~ Faith's Crossing ~
by Cbzeer

Disclaimers: Uber alert!!! The characters in this story belong to me. And although they do tend to favor (in looks, anyway) a couple of ladies who may seem familiar, no copyright infringement is intended.

Violence: Possibly, you never know with Lex - but once again, nothing too graphic. PG-13 at most.

Subtext: Uh, yep! More like maintext, and again nothing graphic (still not talented enough to write the steamy stuff!).

Quality Disclaimer: Okay, this story picks up right where my first one, Destiny's Bridge, left off. It probably won't make much sense if you don't read my previous story first (shameless plug!). Let me know what you think. I'm still pretty new to this writing thing, so please be gentle. Feedback (good and bad) is accepted at cb.zeer@worldnet.att.net.

Part 1

Chapter 1

Lex woke at her usual time - before the sun had the opportunity to rise. Groaning slightly to herself, the dark haired woman used her right hand to rub her weary eyes, debating with her more practical side that was telling her to get out of bed. Just when she had decided to listen that annoying little internal voice, she felt the small body that was partially draped across her to snuggle even more tightly to her side. Lex sighed. Not like I have a good reason to leave this. Her lips turned upward into a small smile. Not like I'd leave this even if I did have a good reason. She pulled the small woman closer, feeling the blonde head turn upwards.

"Morning." A sleep-roughened voice grumbled, then soft lips kissed Lex's tan throat. "I've got to figure out a way to make you sleep in until at least sunrise, just once." Green eyes tracked up the sharp planes of the rancher's face, absorbing the relaxed look on her companion.

Lex smiled, working her hand under the soft material of the younger woman's sleep shirt, gently scratching the smooth back. "I dunno if you can, but it will certainly be fun watching you try."

Amanda crawled up the long body until their faces were inches apart. "You're on." She dropped her head slightly, brushing her lips gently against Lex's. Feeling strong hands running along the inside of her shirt gently mapping the route of her spine, Amanda deepened the kiss, noticing that the body under hers trembled. "Mmm?" she smiled against the older woman's lips. "Cold?" She loved the way Lex responded to her touch, knowing that she responded to the taller woman in much the same way.

"N?n?no?not?at all." Lex stammered, unable to control her voice when she felt small hands exploring under her shirt - hands that knowingly found just the right places to touch, leaving behind an almost electrical charge. "Amanda?" she cleared her throat, "we shouldn't?" But her body was happily rebelling - arching forward towards the younger woman's touch. "Your?ah? grandparents?" she mumbled, losing the battle as small, soft hands began tracing down towards her stomach, closely followed by insistent bites and small licks from the chuckling blonde's mouth. "They might?oh, God?" her eyes closed as Amanda found a particularly sensitive spot just below her ribs.

"Shhh?" the younger woman murmured. "It's okay, sweetheart?they're at the other end of the hall, and won't be up for hours." She slowly worked the soft shirt up the quivering body below her. "Besides, "she chuckled, "the risk of getting caught is half the fun." Then she stopped talking, and concentrated on the enjoyable task at hand.

Chapter 2

Lex had a small smile on her face as she followed the young blonde down the stairway a few hours later. It had taken all of her considerable willpower to not climb into the shower with Amanda after their pre-dawn activities, especially after the younger woman had gone into great detail as to what she would be missing. She is such a little tease, she smirked, unable to take her eyes off of the gently swaying hips in front of her. So engrossed in her perusal, Lex didn't realize when the small body stopped, and she had to grab the railing to keep them both from falling when she bumped into the lithe form.

Amanda turned around to peer into the rancher's deep blue eyes. "Hey there. Everything okay?"

Snapping back to reality, Lex nodded. "Yeah, sure." Her brows creased into a questioning gaze when the smaller woman grasped her arms and exchanged places with her, putting Lex on the step below her. "What?"

Giving her companion a mischievous smile, Amanda leaned forward, wrapping her arms around the older woman's neck. "Much better." She whispered, looking directly into Lex's eyes before she captured the rancher's lips in a sweet possessive embrace.


Breaking off the kiss reluctantly, Lex slowly turned around to find the source of the interruption. "Oops." She felt Amanda giggle.

At the bottom of the stairs stood Anna Leigh, a gentle smile on her face. "Good morning, you two." Seeing her granddaughter wrap her arms around the tall woman, her smile widened. "I trust you both slept well."

Amanda propped her chin on the broad shoulder in front of her. "Oh, yeah?like a baby." She gently pulled the dark-haired woman closer. "But, then again, I had a pretty good nap on the sofa last night."

"Sorry?but you looked so peaceful, I didn't have the heart to disturb you." Lex unconsciously leaned back into the embrace.

Amanda felt large hands entwine with hers, which were splayed across Lex's flat stomach. "Yeah, but you could have made me get up, instead of carrying me up the stairs."

Anna Leigh saw the taller woman blush slightly. "C'mon. I was just on my way up to tell you two that breakfast is ready."

Giving the older woman a grateful smile, Lex started down the stairs. "Mmm?I was hoping that's what that great smell was."

"Great! I'm starving!" Amanda skipped down the stairs, stopping next to the smiling woman and capturing her hand, then dragging the grinning rancher into the kitchen.

"There's a big surprise!" Lex mumbled to Anna Leigh, who laughed as the small blonde backhanded the tall woman on the stomach.

They all entered the kitchen laughing, causing Jacob to turn around at the counter from where he was pouring a cup of coffee. "Good morning, ladies." He pulled two more mugs from the cabinet. "Coffee?" Hearing thankful groans, he smiled and filled the cups, then turned back towards the women.

"Good morning, Grandpa Jake!" Amanda wrapped her arms around his waist, squeezing tight. Snuggling her face into his chest, she released a heavy sigh. "I've really missed this."

Jacob enveloped her in his arms, returning the hug. Kissing the blonde head beneath his chin, he smiled. "Me too, sweetie. Did you sleep well, Peanut?" Looking to Lex and Anna Leigh he nodded, "Hey there?have a seat, ladies. Breakfast is ready." With a final hug and kiss to his granddaughter, Jacob turned back towards the stove. "Wanna help, Peanut?"

Lex looked at the older woman, a question on her face. Anna Leigh shook her head and smiled. "Better do as he says?sit down, or he'll never serve us!" She pointed at a chair opposite her, and watched the younger woman sit down gingerly.

While the two women got seated at the table, Jacob and Amanda brought over several platters of food. Before sitting down, the small blonde handed Lex a steaming cup of coffee, and gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze. "Here you go?hope you're hungry. Grandpa makes the best omelets I've ever tasted!" she winked at Jacob as he sat down next to his wife.

They spent the majority of the meal talking of the events at the ranch for the past week, with both of the elder Cauble's expressing their shock and concern.

"?and then, after we get back to the house, Martha and I discover that tough-stuff over there," she points at Lex with her fork, "got shot sometime during all that running, and never said a word to either one of us."

Lex sat her coffee mug down on the table. "You're getting it all out of proportion." She looked helplessly at Jacob. "I really didn't notice - it was barely a scratch."

"Yeah, right?a scratch that even now, several days later, is still bleeding." The young blonde gave her companion a dirty look. "Which is why we're going to see Doctor Anderson right after breakfast, right?"

Rolling her eyes, Lex let out a heavy sigh. "Amanda."

Anna Leigh looked across the table at the dark-haired woman. "Is that true?" not waiting for an answer, she expelled a long breath. "Lexington, you run the risk of infection with a wound like that?if it's not already."

"That's what I've been trying to tell her, but she's just so darn stubborn!" Amanda added, sensing another ally in this ongoing battle. "She wouldn't even let me change the dressing on it this morning!" her voice sounded strained.

The tall woman looked over at Jacob, begging with her eyes for some help. Seeing that he was keeping silent, she decided to try and change the subject. "Mr?ah, Jacob - do you know of a good detail shop around here?"

"Sure, Lex?Shuman's on Fourth does excellent work, why?" he had finished his breakfast and was leaning back in his seat, one arm casually draped across the back of his wife's chair.

Amanda leaned forward a bit. "Oh, that's right?you can't see the driveway from here." She smiled broadly. "C'mon, let's go out front and I'll show you!" she jumped to her feet and stepped away from the table. Pulling the equally smiling rancher with her, Amanda almost skipped through the house.

As soon as they reached the door, she turned around to face her grandparents. "Since you can't see the driveway from here, how did you know we were here yesterday? You opened the door before we could even get to it."

Anna Leigh laughed. "You did call and say you were on your way, so we were expecting you. And when we heard the slamming of car doors, we figured it had to be you!" Hand in hand, she and Jacob followed the young women outside, stopping in shock when they saw the little Mustang sitting in the driveway - muddy, but whole. "Oh, my?." She stopped, her free hand over her heart. "How?"

Jacob turned to look at his granddaughter. "But I thought you said?" he noticed that Lex was turning a very unusual shade of pink.

"Lex pulled it out of the creek and then got it running again?she gave it to me the night all the excitement happened." Amanda wrapped an arm around the embarrassed rancher.

"Didn't do that much, really?just let it dry out." She mumbled, not enjoying all the attention.

Jacob came up on her other side, giving her a hug. "Uh-huh?and just how did you get the car out of the creek? Whistle, and it followed?" he enjoyed the look on both young women's faces - Lex's, which was one of pure embarrassment, and Amanda's, who looked as if the idea had never crossed her mind.

"He's right." Amanda looked up at the rancher, who wouldn't meet her gaze. "The car was on the far side of the creek?how did?"she paused, understanding dawning on her features. "You didn't." she whispered, the closing of Lex's eyes telling her everything. "You went back into that cold, heavily running stream, after you had your ribs broken? Are you nuts?" She spun around to get face-to-face with the taller woman, her voice quivering.

Jacob moved back over to where Anna Leigh was standing. "I think we should go in and take care of the breakfast dishes, don't you, sweetheart?" Seeing her nod, he gently grasped her hand and limped into the house.

Lex opened her eyes, hearing the upset in the younger woman's voice. "I?um?you were just so sad about losing that car, and I wanted to do something to cheer you up. Especially after the story you told me on how you got it?" looking into the shining green eyes that took her breath away.

"But, God, Lex?you could have asked me to help you, anyway." Amanda felt her control slipping, then the callused hands cradled her face gently. "When did you??"

"The day I went to get the jeep. I used the wench on it to pull the Mustang out of the water." She kissed Amanda on the nose. "Piece of cake."

Amanda moved her arms up until they were wrapped around the dark-haired woman's neck. "Yeah, right. And just how did you attach the wench to the Mustang?" she saw Lex trying to think up a good answer. "Magic?"

"How'd you guess?" Lex smirked. She felt her head being pulled downwards. "Not buying that, huh?" the tall woman asked, as she leaned down to meet Amanda halfway. Their lips touched, and to Lex time ceased to matter - it was as if all the sounds around them stopped, and all she could hear was the rapid beating of her own heart. A motorcycle suddenly roared by, causing the dark woman to realize where they were standing, so she slowly broke off the kiss.

Amanda brought her arms down and placed one around the tapered waist. "Don't think for a minute that I've been distracted from our little discussion - we'll finish it later." She began to lead the older woman back inside. "But right now, we've got a doctor's appointment to keep."

Chapter 3

Even though she protested about having to go, Lex really liked Doctor Anderson - the elderly physician had taken care of her assorted injuries and illnesses her entire life, and was one of the few people she trusted completely. She and Amanda arrived at his office shortly after the doors were unlocked, which made them the only people sitting in the painfully cheerful waiting room. Since Dr. Anderson was a family practitioner, his office had brightly colored scenes adorning every wall. One wall had a circus theme, making the chairs look like they were inside the Big Top - animals everywhere. Another had a large mural of hot-air balloons, while the last looked like a corral, complete with several horses. Lex chose to sit in the "corral" area to her companion's amusement.

"Always the little cowgirl, huh?" Amanda chuckled as she sat down beside her.

The rancher looked around, and smiled sheepishly. "Uh, well actually, I just like looking at the balloons."

Before they could continue their conversation, the interior door next to the receptionist's window opened, and a small, gray-haired man bent with age stepped into the main room. "Little Lexington Marie! It's been a while, hasn't it child?" he greeted with a strong voice. "Now get yourself in here, and bring your little friend too." He turned and headed down a brightly tiled hallway, gesturing to a door on his left.

Amanda chuckled at the chagrined look on the rancher's face, as she followed after the old doctor. Lex stopped at the door and waited for the younger woman to enter the room before her. "Don't you start." She whispered, getting a giggle in response.

"Come in, come in?close the door behind you." The small bespectacled doctor offered, sitting on a small rolling stool. "Not get over here and hop up on the examination bed, Lexington." He chuckled at her rolled eyes. "Don't give me that look now, or I'll have to call Martha."

Lex sighed, and gingerly sat up on the padded table. "It's probably just a waste of your time, Dr. A., but?"

Ignoring her protestations, he turned towards the young blonde still standing by the door. "Come over her and sit down, honey?" he cocked his head at her and smiled. "I don't believe we've met before, have we?" he held out a wrinkled hand.

Amanda grasped the offered hand, faintly surprised at the strength in it. "No, I don't think so. My name is Amanda Cauble." She gave him an earnest smile.

The doctor held her hand in both of his. "Jacob and Anna Leigh's little Amanda?" Seeing her blush and nod, he laughed. "That's grand?they speak of you all the time. They are so proud of you, my dear." He allowed her to sit down, then turned his attention back to his patient, checking the clipboard his nurse had left in the room. "So?what have you gotten yourself into now, honey?" he laid the paperwork on the stool and adjusted his glasses. "Broken ribs and a gunshot wound?" Dr. Anderson held the end of his stethoscope to warm it up a bit. "I'll bet you really set Martha off after that!" he waited patiently as Lex unbuttoned her shirt, then gently placed the listening device to her chest. "Have you made her mad? You look like you have lost a bit of weight."

"No, just been real busy?she'll fatten me up again in no time." Lex sighed, then flinched when he began to probe the bandage on her side.

"Hurts, huh?" he shook his head. "Got a nasty scrape here, too?" poking the muscular side gently, "Why aren't your ribs wrapped up? Do you want another punctured lung?" The old man began pulling the taped bandage from her side.

"Ow!" Lex jumped sideways slightly. "Could you please leave me some skin?"

Ignoring the tall woman's complaining, the elderly doctor finished removing the gauze and let out a low whistle. "That doesn't look good at all." He mumbled, shaking his head in dismay.

Amanda jumped up from her chair to stand next to him. "What? What's wrong?" she peered around the small man, trying to see what he was looking at.

Running a hand down his face, Dr. Anderson pushed Lex onto her back, then lifted her legs until she was lying flat on the bed. "Might as well get comfortable, girl. We're going to have to open it back up to take care of the infection." He patted her leg. "Let me go get Laura - she's going to have to help me." He left the room to search for his nurse.

The small blonde took a close look at Lex's side. She could see that the area around the wound was very swollen, and the skin had an unhealthy red shine to it. The bruising on her chest was fading, only showing mottled yellow and light purple, and the gash she received in the creek was almost completely healed. The older woman was lying still, her eyes closed. Amanda brushed the dark bangs off of her forehead. "Are you in much pain?"

Blue eyes opened, meeting her concerned gaze. "No?that's what's so strange. It's only a slight ache." She captured the small hand running through her hair and brought it to her lips. "Is this where you tell me, 'I told you so?'" she teased, trying to get a smile from the worried young woman.

"No, Lex?this is where I say, 'I wish I wasn't right', because I hate seeing you go through this?" Amanda looked at the wound again. "That looks really bad?I can't believe it's not hurting you?I hurt just looking at it."

Doctor Anderson came back in the room, followed by a young woman about the same age as Lex. "See? I told you we wouldn't be long." He told the waiting women. "Laura, this is?" he was about to introduce Amanda when the small red-haired nurse spoke up.

"Amanda? How's your grandfather?" she walked over and gave the young blonde a hug, a huge smile on her face.

"He's doing great, thanks." Amanda stepped back, but kept one hand on the nurse's arm. "Talks about you quite a bit?says you're the best nurse he had."

Laura laughed. "That's just because I snuck him a milkshake every now and then." She looked over at the exam table. "Lex?it's been a while, hasn't it?" She gave Amanda's hand a gentle pat, then walked over to the table. "What have you done to yourself this time? Wreck a car? Fall off of a horse?"

Doctor Anderson had put on rubber gloves, and pulled a rolling tray next to Laura. "No, actually something different, this time. Gunshot." He grinned as his nurse paled slightly.

"Gunshot?" She looked at the wound. "Dear Lord, Lex?do you thrive on trouble?" she gave the rancher's shoulder a slight squeeze. Turning to Amanda, "You don't have to watch?we'll come get you as soon as we're done."

The young blonde shook her head. "I'd rather stay, for moral support. If I won't be in the way." She saw the grateful look on the rancher's face.

"No?not at all." Laura pulled on her own gloves, "you can sit right over there." She pointed at a chair by Lex's head. "Maybe with you here, we won't be subjected to your friend's bad language." She almost laughed out loud at the nasty look the woman on the bed was giving her.

"Hey! It wasn't my fault! That needle was huge!" Lex countered, glad that Laura was helping her in the effort to distract the young blonde.

Laura reached over to the rolling cart and grinned. "You think that one was big??" she took the protective cap off of the syringe that she was holding, "I get to give you three of these!"

The doctor laughed. "Laura, don't tease my patient." He gave Lex a friendly pat on the leg. "Now, we're going to give you a local anesthetic, so try not to kick my nurse, okay?"

Rolling her eyes, Lex nodded. "Okay. But she could at least pretend not to enjoy it so much." This with a mock glare to the redhead. "I don't remember you being this sadistic in school."

"That's just because you didn't know me like you do now." The nurse retorted. "Now sit still, and I'll try to be gentle."

Chapter 4

"Do you really think that's such a good idea, Lex? The doctor said you should just lie down and take it easy for the rest of the day." Amanda sat up straighter, straining to see over the tall steering wheel. They had dropped off the Mustang at the detail shop and picked up Lex's truck before going to the doctor's office, and the young blonde felt somewhat dwarfed by the large customized Dodge pickup.

Lex turned her head to look at Amanda, who was sitting with one leg tucked under her so that she could see over the steering wheel. "The bank is on the same street as the pharmacy, it won't take me but a minute to go in."

Stopped at a light, Amanda looked over at her passenger. Lex was unusually pale, and her eyes had a slightly glazed look to them. "Why don't you let me take you home, and then I'll go pick up your prescription?"

"I really need to pick up that paperwork at the bank - I called Mr. Collins yesterday, and said I would be in today to meet with him." She closed her eyes as another wave of dizziness washed over her.

Amanda grasped the arm nearest her. "I'm sure he'd understand?"

"Maybe?but I won't be able to get any rest until I can look at those papers." She maneuvered her arm until she was holding Amanda's hand. "Please, Amanda?I promise to make it quick." Seeing the younger woman begin to waver, she added, "You can come in with me to make sure, okay?"

Amanda didn't say anything, but she pulled the large truck up to the bank and turned it off. "Five minutes, Lex?then we're going to pick up your prescriptions, and I'm taking you home and putting you to bed." Seeing the smirk on the older woman's face, she groaned, "You know what I mean."

Lex laughed, then slowly got out of the truck. "What? I didn't say a word." She held the door open for her companion.

A short heavyset man in an expensive suit met them just inside the door. "Ms. Walters! What a pleasure to see you again." He grabbed her hand and began to shake it wildly. "Please, come into my office." Pausing, he looked at the young woman standing next to the tall rancher. "Oh, excuse me, miss??"

Lex turned slightly towards the smaller woman. "Sorry?Mr. Collins, this is a very good friend of mine, Amanda Cauble." She gestured towards the banker. "Amanda, this is Mr. Collins, the president of this fine institution." She smiled as the banker blushed.

"That is too kind of you to say, Ms. Walters." He led them to a glassed-in office in the corner of the building, and gestured them inside. "Please, have a seat." After Lex and Amanda sat down, the slightly balding man closed the door and then sat down behind an ornate oak desk. "I received your email, Ms. Walters, and personally gathered up the information you had requested. And?" He pulled out a small attaché case from under the desk, "not only was I discreet in my research, but I put everything in this case for you." His pudgy hands shook slightly. "You don't believe that anyone here at the bank would be involved in any illegal activities, do you?"

Lex waved a hand in the air to cut him off. "No, of course not, Mr. Collins?I just felt that the fewer people who knew about this, the better off we would all be."

The bank president visibly relaxed. "Ah, that's fine?just fine. We will do anything to keep one of our best customers happy."

Amanda cleared her throat discreetly, then casually looked over at the dark-haired woman sitting beside her.

Lex smirked then slowly stood up, extending her hand across the desk. "Mr. Collins, it's been a pleasure doing business with you, but I'm afraid I have another appointment to get to."

"No problem, Ms. Walters?you have my home number if you need anything else, right?" he pumped her hand enthusiastically.

Lex winced, then disentangled her hand from the beaming banker, and picked up the attaché case. "You'll be the first one I call, Mr. Collins." The tall woman turned and ushered Amanda out of the room.

Chapter 5

Amanda rushed out of the pharmacy as soon as she was given Lex's prescriptions. So intent on her thoughts, she didn't see the large man about to go through the door. "Ooof! Excuse me?" Stumbling back, she glanced up and saw whom she ran into.

"Well, well?hello there, sweet thing." The deep voice drawled. "Fancy meeting you here - come in to pick up your birth control pills?" Rick Thompson blocked her exit, standing in front of Amanda with his thick arms crossed over his chest.

Why do I have the sudden urge to go home and shower? Yuck! "Ah, no?and if you'll excuse me, I have someone waiting for me." She tried to edge past the big man, who grabbed her arm to stop her.

"Wait! I just want to talk to you for a minute. When will you be coming back to work?" he let the small woman wriggle out of his grasp, confident that she wouldn't go anywhere. Amused, Rick decided to see just how far he could push the little blonde. "So?have you had a nice vacation?" he sneered.

"You sonofabitch!" Amanda pulled her arm back and slapped him, hard.

Rick had actually been knocked back a step. "Why you little bitch?I'll?" stepping forward, he reached for Amanda, only to be stopped by a strong grip on his shoulder. "What?!?"

He spun around, ready to pound on whoever had decided to interfere.

Ice blue eyes glared into his. "Problem?" Lex inquired coolly, even though it took all that she had to control the urge to knock the large man into next week.

"Mind your own damn business, Walters." He ranted, "the little whore slapped me!" his tirade was stopped when Lex grabbed two handfuls of his suit coat, pulling him into her face.

"So? Knowing you, you probably deserved it!" Lex growled. "Wanna try picking on someone your own size?"

"Why? What's it to you?" his bravado fading, Rick's tone turned more wheedling.

"She's a friend of mine, asshole!" Lex could feel her heart pounding in anger, which in turn caused her newly stitched wound to throb painfully.

Amanda took the opportunity to step around Rick, and moved to stand behind the agitated rancher. Placing a cautious hand on Lex's back, she whispered, "Let it go?he's not worth it."

Releasing her hold on his jacket, Lex stepped back and took a deep breath. Seeing the big man begin to smile, she stepped back into his face. "And?" she dropped her voice to a menacing drawl, "If I ever hear of you speaking about her that way again, they're gonna have to use Velcro to put you back together." She turned her back on him to leave.

"This ain't over yet, by a longshot!" he yelled halfheartedly, after realizing a small crowd had gathered. "You'd better be careful who you're threatening around here!" Rick waved a fist at the departing women.

Neither woman turned around, but Lex waved a bored hand over her head. "Yeah, right." She followed the small blonde back to the truck, climbing inside.

Amanda closed her door and leaned on the steering wheel. She looked over at Lex, who was slumped in her seat, eyes closed. "Are you alright?"

The rancher visibly pulled herself together and sighed. "Yeah?that jerk has always been able to yank my chain." She looked at the younger woman closely. "He didn't hurt you, did he?"

Amanda gave her a strained smile, then started the truck. "Only the inside of my hand when I slapped him." She flexed the hand in question, then pulled the large vehicle out of the parking lot. "Let's go home." She gave her passenger a real smile, "So I can tuck you into bed."

"Mmm?I think I can handle that," Lex returned her smile. Then her eyes closed, almost against her will. "Damn, Laura musta gave me some sort of sedative?I can barely stay awake." She mumbled, her head falling back against the seat.

"Yeah, she did say that she was going to give you something to help you relax?" Amanda's voice trailed off when she saw that the older woman had fallen asleep. She felt a strong protective urge come over her. Rick's real lucky he didn't start anything with her?or I would have done more than just slap him. She drove the rest of the way home in contemplative silence, taking her time and avoiding the main streets, since they were normally rougher riding, and she didn't want her companion jarred anymore than necessary.

Pulling up in the driveway, Amanda noticed that her grandparents were walking out to the Suburban. Climbing out of the truck, she met them halfway, as they had started towards her when she drove up.

"Mandy! Sweetheart," Anna Leigh wrapped her granddaughter up in a loving hug. "We were getting concerned?you've been gone for hours." She looked towards the truck. "Is Lexington going to come inside?"

Jacob had made his way over to where the two women were standing. "You just caught us on our way to the car dealership?they called to say Anna Leigh's new car was ready." He had been driving his wife's car when a drunk driver hit him six months ago. They had waited to order her a new one until last month, since Jacob had not been cleared by the doctor until recently.

"Hi, Grandpa." Amanda stepped into his welcoming arms. "I take it you've finally been given a clean bill of health?" She backed off a step and smiled at her grandmother. "Lex fell asleep on the drive back. They had to reopen the bullet wound because it was infected, and Laura," this with a smile to Jacob, "gave her a sedative to keep her calm."

Jacob smiled. "How is Laura? She was such a sweetheart to me?although I think I gained a few pounds from those contraband milkshakes she kept sneaking in to me." He looked at the sleeping figure in the truck. "Do you need any help getting Lex into the house?"

Amanda followed his gaze, her eyes softening as she looked at the dozing rancher. "No?I'll wake her up in a minute. At least I should be able to get her to rest today." She gave both of them a hug. "You two go ahead and pick up that new car?I can't wait to see it!" she ushered them back to the Suburban.

Once Jacob and Anna Leigh had driven off, Amanda walked back over to the hunter green 4x4. She opened the passenger door slowly, so as not to startle the sleeping woman. "Lex?" spoken quietly. "Honey, it's time to wake up." She brushed the bangs out of the dark woman's eyes, which slowly opened at her touch. "Hey there."

Lex looked around, somewhat disoriented. "Umm?" she cleared her throat, "Hi." Blinking a couple of times, she finally recognized where they were. "Sorry?didn't mean to drop off like that." She wiped a shaky hand across her face.

"Don't worry about it." Amanda unclipped the seat belt holding her in. "Think you can make it into the house?"

Rolling her eyes, Lex sighed. "Relax, I'm fine?just a little drugged up." She sat up and swung her legs out of the truck.

Amanda took a step back, but stayed within arms' distance. "Okay?well, I'm staying right here, just in case." Daring the other woman to argue with her.

"Waste of time?" Lex stepped down from the truck, but her legs began to buckle as soon as she put her weight on them. "Whoa!"

Amanda jumped forward and caught Lex before she fell. Wrapping her arm around the taller woman, she chastised, "Teach you to not listen to me!" She started towards the house slowly, "Of all the stubborn, pig-headed?"

"Hey!" Lex complained, but held on tightly to the small blonde, "I just wasn't awake yet." She grumbled, allowing Amanda to guide her into the house, and then up the stairs.

Walking into their bedroom, Amanda wordlessly drug Lex towards the bed, pulling the comforter back and then pushed Lex down gently. She lifted the rancher's feet up, removed her boots, and then began to unsnap her jeans.

"If you were trying to get me into bed, all you had to do was say so." Lex teased, trying to gauge the other woman's mood. Reaching down to help, she was startled when her hands were batted away. "What?"

Amanda pulled the jeans off of the long legs, folded them neatly and placed them on a nearby chair. "Hush." Lifting the covers back over the tall form, the small blonde went into the adjoining bathroom and brought out a glass of water, stopping to grab the prescription bottles from her purse. "Here?take these. I'm going to go downstairs and get you something to eat."

Puzzled, Lex did as she was told. "Okay?are you mad at me?" She sat the glass down on the bedside table.

Stopping at the doorway, Amanda realized how she must have looked to the other woman. "No honey, I'm not." She walked back over to the bed and sat next to the older woman. "I'm sorry?I just wanted to get you settled before you fell asleep again." She brought a hand up and caressed the tan cheek. "I'll be right back." Standing up, Amanda leaned over and kissed Lex on the top of her head. "Behave yourself for a few minutes."

"Yes ma'am?" Lex realized that she wasn't going to win any arguments today. "Could you do me a favor and bring the bank papers back with you? I'd really like to start looking over them." This with a pleading smile.

"Sure?if you promise to get some rest first." Amanda countered, standing at the doorway. "I'll even help you if you want."

Lex leaned back against the pillows. "It's a deal." She felt another wave of lethargy wash over her. What in the hell did they give me? I feel like I could sleep for a week! Closing her eyes, the exhausted woman didn't even notice when Amanda snuck from the room.

Chapter 6

Amanda was sitting at the kitchen table nursing a cup of coffee, when Jacob and Anna Leigh returned from the dealership some time later.

"Peanut, is everything okay?" Jacob sat down next to her, concern etched on his strong face.

"Hmm? Oh, sure, Grandpa." She released a heavy sigh. "Just thinking." Looking across the room to her grandmother, she gave a wry smile. "Mother called while you were gone."

Anna Leigh sat down on the other side of the young woman. "Oh?is there anything wrong, dear?"

Amanda shook her head. "No?she called to see how Grandpa was feeling, and to find out why I haven't called her for so long. I told her that everything was great, and that you'd gone to pick up your new car." Taking a deep breath, she almost whispered, "Mother says since I'm 'not needed' here anymore, she wants me to come back to Los Angeles and help her with the gallery."

Jacob put a strong arm around his granddaughter's shoulders. "Help with the gallery? She rarely spends any time there herself these days." He looked at his wife. "I wonder what she's up to now?"

"Maybe she just misses you, Mandy." Anna Leigh tried to be tactful. Fact was, Elizabeth Cauble only seemed interested in her children when she needed something from them. "Did she give you any other reason for wanting you to come back?"

Amanda ran her hand through her long blonde hair in agitation. "Not really?she did say that she and Dad were about to go out of the country again. But she usually leaves Jeannie in charge of the gallery, so I don't know why she wants me there." Her older sister was basically a younger model of her mother, much to Jacob and Anna Leigh's dismay. Amanda wiped a tear from her eye. "I told her I wanted to stay here permanently, because I've found someone that I truly care about, and that I am happy for the first time in a very long time."

Anna Leigh squeezed her hand. "What did Elizabeth say about that?"

"She said that I was too young to know what I wanted." She sat up straighter. "And that this was just a 'phase' I'm going through." Amanda gave her grandmother a resolved look. "It's not a phase, Gramma?I've never felt anything more?right. And I'm not giving this up."

Jacob pulled her close. "We're both behind you one hundred percent, sweetheart." He looked over at his wife. "Funny thing is, I think you were told the same thing when we first started dating."

"C'mon, Anna?hurry up!" the diminutive redhead yelled, jogging towards the lake.

Anna Leigh laughed, and followed her best friend, not noticing the young man carrying an armful of wood crossing the path in front of her. "Ooof!" she knocked him down, scattering the wood everywhere. "Oh, my?I'm so sorry!" she apologized, helping the boy to his feet. Taking a close look, Anna realized that this was no boy?he was probably seventeen, a good year older than she was. Tall, and very nice looking, the young man was now covered with a layer of dirt from the path. "Are you okay?"

Jacob Cauble looked at the young woman that he had fallen for, literally. "Uh, yeah?I'm sorry I was in your way. Are you alright?" He dusted himself off, caught in her bright green eyes.

Anna laughed. "I'm fine..."she looked up into his shining blue eyes, "Where are my manners? My name is Anna Leigh." She reached out with a slender hand.

He wiped his hand on his shirt. "Jacob Cauble. Pleased to meet you."

They spent the entire summer together, since both of them were staying at the lake. She with her high society friends, and he with his job as assistant to the maintenance man. Jacob thought that Anna must work around the cabins, and Anna assumed that he was there as a guest. As the summer came to a close, each found that they had been wrong about the other's background, but didn't seem to care.

"Anna Leigh," Jacob felt her snuggle closer to him as they watched the moon over the lake one evening, "I love you with all my heart and soul?I just wish I could offer you more."

She kissed his strong jaw. "Jacob, my love?you have given me more this summer than I ever dreamed possible."

He backed away from her, then bent to one knee. "I can't give you much, but I would be honored if you would consent to become my wife." He pulled out a small silver ring, which normally graced his pinkie on his right hand. "This was my great-grandmother's wedding ring, and it would make me proud if you would wear it until I could get you a proper engagement ring."

"Oh, Jacob?"she pulled him close. "I would be proud to be your wife." She allowed him to place the small ring on her finger, which was a perfect fit. "And if you dare try to replace this with something else, I may have to thump you!"

They went to tell her parents together, hoping that their obvious love would override any objections they may have.

"Absolutely not! No daughter of mine is going to marry some money-grubbing carpenter!" Robert Winston roared, pulling the young woman from Jacob's arms. "Get up to your room this minute!" he pushed her towards the stairs.

"With all due respect, sir?" Jacob began, trying to reach his beloved.

"Get out of my house!" Robert pushed the young man back, waiting for the butler to grab him. "And stay away from my daughter!"

Jacob struggled, then stopped as he saw Anna Leigh begin to cry. "I love you, Anna Leigh. Don't give up on us!" he yelled, as he was bodily drug from the house.

The next day, a weeping Anna Leigh was put on a passenger ship to Paris by her father, who hoped that the vacation would bring the young woman back to her senses.

Anna Leigh laughed. "I'd forgotten all about that." She looked down at the small silver band on her right hand. Seeing Amanda's questioning look, she explained, "My family was considered to be in the upper echelon of Austin society at that time? Daddy thought your grandfather was 'beneath my station' - he even went so far as to send me to Paris for one summer." She smiled in remembrance. "I had been there for six miserable weeks, when a certain young gentleman showed up on my doorstep."

"Grandpa?" Amanda whispered, mesmerized by the story. "How did??" she looked at her grandfather, who had a slight blush on his face - much to the delight of his wife.

"Well, since Jacob didn't have the kind of money needed for passage, he worked his way across on a ship. I believe it was a cattle ship, wasn't it dear?" she smiled.

Jacob finally laughed. "Oh yeah?shoveling sh?er, by-product for almost five weeks - talk about an adventure!" Seeing the delighted smile on his granddaughter's face, he knew that they had successfully sidetracked her from her previous depression. "To this day, I can't even look at a bag of fertilizer without traumatic flashbacks!" he joked.

"Guess that means you won't be out to visit the ranch anytime soon, huh?" A sultry voice teased from the doorway.

"Lex! What are you doing up?" Amanda jumped up from the table and hurried over to the rancher. "You should be in bed!" she chastised.

The tall woman allowed herself to be steered to the table and guided into a chair. "I feel much better now, especially since I've finally got all that medication out of my system." She grinned at Jacob and Anna Leigh, "Remind me to get even with Laura next time I see her."

Jacob chuckled. "She's pretty good at that, I remember." He gave the dark-haired woman a stern look. "You really should be in bed resting, Lex. You still look pretty pale."

"Oh, no?I hate lying in bed - makes me feel like I'm sick, or something." Lex raised a hand to stop Amanda before she could add anything. "I really feel fine. Besides, I've got some paperwork to start looking over." She quirked a brow at the young blonde.

Amanda sighed, realizing she would not win this round. "Okay, but only for a little while - then you're going to get some more rest, or else."

"Or else what?" Lex smirked, glancing over at Jacob, who was trying not to laugh.

Watch out, my young friend?little Amanda's a lot tougher than she looks, he grinned, looking at his wife.

The small blonde put her hand on Lex's shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze. "Or else I'll call Martha, and tell her you're not taking care of yourself?" she loved the scowl that replaced the cocky smile on the rancher's face, "and I'm sure she'll be glad to haul you back out to the ranch for a little TLC."

"You wouldn't?." Lex countered, "you would!" seeing the gleefully evil grin that covered Amanda's face. "Alright!" She let out a long breath. "You win, for now, anyway."

Trying to stop the battle, Anna Leigh decided on another tact. "Lexington, you are quite welcome to use our office - the desk is more than large enough to work on, I believe."

The rancher gave the older woman a relieved smile. "Thank you, Mrs. Cauble, uh, I mean Anna Leigh?" an apologetic quirk of her lips. That's going to take some getting used to, I think. "I really appreciate you allowing me to stay here while I get some business taken care of, especially since my brother and I are not getting along very well right now, and I couldn't very well stay at his house." Yeah, that's an understatement.

"C'mon," Amanda grabbed her hand and pulled the taller woman to her feet, "I'll show you where the office is, and help you get settled." She smiled at her grandparents as she led the rancher out of the room.

Chapter 7

Amanda led the taller woman through the house, pulling her into a spacious room off of the main hall. Large bay windows with cheery curtains brightened the room, which had a large cherry wood desk sitting in front of the windows, and several oversized chairs were scattered around the room.

"This is where Gramma keeps track of things at the real estate office, even though she officially retired a couple of years ago." Amanda explained, showing Lex the large computer occupying one whole side of the desk. "She keeps at me to take over for her, but until recently I really didn't have any good reason to live here permanently." A sweet smile at the rancher. "C'mon, let's sit down for a minute before you get too engrossed in paperwork." She sat the taller woman down on the sofa.

Lex watched as the younger woman nervously played with their still-clasped hands, a small tremor of fear running through her. Something's bothering her?bite the bullet time, I think. "Amanda?" she used her free hand to lift the small woman's chin up, so that they were looking eye-to-eye. "What's the matter?" Seeing a small sparkle of tears in those sea-green eyes, a lump formed in her throat. "You know you can tell me, right?"

"I know?it's just kind of hard to explain. I'm twenty-three years old, and yet every time my mother calls, I feel like I'm sixteen again." She felt the reassuring grip on her hand tighten slightly. "I spoke to my mother earlier today?she wants me to come back to Los Angeles and work in her art gallery."

Lex stiffened. "And?" she had to clear her throat, "What do you want?" Feeling her heart pound, the older woman tried valiantly to appear calm. The woman sitting next to her must have noticed, because she scooted closer, almost sitting in her lap.

"I want?" she pulled their linked hands up to her lips, "to stay here." She kissed the large hand in hers, "I want to tell my grandmother that I would be glad to run her office for her, and?" Amanda was unable to finish her thought, as she was pulled up into Lex's arms, and her mouth was captured in a passionate kiss. Giving up words, the young woman tangled her hands in ebony waves, pulling Lex to her with almost inhuman strength. She trembled as she felt strong hands begin to roam across her back, mapping across her shirt with sweet urgency. Pulling back to look at Lex's face, Amanda whispered, "I just found you." Seeing answering tears shine in those incredible blue eyes, "And I'm not ready to give you up?not for my mother, and not for anyone."

Lex looked into the younger woman's eyes, and saw a fierce determination there. She really means this. Feeling her misgivings crumble beneath that gaze, Lex tried to think of words to convey what she was feeling in her heart. "I love you." Feeling totally inadequate, until she saw the answering smile break across Amanda's face.

"I love you too." Amanda murmured, leaning forward to place a gentle kiss on the rancher's mouth. Breaking off, she snuggled her face into the tan neck, happy to simply absorb the feeling of love that seemed to surround her.

They sat there quietly for a while, both content to just hold the other, until a ringing phone made them both jump. Amanda regretfully slipped off of Lex's lap, and had just curled up next to her when Anna Leigh came into the room.

"I'm sorry to disturb you, Mandy?but your father is on the phone, and wants to talk to you." The older woman looked upset.

"Gramma? Are you okay?" Amanda stood and walked over to her grandmother. "Did Dad say something to upset you?" She felt Lex come up behind her and place a comforting hand on the small of her back.

Anna Leigh took a deep breath. "I'm fine, sweetheart." She gave her granddaughter a wry smile. "God knows I love my son, but he can be so small minded at times. I've often wondered where we went wrong with him." But she did know?her parents, trying to make up for losing their daughter to a 'working man,' gave young Michael the best of everything, even when Jacob and Anna Leigh strenuously argued against it. He was showered with expensive clothes, fancy cars, and had decided at an early age that money was the most important thing in the world, no matter how much his parents tried to tell him otherwise. And when his grandparents introduced him to a young socialite from a wealthy family, Michael immediately saw his opportunity, and proposed.

How on earth did our sweet little Amanda come from such a business-like merger? Anna Leigh often wondered to herself.

"Guess I'd better get this over with." Amanda walked over to the desk and picked up the phone. "Hello, Dad." She listened for a few minutes, her normally cheerful demeanor becoming more clouded by the minute. Looking across the room, she saw that Lex and her grandmother were in a deep discussion. Putting her hand over the mouthpiece, she whispered, "Lex?" no other words need be spoken, as the tall woman crossed the room quickly to pull the small blonde into her arms.

Looks like she's in good hands, now. Anna Leigh left the room quietly, closing the door behind her.

"I know what Mother wants, but as I told her earlier today, I'm staying here in Somerville." Tears welled up in her eyes as she listened to her father's tirade. "I'm a grown woman, Dad? I love you and Mother, but there's nothing there for me anymore." She took a deep breath as Lex pulled her tight, kissing her lightly on top of her head. "I've found someone I love very much, and I'm very happy here." She leaned back into the strong arms now supporting her. "Yes, Gramma and Grandpa know about it. She's staying here with us now." Amanda pulled the phone away from her ear as he father began to rant in earnest now. "NO! She's not like that! They have accepted my choices, why can't you?" Amanda felt tears of frustration fall down her face. "I'm sorry you feel that way, Father." She slowly laid the phone back on its base, then turned and tucked herself into the strong body behind her. "Oh, God?" she began to cry.

Lex was at a loss. What can I say to her without sounding like a selfish fool? "Shhh?it's gonna be alright, sweetheart." She whispered into the nearby ear.

Amanda cried herself out, feeling a deep sense of loss. "He doesn't want anything to do with me until I 'come to my senses'." She sighed. "He says all you want is my money, and that you're just using me." She looked up, expecting to see anger.

Laughing out loud, Lex gave Amanda a strong squeeze. "You're kidding, right?" she continued to chuckle, releasing her grasp on the younger woman and stepping over to a small table, where the attaché case from the bank was lying. Pulling out an envelope, she handed the smaller woman a piece of paper. "Read the balance on the statement." She grinned.

Amanda gave her a questioning gaze, but did as she asked and looked down at the bank statement. No wonder she's smiling?she has more money than both my parents have combined! "You're kidding, right?" Looking up at the grin stretched across the rancher's face.

Lex shook her head. "Nope. My mother was evidently from a very well-to-do family?and with the investments I've made in the past few years, it's safe to say that I won't be trying to clean out your bank accounts in the middle of the night." She smiled.

"Not that I ever had any worries in that regard, Lex. I don't use my parent's money - which has also caused quite a few arguments." Amanda crossed to where the taller woman was standing and stepped into her arms. "I don't care if you were just a poor ranch hand, I'd still be in love with you."

Lex kissed her temple. "I know?and you should know that I fell in love with you the moment I pulled you out of the creek. I had no idea who you were, but there was something about you?" she pulled the smaller woman closer. "So, are you going to help me read all these damn reports? Maybe you can figure out where all the money is going."

Amanda allowed herself to be led back over to the desk, sitting in a nearby chair. "Sure. I help with the bookwork at the office all the time - I love numbers."

Grinning at the younger woman, Lex handed her a pile of papers. "Maybe I should hire you to do my paperwork at the ranch? I hate sitting in an office when I can be outside doing something instead."

"I'd love to." Amanda smiled. "What are you willing to pay?" She asked, sorting the papers into some semblance of order.

Lex gave her a sexy smile. "I think we could work something out." She started dividing the papers she had into neat little piles.

They worked quietly for almost two hours, each woman studying the papers before her. Amanda finally found a pattern to the losses, pointing it out to the older woman. "Look. This is the third time I've seen this." She handed the paper to Lex.

"Now that you mentioned it, I've seen it a couple of times myself." Lex dug through a pile, then jumped to her feet. "That sonofabitch!" She threw the papers down and began to stomp through the room. "I'll kill him!"

Continued in Part 2

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