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Thank you all for the great comments! We're getting closer to having some truth revealed, but not quite yet. I have a reason for it.

Chapter 6

After seeing Mel out, Natalia went back to the kitchen to finish wrapping up the container of cookies she’d made for Olivia. She sat down with a pen and paper to write a note for the woman she loved, but she seemed to coming up empty. Since she’d returned, she’d said so many things, trying to help Olivia to understand or accept, but all of it felt so hollow. She knew what she needed to do was tell the truth. That would finally free her to be open and truly honest with Olivia. The worst that could happen would be that Olivia would try to get her locked up in Ravenwood. At best, Olivia would finally know why Natalia had to leave and why she hasn’t been as open to her as she wanted.

Taking a deep fortifying breath, Natalia made her decision. Picking up the pen again, the words began to flow from her like a river breaking a dam.



My dearest Olivia,

Before I tell you all you need to know, I want you to see three simple words and take them to heart as the truth, the absolute God’s honest truth…I LOVE YOU!

While it may not have always seemed like I acted that way – I pulled away from you, became hesitant and distant – that had nothing to do with my feelings for you. Those feelings – to be your friend, partner, co-parent, and yes, lover – have always been there in varying degrees. My resistance and hesitation came from the desire to keep you safe, to not hurt you with the truth.

I didn’t leave because I was pregnant, Olivia. I left because…

Natalia’s cell phone buzzed next to her on the table. With a frustrated sigh, she picked it up. “Hello?”

At the other end of the line, Rafe hissed before saying, “Can you meet me at the park?”

Natalia’s eyebrows furrowed and she sat up straight, ready to stand and take off to meet Rafe. “Ye…yeah, are you okay?”

“I will be,” he hissed again. “Bring some duct tape and glue too. I’ll meet you in our usual spot.”

“Okay.” Natalia relaxed a little in her chair, having an idea of what was probably going on now. It wasn’t the first time she had to do this for Rafe, the boy was a bit of a klutz.

Slumping back in her chair, she looked at the partially finished letter. There was a part of her that wondered if the well-timed interruption was a warning to not tell Olivia. The other part of her though that was highly ethical and moral couldn’t stand to lie to Olivia any longer.

“No,” she said to herself and bit her bottom lip in determination. “I’m doing this.” She picked up the pen again and finished what she intended to say before folding the letter in half and placing it inside the cookie container. She placed her hand on top of the box. “I have to have faith, and I have faith in you, Olivia.”

***

She saw the curly dark hair first, poking up over a bush. Looking over her shoulder to make sure no one was watching, Natalia ducked through the bushes, the branches tugging at her long hair.

“Hey,” she said as Rafe turned to face her.

“Hey! I’m glad you could get here. I didn’t think it would be good to go through town with this.” He lifted the bloody t-shirt he’d been wearing to reveal a nasty gash down across his calf.

Natalia hissed at the sight and shook her head as she began pulling out supplies. “I guess it’s a good thing I brought a suture kit. Tape wouldn’t be enough for this. It’s too deep. Is anything damaged?”

He shook his head as he propped his leg up across Natalia’s thigh where she’d placed a towel she’d thought to bring with her, just in case. “No, I don’t think so.”

She nodded as she donned some surgical gloves and got to work threading the needle. Rafe gripped the sides of the bench knowing it was going to hurt like a motherfucker. Tucking the flesh into the wound at one end, she quickly thrust the needle through one side of the cut. Next to her, Rafe growled low in this throat at the pain, then began taking slow, calming breaths to avoid passing out. In spite of being still a little angry with him, she didn’t like to see Rafe in pain. They’d worked together so long now that he was really like her family in many ways.

As she continued to work, she decided to distract him. “So, how did this happen?”

Rafe spoke through gritted teeth, beads of sweat beginning to pop out across his forehead. “I think I spotted someone in the woods, so I was following them. They started running, so I did too. The woods were really dark, lots of overgrowth. I couldn’t see very well, not like you could, and fell into a hole. Somehow there was metal in the hole and it cut me.”

She nodded her head, almost finished with the stitches. “I have some tetanus shots at the farmhouse and some pain meds, go there and check under my bed.”

“Okay,” he said gratefully, his voice shaky from the pain and sweat now rolling down his face.

“Do you think the person you were following was our target?”

Rafe nodded. “More than likely or someone working for him. Whoever it was, I couldn’t catch him.”

“Too fast?” Natalia asked in surprise.

Rafe nodded solemnly as he watched Natalia bandage the injury before pulling his ripped jeans leg down over it. “Some of your clothes are in the bottom drawer of my dresser. Eat, rest..I’ll be home later.”

“Thanks,” he said as he stood gingerly on his sore leg. “You’re not coming home?”

Natalia placed everything slowly back in her oversized purse, thankful to have it now even if it was cumbersome, to have time to think about whether she should say anything. “No, I’m…I’m going to see Olivia.”

He drew in a long deep breath, but before he could say anything, Natalia interrupted, “I’m telling her Rafe. I can’t do this anymore. I love her too much to keep lying to her, and I trust that she will accept it and we’ll work through it. But there can be no hope for us unless I can be honest with her, unless I can be the real me.”

Rafe shook his head. He wasn’t angry, just scared, for all of them. “Natalia, I don’t think that’s such a good idea right now. I don’t have a good feeling about it. Look, you love her and she loves you. I know that, and I know you can’t have much of a relationship without honesty. I just don’t want to see her or Emma get hurt.”

Seeing the sadness and worry reflected back to her in his dark eyes, she knew he was telling the truth. “But don’t you see? They’re in more danger by not knowing the truth, especially with seeing those spies in the woods.”

He nodded resolutely. “You’re right.” Then he sighed before a ghost of a smile crossed his lips, “Go get your girl…Ma!”

They exchanged a smile before Rafe turned to walk away, his slight limp the only evidence anything was wrong. Natalia waited a few minutes, feeling the butterflies start to dance in her belly as she contemplated seeing Olivia again. Exiting the hidden cove, Natalia jogged lightly to her car to work off her nerves. In a few minutes, everything would change.

***

Olivia handed the container back to Natalia. She was trying hard not to stare at the space where Natalia’s low-cut blouse joined. “It’s going to take more than cookies to fix this. I just don’t think I can believe anything you say anymore. I don’t trust you.”

Natalia swallowed around the lump in her throat, trying to push down the pain and disappointment. “That’s not fair.”

“Maybe it’s not fair, but unfortunately, it’s how I feel,” Olivia’s tone offered no consolation to Natalia. She couldn’t afford to do that because any opening would give Natalia the green light to jump through, and Olivia wasn’t sure if her heart could take much more. Lifting the box of cookies one more time, she pushed them towards Natalia. “So, I need you to just take your cookies and go home.”

Natalia took the container, staring at the white paper inside that had Olivia’s name scrawled across it with a flourish. “Olivia…”

“Natalia,” Olivia’s tone was a warning.

She raised a hand in surrender. “Okay, Olivia. I’ll go. But I’m not giving up. This is too important. We are too important.”

When Natalia left the office, Olivia felt like she was finally able to breathe. She slumped in her chair and covered her face with her hands. Her heart pounded and ached as the sweet scent of Natalia’s perfume lingered in the air. She had desperately wanted to take Natalia in her arms and kiss her senseless, kiss her until all the pain went away. But she couldn’t and she probably never would. And that realization was more painful than anything. The reminders, the feelings, the scent…she couldn’t deal with this anymore. It hurt too much.

Jumping to her feet, she grabbed the vase of flowers and made an impulsive decision. Someone needed these more than she did right now. Besides, she needed the verbal sparring with Reva to give her a sense of normalcy. Her life was way too out of control at the moment, and she needed to get a grip.

The ride back to the office had been quiet for Olivia. She felt an odd mix of happiness at brightening Reva’s day with the sadness of symbolically removing a reminder of Natalia from her life. Everything reminded her of Natalia though. She drove by the park and remembered their pitiful picnic or Natalia’s love confession in the gazebo. She went by Company and felt the ache of watching Natalia through the window being congratulated on her engagement to Frank. Yes, she knew, logically, that she’d done all of that to herself. She had pushed Natalia to Frank and it worked for a little while. The illogical part of her ruled by her traitor heart wanted Natalia to push back at her, give as good as she got. It’s what they’d done so well for so long, yet when Olivia pushed, Natalia withered. She ran.

Determined to not think about Natalia anymore and feeling better that she’d ridded herself of a reminder in the flowers and then the cookies, Olivia set her mind to accomplishing some work. She still had a business to run and it wasn’t going to run itself. As she walked through the lobby and rode the elevator to her office, she checked her emails. Since she wasn’t looking up, she didn’t realize that Natalia was not only in her office, but casually sitting in her desk chair as if she had the perfect right to do so.

“Food is not going to help,” Olivia sighed in exasperation. She was close to wanting to stomp her foot like Emma because Natalia just wouldn’t listen.

“No food.” Natalia half-smiled at the woman before her.

Olivia’s stomach flip flopped a little at the dimples on display. “What do you want?” The question sounded a tad on the whiny side and Olivia hated that it did.

Leaning forward on the desk and resting her forearms there, Natalia made her leap of faith. “I know what you need. You need for me to prove to you that I love you. And I will. I will prove it.” The more she spoke, the more confident she became.

“Chocolate chip cookies aren’t going to make me trust you again,” Olivia said trying to stop Natalia’s runaway train before it ran both of the over.

Natalia sat up straighter and put her hands on her hips, feeling more determined than ever to make head way in winning Olivia’s trust back. She was willing to do anything to make that happen. “What will?”

Olivia threw her head back and closed her eyes in frustration. “I don’t know, Natalia! I don’t know if anything ever will.”

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She wasn’t really sure what brought about her bold move, but Natalia suddenly stood catching Olivia a little off guard, enough that she took a half step back. “Oh no, you see, you’re wrong.” She walked around the desk until she was only a couple of feet from Olivia. “Something will.” She inched closer. “There is...something.”

Olivia felt her heart begin to pound heavy in her chest as the blood rushed through her veins. The closer Natalia got with each sentence made Olivia shiver in anticipation. All she could do was watch and listen. Never had anyone undone her the way Natalia did.

A gentle hand came up to ghost over Olivia’s cheek and instinctively she leaned in to it. Natalia whispered, “What we have is good. It’s really good. You don’t see it yet, but I’m going to keep coming back until you do.”

Leaning forward she tenderly kissed Olivia to seal her promise. She could feel Olivia move with her as she pulled back and her heart soared. There was hope for them. She brushed away some smudged lipstick and smiled. “I’ll see you later.”

When Olivia heard the door close behind her, she fell forward and braced her hands on the desk. Her entire body was shaking. “Oh God.”


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