Part 2

There was more leg room in the tiny vehicle than Megan had expected, but she didn't think she'd ever get used to racing along so low to the ground. Heart in her throat and her fingers clutching the dashboard, she'd finally risked a glance at the speedometer to find they were only going forty miles an hour. She gave Marshall a sheepish grin and felt warmth spread throughout her body at the exhilarated smile she got in return.

"Hey! Isn't this the road to Charlie's?" she asked a short while later.

"Well, I promised you special," Marshall answered, "and it doesn't get more special than Charlie's house."

Megan twisted slightly in her seat, careful not to hit the stick shift with her knee. "You two are pretty close, huh?"

Marshall's smile faltered and it took her a few moments to answer. When she did, her voice was as soft and serious as Megan had ever heard it. "When my parents died, he was all I had left. He took me in and raised me like I was his own daughter. Helped me with my schoolwork, came to all my games... ." She flashed Megan a crooked smile. "Got me through all my crushes, even though it took him a while to understand why I kept falling for girls instead of boys."

Megan grinned a little. "Heartbreaker from a young age, were you?" she asked lightly.

"Oh yeah," Marshall laughed. "You should have seen Anthony's face when Sharon broke up with him to go out with me!"

"Who were they?"

Green eyes twinkled merrily. "The quarterback and the head cheerleader."

Megan's eyes widened before she broke out in laughter. "You're kidding!"

"Nope. I don't think his ego's recovered yet!"

They were still laughing when they finally pulled into the driveway to Charlie's house. Both the house and the garage sitting beside it showed signs of age, the paint yellowing and peeling, the wood of the screened-in porch beginning to warp and buckle in places. But Megan could feel the love and history exuding from it as if it were a living being. Even before she stepped into the house itself, she felt comfortable and at home... the age of the place adding character and charm.

Charlie met them at the door, leaving as they were coming in. "I'm going to the bar, ladies." He gave Marshall a peck on the cheek and Megan a hug and a wink. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do... and try to keep the house in one piece," this to Marshall, who gave him an indignant glare.

"Just for that, no leftovers for you, mister," she retorted with a grin.

Charlie placed his hand over his heart and rolled his eyes skyward. "Whew! Thank God for small favors." Then he laid his hand on Megan's shoulder, giving her a grave look. "It was nice knowing you, Megan. I'm sorry it had to end this way."

"I'm but a small sacrifice for the greater good of humanity," she answered every bit as seriously.

Marshall threw her hands up in the air and stalked into the house muttering. "Fine. Be that way. Hot dogs and chips. That's all you're getting out of me today." Megan followed her in with a broad grin on her face, while Charlie chuckled all the way to his car.

Her eyes drawn to the swaying hips just in front of her, Megan almost missed the fact that the interior of Charlie's home sparkled with newness: the sharp scent of fresh paint on the walls mixing with sawdust, the tiled floor glistening and echoing the shades of light oak paneling, and over all of that, the pervasive tinge of beeswax polish. Curious now, she stepped into the living area and immediately fell in love with the huge marble fireplace she found ensconced within.

"Wow!"

"Like it, huh?"

Megan jumped a foot at the low voice right behind her. "Yeah." She gave Marshall a sheepish grin. "Not quite what I expected."

Marshall laughed lightly. "I know, I know. Charlie has this odd idea that if he lets the outside of the house go to rack and ruin, the taxes will be lower. He does all his fixing up on the inside instead, so the appraisers won't notice it."

Megan shrugged. "I don't know anything about that stuff, but it sounds like a plan to me. It's really nice in here, though."

Butterflies danced in the dark woman's stomach. As big as the living room was, Marshall still stood within inches of her and she was finding it extremely difficult to breathe. "I'm going to fire up the grill," Marshall informed her. "You want to come with, or grab a drink and wait for me here?"

"I'll come with you. There's got to be something I can help you with."

Marshall smiled. "You can help me by giving me something pretty to look at while I cook. How's that?"

Megan felt a brief stab of panic, then spotted something out of the corner of her eye. Grabbing the vase filled with flowers, she tipped them toward Marshall in a mock salute. "Not a problem," she drawled, just barely dodging the blonde's slap at her shoulder.

  The late afternoon sun found the two women sprawled in front of a roaring fireplace, their bellies filled to bursting with steak, potatoes, and corn. Despite her lethargy, Megan's mind continued to run a mile a minute and she spared a glance at her companion. Lowered lashes hid the brilliant eyes, but that only allowed Megan to concentrate on softly curved cheeks, moist full lips, and golden hair that Megan's tingling fingers could almost feel.

I love you. The words trembled on the tip of her tongue and she swallowed heavily. Less than twenty-four hours and she felt this way? It was impossible. And once Marshall found out she was frigid... . Megan shuddered. Why don't we just totally screw up our lives, hmmm?

The comfort and warmth she'd felt just moments earlier disappeared and she scrambled to get to her feet. "Look, Marshall, dinner was nice. Really nice." She took a deep breath and rambled on. " But I think I'd better get back to my hotel. Work on my book and stuff... you know? Maybe... umm... maybe we'll see each other tomorrow." Indigo eyes darted around the room searching for the phone. "I'll take a cab back, so you don't have to worry about me, okay?"

Marshall's eyes popped open in surprise and she gawked at her tall companion, who had just found the phone and was furiously flipping through the yellow pages. "Megan, what's the matter?" Not receiving an answer, Marshall leapt to her feet and snatched the phone out of Megan's hand. "C'mon... I thought we were doing really good here," she pleaded.

She'd carefully kept the conversation light all through the preparation of dinner and during it. At the least little flicker of those expressive blue eyes, Marshall had artfully changed the subject and things were progressing rather smoothly. At least, she had thought so. Now all of a sudden, Megan was acting as panicked as she had been at the hotel and Marshall felt the stirrings of her own panic. Let me in, damn it!

Megan shoved her hands in her pockets and stared at the smooth floorboards. "Please call me a cab," she requested quietly.

"Megan... "

"Please." Megan grated the word out and hoped like hell the cab wouldn't take too long in arriving. She'd already cried enough in front of the woman.

Defeated, Marshall dialed the phone and quietly gave her address to the person on the other end. She watched Megan put her jacket on, then stepped closer to her and took her hands in her own. "Will you at least tell me what I did wrong?" she asked with a quaver in her voice.

A single tear slid down Megan's cheek and Marshall's heart broke. "I didn't mean to hurt you, whatever it was I did," she whispered.

The dark head shook from side to side. "You didn't do anything, Marshall," Megan answered brokenly. "It's me. It's always me." It was taking all of her willpower not to look Marshall in the eye, and she knew if she did, she'd do something horrible. Like profess her undying love for the entirely too enchanting woman. Disengaging her hands, she stepped toward the outer door, pausing only long enough to mumble out a good bye before dashing outside.

Marshall leaned heavily against the door and let her own tears fall, wondering how it was possible to fall in love so quickly and so deeply with someone who so desperately deserved it, yet so desperately kept it at arm's length.

 

 

 

I don't know what I was thinking. The room was crowded—too crowded—and it was starting to get to me, so I just glared at everyone in my path until they finally just let me through. A birthday party for a friend of a friend is what it was, and I think Lori had invited every damned lesbian in a five hundred mile radius.

Jesus.

I suppose it's fairly obvious that I'm claustrophobic. And anti-social. And I have no idea why I'd even accepted the invitation, except for the fact that Lori was drop-dead gorgeous and recently single. Of course, now she's over by the kitchen surrounded by ten baby butches who are practically drooling over that little piece of fabric she calls a dress.

Silly me, for thinking she'd look at me this time.

Anyway. I made it through the sliding glass doors with no bloodshed and stood there looking at the stars and breathing in nice, clean air. I didn't notice I had company at first...not until I heard the softest hint of a sigh. Strange. If I was the sighing kind, that's exactly the type of noise I'd make.

I could just barely make the woman's form out, leaning against the balcony railing as she was. A tiny, slip of a thing she was...hardly coming to my shoulder should we stand side by side. I was curious about that so I did. Go stand by her, I mean. Close enough to see mist green eyes reflecting the moonlight as she glanced up at me. Sure enough, when she straightened up, she only came to my shoulder. Imagine that.

Blonde hair tumbling loose down her back and soft looking pouty lips that begged for a kiss. For a moment there, I forgot all about the party inside with its too loud music and too loud conversation, and I just lost myself in those eyes. What a cutie....

"I hate crowds," she told me in a sweet, low voice.

"So do I," I answered her just as quietly. Then we just stared at each other until I gave in to the craving that had snared me the moment I saw her. 

We'd probably still be kissing if a chair hadn't chosen that moment to come crashing though the glass door.

So I grabbed her hand, took a quick peek around the jagged edges, and hauled ass out of there without sparing a second to say goodbye to what's-her-name...you know, the woman with the baby butch entourage. It was the start of a really nice memorable evening.

 

 

 

Megan sat back in her chair and sighed. It wasn't working. She'd come back to her hotel room intent on burying herself in her novel and found herself beginning a new story with a character who bore a suspicious resemblance to Marshall... . Marshall... . What the hell is her last name, anyway? Shaking her head, she shut the laptop down and went over to flop on the bed.

She was tired. Tired of always feeling bad, tired of being scared to death of her own emotions, tired of being hurt, tired of always being on the outside looking in... tired of everything. And most of all, she was tired of only being able to express her love through the cold medium of her computer. She wrapped herself around a pillow and purposely brought up the memory of being tightly held in Marshall's arms, feeling her soft breasts pressing into her own, the silky sweetness of her mouth, the firm warmth of her muscles as she gently pulled her between her legs... .

Marshall's scent surrounded her and Megan cried; deep, desolate sobs that shook her entire body and left her feeling as weak as a newborn. "All I want to do is love her!" she wailed to the unfeeling room. Despair changing rapidly to anger, Megan jumped off the bed and changed hurriedly into her running clothes. Within minutes, she was out the door and running as fast as she could down the trail she'd found when she first came to town.

As she ran, she forcibly kept a picture of Marshall in the forefront of her mind, using it as a torch to burn away her pain and humiliation at all the other women in her life. It took two miles of all-out exertion, but finally she felt her mind begin to calm down and she realized something she had somehow missed before. Not a single one of her previous lovers had tried to be patient with her. Not one of them had asked her how she felt, or made an effort to make her feel comfortable. Marshall, on the other hand, had done everything she could to do things the way Megan wanted or needed. Sure, she'd gotten carried away a time or two, but if Megan was honest with herself, that was as much her fault as it was Marshall's.

She slowed her pace down and headed back to the hotel, her mind made up. Maybe if she just told Marshall instead of getting hysterical on the poor woman, she'd be able to help her.

 

 

 

"Charlie? It's Megan. I... I need your home phone number."

"If you're looking for Marshall, she's not there," Charlie responded, his voice noticeably cooler than normal.

Megan felt her heart sink to her toes and a deep, stabbing pain in her chest where it used to be. "Oh. Did she... . I needed to apologize to her."

Charlie closed his eyes at the obvious pain in Megan's voice and he sighed. All he'd wanted to do was help the girl out, not break his own niece's heart in the process. Opening his eyes again, he glanced over to where Marshall sat by the pool table, staring into mid-air and looking as though she'd lost her best friend. "She's here at the bar. But, Megan?"

"Yes?" the dark haired woman answered anxiously.

"She's really hurting, okay? If you... "

"I won't hurt her anymore, I promise, Charlie," Megan interrupted him hurriedly. "Just don't let her leave. I'll be right over."

Ironically enough, it was seven o'clock on the dot when Megan strode into the bar. She didn't spare anyone else a glance, just looked around long enough to find Marshall and make her way to the blonde's table. She took a deep breath and stuck out her hand. "Hi. I'm Megan Beauchamp."

Worried blue eyes pleaded silently with green.

Very slowly, Marshall got to her feet. "Marshall Dillon," she answered, a faint smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.

Megan's eyes widened and she lost it. "You're kidding!" she said through her laughter, holding on to the edge of the table to keep from falling over.

Marshall's laughter joined hers and for several minutes neither of them were able to talk with any clarity. Charlie's eyes twinkled at them from across the room. "Yes, I'm kidding," Marshall finally admitted when her giggles subsided. "That's what the other kids used to call me in school. It's Marshall Saunders, actually."

Megan shook the smaller hand shyly. "I'm really pleased to meet you, Marshall."

"Does this mean we're starting over?" Marshall asked, not quite sure of what Megan was trying to do.

"In a way, yes. I just... " Megan felt the heat of another blush coming on. "I just figured if we were going to be closer, maybe we should know each other's names."

"How much closer?" Marshall pressed gently.

Broad shoulders squared, then Megan took a step forward, tipping her head down to steal a swift kiss. "As close as possible," she whispered into a tiny ear.

Marshall's entire body shuddered delicately. "Oh."

"I have to take care of something first, okay? Will you wait for me?" Megan asked hesitantly, pulling back to look into Marshall's eyes.

"I'll wait," she agreed. "But don't take too long, all right? I don't want you to change your mind."

Megan gave her a little smile and a wink, then hurried over to where Charlie was cleaning glasses. "You've been a good friend to me, Charlie, and I'm really sorry I hurt you," she told him.

He gazed at her steadily. "Marshall may be twenty-five, but she's still my little girl. I just don't want anything I did to cause her pain." Megan dipped her eyes down and he reached over to tap her arm. "For what it's worth, I think she really likes you, Megan. Give her a chance."

"I'm going to." Her eyes swept back to take in the sight of the small blonde waiting at the door. "I really like her, too."

" G'wan with you then," he grinned, snapping her with his towel. "Tell her I'm staying at Ben's tonight." Megan nodded and blushed before she dashed away.

 

 

 

Marshall watched warily as Megan paced across the room in front of her. She'd tried to get the woman to sit, but she'd just given her a shaky smile and refused. Something about pacing helping to clear her thoughts. Finally Megan stopped and knelt down in front of her, taking a deep breath and keeping her gaze locked on their entwined fingers.

"I write better than I talk," Megan began apologetically.

"S'okay . I talk better than I write," Marshall responded lightly. A ghost of a smile flitted across Megan's lips and Marshall saw the tense shoulders relax.

"In my books, my characters always know what to do... what to say... how to act. It always seems so easy." The nervous woman drew in a shaky breath. "I can't do any of that. I get nervous and tongue-tied... all tensed up like I'm going to be beaten or something stupid like that."

A thumb glided across the back of her knuckles, calming her.

"I do all right with kissing." She risked a glance up and caught Marshall's smile of agreement. "But when it comes right down to it, that's all I know how to do. I've tried... really hard... but no matter how much I want to, I've never been able to do it right." A tear escaped and her lips trembled. "Then they... they laugh at me. And the few times someone's tried to make love to me, nothing they do works. At first it feels good," she rushed on, "but after a while it just hurts so I make them stop." Another shuddering breath and she unconsciously tightened her grip on Marshall's fingers.

Marshall spread her legs wide apart and pulled Megan until the woman was cradled up against her. She didn't speak, knowing that Megan wasn't through yet; she simply pressed a kiss into the soft hair and squeezed her gently.

Megan shifted slightly and nestled closer. It was easier to speak when she couldn't really see Marshall watching her. "I never had anyone I could talk to. Dad was... Well, he was Dad. And Mom and I always started crying the minute a conversation even started getting serious." She chuckled weakly. "God knows what would have happened if I tried to bring this up with her."

"What about your brothers?" Marshall asked quietly.

The dark head shook. "They knew something was wrong, but I talk a good game, so it never really came up. I can't very well let them know they have better luck with women than me, now can I?"

Marshall laughed lightly. "Well, now you can tell them you've got a prettier girlfriend than any of them do."

Megan's head popped up and she stared into warm, green eyes. "Do I?" she asked hesitantly.

"You damn well better think I'm prettier," Marshall growled softly. Then she planted a light kiss on lips that were so temptingly close.

"I'm a basket case," Megan sighed. "Why on earth would you want a sexually dysfunctional girlfriend?"

"I think of it rather as a challenge," Marshall responded smugly. She was rewarded by Megan's snort of laughter and a slap on her thigh. Sobering, she tilted Megan's chin up and looked into slightly reddened eyes. She spoke slowly and deliberately. "I think those other women were the dysfunctional ones. Not you. What you need is someone who'll take things nice and slow and show you how good it can be."

Megan pursed her lips thoughtfully. "Know of anybody like that?" she asked innocently.

The next thing she knew, she was flat on her back with a blonde woman straddling her belly. Much to her bemusement Marshall simply sat on her, forearms resting on her knees, apparently deep in thought and with no regard for the woman she was using as a chair. "I could always call Shelly," Marshall offered at last. "No, she's seeing someone now. Hmm... ." More deep thought, while Megan thumped her head back onto the floor and resigned herself to her fate. "Kelly? Nah, she wasn't all that spectacular. Amanda?" A slow, sexy grin crossed Marshall's face and Megan glared. "Amanda was really, really good," she informed her captive audience.

"I'm going to hurt you," Megan threatened, trying her best not to let a smile slip past her. Then her eyes widened as Marshall changed positions again, dropping down so their faces were inches apart.

"How about me?" Marshall breathed out, completely serious now.

"What if I can't do it?" Megan returned anxiously.

"Practice." A kiss. "Practice." Another kiss. "Practice." Yet another kiss. "And I promise I'll love you anyway."

There was deathly silence in the room and green eyes widened impossibly as Marshall realized what she'd just said.

"Okay." One simple word put Megan's heart into Marshall's hands, trusting her to keep it in one piece.

Long arms tugged Marshall into place and they traded reassuring hugs and kisses late into the evening. 

 

 

 

Much to Megan's relief and dismay, Marshall never made a move to initiate lovemaking in the following days. Instead, she was showered with affection and warmth, and a lot of good-natured teasing. After their first night together, Megan had checked out of her hotel at the blonde's insistence—no sense paying for something she wasn't going to use, she'd been informed in no uncertain terms—and their days were spent exploring the small town Marshall called home. They made nightly excursions to the tavern for light conversation and pool, before retiring back to Charlie's to snuggle and watch TV or for Marshall to read while Megan typed away on her final draft.

Megan had to admit that, of all the time they spent together, she cherished the nights the most. She'd stopped tensing up when Marshall slipped under the covers with her, and even taken to holding the small blonde in her arms in a gentle embrace without any prompting. And last night... last night she'd felt Marshall trembling with excitement when her caresses had gotten too bold.

She was extremely proud of herself for causing that.

Tonight was the night, she decided, and set about making her plans. A hasty conference with Charlie had a bewildered Marshall sent out to a neighboring town for bar supplies. She almost hadn't fallen for the "truck broke down" excuse, but much to Megan's relief, the blonde had driven off with Ben in tow after only a few minutes argument as to why Megan couldn't go with her. Charlie had to feign a sore shoulder for that one, saying he needed Megan to help him lift cases of beer to restock while they were gone.

"Your niece is entirely too suspicious, Charlie," Megan sighed when they were finally out of sight.

"Nah," he winked. "She just hates to be separated from you." 

Blue eyes twinkled brightly. "The feeling's mutual, old man." They laughed together as they set about rearranging the living room furniture.

"Oomph!" The couch hit the floor with a dull thud and Megan massaged her aching back. "I think that's got it," she said, surveying the wide, empty area in front of the fireplace.

"You want that little table now, or are you going to bring it in later?"

She considered it for a moment and shook her head. "Later, I think. I don't want to be banging my shins into it when I bring the wood in."

Charlie grinned at her fondly. "All right. Well, have a good time tonight. I'm gonna head out now... send Ben on his way when they get back."

"He won't even have a chance to get out of the car," Megan laughed as she walked Charlie to the door.

To her surprise, Charlie wrapped her in a hug. "I'm glad you came here, kid," he told her gruffly.

"Thanks for taking me in." Megan cleared her throat and gave him a misty smile. "Now go on with you. I still have lots to do." She pushed him gently out the door and chuckled at his directive not to do anything he wouldn't do. "Conniving old man," she muttered affectionately.

Less than an hour later, she had the wood stacked up, a nice fire blazing merrily, and pillows scattered around the low table in the center of the room. Soft music played on the stereo and all that was missing was a certain beautiful blonde. After fidgeting and pacing for a bit, Megan dragged out her laptop to kill some time.

           You know that old saying about things that seem to be too good to be true?

Exactly.

I woke up the following morning and she was gone. Now, not to brag or anything, but I've had my fair share of lovers over the years, and a few of those had crept out in the middle of the night for one reason or another. Nothing unusual there, save for the fact that I always—always—wake up. I'm an extraordinarily light sleeper. Needless to say, I had no clue my little paramour had flown the coop until I'd torn my house apart looking for her.

Not a single sign of her. If it weren't for the scent of our lovemaking lingering in the air, I'd be hard pressed to say anyone had been with me last night at all. Being the easygoing person I am, firm believer in live and let live and all that rot, I took a nice long shower before I proceeded to call every single person who'd been at Lori's party trying to find out who exactly that little blonde was and where she lives.

Hey. Free love's a wonderful thing, but by damn, that girl and I made a connection and I wasn't about to let her slip through my fingers that easily.

Not a one of them knew what I was talking about and they each swore I'd left the party alone.

Best sex I'd ever had in my entire life and it was a figment of my imagination. Go figure.

I generally question my decision to become a private investigator once or twice a week. Then moments like these occur and I breathe a sigh of relief instead. I've gained a lot of contacts throughout my semi-illustrious career in the area.

Let me rephrase that. I've gained a lot of really odd contacts throughout my career.

One of them is a detective with the county, and he happens to know a woman who specializes in, shall we say, abnormal occurrences. Like girlfriends disappearing into thin air. And yes, she's had to help me out before but, honestly, those all had perfectly rational explanations. Really.

Anyway, Misty runs around debunking urban legends, ghost-busting old houses, and showing people how to make those eerie rapping noises without apparently moving. Definitely not the guest to have over on Halloween around Ghost Story Telling time. She ruins all my fun.

So I'm thinking that it's really weird that I'm the only one who remembers the girl and that Misty may just be the ticket in finding out what the hell is happening around here. But let me tell you...if she brings out that damned Ouija board, I'm out of here.

Megan looked at the screen and wondered where on earth this particular story was headed. Not only was it a complete departure from her normal style of writing, but she'd also skipped her meticulous character sketches and outlines that she usually used to keep herself on track.

A car door slamming prompted her to shut down the computer and she grinned wryly at herself. The story, like her relationship with Marshall, was flowing along its own path, and she was content to wait and see where both led her.

 

 

 

She watched as Marshall's eyes made a slow pass over the changes in the living room and sighed in relief when a beaming smile came her way. "You like?" she questioned softly.

"Oh yes." Marshall glanced around once more, then walked over to give Megan a hug. " Y'know , we went all that way for just one box of supplies. Know anything about that?"

Megan tilted her head back and contemplated deeply. "Um... no." She grinned when she got a poke in the belly. "I wanted to surprise you," she admitted finally. "Did it work?"

A long, slow kiss was her answer. Taking Marshall's hand, she led her over to the small table and eased her down onto one of the cushions. The meal was a simple one: little sandwiches, cheese and crackers, and a pot of tea for them to drink. At Marshall's questioning look, Megan blushed. "I figured tea would help keep us warm without... "

Marshall grinned impishly. "Without muddling up our senses too much?"

The flush on her cheeks rivaled the glow of the fire as Megan nodded shyly.

"Well, well, well. Let's get to it then, shall we?"

Over an hour passed as they swapped nibbles of food along with nibbles of flesh and soon they were sipping the last of their tea. Megan's heart rate was steadily rising as she realized the moment of reckoning was almost upon her. With trembling hands, she added a few more logs onto the fire before she turned to face Marshall again. "W-would you like anything else? More tea? Coffee? Sandwiches?"

Green eyes narrowed slightly. "Why don't you just come back here and lay with me for a bit?" Marshall held her hand out in silent invitation.

Megan cleared her throat. "All right," she answered, the slightest tremor in her voice.

It hadn't taken Marshall long at all to realize what the afternoon was leading up to. Part of her was exhilarated at the knowledge, while another part was almost as terrified as the violently trembling woman in her arms. " Shh... " With easy, gentle touches, she calmed Megan down, letting her know without words that nothing had to start just yet.

"I'm sorry," came a quiet whisper.

"There's nothing to be sorry about, Megan. I'm just as happy lying here with you as I would be if we were doing anything else." At the suspicious look she received, "You know what I mean," she grinned, then rested her cheek along the soft slope of Megan's chest.

Long moments passed as they cuddled together, neither really noticing the passage of time or the subtle movements of hands casually caressing and stroking. The crackle of the flames, the hint of wood smoke in the air, and the growing warmth combined to send the two women into a different world where all that mattered was the sweetness of lips and the exquisite fit of their bodies.

Bright blue eyes, wide with arousal and a touch of fear, met emerald green. "I think I'm ready," Megan offered shyly.

No answer was needed as Marshall quietly continued with her quest. Keeping her movements languid and completely non-threatening, she carefully eased open Megan's shirt, pressing kisses to each area of skin as it was revealed. Whenever she heard a hitched breath, she'd stop and return to full, red lips, then continue on her way.

Before Megan was quite aware, she was divested of her clothing and Marshall was running her fingertips lightly along her ribcage. She swallowed against a completely dry throat and looked up with wide eyes. "Should I... do you want me to... " She pointed vaguely at Marshall's clothed form.

"Only if you want," Marshall whispered.

Megan nodded quickly. If nothing else, she hoped it would keep her mind off the fact that she was buck naked in front of this beautiful woman. Though, from the look in Marshall's eyes, she didn't seem to be disappointed in how gangly Megan was.

Everything was fine until Megan's fingers stumbled trying to unhook Marshall's bra. Face flushed with embarrassment over her inability to do this simple thing, Megan dropped her hands and started to turn away before the blonde could see the tears in her eyes. Why she'd ever thought being with Marshall would be different was beyond her. The laughter would be coming soon, she was sure.

But Marshall wasn't laughing at all when she stopped Megan from twisting away. Eyes dark and serious, she guided Megan's hands to the straps of her bra and helped her slip them off her shoulders and down her arms. With that done, they nudged the bra to her waist, then slid it around so the fastening was in front and easier to unhook. "And if that's too slow for you," she told her with a slight smile, "next time, you can just yank the thing up and over my head. Won't bother me a bit."

That earned her a bit of a grin, so she kept a hold of Megan's hands and they removed the rest of her clothes together. "Now, I want you to lay back and relax, okay?"

At Megan's nervous nod, Marshall helped her get comfortable and then settled in next to her, letting her fingers draw light trails across Megan's chest and along the slope of her breasts. She kept up a light murmur of words, saying how beautiful she was, how soft her skin, how it glistened in the firelight, how glad she was that she had the chance to be with such a sweet, sweet woman, and all the while her touch glided across Megan's body, soothing her light trembling.

Megan kept waiting for her breasts to be groped, or for Marshall's hand to plunge abruptly down to her sex, but it never happened. Instead, all she felt were mild caresses that started a slow burn in her blood as Marshall kept tracing paths all along her skin. Face, neck, torso, arms, legs—Marshall didn't miss a single point on Megan's body as she showed her what being loved felt like.

Soon Megan was trembling again, but this time it wasn't in fear or apprehension. Her breath was exhaled in tiny pants that seemed to echo the pulsing between her legs and she finally reached up and pulled Marshall into a deep kiss, unable to keep still any longer. As Marshall slid on top of her, Megan felt the unmistakable moisture being spread on her stomach and she whimpered in need.

" S'all right," Marshall whispered. "I'll take care of you." She sat up slowly, letting Megan caress her breasts for a few moments before she began moving down her body. "Try to stay relaxed."

She was finding it difficult to follow her own advice, but her tension was deliciously familiar as her mouth and hands discovered every curve and hollow of the beautiful body beneath her. She had no idea how much time had passed as she licked a muscle stiffening in fear, nibbled a particularly sensitive fold of skin, and caressed her way toward her goal. When she finally reached the source of aromatic musk, she carefully folded her hands over Megan's belly... to rub away the tension when it arose and to keep the woman steady as she loved her with her mouth.

A harsh whimper escaped from Megan when Marshall's lips finally touched her inner folds and her head pressed back into the pillows. Marshall grasped one of her hands and used the thumb on her other hand to draw light circles on Megan's belly, even as her tongue followed the same path lower down. Light, easy strokes until she felt Megan's hips tentatively begin rolling in a counter-rhythm, then she slowly picked up the pace until suddenly Megan's hands were on her head, guiding her where she needed her to be.

Just as she felt Megan's body begin to tremble, Megan's hands tried to push her away instead of closer. Marshall wanted to scream in frustration, but abruptly remembered her promise so she left the warm, moist sanctuary and kissed her way back to Megan's mouth.

"It's okay... it's okay," she whispered as Megan wrapped her arms around her with desperate strength. They snuggled tightly together and she murmured soothing words over Megan's apologies. "Practice, practice, practice... remember? We've got all the time in the world."

"But, I wanted to... I wanted... " Tears burned in Megan's eyes and she buried her face into Marshall's neck. "Tonight was supposed to be special," she choked out.

"Oh, Megan, it is special! We're here, we're together," she paused and pulled Megan's head up to look her in the eye, "and I got to see and taste your gorgeous body... "

One glimpse of the roguish twinkle in Marshall's eyes and Megan found herself laughing. It was mixed in with a few sobs, but she was laughing. "You're such a dog, Marshall Saunders."

"Why, thank you, Miss Beauchamp. I've worked very hard at it," Marshall said with a grin. She wiggled her way out of her comfy spot and poured them some tea. "Here, we don't want to die of thirst while we're snuggling."

Back into position again, they sipped their tea and watched the sparks flare up in the fire. "You're really not upset?" Megan asked at last.

Marshall sat up and faced her dark haired companion, taking her hands as she did so. "The only reason I was upset was because you were upset." She took a deep breath and leaped off the cliff. "I love you, Megan. If I have to figure out other ways to show you that until you're ready to make love, then I guess I'll just have to come up with some."

Megan just stared at the blonde with a blank look of shock on her face. "R-really?"

"Well, yeah... it can't be that difficult. A few flowers, some wine, a nice dinner now and again... oomph!"

Megan rubbed the spot she'd smacked. "I meant, do you really love me."

Marshall's smile softened and she wrapped Megan up into a heartfelt embrace. "Yeah, I really do."

Megan felt like her heart had busted free and was floating somewhere up in the ether. How this had happened was completely beyond her, but she was pretty damned glad it had. "I... umm... I love you, too," she whispered into a conveniently close ear.

Marshall pulled away slightly and lightly caressed a strong jaw. "Told you it was a special night." And the kisses that followed that proclamation were special, indeed.

A light snow was falling later that evening as the two women cleaned up the room. They'd put their clothes back on, but Marshall was pleased to see that Megan had left her shirt unbuttoned. Every now and again, as they crossed paths, she'd reach out and stroke a bit of flesh that peeked out at her. Then pout when her hand got slapped.

"You shouldn't have them hanging out there if you don't want them touched," she defended herself.

Megan shot her a look of patent disbelief. "I could be dressed in a snowmobile suit and you'd be grabbing at me!"

"Yeah... so? What's your point?" Marshall clicked on the TV and slouched onto the couch, trying mightily to scowl. It was hard to do when Megan was standing there, hands on hips, the front of her shirt not even close to concealing the objects under debate, and her cheeks still flushed from the kisses they'd shared.

"My point is... is... ." Megan scowled back, fumbling when she realized she really didn't know what her point was. "Oh, never mind."

A touch on Marshall's shoulder got her to sit up, then Megan wiggled in behind her, stretching out her long legs on either side of the smaller woman. "Tell a woman you love her and all of a sudden she's got more hands than an octopus," she muttered.

"Octopi don't have hands, they have suckers." Wiggling eyebrows accompanied the word "suckers" and made Megan burst out laughing.

Twisting around, Marshall speared her fingers together and began attacking the helplessly giggling Megan, making sucking sounds as she pinched various parts of the woman's anatomy. "Oh yeah... I've got you now!" she laughed. "I'm a Boa Constrictor Octopus. Once I've got you in my deadly grasp, you're mine forever!" She wrapped her arms tightly around Megan and got a firm hold of her butt, making her scream.

The next thing they knew, their roughhousing tumbled them off the couch and they landed on the floor in a tangle of arms and legs, still giggling through the shock of it.

"Okay, okay!" Megan gasped out. "I give up! I'm yours!"

"Whew! Thank God, because I'm feeling pretty whipped now," Marshall admitted, sucking in a few deep gulps of air. "I think it's time to hit the showers."

Megan made a show of sniffing Marshall's skin and crinkled up her nose. " Ew... you're right." Then she swiftly untangled herself and dashed up the stairs with a growling blonde directly on her heels.

Marshall's offhanded comment of "Jesus, you're beautiful all over" made Megan blush at the same time it made her relax, as they got ready to step into the steaming shower. She'd never taken a shower with another person before, but somehow Marshall made it seem like the most natural thing in the world. Other than the initial comment, the blonde simply picked up a washcloth and soap and they spent the next twenty minutes quietly bathing each other.

Megan was pretty sure Heaven didn't get much better than this.

She would never have imagined going from a failed lovemaking session, to cuddling, to a giggling wrestling match, to a shared shower with any of her previous girlfriends. She'd have had her happy ass kicked out into the snow right after she made the woman get off her. And to top it all off, Marshall said she loved her. Loved her. Who'd have thought it? 

Squeaky clean and flushed from the heat of the water, they padded back downstairs dressed in their sleep shirts. A brief pause to pop in a tape, then they snuggled up on the couch together and proceeded to ignore the screen yet again, this time in favor of soft touches rather than teasing horseplay.

And in yet another change, Megan didn't stop when she felt Marshall begin to tremble. Instead, she mimicked the blonde's earlier caresses, taking advantage of her longer reach to stroke and fondle, while her kisses traveled from Marshall's mouth to the tender flesh of her neck and back again.

A deep breath and then her fingers trailed from Marshall's inner thigh to graze against tight blonde curls, and then further to dip into a wellspring of moisture. Marshall whimpered and her hips bucked in an automatic response. Drawing her head back slightly, Megan met wide green eyes.

"You'll have to tell me... I can never tell if... " She stumbled over the explanation and was stopped by lips pressing over her own.

"Don't worry, I'll tell you," Marshall whispered. Leaving it simply at that, she casually dropped one hand to cover Megan's and then let her body take over the motion she needed for release.

The quiet murmur of sound from the TV set was broken by occasional words of encouragement from Marshall: a soft gasp of "down, just a bit" then "easy, easy" and then a "yes, right there... slowly now" and finally a brief shudder, while she tucked her face under Megan's chin and whimpered out her name.

Megan drew in one short breath after another as her fingers were carefully guided into Marshall's heated channel, the slick walls pulsing hard around them. Dizzy from a combination of fear and arousal, she didn't notice that her hips were rocking in counterpoint to Marshall's movements until Marshall choked out a "curl your fingers up... there... yes... harder!" and the sudden, sharp lunge of the blonde's body hit her center and set off sparks that flowed down to her toes, up to her head, and back again.

A high pitched noise Megan couldn't recall ever making before squeaked out of her throat just as Marshall went rigid, and she just barely heard her say "stop a sec, just a sec, lover." Stopping the thrusting of her fingers, but leaving them inside, Megan took deep breaths as her own rigid body slowly relaxed against the blonde.

They breathed quietly for a moment, small tremors lacing through both of them, and then Marshall was blinking up at her, an impish grin spreading across her face. "Was it good for you?"

Megan grinned back, eyes bright blue and sparkling. "Oh yeah... I don't think I'm leaving this spot ever again." And she wiggled her encased fingers to make her point, catching her breath when the movement made Marshall's eyes shade to forest green.

"Maybe we should go up to the room and start you on the intermediate lovemaking lessons. Since you passed the beginner's level with flying colors... "

"Lots of colors," Megan nodded in emphatic agreement.

But they didn't leave just yet. Neither woman was in any particular hurry for Megan's fingers to leave their cozy nest, and holding Marshall so closely with the blonde's head tucked under her chin was fast becoming Megan's favorite position. Besides, she really didn't think she could walk yet.

Eventually, Megan did remove her hand, if only because she was getting a cramp. Then they spent another few long, luxurious moments exchanging touches and light, fleeting kisses. It was only when their breathing started to become a bit more erratic, and their caresses a bit more daring, that they finally made their last trek up the stairs.

Happily ensconced on the thick comforters adorning Marshall's bed, they made love again, with Megan discovering that all she'd really needed was a woman who paid attention to her. Who knew when to slow down and when to take her breath away, and whose voice stayed calm and reassuring even as her world was tilting on its axis.

All she'd really needed was Marshall Saunders.

"You're not going to get all cocky on me now, are you?" Marshall asked as she stretched worn out muscles and draped herself across Megan's body.

" Naw , it's too soon for that. Give me a day or so," Megan answered, a trifle smugly. Having the blonde tell her to stop because she couldn't take any more had been quite the ego boost, she had to admit.

Marshall idly trailed a finger around a pert brown nipple and cleared her throat. "I was wondering... well, my vacation's almost up and... " She cleared her throat again and sighed. "You know, if you're not doing anything, you could... you know. If you wanted to." She rolled her eyes at herself in disgust. How lame can you get?

Megan pursed her lips, then stared up at the ceiling. "Sure, save old Ben a trip, right?"

Blue eyes met green and they shared a shy grin.

"You could hang around a while, maybe," Marshall offered, trying to contain the urge to jump up and dance around the room.

"Maybe so," Megan agreed solemnly.

Then they were laughing and rolling around on the huge bed, giddy with relief that they both wanted the same thing, and that a heart once thought lost was found again.

 

 

 

Epilogue:

Six months later

"You sure you want to do this?"

"Yeah. It's the nicest women's bar in town and I'm not going to let a couple assholes keep me from taking you there."

Brave words, but Megan was a nervous wreck. Just looking at the entrance of the place made her stomach leap into her throat and choke her.

They'd spent the previous six months settling into living together... getting used to each other's habits and eccentricities, surviving a few minor disagreements, and just generally figuring out that they really liked each other. Lust was a wonderful thing, but the love they shared now was what Megan had always hoped for and had only found in her writing... until Marshall.

They'd also had quite a few late night discussions about Megan's previous history that had Marshall ready to storm to Megan's hometown with a howitzer. Luckily, the dark haired woman had developed quite a few methods of distraction and was able to keep Marshall right there where she belonged. She also made sure to talk the blonde out of taking a long weekend to go with her to pick up the rest of her stuff from home. The length of the drive gave them just enough time to get there late Friday night, sleep a bit, load up her stuff, and then drive back before Marshall had to get to work on Monday. No time for bar hopping, thank God.

She also wanted Marshall to get to know her family—and for them to get to know her—which is why they were in Megan's hometown now for two weeks. So, of course, when the weekend came, Marshall decided she wanted to see the places Megan had hung out before she dashed five hundred miles north to find a new life. And Megan had to admit she really wanted to show off the beautiful blonde at her side and show the other women that she hadn't been the one lacking before.

Megan took a deep breath and ducked her head before she reached for the door handle. She stopped just short and gave Marshall a quizzical look. "What the heck are those?" she asked, pointing at the blonde's feet.

Marshall blinked up innocently at her. "Steel-toed cowboy boots," she told her airily. "Why?"

"You've never worn cowboy boots before."

"I read it in a book once," she mumbled as she opened the door herself. "You coming or what?" She made her way inside before Megan could get out any more questions.

The bar was decent-sized with three distinct areas; the main room filled with intimate tables spaced a discreet distance from each other, the requisite pool/video game room, and at the back was what the owners fondly called the Ballroom where strobe lights flashed along with the heavy bass of the pounding music and several couples were already bouncing and swaying to the beat.

At mid-evening, the place was still only about halfway filled, so they didn't have any trouble finding a table, and it was dark enough to hide Megan's blush when the waitress did a double take upon seeing her there.

"What can I get for you?" she asked once she'd recovered.

"A pitcher of draft and two frosted glasses, please." Marshall gave the girl a charming smile.

"Sure thing. And I'll let Teri know you're here, Megan," she added with a wink before she swished away.

"You do that," Megan muttered and sighed. Teri was one of the bartenders and once she heard the news, it wouldn't take long to spread throughout the place.

"Hey," Marshall scooted her seat over and leaned into Megan's side. "One drink and we're outta here, if you want."

Just feeling the blonde close to her was enough to make Megan smile again. "It might be worth it just to watch you guzzle down that pitcher you ordered. Hell of a big drink there."

Marshall laughed back. "I figured we'd have less interruptions if we ordered the beer that way."

A harsh voice rang out from just behind them and Marshall realized she'd spoken too soon. "Megan! Long time, no see!"

Megan stiffened, matching the tall redhead's fake smile and nodding. "Hello, Teri. How've you been?"

Teri slid into the chair next to Marshall, a toss of her head getting her unruly mane out of the way. "And who are you, sweet cheeks? I have another break in an hour. How 'bout you and me taking a few tours on the dance floor?" She shifted even closer to Marshall and completely ignored Megan's glare. "I've got some moves I bet you've never seen," she said with a lewd motion of her hips.

Marshall leaned in closely and ran her finger along the redhead's jaw. "I invented all those moves," she purred. "So why don't you take your slimy self back to the bar where you belong." She ended by pinching the woman's cheek hard and then slapping it lightly.

Teri jerked backwards and sent her chair crashing to the floor. "Why, you little... " Before she could even blink, Megan was towering over her, the glare more than obvious now. Somehow, she hadn't realized how tall Megan was.

"Get away from my girlfriend," Megan growled threateningly. Her fists were tightly clenched at her sides and trembled with tension.

"Girlfriend?" Teri spat out incredulously. "Oh, that's rich. In that case, good luck to you both," she sneered as she strutted back to the protection of the bar. With any luck, no one would notice that Megan had almost literally scared the piss out of her. Jesus, she was big.

Megan slowly resumed her seat and shot a look toward Marshall under lowered brows. "Sorry about that."

Marshall just laughed and playfully squeezed Megan's biceps. " Ooo , my big, strong hero!" Then she batted her eyes up at her.

Even the dim lighting in the bar couldn't hide the flush rising in Megan's face, but she gamely flexed her muscles and growled back, "And don't you forget it, lady."

The only interruption after that was the delivery of their drinks and they spent a comfortable hour just people watching. The clientele was a mixture of college kids, street toughs, all the way up to the "pretty people" as Marshall liked to call them. When Megan laughingly said Marshall was a prime example of that, she was rewarded with another light punch to the arm.

"If I'm a pretty people, then you're a pretty people," Marshall stated firmly. "So c'mon and dance with me so we can show ourselves off."

Moments later they had moved into the Ballroom and had taken two strides toward the dance floor.

"Killer! What the hell are you doing way down here?"

Marshall spun in a slow circle, then let out a squeal when she spotted the woman who had called her. "Karen! Oh my God, I haven't seen you in forever!"

Megan just stood back with a bemused look on her face and watched her girlfriend exchange hugs and kisses with another woman. She'd gotten used to it after six months—it seemed Marshall knew everybody and apparently what town they were in didn't make that much difference. Jealousy had tried to rear its ugly head early on, but it didn't stand much of a chance against Marshall's habit of wrapping herself around Megan when all the greetings were said and done.

Just as she did now.

"Karen, this is Megan, my forever girl." She grinned at the look of shock on her friend's face and continued, "Megan, this is Karen, a friend of mine from way back."

Karen laughed and shook her head. "Not all that far back. You're making me feel older than dirt, Killer." She gave Marshall a narrow-eyed look. "Guess I can't call you that anymore, though. I heard rumors that you were off the market, but I didn't believe them."

Megan motioned back to the table and the trio got comfortable. A flick of the wrist had the waitress scurrying for another pitcher... it seems word had spread quickly about the incident with the bartender, and, unbeknownst to Megan, her reputation had gone from laughingstock to someone you shouldn't mess with. Megan was pleasantly unaware and was just glad the service had gotten so much better.

"... the best thing that's ever happened to me," Marshall was saying. Megan's heart skipped as it always did when those mist green eyes caressed her and she didn't hesitate to brush her lips across Marshall's in silent agreement. "Speaking of, where's your better half?"

Karen craned her neck around to look through the growing crowd. "She had to use the restroom, but she should be... Ah, there she is. Michele!" She waved her hand and got the notice of not only her wife, but the three women with her. The entire crew made their way over.

"One of Michele's coworkers asked us to come out," she shrugged. "We don't know them all that well, but what the heck."

Megan, however, knew the other women quite well. Marshall felt her stiffening and shot her a concerned look. "What's up?" she murmured.

"It's the Three Stooges," Megan answered quietly, and was startled when she heard a low growl rumbling in her ear. The hissed "bitches" made her chuckle involuntarily. "Go get ' em , baby," she encouraged with a twinkle in her eye.

Marshall grinned back a little sheepishly.

Michele was greeted with a huge hug, much to the envy of the women with her, who were introduced as Jan, Cammy, and Sara. The tallest of the three—immediately dubbed Larry by Marshall—was quick to take a seat next to Marshall once another table had been dragged over to accommodate the group. Marshall was just as quick to lean even closer into Megan... another half inch and they'd be sharing the chair.

Undeterred "Larry" perused the small blonde with hot eyes and gave Megan a grudging nod. "Not too bad, Meg. You must have gone pretty far to snag this little beauty." Full lips painted almost as dark a red as her hair curled up in a sneer. "God knows, you'd never be able to find a girlfriend around here."

Karen and Michele both looked shocked at the unexpected attack, while the redhead's friends chortled and nudged each other. "Guess the blow-up doll wasn't doing the trick, eh?" This was from Sara, the sandy blonde.

Before Karen could jump in, Cammy spoke up again. "C'mon, Marshall, let's dance. Maybe later on you can show me your handcuffs," she suggested, grinning lewdly.

Marshall rolled her eyes. "Like I've never heard that before," she muttered. She was about to refuse when a wicked idea hit her and she gave Megan a reassuring wink. "Be right back, baby."

Megan's heart stutter-stepped in panic at the triumphant gaze Cammy shot at her, but a strong hand on her shoulder kept her in place. The softly whispered "love you" calmed her down immediately and she managed a smile before Marshall walked away with the woman who'd hurt her so badly years before.

Squaring her shoulders, Megan turned her attention back to Karen. "So what's with this 'Killer' stuff?"

Still confused, Karen gamely waded into the conversation. "It's short for Lady Killer. I don't know how much Marshall's told you... "

Megan laughed. "Oh, I've heard plenty. Don't worry about that."

Karen and Michele exchanged amused glances. "Well, being with a different woman every night is one thing, but to have them start playing card games and having auctions just to see who would be the next lucky girl... " She shook her head and laughed again. "Lady Killer, heartbreaker, you name it, she was called it. Killer just stuck the longest."

They told story after story as Cammy's friends' jaws dropped further and further. It didn't take much longer for them to wonder what the heck really happened between her and Megan when it was pretty obvious Megan must have something special going on to hold onto a woman like Marshall.

The music was loud, but a howl from the dance floor cut through it without a problem. Startled patrons watched as a tall redhead stumbled past the other dancers, hopping around, clutching her foot, and screaming almost as piercingly as the lead guitars.

"What the hell... ?" Megan began, then swiftly covered a grin with her hand. Marshall was following the still hopping Cammy with a distinctly smug expression on her face.

While Cammy's friends tried to calm her down, Marshall slid into her seat and shrugged at Megan, Karen, and Michele. "Must've been the boots," she stated simply. "I haven't broken them in quite right yet."

Megan broke out laughing and engulfed Marshall in a heartfelt hug. "My hero," she sang into her ear. They continued the embrace, completely ignoring the woman yelling about her broken toe sitting next to them.

Finally, Jan gave in and dragged the redhead off to the emergency room, while Sara stayed for a few minutes longer. "Look, Megan... " she began uncomfortably. "I'm—we're—really sorry about everything." She waved her hand in the direction her friends had gone. "We'll talk to her and, you know... " she trailed off awkwardly.

Cool blue eyes studied her, then Megan nodded her head. "I'll bet I'm not the only person you've hurt over the years. Maybe you should think about them, too." The lighting did nothing to hide the embarrassed flush on Sara's face before she nodded back and left.

After all that excitement, Karen and Michele decided to take off too, but not before they made tentative plans to meet for lunch the next day to "reminisce in a quieter setting".

"What do you say, Cowgirl? Why don't I take you and your steel-toed boots home, hmm?"

"What? You don't want to dance with me?" Marshall asked, blinking innocently up at Megan.

Megan's lips twitched as she glanced down at the deadly footwear, then she leaned in and bit Marshall's earlobe. "I'd rather dance with you at home... where there's less chance of us being arrested for lewd and lascivious acts," she purred.

" Ooo... I've created a monster."

Megan ran a finger gently down Marshall's cheek, her eyes a serious dark blue. "No, you've helped me slay my monsters, now it's time for the reward."

"Even better," Marshall answered breathlessly. "Even better."

Off into the fresh night air they went, confidently and happily on the path to their future.

The End.


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