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I wanted to respond individually to all the comments, but the day got away from me. Thank you all though for commenting and being so amazing! I really appreciate this community and the way we care and support each other. This past week's been tough with losing our sweet BooBoo, but it's been an eased burden being able to share it with you all. Thanks!

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Chapter 5

With all the time Natalia spent focusing on her job as an agent, the opportunity to live in Springfield was a welcomed respite. Chicago had been a daily grind of secrets and espionage and counterterrorism games. More than once, she’d considered leaving the Sanctuary. What would she do though? Where would she go? There was no place in the world that was truly safe for her. At least, not until she came to Springfield.



Olivia wasn’t exactly safe. She held an edge of vulnerable danger, and it intrigued Natalia. Long nights of thinking about and yes, even dreaming about the strong-willed business woman had put Natalia on edge and kept her there. She knew falling for Olivia wasn’t smart. She had a job to do in Springfield and moving below the radar of suspicion was the best way to work in a small town; however, falling for Olivia did anything but help Natalia move below the radar. Olivia Spencer was larger than life and bold. Even with her weakened heart and frail, failing body, the older woman exuded a strength that couldn’t be squashed; Natalia couldn’t imagine a world without Olivia in it. She just knew that somehow Olivia Spencer would never die, not if Natalia had anything to say about it.

Natalia swallowed in remembrance – that fear of losing Olivia still fresh from the day Gus died and Olivia got his heart.

As Natalia made her way down the sugar aisle of the grocery store, mindlessly picking up items for her basket, she was lost in the thoughts of her past. Olivia may not have been safe, but this was…caring for the woman and her daughter was. It was the most natural and safe feeling Natalia had ever known, and it was vastly different from her reality. It reminded her of a life as a teenager that now seemed unreal, as if it hadn’t even happened…as if that innocent young girl had never actually existed. There were days when she questioned her own sanity and her reality.

Sighing, she reached for the chocolate baking chips and jumped when she saw another hand float into her vision. She laughed when she turned to see Mel Boudreaux next to her reaching for the same bag of chips, the last bag too.

“I see I’m not the only one planning on making chocolate chip cookies,” Mel said with a chuckle. “I can do peanut butter though. You go ahead and take it.”

Natalia waved her hand. “No, no! I was just going to make some cookies for a…friend, and ah…”

“A friend, yeah,” Mel added. She had an idea who Natalia’s friend was but she didn’t want to presume. “Funny, I’m making some for a friend as well. Does your friend like chocolate chip?”

Natalia blew out a breath she’d been holding and was trying to make light of the conversation, aware of watching her words. Even though she was ready to scream her love for Olivia to the world, she didn’t think Olivia would appreciate that. “Oh, are you kidding? My friend loves chocolate chip!”

Mel smiled at her knowingly. “Well, my friend also likes peanut butter so you take the chocolate.”

“Actually, my friend likes peanut butter too. Really, she loves anything sweet.” As soon as Natalia saw the smile on Mel’s face spread, she closed her eyes with a muttered curse under her breath. Squinting one eye open, she saw Mel suppressing a giggle. “Don’t tell her I spilled the beans, please.”

With mock seriousness, Mel grabbed the chocolate chips and held them out to Natalia. “I tell you what, we’ll bake both chocolate chip and peanut butter together and then split the batches for our ‘friends,’ as long as you tell me all about it.”

Natalia only debated the wisdom of confiding in Mel for a few seconds. She quirked her mouth to the side as if contemplating then giddily agreed. It would be good just to feel normal for a while. She wasn’t used to that feeling and she really needed it, especially with her thoughts from earlier.

The two women gathered the rest of the ingredients and made small talk before heading back to the farmhouse.

***

Olivia huffed out an exaggerated breath at the pile of documents and contracts on her desk that needed to be signed. She also had to review the expense plan for an upcoming conference and start on employee performance reviews.

Growling at the growing sense of frustration, Olivia stood quickly from her desk and opened a filing cabinet. She searched and searched for one specific file, but it was eluding her. She decided she could either spend an hour searching or take a shortcut. Today was a shortcut day.

“Hey Kiera, where’s that file for the conference?” Olivia called out to her assistant. When a few seconds passed and there was no response, she pushed the hair back from her face and took a deep breath ready to take her frustration out on her pleasant but unorganized assistant. It was moments like this that she really missed Natalia. She would have had the file sitting neatly on her desk when she walked in that morning blearily seeking caffeine. Olivia made her way out to the front desk. “Kiera? Oh.”

Sitting on the edge of Kiera’s desk was a massive vase of beautiful flowers. The young assistant came around the corner and her eyes bugged out at seeing the arrangement. Olivia, with her aggravation at the young woman forgotten, smiled at her with a touch of sadness that she tried to cover. “Looks like someone has an admirer,” Olivia said it in a way to convey she thought the flowers were for Kiera.

“No, not me, Ms. Spencer!” Kiera shook her head. “My boyfriend is in grad school at Ohio State, and he’s way too much of a cheapskate for something this extravagant. It has to be for you.”

Olivia rolled her eyes. “Not anymore. There’s no one to make this much of a grand gesture anyway.”

Kiera quirked her mouth to the side. Ms. Spencer and Ms. Rivera’s relationship wasn’t exactly a secret around The Beacon, but neither had come out, literally, and said anything. Kiera didn’t feel like she could say much without pushing the lines of propriety. Instead, she busied herself with glancing around the large vase of flowers. “Well, we can figure this out easily enough. I’m sure there’s a card around here somewhere,” she muttered.

Halfheartedly, Olivia helped in the search but Kiera came up with it first. “Ah, here it is!” She pulled the card out and her own heart did a little happy dance at seeing the script. She had seen hundreds of documents and forms with Ms. Rivera’s handwriting over the last few months. There was no doubt the flowers were from her. Kiera handed the hard over to her boss and then moved around to sit behind her desk in an attempt to appear distracted checking her email, even though she glanced subtly out of the corner of her eye to watch Ms. Spencer’s reaction.

A sharp intake of breath let Kiera know she was correct in her assumption and she couldn’t help smirking a little as she opened a document to print out for accounting. Kiera noticed the dazed look of her boss as she stared at the card, and she knew that there was one thing Olivia can’t stand is to look weak. Standing in the middle of the office with tears brimming in her eyes was definitely not the tough businesswoman look the older woman embodied, so Kiera distracted her. “Would you like for me to write a thank you note for the sender?” Kiera asked her boss, casually pointing at the flowers.

“Um…no…no. Thanks, Kiera, but I can do it. Um, give me a few minutes okay and then bring in the file for the conference,” Olivia said before hefting the large vase in her arms and carrying it to her office, careful to watch the doorway so she wouldn’t damage the flowers.

“Sure thing, Ms. Spencer.” Kiera watched as Olivia went into her office and closed the door.

On the other side of the door, Olivia set the massive container on a side table before pulling a bloom close and smelling its sweet, delicate scent. She smiled and spoke into the quiet office, “Just like you, Natalia.” She sighed as the melancholy struck with a vengeance. “You’re going to make this hard, aren’t you?”

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***

Natalia driving back to the farmhouse with Mel following; when she gets out, she notices movement in the woods; sends text to Rafe to check it out.

Natalia felt a bit giddy as she pulled into the driveway. By now, Olivia should have the flowers she had delivered, and she wished for the umpteenth time that she could be a fly on the wall to see her reaction. Hopefully, Olivia’s reaction didn’t involve dumping them out of her window and onto a Beacon customer! Some kind of reaction though was better than no reaction. As hard as it was, Natalia knew that she couldn’t afford to let Olivia close her out. She had to be a constant presence for Olivia, and she had to work hard to continue to remind Olivia how much she loved her.

There was a little part of her brain that mockingly told her that this would be unnecessary if she had simply communicated with Olivia earlier. Yes, Olivia would have been mad but not like this. Natalia had her work cut out for her.

Natalia smiled as Mel’s car pulled into the driveway behind her. This was going to be a new experience for her. Natalia had never been able to have, because of her line of work, close female friends that she could talk about her love life with. Well, first she would have needed to have the love life, then she could worry about the friends, she mused. She had never been able to have either, but she was going to figure out a way now. She had to. Olivia and their life together with Emma were too important to not try.

Slowly, Natalia walked with her friend towards the front door. She stopped just shy of the porch when she heard faint noises, voices in the distance. Seeing Mel’s curious look at her sudden halt, Natalia busied herself looking for her house keys all the while trying to shut out Mel’s voice and the common sounds of the birds chirping and the wind blowing through the trees to isolate the unfamiliar voices.

“Shhh, she’ll hear us.”

“I’m trying!”

“Try harder.”

Natalia purposefully let a piece of paper drop from her hands so she could leave Mel on the porch and step back out into the open. She bent over to retrieve the paper before straightening up and looking out into the woods beyond the farmhouse. Almost instantly she zeroed in on two figures in the woods in dark clothing and masks.

“Shit!” Natalia muttered to herself.

“She spotted us…move it!” The figures backed up two paces before disappearing quickly into the dark woods.

“Natalia, are you okay?” Mel called from the porch.

Spinning around, Natalia smiled. “Just a little headache. Nothing some homemade chocolate chip cookies won’t fix.” She calmly climbed the steps even as the blood pumped in her veins, ready to pounce, smiling at her friend.

Mel nudged her with her elbow and giving her a wink. “A little cookie and a little lovin’.”

Natalia couldn’t help but blush a little in spite of her sudden worries. She pushed the door open, motioning her friend through. “That’s a conversation for indoors.”

Mel laughed and followed Natalia to the kitchen where they set everything down on the table. Natalia turned to her. “Go ahead and get started. Bowls are in that cabinet. Spoons are in the drawer next to the sink. I’m going to just run upstairs and put on some comfy shoes.”

She left Mel to her work, made sure her cell phone was in her pocket, and quickly jogged upstairs. Once she was in her room, she glanced out her window to the woods where she’d seen the figures. “Damn, they’re gone.” If Mel hadn’t been there, she would have pursued them, but as it was, she had to go back downstairs and bake. Not that she minded baking, but now wasn’t a good time.

Pulling her cell out of her pocket, she found Rafe’s number. Her fingers flew so fast over the keys that the phone took a good ten seconds to catch up to what she had typed. “I know you’re still mad, but I saw something/someone in the woods behind the house. It could be our target.”

She slipped the phone back in her pocket as she slipped off her shoes. With a smile plastered back on her face, she walked back down the stairs to the kitchen ready to focus on winning Olivia back.


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