2.1 Through Her Sunken Dream E-Book Cover


– IV –


A hand slid over her shoulder, dragging her up from the warm depths of slumber. The unexpected delight of her younger brother’s goofy grin sent a smile spreading wide across her lips and she laughed, pushing her face into the soft pillow. “Tris, how are you here? Mom said you were working in Vancouver!”

“Came home especially for my big sister.” He leaned down and pressed a kiss to her hair. “I’ve a gift for you.”

Rolling over onto her side, she caught sight of Mina dozing in the rocking chair behind him. Tara furrowed her brow. “What’s the gift?”

Tristan, ten years her junior, sat back on his ass, tugging his phone from his pocket and pressing a button before he put the device to his ear. Tara watched him curiously, and when his crooked smile touched the edges of his full lips and he greeted the person on the other end, she furrowed her brow, realizing she’d not caught the identity of the person she knew with which she was about to converse. Tristan laughed at her frustration, and did nothing to ease it as he said into the phone, “Yeah, lemme just hand you to her.”

Tara rolled her eyes and sat up, holding her hand out for the mobile phone. “Tell me who—”


The name threw her for a loop, and she frowned. “I’m sorry?”

Tristan arched an amused eyebrow as he stood. “He don’t have much time, so get your ass on the phone. You need to speak to him.”

“I need to speak to Sam.” Her words spoken deliberately, Tara blanched. “Wait… Sam?

“That one.” He grinned, jiggling the phone a bit. “Go on.”

Half an hour later, Tara mused as she hung up her brother’s phone. She knew she would never forget the experience, one only Tristan could have finagled. She rarely thought about where he worked or what he did, but his truck-driving job had put him in touch with some of the most amazing people over the years. Lately, he’d been driving for a production company in Vancouver… where he’d apparently met him.

Sam Winchester. Tristan had become friends with Jared Padalecki, and at some point, they had a conversation where Tris convinced him to talk to me, in character, when he called and put me on the phone. Tris understood I needed to speak to someone who could make the distinction between light and dark. Because I’d given in to the dark too easily in the past, because he wasn’t ready to live without his sister, and because nothing else they’d tried had worked; Sam Winchester was the only option Tris felt he had left. Sam was the ace up his sleeve, and he knew Sam could get through to me.

The breeze blew her hair into her face, and she looked at the Call Log once again, seeing JarPad Home 15:38, confirming the call’s existence. She’d left the bedroom during their conversation and gone outside to sit on the deck steps. She pushed the flames of her hair back over her ears, smiling softly to herself.

“How’s my girl?”

Tara lifted a merry gaze to the beloved countenance of the woman she called home. “I’m okay, pretty lady. Still reeling.”

“What was it like?” Mina asked, sitting down one step above her and looping her arms loosely around Tara’s shoulders. “You know… talking to a freakin’ Winchester?”

“Surreal. I don’t imagine many people have done that before.” Tara took a deep breath. “Unscripted, that is. Can’t believe Tris arranged this… it blows my mind!”

“What’d the Moose tell you?” Her girlfriend ran her lithe fingers through Tara’s hair and began to plait the blue-streaked red waves into a loose French braid.

“He told me death was more permanent than he or Dean like to imagine. He told me the process of dying isn’t painless, that it always hurts like hell, but the kind of pain I’d feel wouldn’t begin to touch the pain I’d put my brother through.” Tara leaned back in Mina’s embrace, her hands catching on the woman’s arms when they wrapped around her again. “He told me I was the world to a certain little brother… like his big brother was to him.”

Mina pressed a kiss to her shoulder. “I’m glad you were able to speak to him.”

Tara shifted to lift her eyes to her girlfriend’s gaze. “Me, too.”

“So… we’re going to be here for a few weeks while you heal,” Mina began, her smile warm and inviting. “What would you like to do while we are here?”

Tara leaned her temple to Mina’s shoulder. “You know I’m broken, don’t you? I-I-I mean, you know this is always going to be my fight, yeah?”

“Baby, I know this is your fight. I know you fight you on a daily basis. I know you aren’t—” Mina sniffled as tears slipped down her cheeks. “I know you aren’t going to win every battle. I know why you got the semi-colon and the AKF art—it’s your armor to wear into battle—” Mina slipped down to sit in Tara’s lap. “—but you have to remember, babe, I’m always gonna stand next to you, fight your monsters with you. You have to remember, my pretty Major Tom, you’re a goddamn hero in this story. You’re my hero.” She laughed quietly. “I’ll bet Sam said the same thing to you.”

Tara leaned in to press a kiss to Mina’s mouth, whispering, “I don’t know what to say.”

“Say your story isn’t over yet, that it really does go on and on and on and on—” Mina brought Tara’s left arm up to kiss the phoenix-winged butterfly. “—and you’re always going to live on the breath of a hope.” She lifted the right arm up to kiss the spaceman. “Promise me you’ll always keep fighting.”

Tara’s face creased with the force of the emotion swelling within her. Taking another salty kiss from Mina’s lips, she vowed, “I swear it. I swear it to you, Mina, I swear it!”





2.1 Through Her Sunken Dream E-Book Cover

– III –


Tara pushed closer to Mina’s warm body, snuggling as close as she could, hoping she could find peace in sleep the way Mina did. Tara ran her fingers through Mina’s russet curls, watching as they wrapped around her fingertips. The silkiness of her hair, so warm and touchable, drew a gasp from her lips.

She deserves better than me. She’s so happy and perfect and me, I’m just—I’m broken. I’m damaged goods. I’m—

A loud bang jolted her eyes open and she lifted up on all fours, her right hand sliding in something slick that sent her face first into the cold tile of the bathroom floor. Pain exploded in her cheek, and Tara yelped as the banging continued. She shivered at the chill crawling across her skin, slowly rising up once more, feeling a warmth spilling down her chin. Sitting back on her feet, she rubbed her arms to warm them, succeeding only in making herself colder.

The banging grew louder… Tara heard Mina’s cries mixing in with it as she begged and pleaded.

What is she begging for? Who is she pleading with? What is going on?

“Open the door! Please, baby, open the door and let me in!” Mina shouted, confusing Tara.

She’s begging me? Where’m I, that she needs to ask me to let her in?

Her vision blurred a bit, scaring her since the room was already dark. She shuffled over to a line of light broken by a moving shadow Tara figured must be her girlfriend. Her hands searched for the doorknob, slipping on the metal handle two or three times before managing to unlock the door. As it opened slowly, Mina careful of her proximity, Tara whispered, “We were snuggling… weren’t we?”

“You said you needed to pee,” Mina answered calmly, but her facial expression told Tara of the terror filling her. “I’m going to turn the light on, babe, because I need to see you.”

“I’m cold,” Tara whispered. “Can I have a blanket?”

The lights came on and Mina gasped. “Jesus… baby… we need to get you to a hospital.”

“No!” Tara forced herself to her feet. “They’ll tell me the same things they always do!”

“Tara, do you remember doing this?” Mina gently took hold of Tara’s right arm, her fingers like fire on Tara’s skin. “Do you?”

Tara shook her head. “I was snuggling with you. Your hair was warm on my fingers.”

Mina grabbed the hand towel, wrapping it tightly around Tara’s wrist. “If you’re not going to consciously seek help, I’m going to make you do it, Tara. I will not lose the woman I love. Do you understand, babe?”

Time blurred on by until Tara found herself curled up in the smallest ball possible at the head of her hospital bed. Her mother dozed in one chair, her father in another. Mina snuggled behind her, one hand splayed over Tara’s belly. Tara threaded her fingers through Mina’s, shifting to lay partially on her back. “Mina,” she murmured.

Mina nuzzled Tara’s cheek, ghosting a kiss over Tara’s lips. “’M here.”

“They have me on meds, don’t they?” Tara sought another kiss, and Mina deepened it briefly before she nodded, answering, “A mild sedative, due to the pain from the staples and to calm you.”

“I’m so sorry—”

“Don’t apologize, baby. Just promise me you’ll talk to me… or to someone. I can’t handle the idea of living life without you. Hell, it’s selfish of me to say, but I love you so much… and waking up beside you every morning is a dream I never want to wake from!” Mina sniffled, wrapping around Tara. “God, I swore I wouldn’t make it all about me!”

“I feel like I’m failing you, Mina. I feel like something in me broke when I killed that man—”

“But you didn’t. It didn’t. For the first time in your life, you made a decision about living and dying. You decided you weren’t ready to let go. In that moment, baby, you took the choice away from your attacker. Your reaction personified the Voltaire quote you like so much from The Crow—”

It isn’t death if you refuse it.” Tara nodded. “I don’t want to die. I want to stop feeling broken.”

“Are you ready?”

Tara lifted her gaze to the door, where her mother stood in a pretty blue dress sprinkled with a pink and lavender floral pattern. Her airy white sweater matched the handbag in her left hand. Tara nodded, pushing her blue-streaked red hair over her shoulders, whispering, “Mom?”

Rebecca Webster crossed the room, reaching one hand out to cup Tara’s chin, her words quiet, “You are beautiful. You are a wonderful woman, you are my daughter, and I am so proud of you. Nothing will ever change that, Tara Diane; your dad and I couldn’t be prouder of you.”

“He found out in a way I didn’t—”

Rebecca smiled softly, shaking her head. “We already knew. You and Mina live in a one-bedroom apartment. You share a bed. I suspect you have since the first night she moved in. You do everything together. It wasn’t hard to figure out.”

“Is she ready?”

Tara blinked as Lee Webster strode over to her, his face pale and drawn as he bent to press a tender kiss to her tousled mane. “There you are, Tara-Tara.” His big hands carefully smoothed her hair, fingertips curling in the ends as he let out a ragged sigh. “I am so proud of you, dearheart.”

“Daddy—” She bowed her head, squeezing her eyes shut against the tears.

“Your Mina is one smart lady.” His hands framed her face, his thumbs drying her cheeks as he lifted her glistening cocoa gaze to his matching one. “She loves you.”

“I love her!” Tara cried, burrowing against her father’s chest as he sat on the edge of her bed. “You really still love me?”

Lee chuckled, enfolding her in a tight embrace. “Bunches and gobs, dearheart. Bunches and gobs.”

The long ride back to her parents’ rural home lulled Tara into an impromptu nap, one she woke from when their car finally ground to a stop on the gravel drive behind her father’s truck inside the Webster garage. Mina helped Tara out of the vehicle and into the house. As they laid down on the soft bed in the guest room, Tara told her lady, “Daddy likes you.”

Mina smiled widely. “I like him.”

On to Part IV


2.1 Through Her Sunken Dream E-Book Cover

– II –

“You got a light?”

Yanking her from the safety of her own world, Tara stumbled a bit in haste as she attempted to put space between herself and the owner of the voice, who stood close behind her… too close. Tara shook her head, tugging one earbud from her ear in effort to keep David with her and her voice calm. “I-I’m sorry. I don’t—I don’t smoke.”

The man laughed, the sound thick with menace. “I scare ya?” He loomed over her, intentionally stepping forward, into her personal space.

Tara retreated a second time, but this time her back hit a chest and hands fell to her hips, clamping tight, holding her fast. She struggled, lashing out with her fists, receiving a slap across the face for her efforts. The sting startled her into momentary stillness and she tried to determine what her next move should be. Bare seconds passed, but it only took seconds for the men to force her into the alleyway beside the tattoo parlor, and cold steel touched her throat.

Is this really happening? Am I really—

Fabric ripping alerted her to the sudden reality rapidly becoming her own. Her eyes darted up to the man pinning her body against the rough brick wall. His knife created a shallow cut down her chest, the blade breaking the front clasp of her bra. The loss of her clothing snapped her into a terrifying awareness.


Setting her jaw, Tara inhaled sharply and slid one hand over the outside of the arm barring her escape, fingers catching the inside of his elbow. Without a second thought, Tara took her other hand to the man’s jaw. Yanking his arm inward and rotating his head sent his back hard to the wall… and the knife skittering across the alley floor.


HEY!” The man’s partner—he’d stayed close to the alley’s mouth to keep watch—ran at her and Tara tried to sidestep him, but he managed to get a hold of her arm. A frightened shriek tore from her lips as she allowed herself to be whirled around and, fear fueling her, she made a fist and yanked her arm up towards her chest. Stronger than her, the man laughed at her and squeezed, heightening her anxiety, and when Tara brought her free hand down to shove his wrist and free herself, the force of the blow she dealt broke something beneath the skin.


Howling, the man went down, curling around his arm, but movement at the wall spurred her into motion once more. Her eyes caught the gleam of metal in the dim light of the alley, and she ran towards it. Tara dove for it, but a heavy body landed on top of her, knocking the air from her. She closed her fingers around the handle as she rolled, swinging the blade in a desperate arc to slam it hard into the man’s neck. Hot blood spurted across her face and she shouted, pushing him off of her and scooting backwards on her ass until her back hit the side of the green metal dumpster.


Mina’s voice shocked Tara out of fight or flight mode. Tara curled up into a ball, wrapping her arms around her knees as she began to shake. Lifting her gaze to Mina’s horrified countenance, Tara stammered, “He-He was going to—He h-h-hurt me!”

“I know, baby, I know—”

Tara felt tears slipping down her cheeks and she turned away. Unintentionally, Tara found herself faced with the sudden end of her attack: a man laid face down in a pool of his own blood, his eyes open and sightless. Her lower lip trembled and she turned back to Mina. “I killed him.”

“Baby, you—“ Mina broke off to answer a call Tara didn’t realized she’d initiated. “I need help. My girlfriend was attacked outside of Tigger’s Body Art. We need an ambulance, her attacker had a knife.”

“He hurt me!” Tara shouted. “I didn’t do anything wrong!”

“I know, baby. I know—yes, she’s hurt. Yes, she stopped him… with his own knife. Please, send someone!”

Tara heard sirens and her wild eyes watched the mouth of the alley. “I didn’t do anything wrong!”

Mina wrapped her arms around Tara’s form. “I know. I know. Baby, I know.” Her lips pressed a kiss to Tara’s hair. “It’s going to be okay, baby. You’re going to be okay. God, I don’t know what I’d do without you—yes, we’ll stay on the line until they get here.”

Tara stared off into the distance; she didn’t listen to the doctor speaking with Mina. Apparently, the cut spanning her neck and upper chest had been deeper than she’d realized and the doctor had stapled it closed. After investigating the crime scene and surrounding area, the police had not charged her. The man who’d attacked her had died, and the police had found the lookout. His confession confirmed her story.

Mina slid a hand over her cheek. “Hey beautiful, the doctor says we can take you home if you feel up to it.”

“I want to go home.” Tara exhaled a shaky breath. “I don’t want to be here. I remember here and I hate it. I hate it. I just want to go home. Mina, please—”

Mina smiled at her, her eyes shining with tears as she nodded. “We’ll go home.”

Tara jolted awake, bolting from the bed to stumble down the hall to the bathroom. Her heart pounded hard in her chest as she slammed the door closed and locked it. Sliding down the door, she tried hard to regulate her breathing in the cool darkness of the small room.

Please don’t please don’t please don’t please don’t—

A quiet knock came on the other side of the thin wood. “It’s me, baby. Tara, it’s me. It’s Mina. Let me in.”

She’s not real. She’s not real. Mina’s not real. They probably—

Another knock, this one a tiny bit louder and with enough force to be felt through the door. Tara shifted to press her cheek to the cool surface of the wall, scooting on her bottom away from the door. Tugging her knees to her chest, she reached up and worked the lock on the doorknob. Her eyes widened as she watched the door swing inwards to reveal Mina’s patient countenance. Tears slipped down both their cheeks as Tara whispered, “Are you real?”

Mina edged closer… closer… reaching a hand out to push Tara’s tousled hair over the shell of her right ear. “I’m real, sweetie. I promise.”

“If you were a delusion, do you think you’d promise me you were real?”

“I suppose I would, because I want you to see me as hope.” Mina’s full lips spread in a tender smile and she twirled the blue ends of Tara’s hair around her fingertips. “I’m really here, though, babe. I promise.”

Tara considered Mina’s answer for a long moment before asking, “Did you get a hold of my parents?”

“I did, yes.” Mina cupped Tara’s cheek, and Tara realized she’d been relocated to her girlfriend’s lap. “They’re already here, remember? They’re in the office, asleep on the daybed.”

“I didn’t—I must’ve—”

Mina pressed a gentle kiss to Tara’s mouth. “You were pretty out of it. Your mother is talking to your doctor about the scrips.”

“My pills?”

Mina nodded. “I know how you feel about them, but both your mom and your doctor think they’ll help to calm you, maybe even keep the nightmares away until your mind can process—”

“What do you think? You’re my filter—you know me better than—” Tara felt her throat tighten and her face screwed up as she turned it away, leaning her forehead to Mina’s shoulder. “I don’t know—I—Mina, I—Mina—”

“No, sweetie. No. I will not let you do this to yourself. You lived. You lived.” Mina brought both her hands up to frame Tara’s face. “You did that on your own. You didn’t let them take you. You fought back and I—” Her smile stretched wide across her lips. “Baby, I am so proud of you.”

“But I killed—”

Mina shook her head. “No, Tara. No, you acted out of self-preservation. That is entirely different. Self-defense is not murder.” Mina kissed her mouth a second time. “You wanted to live, so you did!”

On to Part III


2.1 Through Her Sunken Dream E-Book Cover

– I –

The new ink made her forearm throb. Looking down at the finished product, Tara smiled. “It’s perfect,” she told the tattoo artist. “Absolutely stunning.”

An astronaut with a semi-colon jetpack floated in the galaxy-filled lightning bolt taken from the cover of David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane album. Written along the top of the bolt was a lyric from 1974’s Diamond Dogs—“Living on the breath of a hope”—while along the bottom was a lyric off his 1969 self-titled album—“I think my spaceship knows which way to go”. It matched the semi-colon phoenix-winged butterfly on her left forearm. The slightly modified words belonged to a band she listened to frequently now, Thirty Seconds to Mars, and echoed pain she had experienced as a youth—“And my story goes on and on and on and on…” Three capital letters blazed brightly behind the exquisite creature—AKF, always keep fighting. This new tattoo spoke of the pain she lived in presently. Spun from Bowie’s genius, the astronaut and 1969 quote expressed her loneliness now, while the line about hope represented the ecstasy she’d barely begun to experience with Wilhemina Bennington.

They’d met by chance in a Starbucks the day she—

Tara looked up as the door to the famous coffee shop swung open and a tall, curvy brunette rushed inside, dropping her dripping, makeshift newspaper umbrella into the black trashcan by the door. Sighing heavily, she sat down in the chair nearest Tara’s table and finger-combed her hair, commenting, “It’s supposed to be sunny and dry today, right?”

“According to Channel 8,” Tara answered without thinking.

The woman faced her, an easy smile on her full lips, her brilliant blue-green eyes dancing as they lifted to meet Tara’s honey-brown gaze. “Well, I think the weatherman’s got some explaining to do.”

Tara smirked, nodding. “To lots of people, I’m sure.” She eyed the woman, eyes lighting on the roller-bag docked next to her. “Tell me you’ve got somewhere to stay and get dry!”

She shook her head. “Actually, I don’t. When I got here, my room had been double-booked. Since I arrived second, the hotel booted me with an apology, but they had no vacancies.”

Tara frowned, leaning forward. “Anyone you know here? I mean, anyone at all?”

She shook her head again. “Not a soul.” She sighed heavily. “I was supposed to meet with a client, but his flight was cancelled due to weather. Any last minute hotel recommendations for a girl?”

“Well, yeah… maybe?” Tara’s lips turned up at the corners. “You look about my size, so I could lend you something dry and put your wet clothes in to wash. If you like my home, you’re more than welcome to stay.”

“Because I would turn down the hospitality of a beautiful woman?” She chuckled, holding out a wet hand to Tara. “Mina Bennington, and you are?”

Blushing, Tara shook the proffered slender hand and shook, a trembling smile on her lips. “Tara. Tara Webster.”

A few hours later, Tara and Mina sat on the couch in Tara’s tiny apartment, eating drunken noodles from a nearby Thai place, and watching Elena Undone on Tara’s television. A knock came at the door and Tara set her plate down on the coffee table, murmuring, “I’ll be right back.”

Crossing to the door, she picked up a box and unlocked the deadbolt. Turning the handle, she gave a tiny polite smile to the woman on the other side of the portal before pushing the box into her arms. Five minutes later, she hugged her arms and suffered through a diatribe of accusations. Tara wondered if it would ever end as arms wrapped around her from behind and a warm cheek pressed against hers, a steely voice growling, “Leave. Her. Be. I will be caring for Tara from now on. If I see you near her again, you will regret it.”

The door shut firmly in the other woman’s surprised face, Tara turned in Mina’s arms to bury her face in the taller woman’s chest, whispering, “Why did you—”

“Because she’s a bitch who doesn’t care about anyone but herself. That’s why.” Mina pressed a kiss to Tara’s red hair. “Don’t think about her. Come finish dinner with me.”

Tara nodded. “I just need to wash my face first.” She didn’t wait for a reply, but hurried over to the bathroom and shut herself away from the world. Leaning against the door, she took a couple of deep breaths before taking the two steps to the sink. Lifting the metal handle to run the cold water, she used both hands to splash water on her face two or three times. Raising her gaze to her reflection in the mirror, she took a shaky breath, whispering, “Not alone. Keep… keep fighting. She’s—” hiccup “she’s gone. She’s—” hiccup “she’s wrong. She’s mean.”

Opening her mirrored medicine cabinet, she gave a slight smile, reaching in for the partial box of razor blades. Ready to feel the comforting bite, she slid it open, fingertips reaching in practiced movements to find the right weapon to mar the smooth skin of her forearm. Before she could take the steel from its cardboard home, her mind screamed at her to focus on the ink on her forearm.

AKF—Always Keep Fighting. My story goes on and on and on and on…

Tara tried to shake off learned guilt, but her reflection caught her attention: dark eyes, wide and red-rimmed.

A light knock jerked her out of introspection.

Tara focused on the girl in the mirror, her face crumpling as she gasped, “I don’t think my spaceship knows which way to go!”

“Tara, baby, let me in!”

Whirling on her heel in a split second, she opened the door, pushing the blades into Mina’s hands. “Mina, I’m broken! My spaceship doesn’t know which way to go anymore!”

Tears slipped down Mina’s cheeks even as her lips spread in a shaky smile. “It’s okay, my pretty Major Tom. I’ll help you pilot it. Promise.” Stepping in to wrap her arms around Tara, Mina whispered, “Thank you for trusting me with you, baby. We’ll get through this, and we’ll do it together.”


Tara realized for the thousandth time, she could have easily ended it then, after Allie had ripped her to pieces by telling her she wished she’d been successful in her attempt to end it all. Glancing down at her spaceman, she smiled, grabbing her phone to take a picture of the new ink as the artist rang up her total. Sending it to Mina, she pocketed the phone and opened her wallet to pay the artist. Shouldering her satchel seconds later, she pushed earbuds into her ears, setting her iPod to repeat David Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” before tugging a grey slouch beanie onto her head as she left. Her phone vibrated, and Tara felt her heart lift a little. Digging the phone out to run her finger across the screen, Mina’s words were the sun breaking through the clouds—On my way, babe. Can’t wait to see it in the flesh! XOXO

On to Part II


2.1 Through Her Sunken Dream E-Book Cover

– Proem –

Tara pressed the Play button on her blue iPod before tugging the AKF sweatshirt over her blue-streaked hair. Tears fell from her eyes as she shoved the long sleeves up her arms, her gaze catching on her left forearm as she ignored her phone when it began to vibrate; she knew the caller was almost certainly her boss, just as she also knew his call would be to beg her to change her vacation dates. The loss of another manager weighed heavily on the franchise and they needed her there because he needed to be elsewhere.

Guilt still compelled her to do as they asked, to push her personal life aside and be there for them, but she couldn’t force herself to do it… not again. Not this time. She had to take care of her own house first. Shoving the thoughts aside, she tugged the shirt down over her belly.

It buzzed again, but the trilled purr of the gorgeous feline who shared her bedroom offered a pleasant and momentary distraction from her thoughts. She whirled and bent to lift the calico into her arms, nuzzling her wet face into the cat’s side, and as if her furry companion knew she needed comforting, the purr grew louder.

“Almost time, babe.”

She looked up at the door, finding the comforting visage of her girlfriend leaning against the jamb. Nuzzling the cat’s soft fur, Tara gently set the animal on the bed, giving her a good scratch. She nodded. “I know.”

“You’re worried.”

She nodded again. “Mina, I am. I’m worried… really worried.”

“You shouldn’t be, sweetie. Your mother knows you both so well, and she says to talk to him.” Mina crossed the room. “Tara—” She lifted her hands to push a lock of Tara’s fiery hair over her ears. “She definitely wouldn’t steer you wrong. Not after everything you’ve been through. She thinks he’s ready.”

Tara bowed her head, leaning her cheek into Mina’s touch. “She asked if I had a girlfriend.”

“Right?” Mina smiled, her lips turning up at the corners. “She loves you and she wants you to be happy, baby.”

Tara took a deep breath, reaching back to grab her satchel. Tossing the strap over her head, she murmured, “I can do this, right? I can do this.”

Wrapping her up in strong arms, Mina pressed a kiss to the crook of Tara’s neck. “You can do this.” Another kiss to Tara’s temple. “I promise.”

On to Part I


2.1 Through Her Sunken Dream E-Book CoverI’ve always been depressed. In fact, I think I’ve suffered from depression probably as long as I’ve been a writer. If not, it’s a pretty close contest.

I didn’t have an easy time of it in grade school or junior high. I’ve been overweight most of my life. To be fair, I’m not as overweight as some people. I fit in one airplane seat. I can wear most of the things I want to wear and do most of the things I want to do. The only restrictions I bear are my own, and when I look in the mirror, I don’t cringe… most of the time.

Some days are harder than others.

Those words are often the mantra a depressed person tells themselves. Those words are, sometimes, the only words to get them through the day.

Kids are mean.

Those words ring true, too. Kids are meaner than hell, and I took the brunt for whatever they could find. I have a club thumb and the days they didn’t feel like calling me “fatso,” they zinged me for that. I was a bookworm, a nerd, a fat kid, too quiet, and my parents raised me somewhat sheltered, so I didn’t know any of the popular music or television shows until I was about fourteen. You can only imagine what growing up like this did for me in the 1980’s. My parents didn’t do it to be mean, but it happened. I was bullied and the words… well, they hurt. They did massive damage I still deal with today, and in my younger years, this was killer.

I was fortunate enough, as life dealt a succession of trials and tribulations this past year, to have added cushioning when I fell. That cushioning came in the form of a man I truly admire, Jared Padalecki, and the birth of AKF, or Always Keep Fighting. I didn’t realize a man who always smiled could be just like me, who had to really think about it to see the glass as half-full. As AKF went into full swing, I would save money to get a permanent reminder to do just that on my left forearm. On good days, it reminds me I am strong. On bad days, it pisses me off just enough that I realize the reminder is doing its job: I am good enough. I am worth it. I am strong. My story… it goes on and on. We aren’t done yet and my stories are not all told.


Tara Webster and her girlfriend, Mina Bennington, travel to visit Tara’s parents in Texas, where Tara plans to finally come out to her father. On their first day there, Tara is attacked outside a tattoo parlor in Deep Ellum, and in self defense, she kills her attacker. A life-long sufferer of severe depression, the trauma sends her spiraling into a web of guilt, pain, and despair. Will she be able to muster the courage it takes to always keep fighting, or will she no longer refuse death?

On to the PROEM


Glittering Soul E-Book Cover











Part Four

Liana curled tighter around the body pillow, pushing her face into the blue plush snowflake blankets keeping her warm. While the swelling on her face had gone down over the last two weeks, the bruises all over her body still made it difficult to find a comfortable position in which to fall asleep. When Liana did find rest, usually it was in short spurts or it happened because she was too exhausted to keep her eyes open.

She shifted a bit more, finding a good spot and sighing blissfully. Liana felt fingertips running through her hair, and her own traced the slender side of the body beneath her. Jolting awake, Liana pulled up on one elbow to find Mare lying beneath her. Tears glossed Mare’s clear blue eyes as she reached a shaking hand up to cup Liana’s cheek, her voice hoarse, “I’m so, so sorry! I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to just come home to you—”

“You’re okay, sweetie—”

Mare shook her head, bringing a light kiss to Liana’s lips. “No, I’m not. Hadley had it right when she jumped on the very next plane out, and I’m sure I’ll catch a deserved hell from her, but I wanted to make sure that when I made it right, I made it wholly right.”

“I don’t understand.” Liana sank down to fully rest on Mare’s soft chest, holding the woman’s intense gaze. “Made it wholly right?”

“Baby, I mean that I didn’t want us to have to be parted anymore. I didn’t want us to subsist on phone calls, so I tied up loose ends in Hollyweird and put my house on the market and all my stuff in a storage facility in Henderson.” Her fingertips on Liana’s scalp sent waves of drowsiness through Liana’s body. “So I’m here with you, and when you’re ready, we’ll go home. I know you and Hadley are tight, I know it’s a package deal, but when we go home, we’ll go home together.”

Tears broke the dam of her eyelids and slipped down Liana’s cheeks. “I can’t believe this is happening. Stuff like this never happens to me. Ever—”

In a single fluid motion, Mare sat them up, holding Liana carefully in her arms, supporting her fully as she shifted so Liana rested comfortably in her lap. “It is now. I know that we happened fast, but the rest of the time we have together, in this life and all those that follow, I want to savor each moment. That means, Liana, that I’m not willing to spend another moment without you. Yeah, I know that work will part us temporarily each day, but maybe we can put our desks at least in the same room or something?”

Liana laughed through the tears falling steadily down her face. “You… gods, woman, you mean—” Liana shifted in Mare’s lap, wrapping her legs around Mare’s hips as she tried to get closer to the woman. A broken little laugh tumbled over Liana’s lips as their gazes locked in the bluish light of the moon pouring in through the window. “At risk of sounding completely stupid, dear lady, I’ve been waiting for this day, waiting for the day that someone would claim me.”

Mare giggled, leaning her forehead to Liana’s. “Consider yourself claimed, my lady.”

Liana pressed a kiss to Mare’s mouth. “What if—”

Mare shook her head. “We already know it’ll work and, ye gods, we’re so much alike, Liana! We’re old enough to recognize that a relationship cannot function on chemistry alone, and we’re wise enough to know that yeah, we’re going to have to put some work into us to keep us working.” Mare’s smooth hands gently framed Liana’s face. “And I already know that you’ve been through hell, so I want to be close. I want to stay by your side. Please allow me to do so.”

“What if one day… you decide you… love… someone more than me?” Liana whispered, almost afraid to lift her gaze to the woman she’d fallen for the instant she’d run into her in the airport now almost three weeks ago.

A single tear slipped down Mare’s cheek. “Oh, girl… that’s not ever gonna happen. Here… I’ll make this easy for you, okay?” At Liana’s nod, she continued. “In the Kennedy novel of our life, you’d be the Nico and I’d be the Caleb.”

“You read Safe?” Liana’s eyes flew open wide.

“On the plane ride to Texas. You said it was one of your favorites, so I read it.” Mare’s thumb passed over Liana’s lower lip. “And I’m never going to let someone hurt you again. Ever. I love you. Admittedly, there’s no logic to me knowing it, but neither you nor I are logical creatures. I’m also admitting that I’ve always believed in love at first sight—”

“In our case, love at first crash,” Liana joked.

“Right?!” Mare searched Liana’s eyes. “What I’m trying to say is fine, okay, let people say we’re moving too fast. I don’t care. What I care about is you and me and how we feel. Do you—”

“Yes!” Liana’s lips spread in a brilliant smile as she nodded. “Yes! I do! I mean, yes, I love you, Mare!”

“That’s all I need to know, then.” Mare tugged Liana closer still as her lips lifted to the kiss Liana gave—


Mare and Liana returned with Hadley to Henderson after New Year’s. Liana didn’t end up returning to her day job at the pizza shop for long. She went back to work for a month in order to train her replacement, but Mare wanted Liana to focus on her writing, so after the replacement was trained, Liana locked up after herself for the last time and finally moved on to what she had always dreamed of: being a stay-at-home author. The first day of waking up to a brand new life coincided with the first day of being pain free, which meant Liana was free to be herself entirely!

Rolling onto her side, Liana slid her hand over Mare’s collarbone. “Mornin’, beautiful lady.”

Mare’s hand slipped over the side of Liana’s neck, fingers burying in warm blonde hair as she pulled Liana into a sweet kiss. “Now it is.”

Liana smiled sleepily at her lady, falling back onto her back and tugging Mare along with her. Mare giggled, tossing her hair over her shoulder as she leaned down to press another kiss to Liana’s mouth, asking, “Writing on the boys today?”

Liana nodded. “Plan today was get up, take a shower—maybe with this beautiful lady I’m in love with—”

Mare laughed. “Would love to!”

“—go out to breakfast at this little place on Boulder Highway—”

A kiss to her chest above her heart. “Sounds like heaven.”

“Maybe dawdle around one of the two Psychic Eyes I like.” Liana arched her neck to the butterfly kisses dropped along the sensitive skin. Her hands buried in the thick sandy blonde hair she often buried her face in as she fell asleep, biting her lower lip as lithe hands slid under her tank top and up her sides.

“I’m good with that—” Liana’s words died on her lips as Mare crawled above her, an impish smile on her lips as she told Liana, “But first, my lady, you’re going to be made love to properly. No other way to start the first day of the rest of our lives than by joining our souls.”

Liana’s hands smoothed up Mare’s back, taking with them the black camisole she’d worn to bed. Mare smiled at her, sitting up on Liana’s hips. “Know that these last three months have been the best days of my life, that I wouldn’t change anything but what happened to you the first week we met.”

Removing her own top, Liana sat up, one hand cupping Mare’s jaw. “Not your fault.” Kiss. “It’s over.” Kiss. “It’s done and we’re here.” Heavy kiss, hands in each other’s hair. “And we’re together.”

Mare nodded, nipping at Liana’s lips. “We are.” Pushed closer to Liana. “Not letting you go.” Rock of her hips. “Ever!”

“Because I’d let you?” Liana rocked back, liking the friction of their curvy bodies. Her hands slid harshly over Mare’s full breasts. Her fingers pinched the taut, dusky nipples. “You’re mine—”

“Vixen!” Mare hissed, pushing Liana back onto the pillows, legs tangling in legs as Mare’s lips closed around the sensitive nipple of Liana’s left breast. Liana rocked, awash in the undertow of pleasure dragging her further and further out. Mare sped up the rhythm, her heat solid against Liana’s as she sat up once more, one hand on Liana’s bent knee. She tossed her head back, raining tousled gold over one shoulder, and Liana gasped at the sensual sight her lover made.

“Mare… gods, Mare—”

Hooded blue eyes trained on her face as Mare leaned forward, her hips quickening as Liana’s hands found home in Mare’s hair. Their mouths crashed together as Mare took them into the light—

Mare giggled, burying her face in Liana’s neck before whispering, “That was so very not how I wanted to make love to you, but Christ on a cross, woman—”

“Ye gods, Mare, don’t apologize!” Liana blushed, holding tighter to her lady. “That was singularly the sexiest thing that has ever happened to me. Baby, we didn’t even get our panties off!”

The laughter mingled into a tender kiss. Rolling to their sides, Liana pushed Mare’s hair over her shoulder, whispering, “I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.”

“Being loved. Being adored. Being needed.” Mare smiled at her. “And so much more.” Her smiled widened. “Can’t believe I forgot to say the most important one.”

Liana nuzzled Mare’s face. “Because the others aren’t important enough?”

“Well… they go with this one, I suppose, so equally important, but yeah… this one is super-duper stupid important.” Mare cackled, stealing a kiss, her hands raking through Liana’s hair. “I love the streaks in your hair! You’re gorgeous, Liana! You’re a goddess—”

“That’s you, Mare.” Kiss. “Tell me the important one.”

“Right!” Mare kissed her tenderly. “You’re the stars, you know that?” As Liana’s cheeks filled with new color, Mare tipped up her chin, bringing their gazes together. “Which brings me to my confession.”

“Confession?” Liana asked, pulling up on one elbow.

“You said you didn’t know what you were doing. I confessed what I was doing. I am loving you. I am adoring you. I am needing you. And I’m going to create a verb from a noun for this next one.” Mare leaned on one elbow as she slid her free hand over Liana’s shoulder, fingers following the slope of Liana’s neck. “I am going to wife you.”

Liana blinked, one hand following Mare’s on her shoulder, fingers threading through Mare’s longer ones. “Wife?”

“Yeah.” Mare squeezed Liana’s hand. “What do you think?”

“Say it again!” Liana fired back. “Say it!”

“Be my wife.” Mare grinned. “Let’s do this the same way we’ve done it all.”

Liana couldn’t stop the joy flooding the banks of her soul. “Only if you’ll be my wife.”

“Because I could resist the sun that is you, Liana? You are a bright light. I know that touching you will burn, but I want to burn, want to shine, within you. Let me burn—”

Liana placed a lone fingertip to Mare’s lips, giving a slight shake of her head. “No… let us burn. Together.”

“Like Amy said in Angels Take Manhattan?” Mare suggested and Liana felt the tears slip down her cheeks at her lover’s remembrance of a beloved line.

“Exactly like Amy said. Together, or not at all!” Liana rasped, fingers trembling as they brought Mare’s palm to her lips. “And you truly are my Rory Williams.”

“And you, my beautiful, loud Scottish Amy Pond… and a soul so bright I could see it on the other side of the universe.” Mare laid Liana back on the bed again. “So let me love you the way I wanted to now… and we’ll make breakfast downtown, okay?”

Liana nodded, and she reached for Mare, knowing in that instant she would always reach for her, she would always hold her and need to be held by her, and that inside the haven of her embrace, she would always know a love brighter than any sun.




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Part Three

She was falling.

Disoriented, Liana fought to stay upright, but nothing her hands grabbed slowed her progress and pain in her hip, followed by pain in her cheek, sent her eyes flying wide. She’d been dragged out of bed onto the guest room floor, the pain in her hip from the fall. The pain in her face, however, came from the punch dealt to her jaw—and a second one landing to her cheek—eliciting a startled cry from her lips.

“How the hell you think you gonna be allowed to make Daddy cry? Ain’t you s’posed to be the good one? The responsible one? Fuckin’ bitch!” Backhand. “Knew you experimented back in your twenties, but you a grown ass woman now.” Backhand. Liana couldn’t breathe, nor could she see what weight sat on her lungs. “You gonna listen now, or you gonna be judged momentarily.”

That voice. She knew that voice. That voice and those hands. That voice was what spurred her to move when Leigh and John had made the move from Fort Worth to Decatur. That voice had haunted her darkest nightmares and those hands, balled into fists, had left bruises so dark they’d attracted much unwanted attention. Needless to say, Liana had been forced to figure out different living arrangements to keep her from harm’s way. Off and on over the last ten years, her brother had slipped from one girlfriend and addiction to another girlfriend and sobriety, to another woman he actually married and a different addiction.

It was the addiction she hated in Darren, though at the moment, it wasn’t the addiction beating her, but the theology to which he subscribed. She curled into a ball between the day bed and the trundle, covering her head and allowing her back to take the brunt of his blows. She took herself out of the frightening situation as her brother shouted and screamed, attempting to garner a different reaction from her. Liana remembered he liked her fear, remembering whenever she’d allowed it to surface, Darren’s creative side would surface with it.

“Is that—who did that to you, LiLi?” Sherri, her general manager at the restaurant, barked, not realizing the sound would cause Liana to jump. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. Come into my office, please, Liana.”

Her use of Liana’s actual name meant she was all business. Liana wouldn’t be able to misdirect or not answer questions. Dammit, Darren… dammit! Dammit! Dammit!

“Yes, ma’am.” Liana stubbed out her cigarette and left the breakroom to follow the older woman. As the door shut behind her and Sherri turned to face Liana, leaning against the front of her desk, Liana carefully hugged her arms, asking, “What can I do for you?”

“I should ask you that question, LiLi. Who put that bruise on your arm?” Sherri’s dark eyes hardened in anger.

Liana shook her head, not meeting her manager’s eyes. “I’m in the process of moving. It won’t happen again.”

Sherri reached out, drawing Liana’s attention without actually touching her. “Who?”

Liana’s hands slipped too high up her arms and she grimaced. “No, I’m taking care of this. I swear. If I need help, I will ask you. I’m not in trouble—”

“That wound says differently—”

Liana turned away, her voice trembling, not out of fear, but out of embarrassment and anger. “Am I going to be penalized if I leave this conversation here?”

“No, hon… I just—”

“And I appreciate it, but I can’t… I can’t do this right now.” Liana exited the office, out of breath, and made for the back stall of the girls’ restroom.

“Get off her, you fuckin’ psycho! Cat, get her! Get her outta here!”

Blake, her youngest brother, yanked Darren out of the room, and his wife darted into the room, slamming the door before locking it behind her. Catrina helped Liana to her feet—“Let’s get some clothes on you, hon!”—and helped her to dress.

Liana jumped as the front door burst open, and she heard her father’s voice add to the din coming from the kitchen. A light knock came at her door and Leigh called out to her, “Honey, let me in.”

Catrina hurried over to unlock it to let Liana’s mother in, keeping her eye on Liana’s weeble wobble towards the edge of the bed. Leigh gasped at Liana’s swollen and bruised face, but both ladies jumped when Liana wailed at the sight of her broken phone and laptop. Her knees went out from under her as her shaking hands touched the Toshiba which had, prior to its demise, needed replaced. Her phone… had been smashed with a boot heel.

“Baby, baby… we’ll get it replaced.” Leigh gently pushed a blonde curl over Liana’s ear. “We’ll get you fixed up and we’ll get your laptop and phone fixed up, too.”

“Can’t call her.” Liana closed her eyes and sagged against her mother. “Can’t get her calls.”

“All we have to do is get a replacement phone. I doubt that he thought to break the SIM card.” Leigh turned to look at Catrina. “Can you go do that for her? Go down to the Sprint store and get her upgrade. We’ll meet you there in a little bit. I’m going to take her to the doctor and maybe to look at computers.”

Liana shifted. “Momma… I can’t go out looking like this—”

Leigh kissed her daughter’s forehead. “We’ve done this before, remember? What did we do then?”


Liana laid in the hospital bed, watching the screen of her new phone. So far, she’d spoken to Hadley and Leigh had called Liana’s manager back in Vegas. Hadley was currently on a plane to Dallas and Leigh had informed Liana she liked her supervisor. Mare hadn’t called yet, and since the phone didn’t have enough space to back up, her number hadn’t been one of the ones able to be pulled from the damaged SIM card. Leigh had tried to get phone records from the phone company, but had been unsuccessful in her endeavor. All that remained to do was wait.

A text vibrated her device and she lifted her head as she unlocked her screen. Hadley.


Just touched down. Car should be waiting. Tell your mom to expect me shortly. Talk to M yet?


Liana sighed and sent her reply quickly as she called out, “Momma! Hadley’s on the ground. Should be here soon!”

“Good. Mare call yet?” Leigh asked, smiling up at Catrina when she and Blake brought in food. “Thank you, sweetheart.”

“O’course, Momma.” Blake kissed the top of her head. “Here, sis,” he murmured, setting a bag of Taco Bell food down on the pillow next to her. “Made sure you were allowed to eat it before we brought it. It’s all soft stuff so it doesn’t hurt your jaw.”

“She call you yet?” Catrina echoed. “Blake and I’ve been hoping she does!”

“Nothing yet.” Leigh shot a worried glance Liana’s way. “Still waiting.”

“Took forever, but I got it!” Everyone jumped at the strong voice of John Valentine. “Got it, dearheart.” He crossed the room in three steps, pressed a kiss to her temple and held up a box which had previously only held the remains of the computer she’d named Castiel on the Microsoft website. “My buddy was able to fix your computer—including that part on the back. I have him waiting outside, but I can bring him in if you’re okay with that.”

“That’s fine, Daddy. Blake, can you…?” Liana reached out to wrap her arms around her moose of a brother’s neck as Leigh brought her bed up into a sitting position. Catrina brought the bed table over to place the fast food on the left side as John removed the laptop from the box. The screen casing was now blue, the Toshiba logo still very much intact, and Liana giggled at the stickers still on the top right-hand corner: Twizzlers, TomboyX, Society6, and NaNoWriMo.

“Liana, this is my buddy from work, Dorian,” John introduced, shock still evident in his face even as he smiled. “Dorian, my eldest, Liana.”

“Nice to meet ya, Liana.” The man took off his Stetson and held it to his chest as he smiled at Liana, then up at Leigh. “Mrs. Valentine, nice to see you again.”

“You as well, Dorian,” Leigh murmured. “Thank you for this favor.”

“How did you get my stickers back on?” Liana asked, gratitude heavy in her eyes as she pressed the power button.”

“I used heat to remove them from the broken lid and reattached them in the same places on the new one. I also gave them a bit more adhesive to keep them smooth. I had to replace a few parts in the laptop itself, but all of the things that you need are there. You’re very good about saving and backing up to Dropbox, so you should be good with your manuscripts.” Dorian watched as she logged onto her computer, smiling at the wallpaper on the brand new screen. “I wondered if that was for one of your stories. At first I thought you were a graphic person, but your dad said you write books.”

“Yeah. I got one coming out next month, actually.” Liana opened Word and opened her current story. She took a deep breath as she saw it was still intact. “Oh, thank the gods!”

“That must be the important one, huh?” Dorian grinned. “I’m gonna give ya my card. I warranty everything I do, so… any problems, you call me, okay?”

Liana impulsively hugged the cowboy. “Thankee, thankee!”

He chuckled, hugging her carefully. “You just take care o’ yourself.”

Her phone buzzed as they broke apart, and she picked it up to see Hadley’s name on the screen. Smiling at Dorian, Liana answered it as she put it on Speaker. “Hey, Had, you’re on Speaker so Momma and Daddy can hear you.”

Oh, all right. Hiya, Li’s mom and dad! Any news on the M front?”

“Nothing yet, Had,” Catrina replied, winking at Liana as she quipped, “By the way, Cat and Blake are here, too.”

Hey, guys. I’m in traffic, but I should be there soon. Li probably will tell me—sorry, but you will and I know it after ten years, I think—she’s all right, but she’s been admitted so what’s the deal?”

Liana rolled her eyes, reopening all the programs she’d had open prior to the attack, as she listened to her mother’s answer, “The doctor’s mainly keeping her under a twenty-four hour observation because of the blows she took to her head. The rest of the contusions, though they’re pretty bad, they don’t concern him as much as the ones on her head. She’s got a few cracked ribs but no broken bones.”

So she’s most likely just—”

“A little banged up, just like I told you,” Liana groused. “Nothing to worry about so you shouldn’t have wasted—”

Hadley laughed. “But it’s my money and if I wanna waste it, I will. You’re family and I don’t have much of that. Now I’m here, silly woman, and you’re going to have to just like it.

“Wow, Li, she told you!” Blake teased. “You should take the 114 West towards Grapevine and Roanoke. Cross the 35 and take it until it hits the 287. Get on there and holler when you’re gettin’ close to Decatur.”

I will do! You, Li, you just wait!

The line disconnected and Liana leaned back gingerly against the pillows. Her vision blurred a little bit, but it wasn’t due to a malfunction with the new glasses Leigh had ordered on within an hour of admitting Liana to the hospital. Liana sniffled, and in seconds, John had dispersed everyone in the room, giving Blake and Catrina a couple of busywork tasks. Liana watched as he shut the door after them, and put her face in her hands to cover the tears.

The bed sank as John sat down on the side, taking her hands in his much larger ones. “Dearheart, I know you’re troubled and I know you’re scared, but this isn’t anything that He can’t handle. You just have to let Him—”


“I know.” He pressed a kiss to her hair. “Your mother told me… and it was one of the main things that your brother kept screaming at me.”

Liana lifted her eyes to catch her father’s green gaze, once brighter than emeralds, but age had weathered it to almost a jade color. Pain blossomed in those orbs, sending tears down her cheeks as she asked, “Are you… disappointed?”

John Valentine sighed heavily, never loosing her hands nor her gaze, and shook his head. “Not disappointed. Worried? A little.” His eyes shone with tears of his own. “A lot. A lot worried. The Word says nothing may take us from His hand, but Jesus, as I have been told by your mother, also says nothing in regards to—”

“Homosexuality?” Liana supplied, her voice small.

John sighed again, this one edged with exasperation. “There are so many references elsewhere in The Word, dearheart. It seems very like I’m being asked to pick and choose what I believe and I don’t like that.”

“I’m not asking you to do that, Daddy. I’m just asking—” Liana squeezed his hands. “I’m just asking you not to… not to—”

John shook his head, tears slipping down his weathered face. “Oh, dearheart… no, no, I never dreamed of it. Not once. I don’t know how or why you might think we’d—”

“Because of what it says!” Liana wrapped her arms around his shoulders and buried her face in his neck. “Because of Sodom and Gomorrah… and because it says in Leviticus and Romans—”

“I know. Leviticus is part of the Old Testament. The passages there pertain to the people of a different time and a different place. It’s also, as I’ve come to realize, quite a controversial subject. Some scholars—Christian scholars—debate whether or not it was the homosexuality that those two cities burned for or whether it was the treatment of foreign visitors and the threat of violence to them. And Romans… Romans is Paul’s words, his interpretation of His Word.” John kissed her hair. “You know, dearheart—”

Liana pressed a kiss to his cheek. “I would do nothing to jeopardize my relationship with you, Daddy. I waffled back and forth over the decision to tell you and then I didn’t even get to tell you, I was outed—”

“It’s over now. Whatever I might think of your lifestyle has no bearing on you being my daughter and Love certainly doesn’t require a martial punishment.” John held her tighter and Liana laid her ear to his chest, listening to the strong heart beating within.

“What’s going to happen to him, Daddy?” Her voice trembled, and she closed her eyes on the tears needing to fall now that she felt safer than she’d ever felt in her entire life. “What’s going to happen to Darren?”

“That all depends on you, Liana Jayne.” John’s tenderness—signified by his usage of the nickname he’d given her in childhood—blew her mind, and it made her almost sick to her stomach she’d ever entertained the idea her father would let her go because of his dedication to his faith. “Right now, Decatur police have him in their custody, but formal charges have not been filed. That can only be done by you.”


On to Part Four


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Part Two

Liana rolled onto her back as she stretched, yawning as she watched Mare sitting on the side of the trundle bed, answering a text message. The previous night had gone quite uneventfully, for the most part. John had set up the Christmas tree and Leigh, Liana and Mare set about decorating it. Leigh made them all hot chocolate and put on her favorite Elvis Presley Christmas album. It was a great time, ending in dinner of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato basil soup. The night culminated with the two women watching television with Leigh… and John, until he fell asleep in his chair about a half hour after dinner. Curled up in front of the couch together, in a room lit only by the cheery glow of Christmas lights, they’d watched Leigh shuffle Liana’s father off to bed. As Liana had been trying to get Leigh back into Supernatural, the three of them managed to make it through two episodes before she, too, succumbed to fatigue. Afterwards, they’d retired to the room they shared for the duration of Mare’s stay.

They tugged the trundle out from under the daybed and set it up close enough that the mattresses were touching and the comforter and blankets were shared. Getting under the coverlets first, Liana watched as Mare turned out the lights and crawled across the trundle to snuggle closer to her. As her fingers threaded through Liana’s and tightened, Liana felt her heart speed up and she whispered, “Can I tell you something?”

“I want you to tell me everything, Liana.” Mare shifted a little closer, nuzzling her nose against Liana’s. “Our… chemistry… is unreal!”

Liana nodded, her smile bright. “I was thinking the exact same thing. It blows my mind that you’re here, that you’re this close, and that tomorrow morning, when I wake up, you’ll be here and not a dream.”

Mare’s lips lifted in a crooked grin. “I keep thinking the same thing.” She leaned up to press a kiss to Liana’s forehead. “I just don’t want this time together to ever end.”

Liana pushed closer to the other woman, loosing her hand to slide it into the warm silk of Mare’s hair. “Me, either.”

A giggle drew her from memory and Liana lifted her blue gaze to find Mare staring at her, chewing on the corner of her lower lip. “You have no idea how adorable you are, do you?”

“What do you mean?” Liana lifted up on one elbow, her eyes focused on Mare’s full and shiny lower lip. Gods, her lips are amazing!

A light knock came at the door as Leigh cracked it open. “We’re going to go in to town for some groceries. I know it’s early,” she whispered, able only to see Liana. “I’m fairly certain you aren’t ready to get out of bed yet. Anything you think you and your guest will need or want to eat? Also, is there anything you left back in Nevada?”

Ten minutes later, the two women listened as the front door shut and locked behind Liana’s parents. Rolling onto her side, Liana slid her hand over the flat plane of Mare’s belly, whispering, “Coffee?”

Mare’s hands slid up and into the soft waves of Liana’s blonde hair, drawing her face down as she answered, “In a minute.”

Liana nuzzled her face against Mare’s, her eyes fluttering shut as she breathed the other woman’s breath. “It feels very much like the air is charged—”

“It is,” Mare murmured next to Liana’s ear. “It’s been charged—”

“I have goosebumps all over—”

Lips pressed lightly to hers, interrupting her sentence, though Liana didn’t care as she surged into the line of Mare’s body, winding her arms around her neck, her fingers threading through warm golden hair. Opening her mouth wider to invite a deeper kiss, Liana moaned when Mare’s hands moved from her hair to rub over Liana’s chest and sides. Mare sighed against Liana’s cheek, relinquishing control to Liana even as she sucked lightly on Liana’s tongue.

Falling onto her back, she giggled as Mare crawled up over her, hooded Channel-blue eyes holding her own wide blue eyes captive. Liana’s fingers tugged Mare’s hair back, winding the thick stuff loosely around her hands as she lifted her lips to the other woman. Liana lost herself in the feel of Mare’s hands on her skin, the weight of Mare’s body on her own, the taste of her tongue and the softness of her lips, the sound of her pleasure… Mare fully intoxicated all of Liana’s senses and all she wanted was more.

Mare’s lips and teeth and tongue moved down her throat, nipping at the vein throbbing in Liana’s neck before whispering, “You… gods, I can’t seem to stop—”

Liana’s hands clenched as she arched into Mare’s touch. “Please don’t!”

Heavy footsteps in the entryway as the screen door slammed shut seconds later sent Liana giggling and shoving Mare off her as she squealed, “No, give it back!”

“Never!” Mare shouted, crawling to the other side of the trundle.

The immediate chill of their separation sent goosebumps all over her and Liana followed after her on her knees, reaching out to grab her hands as she cried out, “Give it back to me!”

“What will I get if I do?” Mare’s right eyebrow arched as her eyes sparkled in the morning sun. “A shiny nickel?”

A knock came at her doorjamb and Liana turned her face towards it, seeing her father’s face appear in the crack. “Your brother called. We’re not going to drag you out of here when you’ve not had time to get ready, but I needed to get my phone charger and I didn’t want you to worry if we were gone longer than your mother told you.”

“All right, Daddy. Thankee, thankee! I love you!” Liana favored him with a warm smile before getting off the trundle and running over to kiss his cheek. “I love you.”

John hugged her tightly, kissing the top of her head. “I love you, too, dearheart. We’ll be back soon, and I’ll call you on our way home to see what you want us to bring you home for lunch. We’ll even stop at Cracker Barrel.”

“Thankee, Daddy!” Another kiss to his cheek and seconds later, the front door shut and locked behind him.

Liana turned around to see Mare walking on her knees to the edge of the daybed, gnawing on the corner of her lower lip as she came to a stop. Her long ash-blonde hair tumbled in glorious disarray about her shoulders as she reached for Liana, whispering, “So we have a while… whatcha wanna do?”

At the arch of a slender right eyebrow, Liana could only think of one thing to do and she knew it would do nothing to get her into Mare’s heart. She also knew what she wanted to do wouldn’t slake her desire even a little bit. Be more like throwing a bottle of lighter fluid onto a bonfire. Padding over to wind her arms around Mare’s slim shoulders, Liana tangled her hands in the woman’s golden hair, her words quiet, “I feel like if I do what I want to do, the history of the world will say we’re moving too fast.”

Mare’s hands settled on Liana’s hips. “I know exactly what you mean.” She nuzzled her face against Liana’s, their lips brushing briefly. “Tell me what you want from me, Liana.”

“I think it would be easier to tell you what I don’t want from you.” Liana swallowed hard, biting her own lip as Mare caught and held her gaze, waiting for her to speak. Gods, what do I say? What do I not say? Exhaling a shaky breath, she gave in. “I want to know what it feels like to wake up to you every day.” Tearing her gaze from the other woman’s, she finished, “I want our conversation from last night to be a reality. I don’t want our time together to ever end.”

Slender fingers slid over her cheek and into her hair. “I don’t see why it has to end, Liana. I don’t have any pressing commitments. I know that you’re down here to visit your parents at Christmas, so I know that I can’t be the only thing you’re—”

“But you are,” Liana interjected, a shy smile forming on her lips. “You are the only thing I can seem to think about.”

Mare blushed. “You seem to be all I can think about right now, too.” Pressing a quick kiss to Liana’s lips, she continued, “I just mean, I know I can’t be your main priority—because Christmas—but I can be here when you do what you came to do and I can whisk you away if it doesn’t go the way you want it to go.” Her smile turned a little shy. “I mean… I understand that we can’t just jump into this, but gods, do I wanna.”

“I know, right?” Liana gave a dry laugh. “It’s like, if we were only ten years younger, then—”

“—we’d have the ten years to get to know each other, not react on desire, become a confusing insta-love slammed on Goodreads—”

Liana laughed out loud. “Don’t forget be likened in some way to a Hunger Games knock-off… or Twilight, if either of them were gay!”

Mare threw her head back and joined Liana in her mirth as for a long time, neither woman could do anything but succumb to comfortable joy.


It was with great reluctance that Liana helped Mare to the security checkpoint. They laughed as they joked back and forth about their favorite parts in the last Supernatural episode they’d watched with Leigh, one from the second season called Tall Tales. Mare clutched Liana, mimicking Sam, “I’m here for you! Brave little soldier! I acknowledge your pain!”

Liana giggled. “I loved that episode! Loved the Trickster. Next time, we should watch Changing Channels and we can say all the lines with them—”

Son of a bitch!” they exclaimed together, quoting one of Dean’s opening lines from the mentioned episode.

Quieting down a long minute later, Liana murmured, “I’ve had a really good time, y’know, these past few days. I really hope we get to do this again.”

“It’s been exactly what I needed as well. I’m looking forward to seeing you again.” Mare wrapped her arms around Liana, hugging her tightly. “I’ll text you when I get in, okay? And I’ll tell you tonight when I’m going to come back, and sweetie, I’m really going to try to make it Christmas Eve day, okay? I want to spend Christmas with you.”

Liana nodded, pressing a kiss to the crook of Mare’s neck. “I will look for your text and your call.”

Mare tugged begrudgingly from their embrace, the joy in her smile glowing like the sun as she waved at Liana. “Talk to you in a bit.”

“I’ll look for your call, sweetie.” Liana hugged her arms, smiling back, before watching Mare show her ticket and identification to the checkpoint agent. Liana watched Mare load her things into the x-ray machine before passing through the body scanner. It wasn’t until Mare’s feet were back in her Uggs and her satchel strap was across her chest once more, that she turned to meet Liana’s gaze. Those blue eyes softened as they darted down to her phone, her fingers moving fast as they formed a text, one that lifted her gaze to Liana’s a final time as she waited. Liana dug her phone out of her pocket and it vibrated in her hand, startling her even as she chastised herself for not expecting it. Unlocking the screen, she read:


Do you want me to fall in love with you, Liana? I’m telling you I could.


Liana’s mouth dropped open and one hand went to cover it as her eyes sought out Mare’s face… and the woman nodded, as if answering the silent question of Are you serious? Liana typed her answer without second guessing herself.


What makes you think I’m not already in love with you? That I’m not already yours?


Her cheeks filled with color, but she hit Send and waited for the visual reaction. Mare bit her lower lip as she smiled shyly at Liana, mouthing, You are, y’know. You’re mine!

Liana nodded, bringing one hand up to cover her heart, a smile turning up the corners of her lips before she mouthed back, And you’re mine!

A hand slid across her shoulders and Liana turned to find her mother standing next to her. Leigh’s smile warmed her daughter’s heart and she slid her hand up to cover her mother’s as she turned her gaze back to Mare’s beautiful countenance. Liana tried to memorize Mare, every curve and shadow and wisp of flyaway blonde hair, whispering, “Momma… can I tell you something?”

Leigh pressed a kiss to her temple. “You can tell me anything, honey.”

Liana took a deep breath as her smile tightened, concerning Mare, who looked down at her phone, typing a text. Liana looked down at the screen when her phone buzzed in her hand.


Are you telling her?


Liana gave a single nod, turning to Leigh as she opened her eyes wide. “Momma… I’ve never ever known something as intensely as I know it now, and I know that you know what I write, and I know that you don’t like the content, but that you’re glad it makes me happy. It’s just, I never felt it necessary to tell you this until now because there… was really nothing to tell.”

Leigh furrowed her brow, her statement sounding more like a question. “Honey, I don’t understand?”

Liana cautiously met her mother’s worried look, swallowing hard. “Momma… I’m… I’m gay.” Taking a shallow breath, she glanced down before darting her eyes to where Mare stood, amazement and pride clear in the small smile sparkling in her eyes. Taking courage from her lady, Liana finished, “I’ve consciously known since college, and when I look back to some of my actions in high school, I think I probably knew then, too.”

Leigh nodded, her blue-gray eyes ticking to Mare and back to Liana. “Are the two of you seeing each other?”

Liana blushed, hissing, “I’d like to see her again, Mom, but you saw us meet for the first time. You were there.”

“Did the two of you—” Leigh broke off, shaking her head and hugging Liana, nearly bringing her to tears. “It doesn’t matter. All that matters is your happiness.”

Liana’s mouth fell open as the tears that had been so close slipped down her cheeks. “You—you aren’t—you aren’t disappointed?”

Leigh pressed a kiss to her daughter’s cheek. “I know what you must think sometimes, and is it a life I wish for you? No, but we can talk about that later. First, send her off properly.”


Leigh laughed, and Liana believed her mother in that moment. Whirling on her heel, she called Mare’s name. The woman who’d been an integral part of Liana’s life since her early twenties, ran to the exit door with her bag and tossed herself into Liana’s arms. Liana’s mouth found Mare’s full one as Mare’s smooth arms wrapped around Liana’s shoulders. Liana giggled, holding tight to Mare as she spun them in a slow circle and nuzzled Mare’s nose.

“I take it she’s okay, yeah?” Mare whispered, stealing another kiss. “She’s okay with us?”

“She told me to send you off properly!” Liana answered, enthusiasm heavy in her voice. “I mean, I know it’s going to be hard, but—” She cut herself off, lifting another kiss to Mare’s lips. “—I can kiss you and not worry!”

“Then kiss me, lady!” Mare teased, and Liana lost herself once more.


On to Part Three