DISCLAIMER: Guiding Light and its characters are the property of Proctor & Gamble. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thank you to Otakugamer01 and her Think Tank what if prompt. This one's for you.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To Geekgrrl.lurking[at]gmail.com
You've Got Mail
So this was what it was like to have a normal family.
Natalia smiled softly and leaned against the door frame sighing to herself as Emma snuggled down into the fluffy comforter, finally drifting off to sleep. She could definitely get used to this, enjoying the evening she had spent together with the small family immensely. Sure, there had been glimpses of this in her old life, times when her mother had run her fingers through her long hair as she lay in bed, singing to her softly before disappearing for the night. It seemed so long ago now, long before she had realized what her mother did to make ends meet
Natalia shook her head as if that would shake the bittersweet memories from her mind. Instead she turned her thoughts back to the sweet girl who had unexpectedly changed her life. And for that she would forever be grateful.
She fought back a sudden yawn and started to pull the bedroom door closed. Although exhausted from her long flight and the events from the day, Natalia had felt it would be best to spend some time in the suite just to make sure everyone was settled and okay. She didn't want Olivia to have another weak spell and pass out on Emma. The girl shouldered too much responsibility as it was, and it was time someone else watched over her stubborn mother.
Luckily nothing had come to pass, and a light-hearted family movie had been just what they had all needed. She was sure she had nodded off once or twice, waking once to find Olivia's thoughtful gaze on her.
Natalia bit her lip and tried not to dwell on that. She still had so much to think about, to sort out in her own mind, now that everything she though she was getting into had been turned upside down. Could she really do this?
Emma shifted in her small bed, clutching her stuffed bunny a little tighter. Natalia's gaze softened and she smiled again at the tiny girl. How could she not do this, for all of there sakes? Leaving Emma's door open a crack, she tiptoed back out into the main room of the Beacon suite.
She found Olivia still sitting on the couch, her reading glasses in her hand on the cushion beside her, papers scattered everywhere. Her honey blonde head was tilted at a slight angle, and a light wheezing sound gave away that the woman was indeed asleep. She had stubbornly refused to take a nap when they had gotten in that afternoon and now her body was obviously telling her what it needed in no uncertain terms.
Natalia paused in the doorway, unsure if she should wake Olivia, or leave her be and disappear back to her own, beautiful suite just down the hall.
"Gus, no " Olivia mumbled, her voice heavy with sadness as her head started to move side to side. A nightmare was obviously occurring as the older woman thrashed slightly, reacting to her imaginary troubles and Natalia moved to the couch before even thinking about what she was doing.
"Hey, there. Sshhh " Natalia murmured softly, reaching a hand out to touch Olivia's shoulder, trying to gently wake her from the dream. "It's okay, I'm here. I've got you now." She grimaced as Olivia jumped at her touch and inhaled sharply, watching the bright green eyes snap open wide as she woke abruptly.
"Wha Gus?" Olivia's voice was low and rough with sleep. She finally calmed, focusing on the concerned woman beside her. Her mind struggled to catch up, as her heart raced, but Olivia felt a sense of peace come over her as she realized where she was and that she wasn't alone. "Natalia?"
"You were having a nightmare," Dimples flashed as Natalia smiled warmly and moved slightly away, allowing Olivia to sit up a little more and get her bearings. "I thought I should wake you up before it got too bad," Olivia ran a hand through her hair and stretched a little, waking fully. Natalia swallowed hard, glancing away as she noticed the hint of abs peeking out from under Olivia's tank top. She stood up suddenly and moved further away. "I-I should probably go. Its late and it was a long day for both of us."
"Sure, no worries," Olivia yawned and nodded, slowly coming to her feet as Natalia headed towards the suite door. "We can talk more tomorrow about where we go from here." Olivia smiled, a warmth spreading inside at the thought.
We. She liked the sound of that. She liked it a lot.
Natalia glanced down and fumbled for the door handle, opening the door as she nodded. She needed to work this out. There was no returning to her past and she was pleasantly surprised to find herself actually looking forward to whatever the future was going to bring.
"Until tomorrow then. Good night," Natalia smiled, her dimples flashing briefly once more before quietly closing the door behind her.
Olivia listened to the footsteps disappearing down the hallway until she was enveloped in silence once again. The nightmare had been her usual reoccurring one, where Gus always ended up blaming her, haunting her still after all this time, the guilt of her survival hanging like chains around her neck. This time though, soft brown eyes had greeted her, rescuing her from the worst of her dream, rescuing her from herself.
This was turning out to be one of the most unusual and best presents Olivia had ever received. She smiled to herself and wandered off to find her bed. Tomorrow was another day and suddenly it didn't seem like something to dread.
"I saw them in the park on the weekend, laughing and carrying on," Frieda said, the Beacon's resident massage therapist nodded knowingly. "Wee Emma was running around on the play set, all smiles. Mein Gott, it did my heart good to see it, I tell you."
"She stops by and steals Ms. Spencer away for lunch most afternoons," Keira added in a hushed tone as she leaned forward on the front reception desk, keeping an eye on the main doors of the hotel. These morning coffee breaks were one of the few ways for Olivia's admin assistant to keep in touch with the comings and goings of the hotel, but that didn't mean she could let her guard down. Heaven, forbid she be caught gossiping with other staff.
"Or when Ms. Spencer pops upstairs with tea and a snack to share with her," Sam said, the bellhop tugging on his blazer as he glanced around to see if anyone was watching. He didn't necessarily approve of all this chit chat, but he knew it was good to have the pulse of the workplace.
"Well, all I can say is that Ms. Spencer and her 'old friend' have been spending a lot of time together. There is something more going on with them; my gaydar is pinging off the scope! It has been since she arrived over a month ago," Greg crossed his arms, a gleam to his eye and a smug smile spreading across his face. The other's groaned at him.
"You do realize that not everyone is gay, right Greg?" Izzy shook her head as Greg just rolled his eyes. She took a quick sip of her coffee and glanced down at her watch, aware that she needed to get back to the lounge soon. "Besides, even if you are right and it is more than friendship, then I say good for them. It's about time Ms. Spencer had a little love in her life again. And Emma just adores Natalia." Izzy smiled at the thought, a part of her secretly hoping Greg's suspicions were true. It would not a typical family, but then when did Olivia Spencer ever do typical?
Greg sniffed and lifted an eyebrow. He was right; he could feel it in his bones, there was just no proof yet for the non-believers in the group. He had to admire the new couple's discretion though and at least they were all benefiting from Ms. Spencer's improved mood the last few weeks.
"Red alert!" Keira blurted out suddenly, snatched her BlackBerry from the counter and quickly headed for the elevators. The others scattered to their various areas, as the Beacon's revolving doors spun, delivering the laughing couple into the lobby of the hotel.
Greg's hand slid to his hip and he observed the twosome with blatant interest. If they weren't sleeping together he'd eat his favourite pair of shoes. He pursed his lips and nodded knowingly over at Izzy, who was also watching the proceedings less obviously from the lounge doorway.
"Really? I can't quite picture you slaving away over a hot oven making chocolate chip cookies," Olivia grinned, shaking her head. "Emma and I haven't made cookies in years." She glanced over at Natalia, wishing that they had time for that simple pleasure today. "I'm going to have to find a kitchen for us to play in it seems."
"I'd like that," Natalia glanced down and smiled shyly. Olivia's grin grew wider. "Maybe Emma and I can " Natalia's eyes snapped up. "OH, I forgot. I was going to pick her up from school early today and take her to the dentist."
"Right," Olivia checked her watch, there was still time, but Natalia would have to leave right away. She swallowed the disappointment, but knew it was time for her to get back to her work. Olivia looked up, her gaze meeting Natalia's warm dark eyes as she hesitated. It came over her like a wave, the sudden urge to pull Natalia into a goodbye hug.
Where the hell had that come from?
Olivia blinked, and then frowned at herself. And why the hell not hug Natalia? If they were going to do this marriage thing, then they needed it to look real. There was an ease between them already, even after only a month of getting to know each other. Maybe it was time for a first step. As Natalia turned to leave, Olivia didn't even realize her hand had reached out and caught the woman's arm, stopping her in her tracks. Natalia's eyes met hers, a little startled as she was tugged closer and into a warm embrace.
This was another first, a very public display of affection with a woman in the middle of the lobby of her workplace. Well, it wasn't going to be the last if they were going to follow through on their plan. It was time to get used to it. Olivia's eyes fluttered shut and she turned into the warmth of her neck, inhaling the hint of vanilla and something all Natalia found there.
Was it wrong that she enjoyed it at the same time?
"We'll be home soon," Natalia pulled back, a slight flush on her cheeks, but a brilliant smile greeted her, dimples out in full force. "I'll text you when we get to the dentist." Her voice was soft and intimate and it hit Olivia low and hard. Not trusting her voice, Olivia just nodded.
"Bye," Natalia said, moving toward the revolving door. She waved one last time as she glanced back over her shoulder and disappeared out of the hotel.
Olivia let out a long, slow breath and ran a hand through her honey blonde hair. Today had been good, spending time with Natalia always seemed to perk her up. Hell the last few weeks had been great. She had more energy, an interest in work again and an even greater desire to spend time with her family. And Natalia was definitely becoming part of her family.
Olivia checked her watch again, almost dreading her next appointment. She walked over to the front desk, smiling warmly at Greg.
"Would you let Keira know I'm on site and going into my meeting with security?" Olivia said quietly, before making her way to the stairwell and heading down to the basement.
Greg cheerfully picked up the handset and punched in the extension, smiling as it picked up.
"You owe me $20 bucks!"
The basement office of the Beacon's security department was well hidden, away from the hustle and bustle of the hotel life above. Watchful eyes studied monitors of all the main areas of the hotel, keeping track of the comings and goings of guests and staff alike, always vigilant for intruders to the facilities. Olivia nodded through the large glass window at the two security officers on duty, before coming to their supervisor's office. Tapping once on the oak door, Olivia turned the handle and entered the small cluttered room.
"Nice tan," Olivia said, from the doorway, smiling as an older man turned to face her. Not for the first time Olivia wondered how handsome her father's old war buddy must have been in his younger days. Even now as he neared retirement, Edgar Bracken was in excellent shape for a man of his age. Military short white hair, a strong chin and piercing blue eyes locked with hers, as he slipped a folder into the file cabinet before sliding the drawer shut.
"As if," Ed snorted at her words. "Costa Rica is a nice place to visit but it's even better to be home again." he grumbled and indicated the chair opposite his desk. He sank down into his large leather chair with a sigh. "I'm getting too old for these away missions, Olivia."
"Tell Liz that I'll send you both to Paris next time to make up for it," Olivia grinned and took a seat.
"Promises, promises " He smiled back as he shook his head and ran a hand through his shock of short white hair. He stared hard as his old army buddy's daughter, seeing Greg Spencer in the girl with every movement and sharp gaze she made. He tugged open the bottom drawer of his desk and pulled out the slim folder with the name Rivera written on the tab in his messy scrawl. He sighed and stared hart at Olivia, worried about what she had gotten herself into now with this new friend of hers.
"So, give it to me straight, Ed. She's some con artist from the south side of Chicago, isn't she?" Olivia said, lifting her chin defiantly. A part of her was waiting for the other shoe to drop, looking for an excuse to end things. The truth was she was afraid to let herself trust again, afraid of being hurt again. And this time, that meant Emma getting hurt too. Her daughter loved Natalia with her whole heart, it would be devastating already if the woman wasn't who she said she was.
"Nope," Ed snorted and shoved the folder across the desktop to her. "She's from Costa Rica all right, not Chicago. She had a tough time of things by the sound of it too. My contact there was able to direct me to the church her family went to. Amazing what you can find out over tea and cookies after the Sunday service." Ed leaned back and watched as Olivia began to flip through the pages of his report waiting for him to continue.
"Mother was a prostitute, her father unknown, probably some john. Mother was sick off and on for a long time before dying a few years ago from Aids related complications. Natalia was there for her the whole time, dropped out of school to look after her and was working odd jobs ever since. Her last job was with the local Club Med as a maid. No police record however she was listed as a key witness in an ongoing murder investigation and there was some debate whether she was hooking on the side."
Olivia glanced up at that one. That would explain the mail order bride thing but it didn't sit well with her. It didn't really match the woman that she was becoming more and more familiar with.
"You said there was some debate on that?"
"Well," Ed shifted in his chair, fidgeting with his ballpoint pen. "One of the cops there said the photo I showed him looked like a street walker he had let off a few times but the church women all swore Rivera hated anything to do with any of that because of her mother." He shrugged, letting Olivia make up her own mind.
"Okay," Olivia nodded and turned her attention back to the folder. "Go on."
"Apparently Rivera and a few other employees from the bar where she was working were listed as key witnesses in a murder investigation of one of the big drug cartels. All of the others witnesses were found dead sooner or later and she had disappeared about a month or so ago. The officer didn't say it, but they all thought that the Castillo cartel had taken her out and they just hadn't found her body." Ed leaned forward, his eyes locking with Olivia's. "If Rivera wasn't dead yet "
"Then it would only be a matter of time if she went back there." Olivia closed the file slowly, letting the reality of the situation slowly sink in. Natalia really was in danger, that much was clear.
"Olivia, if that girl is here and continues to stay with you and Emma " Ed frowned, not liking this one bit. The Rivera woman would be nothing but trouble for Olivia and her family.
Olivia sighed and stood, tucking the file folder under her arm and moving to the door.
"Draw up a new security plan, Ed. Natalia Rivera is not going back to that if I can help it," Olivia's eyes narrowed as she straightened to her full height, shoulders back, ready for a fight. "If hell comes knocking at our door, I want to be prepared."
Ed nodded as Olivia quietly closed the door behind her with a soft click. He sighed, he had a bad feeling about all this
What the hell just happened?
Natalia leaned back into the soft leather seat in the Beacon limo, her arms wrapped around herself, as if reliving Olivia's unexpected hug. She stared out at the passing buildings as the limo driver made their way to Emma's school to pick the girl up, but she took nothing in. Her lids fluttered shut as Natalia remembered Olivia's bright eyes, twinkling mischievously as she was tugged closer, into the waiting warmth of her strong arms. Olivia's faint perfume still clung to her jacket, and she smiled softly, inhaling deeply.
Her eyes snapped open as she realized what she was doing and then relaxed knowing it was best not to question it too much and just enjoy the moment. As they pulled up to the public school, she saw Emma standing there reading her book, waiting for her. The girl's eyes lit up and she raced to the opposite door, flinging it open and sliding into the backseat beside her.
"Boy, it's cold out there today," Emma slammed the door shut quickly behind her. She glanced up at Natalia after buckling herself in. "Do I have to go to the dentist? Maybe we could sneak off to the mall or " Emma started hopefully.
"Dentist first, then we can talk about going somewhere for a treat," Natalia grinned, shaking her head. Emma looked away and sighed but said no more. They drove on in silence for a bit before Emma had another question.
"How come you don't drive?" Emma cocked her head. Natalia smiled softly, and thought about how best to answer the girl. The truth was always a good option, no need to hide what her life was like before coming to the States.
"I learned how to drive from the priest at the local church, he taught a bunch of us kids at the time. But I couldn't afford to pay for my driver's licence back home, let alone buy a car to drive." Natalia's gaze locked with Emma's serious eyes. It was good for the girl to know how lucky she was to have so much. Emma reached out and held her hand for a moment, before turning to look out the window.
"When I get big, I'll buy you a car and we can drive down to Costa Rica together. Just you, me and Mommy," Emma finally said quietly. "You can show us where you grew up and we can meet all your old friends."
Natalia's heart melted a little as Emma turned back to look up at her with the biggest grin. The girl was all in on this other mother type relationship, and if Natalia was honest, so was she. Without a doubt she desperately wanted to watch this amazing girl turn into an even more amazing young woman. Natalia swallowed hard. She would love to show her family where she came from some day. And Emma and Olivia were certainly becoming her family.
"Deal," Natalia's voice cracked with emotion and Emma just smiled wider. The limo pulled into a parking spot outside of the medical building. "But first we need to get those teeth of yours looked at."
Emma sighed and nodded and together they made their way inside. Emma was ushered into the room almost immediately and Natalia sat down in the waiting room, glancing around at the other women waiting there. She looked like all the other mothers, checking their watches, and flipping through magazines, some with younger children playing at their feet, all the while Christmas muzak droning away in the background. Natalia sighed, a wave of longing washing over her. She wanted this new life being offered badly, taking this gift of this odd little family for her very own. She jumped as her cell phone vibrated in her pocket.
OSpencer 2:17 pm
Finance meeting is going to run late. Meet you and Em for supper at Company 5:30 pm?
Natalia tried to ignore the little rush of excitement every time Olivia texted, and instead focused on typing back her reply.
NRivera 2:19 pm
Will swing by mall for a bit and then meet you for supper, if that works for you.
Natalia glanced up at one of the mother's watching her, smiling softly. A soft flush of heat rushed to her cheeks as she realized she was grinning like a fool. What must it look like to the other woman.
OSpencer 2:22 pm
Sounds like a plan. Try to see what Emma wants from Santa and we can put together a list to pick up on the weekend. Can't believe it's only two weeks away. Ttyl!
Natalia nodded to herself as she read the text. She couldn't believe it either. And for the first time in a very long time she was truly looking forward to Christmas. Maybe there really was a Santa Claus after all.
To Be Continued
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