Carrie Ryan & K. Darblyne



"...Follow your heart and swear by the ones that you love..."

Installment 2–11 – As The Candle Burns

The door to the break room at Brownstone opened and a nerdy-looking young man exited the room, but not before holding a glass up to the fluorescent light to examine it more closely.  He rubbed it against his chest once making sure not to dislodge his plastic pocket protector, then lifted it up for inspection again.  A few strands of wavy brown hair fell into his face and he pushed them away with his free hand. 


“Now that’s what I like to see.  Not a smudge on it.”  He smiled contently heading over to the water cooler a few feet down the hallway and filled the glass. 


“Hey.”  The greeting was simple and friendly coming from a rather casually clad woman with a pencil behind one ear and a can of diet cola in the other.  “How’s it going, Tom?


“Hi,” he lifted his eyes from the glass of water and looked her way before taking a sip. 

“Can you believe it’s May already?  I can’t.”  Tom stated in an effort to start a conversation.


The woman glanced over her shoulder when she heard footsteps coming down the hall.  “Hey, Pat.”  She lifted her head in a greeting.


“Morning, Sylvie.”  The jean-clad young woman yawned.  “Sorry guys, didn’t get much sleep last night.  I was babysitting a friend with a bad hangover.”  She looked around the hallway.  “Brooke’s not in yet, is she?”

“Don’t worry, the boss isn’t here yet.”  The graphic artist shrugged her shoulders then peered into the opening of her can.  “She’ll be here though.”  Sylvie took a drink.  “She always is unless she’s out of town.”


Tom pushed his hair out of his eyes once more and took another drink.  “You’re right,” the accountant stuck to the facts.  “I haven’t seen her or Sam this morning.”


“They must have had another wild weekend, too.”  Pat blinked innocently when all eyes turned in her direction.  “I mean…they’re gone from the office at least one weekend a month.  They’ve got to be doing something with that time.”  She looked away innocently.


“Like a rocker needs a reason to be wild,” Tom smirked.  “So what’s your reason?  Last time I checked the closest you’ve ever come to being a rocker was playing with someone’s organ.”


Pat glared at the man.  “At least I get a handle on it.”


“What do you know?  Spill it, Pat.”  Sylvie demanded.


“I heard Sam wanted Brooke’s tattoo to be gone.”  She proceeded to the cooler, taking a paper cup from the sleeve.  “You know, the one of the drums on her back.  That’s why they went to Richmond.  I saw them there myself, about two months ago.”


“Why there?”  Sylvie took a sip from her can.  “What’s so special about Richmond?”


“Less publicity,” Pat looked at the paper cup in her hand.  “No one cares about rockers in Richmond.”


“That’s not what I heard.”  Tom leaned in to whisper.  “Linda told me it was for marriage counseling.”  The accountant nodded smugly.  “I knew it wouldn’t last with their age difference.” 


“Age difference?”  Pat squawked.  “What time warp are you living in?  I’ve already dated someone twenty years older than me.”


“Now that’s what I call cradle robbing,” Tom sneered back.  “So tell us, Pat, how wild can a weekend get with a geriatric?”


“Hey!  Hey!  Let’s get back to the topic at hand.”  Sylvie piped up.


“The topic…it was marriage counseling,” Tom interjected, “for Brooke and Sam.”


“And you believe that?”  Sylvie looked skeptical.  “Like Linda is buddies with Brooke…or even Sam for that matter.”  The artist shook her head and stepped forward in anticipation of the mail cart that was headed down the hall.  “You should know better than to listen to anything that woman says about those two.” 


The accountant looked up from his glass of water and acknowledged the figure coming toward them.  “Hi, Pepper.”


“Hi ya’, Tom.”  The mail clerk flashed a bright smile and slowed her cart to a halt.  “Sylvie…Pat.  What’s the scuttlebutt around the cooler today?”


“Long weekend and the boss isn’t in yet.”  The graphic artist dangled a speculative carrot out in front of the office gossip.


“Well…” the clerk rubbed her noise.  “I heard they were interviewing unwed mothers and trying to arrange an adoption.”  Pepper watched as three sets of eyes lit up.  “At least that’s what I thought I heard Peter saying to Ida the other day.”


Sylvie was the first to speak.  “That would answer a few things.” 


“Must be nice to have money to just buy things.  Cars, big house, plane…” Pat ticked off the options on her fingers, “kid.”


“So guys…” Peter walked down the hall toward the cooler.  “What have I missed this morning?”  He smiled at each of his co-workers.  “Catch me up to speed.  What’s the latest on the gossip network?”


“Cars,” Pat offered.


“Big houses.”  Sylvie took a swig from her can, glancing over to Tom.


“Planes.”  Tom added before all eyes slowly turned to the woman holding onto the cart.


“Kids,” the mailroom clerk smiled sweetly.  After a wave of her hand, Pepper tightened her grip on the cart and started on her merry way.  “Later guys, I’ve got a job to do.”


Peter stared at Pepper as she retreated down the hall.  When the figure was out of sight, he turned and leaned into the trio around him.  “Who?”  He asked, his eyes attentive to the least little nuances of his co-workers. 


Sylvie swirled the liquid in her can while Pat crumpled her paper cup and tossed it into the waste can beside the water cooler.  The accountant raised the glass to his mouth and drank. 


“Who’s having a kid?”  Peter asked again, this time more determined to find out.


“You should know.”  Tom shifted his stance.  “You’re always over at their house.”


“Who?”  Confusion was written all over Peter’s face.  “Crystal and her mother?


Sylvie took the pencil out from behind her ear and pointed the eraser at him, jabbing Peter in the arm.  “Brooke and Sam you goof.”


“Oh, that house,” Peter muttered, the total idea not setting in for a few seconds.  “What?”  Startled eyes looked from one person to the other in disbelief.  “Naw!”  Peter shook his head vigorously.  “That wouldn’t be a secret.  Brooke would be shouting it out for the world to hear.  Trust me, I know.  I’m privy to all her secrets.  Well, most of them anyway.  Why, she could hardly wait to tell me about the surprise she had waiting for Sam on Valentine’s day.”


“That’s no secret.  Sam got roses delivered here at the office,” Tom stated flatly.


“A dozen, long stem, American Beauty roses, I might add.”  Sylvie jabbed him again with the eraser for each adjective.


“And don’t forget dinner after work, too.”  Pat added, crossing her arms over her chest.  “What’s so secret about that?  They’re the classic V-day things to do.”


“Well, yeah.”  Peter stood his ground.  “But I know where they went.”


Pat leaned in and peered directly into Peter’s eyes until he started to squirm, then she challenged him.  “Where?”


“Uh…The new restaurant overlooking the shore.”  Peter’s confidence reappeared.  “And afterward they had an intimate hot tub dip under the stars.”  He glanced away and thought for a second.  “Of course, she did need me to let the workers in to set up the hot tub at her house while they were out to dinner.  Who would have thought it would take so long to fill it with Hershey’s Chocolate?”


“I rest my case.”  Pat sighed.  “Another classic V-day fare, a tub of chocolate.”


“I wouldn’t mind biting into one of those hand-dipped chocolates.”  Sylvie wet her lips and her eyes began to twinkle.


“Once a lesbian, always a lesbian.”  Tom muttered under his breath.


“I told you I was Bi,” Sylvie’s eyes pinned the man.  “But then again, you never listen to me.”


“Always the trendsetter, aren’t you Sylvie?”  Pat stared at the graphic artist, waiting for a reply. 


“What do you care?”  A balled fist came to rest on Sylvie’s hip.  “At least I appeal to both sexes.  By the way, which one are you?  I want to keep track of my totals.”


Peter watched as the words sunk into the distribution clerk, making her stiffen.  His eyes grew bigger as the hairs on Pat’s neck began to bristle.  “Now Pat take it easy.  I know…” he gulped, panic setting in.  “What the hell am I saying?”  Peter muttered, “I don’t even know what this is about.”


“And what is it exactly that you do know, Peter?”  The voice came from behind him.


“Huh?”  Peter turned to see Ida staring directly at him and he cringed.


“Well?”  She waited for an answer but nothing came.  The office manager’s gaze moved from one employee to another.  “What the heck are all of you doing just standing around here when we have business to take care of?  You do remember that’s what we get paid for around here…doing business.”


“Business,” Tom coughed into his hand.  “Yeah, we were…uhm…ah…”


“Just discussing a piece of work, Ida.”  Sylvie interrupted him.


“Anything I need to know about?”  Ida shifted her stance.


“Nothing,” Pat muttered glancing over to Sylvie.  “Nothing for you to worry about, Ida.”


There was a moment of silence as all parties gathered their thoughts.  As if rehearsed, everyone started to make excuses and walk away.


“I’ve got some numbers to crunch,” Tom turned, heading back to his office.


“Oops!  Almost forgot, I’ve got a CD jacket due today.”  Sylvie tossed her can into the wastebasket and moved quickly down the hall.


“I’d love to stay and chit-chat, Ida but I’ve…” Pat threw up her hands and started to backpedal down the hall.  “I’ve got a ton of product to get out.”


“I…uhm…I…” Peter stumbled verbally trying to come up with a reason to leave.  “I got to go.”  He reached for the crotch of his pants.


Ida reached out and grabbed the man by his shirtsleeve.  “And what’s your version of this little coffee clutch minus the coffee?”


“I…ah…I,” Peter looked down at his hands and panicked.  “Damn!  I forgot my cup.”


“Peter,” the office manager attempted to get his attention but to no avail.  His ramblings trailed off into nothing but mumbling so she tried again, only this time a little more sternly.  “PETER.”


“Please,” He covered his ears and visibly cowered.  “Please don’t pull my ears.  Everybody always pulls on my ears.”


Ida looked up at the ceiling and counted to ten before addressing her fellow employee.  “Peter,” her voice was softer this time.  “What were they talking about?”


He opened one eyelid to view her suspiciously. 


“Come on, you’re safe.”  She sighed.  “See, my hands are going into my pockets.”  She did as she had said, then looked on expectantly for Peter to talk.


Slowly his hands came away from his ears and he straightened to an upright position.  “Jeez Ida, I just got here right before you came around the corner.  How in the heck am I supposed to find things out when you’re always breaking up my chances to get the scoop?”


“God!”  She rolled her eyes in disbelief.  “It’s like sending a boy to do a man’s job.”  Ida hung her head and sighed.  “What’s the use?”  She mumbled under her breath.  “Go back to work or whatever it is you do behind that closed door.”


“Thanks, Ida.”  Peter took off sprinting down the hall.


The office manager stood there for a moment before coming to her own conclusion.  “Next time…I’ll do it myself.”




Ida looked up from her desk to see Brooke exiting her office.  The determined look in the executive’s eyes told the office manager she was a woman on a mission.  “Can I get you anything, Brooke?”


“Nope.”  The tall woman shook her head.  “Just making sure I get out of here early tonight.” 


“Going somewhere or doing something special?”  Ida looked hopeful.


“Yeah,” Brooke beamed.  “We lose our PR intern tonight.”


Horror filled the office manager’s eyes.  “Sam’s leaving?”


Brooke stopped short, turning to make eye contact with Ida.  “No,” she said rather indignantly, “she’s graduating tonight.”  Blue eyes studied the office manager for a long moment.  “Ida, is there another rumor floating around that I’m not aware of?”


“No,” came the quick rebuttal.  “None that I’m aware of.”


“Good,” Brooke gave a quick nod.  “We don’t need any more rumors here.  We’re finally getting over the last round of Linda fodder.” 


“You got that right, boss.”  Ida agreed, tapping her pen in a nervous fashion off her desktop.  “And I’m going to keep it that way,” she muttered under her breath thinking back on the havoc the woman had brought to the company.


“If you need me, Ida.”  Brooke held up her cellphone and waved it. 


Seeing her boss waving the phone brought Ida back to the present.  “I got your number.”  The office manager leaned onto her desk.  “Have fun at the ceremony tonight,” she called out, making sure Brooke heard her as the executive headed off down the hall.


“Now, to make sure no rumors are out there waiting to surface.”  The office manager looked around the room.  A tiny smile came to her lips and she started to nod.  “Yep, time to make a clean sweep around here.”  She grabbed onto the arms of her chair and pushed her body up into a standing position.  “If Carol Burnett only knew I was her biggest fan,” she chuckled as she went to her closet and pulled out an old dress, tattered sweater, and wig.  “Who said you have to be a CIA agent to go undercover.”  




A determined stride set the pace for the compact body as it crossed the room draped only in a bath towel.  Sam adjusted the knot to the left of her chest and proceeded to stand in front of her closet, green eyes sweeping over her clothes.  Without a moment of hesitation she made her choice, hurriedly pulling it out and stepping back all in the same instance until a painful howl halted her.




“Mario!”  Sam quickly lifted her foot. 


“Here boy,” Brooke commanded from her seated position on the bed.


“Sorry, Mario.”  Green eyes implored forgiveness.  “Next time don’t stand so close to Mommy.”


The older woman smiled hearing the name her lover had used to reference herself.  “I like that name for you.  I think we’ll keep it.”  Brooke winked as she bent down to pet the Husky standing at her feet.  “You’ve got to give Sam more space, Mario.”  The woman roughhoused with the dog for a moment before pulling him close and whispering into his ear.


Sam watched the precious scenario in the mirror and waited for blue eyes to look in her direction.  “And what exactly did you just tell that dog?”  A golden eyebrow arched high on the blonde’s forehead.  “It had better not contain the words wide load anywhere in the context.”


Brooke quickly covered the dog’s ears.  “Never, darlin’.”


“Good!”  Sam whisked into the bathroom again and emerged a few seconds later sans her towel.  “As you can see,” she illustrated her figure with her hands,  “I’m not showing.”  She gave her wife a side view of her body.  “Remember Brooke, Dr. Dennison said it may take a few tries before I’m impregnated.”


“I know,” Brooke sighed.  “But I’m thinking positive.”  She addressed the dog, “Go ahead boy, go lay down.”  She watched as the dog went out the door, then circled his favorite spot a few times before laying down at the top of the steps.


“Think positive all you want, Lover.”  Sam approached her wife and gave her a kiss on the cheek.  “You know we still can’t tell for sure if I’m pregnant until I’ve missed my period.”


“Randi didn’t miss her period and she was pregnant.”


“A freak of nature, like all you Gordons.”  Sam winked, teasing her wife.


“You’re a Gordon now.”  Blue eyes stared deeply into green.


“Only by marriage,” the blonde smiled. 


“Yeah, I know.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.”  The dark-haired woman returned her lover’s kiss.  “You’d better get dressed or we’re going to be late for the ceremony.” 


Sam lingered in front of the bed with a coy smile, tempting Brooke for all she was worth. 


“Keep that up, Darlin’ and we’re going to be really, really late.”  Brooke turned her wife around and gave her a loving tap on her buttocks.  “Graduation first, then celebration.”


“Oh, all right.”  Sam said teasingly as she headed back into the bathroom.




“Yeah, Darlin’.”  The tall woman picked up her wallet and shoved it into the back pocket of her black jeans. 


“Does the tassel go to the right or the left?”


Brooke clipped her cellphone onto her belt as she thought about the question.  A moment later a wry thought crossed her mind.  “Last time I checked,” she stifled her need to laugh, “neither one stayed there for very long.” 


The tall woman used her hands to simulate tassels in motion swirling in tight circles at the front of her chest.  “Nope, either side is about the same,” Brooke confirmed with a mischievous smile. “This could be lots of fun with gummi worms.”


 “I’m being serious, hon.” A blonde head popped into the doorway, her facial expression froze in horror as she watched Brooke’s antics.  “I don’t think you’d want me to wear them there.”  Sam glared at her wife.  “At least not in public.”


“Yeah, right.  The gown would hide them anyway.”  Brooke’s voice was painted with disappointment.  “Don’t waste them on the graduation ceremony.  We’ll use them later with that new can of Hershey’s syrup I got you for a present.”  Blue eyes twinkled in delight.


Sam cleared her throat.  “My present or yours?”


“Yes.”  Innocent eyes and a cheeky smile did little to hide the sexual undertone of the conversation.


“Brooke, I think you’re taking this equal partners thing a little too far.”  Sam disappeared back into the bathroom.


“What do you mean too far?  I haven’t bought us any new play toys,” Brooke looked into the dresser mirror and watched as a grin slowly appeared on her face, “…recently.”


“And that last one was enough for a while.  I can’t believe you actually thought a single trapeze would hold the both of us.”


“Well, at least I mounted it over the bed so we had a soft landing,” Brooke rebutted.


“True,” Sam countered quickly.  “And I didn’t even mind when you tried to kiss it and make it all better either.”


“Yeah…” Brooke drew out the word, “Me either.”


“Brooke, I’m trying to be serious.”  Sam emerged from the bathroom dressed and crossed the room to where her graduation cap lay on the dresser.  “Right or left?”  She stood poised and ready to follow her lover’s command.


“Left.”  Brooke stepped closer to the figure as she studied the placement of the tassel in the mirror.  “No, right.”  She watched on as the blonde followed her direction perfectly. 


Anticipatory green eyes waited for approval.


“Ah hell, Sam.  I don’t know.”  Brooke reached for the tassel.  “How about somewhere in the middle?”


Sam batted her lover’s hand away.  “How about I’ll just leave it off until we get there.”


“Does that mean…” Brooke made eye contact with her wife in the mirror, “everything?”


“Brooke.”  The sternness in Sam’s voice was evident.


“Yes Darlin’?”


“Tell the truth, Brooke.  Did you or did you not attend your graduation ceremony?”


The ex-musician squirmed under the intense gaze of the woman she loved.  “Well…I, ah…not really.  We had a show.”  Brooke shrugged her shoulders.  “Does a gig in Sandusky count?”


The blonde rolled her eyes and took in a deep breath.  “Great.  Another thing I’ll have to make sure our child never finds out.”  Sam turned with her hands on hips to face her lover.  “Okay, you graduate of rock and roll mania…”


“Sam.”  The sternness in Brooke’s voice halted her wife’s declamation.  




“Why don’t we just check my graduation photo downstairs before we leave?”  She watched as the blonde eyed her skeptically.  “Okay, so Mom made all of us girls pose in our caps and gowns for the,” Brooke used her fingers to signify quotation marks in the air, “official photo.  Between that picture and the sheepskin hanging on my wall, I figured it was good enough.  I didn’t need to wait in line to get it.” 


The blonde’s features mellowed considerably.  “Now that’s the answer I was looking for.”


“Huh?”  Dark brows furrowed.


“Impatient as always.”  Sam reached out and pinched her wife’s cheeks.  “Sometimes I’m totally surprised you waited for me.”


“Forever, Darlin’.”  Brooke whispered with a gleam in her eyes.  “Forever.”




After the commencement ceremonies, Brooke and Sam strolled hand in hand through the dimly lit rows of the parking lot until they came upon their SUV.  Stopping on the passenger’s side, the taller of the two leaned down and placed a tender kiss on delicate lips.


“What was that for?”  Blonde eyelashes batted away the haze that clouded her mind.


“Just because,” Brooke sighed.


“Just because why?”  Their gazes met and held.  “Because you could or because…”


“Because I never kissed a college graduate before.”  Brooke chuckled, playing with the tassel on Sam’s hat. 


Sam batted the hand away and took the cap from her head.  “And here I was thinking it was because you loved me or that I was looking hot tonight.  Little did I know it was because I had the tassel on the right side.”  Sam teased before depositing a chaste kiss in return on her lover’s cheek.  “What do you say we go home and I’ll let you do a few more things with this college graduate than just kiss...and play with my tassel.”


“Now that’s an offer I can’t refuse.”  Strong hands opened the passenger door and with a flourish of arm movements, Sam was ushered in.  “After you, Darlin’.”


“Who said chivalry was dead?”  Sam giggled.  “You’re just as bad as all those guys trying to charm C.C. onto her feet tonight.”


Brooke smirked at the reference.  “Yeah, leave it to C.C. to wear stilettos to her graduation ceremony and trip going up the stairs.  I still say she had it planned.” 


“I don’t think so, hon.  C.C. sure looked disappointed when your mother insisted they forego the celebration dinner and head to the hospital instead.”


“Well, her ankle did look pretty big with all the swelling.”  Brooke thought about it and shrugged.  “I’m not disappointed, though.”  She leaned in flashing a sexy smile.  “I get to celebrate with you all to myself.”  She kissed Sam on the cheek then closed the door and headed toward the driver’s side.


Sam waited until her wife opened the door before commenting.  “At least she was at her graduation ceremony.” 


Blue eyes flared.  “Hey, I had a job.”  Brooke slid into the driver’s seat and started the engine.


“Speaking of which, I guess I’ll be pounding the pavements looking for one of those now.”  Sam stared out the front window.


“What are you taking about?”  Brooke put the truck in gear and pulled out into traffic.


“Well, I can’t stay an intern all my life.”


“Intern?”  The driver’s startled gaze shifted to her wife and then back to the road ahead.  “What are you taking about?”


“Remember your ploy to keep me with you by offering that internship.”


“Ploy?  What ploy?”  Brooke jerked the wheel and shifted into the faster lane.  “I had a job opening and you filled it.”


“No Brooke,” Sam turned to face her wife.  “You created a job and I filled it.”


“So?”  The driver shrugged.  “It’s not like I didn’t need you there.”  She glanced over to see her wife’s stoic reaction.  “Hey, I gave Peter a job too.  What’s wrong with that?  Can’t I have people I trust and care about work with me?”


“For you, Brooke.”  Sam corrected her.  “We work for you.  What I’m saying is that I’m not an intern any more.  I need to look for a real job.”  The blonde grabbed for the handle on the door as the SUV swerved to the right and then quickly recovered.


“Asshole!”  Brooke shouted at the driver in her rearview mirror, her hands tightening on the steering wheel.  She tapped the gas pedal and pulled away from the pack before glancing over to her passenger.  “The last time I checked, you had one.”  


“One what?”  Confused green eyes studied the driver.  “Job or asshole?”  The blonde smirked.


“Job, Sam…job.”  Brooke slammed her hand down on the horn for several seconds causing the blaring sound to resonate throughout the vehicle.  “Dammit!  Are all the idiots out tonight?”


The passenger eyed her driver skeptically.  “Brooke, we’re out.”  Sam smiled at the dual meaning of her thought.  So what’s she all riled up about?


Brooke glanced over to her wife.  “Forget I said that.”


“Consider it forgotten.”  She looked out her side window.  “I’m nothing but an intern, any way.”  What would I know?


“Sam,” apologetic blue eyes flicked from road to blonde and back again.  “From the first moment you walked through Brownstone’s door, you were a promotions manager not an intern.”


“But I…they said…” Sam gulped.  “Professor Humphreys said.”    


“Janet may have called you an intern, but that was never my intention, Sam.”  The driver took a calming breath.  “I don’t care what any of them said.  They gave you college credit for doing your work and that’s all that mattered.” 


Fondly Brooke reminisced about all the time she’d wasted slaving over Sam’s intern evaluation form.


It was already midnight and the minutes seemed to be flying by.  Brooke sighed and stretched her back one last time. 


“Okay, it’s already the due date and here I sit staring at a blank form.  What the hell am I going to say about Sam in this evaluation?”  The drummer absent-mindedly tapped out a drum solo with her fingers on the desk as she thought.  Abruptly she halted her rhythmic assault on the wood, grabbed for the pen and started writing.


“Samantha Moleson Gordon is a…” Brooke said softly as she pondered the possibilities,  “very talented person, a wonderful lover.”  Her mind wandered off on a tangent until the clock on the wall chimed one in the morning. 


“Concentrate, Brooke.  You can’t go there with this.  Janet would kill you.”  She smirked, “Besides Sam would kill you for documenting the intimate side of our relationship.”  Blue eyes looked around the room as the executive tried to channel her thoughts to a more professional side.  “Come on, I’m the CEO of my own company.  I can do this.  Think of Sam as business.  Nothing but business.”


She poised the pen over the paper again, waiting for inspiration.  After a few seconds, the woman sighed.  “Yeah, right.”  The only thought she had was of the blonde sleeping in her bed.  “Dammit!  This is harder than I thought,” she muttered, then pushed away from the chair.  “Maybe I can’t be objective where Sam is concerned.” 


Without thinking, long legs started pacing the length of the room.  The seconds ticked by with each step she took.  Finally Brooke stopped just short of the photographs displayed along the shelving on the wall.  Keen blue eyes studied first one, then the next before moving on.  No matter whether it was a family photo or one that had been taken during a company function, each picture had a certain fresh-face, irresistible blonde prominently displayed in them. 


Slowly an idea came into Brooke’s mind.  “That’s it.”  A broad smile broke across the woman’s face.  “I’ll use these to tell Janet how well Sam’s done her job.”  Brooke strode over to the desk and sat in her chair.  Reaching for the mouse, she clicked on her photo icon and opened the program.  “A picture’s worth a thousand words,” she mumbled, “well here’s a hundred thousand or two about Sam’s internship with this company.”


The vibrations emanating from the cellphone on her hip brought the woman back to the present.  Brooke turned to gaze at Sam.  “Now that you’ve graduated,” she cleared her throat, “you don’t have your degree an hour and you want to quit?” 


“Whoa!  Wait a minute.  Who said anything about quitting?”  Sam turned as much as the seatbelt would allow her.  “I didn’t quit.  I just thought…”


“Sam, you just said you needed to look for a real job.”  Annoyed at the constant interruption from the vibrations, Brooke disengaged the offending mechanism from her belt and flipped it open one-handed.  “Not now!”  She barked into the phone, then folded it closed, tossing it onto the dashboard.


“Brooke!”  Sam grabbed for the phone as it slid her way.  “What the hell are you so pissed about?”


“Sam,” Brooke glanced over to see the blonde drop the cellphone when it started to vibrate once more.  “Damn interruptions!” 


Blue eyes flashed hurriedly into the rearview mirror and a few seconds later muscular arms gave a tug at the steering wheel.  Amidst a cacophony of blaring horns and screeching brakes, the SUV crossed over two lanes of traffic and was soon braking to a lurching stop on the side of the interstate. 


“Give me that phone.”  The driver snatched it from Sam’s lap and stared at the caller I.D.  “Seven-two-four,” Brooke mumbled the numbers out loud as she thought.  “Who do we know at that area code?”


“Isn’t that outside of Pittsburgh?”  Sam saw the subtle shrug of her wife.  “Brooke…”


“I know…Line of Fire is playing just outside of Pittsburgh.”  The executive sighed.  “I guess I better answer this.”  She flipped open the phone with one finger while her other hand found the door handle and opened it.  “I’ll be right back, Darlin’.”


The blonde watched as her wife paced with the cellphone held up to her ear.  The somber face and intent eyes that met hers for a brief moment were all she needed to know that something was awry.  Sam waited patiently for the phone call to end before she got out of the vehicle and slowly made her way to the front of the SUV and Brooke.


“Brooke?”  Sam held her breath as Brooke tried to compose herself.  “Brooke, what’s wrong?”


“I should’ve known better, that’s what’s wrong.”  The executive tapped her finger to her lips and stared at the passing traffic.  “What was I thinking?”  She muttered.


“Hon…don’t be so hard on yourself.”  Sam slipped an arm around her lover.  “Now tell me, how can I help you?”


Blue eyes shifted to meet green.  “First of all,” Brooke sighed, “you can drive.”


Ah oh…that’s not a good sign.  Sam nodded her head.  “Okay.  Anything else I need to know before we start out for home again?”


“Yeah,” Brooke looked up to the star-studded sky.  “Can we please stop by the office on the way home?”


“Sure, but what’s at the office?”  A small hand attempted to comfort the taller woman by rubbing lazy circles across her lower back.


“I need to write myself an expense check for the ten grand that Line of Fire just cost me.”


“Ten grand?”  Sam’s mouth dropped open.  “What did they do, go on a spending spree?”


“No, more like a demolition spree.”  Brooke broke away from her wife’s touch.  “They completely trashed the hotel.  They threw the TV out the window.”




“Bad reception was their excuse when the hotel manager asked them.”  The woman’s facial expression grew dire.  “That’s not all.  They busted the door in to their room and every other room on their floor before they christened the drive-thru.”


Green eyes grew keen.  “What drive-thru?”


“The one at the hotel, Sam.”  A dark eyebrow arched high on Brooke’s forehead.


“Brooke,” the blonde shook her head, “the last time I checked, hotels don’t have a drive-thru.”


“This one does…” the record executive’s gaze grew intense, “now.”


“Where was the manager when all this was happening?”


“That…” Brooke’s voice sounded cold, “is exactly what I’d like to know.  It seems there was no adult supervision around when all the mischief was being done.” 


“But the tour manager…”


Brooke held up her hand to halt the thought.  “Missing in action after room service delivered two bottles of champagne.  Now the hotel manager has alerted his chain to Brownstone’s liability for the damages…all ten thousand dollars worth. And that’s just for initial damages. They’ll need to get construction estimates for the actual hotel repairs.  Unless some real adult supervision arrives before their next check-in, the chain will not honor any of the contracts we’ve entered into.”


“But who?”  Sam reached out to touch her wife’s arm.  “Who can you send?”  She watched helplessly as Brooke ran her hand through long dark tresses.


“No one, Darlin’.  I’m going to have to go out on tour and keep the little bastards in line myself until we can find them a new road manager.”  Blue eyes met with green.  “I’m sorry, Sam.  I’ll have to leave in the morning.”


“Oh boy.”  The blonde blew out an unexpected breath.  “Sorry, I just didn’t see that one coming.”


“I know.”  Now it was Brooke’s turn to gather her wife into her arms and try to comfort her.  “If I could send anyone else Sam, I would.”  She kissed her wife on the forehead.  “But I can’t.  If I don’t stop them now, they’ll take Brownstone and everything I’ve worked for right down the drain in a hurry.”


Sam looked up into apologetic blue eyes.  “I know, love.  I know.”  She reached up and placed a chaste kiss on her lover’s lips.  “Come on,” she tugged on Brooke’s shirt.  “Let’s head into the office and get you what you need.”


“What I need…” Brooke lifted Sam’s chin with her finger until both were looking eye to eye, “is for you and Peter to run the office for the next couple of weeks.”


“Couple of weeks?”  Sam pulled back from her wife’s embrace.  “Don’t you mean days?”


“No.  If I’m lucky it will be weeks instead of months.”  The taller woman shook her head and saw the disappointment register in the other woman’s eyes.  “I’ll need you to make some inquiries about tour managers, hire one, and try to get them out to me as quickly as possible.”  She put her arm around the blonde and started walking her over toward the driver’s door.  “You can talk to Peter about it in the morning.  Ask him about the tight ass we had for our first tour.  That guy should be able to straighten them out, otherwise…” Brooke took in a breath and slowly let it out.  “I’ll have to stay with them through the end of the tour.”


“But if you’re not in the office, who’s going to do all the promoting and scheduling?” 


“The same person who’s been doing it for the last several months.”


“Ida,” Sam offered.

“No.”  Brooke stopped and pulled open the driver’s door.


“Peter?”  Sam’s voice squeaked, hoping she was wrong.


“No!”  The executive’s voice was sharp with her retort.  “Peter just surfs the internet then plays with himself.”




“No,” Brooke countered.  “He does work but…” she looked away and sighed.  “Look, the man’s good at what he does.  He knows how to associate with the talent.  He’s able to relate with them.  They feel like someone’s on their side from the corporate level.  Sam, Peter’s not skilled with budgets, keeping production moving to meet deadlines, or multitasking at a moment’s notice.  He’d never be able to keep the company up and running on his own.” 


The blonde climbed up to get into the driver’s seat.  “Then…who?”


“You, Sam.”  Brooke watched her wife teeter on the rocker panel of the SUV, then plop onto the seat.


“Me?”  The woman’s eyes grew in her disbelief.


“Yeah, you.”  Brooke couldn’t help but chuckle at the younger woman’s comical face.  “Sam, you’ve handled all the promotions since you’ve been there!”


Stunned, the blonde remained speechless despite several attempts to agree with the point.


“Honey, you’ve never been an intern at Brownstone.  Do you have any idea how much easier my job is with you there?”  Brooke coaxed a smile to Sam’s face with a gentle touch of her hand on the younger woman’s cheek.  “You know me and you know how I like to run things.  I wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving without knowing that you’ll be there to run it the same way.”  A wan smile crossed her lips.  “Not that I’m comfortable leaving.  Don’t you see, Sam, I couldn’t do this without you?”


“You didn’t make that job up, did you?”




Sam took in a breath and slowly let it out as she mulled over the events of the last few minutes.  Cautiously she turned to her wife, a sultry smile creeping across the young woman’s face.  “So you’re leaving the office to your better half, eh?”  Sam teased her wife.


Caught off guard by the comment, Brooke faltered for only a few seconds before voicing her thoughts.  “Yes,” she nodded slightly.  “Yes, I am.”


“Okay,” Sam nodded once.  “But I’m telling you now, I want a raise when you get home.”

“Darlin’,” Brooke winked, “you know your benefits are always open for negotiation with me.”




Small fingers ripped the sheet of paper from the front of the calendar to reveal the date.  It was May thirty-first.  Green eyes closed to the sense of longing that seemed more constant than ever since her wife left on tour nearly three weeks earlier.  Taking in a deep breath, Sam released it slowly as her hands wrapped around her lower abdomen and stayed there, searching for any sign of life.  After a long minute, little evidence came her way.


“Two more weeks, Dr. Dennison said.  Maybe then we’ll know.”  Sam turned her gaze to the piles of ongoing projects that were lined up across her desk.  “Well, at least I’ve got these to keep my mind off it.”  She reached for the first pile off to her right and pulled it closer.  “Okay…I’ll start with this one.”  Sam read the name on the folder.  It was Line of Fire. 


“Dammit!”  Immediately her thoughts roared forward to the reason her wife wasn’t there, close at hand.  “Okay…plan B.”  Sam picked up the phone and dialed a familiar number.  She waited with each ring and prayed the woman would answer.


“Hey!  You’re spending my dime so tell me I’m oh so fine.”  The sharp greeting met the woman’s usually sassy style.


“C.C., it’s Sam.  I’m so glad I caught you.”  The blonde spun around in her chair and looked out the window.  “Any luck with the job interviews?”


“Nothing that suits me.”


“Hang in there.  Something will come along.”  Sam cleared her throat.  “C.C., what exactly are you looking for…job wise, that is?”


“Oh, the job doesn’t really matter, it’s the benefits that I’m holding out for.  Did you know these places want me to show up at eight in the morning and work all day long?  I mean come on.  I never even had a class before ten in the morning in my whole four years of college.  Heck, by eight I haven’t even rolled over.”


Sam shook her head in disbelief.  “C.C., this isn’t college any more.”  She tried to keep from laughing.  “I’m curious…what did you do during your internship with Randi?”


“File, type, you know…get her coffee.”  There was a few seconds of silence before an excited sounding voice came over the phone.  “Oh!  I played video games on the net.”


“At work?”


“Sure.  What else was I going to do while Randi was in court?”


“I meant about getting up early.”  Sam chuckled.


“Who had to get up early?  Randi was on night court duty the whole time.”


“It figures.”  The blonde closed her eyes and savored the luck of her sister-in-law.


“Hey!  Somebody had to do it.  Besides, you don’t think I was going to be seen out and about with all those criminals in the building.”


“That’s the nature of Randi’s business, C.C.  If it wasn’t for the criminals she would be out of a job and you an internship.”


“You know, I never thought of it that way.”  The young woman’s voice turned serious.  “Which is a really good thing because that’s a very sick and twisted reality check.” 


“Speaking of reality…” Sam bit her lower lip before venturing further.  “Have you tried any of those home EPT’s?”



“You know…early pregnancy tests.”


“Why would I have to try one of those?  I’m sweet and innocent…”


“C.C.,” Sam interrupted the woman. “Your ear does not count.”


“How do you know what I’ve done with my ears, Sam?  Were you just faking being asleep when Jimmy and I were fooling around in the dorm room?”


“Oh please,” Sam groaned, shifting uncomfortably in her chair.  “Let’s not even go there.”


“Alright.  So, you wanna tell me why you’re asking me about EPT’s when you’re married to my sister?  I mean… Brooke is my sister, isn’t she?


“She’s your sister all right.  Trust me, I’ve seen the proof.”  Sam smiled coyly, reminiscent of the thought.


“Quit your stalling?”


“Me?”  A high-pitched squeal came out of Sam’s mouth.


“Don’t change the subject on me.”


Laughter filled the office.  “C.C., are you sure you don’t have A-D-D?”


“A-D-D, E-P-T.”  There was a pause.  “What the hell are we talking about a spelling bee or Wheel Of Fortune?”


Sam couldn’t believe the quick decline in the level of intelligent conversation she was now engaged in.  She looked toward the ceiling and rolled her eyes.


“I’d like to buy an ‘O’ please, Pat.”  C.C. demanded.


“I’m in hell with fluorescent lighting,” Sam muttered under her breath.


“I’d like to solve the puzzle but you’re not turning any more letters for me, Vanna.”


“C.C.,” Sam tightened her grip on the receiver.  “What in the hell are you talking about?”


“A clue,” the voice screamed.  “Give me a clue.”


The blonde covered the receiver with her hand and let go of a strangulated scream.  “God!  She could drive a sane person crazy.”  Sam fought to control her anger as she brought the phone back to her ear.  “C.C., I love you.  You’re my best friend and sister-in-law, but all the money in the world could not buy you a clue.”


“Okay, then spell it out for me.”  There was a moment of stark silence.  “Why the interest in pregnancy tests?”


“Well…” Sam’s voice rose nearly an octave from beginning to end of the word.




The sound of C.C.’s deep timber brought Brooke to Sam’s mind.  “I…ah…um…”


“Let me guess.”  The youngest Gordon’s voice oozed with confidence.  “The fertilization process worked, you were implanted with my sister’s egg, and now you think you’re pregnant.  Am I close?” 


“W-w-what?”  The woman’s accuracy made Sam stutter.  “B-but how did you…”




Sam winced at the sound of C.C.’s drawn out and off-key melodic response.  The insisted tapping of what she could only imagine to be the other woman’s fingernail tapping on the microphone finally caused Sam to pull the receiver away from her ear. 


“I’m an inquiring mind therefore, I inquire with my sister…a lot.”  The sound of C.C.’s laughter filtered through the phone.  “I forced it out of her a couple of months ago when she was taking those hormones that turned her into a raving lunatic.”


Sam looked at the phone cross-eyed.  “Then why did you make me sit here and go through all the torment of trying to explain this to you?”




“Of course.”


“Because it was fun.”


The executive’s head fell forward, striking against the folder on her desk with a loud thud.  She lifted her head and repeated the action several times.


“Ooh!  Knock-knocks.  I like them.” 


Sam could hear clapping in the background. 


“Who’s there?”


“C.C., this is not a joke.”


“Well then tell me what it is because I really don’t understand.  I mean, you did all of this through a fertility clinic so why are you asking me about EPT’s?”


The blonde winced in her seat.  “I guess I’m a little nervous.  They said we could check to see if…” Sam paused before the words came out and took a different approach.  “With Brooke gone, I’m a little afraid of the results.  I mean, if it’s ‘yes’, do I tell her over the phone or wait for her to come home?”


“Brooke’s not home watching her bun in the oven?  I thought you found a tour manager for those little bastards.” 


“Peter and I did but he won’t be able to meet up with them until he’s off of his current tour.”  Sam took in a deep breath.  “I just don’t know what to do, C.C.  I’d really like to know but…”


“Ah…a fact-finding mission.  Why didn’t you say so?  Do you have the kit?  Have you peed on it yet?  Did you pee on your hand in the process because that really sucks and it’s disgusting too.  Did you wash your hands?  What color was it?”


“Huh?”  Blonde brows furrowed in her confusion.


“The stick, not your pee.  Oh…Oh…or is it one of those plus or minus things. Maybe it’s a combination of both.”


“C.C., save the questions for later.  I’m heading home now.  Why don’t you meet me there in say…an hour?”


“You got it, Sam.  I’m coming.”


The sound of static-filled air signified the end of the conversation.  Sam replaced the receiver on the phone and contemplated her upcoming actions.  She looked over to the photograph of her lover.  “Sorry, Brooke.  I just have to know.”




The sound of locked brakes screeching to a stop could be heard coming from the driveway.  The sound of the engine died and a few seconds later a car door slammed shut as Mario jumped up from his pillow.


“Arrruugh,” the dog’s howling started on a menacing note before turning friendly, his tail wagging furiously.  “Arf!  Arf!”  The husky took off for the stairs as the sound of hastened footsteps were heard outside the door.  He stopped short in the hall when the door flew open.


“Sam?”  C.C. reached down and patted the excited dog on his head.  “Good boy.”


“I’m up here, C.C.”


“Okay, go lay down.”  She directed the dog.  “I’m on a mission here.  I’ll play with you later.”  C.C. stepped around the dog and headed for the stairway.  “Sam, did you pee on it yet?”  The tall woman took the steps two at a time as she made her way toward the master bedroom.


“Yeah,” Sam nodded as though she were in a trance.


“How long ago?”  C.C. slowed her steps as she came through the master bedroom door.


“A few minutes.  I set the timer.”  The blonde pointed.  “When it dings…”


C.C. clapped her hands together, her eyes sparkling.  “We got our answer.  You nervous?”


“No.  Yes,” Sam snapped back the answers to her sister-in-law’s question.  “Maybe.”


“Don’t worry,” C.C. flicked her hand to dismiss the thought.  “I was too the first time.”


“First time?”


The dark haired woman smiled sweetly.  “Hey, I wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing if I really needed to use it.”




Ding!  The egg timer went off.  Mario howled causing both women to jump.


“Damn!  Don’t scare us like that, Mario.”  The blonde greeted the dog as he ran into the room.  “Calm down, boy.  I know it’s scary.”  She turned to stare at the timer.


“You ready?”  C.C. looked expectantly to Sam.


Sam took a deep breath in and slowly let it out.  “About as ready as I’m ever going to be.”


“That’s what I always say,” C.C. added under her breath.


The first strains of digital music filter through the air, causing the dog’s ears to perk up.


“Wow!  That’s some egg timer you got.  I never knew they came with tunes.”


“It doesn’t, you goof.”  Sam gave her sister-in-law a nudge.  “It’s a cellphone.”


“Ah…multi-functional.”  The woman nodded approvingly.  “I bet it cost a lot.”


“C.C.,” Sam stared disbelieving what she’d just heard. 


“Oh, right.  Cellphone,” C.C. sighed.  “Yours or mine?”


The two paused, listening as the tune played on. 


Sam gulped, hearing the familiar tone.  “It’s mine.”  The blonde grabbed the phone from her pocket and stared at it while C.C. strained to see the number. 


“Yep, that’s Brooke.  I love the little heart you have by her name.”  She peered into the bathroom, then back to Sam.  “Oh boy,” C.C. rolled her eyes, “or girl,” she quickly added.


“C.C.,” green eyes pinned the ever inquiring woman where she stood.  “Did you look?”


“No!”  The wiry woman crossed her arms over her chest.  “Not yet at least,” she grumbled.  “What’re you going to tell Brooke?”


“Don’t know.”  Sam shrugged then slowly smiled.  “Yet.”

Brown eyes brightened as she caught on.  “Damn girl, you’re good.  I knew you wouldn’t be able to keep a secret from her. 


“You got that right.”  Sam winked and slowly turned her attention back to the phone.  “Hi, honey.  When are you coming home?”



Song Lyrics from this week's installment by Steve Brown.