~ An Affair of Love ~
by S. Anne Gardner

Top 25: Mar. 22, 2004
Disclaimers: This story contains violence, adult situations, and same sex relationships, which at times are VERY graphic. If this is not suitable for you, please don't read any further. It also contains some bad language (surprise, surprise, surprise!). If one had to put a rating on this story, it would be a definite "R."

All characters found in this story are the creation of S. Anne Gardner and are her property exclusively.

Comments are appreciated. Please email your comments to sanneol7@aol.com.

Part One

"You can't be serious?" Blayne said expressing her frustration at the old man.

"I'm very serious," he answered. Arthur Aston-Carlyle looked tired suddenly. He sat down behind his desk and waved for her to sit down on one of the chairs near her.

"Does mother know?" Blayne decided to try another argument.

"Abigail and I spoke last night," he said sadly. "She knows what I want to do."

"Arthur…how can you be sure?" Blayne had known and loved him long enough to know that there was no deterring the man from the course he had chosen to take and he also knew that when she referred to him as Arthur she was trying to think rationally rather than letting her emotions interfere.

"Be sure?" He didn't understand her question.

"That this woman is indeed your child," Blayne clarified.

"I know."

"Then why…?" She trailed off.

"Why didn't I ever recognize my own daughter?"

"Well, yes Arthur, why didn't you?" Blayne got up and paced the room trying to control her anger.

"I was young…"

"Bullshit!" Blayne walked towards the desk and hit it with her fist. "Jesus, you left them in the middle of a civil war." She never broke eye contact with the man that until that afternoon she had respected. "You just walked away leaving them to face it all."

"You never did let me get away with anything," Arthur said proudly.

She suddenly seemed deflated and sat back down in one of the chairs in front of his desk.

"How do you know she will want to meet you?"

"Because, I want to meet her," he said arrogantly.

Blayne looked up and smiled for a moment before becoming serious again. "Jesus Dad, you are one for surprises."

"You, Blayne, I have always counted on. That is why I need you to do this."

"What makes you think that…?" She was visibly confused and suddenly something akin to understanding covered her face. No! She couldn't believe what had just occurred to her. "She doesn't know does she?" Blayne stood up again.

"No, she doesn't." Arthur never even blinked.

Blayne ran her fingers through her hair. Then looked up at him again. "You think she would turn you away, your daughter I mean. What makes you think she won't do the same with me?"

"Because, no one has ever been able to say no to you." Arthur smiled.

"No, this is something you are going to have to do, Arthur. No." Blayne felt the anger coming up her throat. "I can't believe all this!"

"I'm dying, Blayne."

She stared at him in shock. It was just like Arthur to blurt out things like this. She should have known from the beginning that there wasn't to be a choice.

"What are you talking about?"

"I have pancreatic cancer, I'm dying. And I want to make things right. I need you to do this for me."

"Damn you, Arthur! Damn you!" Blayne yelled as she grabbed the file and stormed out of the library.

Arthur sat back on his chair and closed his eyes. He had never doubted that Blayne would do this for him. What he did regret however was having told her about his illness in that fashion. Opening his eyes, he stared at the door and again regretted how he had handled things.

Arthur Aston-Carlyle had married Abigail Anberville thirty-three years ago. Two years later they had a daughter who they named Diana. Diana was the total opposite of Blayne. Where Blayne had always been responsible, Diana was not. Blayne was a star athlete and an honors student. Diane barely scraped by. Diana seemed to have only one desire and that was to have a good time. Blayne had always been protective of her sister, and Diana had relied on that love to get her out of more than one mess.

Blayne was barely four when he had married Abigail. Her brother Charles, who they all called Chaz, had been seven at the time. Arthur had loved them as his own. But Blayne was always the one he favored because of her vitality and her desire to excel and in return she had made him proud of her. She had passion in everything, however, she had never found anyone to share her life with. She was always too busy doing and after awhile, even Abigail commented that she thought Blayne was incapable of loving anyone with her whole heart.

Chaz didn't seem to have the desire to settle down in the near future either. There were rumors here and there about his affairs but nothing ever materialized as a result of them. He was in his late thirties with no future to speak of. He was happy just spending money and flying from one hot spot to another. The truth was that Chaz was a disappointment. He had hurt and disappointed his mother too many times and as much as Arthur loved him he had decided that he had to think of the future.

Chaz showed no signs of settling down and Diana was heading in the same direction. He had hoped that Blayne would settle down and give him grandchildren but that had not happened either. Abigail had been right, Blayne just didn't seem to be interested in a personal life. She didn't seem to need anyone. And he had to admit he wanted to see his progeny before he died.

He had not thought of Elena Agramonte in years. When he was told of his illness he suddenly realized that he had another child that he had never seen and might never see. It suddenly became very important to him to find Elena.

A few months ago he had asked his attorneys to make inquiries. Three days ago he got the call. Elena had married the local playboy, Humberto Sotomayor, and had raised their daughter as her husband's child. A daughter. He had a daughter. He remembered when he got the photos that had been taken of his child. She had grown to be a beautiful woman. She had her mother's lustrous hair but there were also signs of him in her skin color and her eyes.

Gabriella Matheson, as his daughter was now called, was a beautiful woman. Her hair was the color of rich sable and with thick dark lashes framed her eyes, which were the color blue of a tumultuous sky, very much like his own. She was a very beautiful woman. There was so much of Elena in her. Something inside him grew warm. Elena had given him a child and Arthur began to feel the pangs of regret yet again.

Gabriella was married and had two children. When he saw the photograph of his grandchildren he knew that he had to meet her. He had loved Elena, but he had been too young and too arrogant to think beyond what he wanted at the time. Arthur knew his parents would never accept a girl from an island in the Caribbean. Elena did not come from money. And his family was incredibly wealthy. Elena had been both beautiful and kind. She had believed his words of love and his promises of a tomorrow. When he left her he knew that it would break her heart. Blayne was right; he had simply walked away and left her to fend for herself. He did try to make inquiries when the civil war escalated in Cuba but after awhile he didn't even try to find out anything else. He had simply turned the page and put her out of his mind. He should have stayed and married her, he told himself. How different things might have been if he had. Even in this thought he recognized his selfishness.

Arthur had to admit that he loved Abigail. She had come from a good family so it had been a good addition to his family tree. His parents had been happy at his choice of wife and in turn he was given a generous income. Abigail had been a young widow when he met her. Her husband Brian had been killed in car accident a year earlier. For a few years he played the faithful husband. When Diana was born he had been truly happy. Then as the years went by the children became such a disappointment. All had disappointed him one way or another; except for Blayne. She was so much his child but there was something about her that he could never quite understand and that disturbed him. She was brilliant and proud but there was a flaw in her. Blayne's beauty was arresting. People turned their heads when she entered a room and yet no one had ever caught her eye. Blayne loved him he knew that. But Blayne didn't need or want anyone to share her life with.

He had once tried talking to her about her private life. The only things he got out of her was to mind his own business. Arthur remembered he had laughed. Blayne should have been his child. Blayne should have been…the son he had always wanted. She was resolute and aloof. She was in control of her life and she never wavered from the course she set for herself. She was now running most of his businesses besides her own money. She was ruthless but she was also loyal. Where he would never have trusted Chaz or even his own daughter Diana with this power, he had trusted Blayne.

Blayne was his daughter as much as Abigail's, he told himself. He had raised her. She was as stubborn and arrogant as he was and for that she was close to his heart. She was too much like him, he suddenly realized, and that saddened him. Like him, she would make many mistakes. He only hoped that she would not be filled with regret at the end of her life as well.


Blayne sat behind her desk. She had been sitting there for hours now. Arthur was dying. And now she had to get a complete stranger to agree to see him.

Standing, Blayne walked towards the huge glass window. Her office was on the twenty-fifth floor of the Aston-Carlyle Building. Arthur was a sanctimonious, self-absorbed son of a bitch, and the only father she had ever known. Ever since she could remember he had been there. So many times she told herself that one-day she would be able to truly talk to him about her life. Blayne always thought that there would be a tomorrow and suddenly tomorrow was here and he would never truly know her.

She walked back to her desk and sat down. She then opened the file before her. She read the report carefully and also went over all the documentation the attorneys had provided. Short of a DNA test, all signs showed that Gabriella Matheson was indeed Arthur's daughter. All the dates and facts pointed towards that. Blayne ran her fingers through her hair. She felt drained. She leaned back on her chair, letting her head fall back.

"Damn you Arthur. Damn you. You knew I was going to do this, didn't you, you old man," Blayne said with a sad smile. "Too used to getting your way."

She then finished reading the rest of the report about Gabriella Matheson. She had married Joseph Matheson when she was twenty. Three years later her daughter Elena was born and two years later she had a son named Christopher. Joseph Matheson was a prominent attorney and she was a homemaker.

Gabriella had gone to college the last few years and finished her degree in Art History. She was an artist. Blayne leaned back for a moment. Somehow this had surprised her. Arthur's daughter was an artist. Gabriella was a sculptor.

Blayne opened the yellow envelopes and pulled out the photos that the attorneys had provided. She saw a few photos of the children; the photos had obviously been taken clandestinely. And then she saw a picture of who she thought was Joseph Matheson, she turned the photo over and his name was indeed on it. Then she saw the face of Gabriella. Blayne stared at the photograph for a moment in silence.

"She looks like an artist," Blayne spoke out loud.

"And what does an artist look like?"

Blayne looked up and saw her mother come into the room.

"Mother, I didn't know you were…."

"I knew you'd be here. Did he talk to you?" Abigail asked sadly.

"Yes." Blayne seemed embarrassed.

Abigail stared at her daughter for a moment. Blayne always surprised her somehow. She was embarrassed for her, Abigail suddenly realized.

"It's all right, Blayne. May I see the photo?" Abigail asked as her hand went out to Blayne.

Blayne gave her the photo of Gabriella.

"She's very beautiful," Abigail said sadly. "Do you also have a photo of her mother?"

Blayne looked down at the rest of the photos and handed another photo to her mother.

"Yes," was all that Abigail said as she handed Blayne the photos back.

"He wants me to get this woman Gabriella Matheson, to see him," Blayne explained as she sat down again. She took back the photo from her mother and looked at it.

"We spoke last night. What do you think Blayne? Is it possible?"

"Mother, short of a DNA test…"

"Blayne what does your analytical mind tell you?" Abigail pulled no punches.

"I would say that everything points to her being Arthur's daughter," Blayne replied bluntly.

Abigail closed her eyes.

"I'm sorry, mother. I don't know why you're surprised. Arthur has always been… I'm surprised that this hasn't happened before," Blayne said coldly.

"I should divorce him."

"Don't be ridiculous. Let's not go into this again mother. Let's skip the drama and get down to business, okay? You know that you are not going to divorce him. Is it true?" Blayne was aggravated by her mother's attitude. Every argument between her and Arthur she always said the same thing.

"Is what true?"

"That he has pancreatic cancer?" Blayne waited for what seemed like a lifetime. "Mother?"

"Yes, it's true." Abigail sat down and suddenly looked old. "I do love him, you know."

"I know you do, mother."

"Do you? Do you think he knows that?" Abigail's eyes began to fill with tears. "I often wonder if he knows."

"I'm sure he knows, mother," Blayne tried to sound reassuring.

"He has been a difficult man to love. I never really know what he's thinking. I doubt that he will ever know that I really did marry him because I loved him."

Blayne was surprised at this confession. She had never seen her mother like this. It was true then. Arthur was dying. And here was her mother saying things that she never thought she would hear her say. And yes, she was surprised. She loved Arthur. Why did it surprise her so much? Why should it surprise her that her mother loved him?

"No one ever thought I did. They all thought I married him for the money."

Blayne looked back at her without saying a word.

"He was so handsome. I fell in love with him on sight." Abigail smiled wistfully. "Our first night together he said her name in his sleep." Tears ran down her face.

Blayne remained quite.

"It broke my heart. I never said a word to him. I knew even then that he loved someone else. But you can't control who you love can you?" Abigail looked at her pitifully.

Blayne didn't know what to say. Her mother had known all these years. Knowing that her mother knew somehow hurt her inside.

"I'm sorry, mother."

"And now he's dying. What will I do without him?" Abigail looked up into her daughter's eyes. "The girl is very beautiful."

"Yes, she's very beautiful."


Blayne walked up to the front door and rang the doorbell. A moment later, the door opened and in front of her stood Gabriella. The photos had not done her justice, was the first thought that entered Blayne's mind. She stared at the woman for a moment before snapping out of her self imposed trance.

"Yes? May I help you?"

"My name is Blayne Anberville. I need to speak to you," She said plainly.

Gabriella noticed that the woman in front of her was incredibly beautiful. She was impeccably dressed and Gabriella could see the black limousine parked in her driveway.

"And who are you?" Gabriella smiled, a little intrigued.

"My name is Blayne…"

Gabriella laughed. Blayne saw the beautiful face light up and all she could do was stare again. Such a lovely sound thought Blayne as she smiled a little back. "I know that part…." Gabriella said playfully.

"I'm here representing Arthur Aston-Carlyle," Blayne said quickly, feeling quite awkward for the first time in her life.

Gabriella smiled at the frazzled woman in front of her. For some reason this woman was acting like her young daughter when she had done something naughty. She decided to take pity on the beautiful stranger.

"I'm sorry, I don't know who that is. Are you sure you have the right house?"

"You are Gabriella Matheson. I have the right house and the right person." Blayne inwardly chastised herself for letting a beautiful woman's smile shake her to her foundation. "As I was saying Mrs. Matheson, I represent Arthur Aston-Carlyle, your father."

The smile was gone from the lovely face in front of her and suddenly Blayne felt cold.

"I think you have the wrong person. My father's name is Humberto Sotomayor."

"No, Mrs. Matheson, it's not." Blayne insisted. "I know that this is not probably the best way to find out about this but time is of the…." Blayne noticed that the woman in front of her began to grow pale.

"I can explain all this to you if you give me a few minutes." Blayne took a step closer to Gabriella who searched her eyes. The confusion she saw in those blue eyes troubled her since she was the one that had put it there. "You have your father's eyes," Blayne said softly out of nowhere. "His are the same shade of blue."

Gabriella suddenly took a step back and Blayne walked in. She took a few steps inside then turned towards Gabriella who was still standing in a daze by the door.

Gabriella looked directly at her and Blayne was taken aback when she saw the pain in her eyes as they began to fill with tears. "My eyes…?"

"Yes, you have his eyes," Blayne said gently. Somehow she knew that this had hit home. In her need to rush through this task she saw the pain she was causing. A perfectly happy woman had opened the door and the same woman now seemed incredibly forlorn.

Gabriella passed by her and picked up a phone and began to dial. Blayne came up behind her and took it away from her. Gabriella faced her as tears were already running down her face. "Give that back to me!" She demanded.

Blayne hung up the receiver. "Let me talk to you first."

"No, I need to talk to my mother."

"I don't think that's such a good idea," Blayne insisted.

"I bet you don't." Gabriella sounded angry now.

Blayne took a step back; she would let things take their course. Gabriella picked up the phone and dialed. She was facing Blayne all the while.

"Mama…Mama, I need to talk to you. I need to ask you something…. No, I'm okay." Gabriella took a deep breath, never breaking eye contact with Blayne. "Who is Arthur Aston-Carlyle?"

Blayne saw it happen. She saw the moment it happened. It was clear in Gabriella's eyes and she had been the one to bring her the news. Blayne saw the beautiful woman's heart break into a million pieces in front of her.

Gabriella hung up the phone slowly, without saying a word. She began to tremble and Blayne walked up to her slowly. Blayne then did something that both women would later remember and question. Blayne took Gabriella into her arms, as the other woman began to sob loudly, clinging to the warm arms that surrounded her.

"My eyes…always my eyes," Gabriella said as she wept. Her body shook with the sobbing and Blayne held her tighter. Gabriella's whole body was pressed against her; she was clinging to Blayne inconsolably as an old pain had been brought to light and cruelly exposed.

Blayne caressed the soft hair and kissed the woman's head lightly. Her arms pulled Gabriella even tighter to her. All that the world seemed to hold for Blayne at that moment was the softness of the body in her arms.

Gabriella wanted the world to open up and swallow her whole. Her eyes; her eyes had always been the subject of snickers and suppositions. That same topic had been a sensitive subject and an argument between her parents ever since she could remember. Her father had died over ten years before and at the end they had been close. She treasured those last months and she hated her blue eyes, which everyone found necessary to mention. As a child, schoolteachers always expressed interest when her parents would come to parent-teachers conferences about her eyes. After a while, her father just didn't come anymore. He began to look at her differently. He never said a word to her. He loved her….she was his child but Gabriella always felt the distance between them that the question of her eyes had created in his mind.

"He must have known. My father must have known." Gabriella sobbed as she buried herself in the warmth of the arms around her closer to her still.

"Shhhh…it's all right. Shhh…" Blayne said as her hands caressed Gabriella's back.

Gabriella only felt the strength of the arms around her. It had been so long since she had felt the security of such an embrace. Only in her father's arms had she ever felt safe as she did now and she gave herself to that emotion she so desperately needed at the moment. She leaned into Blayne and cried all the harder. Her father had been gone for so long. Her husband Joseph had stopped making her feel anything similar to safety for a long time. Gabriella clung to the security of the arms that held her so tightly; after awhile all she felt was the heat in her body begin to burn and encompass her. She clung to that warmth and sought it. The world became filled with strong arms and soft caresses as her face looked up to meet lips that covered her own. Her eyes closed and the emptiness that had always been inside her suddenly filled. She had felt the cold inside her grow for so long and now Gabriella pressed harder against that which seemed to cover her whole body with the warmth that she had sought her whole life.

Blayne wasn't sure how it happened. One moment all she could do was kiss the soft dark tresses of hair. Then Gabriella's mouth came up and her mouth naturally met it. There was no thinking; no thought at all. Suddenly her thoroughly orderly life crashed around her and for the first time she didn't care about anything. Blayne didn't think, she didn't weigh her actions or her options as she did with every step and every action in her life. Something inside her, long dormant, had taken over and the emotion was all that mattered.

Passion was the only thing that seemed to reign, where they were did not matter, who they were was not important. They had no will. The desire had awakened and it would not be denied. Hands traveled and explored as mouths tasted and bit hungrily. There were no expectations, no questions. Each woman could no more fight what was happening then they could continue living without taking another breath.

Blayne hands unbuttoned Gabriella's blouse with a mind of their own and before Gabriella realized it Blayne's mouth was sucking hungrily on her breast. Gabriella's head fell back in wanton abandonment as a moan escaped her lips.

A car door slammed hard. Something in Blayne's head clicked through her jumbled emotions and she pulled away quickly but not before locking eyes with those of the woman that had made her lose all her control. Gabriella cried a little as she tried to pull Blayne back towards her.

"Someone just got here," Blayne said trying to catch her breath. Holding Gabriella's hand tightly she took a few long steps to the door and locked it moments before the knob turned. That one action would give them the minute they both needed.

Gabriella's hands were trembling as she tried to button up her blouse. Blayne pushed her hands away and finished buttoning the blouse quickly for her. Blayne then looked up into those blue eyes again and saw the distance growing quickly between them. She pulled Gabriella roughly into her arms once more and kissed her soundly and hungrily on the lips. Both women just regarded one another questioning, waiting, guessing….until the pounding on the door shook them out of their trance.

Blayne then took a few steps away and waited for an even more distressed Gabriella to open the door.

Gabriella just stared at her a moment longer and then suddenly she seemed to realized the enormity of what had just happened.

The knocking grew louder still.

"You better open the door, Mrs. Matheson," Blayne said coldly.

That was all that Gabriella needed. Her blood that had a moment ago been boiling had suddenly turned cold as she felt the frigidity of the iceberg before her.

Gabriella turned and opened the door. Her mother came in looking very distraught.

Elena Sotomayor walked into the room and noticed immediately the other woman in the room. She quickly deduced that said woman was the one that had given her daughter the news. Elena was not exactly sure what or how much her daughter knew so she would wait and listen before she would say anything.

"Mama…" Gabriella's hands began to tremble. She could not look at her mother suddenly and she wanted to hide from Blayne. What had just happened? Her whole life had just changed forever. It would never ever be the same again.

"What's wrong, Leila?" Elena asked softly. She used her pet name for her daughter lovingly. Gabriella looked up with pained, tear filled eyes.

"Mama….tell me. I want you to tell me," Gabriella begged.

Elena's eyes filled with tears as well. Gabriella shook her head and put her arms around her body as she turned and took a few steps away from her mother.

"Is it true Mama? Is it true?" Gabriella waited. When Elena looked up she knew.


"Did Papa know?"


Gabriella walked over to the couch and sat down. Blayne asked herself how she ever thought that she could just make this happen and…she had not thought, she finally admitted to herself. She had made cold calculations. She had not factored in any of her own emotions, but in retrospect she should have. That perhaps was the problem. Blayne was coldly processing as Elena Sotomayor now faced her.

"You, you told my daughter this news?"

"I represent Arthur Aston-Carlyle. Yes, I told her. He sent me to bring her to him." Blayne figured she should just put it all out there and see where it all stood. Damage control was something she had always been good at.

"Bring her to him?" Elena said in indignation.

"My father is dying. He wants to see her before his demise." Blayne saw the shock of the news register in the older woman's face. Interesting, Blayne thought to herself.

Gabriella got up and faced Blayne in horror. "Your father?" Gabriella looked like she was going to be sick suddenly. "Mama…."

Elena went to her daughter immediately and helped her sit down again. Gabriella then fainted.

"Leila?" Elena looked like she was going to pass out as well.

"She's fainted. Please get a wet towel and some cold water for her to drink." Blayne took control of the situation. Elena looked down at her daughter who seemed to be between consciousness and unconsciousness.

"She's had a shock. Please get the water, Mrs. Sotomayor. I will stay with her," Blayne added as she sat next to Gabriella on the couch.

Elena got up on shaky legs and walked out of the room.

Blayne pulled the semi conscious Gabriella towards her. She caressed the face of the woman in her arms softly. Gabriella's eyes fluttered and opened. Their eyes once again locked.

"No…" cried Gabriella as she pulled away from Blayne. "You knew? And you….?" Gabriella seemed mortified with the implications of the news. If all this is true, Blayne is my half sister! She began to pale again. Oh my God! Oh my God!

"Are you better now?" Blayne asked her politely, totally ignoring the accusation. "Arthur married my mother when I was four years old."

Gabriella raised a shaky hand to her temple trying to catch her breath. At that moment Elena came into the room with the towel and the glass of water. Blayne got up and took them from her.

"Here, drink this." Blayne placed the tip of the glass at Gabriella's mouth. She then put the glass down and wiped her faced gently with the moist towel. "I know that this has been…a day full of surprises." Blayne noticed the slight cringe. "As I said, Arthur is dying and wants to meet you. That's all."

Elena beheld her daughter, unable to say anything. Gabriella looked at her mother with so many questions.

"Leila…" Elena said softly full of emotion as she sat on the chair across from her daughter.

"Arthur abandoned your mother. He left her with very little choices. He just found out he is dying and wants to meet you, his daughter." Blayne laid it all out for them. There was no point in playing with the truth. And by so doing and addressing it she would be able to perhaps assist Elena in explaining her actions to her daughter.

"He was a young man who arrogantly only thought of himself. He made a terrible mistake…and it cost him. He wants to meet you and I am here to take you to him," Blayne said softly.

Elena sat down, still silent. Gabriella looked towards her mother who seemed very distraught. "Mother?"

"I'm sorry, Leila. I'm so sorry," Elena said as she covered her face. "I never wanted you to know."

"Arthur told me how badly he behaved towards you. I'm sorry, Mrs. Sotomayor," Blayne said apologetically. "I left my mother in tears as well."

Gabriella now looked back towards Blayne. Gabriella got up suddenly. "No."

"No?" Blayne did not understand.

"I'm not going," Gabrielle said as she faced Blayne and dared her to challenge her. "No."

"You're upset. I will come back tomor…

"Didn't you hear what I said! No!" Gabrielle yelled.

Elena got up and went to her daughter's side.

"Get out!" Gabriella demanded.

Blayne stood up and challenged her with her eyes. Suddenly Blayne smiled. "I will come back. And you won't be able to say no to me… again." Blayne let the double untundra float between them. When she saw the shock of understanding register in Gabriella's eyes she knew she had won.


Blayne walked into her penthouse in Boston a few hours later and went straight into her office. She had a dinner meeting to get ready for. She had taken the shuttle from Princeton, New Jersey to Boston, Massachusetts. Blayne had a full schedule and had planned other meetings around her visit to Gabriella Matheson. She had factored in the possibility that there might be some reservations on Gabriella's part. What had completely thrown her for a loop was Gabriella herself; never in her wildest dreams could she have imagined what had happened between them. She still could not bring herself to believe it. Blayne then called her office and instructed her secretary to reschedule all her appointments for the next few days. She would fly back to Princeton first thing in the morning. Gabriella Matheson had suddenly become her number one priority.


The children were already asleep when Gabriella spoke to Joseph on the phone. Joseph was away on business and would be back in a few days. He had asked the usual questions; they just seemed to be polite strangers these days unless they were arguing. She had said nothing to him about what had happened that day. After all, she told herself, it was family business. At that moment she realized that her marriage was over. It had slowly but surely died.

Gabriella walked around the house in the dark dazed. She remembered how in the beginning she had put so much of herself into making it a home. What a disappointment her marriage had been. Even in the beginning she should have known.

From almost the first day of their marriage something slowly began to dissolve between them. It was like as if after the moment she gave herself to Joseph something inside her rejected him. It wasn't something that she could put her finger on but it was there and it grew and grew until she could hardly breathe.

In retrospect, she realized that she had bestowed qualities on Joseph that he had never possessed. She had always seen more than there had been. Gabriella had to admit feeling a great sadness. The truth was that she had been more in love with love than with Joseph.

They had both been so young. He was handsome and outgoing. Joseph had been attentive and romantic in the beginning until it slowly started to dissipate.

After the first two years she began to see the cracks. They slowly but surely began to live their own lives. They had actually separated twice within that following year. She would leave and he would call her parents who in turn would advise her to return to her husband. In the end she would eventually buckle in and go back. The last time she realized she would not leave again unless it was going to be final. Just thinking that last thought should have made her situation more than clear.

So many times after that she had wanted to leave but had not. It was better that she stayed for the children's sake, she told herself. The children had been the reason she had not changed anything. Her father would tell her over and over again. A child needs their father, Leila. Don't take their father away from them. Joseph is a good husband to you. He is a good provider. In the end she would always give in. Only now did she realize that she had stayed out of some sense of guilt because of her father. Is that how he had seen things through his eyes? Did he use the same argument with her mother? Did he know about her?

Gabriella's tormented mind cried out. She walked towards her studio. There she would find peace. She had always poured her passion into her art. She sculpted with all the emotions that filled her and somehow needed to get out. She had never found another human being to share that place deep inside her that she and she alone ever entered. In her work Gabriella lived and loved. In the sculptured shapes of clay lay her life with a promise but still unfinished.

A critic had said that her creations were created of something raw and a sensuality that begged to be born. After that particular critique her work was highly sought after. So naturally Gabriella went into her studio and began to mold the clay and invision its outcome. Her hands took on a life of their own and the clay suddenly came alive.


"How did it go?" A voice said on the phone.

"Hello and good evening to you too, Arthur," Blayne replied sarcastically.

"How did it go, Blayne?"

"What did you expect? She didn't take it well that's for sure." Blayne sat down on the bed.

"Will she come?" He tried to hide the anxiety in his voice.

Blayne took in a deep breath. "She said she wants nothing to do with you Arthur. That's how things stand right now." Blayne ran her fingers through her hair. "I will go back tomorrow to discuss it with her again."

"Blayne, I…I would like to see her before…" The silence became palatable between them.

"I don't think I handled things well, Arthur…perhaps…"

"If anyone can do this it's you," Arthur said reassuringly.

"We...kind of clashed. Perhaps Chaz or Diana can talk to…"

"No, you are the one. Blayne, you can make someone in the desert want to buy sand," Arthur said humorously.

"Arthur, it's just that…this is not business and she is your daughter." Blayne justified her reluctance.

"Emphasize the idea of family. From her file I can see she values that. Appeal to her obligation, she is an only child. She might want to get to know her other siblings."

"Arthur, I don't know…"

"Advise her like a sister..."

"I am not her sister!"

Arthur said nothing for a moment. Blayne had surprised him with her declaration. She was usually so in control of things; this type of outburst was out of character for her.

"You are as much my daughter as she and Diana are, Blayne."

Blayne remained silent. How could she tell him she believed him if the thought of Gabriella…


"I'll try again tomorrow, Arthur."

"Good, I knew I could count on you. Well, keep me appraised, goodnight Blayne."

"Goodnight father," Blayne said to appease his ruffled feathers. Arthur had been a father to her. She owed him this. Somehow she would make Gabriella go to him.

After terminating the call Blayne sat down and just stared in front of her. What had possessed her to kiss Gabriella? She had always been so careful about hiding who and what she was. How could she have just done such an utterly irresponsible thing? And now she had to go back and somehow make this woman go and see someone who had literally abandoned her. Arthur was dying and he had asked this of her.

Blayne reasoned that in the past she had often come upon people who had not wanted to see things her way and she had always known how to deal with them. She would make Gabriella Matheson see things her way. Everyone has a weak spot, Blayne had learned from Arthur; and Blayne always found it. But, this was different. Gabriella was Arthur's daughter. And whether she wanted to admit it or not Blayne had kissed her. Why? Why had she done something as insane as that?

Neither woman found much sleep that night and when they did all they found was the haunting memory of one kiss playing itself over and over again.


Gabriella woke up late, therefore her morning started off wrong. The children missed the school bus so she had to drive them to school. The phone was ringing when she walked into the house. She ran to pick it up but the line was dead by then.


She walked back and closed the front door. The phone began to ring again.



"Yes, Mom."

"Where were you?"

"The kids missed the bus. I took them to school."

"Are you okay?"

"I…I'm okay, Mama." Gabriella tried to control her emotions.

"Can you come over for lunch?"

"No…I'm working on a piece and I…um, I need to work on it," Gabriella needed the distance.

"All right Leila, I'll call you later then," Elena said sadly.


The doorbell rang and Gabriella walked over to answer it while talking to her mother on the cordless phone.

"Mama, I just need to think…." She opened the door and came face to face with Blayne. Gabriella's mouth opened slightly in surprise. She could feel her pulse quicken almost immediately. Gabriella heard her mother call her name over and over again.

"Leila? Leila? Are you all right?"

Blayne walked right in past her.

"Um…yes, mama, I'm okay. I'll call you later." Gabriella terminated the call turning towards Blayne and leaving the front door open.

"Please go, we have nothing else to discuss. I'm not going anywhere!"

Blayne turned quickly and was immediately in front of her. She reached out and Gabriella audibly gasped as she felt herself being pushed against the door. Apparently Blayne's intent was to close the door but they were now standing in very close proximity of one another.

Their faces were barely three inches apart. Blayne began to breathe deeply; and the emotions that became uncontrollable every time she got close to Gabriella surfaced with the speed of a running train. She looked down at Gabriella's mouth then up to her eyes again.

Gabriella wanted to speak yet nothing was coming out of her mouth as she opened it slightly. She could hear heavy pounding in her ears; like drums that threatened to overwhelm her.

Blayne was leaning in when the phone that Gabriella was holding began to ring and ring.

"Your phone…." Blayne said softly.

Gabriella searched her eyes seeming not to understand. The phone continued to ring as Blayne leaned in to kiss her.

"No…" Gabriella said and Blayne stopped. Their mouths were so close that they almost touched. A whimper escaped Gabriella's mouth as Blayne's mouth covered it hungrily.

Again, it was like a ball of fire seemed to be consuming them. There was no coherent thought as both women began to melt into each other. Their bodies began to fuse in a primal need to connect. Blayne's mouth traveled down Gabriella's neck hungrily as she moaned. As soon as she felt Blayne's hand begin to undo her blouse she pushed her away hard.

"No!" Gabriella said as she leaned for support against the door. Blayne stood in front of her trying to catch her breath. She was staring at Gabriella as if she had been betrayed somehow. Gabriella now stared at her as if she had been the one that somehow should apologize. For one brief instant she saw betrayal written clearly in those eyes that were now coldly looking back at her. The passion was now gone and Gabriella could physically feel the cold once again emanating from Blayne.

Blayne turned her back to her and walked further into the house.

"Can your mother watch your children or shall I arrange for someone to do it?" Blayne asked then turning to face Gabriella as if nothing had happened between them.

Gabriella stared at her in disbelief. "I am not going anywhere with you!" She said as she walked past Blayne.

"Why are you fighting me?" Blayne asked point blank.

Gabriella turned around. "Are you deaf? I said I am not going! Not going! Not going!"

Blayne stood her ground. "Go pack," Blayne said without a hint of agitation. "I have a meeting in Boston this evening and I will have to rush as it is."

"And here I thought you were semi-intelligent. I…AM…NOT… GOING…understand?" Gabriella said slowly mocking her.

Blayne was in front of her in two strides, grabbing her by the hair as her other hand pulled her against her hard. "I have tried nicely…don't fight me lady, I can chew you up and spit you out before you know it. Now get your ass moving. We are leaving," Blayne said between her teeth.

"Fuck you!"

Blayne kissed her hard again and tore the front of her blouse. She released Gabriella who fell back on the couch and stared at her in horror. "Get out of here!"

Blayne grabbed her again and began to tear the rest of her blouse off. When Gabriella tried to grab her hair she found herself pinned down under Blayne.

"Get ready or get fucked understand?" Blayne hissed her face so close to her that Gabriella saw the chips of anger in her eyes.

"Get off me!…get off me," Gabriella said as her nerves began to shatter.

"Say no,...say it…I would rather fuck you then take you back with me," Blayne hissed to a horrified Gabriella.

"Get off me, please," Gabriella whimpered as she tried to push Blayne off her with her body.

"Yes or no honey, answer now or I won't care what you say after 10 more seconds like this."

"Yes, I'll go with you. Just get off me," Gabriella said quickly.

Blayne searched her eyes and got off her slowly. She held her hand out to help Gabriella up. Gabriella chose to ignore it and got up on her own.

"If you are thinking of backing out of our deal, don't. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry," Blayne threatened.

Gabriella stared at her not sure whether to believe the threat or not. Who could she count on to help her against someone like Blayne? The truth was there was no one. Joseph was far away. And her mother…

"I will make sure that your mother is not pulled into this," Blayne said to her almost as if she knew what she was thinking.

Gabriella looked away and took a few steps away from Blayne as she put her arms around herself to cover her nakedness. "I don't want to see him," Gabriella said as she began to cry. "He didn't want me."

Blayne stared at her back and for a brief moment felt like going to her and comforting her but, the thought quickly disappeared a she lifted her chin effectively disconnecting herself from what she was doing.

"Call your mother. I think it would be best if the children stayed with someone they know. As to your husband…you can call him later," Blayne said coldly.

Gabriella faced her now with tears falling down her face. "No wonder my father wants to see me…" Gabriella said in disgust.

Blayne's eyes formed a question. "Meaning?"

"If he is surrounded with the likes of you…no wonder he is looking for needles in a hay stack." Gabriella meant the comment to hurt and she took great pleasure when she saw the recognition of the insult in Blayne's eyes.

"You are quite right. None of us is what Arthur wanted," Blayne said without so much as a blink of an eye. "We have all come up short."


Within two hours they were getting onto a private plane. Flying out of a small private airport in Princeton, they were scheduled to arrive in Boston in less then an hour.

Blayne looked towards Gabriella who had not said a word to her in the last hour.

"If I feel you can't handle things with the family I will take you back home," Blayne said suddenly.

Gabriella turned towards her and searched her eyes in surprise. At that moment Blayne saw all the fear that she had been hiding. Gabriella turned away for a second then looked down at her hands before she spoke.

"Why does he want to see me?"

"Because he can't hide from the truth. He is out of time," Blayne said as she looked out of her window. They were taking off now. She couldn't wait to get off the plane she had just gotten on.

"I don't understand," Gabriella said looking at Blayne's profile.

Blayne said nothing.

"Did you mean it?" Gabriella asked softly.

Blayne looked back at her now.


"Did you mean it when you said you would take me back?" Gabriella asked holding her breath.

Blayne looked at her for a moment without saying anything. "Yes."

Gabriella looked back down at her hands again. "This is going to be unpleasant."

"Yes, it is. Chaz, will probably be aggressive and Diana will react very much, if not worse, than I do actually," Blayne said coldly.

Gabriella looked up in fear. "Like you?"

"She is headstrong and opinionated, but no, not exactly like me if that answers your question. I can handle them," Blayne said, as she looked Gabriella straight in the eye.

"Are they…?"

"Chaz, is my brother. Diana is your sister and mine," Blayne clarified. "Chaz, will resent you and Diana is antagonistic towards everyone."

Gabriella looked down at her hands again. "And your mother?"

"My mother will do as I say."

Gabriella looked up at Blayne again. "She must hate me."

"Perhaps, but she will play along." Blayne reassured her.

"Yes, I can see that people have a hard time saying no to you," Gabriella said with a touch of anger.

"They learn rather quickly it's best not to try."

Gabriella's eyes challenged her. "I will take you at your word."

"I have given it to you and I will keep it." Blayne replied with a smile that was meant to frighten her and it did.

"I believe you will. Therefore there will be no need for a repeat performance of your behavior towards me."

Blayne stared at her.

Gabriella did not look away as she waited for an answer.

"As you wish."

"I do."


Blayne and Gabriella checked into the Harbor Inn, in Boston. Gabriella looked around and admired the hardwood floors, the Victorian styled furniture and the oriental carpets the filled the Inn. They were taken up to one of the suites that faced the city rather than the atrium. Blayne immediately got on the phone as Gabriella went into her room.

A few minutes later after freshening up Gabriella went out to the sitting room they both shared and found that Blayne was still on the telephone. Gabriella walked around the room. She looked out the window admiring the city at night. She respected preservation of the past and the Inn was a perfect example of that with its exposed brick and granite walls. The sitting room had all the modern conveniences that Blayne needed like data ports and high Internet access and yet it was all hidden within the old. Finally, she sat down and waited for Blayne to finish on the phone.

"No, call Armand and tell him that we want to subcontract his tankers." Blayne noticed Gabriella and motioned for her to sit down. "Yes Paul, no more than two million. Call me back on my cell, I have a dinner meeting. All right, bye."

Gabriella stood up while Blayne remained seated. She took a good look at Gabriella and it was obvious to both of them that she liked what she saw.

"Will you be long? What time shall I be ready to leave tonight?" Gabriella asked nervously.

"We will not be leaving tonight. I'm not sure how long my meeting will run. I have spoken to the hotel and they will have a car take us tomorrow morning."

"How far is it?"

"Oh…less than an hour." Blayne guessed.

"Why not tonight then?"

"Because I am tired. And it will be late. It will be best if we arrive tomorrow morning."

"Best for who? For you?"

"No, for you!" Blayne barked out as she stood up now. "Chaz and Diana are probably already waiting for you. Mother was upset when I left but she is a loose cannon when she feels threatened. And Arthur, as much as he thinks he can handle them, he can't. I have this meeting and I am tired. I could send you ahead but I won't. I said I would try to…." Blayne trailed off in exasperation.

Gabriella watched her walk towards the window and stare out at the city.

The phone began to ring. Blayne closed her eyes for a moment then opened them again and walked over to pick it up.


"Blayne, I haven't heard from you. Then I picked up a message that you had checked into the Harbor Inn." Arthur sounded winded.

"Yes, we checked in about an hour ago," Blayne said as she looked towards Gabriella. "I have Gabriella here with me."

"She is there? In the hotel with you?"

"Yes, we should be arriving sometime around mid morning tomorrow." Blayne had not broken eye contact with Gabriella.

"I knew you would bring her to me Blayne. I knew that you would," Arthur said emotionally. "Thank you Blayne. Thank you for doing this for me."

Blayne was silent. Arthur was obviously very emotional and she was afraid to allow herself to feel. Arthur was dying. Her father was dying.

"I…" Blayne looked down for a moment as her eyes began to tear up. "We will both be there in the morning."

"Thank you Blayne."

"Goodnight father."

"Goodnight Blayne."

Blayne hung up the phone with her back towards Gabriella.

"You love him don't you?" Gabriella asked in surprise.

Blayne's shoulders straightened as she turned towards Gabriella.

"Yes, I do have feelings Mrs. Matheson. If you prick me I do bleed," Blayne answered sarcastically.

"I didn't mean it that way," Gabriella replied softly.

"How did you mean it then?"

"I just thought…." Gabriella looked down.

"You just thought that a bitch like me can't possibly feel, is that it? Well, I feel a lot of things as you obviously know….or would you like to be reminded?" Blayne said menacingly.

Gabriella looked up immediately. "Does he know?"

"Know what?" Blayne was now not only angry but also confused.

"About you!"

"What the fuck are you talking about?"

"He doesn't know does he?"

Blayne suddenly understood what she meant and her features showed the shock.

"He doesn't know then." Gabriella sounded like she had the upper hand. "What would he say if he knew how you have treated me?"

"What would he say if he knew you liked it?" Blayne shot back quickly.

"You attacked me!"

"Tell him and I will tell too," Blayne said coldly.

"There is nothing for you to tell."

"Some may believe you, some may not. Will your husband believe you? Will your children believe you? Will your mother believe you? I can be very convincing." Blayne purred from the enjoyment of the game.

Gabriella stared at her in horror.

"Don't play this game with me. You will always lose. Now go to sleep we will leave early in the morning. Order dinner from room service. I will be back when I am done with my meeting. And don't get any ideas about flying the coup, my little dove because if you try to jump ship I will come after you and believe me…you don't want that." Blayne took a step closer and Gabriella one back.

"Well, I can see you understand," Blayne said with a smile. "Go to bed."

Blayne walked up to her and kissed her on the cheek. "Goodnight, little sister."

Gabriella looked up to meet her eyes and saw the hatred behind those words.

"You are not my sister," Gabriella said trying to control her nerves.

"No, I'm not," Blayne said as she leaned closer to her. "And if I were it wouldn't change a thing."

Gabriella looked up at her again with a shocked expression.

Blayne laughed out loud from the result of Gabriella's shocked reaction.

"You're disgusting," Gabriella said as she went to slap her.

Blayne held her hand and looked like she was about to strike her herself.

"Don't push little sister. Don't push," Blayne said menacingly. She then released Gabriella's hand and left her alone in the room.


The trip up to Quincy was made quietly. Blayne had been reading the paper or on the phone. Gabriella made no attempt to engage her in conversation. Quincy was obviously rich in history; it boasted of manicured lawns and scenic shorelines. Blayne noticed Gabriella's interest.

"There is a lot of history that took place here. Quincy is called the city of Presidents. The second and sixth U.S. presidents, John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams were both born here. I can arrange a tour if you like?" Blayne did not wait for her to answer as she began to read her newspaper again.

"That might be nice. Thank you." Gabriella only saw Blayne nod acknowledging that she had heard her but nothing else.

The limousine then pulled into a private drive. And as they turned around a clump of trees the house suddenly became visible in the distance. Gabriella took in a deep breath and Blayne looked up, smiled, and then looked back down to her newspaper.

The house was impressive to say the least with its columns and manicured hedges and colorful flowerbeds. When they pulled up Blayne opened the door and got out without waiting for the chauffeur to come around. She than put her hand out for Gabriella to take. Gabriella looked up for only a moment then gave her hand. As she got out of the car the front door opened and there next to a man dressed in morning coat stood an elegantly dressed woman with golden hair. Her features seemed familiar and suddenly Gabriella looked towards Blayne and saw the resemblance.

"Yes, she's my mother," Blayne said still holding her hand. "Come."

"Hello, I'm Abigail Aston-Carlyle." Abigail said as she put her hand out to Gabriella.

Both women shook hands. "Hello, I'm Gabriella Matheson."

"Yes, my dear, I know who you are." Abigail tried to smile as she spoke.

Gabriella felt uncomfortable and looked down. Blayne was beside her and her hand was on Gabriella's back. "Let's go inside," Blayne said as she guided Gabriella away from her mother. She spoke to the majordomo as she passed him. "Henry, our bags are in the car."

They walked into the hall and Gabriella could not help but be impressed. She looked around noticing the original oil paintings by Monet and Tintoreto. On one wall she saw a Rembrandt. There were sculptures by artists that she recognized that, in her opinion, should be in a museum. The walls were covered in rich creamy Muslim silk paper and the antiques were exquisite.


Blayne turned towards an older man walking toward her who only had eyes for Gabriella. Blayne turned towards her and made the introductions.

"This is Arthur…"

Gabriella shook his hands and could not break eye contact with the eyes that she had for an eternity had questions about.

"You do have my eyes," Arthur said with a smile.

"Yes," suddenly Gabriella pulled her hand away and looked away from him.

"This does not please you I see," Arthur stated the obvious.

"My eyes became an invisible wall between me and my father," Gabriella said with a touch of resentment.

Arthur looked towards Blayne. He saw no compassion there as he expected. "Did he mistreat you?"

"He was my father; he loved me," Gabriella said with conviction.

Arthur stood straighter and became silent. Blayne stepped in.

"Ahh…Here is another member of the family. Come Gabriella, let me introduce you to OUR sister Diana," Blayne said as she took Gabriella by the arm and guided her to where Diana stood, watching as the introduction took place.

Blayne glared at her in a warning as they approached.

"Diana, this is Gabriella Matheson, our sister," Blayne added the smile as she locked eyes with a defiant Gabriella.

Gabriella nodded her head. "Hi."

Diana looked her over and ignored Gabriella's salutation.

"I guess it could be true. Your eyes are the same color as fathers. Although I would hardly base parentage on something as minuscule as that."

"Diana, play nice," Blayne said jokingly but the warning was received just the same.

"I don't pretend to be anyone's daughter. I wish I wasn't here," Gabriella said defensively.

"Then why are you here?" Diana shot right back at her. "If not for the money that my father might leave you."

Gabriella stared at her in disbelief. "What's wrong with you people?"

"Oh dear, we have a saint in our mists," Diana joked.

"Diana!" Blayne's voice became menacing.

"You know what you're right; there is no need for me to be here," she said as she turned towards Blayne. "I did as you asked. I came here now I want to go home."

Blayne looked at her for a moment before speaking. "Diana is as upset as you." Blayne then turned to Diana as she continued to speak, "SHE however, is acting worst than usual!"

Gabriella then directed her comment to Diana. "I don't want to take anything from you. I wish I had never been told anything at all. And I just want to go home now please," Gabriella directed the latter part of her words to Blayne.

Blayne then turned towards her and was about to speak when she saw the tears ready to spill out of Gabriella's eyes. Blayne took her by the arm and walked her out of the foyer and into the library close by.

"I'm sorry about Diana," Blayne said softly. Gabriella had her back to her.

Gabriella then turned towards her and Blayne could see the tears running down her cheeks.

"Look, I just want to go home. This was a mistake all around. You promised you would take me home," she pleaded as she walked up to Blayne.

Blayne's hands went up to her arms gently; she was about to speak when the door opened and Arthur walked in.

Gabriella turned away from him and began to wipe her tears away. He turned to Blayne with a concerned look on his face.

Blayne looked away.

"Gabriella …there is so much I want to say…" he trailed off.

Gabriella turned to him. "I don't want to hear it! I don't want to know you! I hate you!" She was becoming hysterical.

"Gabriella!" Blayne interceded.

"No, let her Blayne. She has a right to be upset." Arthur took a step closer.

"That's very big of you," Gabriella said mockingly.

"I'm sorry," Arthur said sadly.

"You were always between my father and me." She began to cry again. "You were always there every time he looked at me and I saw the hurt in his eyes. I saw his heart break a little at a time after every comment about my eyes. And I'm suppose to be happy about this?" Gabriella openly wept as she now put her arms protective around her body. "How could I not hate you? You took my father away from me," she sobbed. "He knew." Gabriella turned desperately seeking solace, "and he loved me anyway."

Suddenly Blayne's arms surrounded her. Gabriella sobbed as Blayne held her tightly, as she looked towards Arthur who sat down and looked down forlorn.

"Now I have lost him forever." Gabriella wept as she buried her face in Blayne's chest.

"No you haven't. He loved you. Not because he had to but because he wanted to," Blayne tried to console her.

Gabriella pulled away from her.

"You can't know what it was like. You didn't have people stop talking when you entered a room." Gabriella was getting angry again. "I was always the subject of speculation. And my father…I hate my eyes." Gabriella sat exhausted then took a deep breath.

"I just want to know you," Arthur said softly.

Gabriella looked up quickly. "Well, I don't want to know you!"

Arthur said nothing.

"I have come. Can I go now?" Gabriella asked sarcastically.

Arthur seemed confused and looked towards Blayne.

"I threatened her," Blayne clarified.

"You what!" Arthur got up indignantly.

"I told you I was not the right person for this…I…" Blayne became silent.

"Blayne?" Arthur waited.

"I got the job done," Blayne said point blank.


"Isn't that all that matters? You taught me that father," she replied coldly.

Both stood their ground unwilling to back down.

Gabriella was about to say something when Abigail Aston-Carlyle walked into the room closing the door behind her.

"Is something wrong?" She asked looking from Blayne to Arthur.

"No, nothing." Arthur broke eye contact and Blayne seemed to take a breath of relief.

"Gabriella, my dear, I had Henry take your bags up to one of the suites in the east wing. You will get the full sun and the view is lovely from there. Blayne will be next to you," Abigail said with a shaky smile.

Gabriella looked down at her lap.

"I don't think…"

"That will be perfect, mother. That way I will be close by," Blayne said as she challenged Gabriella. Both women looked at each other silently for a moment.

Arthur noticed the eye contact and found it disturbing; he didn't like the idea of Blayne bullying the young woman.

"Gabriella would you prefer a suite in another part of the estate?" Arthur waited for the response.

"Is something wrong?" Abigail looked from Blayne to Arthur.

"She will stay in the east wing," Blayne challenged.

Arthur turned to her with anger evident on his face now.

Gabriella stood up suddenly. "There is no need for a place for me to sleep since I will not be staying."

All three sets of eyes turned towards her now.

Blayne walked up to her and looked down into her eyes as she took her hand gently. She spoke softly so that Gabriella would be the only one to hear her. "You have a father who wants to know you and a sister that might not admit it but that needs you. Stay, for just a little while and give them a chance. At least give Diana a chance. God knows I haven't been able to guide her." Blayne waited patiently for her reply.

Gabriella looked down. Her eyes suddenly caught sight of her hand in Blayne's and she almost became mesmerized by the rhythmic way Blayne's thumb was caressing her palm.

"Diana shares your blood." Gabriella looked up after Blayne made that statement. "Give that a chance. After your mother she is all you have that is a part of you too."

Gabriella seemed shaken and then nodded. "Only for a little while."

"Good enough," Blayne said with a smile.

"One day you are going to outsmart yourself," Gabriella said to her seriously.

Blayne smiled a little. "You think so, little sister?"

Gabriella's eyebrow arched and shook her head. "All right but, I am only committing to a few days. Deal?"

Blayne's mouth smiled slightly. "Deal. Now let me show you to your room." Blayne guided Gabriella passed Abigail and Arthur.

Arthur seemed both surprised and impressed. He had just seen Blayne at her best. Not only had she managed to get Gabriella to stay but also obviously she had found a way of communicating with the woman that seemed to dislike her one-minute and seek comfort from her the next. As usual Blayne never ceased to amaze him.

Gabriella suddenly stopped in front of Abigail. "Thank you, I'm sure the room is lovely."

Abigail was a bit surprised at the earnest expression of the young woman in front of her.

"You're quite welcome my dear." Abigail gave her a smile in return.

Blayne then put her hand on the middle of Gabriella's back and guided her out of the room.


"You seemed upset when I walked in."

"Blayne sometimes just goes too far," Arthur said as he walked away from his wife and sat down in a chair facing her.

"Blayne is too much like you," Abigail said sadly as she sat in a chair opposite her husband.

"She bullied that girl to come."

"And what did you expect, Arthur?"

Arthur looked up suddenly.

"I didn't expect her to threaten my daughter!" He said as he got up suddenly.

"They seem to understand each other." Abigail pointed out exactly what confused him.

"Oddly enough."

"Has it occurred to you that Blayne, that all the children, may feel threatened by Gabriella?"


"Arthur, for a brilliant man you can be very dense sometimes." Abigail saw the negative reaction her words produced.

"Well, if I am disappointed it is their own fault!"

"I know Chaz and Diana have disappointed you. I know that Blayne in some ways has too by not settling down and having children. They love you Arthur; and your disappointment is quite obvious," Abigail said sadly.


"Meaning that coming up short is painful." Abigail's eyes filled with tears.

Arthur stared at her silently.

"Not being first choice is very painful Arthur." Tears now ran down the lovely face of Abigail Aston-Carlyle.

Arthur looked away. The truth was not always easy to take.

"Until recently Blayne was the apple of your eye and now not only is she dealing with the news of loosing you, her father, but not being a first choice."

Arthur turned to her.

"I love all my children," he stated with conviction.

"I know you do. Just remember to let them know it," Abigail said, and then walked out of the room


"Is she here?" Chaz asked as he walked into the sunroom.

"She's here," replied Diana staring out towards the gardens.

"What do you think?" He asked, sitting down next to her.

"What do I know!" Diana got up and stomped out of the room.

"Jesus! What is wrong with you!"

Chaz followed her and spoke to her as they walked.

"Diana, talk to me."

"Why?" She stopped suddenly and faced him. "Why do you care all of a sudden?"

Chaz seemed confused. "Stop acting like a lunatic for once and talk to me."

Diana searched his face.

"Were you ever glad I was born, Chaz?"

He blinked a few times, surprised by the question.

"Yes of course," he replied matter of factly.

"I don't think I have ever thought you were," Diana said as a tear ran down her face.

Chaz was suddenly seemed at a loss for words.

Diana walked away and this time he did not follow her.


"The view is lovely." Gabriella was looking out the window of her room.

"Yes it is," Blayne said softly looking at the woman standing only a few feet away.

"Have you always lived here?"

"I don't live here," Blayne clarified.

Gabriella turned around to face her.

"But your mother said…"

"I use the rooms in this wing when I stay here."


Blayne smiled slightly. "I have a place I stay at in Boston but, home to me is my house in Cape Cod."

"But we were at a hotel in Boston…" Gabriella was confused.

"I didn't think you would like the idea of staying at my place," Blayne said as she raised her eyebrows comically.

Gabriella smiled and shook her head. "Why haven't you told your family?"

"Tell them what?" Blayne seemed confused.

"About you," Gabriella said as she sat on the bed now looking towards Blayne.

"What about me?"

"Your lifestyle, Blayne."

Blayne's face became somber. "There is nothing to tell. What about you?" Blayne shot back at her.

"Blayne I have never…" Gabriella looked nervously away.

"What makes you think I have?"

Gabriella looked at her in confusion.

"You are going to tell me I am the first woman you kissed?" Gabriella asked in sarcasm.

"Yes, you are," Blayne said soberly.

Gabriella stared, understanding even less now.

"How about you, little sister?" Blayne asked softly. "Have you ever kissed a woman before me?"

"I didn't kiss you," Gabriella objected.

"Didn't you?"


Both sets of eyes searched and clashed in denial. Blayne took a step forward and one of Gabriella's hand reached out for the bed post. Blayne half smiled.

"We have a deal," Gabriella said suddenly.

Blayne froze. "I admit I liked kissing you. I liked touching you. Why can't you? We can both enjoy it."

"Because I don't have affairs, Blayne. Because this type of relationship is not something that I want to explore. Because I am married. I can give you a million because's…" Gabriella got off the bed and walked towards the window again.

She didn't want to think about her reactions to Blayne's touch so she closed her eyes and tried to stop her senses from reacting and remembering.

Gabriella felt the heat emanating from Blayne's body before she felt it pressed against her. So it was no shock when suddenly Blayne's arms pulled her to her. Her head fell back almost the instant Blayne's mouth was on her neck.

"Blayne…we have a deal," Gabriella moaned.

Blayne pulled her tighter to her as her mouth moved towards her ear and Gabriella felt as if her body was on fire.

"Oh…" Gabriella moaned as her body began to turn around. Almost immediately Blayne's mouth was on hers hungrily begging to be allowed in. Blayne's hands pressed her harder against her. Gabriella felt her body melting into Blayne's

There was a knock on the door and they both pulled apart quickly, staring at each other will passion filled eyes. The knock came again.

"Come in," Gabriella said suddenly as she straitened her clothing.

Arthur walked in and looked form Blayne to Gabriella back to Blayne again. He noticed their apparent discomfort immediately. Blayne ran her fingers through her hair and looked everywhere but at him. And Gabriella seemed flushed and a bit nervous.

"The room…if you don't like it…" he said lamely.

"No, umm…it's beautiful." Gabriella looked around as she replied. Her eyes however looked away quickly as soon as they touched Blayne.

Arthur looked back from one to the other again. "Is everything all right? Has Blayne threatened you again?"

Blayne's eyes shot to him. "Absolutely, I had the best teacher!" Blayne unleashed all of her pent-up aggression.

"Don't go too far, Blayne," he threatened.

"Or you'll what?" She edged him on.

"She didn't do anything." Gabriella came to her defense as she took a step towards Blayne.

"When I walked in…" he paused and looked from Gabriella back to Blayne. "I'm sorry Blayne."

"Don't apologize, Arthur. You were quite right." She walked past him and left the room.

"Blayne…" he called after her but she didn't acknowledge him and did not turn back.

Arthur then turned back towards Gabriella. "I just wanted to make sure you were happy with your rooms." He was about to walk out when he was surprised by the question he was asked.

"Why didn't you ever try to see me?"

Arthur turned to face her. "I…I always thought there would be time later," he said lamely. "I don't have a good reason, Gabriella."

She stared at him accusingly.

"Did you love my mother?"

"Yes, yes I did," he answered softly. "I wish…" he looked away.

"You wish?"

"I wish things had been different."

"How different? Different that you hadn't seduced her and left her pregnant, or different that you had tried to be a father to me?" Gabriella was pulling no punches.

"Different that I would stayed with her yes, and been a father to you," Arthur admitted sadly.

Gabriella was surprised at the admission.

"I'll leave you to settle in. Abigail has planned a special lunch for you. See you down stairs at one." He then left her with much to think about.


Blayne walked out to the verandah of her bedroom.

She leaned against a wall to the side of the French doors she had just walked through and closed her eyes.

Why had things changed? She asked herself over and over.

Blayne was both angry with Arthur and with herself. And of course he had been right to question her. She had practically assaulted Gabriella twice. More than angry at him for putting her in the position she found herself suddenly in, she was also angry at herself for loosing control, not only of the situation, but of herself as well.

She had never really thought about a mate. Somehow there had always been a goal to surpass or a deal to close. Her competitive and independent spirit had always challenged her to try harder and excel yet again. She never lacked for escorts or romantic interests but a relationship? She knew she liked women for a long time now; but there had never really been one that she would have taken a chance of being found out by seducing her. A mate was something that she simply never thought about and had ever needed. She was a self contained individual. And now it seemed that her whole world had become unstable in a matter of a few days.

First, Arthur, her father…was dying. And secondly, she had not only been expected to bring Gabriella to him but to do it at record speed because, time was not on their side. How had he thought she could get Gabriella to come? At that moment she resented him for putting her in that position again.

Blayne had to also admit that she not only hurt Gabriella by the cold and calculating way she had manipulated her but she had also tried to…

"Dear God!" She ran her fingers through her hair in disgust at herself.

I practically forced myself on her in her living room, Blayne thought to herself. She also realized no one had ever made her feel the things she felt when kissing or touching Gabriella. When she had Gabriella half-naked under her she suddenly understood the meaning of lust. If she had remained that way a moment longer nothing would have been able to stop her from…from?

Blayne took a deep breath and closed her eyes yet again. She didn't like what was happening to her. She didn't like it at all. She was suddenly yanked from her thoughts by a voice next to her.

"You okay?" Diana asked.

Blayne looked at her then looked away. "Yes."

"What do you think of her?"

Blayne took a moment before answering. "She is not what I expected."

"Better or worse?" Diana questioned.


"You are not going to make this easy for me are you?" Diana was about to walk away when Blayne suddenly grabbed her by the arm.

"Wait, I'm sorry. I'm just…" she trailed off and released Diana. Blayne took a few steps towards the rail. "Give her a chance, Diana."

"A chance for what?"

Blayne turned to face her.

"I've always been too busy. I'm sorry I wasn't…" she turned away again.

Diana waited. Blayne had never seemed this unsure and that intrigued and concerned her.

"I think she is someone that if you allow her into your life she will always be there for you," Blayne said finally.

"You like her, huh?"

Blayne took a few more steps and ran her fingers though her hair again. "Let's just say she's had a lot dumped on her and…what do I know!" She suddenly became angry.

"I don't understand you."

"I don't understand me either."

"So you think I should give our sister a chance?"

"She's not my sister!" Blayne said harsher than she had meant to. Blayne turned to Diana. "Talk to her Diana. She is of your own blood. She's your sister."

"So are you, Blayne," Diana said accusingly.

Blayne looked at her. "I haven't really been good at it have I?"

"You have sucked at it."

"She won't Diana. Give her a chance."

Diana stared at her for a moment longer then left her alone in the verandah.


A few minutes before one in the afternoon, Gabriella went down for lunch. As she was coming down the stairs she was taken aback by a very attractive man looking up at her. He reached his hand out to her with a charming smile on his face as she reached the bottom of the stairs.

"Hello, I'm Chaz."

Gabriella shook his hand as she searched his face. The likeness to Blayne was uncanny.

"Sorry I didn't mean to stare." Gabriella said returning his smile.

"It's okay I get that a lot. Blayne and I look a lot alike."

"You wish." Blayne said coming down the staircase. "I am definitely much better looking."

"But I have the right equipment," Chaz teased but Gabriella noticed that his smile did not reach his eyes.

"Some of us don't need it." Blayne went in for the kill. "And the one's that do don't know how to use it."

Blayne stood next to Gabriella for a moment looking at her. "Ready to go into lunch?"

"Yes," Gabriella smiled.

"Shall we?" Chaz offered her his arm.

Blayne stiffened as Gabriella took Chaz's arm.


They were served chilled lobster salad on plates made to look like seashells. Gabriella looked around the table and noticed how comfortable they all were with the wealth that surrounded them.

The lobster salad was delicious and the perfectly chilled white wine was divine. Gabriella noticed that the only person who hadn't tried to engage her in conversation was Blayne who seemed to be brooding at the other end of the table.

"So you have two kids?" Diana asked.


"Where is their father?"

"Joseph, my husband, is in Chicago on business."

She looked towards Blayne who looked away with a frown.

"You're an artist," Chaz smiled charmingly.

"I'm a sculptor."

"Are you any good?" Diana asked tactlessly.


"You're being modest Gabriella," Arthur said proudly then he turned to the others. "She has several pieces on display at galleries in New York City."

Gabriella looked back at him. He looked at her and smiled as he said, "She is very talented."

"I bet she is," Chaz said crudely then smiled innocently.

"Chaz!" Blayne finally spoke up. Chaz hadn't fooled her for a minute.


"Enough you two," Arthur intervened.

Abigail took this opportunity to jump in.

"We have a lot of interesting things to see here in Quincy, Gabriella. Have you visited Massachusetts before?"

"Yes once."

"Oh really," Abigail smiled.

"Yes I came to visit Harvard."

"You tried to attend?"

"I got accepted," Gabriella answered looking down.

"You didn't go?" Diana inquired with renewed curiosity.

"No, my scholarship fell through." Gabriella could not hide the disappointment even after all the years that had passed by. She still remembered how proud her mother and father had been. She also remembered the day that she found out that the money she needed to attend would not be available.

Arthur stopped eating as he noticed the disappointment that showed on his daughter's face.

"Blayne went to Harvard." Diana broke the silence.

Gabriella looked up and met Blayne's eyes, which looked back at her softly now.

"She also attended Harvard Law," Diana added. "She is the president of the Law Review."

"Blayne has never known when to stop," Chaz said in jest.

"At least she finished Chaz!" Diana blurted at him.

"Look who's talking," he said with a smirk.

"Children!" Abigail reprimanded them.

"Blayne, are you staying for a few days?" Arthur redirected the conversation.

"Blayne not work?" Chaz teased.

"Blayne? Will you stay?" Diana looked towards her older sister expectantly.

"Leave her alone. Blayne is busy," Abigail cut in.

"Gabriella, how about I show you the sites around Quincy?" Chaz offered.

Gabriella was about to speak when Blayne cut in. "Gabriella and I already have plans for today, Chaz," she said directly to Chaz then turned towards Diana. "And yes Diana, I am planning on staying." She then turned to Gabriella. "Are you ready, Gabriella?"

Gabriella blinked and nodded. "Yes."

"Let's go then. Mother lunch was fantastic as always," Blayne said as she got up from the table.

"Yes, thank you so much for lunch. It was wonderful," Gabriella said as she got up slowly confused and a little angry at Blayne's behavior.

Arthur knew what Blayne had done. Gabriella was obviously going along with it but it was not right that Blayne should bully her around. He had to have a talk with Blayne. Perhaps Abigail was right; it certainly would explain Blayne volatility of late.

"Have a good time you two. We'll expect you for dinner." Arthur then turned towards Blayne. "We dine as usual at eight in the evening."

"I remember father," she replied challenging him.

"Run along then and have a good time."

Blayne walked around the table and walked out of the room with her hand possessively on the middle of Gabriella's back.


Almost as soon as they walked out of the dinning room Gabriella showed her displeasure. She was headed towards the staircase when Blayne grabbed her by the arm and turned her around.

"Where do you think you are going?"

"We have got to get one thing straight here. You are not my ruler. I am not going to let you keep bullying me around, understand?" Gabriella put her hands on her hips and she was fuming.

Blayne seemed unfazed. "Where are you going?"

"I am going to get my purse from upstairs."

"You won't need it. Come on let's go." Blayne grabbed her by the arm again and stopped as Gabriella yanked her arm away.


Blayne was about to grab her again but stopped when she heard the door open and Arthur began to walk towards them.

"I thought you two were going sightseeing?"

"I just have to get my purse," Gabriella said defiantly to Blayne.

"Okay, hurry, go get it." Blayne knew when to pull back.

Arthur smiled as Gabriella went up the staircase. He turned in time to see Blayne looking at her as well.

"I would like to talk to you when you two come back later."

Blayne turned to face him. "All right."

"Where will you take her?" Arthur was trying to put some peace between him and Blayne. He didn't like the estrangement that seemed to be developing between them.

"Adams National Historic site, Quincy Armory, Bethany Church, United First Parish Church and the Adams Crypt, after that we will just see what she might like to see next. I would also like to show her the museum if possible."

"The itinerary sounds perfect." Arthur kept trying to make conversation with his daughter. "Did you fix things with Armand?"

"Yes, he was able to get the tankers for under two million."

"How did Betancourt ever agree to that?" He said looking directly at her.

"I'm having dinner with him next week," she answered matter of factly.

Arthur stared at her sternly.

"It was part of the package," she replied without batting an eye.

Arthur looked furious.

"Is that how you conduct business with my company?"

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"I never wanted a deal so much that I would condone what you have done or plan to do," Arthur said in disgust.

Blayne's face suddenly paled.

Gabriella was at the top of the staircase and had heard Arthur's last comment.

Blayne's face became as cold as marble.

"Who are you to talk to me about morals." Blayne's voice was low but as cold as steel and just as deadly. "How do you think I got her here if not by threats and intimidation? That's what you taught me."

Arthur was livid.

"I'm your creation, father. I'm just like you. Just as moral and as much of a lecher…"

Arthur's hand slapped his daughter so hard that it made her stumble back. Gabriella cringed at the sound. He stared in horror on what he had done. Blood was oozing out of Blayne's lips. She stared back at him with all the anger that his accusation had produced in her.

"I don't sell myself. My reputation in the business world is unquestionable. Personally however, I am proving to be unscrupulous. I know you don't like what you see in me right now perhaps, it's something in you that you are hating." Blayne saw what she had just said register in his face. "But don't feel bad, father, by the time I am your age I might surpass even you," Blayne finished venomously.

Arthur was taken by surprise by what she had said.

"I'm sorry I shouldn't have said those things to you. Your behavior has always been…"

Blayne cut him off. "No, it hasn't. I have done just about everything to win except sell myself. As for personal relationships…I am a complete failure just like you. I won't get married just to please you. I won't live a lie; not even for you, father. And unlike you when I find the person that makes me FEEL, I won't run away." Blayne was seething.

"What's gotten into you? You are out of control." Arthur stared back at her.

"Perhaps unlike you, my behavior is making me sick." Blayne meant the retort to sting. "So, don't feel bad, DADDY." Blayne said sarcastically as she wiped the blood from her mouth with the back of her hand. "I deserved the slap. I have truly been your daughter these last few days," Blayne said with such coldness that Arthur took a step back.

Gabriella came out of the hold that held her unmoving. She came down the staircase and immediately Blayne's eyes looked towards her and they locked. It caught Gabriella by surprise to see the wounded look in them.

Gabriella passed by Arthur and walked up to Blayne who looked at her without saying a word. Gabriella reached into her bag and took out a handkerchief. She gently wiped the blood from Blayne's lips all the while looking deeply into her eyes. Blayne then took her hand and held it as she bowed her head.

Gabriella caressed the bruise that was already appearing on the beautiful face. "Come on…we'll get you an ice cream cone. Any flavor you want," Gabriella said tenderly.

Blayne was surprised and a smile slowly appeared on her face. "Any flavor?"

Gabriella nodded. "Any flavor." She then took her by the hand and led the way.

Arthur stood rooted to the spot. Again he was speechless and confused by the interplay between Blayne and Gabriella.

If I didn't know any better… he didn't allow the thought to continue.

Gabriella had, in her silence and indifference, let him know what she thought of him. With Blayne however she had shown incredible tenderness. The lamb led the wolf and the wolf, Blayne, had docilely followed. Arthur didn't like what was going through his mind at the moment. He didn't like it one bit.

They both walked side by side to the garage. Blayne opened a side door and stepped in. Gabriella's mouth dropped open at the row of cars lined up in front of her. They passed a black Rolls Royce, a red Jaguar XK8 Convertible and a powder blue Porsche. Blayne then stopped in front of a car Gabriella was not sure she recognized.

"This one is mine. I keep it here." She opened the passenger door and Gabriella sat down. She looked around and admired the lacquered wood and the softness of the kid leather. The dashboard was filled with different types of clocks and buttons…she was sure that the car could fly. The vehicle exuded strength and power. And she inwardly told herself that it suited its owner.

Blayne got in on the driver's seat and smiled towards her. "You like it?"

"It's an amazing looking car. What is it exactly?"

"It's a Bentley Arnage T. Their most powerful car in its history," she said excitedly.

"I can see you really like it. Somehow I never thought you were the sports car type."

Blayne turned to her with a confused expression. "What do you mean?"

"This car…it looks …maybe it is you. It's conservative on the outside then it surprises you with the unexpected on the inside."

Blayne smiled. "I'm the unexpected, huh?"

"I've never known anyone like you, Blayne," Gabriella said sarcastically.

"If I analyze that I think it might be a compliment." Blayne then turned the key and as the engine roared into life the garage doors automatically opened.


They had been on the road for a few minutes when Gabriella noticed the seriousness of Blayne's face. The woman in front of her was obviously in deep thought.

"This hasn't been easy for you either, has it?" Gabriella suddenly said.

Blayne looked towards her then back to the road, keeping her eyes straight ahead. She seemed to be debating whether to answer the question or not.

"I wish I had never met you," Blayne said suddenly still looking straight ahead.

Gabriella looked down at her hands and said nothing.

The silence began to cut at Blayne. She could not resist the desire to look towards Gabriella and as she did she saw the tear roll down her face as Gabriella turned her face to look out the window.

Blayne then pulled over to the shoulder, turned off the engine and then faced Gabriella

"That didn't come out right," Blayne said apologetically.

"I know what you meant," Gabriella said sadly still looking away.

"I'm sorry," Blayne said as she placed her hand over Gabriella's

Gabriella then looked towards her and Blayne could now see the tear stained face.

"Are you?" Gabriella asked softly.

"Yes," Blayne said as she looked down at both their hands. "I don't like hurting things. I don't want to hurt you. I want…" Blayne suddenly stopped talking, looked up at Gabriella then just as quickly looked down again.

"What do you want?" Gabriella asked softly.

Blayne looked up again and this time her eyes didn't leave Gabriella's when she spoke.

"I want you like I've never wanted anything in my whole life," Blayne said passionately. "I want things I don't understand and yet I know…I want you so much, Gabriella, that I'm drowning in this." Blayne finished desperately.

Gabriella pulled her hand away.

Blayne's whole semblance changed and her body stiffened at Gabriella's withdrawal. Without saying another word Blayne started the car and pulled back into traffic.

"Didn't work, huh?" Blayne said jokingly after a few minutes of silence.

Gabriella turned towards her with an incredulous look on her face.

"Hey, be a good sport. I like you. I want to…. Well, you know what I want. When I'm like this I will say anything. No harm no foul okay?" Blayne said as she kept smiling. "Oh! There is something for you to see," She pointed to a building across from them. "That is the Quincy Museum."

Gabriella looked towards the museum and followed Blayne's lead. Anything was better than the silence that had occurred between them a moment ago.

"Let's stop there first," Blayne said then maneuvered the car in that direction and drove into the parking lot.

"And Blayne," said Gabriella as she looked at her again.

Blayne put the car in park and turned towards her as well.

"No more games okay?"

"Okay, no more declarations of love," Blayne said with a smile. "But I won't promise not to try to get you to bed," she said cheekily.

Gabriella could not believe her gull. Gabriella then got out of the car.

Blayne's eyes suddenly showed incredible sadness. She took a deep breath and then got out of the car with a smile on her face. It was as if a cloak had been put back in place to cover what lay beneath. She would never allow her feelings to surface again.


The day passed pleasantly enough. They visited many of the historic places that the small town of Quincy, Massachusetts had to offer. Blayne was attentive and politely distant. Gabriella could not find any fault in her behavior and yet she didn't quite understand why Blayne's politeness now seemed to bother her.

They had lunch together in a little place near the ocean. They spoke of Gabriella's interest in art and her upcoming exhibition. Blayne asked her many questions and yet managed to keep all the subjects safe ones.

"What are your children's names?" Blayne asked surprisingly.

"Elena and Christopher," Gabriella said with a smile. "Elle is thirteen and Christopher is eleven."


"Her nickname, I call her Elle."

"I don't know why I thought they were younger. How long have you been married?"

Gabriella looked at her for a moment then answered. "Sixteen years."

"That's a long time being married to someone you don't love," Blayne said looking down at the cup of coffee in front of her.

"Why do you assume that I don't love my husband?"

Blayne looked up and said nothing for a moment as she searched Gabriella's eyes.

"Have you talked to him lately?"

"Two nights ago," Gabriella said defensively.

"Does he know you are here?"

"No, I'm calling him tonight to explain things to him."

"I see." Blayne looked down at her cup again.

"You see what!"

Blayne looked up again and challenged Gabriella. "You receive news that has shaken up your entire life and you haven't told him. He doesn't even know you are here. And you would never have kissed me back if you loved him. Affairs are not your style." Blayne waited for the response knowing by the look of Gabriella's eyes that she had struck a nerve.

The silence again began to grow between them. Gabriella was the first to break eye contact.

"We should start back," Blayne said suddenly. "We have to get ready for dinner and Arthur wants to talk to me. Unless you want to order desert or something?"

"No, I'm ready. Let's go," Gabriella said as she began to rise.

Blayne paid the bill and they drove back to the house in silence.



"Hello Mama, how are Elle and Chris?" Gabriella inquired.

"They just finished having their dinner. There is a message from Joseph leaving a number where you can reach him tonight. You haven't told him have you?" Elena knew but asked anyway.

"No, I haven't. I will when I call him later tonight."

"Have you….?"

"Yes, I've seen him," Gabriella said right away.

There was silence for a moment.

"Are you all right, Leila?" Elena asked with concern.

"I…. I'm really confused, Mom. One minute he seems very attentive then he will do something utterly horrendous."

"Has he hurt you?" Elena's voice became angrily protective.

"No, he has been very kind to me. Blayne, however, has been…."


"They have issues. They all have issues. I met the rest of the family. What a gruesome group." Gabriella expressed all her frustration.

"And Arthur?"

Gabriella immediately noticed the concern in her mother's question and it surprised her somehow.

"What about him?" She asked testily.

"How is he…with the cancer and…."

Gabriella said nothing for a moment. It could not be possible that her mother still cared for this man, she told herself. The idea of that angered her. What about her father? Had she loved Arthur even after marrying her father?

"He doesn't seem sick to me. If this is a trick so help me... I wouldn't put it past them, Mama." Gabriella trailed off.

"Leila, do what your heart tells you. But, remember you might not get the chance later. Really think about this daughter."

"I will Mama, I will."

Gabriella then spoke with each of her children before going to shower and get ready for dinner.


Blayne knocked on the door to the library and waited. She then went in after hearing Arthur say to come in.

"Why the knocking? You always just come in?" Arthur asked from behind his desk.

"I figure if we observe the rules things will be handled better," Blayne said bluntly.

Arthur said nothing for a moment then got up and walked around his desk. He pointed for her to sit down in a chair close to the one he had chosen for himself. She sat down and crossed her legs. He then sat down too.

"Blayne, I know that these last few days have been difficult."


"Your mother has pointed out to me that I have not handled things very well. And I must admit I agree. I should never have…." Arthur was progressively becoming more uncomfortable. "I should never had hit you. I'm sorry."

Blayne remained silent.

"At least you didn't bruise."

Blayne smiled a little and looked down. She had spent a good thirty minutes applying make up to cover up her bruised cheek.

"No, no bruise," she finally said.


Arthur then got up and started walking about the room. "Did you and Gabriella have a good afternoon sightseeing?"


"How long will you be staying?"

"For as long as she decides to."

Arthur stopped pacing and looked at his daughter for a moment.

"Why is that exactly?"

"Because I promised to take her home if she needed protecting."

"From who?" Arthur asked indignantly.

"From you. From all of you." Blayne now stood up and faced him.

"I see, so you are her protector. And who protects her from you?"

Blayne's eyes became dark and menacing. "No one can protect her from me, not even you."

Arthur looked at his daughter as if for the first time.

"You don't forgive me for this indiscretion do you?"

"Indiscretion? Is that what she is?"

Arthur stared at Blayne with speculation.

"If I didn't know any better I would say that you are in…" he stopped himself suddenly.

Blayne saw the thought clearly written in his face and she paled. Suddenly they both found themselves with empty space between them.

Arthur looked at her not believing and not daring to utter a word.

Blayne sat back down and he continued looking at her profile.

"I want to hear you say it," Arthur said suddenly.

"Is there a need?"

"Yes, I think there is." He waited hoping beyond hope that the words would never leave her lips.

"There is nothing to tell. The lady is not interested," Blayne said coldly. She couldn't see his face but could almost feel the shock register in him at her words.

All she had to do was deny it but suddenly the words had just come out. Blayne then got up and walked to the window near her and looked out. "She doesn't want me," she then said softly not caring how her comment would be received.

Arthur looked at his daughter in horror. He just stared at her as a million things entered his mind. This must be the reason the subject of her private life was not open to speculation, he told himself. And if Blayne had to want women and not men, why Gabriella? Why his daughter?

The impact of those two questions hit him hard. He sat down because he thought his legs would give out on him. He suddenly noticed that she had not moved from where she stood. Blayne's face mirrored a sadness he had once known and now feared. He didn't understand this choice but he couldn't help but notice the pain he saw in his daughter's face. He loved her and something inside him hurt to see her this way. She was his daughter too. But this could not be. He could not and would not allow it to go any further.

"Blayne, have you?"

Blayne turned to face him and it surprised him to see the unshed tears in her eyes.

"Blayne, you must let this go."

Her head then looked down as she played with her fingers and then she turned around to look out the window again.

"Consider it done." He heard her say softly.


Blayne did not participate in any of the conversations during dinner. If asked a direct question she made her answers concise. Arthur kept looking towards Blayne expecting her to shake off her detachment and was disappointed when it never occurred.

"Blayne how about a game of chess?" Diana suggested. Blayne continued to play with her uneaten dessert, seemingly oblivious. "Blayne!"

"What?" Blayne then looked up testily.

All eyes turned towards her.

"I asked you if you wanted to play chess after dinner?" Diana repeated.

"No, I have papers to go over," Blayne said as she got up suddenly. "Please excuse me. Mother, dinner was splendid as always."

"You hardly ate, my dear. Are you feeling all right?"

"Yes, fine," she replied as she left the room without so much as a look towards Gabriella.

Gabriella on the other hand, much like Arthur, kept looking in Blayne's direction all throughout dinner. She was disappointed to see that Blayne had not even looked in her direction when leaving.

Arthur turned and noticed the sullen look in Gabriella's face. "Shall we all have our coffee in the Chinese Parlor?"

"Yes of course Arthur, if you like." Abigail smiled.

"Shall we then?" Arthur stood up and the rest followed.

The conversation was general enough so the possibility of discord was eliminated. Gabriella suddenly realized that Blayne's presence was something that she had taken for granted previously. Blayne's absence, of course, also made Diana reach out to Gabriella.

"When is your exhibition scheduled for?" Diana asked as she sat down next to Gabriella.

"In the spring. We are looking at mid April right now."

"How many pieces will be on display?"

"Between fifteen to twenty pieces."

"Why the uncertainty?" Diana seemed genuinely interested, which pleased Gabriella.

"Well, I have ten completed and I am working on two more right now. I am borrowing three to just show. It kind of depends on inspiration." Gabriella smiled at Diana.

"Hmmm…" Diana nodded and smiled back. "I would like to go if you don't have any objections?"

Gabriella was surprised but pleased. "Yes, I would like that. I'll make sure you get an invite."


"Yes, do send it my dear. I'm sure we would all like to try to attend." Abigail nodded.

"Yes," Arthur said as well. He then noticed Gabriella's pensive expression. "Is that all right with you?"

"I'll have to think about it. I don't want my mother upset." Gabriella directed her comment to Arthur.

Abigail looked away obviously upset.

"I understand, your mother will be there," Arthur said then looked down at his coffee cup.

"My mother has always been there," Gabriella replied and Arthur's head shot up, meeting her gaze.

She was accusing him, he realized, and he had no defense. The room had suddenly become uncomfortable for all of them.

"The lady that fragile?" Chaz asked sarcastically.

"Chaz!" Arthur reprimanded.

"Well father, it does take two you know."

"We can always count on your crassness, Chaz," Diana said in disgust looking towards her mother.

"Well it's true! She didn't get made by only one of them. Her mother is responsible too!" Chaz blurted out with his usual thoughtlessness.

Abigail closed her eyes and looked away.

Gabriella stood up suddenly. "You're quite right, Chaz, it does take two. But, my mother didn't abandon me. She faced it. And yes, she lied. She lied to a lot of people but she did what she had to to keep me."

"Yes, of course that excuses her." Chaz had sunk his teeth in and was not about to let go.

"Chaz be quiet!" Arthur stood up as well.

Abigail covered her face with one hand as her elbow leaned on the arm of the chair she sat in.

"No, it doesn't excuse her lying to me. It doesn't excuse her lying to my father." Tears began to fall down Gabriella's face. "She went against everything that she is and she believes in for me. She loved me enough to do anything it took to keep me."

"Chaz don't be such an ass," Diana said suddenly.

"Please Chaz," Abigail implored looking at her son.

Arthur was fuming but said nothing. Chaz sat down and said nothing else. The room was silent for only a moment.

"If you will all excuse me," Gabriella said as she left the room.

"Chaz, you can be a real ass hole!" Diana spat out.

Abigail got up and left the room too. Arthur looked censoriously towards both Chaz and Diana then left after Abigail.


Blayne looked up at the knocking on the door.

"Come in."

She was surprised to see Gabriella. Blayne stood up as she noticed the tears still present in her face.

"I want to leave now."

"What happened?"

"You promised to be there and you weren't. I don't want to know them. I just want to go home. You can't stop me! Please Blayne, take me home."

Blayne walked around the desk and towards Gabriella.

"If you aren't taking me than I'll leave on my own!"

"Gabriella wait." Blayne grabbed her arm.

"Let go!" She tried pulling out of Blayne's grip but Blayne held on tighter.

"Calm down. What happened?" Blayne pulled her closer.

"I just want to leave," Gabriella sobbed.

Blayne pulled her into her arms. Gabriella tried pulling away only for a moment then her arms went around Blayne and held her tightly as she cried.

"You weren't there," Gabriella said as she cried.

"I'm sorry," Blayne said as she kissed her hair holding her tighter. "It's all right now. I won't leave you alone again."

Blayne kissed her head and her face gently. Gabriella turned her face and she looked up. Blayne's lips kissed her softly. "I'm sorry. You won't be alone again. I promise." She caressed Gabriella's face tenderly.

"Blayne please…"

"Shhh…" She kissed Gabriella again then pulled her deeper into her embrace.

Arthur walked in unannounced. They both turned to him still holding on to one another. Gabriella released Blayne and took a step back. Arthur stared from Gabriella to Blayne.

"Blayne, I need to speak to Gabriella alone. Then I would like to speak with you." Arthur was leaving no room for argument. Blayne felt like a schoolgirl being caught in an infraction, being sent away to be punished appropriately later. She looked towards Gabriella then back to Arthur.




Arthur was visibly angry. "I want to speak to Gabriella, leave us Blayne!"


"Very well. Will you concede to speak with me then?" Arthur could barely control his anger. She had disobeyed him. She had disobeyed him and he was angry. He had specifically told her to stay away from Gabriella.

Blayne suddenly felt Gabriella's hand in her own. She looked down then up to Gabriella's face and what she saw there surprised her.

"Blayne?" Arthur said impatiently.

"It's all right. Go on. We'll talk again later, I promise," Blayne said gently with a reassuring smile to Gabriella. With that one action Gabriella had sealed Blayne's fate. There was no retreat now. She was in for better or for worse.

Gabriella then left them alone. Arthur said nothing for a moment.

"What was that I walked into!" He suddenly voiced his anger.

"You walked into what you created. What happened? What did you all do?" Blayne lashed back.

"Chaz, as usual, was himself," Arthur replied.

"Why didn't you control the situation?" Blayne asked accusingly.

Arthur said nothing and just stared at her.

"What?" She said as she walked away from him. "What do you expect from me?"

"I want you to stay away from my daughter!"

Blayne felt the blow even if no physical contact had been made. She stood silently, waiting and searching his eyes for the man she knew.

Arthur broke eye contact and walked towards a chair and sat down.

"I'm not responsible for what you all do. I can't stop her from coming to me, Arthur." Blayne ran her fingers through her hair as she spoke. "I hate this."

Blayne turned away and Arthur now raised his eyes to her.

"Have you always been this way?" He asked out of nowhere.

"You mean have I always liked women?"

"Yes, that," he replied uncomfortably.

"I've never given it much thought," she said nonchalantly.

"If you've never given it much thought then why her? Why now!" He stood up in agitation. "I'm dying Blayne; why now?"

"Why Elena Agramonte? Why her when you knew you shouldn't?" Blayne asked then looked away sadly. "I don't know why. It just is."

"Then walk away," Arthur insisted as he stood up.

"Like you?" Blayne stood up as well.

"All right! Yes, like me!"

"I can't." Blayne lost all her anger as she said the words. "I can't."

"I want you to go then."

Blayne looked at him and allowed her eyes to show the hurt in them.

"It's best, Blayne."

"Is it that easy for you to turn me away?"

Arthur looked away.

"It's best Blayne."

"For you."

Arthur looked her straight in the eyes unmoved. "Yes, for me."


"No? What is it with you and No?"

"I promised her I would be here until she left. I won't break that promise. I won't." Blayne stood her ground.

"You also promised me something, Blayne."

"What do you want from me, Arthur? I love her goddamn it!" Blayne covered her face as the magnitude of the words that had come out of her mouth hit her.

"You just met her! This is sick, Blayne!"

Blayne remained silent, then she looked up and just stared at him. "Is that how you see me, Father? Am I something repugnant to you now? How am I different? Don't you think if I could tear this out of me I would?" Blayne waited for answers that she knew would never come. "I don't know how to stop it."

Arthur looked away from her and walked around the chair he had been sitting in.

Blayne breathed in deeply.

I love her. Oh God, I love her. She thought over and over again as her eyes looked around the room in desperation.

"Blayne perhaps it's a chemical imbalance or something."

She looked at him not believing what she had just heard. "A chemical imbalance?"

"Yes, a psychiatrist might be able to help you, Blayne," he said hopefully.

Blayne looked down and then turned away from him as she walked towards the window. It was still light out. Nothing had changed and yet everything in her world had.

"I have no chemical imbalance, father. I don't think they've invented a cure for loving someone. You should know that," she said sadly.

"It's not right for you to take advantage of Gabriella."

She turned around and faced him. "What?"

"Don't manipulate her, Blayne. She has a life. Diana needs her. She has a husband, Blayne."

"She doesn't love him!"

"Does she love you?"

Blayne remained silent. He had his mark and went in for the kill. "What about her children and her mother? Elena is old fashioned. Would her children understand Blayne? Even if you were to seduce Gabriella…would she be able to walk away from her mother and her children to be with you?"

Blayne met his eyes as hers filled with tears. "I love her father." The truth of her words hurt. Those words that she never thought she would utter cut at her.

"If you love her, then let her go." Arthur added.

The tears ran freely down Blayne's face. Arthur had never seen her like this and suddenly her weakness touched his heart. "It will be for the best, Blayne," he said softly. At that moment Arthur knew he had convinced her.

She nodded as the tears continued fall down her face. Blayne looked down then up and met her father's eyes again.

Arthur looked away quickly. "All right then. In time you will see that you did the right thing."

He looked towards his daughter again before he left her in the library and again his chest tightened in pain. Blayne would keep her word he knew that. Arthur also realized that they would never ever be this close again.


"Hello Joseph."

"Gabriella? Where are you?"

"In Massachusetts."

"What's going on?" He didn't hide the anger in his voice.

"I had some rather upsetting news less then a week ago," she said and yet she realized it seemed like ages. So much had happened in such a short period of time.

"How could you just take off and not tell me?"

"Joseph, I'm sorry. I guess I wasn't thinking."

"Yes, thinking is not your forte, is it."

"No, I guess not." Gabriella felt drained.

"I'll be home on Thursday. We finished up earlier than expected. Remember we are dinning with the Metcaffs on Saturday. Will you be back by then?" He sounded like he was in a hurry.

"Ummm…. Yes, I should be." Gabriella was suddenly aware of feeling the strain of the day.

"Good, I'll see you no later than Saturday then."

Before she could speak he hung up and it occurred to her that this is the way they spoke on the phone. Neither of them really cared for the other anymore. They acted out of habit, of what was expected rather then the need to connect. The usual feeling of restlessness began to overtake her. At these times she went to her studio. Gabriella thought about trying to find Blayne. Instead, she opted to go for a walk. She needed to move to be active.


Gabriella walked around the grounds. It had begun to get dark but the flora was still visible and the fragrance was wonderful. She leaned down to admire a flower when she heard footsteps. Gabriella turned and she saw Arthur approaching she stood up straight, almost bracing herself in finding herself alone with him.

"Those are Chinese lilies," he pointed to the flowers that she had been admiring only moments before.

Gabriella then looked towards them again then away.

"I'm sorry about everything." Arthur waited expectantly for her next move.

Gabriella looked at him and said nothing. Almost by an inner understanding they both began to walk side by side.

"You have a lovely family," he said suddenly.

Gabriella said nothing as they both continued to walk.

"I would like to meet my grandchildren, Gabriella," he said softly. "I am not asking for forgiveness. I know only time, perhaps, could gain me that with you. Unfortunately, time is the one thing I don't have. I won't say anything to them. I would just like to see them once before I die. Please grant me that." Arthur's words sounded sincere and made her nod her agreement.

"Thank you Gabriella," he said truly moved by her generosity.

"I think I'll go in now," she said suddenly.

"I've spoken with Blayne."

Gabriella turned towards him. "And?"

"She will not be bossing you around anymore."

"I can take care of myself. I don't need you fighting my battles for me," Gabriella said irately.

"Blayne sometimes….is too aggressive."

"At least she knows what she wants and she fights for it."

"Is that an attribute you admire?" Arthur was eyeing his daughter curiously. He had not expected Gabriella to be defending Blayne or excusing her.


"Is that how you see yourself?"

"No, I'm not like her," Gabriella said sadly. "I wish I was."


"It's been a long day. Goodnight." She walked away from him slowly.

"Goodnight," Arthur said as watched her walk back into the house.


Blayne walked up to Gabriella's door and was about to knock when suddenly she seemed to change her mind. She took a step back and as she was about to walk away a voice pulled her back.

"Not up for it, huh?"

Blayne turned to see Gabriella approaching her with a slight smile.

"Scared of me?" Gabriella teased.

"Yes," Blayne smiled back. "You are too formidable of an adversary," she played along.

"I see."

"What do you see?"

"I have power." Gabriella was thoroughly enjoying the game.

"Is that what you think?" Blayne laughed.

"That's what I know." Gabriella said as she stood directly in front of her now.

Blayne couldn't have looked away if she wanted to. Her eyes were fused with those of the lady in front of her. She was about to reach out for Gabriella when suddenly something in Blayne's eyes changed. Gabriella felt the withdrawal before Blayne had taken a step back away from her or seen it clearly in her eyes.

"I concede the field. You win." Blayne waved her hand flamboyantly but they both knew that Blayne had in effect backed down out of fear.

Gabriella decided to change the subject. "You were looking for me?"

Blayne was forced once more to look into her eyes. "Yes." She stood without uttering a word searching Gabriella's face.

"I spoke with Arthur out in the garden."

Blayne blinked and snapped out of the trance she was in. "Are you all right?" She looked at Gabriella's eyes with concern.

"Oddly enough, yes." She looked down. "He asked if he could see the children before…." She trailed off then looked up to see the pain of it register in Blayne's eyes.

"You said yes," Blayne said sadly.

"Yes, I did. You must think I'm crazy," Gabriella said as a nervous giggle escaped her.

"No, I think…." She then looked away.

"You think?"

Blayne looked at her again. "I think you are very generous."

Gabriella kept looking at her expecting words that never came. Blayne was not fighting her. Blayne was pulling away. She could feel it.

"Are you all right?" Gabriella was the one that asked this time.

"Of course, why shouldn't I be?" Blayne said as she laughed and took a few more steps away from Gabriella.

"I feel…"

"You feel?" Blayne asked seriously.

"I can't explain it." Gabriella began to fidget.

"Don't worry. I won't leave you alone. I will be with you till I take you home," Blayne said softly not able to look away from the eyes that begged her for answers of questions that had not been asked.

"Did Arthur say something to you?" Gabriella probed.

"Arthur and I talked and we both agreed on things." Blayne suddenly looked away.

"You two made decision about me?" Gabriella's face began to show her anger.

"Gabriella, it's late. We can talk in the morning." Blayne was about to walk away when Gabriella's hand took a hold of her arm.

Blayne looked down at the hand that hung on to her and then back at Gabriella's face. "Tomorrow. We can talk tomorrow."

"No, I want to talk now." Gabriella insisted as she opened her bedroom door.

"No." Blayne barely whispered as Gabriella pulled her into her bedroom.

Gabriella closed the door behind them then turned to face Blayne. Blayne took a step back then turned and put some distance between them.

"What did you want to discuss?" Blayne said unable to hide what she felt in her eyes.

"What's wrong?" Gabriella asked her as she got closer and closer.

"Nothing." Blayne took another step back and then turned to look out the window beside her.

"It's dark. You can't see anything out there now."

"I have good eyes," Blayne said with a nervous laugh.

Gabriella stared not believing what she was seeing. Blayne was incredible nervous and all she seemed to want was to run. Run away from what?

Blayne couldn't stand the silence and in exasperation she turned to finish the conversation and just leave. "You wanted to talk."

Gabriella stood in front of her now. There was no escape. "You're shaking," Gabriella said softly.

"Am I?" Blayne's response was barely audible. Her eyes were locked with the woman in front of her.

Gabriella's hand caressed her bruised cheek softly. Blayne closed her eyes and leaned into the caress. "Does your face still hurt?"

Blayne's eyes opened slightly. "Not now."

"Blayne," was all that Gabriella said before her lips went and kissed the bruise on the cheek.

Blayne's hands had a life of their own. They went to take a hold of Gabriella then pulled back.

"Is that better?" Gabriella said huskily.

Blayne could hardly breathe as her senses were filled with all that was Gabriella. She closed her eyes tightly and opened them again with a look of desperation.

Gabriella leaned in closer again and kissed Blayne's cheek closer to her mouth this time. "Is that better?"

Blayne was speechless. She was giddy and confused. Her senses were on overdrive and yet she felt powerless to push Gabriella away from her. All of her body was alive and throbbing with a need to connect that she had never experienced before. She could feel her body pulling her, tugging at her to just give in and finally end the misery of the overwhelming hunger that suddenly consumed her. "Gabriella," she groaned and her breath came in short gasps.

Gabriella then went to take a step back when Blayne's hands pulled her hard against her. Her mouth was on Gabriella's neck before she realized what she was doing. Blayne's hands traveled over the body she longed to possess.

"Blayne, no, wait," Gabriella tried pushing her away.

Blayne could no more stop then rid herself of the pounding in her ears. She had become raw nerves and yearning flesh as her body was filled with the pangs of an unquenchable desire to touch and feel and taste the woman in her arms. She ripped Gabriella's blouse and her mouth found a nipple to suck.

"Ahhh…." Gabriella grabbed Blayne's hair and tried pulling her off. "Stop!"

Blayne left the breast and grabbed her by the hair and kissed her hard. She could taste blood in her mouth and she liked it.

"No!" Gabriella pushed her hard.

Blayne stood in front of her dazed and confused. She stared at Gabriella's mouth now stained in blood and her eyes widened in horror. Her eyes reached Gabriella's eyes and saw the fear in them and she took a step back.

An overpowering sense of panic overtook her and she began to have a hard time breathing. One hand reached for her chest as the other reached for the wall. The room was beginning to spin and all she could do was try to breathe but no air seemed to reach her lungs.

"Blayne?" Gabriella was suddenly above her. Her eyes were filled with fear as Gabriella took her in her arms and held her tightly as they both slid to the floor. "It's all right, breathe. Breathe, relax and breathe."

Blayne slowly began to breathe easier, never for one moment loosing eye contact with Gabriella.

Gabriella could still see the hint of panic in those eyes. She held Blayne closer to her and began to caress her, saying soothing words of reassurance that all was well. What was it about this woman that touched her so Gabriella asked herself? One minute Blayne was as fragile as a child and the next she was mauling her. And now her eyes mirrored such fragility that they tugged at something deep inside her.

"It's all right," Gabriella said softly as she caressed her hair and then kissed her forehead. She heard a whimper from Blayne and as her eyes met the woman's in her arms she saw the fear reappear. "You frightened me," Gabriella said honestly.

"I…" she began to breathe deeply again. "Help me up and let me get out of here." Blayne tried getting up but found that her legs did not listen. Tears filled her eyes. "My body betrays me," she cried in exasperation.


"Help me up! I have to go." Blayne tried again and Gabriella helped her to get on her feet.


Blayne did not look at her in the eye again.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry." Blayne let go of Gabriella as she tried to walk away.

"Are you all right?"

She then turned to look at Gabriella again.

"No, I'm not. I have to go. I'm sorry. I can't do this. I want you. Is that what you want to hear? I want you!" Blayne's tears fell over her cheeks again. "I'm not strong enough. I can't do this. Something is wrong with me." Blayne wept as she tried wiping the tears away with the back of her hand.

She stared at Gabriella who still stood merely inches away from her.

"Release me from my promise," Blayne said softly.

"You frightened me," was Gabriella's reply.

"Release me, Gabriella." Blayne begged almost in a whisper. It was more of a prayer. Blayne was asking for so much more.

Gabriella looked at her and realized that the words in the car that day had been real. The knowledge of that touched her more than she cared to admit. Blayne was overwhelmed with such emotions that were now quite visible in her eyes.

"I can't," Gabriella said barely able to believe what she had just said. "I'm afraid, too."

Blayne was barely able to contain the sob that escaped her. Gabriella walked up to her and put her arms around her and leaned her head against her neck. "I'm afraid."

Blayne's arms went up slowly and held her to her and breathed in the scent of her hair. "I need you."

Gabriella looked up and this time Blayne's lips felt soft and warm. Gabriella's hands went up and pulled Blayne closer. Slowly their hands traveled over one another's bodies. The caresses were soft and gentle. One by one garments were removed and once they were both totally naked Blayne pulled back and looked over the body of the woman she was unable to resist. When her eyes went back to Gabriella's eyes she knew that she would never be able to let her go.

Their mouths met just as their bodies fused together. Their need grew and touches became bolder. Somehow they were on the bed. Blayne felt Gabriella's body moving beneath her as her head went back and felt the first wave of pleasure overtake her. Then almost as if time had lapsed in ecstasy Gabriella was above her and both became one. There was no question or doubt, they both gave into the need to satisfy something that was stronger than both of them. Neither knew how it happened but almost as if something inside them still felt the fear hiding, waiting, they held on tightly to one another and that is how they fell asleep and how the first rays of the morning found them. Both still in each other's arms, both bodies still clinging with a need to connect.


A dull and distant pounding woke up Gabriella from a sound sleep.

She opened her eyes suddenly and realized that someone was knocking on the door. Gabriella then turned her head and came upon Blayne's eyes. She looked down and saw their interwoven limbs and the events of the night suddenly filled her mind.

"Gabriella?" The knocking persisted. "It's me, Diana."

Gabriella looked in horror at Blayne. Blayne put her finger on Gabriella's lips and whispered. "Tell her that you just got out of the shower and you are dressing and that you will meet her downstairs in a bit."

Gabriella nodded and did as Blayne suggested.

"Okay, I'll see you downstairs then," Diana said as her footsteps faded away.

Blayne then turned to look at Gabriella as she was still staring at the door.

"Good morning," Blayne said with smile as she tightened her hold around Gabriella's midriff.

Gabriella then turned towards Blayne and tried pulling away. "What's wrong?" Blayne suddenly sat up next to her.

Gabriella still did not look at her.

"Don't worry, darling. Diana will understand," Blayne said as she leaned down and tried to kiss her. Gabriella pushed her away and sat up as she slid her legs down over the bed.

"I don't intend to tell her," Gabriella said bluntly. Gabriella then turned towards Blayne after the silence was not broken.

Both sets of eyes met and Blayne realized that something was wrong. "Explain quickly before I get the wrong idea," Blayne said anxiously.

Gabriella got up, got a robe, and put it on. She then turned towards Blayne. She suddenly looked away unable to look at the woman in front of her who just a moment ago had been in her arms. Looking at Blayne lying naked in the bed that they had shared suddenly disturbed her.

"I don't know what you expect," Gabriella said looking away from Blayne's accusatory eyes.

"Don't do this, Gabriella," Blayne said softly.

"I'm sorry, but I don't know what you expected." Gabriella did not dare to look at Blayne.

Blayne got up and walked over to her.

"Get dressed." Gabriella turned away from her. Blayne froze at the coldness of the words in the rejection.

Blayne was unable to move for a moment; then with all the dignity she could muster she began to pick up her clothes and got dressed. Gabriella never looked in her direction.

"You are your father's daughter after all. Welcome to the family little sister," Blayne said as she closed the door behind her.

Gabriella shut her eyes and wrapped her arms around her body as she dropped to the ground and began to weep.

Blayne slammed the door to her bedroom, took a few steps, and started tearing off her clothes in a rage, then just as suddenly she began to sob holding herself tightly. Her whole body shook as the sobbing racked her body.


Continued in Part Two

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Till There Was You©copyright May 2002
Property of S. Anne Gardner

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