DISCLAIMER: I own nothing. Characters belong to Shed Productions. I would like to thank my Beta Reader Rebelgirl. She has been a great help.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Sins of the Past
By Ladyhawke


Chapter Sixteen

It was just after midnight and her head was throbbing. This whole weekend had been draining and as she looked at the man sitting across from her in her dinning room she knew that things were about to get worse. Sean was making tea in the kitchen and William Tucker was looking at her like a scientist examining dead cat. It took all her willpower not to shiver under his gaze.

"What can I do for you?" she asked no longer willing to wait for Sean.

He smiled. "I have come to discuss a matter involving Nicola Wade." He paused and when she didn't react he continued. "You don't seem surprised to see me?"

"That's because I'm not. I was up at the Wade estate this evening and your name was brought up quite a few times before I left," Helen said her voice turning cold.

She didn't know how to handle this situation. Here was the man that held at least some of the answers she longed so desperately for, but also caused Nikki so much pain that she ran from everyone she knew. That fact alone caused her to hate this man. Sitting across from him seemed like a betrayal.

Sean walked back into the room place a cup of tea in front of their guest before sitting down next to Helen.

Tucker gave a pensive look as if unsure how to handle his next step, but only for a moment. "Nicola Wade and I came to an agreement many years ago. One that we both accepted that was until she linked up with the Atkins. Since your 'friendship' has become tabloid focus I thought that it would be best for me and Miss Wade to have a new conversation, but it seems that she is not interested. That is why I have come to you."

Her brow creased at his words. He was blackmailing Nikki? Why would anyone blackmail her?

"I don't follow." She said when he looked at her expectantly.

She wanted to slap the patronizing look that he gave her. If he wasn't careful she would excuse herself and call Charlie Atkins over to have a word with him.

"I shouldn't be surprised but your confusion. Those with money have tendency to keep things private but I had thought she would have told you." He was enjoying this, dragging out the inevitable.

"Well then why don't you stop pissing about and enlighten me," she said losing her patience.

Sean turned surprised at his fiancé's tone. She was usually so well mannered but after this weekend he was starting to see side of Helen that he never knew existed.

The old briefcase that was resting next to him on the floor was brought up on the table. He popped it open and pulled out two manila folders. Both were documented at the top, the first one stated October 11th which was Nikki's birthday and the other read November 20th-September 15th. Helen stomach turned.

"My chosen profession is that of a private investigator. It has been a decent living but sometimes it requires actions that most look down upon. A few years ago, I was asked to acquire some information on Nicola Wade," he explained but was interrupted.

"Who would want you to follow Nikki?" Helen asked unable to stop herself.

"I'm sorry my dear, but I can't reveal my client even after all these years. Anyway, I wasn't expecting to find out much. You know the simple teenage antics, that was until I witnessed her eighteenth birthday." He stopped and gave her an expecting look.

Her skin paled as her eyes widened to the size of saucers. "You were watching?"

"A boat house is romantic especially a candle light dinner but it leaves little in need of protection." The moved the first manila folder across the table and into her hands.

A part of her dreaded opening it but she knew there was no other choice. Flipping the cover open, Helen felt her blood run ice cold. Inside were dozens of photos depicting the last happy moment she had with Nikki. She wanted to smile at the first few. They were almost romantic, them smiling as they enjoyed a simple dinner just the two of them away from all the drama that existed in the lives of teenagers. It was how she remembered their last night together. But she knew what was to follow.

Images of Nikki and Helen in gradual states of undress as the progress to variance stages of love-making cluttered the table. She wanted to throw up. Sean gasped at the new images. She had forgotten that he was even in the room much less sitting next to her, but at the moment she really didn't care. She had never felt so violated. To have some peeping tom skulking through a window while she professed her love, it made her ice cold blood start to boil.

She looked up at him with hate filled eyes. He held the same look as earlier, as if he was studying her reaction for his own entertainment.

"Why?" she asked. Why had he done this? Why was he here now?

"I took those pictures because I was paid to, but after the job was finished I couldn't ignore the opportunity that they left me," he explained. "It may seem despicable but there was no reason for me not to profit when it was obvious that the Wade family would like to keep Miss Wade secret life just that. I was amazed that her parents didn't know."

"You outted Nikki to her parents?" How could this get any worse?

He gave a pained expression. "Yes, I must say that was a bit of a surprise. Neither of you were all that subtle and I was only watching for about a week. They didn't take the news all that well, but then paid for the photos as expected."

"They threw her out on the streets after that!" Helen stood unable to remain sitting during this conversation.

"Yes, that was unfortunate. And after the Wade's untimely demise, Nikki continued with the arrangement set forth by her parents. Her only requirement was that you were left in the dark about the whole thing. Things were running smoothly until Atkins got involved, but now I think she would want to keep these safe," he explained.

"So, you're planning on blackmailing Nikki and using me as a tool since you can't get a hold of her. Is that right?" she asked.

He simply nodded.

"You know you've just confessed to blackmail in front of an employee of the home office." She couldn't believe the pair he had.

"The great thing about blackmail is that you lose no matter what. You either pay what I ask or you try to lock me up, but if you do then I release the pictures. If she was unwilling to keep your name clear then you might want to think about her reputation. After all, she has stayed silent for so long so you will remain 'untainted', I believe that was the word she used." William watched her closely.

'Untainted' that was what Nikki had said only hours ago, but it looks like that actress' attempts were in vain, because she was now neck deep in it.

She couldn't stand being in his presence a moment longer. "I think its time for you to leave."

Nodding, William Tucker stood. "It really is a shame that your feelings aren't the same, but after so many years I can understand."

"Excuse me," she asked.

"Well, that's why I brought you the second file. After the death of the Wades I thought it would be best to keep an eye on Nikki," he began.

"You mean on your meal ticket," Helen grumbled.

He neither agreed nor denied the claim. "I will give you some time to think this over. At the very least I would recommend that you let Nikki know of your decision. Here is my card just in case you change your mind. I have no interest in going to the tabloids but if you don't give me any other choice." He placed his card on the table and left the threat open.

"Get out," she demanded.

"Of course," he said with a small nod and headed towards the door.

Helen didn't pay attention to his leaving as she looked at the second manila folder. With a calming breath she opened the folder and flipped through the black and white photos that resided inside. If she hadn't known that the subject was Nikki, she would have thought they were a segment of an art show. Most framed the troubled teenager as she lurked in the shadows glazing out into the light. It took a moment for her to realize that she recognized some of the locations.

Each photo had a date and time stamp on them. It seems that Tucker followed Nikki for a good year after her parent's death. Most of them showed Nikki watching buildings off in the distance and soon it was apparent that those buildings were Helen's dormitory at University or her parent's home. The final photo made her sick. If she hadn't seen it she would have never believed it. Nikki was sitting in an alley with a needle stuck in her arm. Drugs? Living on the streets? A part of Helen wanted to cry, the idea that her love had always been so close yet she never knew it. The other part of her raged, realizing that when these photos were being taken she was up in her room crying at Nikki's disappearance. What good was it now to know that Nikki was so close?

"So you were a couple," it was a statement but sounded more like a question.

She turned to look at Sean. Once against she had forgotten that he was even in the room. Her mind was running through everything that the bastard had said. My god things couldn't have gotten any worse and now she had to deal with her disgruntled fiancé.

"It was a long time ago," she answered dismissively.

If she had looked up from the table, she would have seen the annoyed expression on his face. "Well, it might have been nice to have known before we went up to her house. Did everyone know that you were a couple except me?"

"Sean, I just found out that the love of my life left me because she was being blackmailed. I really don't care if your feelings were hurt. She went through hell." Helen was almost in tears.

There was a long pause. "The love of your life?"

It wasn't until she heard the words repeated back to her that she realized what she had said. "Sean, I was young and she was my first love. I'm just shocked that someone would do this to a person I cared about. It answers so many questions that I have wondered over the years but creates so many more."

"So are you gay?" he asked.

She wanted to roll her eyes but was able to quell that action. He wouldn't have taken it well. "I'm with you aren't I?"

That wasn't that answer that he wanted. "Yes but who knows how many female partners you've had before we met."

"Does it really matter? I don't drill you about your pervious partners so why would you care about mine?" If this didn't turn around soon their engagement would suffer, but she was too confused to considered.

"That's because none of my partners were blokes." This statement held a tone of condensing superiority.

"I won't live by labels Sean, but Nikki was the only woman that I was ever with. Are you happy? Is there anything else that you need to know?" she demanded.

"Do you still love her?" He meant to say it spitefully but it lost its edge.

Helen looked down at the photos and then back up at him. There was so much to think about. Part of her heart would always love Nikki, she was smart enough not to deny the fact, but there was a difference between first love and being together again. Nikki faced a problem but instead of coming to her and letting them face it together, she ran and kept Helen in the dark. She couldn't stay in a relationship where she wasn't an equal.

"I need time to think," Helen said as she scooped up the second set of photos and put them back in the manila folder.

Sean said nothing as she left the house. He didn't know what to think. A week ago, everything was spot on and now it was like Helen had lost the plot and he didn't know how to handle the situation. He knew he should have been the bigger person, but he was angery and hurt.

He moved towards the table and started to clean up. It was then that he noticed that Helen had left the first set of photos on that table. He looked at them again and felt anger bubble inside of him. It was Nikki's fault that all of this was happening. She would pay for his pain.

Picking up the phone, he dialed a number. "Hey, sorry to call you so late."

"Not a problem darling, what do you need?" the woman said on the other line.

"I was wondering if you still had that number for Jim Fenner?" he asked. When she said yes and gave him the digits he continued, "I have some information I think he would find interesting. Thanks Shell, I'll talk to you soon."

Sean hung up the phone and turned towards that kitchen. He was going to need something stronger. He had some thinking to do.


Chapter Seventeen

Nikki tossed and turned as a troubled sleep finally claimed her. Waking thoughts melded into tormenting dreams as Helen's pained face surrounded her at every turn while William Tucker's voice echoed as she desperately ran. She stopped dead when her parents appeared looking at her with such shock and disapproval. It was almost like she was on autopilot, knowing what was about to happen but unable to do anything. Screaming echoed through the great halls of Wade Estate magnified by the dream state, then silenced by a painful slap delivered by an enraged eighteen year old across her father's face.

She bolted up forcibly removing herself from the nightmare. The covers were a tangled ball at the foot of the bed and her sleeping shirt was soaked through. It had been years since she'd had 'the nightmare'. Only Barbara had witnessed Nikki striking her father, but the act had plagued her. Looking at the clock, Nikki half laughed but mostly sobbed. The alarm read five a.m. Yvonne and Barbara finally persuaded her to retire around four in the morning. It was obvious that sleep was out of the question, so she changed into dry clothes and headed downstairs.

"I told her this was a mistake," Yvonne's voice was laced with annoyance.

Nikki was just outside her father's study. The rest of the house was silent since almost everyone was asleep. The only ones up seemed to be Yvonne and Barbara. Nikki couldn't blame her for being annoyed. The brunette had been horrible to her manager when she first arrived last night and her attitude only worsened after Helen left. Yvonne thought it was a bad idea to travel to England after the story broke and they argued about inviting Helen up as well. Nikki understood, but she needed to see Helen. Yvonne had spent years deflecting questions about her past in the press not to mention removing William Tucker the first time and now all her hard work was crumbling around her. The actress prayed that Helen wouldn't receive the brunt of the blame in Yvonne's eyes.

"What else was she supposed to do?" Barbara argued.

"Stay the bloody hell away from Helen Stewart." She took a calming breath before continuing, "We should have gone to the Caribbean like I told her. I haven't see Nik this bad in years."

"And leave Helen to the wolves," Barbara defended.

As she listened to them argue, Nikki wondered whether or not she should go in there and stop this. Her head was throbbing from lack of sleep and the ups and downs of the last couple of days. She didn't know if she had enough energy for another row.

Before Barbara could respond or Nikki interrupted, there was a knock at the door. The older women turned and noticed that Nikki at the entranceway before they all turned to look at the front door. With both women behind her, she moved through the main hallway to open the door. She shouldn't have been surprised when she saw Helen on the other side, but her heart leapt none the less.

"What are you doing here?" she asked.

Helen looked tired but there was that same fire behind her eye and Nikki knew that she was in for it. "We need to talk."

"I have nothing left to say," her voice carried the exhaustion that she felt.

"That was before I found William Tucker skulking at my front stoop." It was time. Helen had waited long enough.

Nikki froze as the words finally hit her. Helen watched her intently ignoring the startled muttering of Yvonne and Barbara. This wasn't about them. Helen had contemplated how this was going to happen as she drove through the night, but Nikki completely shutting down wasn't even on the list. The brunette just looked at her with scared and hollow eyes. Helen wanted to say something but she wouldn't make the next move.

"Best come in then," was all she said as she moved away from the front door leaving it open.

Helen followed her in and shut the door behind her.

"Where should we do this?" Nikki asked devoid of emotion.

She waited a moment before answering, "The study?"

"Fine, it's not like we have any happy memories in there anyway, so it should work just fine," she agreed. Walking past Barbara and Yvonne she stopped. "We're not to be disturbed for any reason. I don't care what you hear; this door stays closed until one of us opens it. Are we clear?"

"Nik?" Yvonne started.

Barbara placed a hand on the manager's arm. "Best to leave them to it."

Nikki ignored their conversation as she headed into the study. Helen gave them a concerned look but said nothing. Something didn't feel right. This was not the reaction she was expecting. As she closed the heavy door, she turned to look at the woman who'd always had the power to turn her world upside down. Nikki was resting against the back of the old leather couch. Taking a moment to look at her, Helen noticed that Nikki's shoulders were slouched and her face wore large dark circles under her eyes.

"You said you wanted to talk, so talk," Nikki said not looking up at her.

"Is everything that William Tucker told me true?" she asked.

She let out a tired defeated laugh, "That depends on what he told you."

"Is it true that he followed you?" she started.

"Yes," Nikki answered.

"That he took pictures of us?" she continued.

"Yes," she repeated.

Helen wasn't like the way that this was going. "So he took pictures of us making love."

"Yes," she said for a third time.

"And then he took them to your parents for blackmail?" Nikki was about to answer the next question but as she opened her mouth Helen interrupted, "And if you say yes one more time you're going to wish you were never born."

"What do you want me to say? He told you everything and if that folder in your hand means anything then he showed you so why ask." Wade still wasn't looking at her. Something on the floor seemed to have captured her attention and everything else seemed unimportant.

That was the last straw. Helen stormed over to the couch. The folder was thrown on the coffee table and she was now standing right in front of the taller woman. She could feel the same rage she had at Tucker boiling under her skin. This wasn't Nikki. She was all fire and energy not this zombie.

"Why are you acting like this? How can you not be angry? That bastard…. Talk to me," Helen demanded.

For the first time, the actress looked at her. "You know the answers so what else is there to talk about?"

Helen slapped her. The impact echoed through the room as a stinging pain spread across her cheek. The shorter woman stood there her chest heaving as she glared. Hazel and Brown locked and the fire returned to Nikki's eyes.

Standing so that she could take full advantage of her height, Nikki took a step forward forcing Helen to take a step back. It took all of Helen's control not to feel a wave of panic.

"Do you really want to start this?" she asked her jaw clenched as she tried to reign in the emotions that had been bottled for so many years.

"Yes," she said almost mocking Nikki's earlier use of the word.

"Fine. Yes, William Tucker destroyed my life are you happy? He took the best moment of my existence and twisted it into a sick mockery displaying it as a pornographic show. I never came out to my parents. Tucker beat me to it and instead of me explaining how in love I was all they saw was my head in between your legs. They chucked me out and the last thing I said to my father was that he was a hypocritical bastard and that I hope he rot in hell. Of course that was after I slapped him. There you go. There is my bleeding sob story. Do you feel better now knowing the truth? Can you leave me be now?" Nikki kept moving forward as her voice increased in volume. Anger and pain laced every word.

It wasn't until Helen felt the bookcase behind her that she realized that she had been backing up this whole time. Fear flashed across her face. It was only for a moment but it was long enough for Nikki to notice it. She looked around and noticed how far they had moved from the couch. She retreated quickly moving towards the liquor cabinet and started to pour herself a drink. She wouldn't look at Helen.

It took a moment for the Scot to process what just happened. Part of her was overjoyed that she could get Nikki to react, the zombie act was starting to scare her, but as much as she needed to feel the rage it terrified her. She wanted to cry. It was one thing hearing it from Tucker's mouth, but to hear the pain in Nikki's voice felt like a knife stabbing her in the heart.

"Do you know what it was like finding that out from William Tucker? Do you know the sick pleasure he got in tell me?" Helen asked.

The scotch glass soared through the air, hitting the far wall with a sickening crash. Helen jumped at the sudden outburst.

"Don't put this on me? You want to know why I never told you, it's because it had nothing to do with you. I dropped you. Sorry if being dumped ruined your day darling, but that's where your involvement ended. My reasons were my own. It's been fifteen years; I think its time to move on." Nikki demanded.

"You didn't dump me, Nik. You disappeared. You didn't even have the guts to tell me it was over, so stop playing the god damn martyr, because it was an unappealing trait when we were teenagers and it doesn't look any better on you now," Helen screamed tired of the other woman's tirade.

"Then leave!" she begged.

It was only then that Helen noticed the tears that were running down the other woman's face. The anger was real, but it wasn't directed at Helen. This was a front. She wanted Helen to leave and she knew that winding her up would be the best way to accomplish the task. There was something she was hiding, something that she didn't want Helen to know. She should have seen it earlier. Nikki answered every question with as little information as possible so that Helen would tell her the extent of Turner's mocking.

"What are you hiding?" she asked.

Nikki stopped at the question. It had been a long shot, but she had to try. Helen couldn't find out everything. The only comfort she'd had these long fifteen years was that her love would never know the truth.

"Nothing." It was an obvious lie.

"Why didn't you come and stay with me?" she pushed.

"I told you. You weren't ready to come out to your dad. It was my mess," Nikki continued. She wrapped her arms around her waist trying to protect herself.

Helen started to close the distance between them. "I said stay with me not come out to my folks."

"Your father would have loved to have me under your roof. Helen be serious. If I had stayed with you your father would have lost it," she defended.

"So what? My father wouldn't have any say. Mom would sort it and you would have had me, and then both of us would have gone against Turner." She was now right in front of the brunette.

"It wouldn't have done any good," was all Nik said.

"It would have prevented you from living on the streets and me from being heartbroken. I think those are pretty big reasons." Her voice was softer and the words held less accusation. She knew that she was getting close, just a little more and she would figure out what was really going on.

Nikki raised one hand running her fingers through her short hair. In doing so the inside of her wrist caught Helen eye. "We both turned out fine. Broken hearts mend and people move on."

"Move on, it doesn't help your case when you permanently mark yourself Nikki." She pointed towards the tattoo of the letters HS.

"It means Heart and Soul," she lied.

"Why didn't you come to me?" she asked again.

"Your father would have freak," Nikki repeated.

The repetition started to sink in. "What does this have to do with my father?"

Nikki's jaw clenched and she couldn't look the other women in the eye. Being so close was causing Nikki problems. She had to create some distance or she would break.

"What does this have to do with my father, Nik?" Helen was started to get scared.

"Just leave it," she begged.

Helen had enough of this. She moved towards Nikki and spun her around so that she could look her in the eye. "Talk to me."

"It's for the best that you leave it. You don't need to know. It will only cause you pain. Let me bare this please. Go on with your happy life." Nikki was begging but she didn't care.

"No," it was a simple word but the weight on Nikki's shoulders increased exponentially.

"I can't tell you." Nikki was opening crying now.

What could be so terrible that Nikki would rather live on the streets then come to her. She thought back to things that Nikki had said. Finally, it hit her like a sledgehammer to the chest. Her father had called Helen a 'conniving, gold digging Scottish tart'. Mr. Wade had always liked her. He said that she quelled a little of Nik's unruly flare. So what could have changed his opinion of her so quickly? The pictures were not her best angle but he knew that she didn't give a toss about Nikki's money… Helen felt like she wanted to throw up.

"Nikki, did my father have something to do with this mess." She was afraid to ask but there was nothing else.

Nikki couldn't look her in the eye. Once against she moved away.

"Answer me." It was a demand but she couldn't muster much force behind the words.

"I lost my parents. I didn't want you to lose yours," was all that she could say. The words were so soft that normally Helen would have never heard them, but the room was so quiet it was like they echoed.

No, this couldn't be right. He would never do such a thing. Her father never liked Nikki but he would never sink so low. He wouldn't….

"My father hired Turner?" she asked.

Nikki's head fell. That was more confirmation then any words.

"I don't understand?" She was lost as she walked back to the couch and slumped into the soft leather.

Still not looking at her Nikki explained. "We weren't being as careful as we used to, no longer looking before we kissed maybe held on to each other a little too tight. I don't know if it was Simon or your father could just sense the change. He wanted to know, but without the confrontation. This way he could have his answer and if he didn't like it; he didn't have to except it," she explained.

"And that's why you never came to me," Helen finished still not wanting to believe it.

"I couldn't be near your father when I found out, much less stay under his roof. I wanted to tell you, but telling you would mean that you'd know what your father had done and that image you'd always had of him would be shattered. I couldn't be the cause of that. So I left," she continued.

Nikki moved over to the couch and kneeled down so that she was eye level with Helen. She had sworn that the Scot would never know this dark secret, but it looked like all her sacrifices were for nothing. Pain was coming off the sitting woman in waves and Nikki took the brunt wanting to absorb as much of this burden as possible. Her heart was breaking and her hatred of Mr. Stewart meant nothing in the face of Helen's tears.

"I know it doesn't help, but everything turned out alright." Nikki tried to comfort knowing that her words were wrong but they were the only ones that she had.

"Everything turned out alright?" Helen said finally looking up at her.

The actress frowned and couldn't hold the other woman's eye contact. "It wasn't what I planned at eighteen, but both of us are content and that's more than most."

Content? What kind of word was that? Helen looked down at her amazed at the words she was hearing. She never thought of their relationship as perfect, it had its ups and downs just like any other, but this weekend had caused emotions to resurface that she believed long dead. Where would they have been if her father and William Tucker had never stuck their noses in? No, she wouldn't dull her feelings and she wouldn't let Nikki of the hook that easily.

"Content? So you want me to just forget about all the pain we both went through?" When Nikki's eyes remained downcast she placed her fingers under the taller woman's chin, lifting her head and firmly keeping it in place. "I'm supposed to ignore the images of you stalking my home and flat watching me from afar. Erase the knowledge that they drove you to drugs. None of that should matter to me?"

"I never used drugs," Nikki said with such conviction that Helen almost believed her even with her proof.

"Really?" Helen reached for the folder and handed it over.

Nikki gave her a confused look before opening the file. She thought it contained pictures of her birthday but soon found out how wrong she was. She shouldn't have been surprised that Tucker followed her around after everything, but she was. Once she came to the photo of her shooting up she closed it and threw it back on the table. The feeling of Helen's eyes on her became too much.

Moving back to the bookcase she started, "What do you want from me?"

"The truth," was the other woman's reply.

The flood gates opened as she let out a soft sob. "Fine, I used, not as much as I could have but more then I wished. My life was shit. The only thing that got me through it was watching you from afar. At least that way, I knew why I was going through all of this. Most nights I couldn't sleep. Then my folks died and I couldn't stay in their house. I couldn't benefit from their deaths not matter how much Barbara begged. So I lived on the streets by choice. I didn't care about anything. Hell, Kris saved my life in more ways then just chucking those girls off me. She made sure I ate and kept away the wrong people when I was drugged up." She turned to face Helen. "That was my life and there's no way to change that now, so what do you want from me? Accept the past because it will only destroy the present if you're not careful. I'm sorry you had to find all this out. Go back to Sean and live the rest of your life. Please, I just want you to be happy."

Through all the pain and tears, Helen finally saw what she was looking for. She saw the Nikki that she remembered. The girl that was open and giving. She rose from the couch unsure of her next move but knew that she had to close the distance between them. Her brain was telling her that she needed time and space but for the first time in ages, her heart was calling the shots.

"Just answer one last question and then I'll go," Helen said stopping a few feet from where Nikki was standing.

"Anything." There wasn't anything left to say. Her body, mind and soul were so drained that she could have dropped right then and there.

"Do you love me?" Helen asked, not sure if she was ready to hear the answer.

Nikki froze.

"It's a simple question. Do you still love me?" she pushed.

"Yes," Nikki whispered.

There was no time for thought. Helen closed the remaining distance between them, her arms wrapping around Nikki's neck so that she could pull the taller woman into a crushing kiss. It took Nikki a second to realize what just happened, but once her brain caught up with her body, she pulled the shorter woman further towards her. Helen tongue brushed Nikki's lips begging for entrance, which was quickly granted, enticing a moan from both women.

Moving towards the couch, Nikki pushed the other woman's leather jacket off her shoulders and followed the garment down her arms till it fell towards the floor. Helen's fingers pulled at the night shirt Nikki was wearing, sliding underneath so that she could feel skin. Nikki gasped at the contact of cool fingers on her burning flesh. She deftly attacked the buttons of the Scot's blouse. Now that her clothing was dry the task was manageable. They broke the kiss only because oxygen became an issue.

Helen could feel the couch hit the back of her legs. With a playful smirk, she spun them around and pushed Nikki backwards onto the sofa. Nikki looked up at her. Her eyes were a mixture of mirth, lust and love that washed away any doubt that lingered in the recess of Helen's mind. Screw the consciences, she was going to do what she wanted and right now that meant shagging Nikki Wade until neither could see straight. She straddled the brunette enjoying the feeling of the other woman's hand digging into her jean covered thighs.

Her shirt was unbuttoned, so she dropped it to the ground allowing Nikki to hungrily stare at the exposed skin. The small gasp uttered by the brunette gave her the confidence to shed her modesty as well. Not wanting to be denied herself she reached for the hem of the night shirt and pulled the offending fabric over Nikki's head. Now it was her turn to gasp. It had been fifteen years and Nikki was still the most beautiful woman she had ever laid eyes on. Kissing again, both felt the electricity pass through them as their skin came into contact. Helen kissed down her neck until she reached the hollow dip in her collar bone. Starting there she licked up until she felt Nikki's erratic pulse then sucking on the sensitive flesh. Just as it had all those years ago, Nikki bucked under the sensation and Helen smirked before returning to the spot.

Nikki was on the verge of insanity. No one caused her body to react so strongly. Her hands moved down from their position in Helen's hair only stopping once she found the soft mounts of her breast. She kneed the flesh feeling the other woman's nipples harden. One hand stayed firmly in place while her right hand traveled southwards and started to undo Helen's belt. She had just undone the black leather strap and popped open her jeans when a hand stopped her.

"Wait," Helen said her breath erratic as she sat a little straighter creating a few inches of space between them.

The world came crashing around Nikki. One simple word was enough to stop her heart and break her spirit all at once. After all this time and pain, she had put aside everything so that Helen could be happy and now she didn't know if she had the will to stop. It was too much to ask for.

Helen saw the ache in her lover's eyes and quickly Nikki out of her misery. "I said wait not stop. I want to remember everything instead of a hazy blur. I want to remember everything." She moved back in placing a soft kiss on her lips.

Their kiss remained passionate, but lost the frantic rush that dominated them before. Holding her securely, Nikki pivoted on the couch, lowering Helen so that her back rested against the leather. Bras soon joined the shirts and the pants soon followed. Time stopped. All that matter was the feeling of the flesh merging together into one body. They explored each other entirely. First with touch then taste they rememorized every curve. Coveting the knowledge of change that time had claimed over each other's body, and as the sun rose exhausted slumber overtook them.

An alarm was going off but it wasn't the one from Helen's nightstand. This one lacked the shrill that was usually required to rip a person from their peaceful slumber, but it was disruptive enough to due just that. Tilting her head further into her pillow she was jostled when said pillow moved. Then the events of a few hours ago replayed through her mind and her body started to ache in the wondrous exhaustion that only a fulfilling shag could provide. Over the years, Helen had convinced herself that memorizes of Nikki and her euphoric talents in bed were exaggerated, but she could no longer cling to that belief and if her mind tried her body wouldn't let her.

She opened her eyes and smiled at the sleeping woman underneath her. They had ended up on the floor, the couch unable to contain them throughout the night. Nikki had a sense of peace around her and Helen wondered whether or not that change was her doing. Taking a moment to really look at her, she saw something that eluded her previously. On her left breast was a small tattoo. It was a Scottish House Crest. Moving in a little closer, she smiled.

"What are you smirking at?" came a husky voice.

Helen looked down and was entranced by sleeping brown eyes. "Our Crest," she finally made out her finger tracing the ink.

Wiping the sleep from her eyes, Nikki stretched giving Helen another viewing of her well toned body. "Keep looking at me like that and we won't be talking for a while," she joked.

"Keep stretching and we definitely won't," Helen rebutted moving down to kiss her.

"Good morning," she said once they separated.

"I think its afternoon," the Scot replied.

Helen's alarm clock went off again but now she realized that it was her phone. Looking around for her jeans, she found them on the other side of the couch. Nikki enjoyed the view as she watched Helen reach down and pick up her pants.

Looking down at the number, her brow crinkled as she answered, "Sarah?"

"Where the hell have you been?" came the voice on the other end. Sarah was screaming allowing Nikki to overhear the conversation.

"What do you mean?" Helen asked looking at Nikki still unconcerned of her naked appearance.

"It's two in the afternoon," Sarah bellowed.

Helen tried to figure out what her sister was saying, but in her tired state and the sight of Nikki naked body on the floor prevented her from saying anything beyond, "What?"

"What do you mean what? You forgot your niece's birthday?!? Ashley's party is in an hour. You said that you'd be here this morning to help me. Where the hell are you?" Sarah exclaimed

"SHIT… Shit shit shit, oh god Sarah. I'm on my way. I swear I'll be there as soon as possible," Helen answered as she wildly turned around the room in search of a time machine, or teleporter, or in the least her clothes so that she could leave the room.

Nikki would have laughed at the sight if she hadn't heard the other side of the conversation. As much as she enjoyed the scene, she rose to find her own clothes.

"Where the hell are you?" Sarah asked breaking through Helen panicked state.

"At Nikki's," she answered.

"NIKKI'S!" Sarah started before she seemed to calm down. "Is everything alright?"

Her sister's concern calmed her. "Everything is fine. I'll be a little late but I am on the way. I'm sorry. Tell Ashley I'm coming and will do anything to make it up to her."

"Hurry," was all that Sarah said before she hung up the phone.

Helen looked over at Nikki to find her completely dress. "I'm fucked." The double entendre only hit her after the words left her mouth.

"Get dressed, we'll leave the moment you're ready," Nikki said as she handed Helen her shirt and headed out of the study.

"I'm so fucked," Helen said as she watched the other woman leave.

Today was going to be a very long day.


Chapter Eighteen

Helen looked nervously at the door right before she knocked. The world on the other side of that door was not a pleasant one. Her sister was going to kill her, her parents would have that disappointed looked that only catholic parents knew, having to deal with Sean wanting answers that she just wasn't ready to deal with especially after last night, but the worst was going to the disappointed eyes of a nine year old who's aunt forgot her birthday.

"Everything is going to be fine," Nikki said next to her.

It surprised her how much comfort those words provided. "I know."

"Just prep your mobile to text me when I need to make my big entrance," her voice carried a mischievous quality that caused Helen to smile.

Nikki was dressed in a pair of jeans and an oversized red sweatshirt. Her short hair was covered with a baseball cap and her dark eyes were masked by her darker sunglasses. She called it her reclusive actress costume and Helen had to agree that she liked this over the disturbing wigs that would have been the next choice. Nikki gave her one last smile before moving down the hallway.

Only seconds passed between her knocking on the door and being glared at be her older sister. Sarah Stewart was an imposing woman. She had a good five inches on her sister though she had a slimmer frame. They both shared hazel eyes but where Helen's hair was light brown, Sarah's was almost black. Helen gulped as she looked at her sister hoping that she could keep up the act long enough to surprise Ashley.

"Where have you been?" she demanded in a tone that only a single mother could muster.

"Sarah…" she started.

"Don't you Sarah me, you're two hours late. She's been asking for you every ten minutes," Sarah interrupted as she ushered her little sister in.

Helen looked around the flat relieved that the party had been smaller then initial planned. Ten kids raced around the furniture while a couple sets of parents watched on so minimal damage could be done. Her parents and brothers were sitting at the dinning room table. She didn't know which would be more difficult, dealing with her angry nine year old niece or facing her father after everything Nikki told her.

"Helen!" An exclamation from an excited child made her decision.

Ashley was in her arms and Helen no longer dreaded interacting with her family. She looked down at the young girl and smiled. No matter what kind of day, one grin from her niece and everything was alright. As much as she hated that bastard that left Sarah she could never damn him because if he hadn't been in the picture then her sister would never have had Ashley.

"You're here," Ashley said still in her aunt's embrace.

"I'm sorry I was late, but I promise I'll stay as long as you want," Helen answered hoping that would be enough.

"You're forgiven, but I don't know about granddad…" she relented.

Helen couldn't help but smile. Sometimes she swore the rest of her family were the children while her nieces and nephews were the real adults. There was no reason to postpone the inevitable; she hoped that her father would remain civil while Ashley was around. Part of her felt awful for using the girl in such a manner especially on her birthday, but a larger part of her didn't want to be corner by her father and brothers.

"I'd be careful. Dad is getting the boys riled up," Sarah said moving in beside her on the trek towards the rest of the Stewart Clan.

'Great,' she thought to herself. At least Sarah would be on her side for this.

She loved her parents beyond belief but they weren't the easiest people to get along with. Her mother was an angel and most of the time that was a wonderful thing, but when you are dealing with someone that never does anything wrong it is hard to live up to. Not that Ellen Stewart would ever ask such a thing from any of her children, but that didn't stop her father from doing so. Good old dad was another issue all together.

"And where have you been?" her father's Scottish accent filled the space between parent and child.

Helen sighed, "I was taking care of some business."

Vicar Stewart's frown deepened, "Was this business more important then your niece's birthday?"

"Of course not da, but it was unavoidable," she tried to explain.

"We tried to reach Sean but he wouldn't answer his mobile,' John Jr. added.

For the first time Helen acknowledged her brothers. John Jr. was everything the moniker implied. Not only did he have his father's stature and coloring, but he followed his father's decrees to the letter. He went into the church and would soon take over John Sr.'s ministry. He married the woman that his parents approved of and raised his kids in the same manner that he himself was raised. Helen dealt with the oldest Stewart sibling as she did with their father, with a large dose of patience and selective hearing.

Simon was three years younger then Helen and the baby of the family. When she was a teenager he had been the bane of her and Nikki's existent. He was a little tattle tail that hated being left behind and loved possessing their father's attention. University was a wake up call for Simon. He became his own person. He forgot about following in the family business and fell in love with music. Now he was a producer in a small record label, happily married with three kids and seemed to humor their father more then anything.

"I don't think he'll be coming," Helen informed not surprised by the annoyed look her father gave her.

The conversation about Nikki was next and part of her didn't want to deal with it. She wasn't ready to confront her father, it wasn't that she doubted Nikki's claim, she just didn't want to acknowledge the truth just yet.

Before her father opened his gob, Simon stepped in, "So not only are you late, but you show up empty handed."

Helen could just kiss him. Though the words seemed harsh Simon said it was a smile and a wink. It gave her an opening and she took it.

"Now what kind of aunt would I be if I forgot my niece's birthday present?" she asked looking down at Ashley.

"A predictable one," Sarah joked.

She glared at her older sister, "No, I was on the road most of the day so the store is delivering it, actually it should be here any moment." She hit the send button on her phone.

Right on queue there was a knock at the door. Ashley looks up at her almost questioning if she has magical powers.

"Well you better go answer it," she pushed.

The nine your old rushed towards the door with mother and aunt in tow. Sarah watched Helen closely and almost chuckled at the mischievous look on her little sister's face. It was obvious that this had been staged. Ashley opened the door and froze in complete shock.

Nikki was standing at the door, a small grin covering her face as she looked down at the girl. "Hiya, I heard that one of my biggest fans was having a birthday and I thought I might stop by."

No one spoke. Everyone had turned towards the door awaiting the newest surprise but no one had guessed that a famous movie star would be on the other side. Sarah's eyes widened as she took in the woman that she had known as a teenager. She was taller now standing eye level. She turned to look at her parents and grimaced at the cold fire that seemed to radiate from her father's eyes. Sarah prayed that he would have the composure to hold his tongue while her daughter's friends were here.

When no one spoke Nikki continued, "Well, I figured since it was my fault that Helen was late to your birthday party that I would be her present, so I'm at your disposal for the rest of the day."

Hearing her aunt's name, Ashley turned to look at Helen. The look of awe and shock crossed the little girl's eyes and Helen smiled down at her. Before she could react, the girl was in her arms. Nikki watched the two and couldn't stop of grinning. She had never seen the other woman look so happy. Nikki could no longer keep her heart from completely melting under Helen Stewart's spell. It was naïve to think that she ever could. Sarah watched the look that passed across Nikki's face and everything fell into place. Sean's disappearance was another confirmation that whatever Nikki and Helen started all those years ago was about to start again, the look on the brunette's face was heartbreaking.

"It's rude to leave your guest standing in the hallway isn't it?" Helen said finally looking back at Nikki.

"Please come in," Ashley ushered her into the flat.

"It's good to see you Sarah," Nikki said giving the older woman a warm smile.

"I was wondering when you were going to wander back through the door, but you've never been one for punctuality," Sarah ribbed good naturedly.

"Now, I've been instructed I have a poster that needs signing," Nikki said hoping that she could break Ashley out of her stupor.

It wasn't until Nikki left the entranceway that Sarah saw the young couple waiting in the hallway. "Sarah, this is Zandra Plackett, Nikki's personal assistant, and Dominic McAlister her personal photographer. I hope you don't mind that they tagged along," Helen said hoping that she wouldn't make a big deal of them being here.

"Of course not, the more the merrier," Sarah said welcoming them into her home.

"Thank you," Zandra said with a smile.

Dominic looked a little sheepish as he asked, "Would you mind if I took a few photos while I was here?"

"I don't think you'll be the only one, so be my guest," she said with a smile. She gave Helen a questioning look but her sister just shrugged it off.

The sisters watched the chaos as Nikki moved further into the flat. Ashley proudly strutted through the swarming horde of her schoolmates as she led the actress towards her room. Helen watched with pride as Nikki smiled and talked to all the children. She hadn't thought about the rest of the party guests when she asked Nik to come but the actress was handling the attention with ease. Some of the parents followed their kids wanting their chance to meet the movie star. Just before Ashley pulled her out of sight, Nikki turned to look at Helen and gave her a quick wink which brightened Helen smile even more.

"Be careful Helen," Sarah said.

Her sister's words pulled her attention away from Nikki. "What are you going on about?"

"If you're going to start up with Nik again…" she started.

"We're just friends," Helen interrupted.

Neither of them had talked about what happened this morning and she wasn't about to admit to her sister that she and Nikki had been together.

As much as this was a favor for Helen, Nikki had to admit that she was having fun. Most of the time she stayed away from her fans, it wasn't that she hated signing autographs because she didn't. Her fans were the second best thing about her job, just below getting to throw herself into different lives and worlds with each new project. She was standoffish so that the press would leave her alone. There was something amazing talking to children. They looked at her and all she saw was their wonder unabashed without any secondary motive. It was refreshing. As she answered questions she made sure to always pulled Ashley into the conversation. This was her day and Nikki was going to make sure that she felt like the center of attention.

She posed for photos, only turning once to make sure that Dominic was doing his job. This might be the last chance she had to be this close to Helen while she was with her family. Nikki wanted to keep a piece of that. True, they had been together this morning but she didn't know if that was the farewell that they never had, a mistake or the beginning of something that she could only dream of.

A few parents complemented her work while asking her questions and she talk freely with them. She watched Helen out of the corner of her eye as she and Sarah moved near the kitchen where the rest of the Stewart clan resided. It was weird seeing them after so many years. Not much had changed except the fact that both her brothers seemed to be married. She almost wanted to laugh at the startled looks on the women's faces as their husbands try to explain why she was here. The smile on Mrs. Stewart's face was warm and inviting like it always had been just like Vicar Stewart's glare.

"Nikki," Ashley said pulling her out of her musing.

She followed the youngster into her room and smiled at the large poster of herself. It was for Fatal Flaw one of the action flicks that Nikki did for fun and to pay for some of the other projects that received smaller releases. As promised she autographed the poster and spent a little one on one time with the girl. Ashley was bright and beautiful. Sarah had done a wonderful job. Helen explained the situation on the way down and Nikki marveled at how strong Sarah had grown over the years.

"Sweetie, do you mind if I talk to Nikki alone for a moment?" Sarah asked startling Nikki as she turned towards the door.

Ashley looked reluctant to give the actress up but she relented. "Ok, but she's my present so don't take too long."

"I promise," her mother said with a smile as the girl left her room and Sarah shut the door.

Nikki tried to quell the feeling of being cornered as she tried to ignore the fear in the pit of her stomach. Sarah Stewart was one of the only people that Nicola Wade had ever been afraid of as a teenager. Helen's dad hated Nikki but it was the type of negative opinion that her love could easily ignore, but Sarah's opinion weighed heavily on Helen's outlook. After fifteen years, she still felt like an antsy teenager.

Sarah walked over to look at the poster that Nikki had just signed. "Thank god Ashley isn't into period pieces or Helen would have known years ago."

The words took her by surprised. "You mean, you knew."

Laughter filled the room. "Do you know how many times I've had to sit through your movies? I have most of them memorized. Mom and I have known for years."

"Then why did you keep it from Helen?" Nikki asked.

Still looking at the poster, she answered, "You had your reasons for leaving Nik. No matter what our differences were I never doubted that you left because you thought you had to. It wasn't our place to tell Helen." Nikki didn't know what to say, but she didn't have a chance as Sarah turned to look at her with a calm but dominating glare. "But if you hurt her again. I won't be so forgiving."

"There's nothing going on between us," Nikki started.

"Yeah, sis tried to feed me that line. Look, I'm not blind nor have any interest in trying to ignore the obvious. If you two get back together I'll be more than happy for you. Nikki, you made my sister so happy that her smile would brighten a football stadium and for that I can never hate you, but when you left, you broke her and it has taken a long time to get her back. Be careful with her," Sarah said.

"I love her. I've never stopped loving her," Nikki confessed her voice breaking in the process.

"I know, and if you don't screw it up I think there's a shot," Sarah said giving a smile.

"Really," she asked not wanting to believe.

Sarah looked at her for a long moment. "Yeah…well, I think I've kept you long enough. My little one won't be happy if I hog her birthday present. Plus, you might as well get the conversation with the folks over with because there's no way you're getting out of that one."

The moment they were out the door, Ashley was by Nikki's side. Sarah couldn't help but laugh at her daughter. If Helen and Nikki ended up together she didn't know if the girl would be able to take it. She watched as Nikki straightened a little as she walked towards the kitchen table. She never thought of her family as intimidating, especially to a world famous movie star, but I guess talking to the family of the girl you like is scary no matter who you are.

The whole clan was there. Helen did her best to give a smile as they approached but she couldn't hide the concerned look that she gave Nikki. John Jr. and his wife where standing next to their father, both men had the same severe expression on their faces. Sarah hoped that they wouldn't say anything in front of her daughter. This was supposed to be a happy day and if her father ruined that then there would be hell to pay and she doubted that her father knew how high the price would truly be. Their mother was all smiles and warm and everyone was grateful for the calming aura that radiated off of her. Simon was grinning like a Cheshire cat.

"Mrs. Stewart, it is wonderful to see you again," Nikki said once they reached speaking distance. It was the easiest way to start.

"Oh please, call me Ellen. We're all grown ups now," she replied enveloping the younger woman into a warm hug.

Nikki took a moment before release her. "Ellen."

"I just wanted to thank you for the lovely flowers. It was so thoughtful of you," Mrs. Stewart said.

"It wasn't nearly enough. I only wish I could have done more," she answered honestly.

The two women kept eye contact for a moment longer before Vicar Stewart interrupted, "And how long do you think you will be staying in London?"

Nikki did her best to give an honest smile but it just came out forced. "It depends really. I have a project that might keep me in the city for the next six or seven months."

"Really!!!," Ashley squealed.

"I don't know I might have to turn it down, being almost friendless in town. Now if I only knew someone that would like to visit me then maybe," she said with a smile as she looked down at the girl and ignoring the man that ruined most of her life.

"I will," she nearly screamed.

Her smile widened. "That might be tempting enough for me to stay." Nikki's eyes flashed up to look at Helen as she said the last word.

Helen blushed but did her best to hide it.

Nikki noticed the blush and decided to deflect attention back onto her. "Oh my god, Simon Says is that really you?"

The handsome Scot smiled, "It's been years since anyone's called me that."

"Well, if I wasn't a lesbian I would be jumping all over you," she pushed.

She couldn't have hoped for a better reaction. Zandra openly laughed at the joke. Sarah covered her daughter's ears good-naturedly while Ellen shook her head. She ignored John Sr. and Jr. since their facial expression didn't change a bit. The best was Helen. She had taken a drink to cover her blush and almost choked on the contents of her soda can. All the while, Dominic captured the moment.

"Hate to disappoint you Nik, but I'm a happily married man," Simon said wrapping his arms around his wife who just looked confused once more.

"What did you follow her around day in and day out, making her life a wonder wheel of insanity until she agreed to have you," she joked. He had been a plague on her live with Helen. It was almost impossible to spend any quality time with her while Simon Says was running about, but hind sight is 20/20 as they always say and she held no ill-will to him now.

There was a pause before he answered, "Yes." And everyone laughed.

"So what is this project about?" Ellen asked.

"Well, it's a project for ITV. I can't say too much more about it until I snag the part," she explained trying to stay humble.

"Please Nik, they have been after you for this part for months. Yvonne has just been hiding it until you finished your press junket," Zandra said proudly.

Nikki smiled at the young woman. Part of her was relieved that she had someone here that was not a Stewart. Someone that wouldn't feel obligated to side with John Stewart Sr. if something was said.

Vicar Stewart watched as Dominic continued to take photos of the apartment and of them. He wanted to ask the man why he was here but the restraining hand on his arm was enough to leave the boy alone for now. He loved his wife but sometimes her unparalled grace and loving nature made her blind to the evils within people, and for some reason Nicola Wade was her biggest blind spot. Even as children, he could see the negative influence that girl was on his precious Helen. He'd hoped that she would stay away forever, but it looked as if she had weaseled her way back into his family, but this time he wouldn't let this happen. He would stop this before things got out of hand.

John Jr. noticed his father eyeing the photographer and took matters in his own hands. "What's with the camera?" he asked nodding towards Dominic.

"I bought him off a tabloid." She said with a smile, one that Dominic returned. "I figured they were so good at getting photos of me I might as well take advantage of the skills. This way I have some mementos of my family and friends."

"That doesn't seem smart," John Sr. said taking over for his son. "I would think for such recluse you would want to keep all forms of the press away from you. Giving him such access to you life I'm sure there are things that you wouldn't want the rest of the world to see. I would think that cost would be too great."

"Don't worry about me. I learned early on the cost of a photo," she responded glaring at him so he understood the full weight of her meaning.

He stopped. Everyone looked confused by the comment but didn't say anything as the staring contest rage on between actress and father. She saw the flash of understanding in his eyes and it gave her a moment of satisfaction that she could rattle him. It was a challenge for him to spout his holier then thou attitude when his actions were anything but upstanding. She wanted to have it out right then and there but this wasn't the time or place. She would have her say but not on Ashley's day. After fifteen years, Nikki could be patient a few days longer.

Helen wanted to say something but nothing came to mind. Her father's expression wiped away any uncertainty, but left her engulfed with such confusion and rage. How could he have done such a thing? How could he have spied on her like that? How could she ever look him in the eye again know that he paid that retched man William Tucker? The walls were closing in around her and she felt such a weight on her chest that her lungs would fill so she could speak.

Once again Simon came to her rescue. "Simon Says: lets have cake," he said into the stilted silence. Most laughed and it was enough to break the staring contest.

As people agreed and moved about, Nikki turned to look at Helen. The actress lost any thought of Vicar Stewart as she saw the lost and pained look radiated off of the wing governor.

"Helen," she whispered putting her hand on the other woman's arm. Helen just stared at her with hollow eyes. "Come with me."

Ashley and company were occupied with cake, so no one noticed them as they headed back towards Ashley's room, or if they did they kept the knowledge to themselves.

"What's the matter?" she asked once the door was closed.

Helen just stood there for a moment. The longer it took for her to reply the worse Nikki's fear. "He did it."

"What?" She took a step forward, resting her hand on Helen's cheek and angling the woman to look up at her.

"He paid William Tucker to take those photos," she explained.

All the rage she felt was gone. The pain that Helen was feeling cut through her worse then any blade. This was why she wanted to keep her love out of this. It was one thing to hate the man when he was just someone that she knew, but for Helen this was so much worse. He was her father and he had betrayed her. He went behind her back instead of talking to her. Nikki would do anything to take the other woman's pain away.

"Please, this is why I never wanted you to know," Nikki explained.

That was enough to shake Helen. "You shouldn't have to keep me in the dark. This should have never happened."

"I don't want you to get involved Helen. I don't want to be the reason for a rift between you and your father." She started to rub Helen's cheek, trying to calm her.

"Nikki," she said as she leaned into the caress. She had tried to keep some distance at the party unsure how her body would react being so close.

"Today is Ashley's day. Please don't start anything with your father. I'll have my word with him when the time is right," Nikki whispered moving closer.

Helen had a response that would perfectly depict her rage both at her father and Nikki's continued demands that she stay out of a matter that she has every right to react, but they disappeared. She felt like a teenager bewitched by the mere presence of the woman before her.

"Why do you have this power over me?" she asked.

"Fair trade," Nikki answered.

Before Helen could reply, Nikki's lips were on hers. Forgetting everything else, they lost themselves in each other. Snaking her arm around Helen's waist the taller woman pulled her all the way into her and the Scot's fingers laced through her dark tresses.

"Helen, Nikki," a voice belonging to Sarah asked.

They separated. "Right here," Helen said.

Sarah opened the door as the two people took a couple of steps from each other. The older Stewart smirked as she watched them.

"None of that, at least not in my daughter's room. Wait what am I saying…not in my house. The idea of my little sister making out with anyone is an image no older sister should endure," she joked and headed back to the party.

Realizing that hiding away was no longer option they prepared for the chaos in the other room. "I know that you have work tomorrow but would you like to have dinner Friday night?" Nikki asked opening the door for the other woman.

"I'd love to," she answered.

Nikki smiled brightly, "Great, I better go. I'm being a horrible present."

Helen watched her go over to Ashley and picked her up. Her niece squealed then laughed. Her heart swelled at the sight.

To Be Continued

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