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Authors: Jeanne Mccann

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Magic in Our Hearts

 

 

 

 

A Novel

Jeanne McCann

 

 

iUniverse, Inc.

New York Lincoln Shanghai

 

 

 

 

Table of Contents

Magic in Our Hearts

 

CHAPTER 1
CHAPTER 2
CHAPTER 3
CHAPTER 4
CHAPTER 5
CHAPTER 6
CHAPTER 7
CHAPTER 8
CHAPTER 9
CHAPTER 10
CHAPTER 11
CHAPTER 12
CHAPTER 13
CHAPTER 14
CHAPTER 15
CHAPTER 16
CHAPTER 17
CHAPTER 18
CHAPTER 19
CHAPTER 20
CHAPTER 21
CHAPTER 22
CHAPTER 23
CHAPTER 24
CHAPTER 25

 

 

 

Magic in Our Hearts
Copyright © 2007 by Jeanne McCann
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
iUniverse books may be ordered through booksellers or by contacting: iUniverse
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www.iuniverse.com
1-800-Authors (1-800-288-4677)
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, names, incidents, organizations, and dialogue in this novel are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
ISBN-13: 978-0-595-42899-1 (pbk)
ISBN-13: 978-0-595-87236-7 (ebk)
ISBN-10: 0-595-42899-1 (pbk)
ISBN-10: 0-595-87236-0 (ebk)
Printed in the United States of America

 

 

To the Twenty Year Club …
Annie and Mar, Helen and Toni, and Ms. P.
It is amazing that we’re all going strong after twenty years—it isn’t just magic!
Here’s to twenty more!

 

 

Acknowledgements

 

Thanks for the encouragement from family and friends and to Toni’s editing skills, your support makes writing so much more fun.
This was an interesting book to write after experiencing knee replacement surgery. The recovery was a life-changing event and I was glad to be able to illustrate it in this story.

 

 

 

CHAPTER 1

“God, Jeb, I am so
not
enjoying my life right now.” An elegant woman in a stunning navy blue evening gown slouched lazily down on the stylish black leather couch. Diamond studs in her earlobes sent out fiery sparks each time she moved her head. Her posture was completely incongruous to her attire. She looked like she had just stepped off a fashion runway and collapsed.

Looking around the high-end condominium located in Brentwood, a suburb of Los Angeles where the movers and shakers lived, you could tell that the person who occupied the home was wealthy. Watercolors by local artists adorned the walls and lush off-white carpet stretched from wall to wall. The kitchen area boasted a Sub-Zero refrigerator and a Viking range, something one would expect to find in an upscale restaurant. The north side of the large living space was wall-to-wall windows with a view of the surrounding hills dotted with home after expensive home. Along with the plush leather couch, there were side chairs upholstered with a modern op art print containing blacks, blues and creams to match the blue lampshades. The room had been professionally decorated to match its owner, a highly sought after physical therapist to star athletes.

The other spaces in the condominium were similarly decorated, with the exception of the owner’s bedroom. There, the stark style was replaced with opulence and deep jewel colors. The room, with its large four-poster bed, was swad-dled in silk draperies and included a matching bed canopy in deep reds, striking yellows, and burnt orange. The walls were painted a rich goldenrod to add warmth to the sensuous sanctuary. The owner’s true personality became apparent after noting the collection of colored bottles on the antique makeup table along-side various powders and creams. A hardback book by a popular romance novelist lay on the bedside stand, a testimony to the romantic soul of its reader. And Taylor was just that mix of practicality, style, and control, with a center full of romantic notions. She kept this part of herself well hidden except to those closest to her, and they were few. She was an extremely private woman who was fiercely loyal to her close friends. They were her family, and she loved them deeply.

“Honey, you have just about everything a girl could want.” The tall, handsome, silver-haired man in a black tuxedo handed her a glass as he sat down next to her. The tuxedo was Armani, as was the shirt, expensive and well cut to fit the large-shouldered man. His silk pants hung perfectly on his tall frame, looking as elegant as the living room itself, not to mention its other occupant. They both would fit in comfortably at a movie premier, an exclusive club, or an A-list restaurant.

“I know, and I still feel lonely and lost. What’s wrong with me?” The woman laid her head back against a supportive shoulder as she sipped from the glass of brandy.

“What’s going on, Taylor? The business is good, you couldn’t make any more money, and every time I turn around you’re out with another gorgeous woman. What more do you want out of life?”

Taylor Aronson sighed as she looked back at her best friend and business partner, Jebodiah Beauregard III. She smiled and reached out to stroke his chiseled cheek affectionately. He was a gorgeous, caring man. His hair was a generous mane sprinkled throughout with silver. His lips were full and sensuous as he grinned back at her. Many a person had seen them together and commented on what a stunning couple they made. That observation couldn’t have been more off base. There had never been anything sexual between them. Taylor and Jeb were both homosexuals and had been as close as two people could be since their second year of college. They had liked each other from the first moment they had met, and there was no one they trusted more than each other. They had stood by each other’s side for several years and each considered the other to be family.

At the start of their second year of college, each of them were struggling to understand their emerging sexuality. Both were such handsome people that they were understandably inundated with unwanted advances from the opposite sex, yet each had no other person in whom to confide in.

It was at a large college fraternity party that they actually met for the first time.

Taylor had been invited by an acquaintance from her anatomy class. She didn’t know a lot of people at the school, and she accepted the invitation hoping to meet some other students. She had entered the frat house with some trepidation but found it crowded with college students who made her feel welcome. The place was wall-to-wall people in the run-down house, with beer kegs set up prominently in the back yard. She had pushed herself through the mass of loud and energetic people to help herself to a mug of beer.

Mike Sharpe was one of the few people she was acquainted with. He had been in her sociology course earlier that year and had immediately gravitated to Taylor, showing her unwanted attention despite her frequent rejections. She had refused numerous requests to go out with him using humor and honesty to rebuff his advances. She tried to avoid him at this party, but he zeroed in on her almost immediately and cornered her against a wall in the kitchen. Mike was a soccer player and a good-looking young man.

“Come on, Taylor, you know you like me. Why not go to the game with me tomorrow?” Mike teased, as he moved closer to her. In Mike’s mind, there wasn’t another woman in the room that could hold a candle to her. She was in stunning shape, worked out almost religiously, and her dark red hair and bright blue eyes were an unusual combination. Everyone noticed Taylor, and Mike wanted her more than any other young woman he knew. She was so aloof—friendly, but apparently shy—and she refused to go out with him. This was something new to him. Mike was a blond, blue-eyed man, with the stature and demeanor of a young Viking. He never had a problem with dating, or for that matter just hooking up. Girls had been easy for him since junior high—until Taylor, that is. She was a huge challenge and she was driving him crazy. The beer he had been consuming since early evening was adding to the problem. Mike was not a friendly drunk, and he was drinking more than enough beer to become completely hammered. Rejection and the alcohol fueled his temper.

“I do like you, Mike, but I don’t want to go out with you.” Taylor’s voice soft-ened as she spoke. She didn’t want to anger the obviously inebriated man. She also didn’t want to call attention to them and make a scene.

“Why not? I’ll show you a really good time,” Mike whispered, as he moved against Taylor, effectively pinning her against the wall with his body. He easily outweighed Taylor by a hundred pounds.

“Mike, leave me alone.” Taylor shoved ineffectually against Mike’s chest, her own temper flaring.

“No, I just want to kiss you.” Mike demanded as he reached down and held Taylor’s arms against her sides while he nuzzled her neck. Taylor felt panic well up inside her as she struggled against him. No one seemed to be paying attention to them, and she was beginning to be scared. She was usually pretty good at deflecting unwanted attention, but Mike was fueled with anger and alcohol. 

“Hey, Mike. I think the lady wants to be let go.” A deep voice spoke from behind Mike. Taylor couldn’t see anything as she continued to struggle to free her arms. Mike’s body completely covered hers as he pressed her tightly against the wall.

“What business is this of yours, you fuck?” Mike turned to find a tall man standing behind him. He stood close to Mike, his eyes locked on his face.

“It’s mine when you’re forcing a woman against her will.” The remark was made quietly, but there was no mistaking the challenge.

Mike turned quickly, aggression boiling up as he moved to take on the intruder. Taylor pushed away from Mike in time to see the stranger duck Mike’s fist as he tried to plant it in his face. As Mike prepared to try to hit him again, the tall dark-haired man rapidly took him to the ground with a leg sweep and a shoulder hold that pinned Mike to the floor. He had successfully used a martial arts move that had caught Mike completely unaware. He bent over Mike and spoke quietly and with complete authority.

“I suggest you don’t bother this lady anymore. If you do, it will be me that you’ll have to deal with instead of a woman who is half your size. There’s nothing more disgusting than a man who tries to force a woman against her will.”

“Get the fuck off me,” Mike snarled.

“Quit being an ass.” The man stood up slowly and watched as Mike struggled to his feet, then sheepishly moved away. Her rescuer turned and smiled at a stunned and watchful Taylor.

“Are you okay?” he asked softly. His dark eyes were as gentle as his voice.

“Yes, I … I’ve never seen anyone move like that. I’m sorry you had to witness that ugliness.” Taylor blushed with embarrassment as she apologized.

“The only person who should apologize is the jerk that wouldn’t leave you alone.” The man smiled down at Taylor as he spoke quietly to her.

“Well, I really appreciate your help. My name is Taylor.”

“My name is Jeb.”

“Can I get you a drink Jeb?” Taylor grinned up at her savior.

“Sure.”

That was the start of their friendship. It didn’t take either of them long to admit to the other that each was homosexual. It also helped when they went out together because people naturally assumed they were dating and left both of them alone. This pleased both Jeb and Taylor because it allowed them to keep their private lives separate, something they both valued highly. Jeb and Taylor were both trying to understand their attraction to their own sex and spent many hours talking with each other about their feelings. 

The friendship had grown and strengthened to the point where they considered each other family. Becoming business partners had followed naturally.

Jeb smiled at the incredibly beautiful woman who looked back at him. He loved Taylor without reservation, and she had supported him and been by his side for over fourteen years, never wavering in her love. He had given her many reasons to abandon him. Even when his wealthy family had thrown up their pro-verbial hands and cut off his money his last year of college, she had shared what little she had with him. After he had drunk himself nearly to death, she had bundled him into her broken down Volkswagen and driven him to the hospital.

Coming out as a “fag,” the term his father and brothers used to refer to Jeb, had been difficult for him. He was the oldest son of a wealthy family from Savannah, Georgia, and used to having everything that money could buy—everything but family acceptance. They were disgusted and ashamed of him and thought the best way to punish him was to cut off his access to the family money and deny his existence. He hadn’t spoken to a single relative since the fateful day he had been confronted by his father. That was a memory he chose to bury, the heartbreak deeply embedded in his soul. He missed his family very much, but he knew without a doubt he could live only by being true to himself. Jeb credited Taylor’s love and support for getting him through college with a business degree and his sanity intact. She had attended night after night of AA meetings with him, as he struggled to keep from falling deeper into the bottle. Now, he had been sober for almost thirteen years, and he was stronger than ever in his resolve never to let alcohol destroy his life. He still attended meetings whenever he needed additional support. It would be a lifelong struggle.

Taylor took one more sip from the cut crystal glass and watched Jeb sitting quietly next to her. He was such a gentle and loving person. “You’d better call Rex. He’ll be worried about you.”

“He knows I’m here, and he’s too busy to miss me,” Jeb responded, placing his large hand gently against Taylor’s cheek. Taylor’s looks had always been so amazing, with her red hair and pale blue eyes. Hers was not the red that came with a sprinkling of freckles, but was the deep dark red of cherry wood, thick, sleek, and straight to her shoulders. She stood all of five feet four without heels on, and her body was voluptuous and strong. Taylor prided herself on staying in superb shape, not only because her profession required it, but also because it was important to her. She worked extremely hard to maintain her well-toned body. “I saw you with Sadie. Why didn’t you take her up on her apparent offer?” Jeb grinned, as Taylor looked back at him with a smirk of her own.

“She was pretty obvious, wasn’t she? There’s nothing subtle about Sadie.” 

Taylor had found Sadie Lawrence’s pursuit of her flattering, and she had almost succumbed to her persistent attentions. It was no secret that Sadie wanted desperately to sleep with Taylor. Taylor had felt her body heating up as Sadie ran her fingers down her shoulder while they had stood quietly talking earlier that evening. Jeb and Taylor had attended a charity fundraiser put on by the local chamber of commerce. The charity, for handicapped and physically challenged children, was one that both Jeb and Taylor supported. In her work as a physical therapist, Taylor had occasionally worked with some of these same children. It was work that filled her heart as well as broke it, at times. Sadie Lawrence was a local newscaster for a morning news show that covered regional events. She was beautiful, intelligent, and indiscriminate in her pursuit of desirable women. Taylor had met her several years earlier while working with a famous male tennis star with a horribly damaged shoulder. He had attracted a lot of media attention due partly to his standing as the second best male tennis player in the world. He also attracted a lot of attention to his bold in-your-face lifestyle as a rich playboy.

Sadie had been one of the many newscasters who had vied for his attention. She was ruthless in her pursuit of the golden boy and had successfully gotten him to agree to an interview while working out at Taylor and Jeb’s facility. Having no objection to free advertising, they had agreed, and Sadie and her team had descended on the business like a platoon of infantrymen. For over four hours, she had interviewed the sexy and wildly entertaining athlete. He was not shy about giving credit to Jeb and in particular, Taylor, for his recovery. Sadie had taken one look at the physical therapist, whose looks alone could garner her a modeling career, and she was in hot pursuit. Not known for being hesitant in her pleasure seeking, Sadie became convinced that she had to sleep with Taylor, no matter what Taylor wanted. Arrogance was one of Sadie’s strongest personality traits.

She was a brilliant and beautiful woman who thought it was her due to sleep with anyone who was the least bit appealing. Taylor found her cavalier behavior disturbing and wanted nothing to do with the vivacious and determined news-woman. She was physically attractive, and Taylor couldn’t help but respond to her, but she would not sleep with her.

“Why are you here alone?” Jeb asked, as he gazed back at his friend. “There’s nothing wrong with a little consensual sex.”

“That kind of sex just makes me feel so empty. I want to be with someone who doesn’t view me as a notch on her belt.” Taylor’s looks generated a lot of attention. The fact that she and Jeb ran a very successful sports medicine clinic and spa made her a very popular woman. And Taylor did like the ladies—a lot. “Besides, I just wasn’t in the mood.” 

Jeb accepted the comment with a nod, but he knew there was more to it and he waited Taylor out. He knew that she would share her feelings in her own good time.

“Jeb, it just didn’t seem right to go home with Sadie. I don’t want to have a relationship with her.” Taylor spoke softly, as she gazed up at Jeb.

“Since when has that stopped you?” Jeb knew that Taylor didn’t sleep around a lot, but she was known to enjoy a casual sexual relationship with an attractive woman.

“I’m sick and tired of dating a woman once or twice and sharing a couple of nights of sex, then nothing more. I want what you and Rex have.”

“Honey, you
will
find someone.” Jeb knew Taylor’s innermost thoughts. She had lost both parents while in high school, and ever since college Rex had been her only family. Taylor wanted a family of her own, a woman to love, and a couple of kids. It was something she spoke about quite often.

“How will I do that? The only women I come in contact with are athletes—

arrogant, egotistical athletes.” Taylor’s opinion of them was mirrored on her beautiful face. Many of the finest and most well known athletes came to Taylor because of her skills as a physical therapist. Her close contact with them didn’t make her one of their fans. Taylor understood that arrogance was a large part of the reason most of them were world-class athletes. She didn’t have to like it, though.

“They seem to like you an awful lot, and they especially like what you do for them.”

“I know. I just want to meet someone who looks forward to more out of life than the next tennis or golf match.” Taylor laid her head against Jeb’s shoulder.

“What’s wrong with me?”

“You need some passion in your life, honey.”

“And how do you suggest I find that?”

“You might need to take some chances, honey. It means you have to love someone no matter what, and believe with your heart that they will love you back. Taylor, you can’t only be with women you can control.” Jeb spoke honestly. Taylor’s one fault in her relationships was that she chose women that she could easily manipulate.

“I don’t control anyone,” Taylor protested quietly, but she knew Jeb was right. She did pick women that she knew she could persuade to her way of thinking. “I’m just so tired of work right now.” Jeb glanced down and smiled as he looked at Taylor’s lovely face now scrunched up into a pout. She was a champion pouter. “Well, something came across my desk last week, and I was about to send the request to another clinic. Maybe you should hear about it.”

“What is it?” Taylor looked up at Jeb with renewed interest.

Normally, Jeb ran the business end of the clinic and spa and Taylor took care of the hiring and training. Taylor was a board certified physical therapist and sports trainer and was well known for her ability to rehabilitate injured athletes.

In fact, her reputation was widely renowned and respected in spite of that fact that she was a stern and demanding taskmaster who expected her clients to work hard. In return, she developed programs that gave her clients much more than hope. Taylor’s regime of total fitness returned them to the world they lived for, the world of sports. And there was no shortage of famous athletes with injuries that threatened their livelihood. The business was lucrative and bursting at the seams with clients.

“Mrs. Camden, the matriarch of a wealthy family in Boulder, Colorado, contacted me last week with somewhat of a unique request.” Jeb had spoken at length to Mrs. Camden. He had not, until that moment, let Taylor know about the unusual request. He knew the effect it would have on Taylor, and he didn’t want to see his best friend hurt in any way. He would protect Taylor from anything that could harm her but he now realized that it was exactly what she needed.

“What?”

“It seems that her only child, a young woman, was terribly injured while skiing. Her legs were broken in several places, her knees had to be replaced, and her left arm was badly crushed. She’s undergone seven surgeries and is now going through painful physical therapy.”

“What’s the request?”

“She wants to hire a physical therapist with sports training experience to help her daughter recuperate. She wants this therapist to commit to a six-month time frame, and she wants the therapy to be exclusive to her daughter. She’s willing to pay and pay well.” Jeb didn’t mention to Taylor that Mrs. Camden had a personal reason to hire her, beyond Taylor’s stellar reputation, and had wanted to speak directly to Taylor. In truth, she was the only physical therapist that Mrs.

Camden wanted for the job.

“We don’t do that.”

“I know, but I think this job might be right up your alley.” Jeb looked at her, his eyes serious. He expected once Taylor understood the request, she would not say no.

Taylor was intrigued. “Why?” 

“You know the daughter. She was a world-class downhill racer and a well-known party girl, Brett Andreson.”

Taylor’s head snapped around as she heard a name from her past. “I didn’t know she was hurt. I just assumed she had stopped racing.”

“The information about her injuries was intentionally kept quiet because of the circumstances surrounding her accident. She and another woman were party-ing quite heavily at the family home in Boulder when they decided to go skiing.

Brett was showing off on the downhill slope and lost control, slamming into a tree. That was nine months before the 2002 Winter Olympics. She was to be the shining star of the U.S. Ski Team. Her injuries were devastating.”

“I do remember noticing she wasn’t skiing anymore. I just thought she’d grown bored with it.” But Taylor knew in her heart that there must have been more than simple boredom that led to Brett’s disappearance from skiing and the Olympics. Brett’s lifelong dream had been to ski in the Olympics. Taylor just hadn’t wanted to know anything about Brett. It hurt too much to dredge up the past.

“I saw her medical records, Taylor. She was lucky to live through the accident.

She was in a private hospital for almost four months. The surgeries she went through must have been excruciating.” Jeb watched Taylor carefully. He knew how much she had grieved when the one serious relationship that Taylor opened her heart to had blown up in her face. She had mourned for over a year, never quite healing from the breakup.

“That all happened over two years ago. Why is her mother looking for a live-in physical therapist now?”

“The last one quit, and she wants her daughter to be more self-sufficient.” Taylor gazed up into Jeb’s face and waited. She knew that there was more. “Mrs.

Camden has been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer and has only months to live.”

“Oh, my God! That will destroy Brett. She loves her mother more than anything.” Taylor’s mind flooded with memories of Brett Andreson, a woman she hadn’t seen or spoken to in over six years. Brett may have been a party girl but her family, especially her mother, had always come first. Jeb sat back and waited, his eyes watching the play of emotions on Taylor’s beautiful face. She could hide nothing from him. He was one of the few people who knew that Brett had broken Taylor’s heart so many years earlier and left her questioning her ability to ever have a successful relationship.

 

CHAPTER 2

After college, Jeb and Taylor’s business had started slowly with a big dream and a small office in Los Angeles. As the two of them networked and connected with other physical therapists in the area, Taylor started to make headway with her unique and well–planned program for injured athletes. She called it
the mind and
body program
, being a firm believer that without a positive mindset and healthy lifestyle, recovery would take longer and be less successful. The first four years they barely paid the rent on the two-bedroom apartment over their tiny clinic, but they loved every minute of the struggle. Working long hours, with little more than the bare essentials, they had flourished, building their reputation and their clientele one success at a time. And they supported each other in every way.

It had been Taylor’s connection with the sports teams in the area that had brought in several clients with serious injuries. Taylor’s successes created more interest and generated more clients, which meant the business needed a larger space and more employees. It was Jeb’s head for business that allowed him to design and develop the business plan for the clinic and spa as it was today. They called it “The Mind and Body Clinic and Spa.” Over the years the business had grown to encompass a staff of forty-three and had a yearly income in the millions.

This was primarily due to the endorsements of many professional and well-known athletes who had successfully used their services. Taylor had assisted in the recovery of many famous athletes after potentially career-destroying injuries. These clients had paid her back by establishing her reputation and recommending her to other athletes. The spa was the first place world-class athletes thought of when they needed to recover from potentially career ending injuries. 

Jeb and Taylor found themselves making more money than they knew what to do with as more and more clients showed up on their doorstep. Their success had provided them with nice salaries, and Jeb had bought a house of his own while Taylor purchased a high-end condominium. Along the way, they had enjoyed being single and carefree in swinging Los Angeles, until four years earlier when Jeb had met and fallen in love with Rex Bonn, a talented chef at a local restaurant in Hollywood.

Rex’s eatery had raised the bar for restaurants with fresh and nouveau cuisine and catered to the fast moving and discerning Hollywood crowd. Even the name reflected Rex’s philosophy as a restaurateur. He had called his restaurant
Fast
because of the fact that he changed his menu monthly to keep the interest of the wealthy people who patronized his business and to define his quick rise to success from head chef of another restaurant to owner. He had decorated
Fast
in a mini-malist style, expecting the food and the clients to be the main attractions. He wasn’t wrong. With grey, black, and red as the only colors used throughout the place, he had struck gold with the atmosphere, not to mention the cuisine. His place attracted the famous, the wealthy, and a large population of gays and lesbi-ans to the hot spot. It was a place to be seen in a city that boasted many a fine restaurant. Reservations were made weeks in advance and were highly sought after.

Jeb and Taylor had gone to the restaurant for dinner one evening to meet a potential client from the PGA golf circuit. Rex, as he was known to do, spent time visiting with all of his guests, stopping at each table to welcome them. Rex was not only a talented chef but had a rapier wit and a wicked sense of humor.

When he arrived at Jeb and Taylor’s table, he proceeded to tease the professional golfer and make Taylor laugh with abandon. But it was his hazel eyes that captured Jeb’s attention, as they gazed at him appraisingly and with obvious appreci-ation. Jeb thought Rex was one of the most beautiful men he had ever met with his generous smile and ready laugh. Rex had looked Jeb right in the eye and asked if he wanted to attend a wine tasting party with him the following evening. With a grinning Taylor watching with interest, Jeb had blushed and agreed to go. Jeb was known to date but not often. He was selective in his choice of men, but Rex was different and Jeb had been hooked from that first moment.

It had been love at first sight, and the two men had eventually settled into a comfortable relationship that included Taylor as part of their family. It was understood that they would include Taylor in their small family. With essentially no other family to turn to, this had worked well for all concerned. Within two months the men were cohabitating and enjoying life as a couple. Rex worked nights at his restaurant and during the day developed new dishes to introduce to his discriminating clientele. Jeb always joked that he had gained twenty pounds the first two months they were together. Taylor spent many a night eating dinner with Rex and Jeb at a back table in the private area of his restaurant, and Taylor grew to love Rex completely. He was a loving and hopeless romantic who wanted more than anything to find someone for Taylor. He was always seeking out women to introduce to Taylor, and much to her chagrin. Brett had been one of those women.

Brett Andreson was a charismatic woman, a talented athlete, and a major player in the greater Los Angeles area. Her coal black hair, dark eyes, and generous mouth were arresting, as was her strong, muscular body. Being the only child of a wealthy family, Brett never lacked anything, including a stable of women who were in and out of her expensive loft. She was easily bored and went through relationships quickly, making it clear that she wanted no commitments from anyone. The only thing Brett ever took seriously was her skiing, and there she excelled.

Brett was best at downhill racing and giant slalom, where her fearless style and natural abilities were put to the test. She set record after record on the World Cup ski circuit, and eventually her only remaining goal in life was to garner a gold medal in the Olympics. She partied hard off the course, but worked out compulsively to improve her skiing. Finally, she became so skillful that no one could touch her on the ski slopes. She had promised her mother that she would win a gold medal, and Brett never, ever broke a promise to her mother. Whatever it took, she would win the gold and present it to the woman she respected above all others.

Brett frequented Rex’s restaurant because of the excellent food and the pre-dominantly gay clientele. Rex liked Brett from the first moment he met her. She was open about her pursuit of sex and fun, but hidden deep inside the woman’s heavily armored heart was the need to find the one woman who would love her unconditionally. She didn’t want someone to love her for her money or her fame, just for herself. Rex saw more deeply into Brett than she was aware of. He recognized a lonely woman that wanted more than anything to find the one woman she could be with for the rest of her life, and he wanted that woman to be Taylor.

Taylor and Jeb went to the restaurant for dinner one evening because Rex had said he wanted them to try out some new dishes. His true plan, however, was to introduce the two women. Rex had invited Brett to his restaurant for a special meal that included a tasty venison filet. He hadn’t expected her to show up with two women in tow, all three far beyond mildly intoxicated. 

Brett entered the small restaurant with the flare that she was known for. Two women hung on either side of her, both attired in designer label eveningwear.

Brett was wearing a pair of navy silk slacks and an off-white muscle shirt that showed her amazing physique to perfection. She was laughing, her head thrown back, her dark eyes flashing with humor and intelligence. No one in the restaurant missed the wanton sexuality exuded by the stunning woman. She moved like a sleek, elegant panther, her toned, muscular body evident in every step.

Although oblivious to the attention she was attracting, she caught the eye of both men and women as she and her party threaded their way through the crowded space. “Reservations for Brett Andreson.”

“Yes, Ms. Andreson, follow me, please.” The maitre d’ led her to a private table near the one that Rex had reserved for Taylor and Jeb and where they were now seated. His plan had been to introduce the two women and let fate take its natural course.

The threesome never separated as they sat down at the table, the two blond women draping themselves like decorations over Brett as she accepted their attentions as her just due. She didn’t mind spending time with two beautiful women, neither of which wanted a relationship. They just wanted to spend an evening with the sexy and talented skier and have uncomplicated sex.

Taylor looked on as the charismatic, dark haired woman ordered a bottle of expensive champagne and sat back, allowing the two women to vie for her attentions. Taylor found the scene wildly entertaining.

Brett was having a good time with Alicia and Carole, two women who liked to hang out with the US Women’s Ski team. They both were wealthy groupies, who loved to play with the larger-than-life skier. She glanced around the crowded restaurant, seemingly unaware of the interest she was attracting. Brett was used to getting attention. Her eyes landed on a petite woman seated at the table next to her. She had dark red hair, unlike any color she’d ever seen. She was talking quietly to a tall, handsome man as they enjoyed the plate of hors d’oeuvres sitting in front of them. Brett continued to watch, fascinated by the woman’s hair, shiny, thick and straight to her shoulders. And then the woman turned and locked eyes with Brett. Stunning aquamarine eyes gazed back at Brett, and the woman smiled. That smile took Brett’s breath away. She felt like she had been hit by lightning, and her heart thudded in her chest.

Brett grinned back at the gorgeous woman and pushed the two blonds away from her. She bent and whispered something to each woman. They grumbled audibly as they stood up, picked up evening bags and wraps, and prepared to leave. Brett was no longer in the mood to play with them. She sent the two women on their way with no more than a request for a taxi to take them home.

Rex walked up to Brett’s table as the two pouting women headed for the door of the restaurant, disappointed that Brett wasn’t going to continue their party.

“Brett, girl, you look good!”

“Thanks, Rex. Looks like you have a full house.”

“Yep, business is good. Brett, let me introduce you to my partner, Jeb, and our best friend, Taylor Aronson.” Rex turned and gestured to the table where the stunning woman sat.

“Hello, Jeb, Taylor. It’s a distinct pleasure.” Brett stood up and approached the table. She flashed a grin Jeb’s way before reaching out to clasp Taylor’s hand in greeting. Her considerable charm was tuned up to full wattage as she gazed down at the redhead.

Taylor felt the flash of energy and heat as she looked up into the laughing dark eyes of the handsome woman. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“Brett, sit, sit. I’m going to bring out some more food for these two. I’m trying out some new dishes and they’re my guinea pigs. Join them.”

“I will, thank you.” Brett sat down quickly next to Taylor, her laughing eyes locked on to Taylor’s unforgettable face.

Taylor could remember that night like it was yesterday. The minute she had looked at the sexy, inebriated woman, she’d been hooked. Brett might have consumed a large amount of alcohol, but that didn’t hamper her ability to charm.

She had made Taylor laugh with her and tremble with arousal. Brett proceeded to regale Jeb and Taylor with stories of her skiing and travels. She was funny, articulate, and bent on capturing Taylor’s attention because the minute Brett had met Taylor, she had known. Taylor was the woman she had been waiting for her whole life.

Brett had grown up with parents that believed in love and commitment. Her mother had been widowed when Brett was twenty-six after Brett’s father had lost his life in a small plane accident outside of Boulder, Colorado, while on a business trip. The loss had devastated the woman and her daughter was equally heart-broken. Both Brett and her mother grieved greatly over their loss. Robert Aronson had been a passionate and loving man who doted on his wife and daughter.

However, Roselin was not destined to live her life alone. She needed compan-ionship and passion, and she had found both with her second husband. He was a calm and loving man who wanted nothing more than to live out his retirement taking care of her. With Brett’s unqualified blessings, she had remarried two years after being widowed, and this marriage had also been a happy one. But fate delivered another cruel blow when Brett’s stepfather suffered an unexpected heart attack within six months of his wedding date, shocking both Brett and throwing her mother into a severe depression. He had an undiagnosed problem with his heart, and at the age of sixty-three had passed away from a massive cardiac arrest.

Roselin had lost not one, but two husbands she had cared for deeply. The commitment that Brett had witnessed in both her mother’s unions was what she believed in and she wanted the same type of relationship for herself. But she had not met the woman she could commit to until that memorable night. The encounter rocked Brett’s world. Taylor had been equally smitten. The evening proved to be an interesting and unusual encounter, but it was the week that followed that Taylor remembered most vividly.

Brett had pursued her with a vengeance. First, there had been beautiful orchids delivered to work in the morning and, for several days, amusing telephone calls just to chat. By Wednesday, Taylor had wanted to see Brett in the worst way and was surprised when Brett hadn’t even suggested that they get together. By Friday afternoon, Taylor had figured Brett was off doing other things and not interested in anything about her, but Taylor had been very wrong.

Brett had plans, big plans, and she was clearing her schedule and cleaning up her act. Her mother had suggested that she court Taylor and that was exactly what Brett was doing.

“Mind and Body Clinic and Spa, Taylor speaking.”

“Hi.”

Taylor didn’t have to be told who was speaking. She immediately recognized Brett’s voice. She flushed with attraction every time she heard Brett’s voice.

“Hello.”

“How’s your Friday going?”

“Good, thanks. How about yours?”

“Excellent. Would you be interested in going on a date with me?”

“It would depend upon when and what.” Taylor was going to say yes no matter what.

“How about tomorrow? I thought we could go to the zoo.” Taylor had been too shocked to respond. She would never have thought that Brett was the type of woman who would want to take her to the zoo. It wasn’t something she expected from the worldly playgirl. “So, Taylor, what do you say?” With a good deal more formality than she felt, Taylor responded, “Yes, that would be very nice.”

“Good, I’ll pick you up at your place tomorrow at nine. Have a great evening.” 

“Thanks, you too.” Taylor hung up the telephone with a silly grin on her face.

She had a date with a woman that fascinated her. She’d never felt quite like this before, but the feeling was exhilarating.

The date had been unique from the very start. They had wandered through the zoo all day long, sharing popcorn, hotdogs, and laughter. They had held hands in the darkened nocturnal animal house and touched frequently. They had talked almost non-stop for hours. Brett had brought her camera along and she had snapped picture after picture of the animals and Taylor. She had even asked a young man to take several pictures of the two of them together, her arm tightly around Taylor’s waist.