DISCLAIMER: I unfortunately don't own the characters of Alexandra Cabot and Olivia Benson, nor Elliot Stabler, Mrs. Cabot or Uncle Bill. They belong to Dick Wolf and NBC. I'm just borrowing them for a little while. I thought they needed some cheering up. The Lombardi Winery is a fictional company and has no reference to the Lombardi Winery in New Zealand. All characters with the exception of Alexandra Cabot, Olivia Benson, Elliot Stabler, Mrs. Cabot and Uncle Bill, belong to me. Any resemblance to living persons is pure coincidence. Some of the characters are based in part on real life people, but none of them exist in real life. The Cabot estate does not exist on Martha's Vineyard. The references to locations on Martha's Vineyard are for fictional reasons and a lot of creative liberties have taken place. The West Chop Beach Club (WCBC) exists, but is based mostly on experience from visiting the East Chop Beach Club (ECBC) and interacting with its members. WCBC is much more upscale than ECBC, therefore the creative liberties.
STORY ORIGINS: this story was written for The ShatterStorm Productions Advent & Solstice Calendar 2005: The Dead of Winter. Its calendar date was December 24, Christmas Eve. You will see why when you read it. It won "Week Four Entry" and "Favorite Overall Story."
THANKS: to my wonderful beta reader Ankrahmon - I am forever grateful to you. You rock girlfriend!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Martha's Vineyard, Christmas Eve
With a content sigh she put the little silver bow on top of the wrapped box. The house was silent. Everything was silent. At first it had been hard to get used to, but now she found it to be one of the wonders of this place. She glanced over at the room's only light source. The eight-foot tall tree stood majestically in front of the French doors. She walked over on silent sock-clad feet and placed the little box securely on a steady branch. The white lights reflected the colorful wrapping paper. It made her think of a rare jewel she had once seen at an exhibition in the city. It was rather fitting considering the gift inside. Her eyes drifted to the darkness outside. She moved closer to the window and placed her hands against the cold glass. The light from the Christmas tree illuminated the snow on the porch outside. The blanket of snow glimmered like millions of tiny gems against the dark night. Olivia suddenly felt a need for fresh air. She slipped into the boots by the door and stepped outside. She quietly closed the door and was instantly enveloped in cold crisp darkness. She took a few steps over to the railing and looked out into the silent darkness. She had spent many nights in the dark, but not this kind of darkness. This was a magical darkness. She looked up at the midnight sky and the stars that glimmered above. A smile slowly spread on her face. She remembered another magical night, not that long ago, but warmer and not quite as dark. It had been her first visit to this island. A surprise, in the most pleasant of ways. A sound behind her brought her out of her silent reverie and her city nerve endings tickled. She turned and the smile grew wider.
"I thought you were asleep."
"I was, but I woke up and you were gone."
Olivia wrapped her arms around her. "It's freezing out here and you're only wearing your robe. Let's go back inside."
"Okay," she mumbled into Olivia's soft sweater.
Olivia glanced over her shoulder one last time before closing the door and locking it. She took the offered hand and together they climbed the stairs for the second floor.
New York City, a hot Wednesday afternoon sometime in July
"Alexandra darling, how are you?"
"Uncle Bill," Alex exclaimed happily. "I'm overworked, but fine. How are you?"
"I'm doing great dear. My vacation starts in little over 48 hours, so how could I not be great?"
"That's wonderful. Are you heading to Pebbles?" Alex asked, referring to his house in the Hamptons.
"No, actually I'm going to the Vineyard."
"I'm so envious," she sighed. "I haven't been up there since Memorial Day."
"I know, your mother told me."
"She misses you darling," he said softly.
"I know. I'm not avoiding her. I've been very busy."
"I have a favor to ask you dear," he said, steering the conversation towards a lighter topic.
"Will you be using your house the weekend of the 30th?"
She quickly checked her calendar. "No, I don't think so. Why?"
"I'm trying to get some of the guys together for a Gentlemen's Golf Tournament. Would it be all right to use your house if you're not going to be there?"
"Of course you can. So, a bunch of guys drinking Scotch and talking business and golf. Sounds great. Maybe I should come," she joked.
He laughed. "They would love it Lexi."
"I bet. However, I think I'll pass."
He chuckled on the other end. "So what are you up to this weekend?"
She sighed. "Nothing."
"Why don't you come to the island with us?"
"I don't know."
"Come on, it'll be good for you. You don't even have to drive. I've got the Bee here."
"All right, all right," she laughed. "I'll come."
"Great. Are you bringing anyone? There is space."
"Not this time."
"It's been a long time Lexi. Why don't you bring a friend?"
"I'll think about it."
He gave her the details about when they were leaving and then they hung up. Alex sat staring into thin air for a long moment. She jumped in her seat when there was a knock on the door.
"Hi." The smiling face of Detective Olivia Benson appeared in the door frame.
"Olivia, come in," Alex said and smiled at her.
Olivia sank down in the chair across from Alex.
"Any news on the Johnson case?"
Olivia shook her head.
"So what brings you here?"
Olivia grinned. Would you believe me if I said I just wanted to see you? "I wanted to go for a drink and thought you might be interested."
"I would love to. Just give me fifteen minutes or so to wrap things up."
"Sure thing." Olivia picked up a magazine from the coffee table and started to flip through it.
Alex raised her glass and smiled at Olivia who was perched on the barstool next to her. "To you for being a great friend."
Olivia smiled, and gently tapped her glass against Alex's. "To friendship."
Alex sipped her drink and was soon lost in thought. The taste of the liquor on her tongue brought back memories of warm summer nights on Martha's Vineyard. She sighed softly.
"Earth to Alex," Olivia said and waived her hand in front of her face.
"Huh? Oh, I'm sorry."
"You disappeared there for a moment. To someplace nice I think, judging by the smile on your face."
Alex smiled and cocked her head. "Have you ever been to Martha's Vineyard?"
Olivia shook her head.
"Are you doing anything this weekend?"
Again Olivia shook her head.
"Would you like to go?" Alex asked softly.
Alex looked up and into Olivia's dark eyes. "Yes, with me."
"I'd love to."
"Great. We're leaving at five on Friday."
"We? As in you and me and other people?"
"My uncle Bill and his wife are going too." She smiled at the look on Olivia's face. "Don't worry Liv, he has his own house. You don't have to spend the entire weekend sparring with a judge with political ambitions."
"I knew I could count on you Cabot," Olivia said with a lopsided grin as she gently elbowed her. "So where are we staying?"
"I have a house there."
"Wow, I had no idea," Olivia said and gave an impressed whistle.
"I try not to let the whole world know. Anyway, I don't use it that much. I'm too busy."
"That's bullshit, Alex," Olivia said and teasingly slapped her thigh.
Alex looked at her from the corner of her eye. "It's no fun to go alone," she said softly.
Olivia mentally gave herself a slap. "I'm sorry Alex. I was just joking."
Alex smiled over the rim of her glass.
"So what should I bring?"
"Oh, just casual stuff. You might want to bring something nice in case we get invited to a party. Don't forget your bathing suit."
Alex picked her up straight from work. Olivia had offered to drive, but Alex declined, so instead she leaned back in her seat getting comfortable for the long ride. It did not take long for her to realize that Alex was not heading north towards I-95. She must have looked puzzled because Alex gave her a raised eyebrow.
"Where are we going? I thought we were heading north."
Alex glanced her way again and smiled. "We are, but we're not driving. We're taking the Bee."
"It's the Cabot company jet, charmingly named Bee for my mother."
Olivia gaped. "A private jet? You own a private jet? Holy shit Alex, why have you never mentioned that?"
Alex cringed. "Sorry, I should've told you. And for the record, it's not mine, it belongs to the company."
Olivia was silent for a long moment. Just when Alex was about to ask her if she was all right she opened her mouth.
"Can I ask you something?"
"Of course, anything you like."
"Just how wealthy are you?"
"Does it matter?"
"I have more than enough to support myself for the rest of my life."
"Okay, but please promise me that you won't tell anyone. Please?"
"My father left me 25% of his company. My mother owns 30% and the rest is made up by other relatives."
Alex made a face. "Look Olivia, the reason I never told you or anyone at Special Victims is that I want you to like me because of me; I wanted you to see that I'm good at my job because I work hard, not because I'm some spoiled rich brat who used her connections to land a job in the DA's office."
"You're one of the best ADAs I've ever worked with, Alex. You're one heck of a lawyer," Olivia said and placed a gentle hand on her arm.
"Thanks Liv," she said softly. "You have no idea how much it means to hear you say that."
"People have been mean to you in the past," Olivia concluded.
Alex nodded. "Sometimes it seems like people think that because you have money or a famous name you don't have feelings."
William Harriman III, or Uncle Bill, waited for them at the private jet terminal. Uncle Bill was married to Alex's father's cousin. Even though a somewhat distant relative according to the Cabot family tree, he had been a common figure in Alex's life growing up in Boston and on Martha's Vineyard. Uncle Bill had taught her to sail when she was ten. He had also, to her mother's chagrin, taken her clamming, something young Alex found fascinating. Years later, when reliving those memories she mused over how her shrink related her joy of clamming to rebellion against her mother. In the end, Uncle Bill had turned out to be her favorite relative. He always gave her interesting, thoughtful presents for her birthday, things that actually meant something to her, things she had really cared about. Not that she had not cared about the pony her parents gave her for her eighth birthday, she did. It was just different, more personal. If anyone knew the real Alexandra Cabot, it was William Harriman, because he had taken the time to listen to her, to understand her. Unknowingly he had probably shaped Alex into the person she was today just as much, if not more, than her parents and expensive prep schools.
"Alexandra my dear, it's wonderful to see you," he said and hugged her.
"Uncle Bill, I can't breathe," she laughed.
He held her at arms length and smiled at her. "You look wonderful, a little on the pale side, but still wonderful," he said and winked at her. "Who's this beautiful lady?" he said and smiled at Olivia.
"Olivia Benson. Nice to meet you Judge Harriman," Olivia said and reached out her hand. To her surprise, he ignored her hand and instead pulled her into a big bear hug, just like he had with Alex.
"Please Olivia, call me Bill. It's so wonderful that Alex brought a friend. I'm so glad you could come. Alex hasn't brought anyone in a long time. You must be special Olivia," he said, the last few words added softly for her ears only. Olivia felt her ears get warm.
"Thanks," she mumbled, slightly confused.
Alex looked around for her aunt. "Where's Aunt Catherine?"
"She left yesterday. She decided that she'd had enough of the City."
Alex smiled fondly at him. "I know the feeling."
"Come, let's get going before we miss our take-off."
"Mr. Cabot, Ms. Cabot, welcome on board," the blonde stewardess greeted them with a huge smile.
"Marie, how nice to see you," Alex said fondly to her.
"Likewise Ms. Cabot."
"Marie, this is Olivia Benson."
Marie smiled at Olivia. "Very nice to meet you Ms. Benson."
"Oh, please call me Olivia," she said and smiled at her.
The stewardess chuckled and looked Olivia straight in the eyes. "If that is all right with Ms. Cabot, I will."
Olivia could not tear her eyes off of the beautiful woman.
Alex was surprised when she felt anger bubble up inside. "Of course Marie," she said curtly and swept by them and took her seat, a moment later Olivia sat down across from her. Alex refused to look at her.
"What's wrong Alex?"
"Come on, I can see something is bothering you." She gave her a lopsided smile. "You used your don't-mess'-with-me lawyer voice to the stewardess," she added with a chuckle.
Alex leaned across the table. "You can charm the pants off of a dead person, Liv. It takes you five seconds to get under Marie's skin and for her to call you by your first name. I don't understand how you do it. I've tried, but she has never called me anything but Ms. Cabot."
A slightly stunned Olivia watched the raw emotions playing on Alex's beautiful face. This really bothered her.
"Are you jealous of me Alex?"
"Of course not. It's just that sometime I wish my life was different, that I could just be me."
"That's why you like hanging out with the guys from the squad." Olivia said, more to herself than to Alex.
Alex nodded. "Some of my relatives are so shallow. They have no opinions of their own, they only repeat what other people think and believe."
"So how come you turned out so normal?"
Olivia's words took her off guard and she laughed out loud. "What would I do without you Olivia? You always know how to make me feel good."
Marie turned up with a drink for Alex. After serving her she looked expectantly at Olivia. "What can I get you Olivia?"
"A rum and coke please."
Marie gave her a big smile and left.
Alex cocked her head and grinned at Olivia. She slowly leaned across the table. "She likes you Liv," she whispered.
Olivia's face turned red. "I you must be mistaken."
Alex shook her head. "I can tell, she's attracted to you."
Marie returned with her drink. Olivia thanked her but refused to look at her.
"Anything else Ms. Cabot?" she asked seriously, disappointment at Olivia's reaction evident in her sudden mood change.
"No thank you."
When the stewardess left, Alex put her hand on top of Olivia's. "I'm sorry I teased you. I don't want to make you uncomfortable."
"It can't be the first time a woman shows that she's attracted to you?" Alex said and removed her hand from Olivia's. Olivia caught it and held her hand in a gentle grasp.
"Are you attracted to me Alex?" she asked softly.
Alex looked at her, searching for something in her dark eyes. Finally she nodded. Olivia smiled at her.
"I know you're not on the team Olivia, so you don't have to worry."
"What makes you say that?" Olivia asked curious.
"You used to date Munch's old partner," Alex reminded her.
Olivia shook her head. "That was a one time only thing. It was sex Alex, nothing more."
"Well whatever it was, it was with a man."
"Does everything have to be black or white in your world Alex?"
Now it was Alex's turn to blush. "I'm a lawyer. The law doesn't deal very well with gray areas."
"And what about you?"
"So if I would share that gender plays little role in my choice of life partner, what would you make of that? Would that fit in?"
"Are you trying to tell me that you've had relationships with both men and women?" Alex asked surprised.
"Wow, I had no idea."
"Obviously," Olivia said and squeezed her hand. "We should talk about this Alex, but now is not the time or place."
"Can I ask you something Liv?"
"Of course," Olivia said softly.
"Do you find me attractive?" she whispered.
Her question hit Olivia like a thunderbolt. She laced her fingers with Alex's. "Alexandra Cabot, you are the most fascinating and beautiful woman I've ever met in my entire life," she said and brushed her lips against Alex's soft hand.
Alex leaned back in her seat, stunned at Olivia's words, and her hand slipped out of Olivia's gentle grasp. They looked at each other in silence for a long moment.
"We're approaching Martha's Vineyard Airport and will be landing shortly. Please fasten your seat-belts," the captain's voice announced over the intercom.
Marie returned and collected their glasses. A moment later the plane shook as they touched down.
Olivia followed silently behind Alex and Judge Harriman as they walked the short distance to the two cars waiting for them. She glanced around the small airport. The small silver plane that had swept them away from the hustle and bustle of the City shimmered pink in the early evening lights. Her head snapped back around when she heard Alex cry out.
"Oh my god! I can't believe it."
To Olivia's surprise Alex ran over to a young man who was leisurely leaning against a red jeep some thirty yards away. She threw her arms around his neck and he swung her around as they both laughed in joy at seeing each other. Olivia approached them apprehensively.
"Who's your friend cuz?"
"Olivia, meet my cousin Josh. Josh this is Olivia Benson," Alex said grinning from ear to ear.
"Nice to meet you Josh," Olivia said and smiled.
He grinned. "Pleasure's all mine, Olivia. It's about time Lexi brought a beautiful friend."
"I can't believe that you're back and didn't even call me," she said and playfully hit him on the chest. He smiled and hugged her closer.
"Uncle Bill said you were coming so I thought I should wait and surprise you."
Olivia looked at the two blonde cousins and smiled. She could easily see the resemblance. It was not only that they were both tall and blond and blue-eyed. Their personalities were similar too, even their smiles. Josh was very handsome. For some reason he reminded her of the TV show Baywatch. Maybe it was the shirt and the Nantucket red shorts and the flip-flops on his feet, or maybe it was his deep tan? She couldn't put her finger on it. He smiled at her and she smiled back. To her surprise she felt like she knew this guy.
"Welcome Alexandra," a clear voice with only a hint of a foreign accent said behind them. From the corner of her eye Olivia saw Alex stiffen and step out of her cousin's half embrace. The three turned and faced the Cabot family matriarch.
"Mother," Alex said and kissed her mother on both cheeks.
"Alexandra darling, it is so good to finally see you again."
"Mother, this is my friend Olivia Benson," Alex said and smiled at Olivia, ignoring her mother's comment.
"It's Detective Benson, isn't it? Alexandra has talked about you. I am Beatrice Cabot. Welcome to Martha's Vineyard dear," Mrs. Cabot said and held out her delicate well-manicured hand to Olivia.
"Very nice to meet you Mrs. Cabot," Olivia said and smiled.
Beatrice Cabot smiled and nodded. She then turned to her daughter. "Your house is all set for you dear. I had Agnes go over and check it earlier."
"Thank you mother," Alex said politely.
Olivia glanced in her direction, slightly confused at the lack of emotion in Alex's voice.
"Dinner is at eight. I count on that you and Olivia will not be late, Alexandra."
"But mother," Alex started but stopped mid sentence when her mother held up her hand.
"Alexandra, I haven't seen you in ages. Is it too much to ask to have dinner with my only daughter?"
Alex sighed and looked down. "No of course not mother. We'll be there."
Mrs. Cabot smiled and gently patted her cheek. "Thank you dear." She then turned to the young man leaning against the jeep. "And that goes for you too young man. I expect you for dinner, cleaned up and in shoes."
Josh sighed and nodded. "Yes Aunt Beatrice."
"All right then. You girls go with Josh and I'll see you later."
Without waiting for a reply she got back in the car. Her driver gently closed the door and nodded to them before starting up the car.
Alex exhaled and looked at Olivia. "I'm so sorry. I had no idea."
Olivia smiled at her and gently patted her arm. "Don't sweat it Alex. I don't mind at all."
"Thanks," Alex said softly.
"All right, let's get going," Josh said and hopped in behind the wheel.
Olivia sat up front with Josh and tried to take in as much as she possibly could during the short drive. She soon realized that she had no real idea of which direction they were going in; the road had twisted and turned so many times that by the time Josh turned onto the long driveway to the house she really had no clue as to where she was.
"That's the road to Uncle Bill's house," Josh said helpfully and pointed to the left.
A moment later he pointed to a small road on the right. "And that one leads down to my mom's house."
"How many houses do you have here?" Olivia asked surprised.
"The Cabot estate includes five houses, plus Aunt Bea's, a tennis court, a heated pool, several beaches and a couple of boat docks and boat houses," Josh explained.
Alex was very quiet in the back seat. Olivia glanced at her over her shoulder, but Alex looked away.
Josh turned onto a narrow driveway on the left. The sign said Cabot two. Olivia looked up, amazed at how the trees closed above them, creating a natural tunnel. It felt like they were engulfed in greenery. She did not have much time to ponder the foliage as they suddenly exited the serene alley and approached a medium sized vineyard house. Josh pulled up outside the front door. The gravel crunched as the car came to a stop.
"Good lord Alex, this house is gorgeous," Olivia said and hopped out of the car.
"Wait until you see the view from the back porch," Josh said and grinned. "This house is fantastic."
Alex just smiled. She enjoyed watching her two favorite people together.
"Are you staying here too?"
"Not this time. I'm staying in my mother's house," Josh said with a laugh. "You have the house all to yourself ladies," he said and winked at Olivia.
"Josh!" Alex said alarmed.
Olivia just laughed.
"Come on I'll help you in with your stuff," he offered.
Josh had taken off as soon as they were settled. Alex gave Olivia a quick tour of the house and showed her to one of the upstairs' guest rooms. It had a panoramic view of the beach and the ocean.
"This is amazing. Thank you again Alex for inviting me," Olivia said sincerely and smiled at her.
"You're welcome." Alex glanced at the time. "Look, I'll leave you alone so you can take a shower if you like. We should leave around quarter of eight. My mother's house is just behind the trees over there," Alex said and pointed to the right. "We'll drive over though. Walking through the woods in the dark is not a great idea."
Olivia raised an eyebrow.
"Poison Ivy," Alex explained. "and skunks."
"Ah," Olivia grinned. "That would ruin the weekend for sure."
Alex nodded. "Well, I'm right next door. The door on the left."
Olivia nodded. "I'll take a quick shower and meet you downstairs."
Alex quickly pulled on her shirt. "Yes?"
Olivia opened the door and entered the room. She was carrying some clothes on hangers. "I need your help Alex." She stopped dead in her tracks when she realized that Alex was half naked. Her face turned red when she noticed Alex's folded arms. She tore her eyes away from the blonde's naked legs.
"Enjoying the view Olivia?" Alex murmured.
"Very much," Olivia mumbled. "Sorry."
Alex chuckled and shook her head. "What can I do for you?"
Olivia cleared her voice and held up the two outfits. "Pants or dress?"
Alex took the dress from her and held it up in front of Olivia. Her eyes narrowed for a second. She handed it back to Olivia. "Dress, definitely the dress."
Olivia nodded. "What are you wearing?"
Alex made a sweeping gesture at her dress that hung on the bathroom door.
Olivia grinned. "Great. See you in five."
"Alex," Olivia hollered leaning against the banister. "We're going to be late."
A door closed upstairs and she could hear the unmistakable sound of Alex's heels. It was a sound so familiar to Olivia she couldn't help but smile; a moment later Alex appeared at the foot of the stairs. She was struggling with her earring. She stopped when she noticed Olivia's appreciative look. She made a little pirouette and smiled at her. "Do you like it?"
Olivia nodded. "You look fantastic Alex."
"Do you mind helping me with my necklace?" Alex asked and handed her a heavy gold chain.
Olivia held up the expensive looking necklace and watched the lights reflect in the gems. "This is gorgeous. Turn around."
Olivia bit her lip as Alex swept her long hair away from her neck. She gently slipped the gold chain around the slender neck and her fingertips grazed against Alex's soft skin as she closed the clasp. She grinned when she heard the softest of sighs escape from between Alex's lips. Olivia put her hands on Alex's shoulders and leaned closer. "All done," she whispered.
Alex swooned for a moment at the feel of Olivia's warm breath against her skin. She felt Olivia gently put her hands on her waist and steady her. She turned around.
"Thanks. Let's go."
The sun had set and the lights were on in the main house. It was a typical Cape Cod style house with a large wraparound porch. It was significantly larger than Alex's. Alex parked behind her uncle's car and they walked inside.
"Alexandra darling, you look wonderful," Mrs. Cabot said and kissed her daughter on the cheeks. She looked over at Olivia. "You look very nice too dear."
"Thank you Mrs. Cabot."
"Come in. Drinks are served on the porch." Mrs. Cabot linked her arm with her daughter. Olivia followed silently behind them.
She turned her head and smiled at Josh who had entered from the room on the left. "Hey Josh."
He grinned at her dress. "You clean up nicely."
She smiled. "So do you," she said and eyed his kaki pants and polo shirt. Though casual in appearance, the material as well as the logo on his shirt hinted to the hefty price tag of the outfit. Olivia would have bet her paycheck that his outfit was at least twice as expensive as her dress, if not more. Her eyes trailed down to his feet and she chuckled. "I seem to remember some very clear instructions about shoes my friend."
He grinned and winked at her. "It drives her insane," he whispered.
"Maybe I should have consulted with you instead of Alex," Olivia said and looked down at her own shoes. "They look good, but they are not very comfortable."
"My point exactly," he said and grinned. "I doubt that Reefs with that dress would have passed Alex's inspection," he said and held the door for the laughing Olivia.
"Josh would you be a darling and make us some drinks. I'll have a martini," Mrs. Cabot said and took a seat. She patted the cushion next to her. "Alexandra, come sit down."
Alex glanced at Olivia and then headed over to her mother. She sat down on the edge and smoothed out her dress without even thinking about it. Olivia watched her cross her legs. The movement so fluid and natural it must have been rehearsed thousands of times. She smiled and walked over to Josh at the bar.
"What can I get you Olivia?"
"Do you have any beer?"
He shook his head. "Later. At Alex's."
"What do you recommend?"
"Aunt Bea only drinks martinis. Alex likes Tanquerai and tonic with lime. Uncle Bill takes Scotch on the rocks, Glenfiddich if you care. I've got almost any liquor you like here, so you just tell me what you want."
"I'll have a gin and tonic too."
"Alexandra I'm so glad that you could make it this weekend," Mrs. Cabot said and gently patted her hand.
"Me too mother."
"I know that I'm being selfish, but I wish I would get to see you more often."
"Marcello missed you," her mother suddenly said, changing the topic.
Alex gave her a surprised look. "When did you see him?"
"In Cannes last month. Everyone was asking about you. I so wish you could have come darling."
"I just can't leave like that. I have a job," Alex explained somewhat impatiently.
Mrs. Cabot made a face. "I don't see why you have to work so hard. Your father made sure you would be taken care of."
Alex glanced over at Olivia. Their eyes met and Olivia smiled at her. Alex returned the smile. It still amazed her how this woman could give her strength even without saying a word. She turned back to her mother. "I'm a good lawyer mother, and I want this. Why can't you understand that?"
"If you had accepted Marcello's proposal you wouldn't have to work Alexandra. You would have other priorities to keep you busy."
"I would have your life, you mean," Alex said without thinking. She closed her eyes and stopped a groan from escaping her lips. She normally did not confront her mother, and especially not in front of company. "I'm sorry."
Mrs. Cabot shot her a stern look. "You know I only want the best for you."
"Bona sera a tutti!"
They all turned to the open door and the woman standing there. She smiled and carefully entered the porch, completely taking over the room with her presence. Olivia watched her as she greeted Mrs. Cabot, kissing her on both cheeks and then greeted Bill and his wife in the same way. Totally mesmerized Olivia did not notice that Alex had moved to her side. She startled when she felt a hand on her arm.
"She's something else, isn't she?" Alex mumbled amusedly to Olivia.
"She's beautiful. Who is she?"
"Francesca Lombardi. She owns one of the most respected wineries in Tuscany. She and my mother went to school together years ago. Ever since I was born they've tried to play matchmakers with their children," Alex said and chuckled.
"The lovely ladies want sweet Lexi here to make beautiful bambinos with Francesca's son Marcello," Josh, who had overheard Alex, offered helpfully. He winked at Alex who rolled her eyes at him.
"Very funny Josh."
"And?" Olivia said and smiled at Alex.
"Well, I have turned Marcello down a dozen times since he first asked me to marry him."
"Why didn't he get the hint when you said no the first time?"
Alex chuckled. "He was only ten at the time so he accepted that I wasn't ready."
Olivia laughed out loud. "I see."
Francesca turned in the direction of the joyous laughter. A little smile appeared on her lips when she laid eyes on Olivia. She waited until Olivia looked her way and held her gaze for a moment before looking away. She linked her arm with Mrs. Cabot. "I think I could use a drink dear."
"Of course. Josh would you be so kind to make Francesca a Campari orange," Mrs. Cabot said.
Francesca let go of Mrs. Cabot and walked over to Alex and Olivia. She opened her arms wide and smiled at Alex. "Alessandra, how wonderful to see you. My Marcello was so disappointed that you couldn't join us in Cannes," she said and kissed Alex.
"Francesca, you look beautiful as always. It's been a while. I'm sorry I couldn't be there. I was just too busy at work," Alex said and smiled apologetically. Before she could be cornered into any future commitment she turned to Olivia. "Olivia this is Francesca Lombardi, an old friend of the family. Francesca, Olivia Benson, one of the finest detectives in New York City, and a close friend of mine."
Francesca held out her hand to Olivia and smiled. "Belissima, I'm so glad to meet one of Alessandra's friends."
"Gracie signora," Olivia said and smiled at her. She was surprised at the strength in the woman's handshake.
"You speak Italian Olivia, what a delightful surprise," she said and her eyes twinkled. As she let go of Olivia's hand she let her fingertips brush against her palm. She could feel a shiver go through Olivia. Her effort had not gone unnoticed.
"Francesca," Josh said and held out her drink to her.
"Thank you darling."
"You never told me you spoke Italian Liv," Alex said surprised.
Olivia chuckled. "You never asked."
Alex gave her a look.
"I spent a semester abroad when I was in college. The time I spent in Florence was the highlight of my four years in college," Olivia explained.
Francesca lit up. "Firenze, that's close to us. We're about two hours away."
"I might have passed by your place. We used to go on short trips on the weekends," Olivia said with a grin.
"Maybe you had some of our wines while you were in Italy," Francesca said and sipped her drink.
"I might," Olivia said with a smile. "It depends on how expensive they are. Back then I judged a wine more by its price tag than the vintage."
Francesca laughed out loud.
"To tell you the truth Olivia, I still do," uncle Bill said and winked at her.
She grinned at him. He was so much different in private then in court. To her surprise she realized that she really liked him.
"Obviously Olivia's palate is more sophisticated than yours my dear," Francesca said and smiled fondly at Olivia.
Alex felt the knot in her stomach return. If she had not known better she would be tempted to say that her mother's best friend was flirting with Olivia. She must be imagining things. How many drinks had she had?
"Everyone, dinner is served," Mrs. Cabot said loudly.
Francesca linked her arm with Olivia's and looked up at her, her dark brown eyes soft in the evening light. "I hope we'll get a chance to talk more about Italy after dinner Olivia."
"I'm sure," Olivia said, still somewhat in shock by the surprising attention from this stunning woman.
"Alex?" Josh said and offered her his arm. She smiled and linked her arm with his.
They had taken their seats around the Cabot dining room table with lots of laughter and minor chaos as Mrs. Cabot ushered them to their seats. A large chandelier surrounded them with a soft warm light. Olivia groaned inwardly at the sight of the silver and expensive china. The number of forks indicated numerous courses. She gave Alex who was seated across from her a long look. Alex just smiled at her. Olivia tore her eyes away from her beautiful face when someone pulled out the chair next to her.
"Seems like it's your lucky night Olivia. You got me," Josh said and grinned at her as he took his seat next to her.
"I'll be looking at you for clues on which fork to use for what," she whispered to him.
Josh winked at her and nodded. "Don't worry, you'll do fine."
Alex watched them from across the table. It still surprised her how the two of them had hit it off so quickly. Her experience with Olivia was that she did not trust people easily.
"Beatrice, I took the liberty to give Agnes instructions about the wine. I matched the wines with the menu myself," Francesca said with a smile.
Beatrice smiled at her old friend. "Thank you Francesca, it's an honor."
Francesca bowed her head, pleased with the praise.
The first course was served and the conversation flowed easily around the table. Olivia was really enjoying herself. To her surprise she found Alex's uncle to be very funny. He had her laughing so hard her eyes were watering.
"Please stop, it hurts too much," she wheezed and grinned at him.
"I like your sense of humor Olivia," he said and raised his glass to her.
Alex had been watching them. It pleased her that Olivia got along so well with her favorite uncle.
Their plates had been cleared one at a time. When the main course was served, Francesca introduced the wine she had chosen to go with it. She leaned forward and smiled at Olivia. "Olivia, it would please me immensely to hear your opinion about the wine."
Alex's eyes darted from Francesca to Olivia to her mother. She did not like this at all. "Francesca " she stopped when she saw Olivia lift her hand. She smiled at her.
"It's all right Alex. I don't mind. It's been a while, but I think I can do my best to give Francesca my honest opinion," she said and smiled at Francesca.
"Please," Francesca said and gestured to the large glass in front of Olivia.
Olivia raised the glass and swirled the deep burgundy beverage around, scrutinizing its color. Once satisfied she brought the glass to her nose and inhaled its bouquet. Finally she took a small sip of wine and closed her eyes as she tasted it. When she opened her eyes again she looked straight at Francesca. "This wine is magnificent. I would say it's at its peak right now," she said softly. "The color is deep and clear, it has a deep aroma and a quite dense spicy nose." She took a small sip. "I taste oak, and apples, and it has a little peppery note to it, nice balance between tannin and acidity, and finally..." She took another sip. "I think just a tad of black currants," she said and smiled at Francesca.
Francesca clapped her hands and beamed at her. "Bravissima, very well done Olivia," she said. "I'm glad you liked it. It's our best wine at the moment. The best one we have produced in many years actually."
"To family and dear friends," Mrs. Cabot said and raised her glass.
They echoed her words and Olivia tapped her glass against Alex's. Alex was smiling, but the little wrinkle between her eyebrows was not missed by Olivia. She knew that one. It was one of Alex trademarks. It appeared whenever she was stressed or upset. It was the only thing that gave her away in court.
After dinner they had moved to the living room and Alex finally had a chance to talk to Olivia. She led her over to the love-seat by the fireplace and they sat down.
"I'm so sorry Olivia. I had no idea Francesca was going to put you on the spot like that."
"It's all right Alex. I think this evening has been more stressful for you than for me," Olivia said and gently squeezed her hand.
Alex sighed. "My mother brings out the worst in me I'm afraid. She knows how to press my buttons, and she doesn't hesitate to do it."
"So why give her the power?"
"Long story Liv. Let's leave it with that she doesn't exactly approve of my lifestyle," Alex said with a sigh.
"Do you want me to plant a big wet one on your lips?" Olivia joked and grinned from ear to ear.
Alex elbowed her. "You're not helping."
Beatrice and Francesca entered the room. Mrs. Cabot looked around for a brief moment until she found her daughter. She smiled at her. "Alexandra darling, will you play something for us?"
Olivia looked surprised at her.
"My mother finds my piano playing soothing," she mumbled. "Of course mother, maybe Francesca will sing for us."
"What a wonderful idea. Francesca?"
Francesca smiled and kissed her on the cheek. "Of course I'll sing for you."
Olivia's eyes narrowed and she leaned back in her seat. There was something going on between these two.
Alex took her seat by the piano and let her hands move across the keys. She played a short piece to warm up. Francesca leaned over and the two conferred for a moment. Alex took a deep breath and started playing. A moment later the room filled with the Italian's smoky voice accompanied by Alex's skillful playing.
Olivia was taken by surprise. She had not expected much from the impromptu performance, but this was good. Francesca's voice was full and strong, and Alex followed her perfectly. Olivia realized that this was far from the first time the two had performed together. She smiled at the beautiful sight of Alex's slender neck, bent slightly in concentration, as she played. Olivia followed Francesca with her eyes as she moved around the room, and finally moved up next to her. A shiver went through Olivia's body as Francesca's gentle hand rested on her shoulder. She looked up at her and watched as she sang to her. A moment later Francesca removed her hand and winked at her before she returned to Alex's side. She leaned against the grand piano and smiled at Alex. When the song ended the room was dead quiet for a few seconds before everyone started clapping.
"That was beautiful," Mrs. Cabot said and smiled at them.
Francesca bowed her head. When she looked up she looked straight at Olivia. The look in her eyes made Olivia very nervous. Then Francesca turned to Alex and Olivia exhaled. The seat next to her bounced as Josh joined her on the couch.
"They are pretty good, don't you think?"
"They are better than some people I've paid good money to listen to," Olivia said honestly.
"Alex has played since she was little and Francesca has had classical training. She once was set on becoming an opera singer."
"What happened?" Olivia asked, surprised by his words.
"Her father died and she had to take over the family business."
"Couldn't she have hired someone to do that?"
"She could, but winemaking is an art. You need the right person to make the important decisions."
"And Francesca was that person," Olivia guessed correctly.
"You got it."
A gentle wave of sadness came over her as she watched the beautiful woman leaning against the piano. She sighed. "It's hard to give up your dream."
The three of them said goodnight to Mrs. Cabot and Francesca. Once outside they agreed to go back to Alex's place for a night cap. Josh followed them in his jeep.
"I've got to get out of these shoes," Olivia said with a groan. She kicked off the expensive heels by the stairs and wiggled her toes. "Much better." Barefoot she walked over to Alex. "Hope you don't mind," she said and grinned.
Alex folded her arms and made a sound similar to a snort. It made Olivia giggle. "I made you snort," she said and laughed even harder.
Alex leaned closer. "I do not snort," she said slowly in a low voice.
"Oops, my bad," Olivia said and grinned.
Josh returned from the kitchen with three beers and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw the two of them in a deadly stand off. "Ladies, don't get your panties twisted. No lovers' quarrel allowed tonight," he said chipper.
They both turned and gaped at him. Olivia burst out laughing again. Alex shot her a dirty look.
"We're not " she started to explain to Josh.
"Whatever," he said and handed her a beer.
They withdrew to the spacious porch in the back. The night was warm. Alex lit a couple of candles and placed two mosquito burners on the floor by their feet. Olivia took a seat in the swing in the corner. She leaned back and laughed in joy.
"I always wished I had one of these when I was a kid."
Alex smiled at her. "I wish you'd had one," she said softly.
Olivia looked up at her and smiled. "Come, join me. It's big enough for two."
Alex carefully sat down next to her. As she leaned back her body was pressed against Olivia's. She felt Olivia wrap her arm around her shoulders. Against her better judgment she snuggled closer to her. It just felt so good to be this close to Olivia. She closed her eyes as Olivia gently kicked off from the floor. The swing lulled them back and forth in a slow pace. Soft music suddenly streamed through the open door. Olivia recognized the voice as Diana Krall.
"Don't you two look cozy," Josh said with a grin as he joined them. He pulled himself up on the railing and sat leaning against a column. He raised his beer to them. "Cheers."
"Alex, I'm having a party at my mother's house tomorrow night. I'd like you two to come."
"Maybe," Alex said, not wanting to commit without discussing it with Olivia.
"There will be a lot of people there that you know, people who haven't seen you in a long time. Meggie and Doug will be there, and Mac."
She sat up, which almost made her fall out of the swing. Olivia caught her and put her arms protectively around her. Alex settled back into the comfortable embrace. "I haven't seen them in ages." She turned and looked at Olivia. "The Sullivans are our neighbors. Meggie and I have known each other since we were babies. We used to play on the beach; we took sailing lessons together, played tennis and so on. Mac is her older brother. He's a really nice guy. He was my spare big brother growing up."
Josh chuckled. "Much to his chagrin. Mac's had a crush on Alex since he was seven years old, but no matter how much he tried, he'll always be like her big brother."
Olivia smiled. The fondness with which the two cousins spoke of Mac reminded her of her feelings for her partner on the job, Elliot Stabler. Unbeknown to him, Josh had described her feelings for Elliot. "It sounds like a fun party Alex."
"Are you sure?" Alex said skeptically.
Olivia nodded. "If I get bored I'll take the car and go gallivanting around town."
Josh laughed. "You better pick your town carefully Olivia, several of the towns on the island don't serve alcohol."
"Holy crap," Olivia said with faked seriousness. "I guess I'd have to take you with me then."
He grinned. "I think I'm the wrong Cabot for that job," he said and winked.
"Dance with me," Alex said suddenly.
Olivia's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "Sure." She stopped the swing and helped Alex out. They looked at each other for a moment before Olivia held out her hand to Alex. Alex carefully placed hers in Olivia's and Olivia pulled her into a lose embrace. She closed her eyes and started to move to the music.
Josh watched the two women dance. When he caught Alex's eyes he winked at her. Her cheeks flushed a little and he chuckled. He finished his beer just as the music ended. "That's my cue. I'm going home. See you tomorrow."
Alex kissed him good night.
"I'll see myself out," he said and smiled. "Good night Olivia. It's been a pleasure."
"Good night Josh. See you tomorrow?"
A moment later they could hear the sound of his jeep disappearing down the driveway.
Olivia walked up to Alex and gently hugged her from behind. "You are so beautiful," she murmured into Alex's soft hair. She could hear Alex chuckle and then she turned in her arms. They looked at each other for a moment. Olivia slowly leaned closer, her eyes never leaving Alex's. Not until her lips brushed against Alex's did her eyes flutter shut. She tightened her grip on Alex as she felt slender arms wrap around her neck, pulling her closer. She moaned softly as the kiss deepened. When they finally pulled apart Olivia rested her forehead against Alex's.
"That made up for every agonizing moment in my mother's presence tonight," Alex said softly. She pressed her lips against Olivia's as her fingers entangled in Olivia's short hair.
Olivia tried to calm her breathing as she pulled away from Alex. She held Alex's hands and smiled at her. "Good night Alex," she said softly and let go of her hands. With a last smile she walked back inside.
Alex sighed and wrapped her arms around herself. She looked out over the dark water. A shiver went through her body. Alex sighed. She wanted more. She wanted Olivia.
Olivia had to use all her willpower to make her feet move her body upstairs. She wanted to run back downstairs and sweep Alex into her arms and kiss her all over. It wouldn't happen tonight, she told herself. She knew that they had started something potentially great today. They were not teenagers, they were both grown women, and they needed to know that the other was equally committed to this path before diving head first into something that could possibly ruin a great friendship and a good work relationship. She reached the door to her room. With a sigh she opened it and turned on the lights.
Olivia slid between the sheets and sighed in delight. The cool cotton felt fresh against her naked body. She glanced one last time out the open window before closing her eyes. She could hear Alex move around in the room next door. A smile spread on her face as she could track Alex's night routine by the sounds. Finally there was silence and a moment later the lights were turned off. Olivia wondered for a moment if Alex slept in the nude.
Alex woke and stretched leisurely. She squinted as her pale eyes adjusted to the bright sun light coming through the window. She heard a noise from the room next door and it brought a smile to her lips. Her thoughts went back to the kisses they had shared the night before and her body stirred in response. With a sigh she tossed back the covers and headed for the shower.
Olivia had taken a quick shower and slipped into shorts and a tank top. There was no sound from Alex's room so she assumed that she was still asleep. Quietly so as not to wake her, Olivia went downstairs to make some coffee. While the coffee was brewing she checked the cupboards and the fridge. Agnes whoever she was had done a great job. The kitchen was stocked for an army. Olivia normally did not eat much in the morning so she settled for coffee and biscotti. She glanced outside the kitchen window and noticed to her delight that there was a morning paper on the front door step. Coffee in hand and the Boston Globe tucked under her arm she strolled through the house and opened the sliding doors to the porch. It was warm, but not yet unbearable. A soft breeze rustled the nearby trees. She took a deep breath and smiled. This was life. Moments later she was immersed in the morning paper, occasionally sipping her coffee.
Alex noted the open door to Olivia's room. There was no sound from inside so she assumed that she was downstairs. A wonderful aroma of coffee confirmed her suspicion. She poured herself a cup and went looking for Olivia. She found her curled up on the couch on the porch working her way through the Globe.
"Morning," Alex said and slid open the screen door.
"Morning," Olivia said and smiled at her. She moved the finished sections of the paper to the side table to make room for Alex. "You look nice and refreshed," she said softly.
"Do you want the paper?"
Alex shook her head. "Later." She glanced out over the bay. It was calm and inviting. A few sail boats were already out, catching the morning breeze. She sighed.
Two squirrels chased each other across the lawn with lots of chatter. The two women watched them disappear into one of the large trees. Even out of sight they could hear the loud chatter.
"Quarrel in paradise," Olivia said and chuckled.
"Someone woke on the wrong side," Alex said and smiled at her.
"Or maybe someone forgot to get donuts."
"Speaking of which, would you like to go out for breakfast or do you want to go up to the house. We should be able to make it for breakfast," Alex said.
"Whichever is the easiest. You know we're pretty well off here too. Your mom's housekeeper did a good job. I think we could survive for weeks here if we had to," Olivia joked.
"We'll if it's the same to you I'd like to go up to the house. I want to know what they're doing today. I was thinking that maybe we should go to the club with them today, then we can relax here at our beach tomorrow, or if you prefer, go to state beach or Gay head."
Olivia shrugged. "You're the expert Alex. What ever you decide is fine with me. As long as I get to see you in some skimpy bathing suit," Olivia said and grinned.
"Oh you," Alex said and swatted her leg.
Olivia put her arm around her shoulders and hugged her. "I'm sorry. I know it's bad, but that's the image that's been in my head ever since I got up this morning."
Alex rested her head on Olivia's shoulder. "Really?"
Alex pulled away from Olivia and looked at her. Her hand rested gently on Olivia's thigh.
"So we're good then? No regrets from last night?" Alex asked seriously.
Olivia shook her head. "None whatsoever."
"Thank god," she mumbled and slowly leaned closer and kissed her. Olivia put her arms around her and pulled her onto her lap. When she heard Alex moan, she realized that they should probably slow down before it would be too late.
"Hon," Olivia said softly. "Maybe we should have some breakfast. We can talk about this later." She kissed Alex lightly on the lips.
Alex sighed. She knew Olivia was right. Anyone could drop in on them and she knew her mother probably was expecting them to show up for breakfast. She slid off of Olivia's lap and held out her hand to her. "Come on before I change my mind and drag you upstairs."
Olivia laughed and took Alex's hand. She kissed her one last time before they went back inside.
They took the car up to the main house. Alex parked in the same spot as last night and they strolled inside. The house was very quiet.
"I'm not sure they are up yet," she said softly to Olivia.
A woman came out from a door on their left, carrying a plate that smelled wonderful. Olivia assumed that the kitchen was somewhere in the direction she came from.
"Good morning, Agnes," Alex said and smiled at the woman.
"Miss Alexandra, how nice to see you," she said and returned the smile.
"Agnes this is my friend Olivia Benson. She's staying with me this weekend."
Agnes smiled at her. "Very nice to meet you Ms. Benson."
"Please call me Olivia," she said quickly.
The woman shook her head. "It would not be appropriate. Mrs. Cabot does not like it."
Olivia nodded silently. "All right, I don't want you to get into trouble," she said and smiled. "Thank you for all the goodies."
Agnes smiled, pleased that she had noticed. "Miss Alexandra is my favorite. Someone needs to make sure she eats," Agnes said and gave Olivia a conspiring look.
Olivia laughed out loud. "Yeah, she's a little scrawny."
Alex folded her arms and her eyes narrowed dangerously. "Scrawny?"
Olivia held up her hands in defense. "No, no, no. Alex you're fine, you're beautiful," she said and laughed again.
"Thank you, it makes me feel so much better," Alex muttered.
"Everything is out on the buffet dear," Agnes explained to Alex. "Your mother is not up yet, but I'm expecting her any minute now."
"Thank you Agnes."
The housekeeper disappeared out into the kitchen again and Alex and Olivia were left alone in the dining room.
"Come on, let's have something to eat."
Plates filled with scrambled eggs, sausages, toast and fresh fruit they sat down at the table. Olivia poured them some coffee and they talked in low voices over breakfast.
"Bongiorno." Francesca walked into the room and over to the buffet. She poured herself a cup of black coffee and sat down at the head of the table.
"Good morning," they said in unison.
Francesca looked at the two women sitting close together at the table. There was definitely something going on between them. She was surprised. It annoyed her that she had missed to pick up on this. She had known Alex since she was a baby, why had she never noticed that she was attracted to women? No wonder she saw Marcello as a brother and nothing more. She cocked her head and looked at Olivia. She was a striking woman. Under different circumstances she would have considered pursuing her.
"Olivia, what do you think of this beautiful island so far?"
Olivia looked up and once again found herself spellbound by Francesca's beautiful eyes. She smiled at her. "So far it's been a magical experience."
Francesca laughed; a sound that made Olivia's heart skip a beat. What was it with this woman that made her react like this?
"Alessandra," Francesca said and smiled at her. "Your mother is up. She asked me to send you upstairs when you're done with your breakfast."
Alex nodded and gently dabbed her mouth with the napkin. She put her hand on Olivia's arm. "Please excuse me," she said.
They watched her leave. Once she was gone, Francesca got up and refilled her coffee. She turned to Olivia. "Please join me on the porch."
Olivia refilled her cup and followed Francesca outside. Francesca patted the seat next to her and Olivia warily sat down.
"Are you in love with Alessandra?"
Olivia chuckled. "You don't beat around the bush, do you?" she said, her eyes twinkling.
Francesca smiled. "Well?"
"I find her extremely attractive, but our relationship has not yet reached that level," Olivia said softly.
Francesca nodded. "She surprised me. I didn't know she was attracted to women. Of course I now understand her behavior in certain situations better."
Francesca nodded. "I talked to Beatrice last night. That's why Alessandra is upstairs right now. She needs to discuss this with her mother before she'll be able to fully allow herself to be with you or any woman."
"I thought it might be something like that."
"Beatrice's relationship with Alessandra has been strained for years. I didn't know why until I asked her last night."
Olivia looked hopefully at her. Francesca smiled knowingly.
"A woman?" Olivia asked.
She nodded. "A long time ago. Alessandra was a teenager. Beatrice was furious. The woman was older than Alessandra, a friend of the family. Beatrice sent her away and soon after Alessandra was sent to school in Europe."
Olivia felt the pain Alex must have experienced. "Was she her first?"
Francesca nodded. "Alessandra has never brought a woman here since. Not until now."
Olivia gave her a lopsided grin. "What made you think that we were more than friends?"
Francesca leaned closer. "I too have loved beautiful women," she whispered softly. "If I had been ten years younger I would've challenged Alessandra," she added as she gently put her hand on Olivia's thigh.
Olivia stared at her in shock. "You're attracted to me."
She cocked her head. "Does that surprise you, Olivia?"
"A little. Mostly I'm flattered. I thought the attention you showed me last night was nothing more than cultural difference. When I lived in Italy women touched me all the time without it meaning anything. Had someone touched me like that here, people would've assumed that we were close, very close," Olivia said and smiled.
Francesca laughed. She looked Olivia straight in the eyes. "Don't worry Olivia. I love Alessandra very much and I want her to be happy. You both have my blessing. I'll do what I can to help you."
Olivia nodded and sipped her coffee.
"Good morning," Beatrice said as she walked through the open French doors with Alex in tow. Olivia mumbled a good morning. She looked at Alex for any sign of what had transpired between mother and daughter. Alex smiled at her and nodded. Olivia sighed.
"Maman," Alex said and turned to her mother.
Francesca grabbed Olivia's arm and gently squeezed it. Olivia looked confused at her but she just smiled widely at her. As Alex and her mother were preoccupied with planning the day Francesca turned to Olivia and softly explained to her in Italian.
"I haven't heard her call her mother that since she was a teenager. I hope this means that they've started to heal their broken relationship. It's wonderful."
Olivia turned to Alex and smiled. "Yes?"
"I'm sorry to interrupt. If you're done with breakfast I think we should go back to the house and get ready. We're going to the beach club."
Together they strolled back inside. Olivia put her empty coffee cup on the breakfast table. "Are you okay?" she said softly to Alex.
Alex nodded. "I'll explain later."
Olivia tossed a book and sun lotion in the bag Alex had given her. She pulled out the small concealed gun she always carried when off duty, from its hiding place at the small of her back. She did not want to have to explain it when getting undressed at the beach so she put it in the inside pocket in the beach bag. It was a strange feeling not to have the gun tucked in against her waist. Over the years it had become a part of her and even though she never got completely comfortable using it, it was her silent partner.
"Olivia?" Alex shouted from downstairs. "Are you coming?"
Olivia zipped the pocket with the gun and tossed the bag over her shoulder. "Coming," she yelled and slipped into her flip-flops.
Alex was waiting at the bottom of the stairs. She was dressed in a white sun dress. Her beach bag rested on the floor next to her, a summer hat leaned against it. She handed Olivia a beach towel.
"Here, I can't fit it in my bag."
Alex pulled her hair back into a ponytail and put her hat on. She secured it to her hair with a pin and smiled at Olivia. "Are you ready?"
Olivia nodded. "You look beautiful."
Alex leaned closer and kissed her. "Thank you. Come on, let's go."
Fifteen minutes later Alex pulled in to the parking lot by West Chop Beach Club. Olivia glanced around at the selection of cars representing the members of the exclusive club. "Some of these cars have seen better days. Shouldn't the elite members of your little beach club be able to afford better? I sort of expected a variety of fancy little convertibles, not a bunch of beat up old rust buckets."
Alex chuckled. "You're right, and they do. I guess it's an island thing. A lot of people drive really old cars here. It kind of shows who's a local and who's not. Of course it only applies to summer visitors. The real locals drive normal cars."
Olivia shook her head in disbelief. "Odd, very odd."
Alex smiled and locked the car. "Follow me."
As they entered the club Alex stopped and made small talk to a few people. Olivia hovered silently in the background. Two teenage boys were sitting by the entrance to the main building. As she and Alex approached they perked up and smiled at them.
"Ms. Cabot, how are you? I haven't seen you all summer," the dark haired boy said and grinned.
"Hello Pip, it's nice to see you. You too Danny. I'm quite well thank you. How's your mother and father?"
"They are fine. They are actually here today. I'm sure you'll see them on the beach."
Alex nodded. "Could one of you get an extra chair out of our locker for my friend Olivia?"
Pip stretched a little and grinned. "All set. Mrs. Cabot already asked me." He shaded his eyes and looked curiously at Olivia. "Are you really a cop?"
Olivia smiled. "I sure am. I'm a detective with the NYPD."
"I'm Philip Sullivan, but everyone calls me Pip. You're the prettiest cop I've ever met."
Olivia laughed and shook his hand. "Thanks I guess. I'm Olivia Benson."
"Can I call you detective Benson?" he asked excitedly.
"You sure can Pip, but most people call me Olivia."
Pip realizing that he was keeping them offered to carry their bags. Alex declined, but thanked him. Leaving the two star struck teenagers behind they entered the main building.
Alex talked briefly to the manager and signed Olivia into the guest-book. "All set," she said and linked arms with Olivia.
The West Chop Beach Club was quite small compared to some of the public beaches on the island. It had of course some nice amenities that the public beaches lacked, such as beach lockers, bathrooms and a snack bar. A seasonal staff of ten supported the members' needs. There were three lifeguards on duty during the club's open hours. Two teenagers were in charge of kids activities and a number of beach boys and girls were assisting members with small tasks such as setting up chairs and picking up lunch trays and trash.
Alex did not have to look hard to find her mother. The Cabot family had staked out a part of this beach decades ago. Her mother made sure that their chairs were put out in the same spot every morning. All she had to do was to pack her beach bag and drive down to the club.
Francesca spotted them and waived. Alex waived back.
Alex took the chair next to her mother and Olivia claimed the one next to her. She quickly removed her shirt and shorts and sat down. A moment later she was very glad that she was sitting down. Alex hung her hat on the side of the chair and then pulled the white sun-dress over her head and revealed a bikini that looked like it had been made for her. Olivia bit her lip. She heard a soft chuckle and looked over at Francesca. The woman grinned at her.
"Glad to be sitting down Olivia?" she asked in Italian.
"Tremendously," Olivia mumbled.
Alex sat down and pulled out her sun lotion. She started to slowly apply it on her arms and legs. Olivia had to look away. This was just too hard. Francesca's pealing laughter was not helping one bit.
"Liv, could you please help me with my back?"
"Sure," she muttered, ignoring Francesca's raised eyebrow. She took the bottle from Alex and squeezed some into her hand. She warmed it for a moment before she started to generously apply it to Alex' back. Her hands caressed Alex's soft skin until she was sure that every visible part of her back was covered. "There you go, all done," she said and handed Alex the bottle.
"Would you like me to do you?" Alex asked softly.
"I, eh " Olivia was speechless.
"Your back Olivia," Alex explained and rolled her eyes.
"Sure, yeah, right. Do you mind?" she stuttered. She handed Alex her bottle of suntan lotion.
Alex shook her head and sighed. "Turn around."
Olivia held her breath as she enjoyed the feel of Alex's soft hands on her back. She jumped when Alex ran her fingers under the edge of her bikini top.
"Just want to make sure I cover the edges."
"Of course. Thanks."
"My pleasure," Alex said and handed her the lotion.
An hour later Olivia was feeling restless; she was hot and she needed to do something. She smiled at Alex. "Want to go for a swim?"
Together they walked across the beach to the dock. They stopped by the diving board at the end. Olivia peeked over the edge into the water while Alex chatted with the head lifeguard. The water was deep; she could in fact not see the bottom, just endless darkness.
"It's really deep," a young boy informed her. He was perched on one of the support columns. His hair was wet, indicating that he had been in the water already.
Olivia smiled at him. "Thanks. How's the water?"
"It's great. Not as cold as last week."
"I'm Olivia. What's your name?"
"Matt. I know who you are. You're a cop, right?"
She laughed. "I guess that's the news of the day, huh?"
"So, Matt, are you allowed to do canon balls and back flips from the dock?" she asked with a grin.
He returned the smile. "Canon balls yes, back flips no. Not unless Sam says it's okay."
He made a gesture to the woman who was still talking to Alex. "She is. She's in charge of all the lifeguards. She gets really mad if you do something against the rules," he said seriously.
Olivia nodded. "Better ask her first then. I like playing by the rules."
"Sure you do, you're a cop!" he said and laughed.
"Right," she said and winked at him. She walked over to Alex.
"Olivia, I'd like you to meet Sam. She's the club's head lifeguard. She's also in charge of the swim team."
"Nice to meet you Sam," she said and smiled at the tall blonde. The woman had a gorgeous body that she was showing off in the typical red bathing suit all the lifeguards wore.
"Pleasure is all mine," Sam said and shook her hand.
"Well Alex, I don't know about you but I'm hot and I'm getting in the water."
"I'm right behind you Liv."
Olivia nodded and walked out on the diving board. She bounced up and down a few time before kicking off. It gave her some extra speed and force and she cut through the surface like an arrow. She had not spent years on the swim team for nothing. A few seconds later she came up for air. She turned around and smiled at Alex. "Coming?"
Alex made a face but walked out on the diving board much in the same way Olivia had done. She also bounced up and down a few times before diving into the water. She cut through the water like a professional. Olivia made a mental note to ask her about it later. She swam the short distance to the dock and hauled herself up on the lower section. She climbed the few steps to the upper level and walked over to Sam.
"How do you feel about me doing a back flip?"
Sam cocked her head and smiled. "My initial answer is no, but you seem to be quite an accomplished swimmer so I assume that you have mastered back flips too."
"What if I request it in front of my lawyer?" Olivia said and grinned.
Sam tapped her lower lip as if contemplating the request further. "You know I think that might just do it."
"Okay. Alex get up here will ya," Olivia said with a laugh.
Alex appeared in all her wet glory. "What's so important?" she asked and squeezed some water out of her hair.
"I just wanted you to witness that I asked Sam if I could do a back flip. It's all that mumbo jumbo about law suits you know. As my lawyer you would be the perfect witness."
"Your lawyer?" Alex asked, her arms crossed and lips pursed.
Alex shook her head. "All right. As your lawyer I witnessed that you requested to do a back flip from the dock, knowing the dangers involved. Still it doesn't take into consideration the other legal matter?"
Olivia looked confused at her. "What other legal matter?"
"Did you ask your lawyer if you could engage in this possibly life threatening activity?"
"Eh no. Please?"
Alex laughed. "Just checking. Go ahead. Knock yourself out. Don't blame me if you get hurt."
Matt had overheard the conversation and he hopped down from where he had been sitting. "It's so much better if you do it from up here," he said.
"And how do you know that young man?" Sam asked in a stern voice.
"I eh, someone told me ?" he said, his face beet red.
Sam leaned down so they were face to face. "You better not make me catch you doing that Matt," she said slowly.
"Sure thing Sam. I promise."
Olivia tested the sturdiness of the support column before stepping up on it. She slowly turned around, careful not to lose her balance. She was very much aware that she had an audience and did not want to make a complete fool out of herself. She took a deep breath and raised her arms. A moment later she sailed through the air in a perfect arch. She tucked in her legs and hit the water feet first. When she surfaced she heard cheering and applauding. Matt jumped up and down in excitement.
"You did it!"
She smiled at him and covered the distance to the dock in a few powerful strokes. She still had it.
Olivia stayed on the dock when Alex returned to the beach. She talked to Sam a little and when Matt asked her if she could help him with his diving technique she happily agreed. Soon his friend Tom joined them and the three of them were in an out of the water like seals. When the boys started to show signs of fatigue they sat down on the edge of the dock and talked. Matt and Tom had a never ending stream of questions for Olivia. She tried to answer as best as she could without revealing too many gruesome details about her oftentimes difficult work.
"Can you show us some cool moves, Olivia?" Matt asked expectantly as they walked along the dock.
She smiled at him. "What kind of moves?"
"You know, how you grab the bad guys," he said and jumped off the dock and grabbed his friend Tom and wrestled him in the sand.
Olivia laughed. "All right you two, break it up or I'll cuff both of you."
The two boys let go of each other and stared at her. "You'd really do that?" Tom asked surprised. "Cool!"
Olivia shook her head. "Sorry guys, I didn't bring any cuffs to the beach. Didn't think I'd need them."
Matt sighed. "Too bad."
"What are you doing?"
Olivia turned and looked right into clear blue eyes that reminded her of Alex. The girl appeared to be seven or eight. She looked straight at Olivia and smiled.
Tom groaned. "Abby, this is not for little girls. You could get hurt. Just get lost will ya."
Abby's perfect little mouth turned into a thin line as she pressed her lips together. Her little jaw clenched and her nostrils flared as she glared at her brother.
Olivia put her hand on the girl's shoulder. "Sure you can stay. I was going to show the boys some self defense moves. Girls can learn those just as well as boys can."
"Can not!" Tom said stubbornly.
Olivia smiled at him and gently poked him. "I'm a girl too you know."
He looked at her and blushed. "Sorry."
"I don't think I'm the one you should apologize to Tom," Olivia said softly.
He sighed. "Sorry Abby," he muttered.
"Good job. It takes guts to apologize."
He shrugged trying to hide his embarrassment over the praise.
"Well, first of all. Let's go get some t-shirts. And let's move over to the end of the beach where we can be noisy without disturbing anyone. Okay?"
"Okay," they shouted to her as they sprinted off to get their shirts.
Abby returned first and sat down next to Olivia and looked expectantly at her. Soon Matt and Tom and some of their little friends joined them. The children sat in a neat little circle, looking in anticipation at Olivia. It was not every day they had a real NYPD detective to play with.
Olivia had given many presentations to kids in schools in the City so the situation was familiar to her. Still she picked her words carefully. These kids had lived privileged lives and did not know the dangers of the city streets like inner city kids. She was fairly sure that none of these kids had seen any of the things that some inner city kids had to face, sometimes on a daily basis, drugs, pimps and hookers, violence, guns and death. She was glad that there was still innocence to be found somewhere in this world.
She talked to her eager audience and explained common dangerous situations. She told them what to look out for and answered all of their questions.
"So if someone asks you to do something that you don't want to, what do you do?" she asked.
"Say no," Abby said quickly.
"Correct Abby. What if the bad person doesn't stop?"
"Then you say it louder," Matt said.
Olivia nodded. "You yell it at the top of your lungs, as loudly as you can. This is easier for boys than girls. You know why?"
"Girls aren't supposed to yell," Caitlyn, a quiet, dark haired little girl said softly.
Olivia nodded. "But sometimes you have to. Abby, please stand up for a moment."
Abby jumped up and looked excitedly at Olivia.
Olivia gently poked her right below her solar plexus. "Right here is where you keep your no."
The girl giggled. "It tickles."
Olivia grinned at her. "I want you to take a deep breath, slowly. Try to do it so we can't see or hear it. Not like this," she said and inhaled loudly. "If you do that, then the bad guy knows that you're going to scream."
Olivia kept her hand on the girl's abdomen and felt her lungs expand. She nodded. "Good. Now yell no as loudly as you can."
The boys were taken back by the loud noise coming from the little girl and sat gaping in the sand.
"Wow," Tom said surprised. "She normally shrieks when she yells."
Olivia nodded. "Girls' voices are higher pitched than boys. By doing it this way your voice becomes deeper and louder."
Olivia turned back to Abby. "Are you okay, sweetheart?"
"So, Tom, what do you do after you yell no?"
"Kick their leg or stomp on their foot," he said.
Olivia nodded. "Very good. What if the bad guy tries to cover your mouth?"
"Bite him!" Abby said and jumped up and down.
"Okay, let's take it one step further. Abby, come here."
The girl skipped over to Olivia.
"If you get uncomfortable or scared you just say stop and I will. I promise."
Abby was standing facing Olivia. Olivia leaned down, towering over her. "I lost my kitty; can you help me find her? I think she ran into the building over there," Olivia said and pointed at the closest row of beach lockers."
"No, I can't," Abby said sternly.
"Oh, come on now. Sure you'll help me. She could be hurt," Olivia said and moved so she was behind Abby. She put her arm around Abby's chest.
"NO!" Abby yelled and grabbed her thumb and pulled it back. She kicked Olivia's shin. Olivia had to bite her tongue not to curse.
"Be quiet," she said and put her hand over Abby's mouth.
The girl chomped down good on Olivia's hand.
"Ow, ow. Great Abby, now let go," Olivia howled.
The rest of the children rolled around in the sand shrieking with laughter. Abby twisted out of Olivia's grasp and jumped up and down.
"I did it! I did it, Olivia. I really did," she chanted and laughed.
Olivia cradled her injured hand and smiled at her. "You sure did. Very well done. Are you okay, sweetheart? I didn't scare you, did I?"
"No silly," Abby said and hugged her. "It was fun."
Olivia sat down in the sand again. Abby quickly sat down between her legs and cuddled up in Olivia's arms. "I like you Olivia," she said.
Olivia gave her a hug. "I like you too, honey. Okay, let's see if the rest of you guys learned anything."
Abby giggled. Together they watched as the other boys and girls took turns being the bad guy.
Alex had been watching from a distance. She was amazed at how quickly the children claimed Olivia as their newest hero. Once the game started to die down she approached. "Ice cream for all cops in training," she said and smiled at the group.
Abby took Olivia's hand. "Come on Olivia."
Alex chuckled. "She's got you wrapped around her little finger, Liv."
"It's the eyes," Olivia admitted.
Alex grinned and offered her hand to Abby. Together they followed the boys to the snack bar.
After finishing the treat with the children Alex and Olivia returned to Beatrice and Francesca. Matt was especially unhappy that Olivia could not play with them so she promised that they would swim together later. He smiled and took off after the other children to the playground.
"You connect very easily with children Olivia," Beatrice said and smiled at her. "It's a gift. I'm sure it's a great quality to have in your line of work."
Olivia nodded seriously. "I think that's why I'm doing it."
"Have you ever thought of having a child of your own?"
Olivia sighed. "It's crossed my mind. I can honestly say that I have mixed feelings about it. It's a tough world to bring a child into. I have a dangerous job. Would it be fair to a child to endanger my life every day and possibly one day maybe not come home at all? I don't know."
"It's not a decision that should be made lightly."
Noticing the serious turn of the conversation Francesca changed the subject. "Beatrice and I are going for dinner tonight at the Beach Plum Inn with the Sullivans. What are your plans for tonight?"
Alex smiled gratefully at her. Francesca was a gem. "I'm taking Olivia to the Homeport in Menemsha for dinner and then we're going to a party at Josh's."
Beatrice made a face. "The Homeport is so rustic. What about Le Grenier? I thought that was your favorite?"
Alex smiled. "It still is, though I really love the Beach Plum Inn. The Homeport has great food and you can sit outside. It's such a beautiful day and it's just a shame to be inside."
Francesca nodded. "Why don't you take a bottle or two from the case I brought? The white will go wonderfully with seafood."
"Thanks. I'd love that," Alex said.
Beatrice and Francesca left shortly after lunch to go shopping in Vineyard Haven. Alex and Olivia stayed another hour on the beach before Alex started to feel the sun and they agreed to head back.
Alex grabbed the bag with their wine from behind her seat and together they crossed the street, walking in the direction of the restaurant. The Homeport was located right in the harbor of the quaint little town Menemsha, south of Vineyard Haven. The little fishing town blossomed in the summer months when tourists flocked to sample the delicacies of the sea at the town's many little restaurants. Like Vineyard Haven it was a dry town. However, most restaurants allowed guests to bring their own alcoholic beverages, sometimes for a small corkage fee. The Homeport had an inside dining room, but it was their take-out dining area that Alex had her mind set on tonight. She quickly staked out a table and soon she and Olivia were conferring about the seafood selection on the menu. Settling for a selection of various goodies Alex placed their order and returned to Olivia.
"Here," Olivia said and handed her a glass of white wine.
"Thanks. To a wonderful weekend," she said and raised her glass to Olivia.
Olivia gently tapped her glass against Alex's. "To a wonderful weekend in the company of a wonderful woman."
"This wine is exquisite," Olivia said with a smile.
Alex nodded. "I suspected it would be. Francesca only brings the best."
Olivia glanced around. The guests in the outside dining area varied a lot, from families with young children to middle age couples. She assumed that many of them had settled for the outside area for the same reason as theirs.
"So Alex, what's so special with this place?"
"I thought you might need a break from the Cabots and dressing up. I know I do. I've always loved this place; the closeness to the sea and the easy atmosphere."
Olivia smiled. Alex was so beautiful. The early evening light reflected in her pale hair, making it look more golden. Her face had a healthy honey tone to it from the hours on the beach. She met Alex's eyes and felt a shiver go through her. The intensity of her gaze made Olivia feel very special. Something in Alex had changed today and Olivia had a distinct feeling that she was part of it.
"Alex " Olivia did not know how to phrase her question without sounding needy.
"What happened this morning?"
Alex took another sip of her wine before answering. "I had a long and very good talk with my mother. It's something we should've done years ago, but the longer we waited, the harder it got."
"So why now?"
Alex smiled. "Because of you, and Francesca."
Olivia frowned. "I don't understand."
Alex played with her glass as she gathered her thoughts. She finally looked up at Olivia, her clear blue eyes serious. "I feel something for you, something I've only experienced once before." She held up her hand to stop Olivia. "Wait, let me explain. I've been in love before, but I've never felt that I've truly been connected to any of them. Only one other person has ever been that close to me."
"Who was she?"
Alex chuckled. "What makes you so sure it's a woman?"
Olivia shrugged. "Just the way you were describing the connection. Most straight women don't describe their connection to their boyfriend or husband that way, quite the opposite actually. A bond between two women is so much deeper. I've experienced both, and I've never felt as close to a man as I did with a woman."
Alex nodded. "Exactly."
"So who is she, was she?"
"Her name is Fiona, but I call her Fifi. She's seven years older than me. Last time I saw her I was seventeen."
"Wow. What happened?"
"My mother." Alex sipped her wine again. "Fifi was spending the summer with us. We were staying in the main house. Actually my house wasn't even built at the time. We had other house guests so Fifi and I were sharing a room. We instantly connected and spent all our time together. I think my mother was relieved. She wasn't sure that we would get along, with the age difference and everything. I don't know exactly when things started to change. We were so close. She was always sitting very close to me and we were hugging and cuddling a lot. Then one night when we were sitting outside on the porch she walked over to me where I was sitting on the railing and without a word she leaned in and kissed me. It wasn't the first time I'd been kissed, but this was different. I put my arms around her neck and felt like I never wanted to let go. Then we heard cars outside and she quickly pulled away from me. We were dancing around each other that night unable to talk until once we were back in our room upstairs." Alex gazed into Olivia's eyes to gauge how much to share with her. Olivia's kind dark eyes and her gentle smile radiated trust. She took a deep breath. "Once she closed the door behind her she reached for me and took my hands. She asked how I was feeling. I blushed and couldn't find my words. She raised my chin and looked me straight in the eyes. I guess she must have found what she was looking for because she smiled and then kissed me again. I felt my knees buckle and she wrapped her arms around me and held me so tight. I'd never felt so safe before in my life."
The sound of their order number being announced interrupted her. "I'll be right back."
Olivia sighed deeply. Alex's story had verified her suspicion that Alex was in fact a lesbian. This was not a woman who wanted to experiment or was looking for a nice little fling. Alex had put her feelings and emotions out in the open. She impatiently waited for Alex to return.
Alex carefully maneuvered between tables with her full tray. She put it down between them. "All right, we've got shrimp, two types of scallops, lobster and fish and chips," she said and pointed out each item for Olivia. "Tartar sauce, butter, and fries," she added as she off loaded the tray.
"Geesh Alex, this is food for an army," Olivia said with a chuckle. "I'd no idea that you were a fried food junkie," she said and winked at her.
Alex made a face. "Very funny. I don't eat like this every day you know."
"I know. I was just teasing you. So do you want to tell me the rest of the story?"
Alex nodded and wiped her hands. She reached for the wine and refilled their glasses. "She made love to me that night and it was the most incredible experience of my life."
Olivia smiled. "That's how it should be," she said softly.
Alex nodded. "We had a few wonderful weeks together before it ended so terribly."
Alex sighed. "We weren't careful. We thought we were alone and my mother caught us kissing. She grabbed me and pulled me off of Fifi's lap. She yelled and she was crying; I'd never seen her that upset before and it scared me. I was sent to my room and from my window I watched Fifi leave. She looked up and blew me a kiss before she got in the car and drove off. That's the last time I saw her."
"That's awful. How come you've never contacted her?"
"I tried, but she was gone. She had bought a one-year ticket to travel around the world. I knew that, we'd talked about it. I just wished that she would've sent me a postcard now and then," she sighed. "Even if she had, my mother would've thrown them out."
"Do you know where she is now?"
Alex shook her head. "My mother cut all contact with her and her family after the incident."
Olivia nodded. "What about you? How do you feel about this and yourself now?" she asked after a moment of silence.
Alex looked up at her and smiled. "Are you fishing for if I've had any other women in my life since Fifi?"
Olivia blushed. "Well, I "
Alex gently put her hand on top of Olivia's. "It's okay Liv. I fully understand. You want to know what you're getting yourself into. Relax; I'm not a complete basket case. It took me a while to get over Fifi, but I did eventually. My mother sent me to school in Europe, not realizing that this actually made it easier for me to live my life the way I wanted. Granted, the first semester I was guarded and under constant scrutiny, but that changed once they realized that I was actually quite boring to spy on. I knew my heart by then and I knew that there would never be a man in my life. Once I returned to the United States I'd learned enough to be able to keep my private life out of my mother's eye. I never brought anyone to family gatherings or here to the island. The women in my life, and mind you there haven't been that many, were just as interested as I was in keeping it quiet." She cocked her head and smiled at Olivia. "So Liv, have I scared you off?"
"You have to do better than that Cabot," Olivia said with a laugh.
Alex put their empty plates back on the tray. The wine was gone. She contemplated opening another bottle, but decided against it. She still had to drive back. She glanced at Olivia. "Would you like some ice cream? There's an ice cream place just across the street."
"Sure. Here, let me take the tray. You take the wine," she offered.
"I can't believe that you had room for that ice cream after all that seafood," Olivia teased as she buckled in.
"I didn't see you having any trouble with yours."
Olivia grinned. "So now what?"
"Up for a stop at Josh's party?"
"Sure. I like him, he's a nice guy."
"I'm glad. He's my favorite cousin."
"You're a lot alike."
"I'd like to think that I dress better," Alex muttered.
Olivia laughed out loud. "You do. Still I'd pay good money to see you walk into court in flip-flops."
"Funny Benson," Alex said dryly.
There were several cars parked along the side of the driveway; Alex pulled up next to Josh's jeep. She turned in her seat and smiled at Olivia. "Ready?"
Olivia nodded. To her surprise Alex took her hand and led her inside.
"Alex! Olivia!" Josh shouted. "Over here."
Alex turned in the direction of his voice and pulled Olivia with her. They stepped through the open door to the deck where Josh and a few other guys were hanging at the bar.
"Hi," she said and kissed him on the cheek.
"You look beautiful Lexi girl."
"What can I get you? Beer? Wine? Something else?"
"A gin and tonic please."
"Coming right up. Olivia?"
"I'll have a beer."
"There's a bunch of beer in the cooler here. Why don't you take a look?" he said and pointed a large blue cooler next to the bar.
He had not been lying. The cooler had at least half a dozen different kinds of beer. She settled for a Sam Adams.
Olivia turned just in time to see Alex hug a beautiful woman with long chestnut hair.
"Meg, I want you to meet my friend Olivia."
Olivia shook her hand. "Nice to meet you."
Meg smiled at her. "I'm so glad to meet you. Alex rarely brings friends here. I've started to worry that she's all alone in the city."
Olivia chuckled. "As far as I know, Alex has several friends in the city. Not that she gets to see them that often. She works a lot."
"Do you work together?"
"So you're a lawyer too?"
"Me?" Olivia laughed surprised. "No, I'm a cop."
Megan's eyes widened.
Meg turned and smiled at her brother. "I told you she'd be here."
"Mac. It's so wonderful to see you again," she said and hugged him.
Olivia's eyes narrowed slightly as she watched them. She did not like how Mac had his hands almost on Alex's butt. This guy needed to keep his hands to himself. She took a long drink of her beer and turned her back on them.
Alex had worked her way through the crowd with Olivia in tow. Olivia was surprised at how much she enjoyed getting to know Alex's old friends. After a while the faces started to blur and when Alex got carried away catching up with her friend Amanda, Olivia excused herself and went back out on the deck. She tossed her empty bottle in the bin next to the beer cooler and grabbed a new one.
"Hey Olivia," Josh said and waived her over. "This is my old buddy Dough."
"Olivia Benson, nice to met you," she said and smiled at him.
Dough smiled and cocked his head. Something about Olivia was very familiar. "Are you on the job?" he asked curious.
Surprised she nodded. "You?"
He nodded. "I started out in Boston. Now I'm here on the Vineyard."
"Sounds like a sweet deal," she said and grinned.
"It is, most of the time. So what about you? NYPD?"
She grinned. "Yep."
She shook her head. "Nope, special victims."
He raised his glass to her. "SVU. Wow, that's quite a challenge. How long have you been doing it?"
"Seven years this fall," she said and took a long gulp of her beer to hide a grimace.
"I don't think I've ever heard of anyone who's been able to do it for that long."
She shrugged. "Someone's gotta."
He looked seriously at her. There was a dark side to this woman that he instantly knew was part of the reason why she was still with SVU. When she did not volunteer any additional information he decided to drop the topic.
"So you get to work pretty closely with those pesky lawyers, right?" he said and grinned.
She chuckled. "Like Alex?"
"She's fantastic. You know in the beginning I thought we were going to kill each other. We butted heads almost on a daily basis. She's a very tough opponent."
"Tell me about it. Even when she was a kid she was tough. I remember her convincing the swim coach to put her on the team even though she was a year too young. I don't think she knew what hit her until it was too late. Alex was on the team and she was great so I guess it worked out."
Olivia smiled. She could picture Alex as a skinny little girl with long blonde hair, hands on hips looking up at the swim coach arguing her point. Realizing that she had not seen Alex in a while she looked around. She couldn't see her anywhere.
"If you excuse me I think I'll go and find our charming lawyer," she said and smiled.
He followed her inside. She wandered through the crowd of people, but could still not see Alex. Then suddenly she spotted her with Mac in the hallway leading down to the kitchen. She slowly approached them. As she got closer she wondered if maybe she should leave them alone. Then she saw Alex put her hand on Mac's chest pushing him away. He didn't move.
"Mac please don't," she hissed.
"Come on Alex. I know you like me."
His breath smelled of alcohol. She turned her head away. "Mac no. Let me go," she said a little louder.
That was all Olivia needed to hear. A moment later Mac was pressed up against the wall, his arm twisted painfully behind his back.
"Hey, what the hell?" he shouted. He turned his head a little which was difficult the way his body was positioned. When he saw Olivia's face he snorted. "Let go of me. You have no jurisdiction here."
Olivia did not answer but loosened her grip a little. He pulled free and glared at her.
"She doesn't want you," he spit.
Olivia made every effort to not turn away from his bad breath. "Well, she sure as hell doesn't want you. She never did."
For a second she thought he was going to hit her. She gave him a challenging look.
"You're not a detective here you know, just some dumb dyke. If I hit you, there is nothing you can do about it," he said and laughed nastily.
"But I can," a calm voice said behind them. "Mac, step away from her. Don't make me do something I don't want to do."
Josh was a step behind him. "I think you should leave now Mac," he said seriously.
Mac looked at each of them and then raised his hands in defeat. Without a word he left. Dough looked at Olivia and she nodded to him. He gave her a lopsided smile.
Josh grabbed his arm. "Come on, let's go back outside."
After they left, Olivia gently put her hands on Alex's shoulders. "Are you okay?"
Alex nodded. She had her arms wrapped around her and she refused to look at Olivia. She flinched when Olivia gently cupped her chin. "Did he hurt you?"
Alex shook her head. "No."
"Do you want to leave?"
To Olivia's surprise Alex pulled away from her and just when Olivia thought she was going to walk away from her Alex turned and took her hand. She silently let Alex lead her back outside on the deck.
Josh looked questioningly at Olivia. She shrugged. She let go of Alex and grabbed another beer. Leaning against the railing she sighed deeply.
"Are you okay Alex?" Josh asked softly.
She nodded. "I'm fine. I know he'd never hurt me. He just had a little bit too much to drink," she said and brushed the incident off. She smiled at him and cocked her head. "So what did I miss?"
He grinned. "We were just telling old stories. Like the one about the school bus."
She laughed. She joined Olivia and leaned against her. When she felt Olivia's arm grab the railing behind her back she gently took her hand and placed it on her hip. To Olivia's surprise she snuggled even closer to her.
Alex glanced at Olivia over her shoulder. "A couple of years ago we went to this wedding together here on the island; at the beach club actually. Josh had invited a friend from school who just happens to be quite a well-known actor. The club has a rule that all parties have to end by eleven so, come eleven the band stopped playing. At this point most people were quite drunk. Several of the guests were staying in Edgartown and there was a school bus to take them back to the hotel. However the eighteen year old bus driver didn't have a chance when some of the guests decided to hijack the bus. I don't think you'd be surprised to hear that they crashed the bus."
"Will couldn't remember if he'd been on the bus or not so of course we made him believe that he had," Josh grinned.
"I had no idea," Alex added. "They kept torturing the poor guy all morning. He was frantic. When I met them around lunch time he was on the phone with his agent rambling about pictures and publicity. Before anyone could fill me in I blurted out but you weren't even on the bus!"
Olivia laughed out loud.
"He was not very happy with us guys."
"But he loved me," Alex said chipper.
Olivia squeezed her closer to her. "I bet."
Alex put her empty glass on the bar. "Come on Liv, let's dance," she said and took Olivia's hand.
They left the guys on the deck, reminiscing about summers past, and walked inside. Alex weaved through the crowded room holding Olivia's hand in a tight grip. When they entered the small dance floor Alex pulled her close and put her arms around Olivia's neck. Olivia gently put her hands on Alex's hips.
Some time later she was leaning against the wall watching Alex dance with Josh.
"I wondered when Alex would come to terms with herself," a voice said softly behind Olivia.
She turned and looked into Meg's smiling face. "You knew?" she asked surprised.
Meg shrugged. "I always suspected, but no I didn't know until now. Alex is very private. She told me that Fifi had just been a phase. I never believed that, but at the same time I never saw her with a woman again until today."
Olivia nodded. "I'm a little surprised myself. I didn't know until yesterday that Alex and I played for the same team."
Meg's eye grew wide. "Are you telling me that this," she waived at Olivia and Alex, who was now dancing with Dough. "is new?"
Olivia nodded. The look on Meg's face was priceless. "I'm sorry," she said and gasped for air in between laughs.
Meg gently swatted at her arm. "No you're not, but that's okay. So what's going on between you and Alex?"
Olivia pulled herself together and stopped laughing. "I think we're about to start something great. I'm scared to death."
Meg grabbed her arm and pulled her over to a quiet corner. "Olivia, I've known Alex for a very long time. She's like a sister to me. I love her, but I know that she's not perfect. I've been nagging her for years to get on with her life. Every time she just waived me off, claiming her studies or her work was taking up too much of her time."
"Sounds like Alex."
Meg smiled. "Don't let her get away with any excuses."
"Are you two talking about me?" Alex asked.
Olivia noticed the lawyer pose immediately, arms folded, chin up, clear blue eyes nailing them. She held out her hand to Alex. "Only because you're so special."
Alex accepted her offered hand without a second thought. "You charmer."
Meg leaned over and kissed Alex on the cheek. "I'll say goodbye now just in case I don't see you again. We're leaving soon."
"Really? So soon?" Alex complained.
"Babysitter," she said apologetically.
Olivia nodded. "It was nice meeting you Meg."
"Same to you Olivia."
They watched her leave. "Do you want to dance?"
Alex shook her head. "Maybe we should head back too?"
Olivia swallowed hard as their eyes met. Suddenly she felt very warm. "Yeah, maybe we should."
They said goodnight to Josh and Dough and left. Alex carefully maneuvered the car around in the narrow driveway.
Olivia turned in her seat and looked at Alex.
"What?" Alex said with a smile.
"Nothing. You're beautiful," Olivia said softly.
"Did you have fun?" Alex asked.
"I did. Meg is really sweet. I like Dough too."
"Please don't think too badly about Mac. He's not a bad guy; he just had too much to drink tonight. He would never hurt me."
Olivia nodded silently. She was not sure Alex was right about the guy, but she did not want to argue with her, not tonight.
It was a short drive back to the house. The lights were on in the living room. It looked welcoming and warm. Olivia was surprised at how quickly she had grown to like this place and come to think of it as home.
Alex took Olivia's hand as they walked inside. She locked the door and turned to Olivia. "Would you like a drink?"
Olivia shook her head. "I think I've had enough to drink. I don't want to get drunk. Maybe just some ice water."
Alex took a step closer and wrapped her arms around Olivia's waist. "I don't' want you drunk either," she mumbled against Olivia's neck.
Olivia gently cupped her cheeks. "Alex?"
Alex just smiled. "I want to sleep next to you Olivia."
Olivia grinned. "I think I'd like that very much." She brushed her lips against Alex's.
"Oh Liv." Alex wrapped her arms around Olivia's neck and pulled her closer. The kiss deepened and when she felt the tip of Olivia's tongue touch hers her knees threatened to give in on her.
Olivia pulled away from her when she felt Alex tremble. "Let's go upstairs Lex," she said softly.
Alex nodded and took her hand. Silently they climbed the stairs. Alex led her down the hallway towards her room. She opened the door and stepped inside. The light from the bedside table lamp made the room seem almost magical. Alex turned and faced her, a smile played on her lips.
"Do you want this Olivia?" she whispered.
Olivia took both her hands and pulled her closer. "More than you know Alex. I want you."
Alex shivered slightly as Olivia wrapped her arms around her. Their lips met again and she felt Olivia's warm hands caress her body. She closed her eyes, the feeling was so intense.
"I need you Liv," she mumbled against her lips.
"I know." She pulled down the zipper on Alex's dress and then slowly slipped the thin straps over her shoulders and let it fall to the floor. Alex had not been wearing a bra. Olivia bit her lip. She was beautiful. She reached out and gently traced Alex tan lines. She felt a shiver go through her when she touched her soft skin. "So beautiful," she mumbled.
Alex reached for Olivia's shirt and quickly undid the buttons. Impatiently she pushed the shirt off of Olivia. She stepped closer and reached around her to undo her bra. Olivia again wrapped her arms around her and pulled her close. Alex hissed as their breasts touched. She could not wait any longer. She took a step back and pulled Olivia with her. She moved towards the bed and kneeled on it. Olivia quickly undid her pants and tossed them over to where the rest of their clothes lay forgotten. She reached for Alex and lay down next to her. When Alex draped her leg over her hip she felt the dampness from her panties touch her. She gasped. She reached out and gently cupped her silk clad sex. "You're so wet," she said huskily.
"Because of you."
Olivia gently rubbed the soft silk which caused Alex to moan. "Olivia, you're driving me crazy," she whispered.
Olivia gently slipped the panties over Alex slim hips and tossed them on the floor. She gazed at her and smiled. "Perfect."
Alex chuckled. "Hardly, but I'm glad you think so. Now get out of those panties or I'll charge you with contempt."
Olivia did as she was told. She was a little surprised when Alex pushed her away when she reached for her. "Alex?"
"Wait, let me look at you." She ran her hand down Olivia's strong arm and touched her hip, she continued up her slender waist and gently cupped her breast. Her thumb brushed over an already sensitive nipple causing a shiver to go through Olivia. She chuckled and trailed her fingers down Olivia's stomach and over her neatly trimmed pubic hair. She heard Olivia gasp when she gently rubbed her wet folds. "Oh Liv," she sighed. She raised her damp fingers to her lips and sucked one into her mouth. "Exquisite."
Olivia could not tear her eyes off of her. Alex was a goddess, a fairy-tale come true. She reached out and pulled her down on top of her. "I want you."
"You have me, Liv. You have me."
Olivia stirred as the sun caressed her face. A soft weight held her shoulder down. She opened her eyes and looked at the woman sleeping in her arms. Alex was beautiful even in the morning. She stirred and her eyelids fluttered. Clear blue eyes looked into hers.
"Morning," she mumbled, her voice a little hoarse.
"Morning yourself," Olivia said and kissed her lightly.
"I guess that answers my question."
"What question?" Olivia asked confused.
"If you have any regrets," Alex said and averted her eyes.
Olivia put a finger under her chin and made her look at her. "No regrets. I never expected to have any. You?"
Alex shook her head. "I've hoped for this for a long time."
Olivia nodded in understanding.
They spent the day on the beach by the house. Alex had confirmed their departure with her uncle and shortly before they had to leave for the airport they drove up to the main house. They said their goodbyes to Mrs. Cabot and Francesca with lots of laughter and tears. Josh showed up to drive them over to the airport. He informed them that Bill and his wife would meet them there.
Olivia glanced at the island through the small window by her seat. So many things had happened in such a short time. She had made new friends and she had crossed the line between friendship and something even more remarkable with the amazing woman sitting next to her. She gently squeezed Alex's hand. She turned her head and their eyes met. The look in Alex's eyes told her that everything would be fine. She sighed softly.
Martha's Vineyard, Christmas Morning
"Alex, wake up," she said softly and kissed her cheek.
Alex mumbled something and turned over.
"It's Christmas," Olivia tried again. "There are presents to open, coffee to drink and kisses under the mistletoe."
No response. With a sigh she got out of bed and pulled on her Christmas flannel pants and a shirt. It was a little chilly so as a last thought before leaving the room she slipped into her new thick terry-cloth robe that Alex had bought for her right before they left for the holiday. She ran her hand over Alex's matching one and then silently left the room.
Two cups of coffee in hand and Rudolph's bells around her neck she walked back upstairs. She hoped Alex would not be too upset that she had messed with her prize Christmas decoration. Anyway she hoped that it would be worth it.
"Ho, ho, ho," she said loudly as she entered the room. Alex stirred and blinked a couple of times before she sat up in bed. She grinned at Olivia. Her blonde hair slightly tousled and eyes still sleepy she looked adorable.
"Merry Christmas Alex."
"Merry Christmas Liv."
Olivia handed her her coffee and sat down next to her on the bed. "We had snow over night. It's all white outside."
Alex smiled over the rim of her cup. "A white Christmas with the person I love the most, that truly is the best Christmas ever."
Olivia got a little choked up by her words and reached out and took her hand. "I know. It's the best Christmas I've ever had."
"Want to open some presents? I think Santa left something really nice for you under the tree."
"Really? I thought that my present was here. What else could I ask for?" she said softly and squeezed Alex hand.
"You're such a romantic Liv."
Alex got out of bed and pulled at Olivia's hand. "Coming?"
Hand in hand they walked downstairs, both knowing that they had already received the best gift in each other.
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