouth closed, at the same time as her eyes widened in shock, and Natalia continued to forge ahead, the stress of the evening finally coming to the surface.

"I understand that you need to show the world how strong you are," she said, though not unkindly, "That you need to stand on your own and prove to anyone who sees you that you can take on every challenge without even batting an eye. But I am not just anyone." She stepped into Olivia's personal space, not at all surprised when the older woman tried to back away to protect herself. "You can make others cower in fear of your wrath all you want," Natalia's voice dropped to just above a whisper as she looked into green eyes that began to soften under the verbal onslaught, the anger that was her shield, abandoning her, "But I expect better from you, Olivia. I deserve better."

That last comment seemed to do the trick and Natalia watched the other woman completely deflate and sink down onto the toilet lid. Her hands clasped tightly together in her lap, Olivia bowed her head in resignation at the cold truth she was faced with, and let out a calming breath. "You're right," she admitted softly, looking up at the dark eyes that still pinned her with their intense gaze, "You DO deserve better. I just...."

When she trailed off with a heavy sigh, Natalia moved forward yet again, and sank to her knees, placing her hands overtop of Olivia's. "Just what?" the younger woman asked, letting go of her anger completely at the frightened expression she beheld.

Olivia freed one of her hands and brought it up to trail a fingertip over Natalia's eyebrow. The same hand that had so roughly been trying to scrub away blood moments earlier, cupped her cheek tenderly, and the younger woman pressed her face toward the touch. She soaked up the warmth that even the simple connection afforded her and waited patiently for Olivia to continue.

"I just.... " Olivia struggled to express herself, not used to being open with anyone, even in the numerous relationships she'd had before. Swallowing around the lump in her throat, the hotelier forged ahead, determined to open up even a little after the tirade she had recieved, and so richly deserved. "God, Natalia," she whispered, "I love you so much. I don't mean to push you away, honestly. I just... sometimes... it scares me how easily you slip past all my defenses. And it scares me how much I want to let you. "

Natalia covered the hand at her cheek with her own, holding it there as she closed her eyes. She took in the admission, knowing from everything they had talked about since their first confessions of love for each other that Olivia's greatest fear was being hated by her down the road. "I can't tell what's going to happen in the future any more than you can, Olivia," she whispered, opening her eyes and meeting the other woman's fearful gaze, "But I can tell you over and over again that I love you. With all my heart."

She reached up and brushed hair away from the hotelier's face, and traced the shell of one ear with a delicate fingertip. "I don't know where this will go, or where we'll end up," she admitted, "But I do know that God brought you to me; gave me these feelings for you. I love you, Olivia, and I know that I want to be with you. You are everything to me; you and Emma and Rafe. And if I give even a single part of that up, I know in my heart I will regret it every day for the rest of my life." The two women stared into each others eyes, neither speaking, reading the truth of their words in their expressions. There was just nothing else that needed to be said.

Natalia wasn't sure how much time passed, but by the time she felt the need to move, her knees were aching from the cold tile of the floor. She cast the mental dice, and when they came up snake-eyes, she smiled. In for a penny, her mind offered. Rising to her feet, she guided Olivia to stand as well, and then lead her out of the bathroom.

She ignored the questioning look on the hotelier's face and turned toward the bureau, retrieving the night clothes that Olivia had dropped when Frank called. "Take that suit off," Natalia commanded gently, holding out the t-shirt and shorts, "It won't be very comfortable for sleeping in."

Olivia raised an eyebrow, taking the clothes from the outstretched hand and examining them closely. "Gonna tuck me in like Emma now?" she questioned, a bit of her sarcastic humor coming back and making her sound a little more like herself.

"Yep, but you're a big girl. You can read your own bedtime story," Natalia fired right back, heading back to the bathroom to clean up a bit of the mess left behind. It was second nature after spending so long as a housekeeper. She took her time rinsing the sink of what little blood hadn't gone down the drain. Neither one of them would need a reminder of the emotional upheaval when they woke in the morning. A quick rinse of the facecloth followed, and Natalia hung it over the rail behind the toilet to dry, before heading back out to the main suite.

Olivia had finished changing during her absence, and was folding her pantsuit carefully on the chair that she normally reserved for her dry cleaning. She offered a hesitant smile to the younger woman, and Natalia couldn't help but notice the slight wince that followed the facial movement.

"C'mere," she said, stepping close to Olivia and turning her face toward the light, "Let me see." She was amazed that in all the time she had spent gazing into Olivia's eyes, her attention had never once strayed to the rapidly forming red mark on the side of her face.

"It's fine, Natalia," the older woman protested, trying to pull away.

"Hold still," she commanded with a gentle shake, tipping her own head inquisitively as she looked over the damage. Olivia's bottom lip had begun to swell a little at the corner of her mouth, and her cheek was more pink than it should be, but whatever blood there had been was gone. Natalia sent up a quick, silent prayer of thanks that the damage wasn't worse, though from the spreading redness, she surmised the hotelier would have the beginnings of a black eye come morning.

"I'm sorry," she whispered, gently brushing a fingertip over the redness.

Olivia did her best not to wince at even the light touch and pulled Natalia's hand down to her lips, kissing the knuckles tenderly. "It's not your fault," she assured, "I just need to learn to duck. Usually when someone is that mad at me, there's a conference table between us, so I never needed the skill."

Natalia couldn't help but smile slightly at that. "You're not funny."

"You keep saying that," Olivia countered with a smile of her own, "And yet, you keep encouraging me with that beautiful smile." The younger woman blushed deeply at the compliment and Olivia only smiled wider, the mere sight of those dimples making her forget the ache in her cheek.

"Stop," Natalia squeaked quietly, ducking her head to hide the blushing smile.

"Sorry," Olivia said contritely, not wanting to embarass the younger woman too much. She reached out and tipped Natalia's face up to look at her again, suddenly serious, after the moment of brevity. "By the way," she added softly, "I need to say thank you."

"For what?" Natalia's big chocolate brown eyes looked deep into their emerald green counterparts, trying to read what was there.

"For putting up with my moods. For not giving up on me," Olivia replied, brushing a thumb across her cheek and down to the almost pouting lower lip that quivered at her touch. Her voice dropped to a whisper as she looked into chocolate brown eyes. "For loving me."

Natalia stopped breathing at those softly uttered words, so filled with tenderness and honesty. She looked into the emerald eyes that had so captivated her earlier and felt the same draw as before. Was it only this evening that we kissed, TRULY kissed, for the first time, she wondered silently, feeling like it had been an eternity.

"Natalia?" Olivia's voice cut through her haze, and the younger woman realized that her wonderings must be showing in her expression.

"Shh," Natalia whispered, bringing a hand up, laying a gentle finger over full lips. She felt a shiver work up her spine at the small kiss left on the silencing digit, and suddenly she needed to be quieting those lips with her own. Drawn forward once more, like a moth to a flame, Natalia consciously closed the distance between them, feeling a jolt at the way their body's fit together.

Her lips, barely inches away from Olivia's parted on a gasp at the warmbreath puffed across her face. She remembered the sensation well from the sofa, and felt the same tingles running through her as they did then. It amazed and scared Natalia how strongly she felt in moments like these, unable to even consider the world around her when she was so close to the woman she loved. The hotel could burn to the ground right now, and I wouldn't even notice, she mused with a smile.

Olivia had not moved a muscle since Natalia's invasion of her personal space. She didn't want to break the spell that had her heart's desire so very close; afraid that even the slightest twitch would send her skittering off like a frightened deer. But the younger woman came only so close, and then no further. It was absolutely maddening to feel so complete and yet, want more. Much more.

Finally, she could take it no longer, the ache in her chest growing too large for her to contain. "Please," she whispered, hoping against hope, that it wouldn't end the moment.

Natalia traced the contours of Olivia's face with her eyes, memorizing every detail. When she finally settled on those perfectly soft lips, the younger woman remembered how sweet they had tasted. How gently they had played against her own lips. So very different than any kiss she had ever shared with another. She so longed to feel that tenderness again and when the other woman's soft plea reached her ears, she was helpless to resist.

Natalia closed the final small distance and covered Olivia's lips with her own, nearly gasping at how perfect it felt. A whimper did sound, and the hotelier's hands came up to cradle either side of her face. Oh God, she thought dizzily, her arms coming up around Olivia's waist, This is love. This is the way love is supposed to feel. She tightened her embrace, pulling the older woman even closer, and groaned softly at the feel of soft curves nestling against her own.

Lips parted and the kiss naturally deepened, neither really intending it, but doing nothing to prevent it either. Tongues tangled slowly in an erotic dance, causing both women to tremble at the sensation. When the kiss broke upon mutual need for air, both were breathing hard, stunned at how intense things had become.

Natalia rested her forehead against Olivia's and kept her eyes closed, savoring every little twitch of her overheated body; hyper sensitive to the same sensations she could feel racing through the woman in her arms. "Olivia," she whispered, loathe to ruin the moment, but needing with all her heart to express her desires, "Stay with me tonight. Let me hold you."

Olivia pulled her head back to look into brown eyes made nearly black with emotion. She searched them for any hint of fear. "Are you sure?" she asked softly, "The sofa is okay for me, you know."

Natalia nodded without hesitation. "I don't know if I'm ready for more than this," she answered honestly, "But I need you close. I need to.... feel you."

The shakey smile on her face was so open and endearing that Olivia nearly came undone. "Okay," she nodded, unable to deny the woman she loved a single thing. Taking a deep breath, she tried to get some semblence of self control back. A task made harder and harder every time she kissed the younger woman.

They parted briefly, Natalia turning down the covers of the king sized bed, while Olivia turned off the lights and turned off the fireplace. The bathroom light was left on, though the door pulled nearly closed so give only a hint of illumination should either need to rise in the darkness.

Finally ensconsed under the covers, there was none of the evening's previous awkwardness as both women gravitated toward the center of the bed and into each others arms. Natalia's movements encouraged the hotel owner to lay against her, and without preamble, Olivia did so, nestling her head against a soft shoulder. Better to avoid temptation, she thought, snuggling down against the woman she loved, rather than asking for a goodnight kiss. Instead, she breathed deep of the delicate perfume Natalia always, wore and smiled.

Natalia let out a deep breath of relief and curled an arm around Olvia's back, holding her as close as possible. A gentle hand reached up and lay on her ribcage, making no further move than that, as if just feeling her heartbeat. Natalia smiled and covered the hand with her own, holding it in place, deeply touched by the tenderness of the other woman. "Goodnight, Olivia," she whispered, turning her head to drop a kiss into the fragant hair at her shoulder.

Olivia hummed her approval and nuzzled in further. "Love you," was the whispered reply, and both women drifted off to dream land.


Part Five

Olivia swam through the thick fog of sleep, slowly regaining her senses in the darkness of night, wondering what had brought her to consciousness. Suspended somewhere between full awareness and waking dream, she only knew that she felt warm and safe and completely relaxed. A hair tickled her, still sensitive, cheek and she tried to brush it away, but found that her arm was pinned in place. A little more of the haze melted away when she realized why, and she couldn't help but smile. Natalia.

At some point in their sleep, the two women had managed to reverse positions. While Olivia was on her back, stretched out, Natalia had curled up to her side; the younger woman's head on her shoulder, and an arm and leg thrown almost posessively over the hotelier, as if to say, 'mine'. No wonder I'm awake, she thought as she felt the sleeping woman nuzzle against her neck, who'd want to miss even a moment of this?!

Olivia ran the fingertips of her free hand up the arm that lay across her ribs and sighed happily when she felt it contract slightly, trying to hold her closer. Up to a smooth cotton covered shoulder, and into chestnut brown locks that spread like waves in the ocean, her touch continued. Reaching the base of the sleeping woman's skull and cradling it tenderly, Olivia pressed her lips to one delicately arched eyebrow, feeling it twitch as Natalia hummed happily. The warm body at her side shifted closer still.

"Shh," she breathed against golden skin, readjusting her own limbs to hold the younger woman securely. Her, once pinned, arm was mostly freed from it's confinement and she brought it up to stroke softly at Natalia's back, trailing fingernails lightly up and down her spine, in a soothing motion.

A contented moan came from the mostly sleeping woman, and she nuzzled closer to Olivia's neck. "Feels g'd," Natalia slurred happily, and the hotelier could feel the smile form on her face through the thin t-shirt she wore. She knew a sappy smile came to her own face as well, at the soft words, but couldn't seem to muster even the slightest resistance to it. I feel so much with you, Olivia thought, dropping another soft kiss onto the other woman's forehead.

"Mmm," came the response to her actions, and the warm body shifted against her, "What time is it?"

"It's early," Olivia whispered, "Go back to sleep." She deposited another kiss on the younger woman's warm skin and resumed her backrubbing.

Natalia hummed again, and her delicate hand began scrubbing softly over the cotton clad ribs it embraced. The hotelier couldn't stiffle a shaky gasp at the heat such a simple touch could invoke within her. Her skin felt as though it caught fire with even the slightest amount of friction, and the last of the sleepiness burned away in an instant.

Olivia's entire body tensed at the gentle touch as she consciously fought every instinct she had to pounce and devour the beautiful woman in her arms. It was second nature to her, after so many casual conquests, and short lived marriages; stop wasting time and get to it. But her physical self was at war with her heart, and it thumped painfully hard in abject terror at the mere thought of scaring her away.

There was really no question or contest to it. The hotelier covered the caressing hand with her own and held it very still for a long moment, hoping the lack of sensation would quench the fire that had begun to burn inside her. Or at least stop adding fuel until she could get herself back under control.

Natalia's head came up slightly at the sudden movement, and she peered at Olivia in the dim light, her expression one of sleepy confusion. "What's wrong?" her soft words sounded, hoarse from lack of use.

Olivia swallowed and bravely tried to meet brown eyes in the dim light. "Nothing," she affirmed, releasing the other woman's hand and bringing it up to cradle a warm cheek, "I just don't want to push you into something you're not ready for." She knew that her trembling would be felt by Natalia and saw no reason to even try and deny it while they were so close.

"You're not," the younger woman confirmed softly, resuming the motion against Olivia's ribs once more. Her delicate hand slipped down to the edge of the t-shirt and lifted it slightly, sliding her fingers underneath to touch soft, heated skin.

Olivia tensed again and groaned pitifully, her eyes slamming shut at the sensation. Damn, it's never felt like this, she thought frantically, wondering if a person could actually die from what she was feeling. A thought that instantly fled her scrambled brain when soft pliant lips covered her own in a dizzyingly intense kiss.

Her hand immediately went to the back of the younger woman's head, tightening in her hair. She returned the kiss with enthusiasm, whatever sliver of self control she had left, abandoning her in the wake of such strong sensations. Olivia couldn't prevent the moan that escaped her when she felt Natalia's short fingernails rake lightly over her ribs. A sound that was echoed almost immediately by the younger woman as the kiss deepened.

What had been a warm burn, became blazing inferno, and the hotelier couldn't prevent her body's natural instincts from taking over. She was along for the ride as her legs seemed to shift of their own will, one raising slightly where it was trapped between Natalia's. Olivia felt the skin of her thigh connect with a heat had so often dreamed about, and nearly came undone at the experience.

Natalia tensed in that brief instant, a groan ripped from her throat, and then seemed to melt against the older woman's body, trembling uncontrollably. When she suddenly pulled away from the kiss and buried her face into Olivia's neck, the hotelier froze, silently berating herself for letting things get out of control so quickly.

"Natalia?" she whispered into the dark tresses, one hand at the nape of her neck, cradling gently, the other splayed wide over her lower back to prevent any motion that might further stun the younger woman.

"Guh," came the muffled reply, and she felt the slender hips jerk against her in reflex, "God, don't stop. Please." Fingernails raked firmly over the ribs they had gently teased, and a fist tightened in the shirt she wore, nearly ripping it.

Olivia felt a bolt of arousal lance through her entire being at those whispered words and she groaned softly. "I love you," she whispered, flexing her thigh and pushing it a bit higher. The reward was a muffled cry against her throat, and the hotelier nearly stopped breathing when she felt Natalia's hips begin a regular, if somewhat shaky, motion, rocking her heated core against the firm muscle.

The younger woman's own thigh shifted with the change in movement, pressing against Olivia's burning apex almost by happenstance, and her head slammed back into the pillow. "Oh, God," she heard herself choke out, helpless to prevent her own hips from beginning the same instinctive dance.

"Olivia," a gasp reached her ear, and she forced her eyes open, instantly becoming lost in blazing brown eyes that seemed to sear a path right to her soul. The hand that had played at her ribs suddenly moved higher to envelop one full breast and squeezed, while kiss bruised lips lowered again to devour her mouth.

The older woman moaned helplessly into the deep kiss, going light headed from the mirade of sensations racing through her body. Natalia was almost completely on top of her, pressing her into the matress, and for the first time in her life, through her many sexual experiences, she didn't find it suffocating at all. She felt anchored and protected and free to express all that she was feeling without worry of floating away.

Olivia slide the hand that was at Natalia's back, down further, grasping tightly at the soft swell of deriere that rocked against her, encouraging more contact. She swallowed the approving groan that was the younger woman's response and brought her free leg up, hooking it around Natalia's and pressed her own center closer, effectively locking their lower bodies together.

The heat between them increased exponentially from that point, hips moving faster. Olivia longed to flip them over and bear down into the younger woman, her instincts to dominate the experience so very strong. She kept her place though, allowing Natalia to dictate the speed, and relishing in the burn that consumed her at a far slower rate than she was accustommed to.

Therefore it came as a total surprise when the icy cold fire of climax blossomed within her, spreading out from her center in a wave that made her tremble and moan into the frantic kisses. Her hips jerked shakily against the thigh that pinned them, not so much shattered by the sensations, as lifted, and then gently lowered into a glowing warmth that suffused her entire being.

Well, that was something new, she thought, revelling in the kisses from Natalia that were growing more and more interspersed with gasping breaths. The younger woman's movements had grown progressively stronger, and Olivia could feel her entire body shaking in her arms.

The hotelier pressed her thigh higher, knowing in the way lovers simply do, that Natalia's crest was upon her. She was rewarded when the kiss broke on a strangled cry and the younger woman curled into her neck, hips jerking spasmatically in completion. Olivia felt a flood of warmth on her thigh through the sweats and shivered in response, silently astonished that the best lovemaking of her life had just happened, and while both had remained fully clothed, at that.

"I love you, Olivia," came the gasped breath at her throat, and the older woman felt a completeness wash over her that she had never felt before.

She held Natalia tightly to her, dropping a kiss into her hair. "I love you," she whispered just as softly, stroking the still shivering body, soothingly. Sheets that had fallen unnoticed and unneeded to their waists became necessary once more, and Olivia tugged on them slightly, creating a cocoon of warmth around them.

"You okay?" she questioned in the following silence, wanting to reassure herself that she hadn't gone too far. Now that the sensations were abating, old insecurities and self-doubt were begging to be heard, and she couldn't help but remember how much Natalia had regretted her night with Frank those many weeks ago.

"Mmhmm, perfect." A smile against the bare skin of her throat, followed by a chaste, yet loving, kiss, seemed to melt all her worries away.

"Sleep now," Olivia whispered, unable to keep the smile off her face as she felt the younger woman burrow into her embrace even further.

"Guess the latte's worked," Natalia's voice murmured sleepily.

"You're not funny," Olivia responded with a chuckle.

"Then stop smiling."

The End

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