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Kegs & Eggs

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Disclaimer: It’s been a while since I’ve written one these disclaimers so let’s cover all the bases here. I don’t own these characters. I’m simply borrowing them and taking them for a spin. They belong to All My Children, and as to who owns that, well, your guess is as good as mine at this point. I’m just borrowing them for purposes of this story. Now that that’s out of the way, on to the (hopefully) good stuff.
/
A/N: This story is alternate universe (AU) and not connected to “Things Change”. Here’s some background. There are no kids. Bianca and Marissa are single and in their mid to late twenties. Krystal is not Marissa’s biological mother, but she is a family friend. Marissa’s parents are Roy and Lydia Tasker, and they are both still alive. As for Bianca, Erica is still her mother and well, still Erica. Kendall is still her sister and Greenlee her cousin. I think that covers the basics without giving away too much. Oh, there is a place here that does have a Kegs & Eggs event on St. Patrick’s Day, and well, I thought it worked as the title for this story. Hope you enjoy!
/

“Come on, Binx! Tell me you’ll come out with Greenlee and me tomorrow night to Krystal’s. Please!”

Bianca sighed and looked at her sister. “Why do you want me to tag along so badly, Kendall?”

“Because you’re my little sister, and it will be fun. You could use some fun in your life. You deserve it. You know what they say, all work and no play makes Bianca a dull girl!”
“A St. Patrick’s Day bash for singles isn’t really my idea of fun. Everybody is just going to be drinking and trying to hook up, and I’m not really in the mood for that. Besides, I’ll just slow you and Greenlee down.”

It was Kendall’s turn to sigh now. Her little sister had been through a brutal breakup and was still nursing a broken heart. Kendall didn’t remember the last time a genuine smile crossed her sister’s face or the last time she laughed. It took everything she had not to hunt her sister’s ex-girlfriend down and string her up in the town square. “Bianca, it’s been almost a year. I think you should get out and see what’s out there. I’m not saying you have to hook up with anyone, but maybe, just maybe, you’ll meet someone. Someone nice. Someone who could maybe make you smile. I just want to see you happy. I miss your smile.”

Bianca slumped onto her sofa as the painful memories reared their ugly heads. She had had to go out of town for work, and the business trip would have her missing Reese’s birthday. As luck would have it, Bianca had been able to wrap things up earlier than had been planned. She had decided to surprise her girlfriend and not tell her she was coming home a day early, just in time for Reese’s birthday. Bianca ended up being the one who was surprised when she walked into their apartment and found Reese in their bed with another woman. That had been bad enough, but Reese made it even worse days later when she called. At first, the blonde apologized, but it quickly went downhill when she tried to shift the blame for her cheating onto Bianca. That’s also when she found out that this wasn’t the first time she had cheated. The normally mild-manner brunette lost it. Bianca, along with Kendall and Greenlee who were more than happy to help, cleared their apartment of everything that had belonged to Reese, including their bed. Kendall, who never really liked Reese, had rented a dumpster for the abrupt house cleaning, and it was quickly filled with all of the blonde’s belongings before it was hauled away to the dump. As Kendall had pointed out, it had almost been a year, but sometimes, the pain was still fresh. It left Bianca wondering if she would ever be ready to trust someone again. “I’m just going to be a drag for you guys.”

“No, you won’t. Look, you might as well just say yes now because I’m not leaving until you do.”

The younger woman eyed her sister who was still grinning at her with a determined glint in her eyes. Maybe, she was right, at least about going out. It couldn’t hurt, could it?
Kendall sensed her sister was wavering and decided to go in for the kill. “You can leave whenever you want, and I promise I won’t say anything. Just try it for thirty minutes. Please, for me.”

Bianca huffed. “Dammit. You don’t play fair. You know I can’t say no to you when you pout like that.”

“So, you’ll go?”

“Yes, I’ll go. Thirty minutes and that’s it!”

“Deal! You won’t regret it, Binx.”

“I doubt that.”
“We’ll pick you up …”

“No, you won’t. I’m driving. That way I know I can leave whenever I want. I’ll meet you there. Now, would you get out of here? I need to get ready for work.”

Kendall chuckled. “Okay. I’m going. Krystal’s, tomorrow, 5:00. See you later! Love you!”

“Love you too.” Bianca just shook her head as her sister raced off. She knew Kendall meant well, and maybe, she was right.
/
Marissa Tasker walked into Krystal’s and smiled. This was her first time visiting the restaurant, and it was exactly as the owner had described it to her and her parents. It also matched photos of it on its website. Marissa chuckled when she thought about that. Krystal was not the most tech savvy person. She had explained how people were telling her how much she needed a website to Marissa’s parents, Roy and Lydia, but had no clue where to even begin. Roy and Lydia in turned told their daughter about their friend’s dilemma during one of their weekly phone calls. Marissa suggested contacting Pine Valley University’s IT department and see if one of the students would be interested in tackling the endeavor. It would give them experience as well as some money. Krystal jumped on the idea and ran with it.

Opal came out from the kitchen to see a young redhead looking around the restaurant. “Good morning. Can I help you?”

Marissa glanced over to the counter and smiled at the older woman behind it. “Good morning. I’m looking for Krystal.”

“She’s in back. I can go get her though. Who can I tell her is looking for her?”

“I’m Marissa Tasker.” The redhead held out her hand.

Opal shook the younger woman’s hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Marissa. I’m Opal Cortlandt.”

“It’s nice to meet you too, Opal.”

“Let me go get Krystal for you. I’ll be back in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.”

Marissa continued to look around when someone else walked into the restaurant. She glanced over and saw a stunning brunette woman. Their eyes locked and a smile appeared on both of their faces. The moment was broken by Opal’s reappearance.

“Krystal will be right with you, Marissa.”

“Thank you.”

“Good morning, Bianca. You’re running a little late today. Do you want your usual?”

Bianca tore her gaze away from the beautiful redhead and smiled at the older woman. “Good morning, Opal. Blame it on Kendall. She stopped by earlier. Yes, please. Oh, could you add a chocolate chip muffin to it as well?”

“Of course.” Opal went about making Bianca’s coffee. She had caught the unspoken exchange between the two younger women, and found it very interesting. It was definitely something she would have to file away for later. Opal was friends with Bianca’s mother Erica, and as such, was privy to the details of the younger woman’s breakup. Her heart ached for Bianca because she was such a sweet and kind soul, and she deserved so much better than that blonde witch. If Reese knew what was good for her, she would stay far away from Pine Valley because there was a host of people ready with pitchforks. Opal also knew that Bianca hadn’t shown any interest in anyone else since the breakup, but seeing how she was looking at the redhead, maybe, just maybe that was changing.
/
“Morning, Bianca.” Krystal appeared and smiled at the brunette as she made her way to Marissa.

“Morning, Krystal.”

“Marissa! It is so good to see you!” Krystal hugged the redhead.

“Hi, Krystal. It’s good to see you too. Mom and Dad send their best.”

“How are they doing?”

“They’re doing great. Mom just got promoted.”

“Oh, she got it! Good for Lydia! She deserves it.”

“She really does, and you know Dad.”

“Roy is probably prouder than a peacock.”

Marissa laughed. “He is, and he took her out to a fancy dinner to celebrate. Once I get settled here, they’re going to come visit.”

“That is wonderful! It’s really been too long since I’ve seen them. This place keeps me busy, and there’s Jenny.”

“How’s she doing?”
/
Bianca glanced over to the table where Krystal was talking to the redhead. She was curious who the young woman was and her relationship to Krystal. Bianca was straining a bit to listen to their conversation without being too obvious. Her name was Marissa, and her family seemed to be good friends with the restaurant owner. The most interesting fact she picked up was that Marissa was moving to Pine Valley.

“Here you go, Bianca. One latte and one freshly made chocolate chip muffin.”

“Thanks, Opal.”

The older woman leaned in and whispered. “I’m afraid I can’t tell you much about her, yet, but I’ll let you know what I find out.”

Bianca blushed. “I … I … I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Uh huh.” Opal winked knowingly and handed the purchased items to the younger woman. “Are you coming tomorrow?”

“Yeah, I am. Kendall talked me into it.”

“Well, she gets a free coffee then for talking you into it. I’m glad you’re coming. Have a good day.”

“You too, Opal.”
/
As she and Krystal talked, Marissa couldn’t help but glance over to the brunette standing at the counter. She’d heard Opal call her Bianca. It was a beautiful name for a beautiful woman, and Marissa would like to know more about her. She didn’t want to be too obvious though.

Krystal watched as Marissa’s eyes followed Bianca as she walked out the door. This was definitely an interesting development. She had known Marissa all her life, and to the best of her knowledge, the younger woman had only had dated men. There appeared to be something Krystal didn’t know about her however because she seemed interested in Bianca. Maybe, Krystal could help Marissa out with that.

“So, what do you have planned for today?”

“I’m going to stop by the new apartment and start unpacking.”

“You start work the week after?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Why don’t you stop by tomorrow? We’re having our annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration. There will be Kegs and Eggs in the morning.”

Marissa had overheard Bianca saying she was going to be at the restaurant tomorrow, and the redhead would be lying if she said she wasn’t intrigued by the breathtaking brunette. “That sounds fun. I think I will stop by.”

“I’m glad. It looks like Bianca will be here.”

“Who … who is Bianca?” Marissa stammered. Had she been that obvious?

“She’s the young woman that was just talking to Opal. Bianca is probably the sweetest and nicest person I know. She’s also single.”

“Really?” Marissa couldn’t mask her surprise at hearing that. “How? She’s …”

“She’s very beautiful.” Krystal finished the younger woman’s thought. “Someone was a damn fool.”

Marissa nodded. “They’d have to be.”
/
It was 7:00 in the morning on St. Patrick’s Day, and Krystal’s was packed with patrons getting an early start celebrating the day. This particular morning rush had a special name to go along with the holiday, Kegs and Eggs. The Kegs and Eggs celebration at Krystal’s was an annual tradition in Pine Valley, and this year’s crowd had it off to a rousing start. The taps were open and flowing with Guinness, Harp, Smithwick’s, and several other Irish beers along with some American standards and craft beers, some of which were of course dyed green, while the kitchen was cranking out every egg dish imaginable that was on the menu.

Marissa entered the bustling establishment and also walked straight into someone she wouldn’t mind getting to know a great deal better. “Good morning.”

Bianca, who was on her way out, glanced up and smiled brightly. “Good morning. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.”

“Happy St. Patrick’s Day.”

A couple walked in between the women. “Excuse us.”

“Oh, sorry.” Bianca took a step back, coffee and carryout bag in hand. She was suddenly self-conscious of standing there and blocking the entrance. “I … I should go. I need to get to work.”

“Sorry, my bad. It was nice seeing you again.” Marissa smiled.

“Yeah, it was.” Bianca blushed before leaving.

To Marissa, that blush only made the brunette even more beautiful.

“Marissa! I’m glad to see you.”

“Morning, Krystal. Good to see you too. It’s packed in here.”

“I’m sorry. Good morning. I need a huge favor.”

“I’ll try to help if I can. What’s up?”

“Jenny’s sick.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. What’s wrong?”

“It seems that she picked up a bug at school yesterday, but she was feeling better this morning. I just got a call from Tad, and he told me she had gotten sick again. Unfortunately, he can’t stay home and watch her because he has to go to court and testify in a case he’s been working on. This means …”

“That you need to go home and watch her, right?”

“Yeah, I do. And as you can see, we’re slammed and will be all day long. I hate to ask because I know you’re enjoying the few days off you have before you start your new job, but …”
“You need some help here.” Marissa said as she noted the slightly overwhelmed expression on her friend’s face.

“Yes. More specifically, how are your bartending skills? Still as good as I remember?”

Marissa laughed. “Not to brag, but yeah, they are. So, you need me behind the bar?”

“If it’s not too much to ask, yes. That would be amazing.”

“You got it. I really didn’t have any plans for today anyway. Where can I put my purse?”

“You can lock it up in my office. Let’s go store that, and then, I’ll make some quick introductions and show you where everything is.”

“Lead on.”

After Krystal had introduced Marissa to the other members of the staff, the young redhead waved her off. “Go take care of Jenny. I’ll figure things out, and if I have any questions, I’ll ask Opal. Don’t worry about us.”

“She’s right. We’ve got things under control. You go take care of your little one.” Opal assured her friend. “Besides, I’ve got a good feeling about Marissa. I think she’s going to be just fine. I’ll keep an eye out on her though for you and make sure nobody tries anything.” Opal knew her friend was a little protective of the younger woman.

Krystal smiled gratefully. “Thank you. I’ll be back as soon as I can. If you need anything while I’m gone, just call. Marissa, thank you so much for doing this. I owe you.”

Marissa winked. “I’ll keep that in mind. Now, go.”

With that, Krystal rushed out.

Opal turned to the younger woman. “Krystal said you were pretty good behind a bar.”

“I worked at a bar to help support myself while I was in law school.” Marissa followed the older woman behind the bar and gave her brief summary of her experience.

“Harvard? Very impressive. You have something lined up?”

“I do. That’s actually why I’m here in Pine Valley. I start at Thompson, Stevens, Montgomery, and Cortlandt the week after next.”

“Really? Well, they are very good.”

“They have an excellent reputation, and I know what it means to have them ask me to join them. Okay, I think I know where everything is.”

Opal nodded. She liked this young woman. Marissa seemed to have a good head on her shoulders, down to earth, and nice. “If you need anything, just yell. Christy looks like she needs me.”

Marissa smiled and turned to a waiting customer. “Happy St. Patrick’s Day! What can I get you?”
/
Bianca was able to duck out of the office a few minutes early and somehow managed to find a parking spot close to Krystal’s. That was a nice surprise considering how packed the restaurant was. Bianca was a little anxious. On her last two visits there, she had run into Marissa, and Bianca would be lying to herself if she said she wasn’t intrigued by the woman and wouldn’t mind getting to know her better. This also had her a little scared. Bianca hadn’t really been attracted to anyone since her breakup, but this woman had definitely sparked something inside of the brunette, something she hadn’t felt in a long time. That’s what scared her because she wasn’t sure if her heart was up for taking another chance only to have it crushed again. With that in mind, she wasn’t sure whether or not she wanted to see Marissa.

As Bianca entered Krystal’s, she scanned the room, and the brunette couldn’t stop her smile from forming or her heart from skipping a beat when she saw a certain redhead behind the bar. Marissa was busy serving the customers at her station, but they all seemed to be smiling and chatting with her. Bianca took a deep breath and walked over. She waited patiently until it was her turn to be waited on.

Marissa’s face lit up when she saw Bianca. “Hi! You again.”

“Hi. Yeah, me again.”

“Running into you here is becoming a bit of a habit. One that I like. We haven’t officially been introduced yet though.” Marissa held out her hand. “I’m Marissa Tasker.”

Bianca shook the offered hand. “I’m Bianca Montgomery. It’s nice to meet you.”

“It’s nice to meet you too. What can I get you?”

“I’ll have a beer.”

“Which one? We have a wide variety.”

“Surprise me.” Bianca said as she took a seat on a barstool.

Marissa studied the brunette for a moment and then nodded. She picked up a pint glass and went to a tap. The redhead returned a moment later and placed the drink in front of Bianca. “I got you a Smithwick’s. I think you’ll like it. If you don’t though, just let me know, and I’ll get you something else.”

Bianca took a sip and hummed appreciatively. “I like it.”

“You’re not just saying that?”

“No, I really like it. Excellent choice. Thank you!”

“You’re very welcome.”

“Hey, Marissa, the Guinness keg blew.” One of the other bartenders called out to the redhead.

“Okay. I’ll take care of it.” Marissa turned back to Bianca. “Be right back.”

Just when Bianca was giving up hope of Marissa returning, the redhead reappeared behind the bar.

“Sorry about that. I checked the other kegs and found a few more that needed to be changed.”

“Oh, I should probably go. I don’t want to take you away from work.”

“You’re not keeping from anything. Besides, I don’t work here, at least not officially.”

Bianca was confused. “I’m not sure what you mean. You don’t work here officially?”

Marissa chuckled. “Nope. Hang on for a second. I’m due for a break. Would it be okay if we talked?”

The brunette thought she detected a hopeful tone in Marissa’s voice, and something told her to just go with it. “Okay.”

“Great! I’ll be right back, again.” Marissa ducked in the back for a minute. “Hey, Janie, I’m going to take a short break. You should be good with the kegs for a while.”

“It’s about time, Marissa. You haven’t taken one all day. Make sure you grab something to eat.”

Marissa saw something that looked and smelled great. “I think I will. Thanks.”
/
The redhead poured herself a glass of iced tea and smiled when she found the seat next to Bianca was now free. “Is this seat taken?”

Bianca smiled and moved her purse. “I was saving it for you. I’ll have you know that I had to fight a couple of people for it too.”

“My hero. I hope you weren’t hurt battling for it.”

“Nope. I’m good. I used my ninja like skills to handle them.”

Marissa laughed. “Remind me not to get on your bad side. I come bearing food. I hope you like chili cheese fries.”

Bianca smiled brightly when she saw the dish. “I love them! They’re my guilty pleasure.”

“A woman after my own heart! Dig in.”

“No, you eat them. You’ve been working hard. I can order some.”

“You have to eat some because I can’t eat in front of you if you’re not having something. They’ll just get cold then and be a waste.”

Bianca rolled her eyes at the redhead’s reasoning. “When you put it like that, okay. I want to pay for half though.”

“It’s not necessary. It’s one of the perks for working here today.”

“Not officially though, right?”

Marissa grinned. “Right. I guess I should explain. I’m just helping Krystal out today. She had to duck out earlier to take care of Jenny. She wasn’t feeling well, and Tad had to go to court.”

“Is Jenny okay?”

“Yeah, Krystal said she picked up a bug, but is doing much better. When I was stopped by this morning, Krystal asked if I could help out, and I said sure.”

“Ah, that’s why it’s not official. How do you know Krystal?”

“She and my parents are good friends, and I’ve known her for as long as I can remember.”

“So when she asked you to help out …”

“I couldn’t say no.”

“That’s really nice of you.”

Marissa shrugged. “It’s what friends do.”

“So, you’ve bartended before? I’m thinking you had to have because you really look like you know what you’re doing behind the bar.”

“Yes, I did, in college. I had a scholarship, but it only covered so much. I needed the money for things like rent, food. You know, little things like that.”

Bianca laughed. “Yeah, those are kind of important. Where did you go school?”

“Boston.” Marissa didn’t like to throw around where she went because it might seem like she was bragging.

“Where exactly in Boston?”

“Outside, actually. Cambridge.”

“You went to Harvard?”

“Yeah.”

“On scholarship? That’s impressive. What did you study?”

“Law.”

“You’re a lawyer. Now, your argument over the chili cheese fries makes sense. Definitely a lawyer thing to do.”

Marissa laughed. “Hard not to sometimes.”

“I’ll have to keep that in mind. Do you have something lined up?”

“I do. That’s actually why I’m here. I’m going to be an associate at Thompson, Stevens, Montgomery, and Cortlandt.”

“Congratulations! They’re a great firm, even if I am a little biased. My uncle is Jackson Montgomery.”

“Jack Montgomery, of course. I didn’t make the connection with the last names. I like him a lot. He’s brilliant and has an excellent reputation, and I’m not just saying that because he’s your uncle. I really mean it.”

“I believe you.”

“I’ll be working more with Caleb Cortlandt. He wouldn’t be related to Opal would he?”

“A cousin of her husband.”

“And I thought Devon was small.” Marissa shook her head.

“So, you’re from Devon.”

“Yes. Enough about me. Tell me about yourself.”

“I grew up here. I have a sister, and her name’s Kendall. I work with her.”

“Where?”

“Fusion.”

“Really? I love their products. What do you do there?”

“I do a few different things. I’ve worked in marketing, some accounting, even a little modeling which was not my idea.”

“Jack of all trades, huh? Why didn’t you like the modeling?”

“I’ve never been comfortable in front of the camera. I’d rather be on the other side of it. I feel self-conscious, and don’t really think I’m that great at it. Like seeing me would convince someone to buy a certain product.” Bianca sighed.

“You’d convince me. There’s something about you that is special.”

Bianca blushed. “Anyway, I want to do something else. Besides, my Mom is the natural in front of the camera. It loves her.”

“What’s your Mom do?”

“Oh, um, she’s a model, a professional.”

“Come on. You can’t just leave it at that. Who is she?”

“Erica Kane.”

It took a few seconds before Marissa made the connection, and she studied Bianca. “Wow. I can see it now. It’s the eyes. You have her eyes.”

Again, Bianca blushed. There was something about Marissa and the way she looked at her. Bianca couldn’t stop blushing or smiling. “My grandma says the same thing.”

“If your grandma is anything like mine, you know there’s no arguing with her. My Mom is a big fan of your Mom.”

“You’re not?”

“What?! No! I … I didn’t mean to say that I’m not. I …”

Bianca laughed as the redhead stammered.

Marissa just looked at the brunette in shock as she realized Bianca was teasing her. “Wow. That’s just not nice.”

“Sorry. I couldn’t help myself. You should have seen your face. It was adorable.”

It was Marissa’s turn to blush. “I guess I can forgive you. What I was trying to say is that I’ve been so busy with school, work, and studying for the BAR exam that I haven’t had much of a chance to do anything else like watch TV. I did however catch your Mom’s interview with that conservative talk show host. I have to say that I was impressed. By the time it was over, I swear I saw that host shaking. Your Mom scared the crap out of her and deservedly so.”

Bianca smiled as she remembered her Mom’s interview. She was on tour promoting her latest book and had been booked to appear on the talk show of a popular conservative. The host started off with pleasant enough questions but quickly changed her tone and decided to go after Erica’s recently stated endorsement of the Supreme Court’s decision which legalized same sex marriage. The woman thought she had the upper hand on the diva, but she learned the hard way that she was wrong and had, like others before her, greatly misjudged her guest. Erica went on the offensive and soon had the host nearly reduced to tears. It was extremely gratifying to Bianca that her mother supported her so fiercely. When she first came out to her mother, Erica was shocked but quickly came around, and now, she was her daughter’s biggest supporter. “Yeah, I was pretty proud of her. People need to learn that you don’t cross Erica Kane.”

“I definitely got that impression. What about your Dad?”

“Oh, he died a few years ago.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay. You didn’t know.”

“You said modeling wasn’t what you wanted to do. What is it you want to do?” Marissa asked.

“Well, I have my master’s in psychology and am currently working on my doctorate.”

“Dr. Montgomery. Has a nice ring to it.”

Bianca grinned. Not only did she like the way it sounded, but she really liked hearing Marissa say it. “Yeah, it does.”

“Do you want to hang a shingle up somewhere?”

“Actually, no. Do you want to know what I really want to do?”

“Yeah, I really do.”

“I want to open a shelter to help abused individuals, especially children. I want to give them a safe place to go to, one where they can get back on their feet, get the help they truly need.”

Marissa listened to Bianca and was captivated by the brunette’s passion as she spoke from the heart about helping others. The woman was amazing, and Marissa wanted to know more about her. She thanked the universe that she was lucky enough to run into Bianca the past two days.
/
“Who’s the redhead?” Kendall asked as she tilted her head in the direction of the woman talking to her sister. She and Greenlee had arrived a few minutes ago. It was only after the duo had found a spot at the bar where Opal was working that Kendall had spied Bianca.

Opal looked and smiled. “Oh, that’s Marissa Tasker. Her parents are old friends of Krystal’s from when she lived in Devon. Marissa is moving here from Boston to work at Thompson, Stevens, Montgomery, and Cortlandt.”

“Is she a lawyer, paralegal, or what?”

“She’s a lawyer, and according to Krystal, she graduated at the top of her class from Harvard.”

“Really?” Kendall was impressed. “Why is she working the bar?”

“No, that’s the not important question. The important question is whether or not she’s qualified to work behind the bar on this oh so important holiday?” Greenlee asked in a semi-serious tone. It was St. Patrick’s Day after all, one of the busiest days for bars and pubs throughout the many countries that celebrated the day. If a bartender didn’t know what they were doing, it could get ugly very fast.

Opal laughed. “Oh, she’s more than qualified. While she attended Harvard on scholarship, Marissa worked at one of the most popular bars near campus to earn money. Krystal said she was pretty good at it. That’s why she asked her if she could help out today. Krystal had to duck out for a bit to check on Jenny. She wasn’t feeling good today, and Tad had to go to court to testify. So, Krystal asked if she wouldn’t mind working for a few hours. Marissa jumped right in. When Tad got home and was able to take care of Jenny, Krystal came back in. We were still slammed at that time so Marissa just stayed. Krystal was right about her. She’s been a godsend behind the bar.”

Kendall considered what she’d told about the redhead. She sounded nice, but this concerned her little sister. Kendall needed more information. It was then she saw Krystal and waved the woman over.

“Happy St. Patrick’s Day, ladies.”

“Same to you, Krystal. Opal was telling us that Jenny’s sick. How’s she feeling?” Kendall asked.

“Much better. Thanks for asking.”

“So, Opal was also telling us about the woman talking to Bianca.”

Krystal glanced over her shoulder and saw the younger women talking as if no one else existed. “Oh, you mean Marissa. She’s a sweetheart. I’ve known her all her life. Her parents are good friends of mine and are probably the nicest and most down to earth people you will ever know. Marissa definitely takes after them. She seems to have taken a shine to your sister.”

Kendall nodded as she continued to observe the couple. Her sister looked happy. “Bianca’s smiling and laughing. I can’t remember the last time she did either. She’s beautiful.”

“She really is. So, Krystal, tell us more about Marissa. Is she interested in women?” Greenlee decided to get straight to the point. If the redhead wasn’t, Greenlee didn’t want her leading Bianca on. She’d had enough heartache and sure as hell didn’t deserve anymore.

“Well, I’ll be honest, I didn’t think she was. As far as I knew, she was straight. When I saw her talking to Bianca earlier though, it had me questioning that. I decided to investigate because I know what Bianca’s been through, and I don’t want to see her hurt again. While Jenny was taking a nap, I called Roy and Lydia, Marissa’s parents, to catch up and ask them. They told me Marissa had told them a few months ago that she was bisexual.”

Opal patted Krystal’s arm. “Look out. Trouble’s here.”

The women saw a cocky, blonde man make his way to the end of the bar where Marissa and Bianca were. Marissa was now back behind the bar working again. Bianca was seated on her stool and continued to talk to Marissa while she filled drink orders. The four women knew the man well, and they all knew he was nothing but trouble.

“JR Chandler, that son of a bitch.”
/
“Hi.”

Marissa nodded toward the blonde man who suddenly appeared next to Bianca. “Hello. What can I get you to drink?”

“I’ll take a draft and your phone number.” JR winked.

Bianca had to stop herself from laughing when she saw Marissa’s expression. The line JR used was one she had obviously heard before.

“Sorry, but no.”

“Why?”

“One, I don’t know you, and two, I don’t give my number out to people I don’t know.”

“We can change that. My name is JR Chandler.”

“Hi. Here is your beer.”

JR grasped Marissa’s hand before she could move it away. “Tell me your name. How else can we get to know each? You know mine already.”

“I’d like my hand back please.”

JR released his grasp. “Sorry. Look, I tell you what, I’ll tell you more about myself. My father is Adam Chandler. I’m sure you’ve heard of him. He owns Chandler Industries. It’s a Fortune 500 company, and one day, it’s going to be mine. Say you’ll have lunch with me, and I’ll get the corporate jet to take us to Paris.”

Marissa tuned JR out as she served the numerous customers clambering for drinks. As he droned on about himself, the redhead would glance at Bianca every chance she got and smile.

Sensing he was losing the redhead’s interest, JR tried another tact. “Oh come on. I’m a nice guy. Tell her Bianca.”

The brunette shook her head. There was no way Bianca was going to help JR. “Keep me out of this, JR.”

“Wait. Don’t tell me. You’re interested in her.” JR laughed as he saw Bianca blush. “Oh, this is rich! You really think you have a shot with her, Bianca? You couldn’t hold onto your last girlfriend. Everybody knows that you found her …”

“That’s enough!” Marissa said forcefully.

“What? You really should know this, especially if she has a crush on you. Bianca …”

Marissa was around the bar in a flash and in JR’s face. “I said enough! Why do you have to attack her? She hasn’t done anything to you. Bianca has just been sitting here, not bothering anyone. Just because she doesn’t want to help you hit on me is no reason to attack or embarrass her. Besides, if you ask me, she was doing me a huge favor.”

“What are you saying?”

“Wow. Are you really that dense? I’m not interested in you. I don’t care that your father owns a big company or that you’re worth millions. None of that impresses me. You actually showed me who you really are when you went after her. You should leave.”

JR scoffed. “I could have your job, you know that right? You’re nothing but a bartender. You should be flattered that I’m showing you any type of attention. There’s a roomful of women who would kill to be with me.”

Marissa waved her arm to the room. “Have at them then, but you still need to leave.”

“You can’t talk to me like that. I’m going to find Krystal and have you fired.”

“I don’t think so, JR.”

The man turned to see Krystal standing behind him along with a furious Kendall and Greenlee.

“Krystal, you need to keep your staff under control. This one just tried to attack me.”

“That’s not true, and you know it, JR. She was defending me from you.” Bianca stood and was now eye to eye with JR. “You were being a complete ass as usual. You’re also just pissed off that she’s not interested in you.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Don’t give me that. You’ve been hitting on her for the last half an hour, and she hasn’t been paying you any attention.”

“You are such a bit…”

“Don’t you even say it. Get out while you can still walk.” Marissa glared at the man.

Krystal knew Marissa meant what she said. She could see it in her eyes. “You heard her, JR. Get out. You can either leave on your own or have help.”

“I’ll be more than happy to help you, JR.” It was taking every ounce of strength that Kendall had to not slap the crap out of the man. He’d taken great delight in her sister’s suffering for some unknown reason, and Kendall had had more than enough of him.

“You know, I don’t need this. I’m going to go to someplace a whole helluva lot better than this dive. Maybe I’ll call the health inspector though. Who knows what kind of violations they’ll find here given the right incentive.”

Krystal just smiled. “Go right ahead, JR. Maybe I’ll give Adam a call, and let your daddy know what you’ve been up to tonight.”

That got JR’s attention and had him leave the restaurant quickly with his tail between his legs.
/
“Are you alright?” Marissa asked, her concern for the brunette clearly evident.

“I’m good. Thanks for defending me. How are you?”

“You don’t have to thank me, but you’re welcome. He’s an ass. As for me, I’m good too. Thank you for defending me.”

“I’m glad to hear that. I’m really sorry for what he …”

“Hey, it’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong. He’s nothing but a self-centered, entitled jerk who had absolutely no right to attack you like he did.”

“I couldn’t have said it better myself. You okay, Binx?”

Bianca smiled seeing Kendall. “I am. Kendall, Greenlee, this is Marissa Tasker, and she’s part of the reason that I’m okay, a big part actually. Rissa this is my sister Kendall and my cousin Greenlee.”

Marissa grinned hearing the shortened version of her name. Only her parents called her Rissa, but she’d be lying if she said she didn’t like how it sounded coming from Bianca. Yeah, she really liked it. “Hi, it’s nice to meet you. You both look familiar for some reason.”

Kendall and Greenlee didn’t miss what could only be described as a goofy grin from the redhead as Bianca introduced her. They both found that very interesting and filed it away.

“It’s nice to meet you, Marissa, and you couldn’t be more right about Dipshit. That’s our nickname for him.” Greenlee smirked.

Marissa laughed. “I like it. It fits.” She then remembered JR’s threat. “Oh, Krystal, I’m sorry for losing it. The last thing I want to do is cause you any problems. You’ve been so nice helping me get settled. I just couldn’t stand there though and do nothing while he went after Bianca. It’s kind of my fault. I was ignoring him because he was being completely obnoxious hitting on me when I clearly wasn’t interested. Her only so-called offense was not agreeing to be his wingman when it came to me.”

Krystal was amused as the young woman rambled. It was something Lydia did. “Marissa, stop.”

“Sorry.”

“It’s okay.” Krystal chuckled. “While I didn’t hear everything, I heard more than enough. Plus, I know Bianca, and I know you. Neither one of you would do any of the things that he said you did. You’re right about JR. He’s a spoiled brat who has this sense of entitlement. He loves to walk around Pine Valley and act like he owns it.”

“Exactly. And we’re his subjects.” Kendall added.

Krystal hummed her agreement. “I meant what I said to him. He’s not welcome here, not anymore. I also think I’ll follow through on my threat and call his father. I think Adam needs to know what his son’s been doing.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m positive. I’m proud of you, and I know your parents would be too. What you did? I expected no less of you.”

Marissa sighed in relief. The last she wanted to do was cause her friend any problems. “Thanks.”

“Why don’t you take a break?”

“I just had one.”

Krystal held up a hand to stop the redhead’s protest. “I know, but you’ve been working all day, and since you’re not letting me pay you, humor me and take a break.”

Marissa gave up. “Okay.”

“Good. I’ve got to get back to the kitchen.” Krystal turned and walked away.
/
“Wait a minute! You said you work at Fusion with your sister and cousin.”

Bianca nodded. “Yeah.”

“You neglected to say that they own Fusion.”

“Oh. How did you?”

“How did I figure it out? I saw them on Shark Tank.”

Greenlee grinned. “You did?”

“I thought you said you didn’t get the chance to watch much TV?” Bianca asked.

“I don’t, but the professor I had for contract law had us watch the show. It gave us a look at different types of deals and such. The show deals with verbal contracts and also discusses various types of patents. It’s pretty interesting.” Marissa turned to Kendall and Greenlee. “I don’t want to give you a big head or anything, but the two of you are kind of legends back at school.”

“Of course we are.” Greenlee stated with pride.

“School meaning Harvard?” Kendall asked.

“Krystal told you.”

“Actually, it was Opal who I’m sure got it from Krystal.”

“Ah. Yes, I graduated from Harvard. I’m guessing you know where I’ll be working.”

“Yep, that would be a good guess. Trying to keep how smart you are under wraps?” Kendall asked.

“What? No. Sometimes when I tell people where I went, they think I’m bragging.”

“You should brag a little. It’s impressive and something to be proud of.” Bianca said.

When Marissa blushed, Kendall glanced at Greenlee and shook her head. Damn if they weren’t cute.

“So, back to us. How legendary are we?” Greenlee asked.

Bianca rolled her eyes. “And why are they legends?”

Marissa chuckled at Bianca’s reaction. “Well, the episode they were on was far and away the most popular.” She turned back to Kendall and Greenlee. “You walked in with a detailed plan, were able to answer all of their questions, and refused to be bullied. You gave an accurate valuation of your company, and all five sharks made offers. You ended up striking a deal with two of them. In addition to showing how smart you are and getting a great deal, you were also pretty damn entertaining. Very impressive.”

“You know something? I like you. Good job, Bianca.” Greenlee winked at the brunette. “Come on, Kendall, I see a beer with my name on it, and you’re going to buy it for me.”

“I am, huh?”

“Yep!”

Kendall turned to Marissa. “It was nice meeting you, and maybe we’ll see each other again.” Kendall had no doubt that they would. She then hugged her sister and whispered to her. “I loved seeing your smile again. Hopefully, I’ll see it more often. Oh, and Binx, I like her.” When they separated, Kendall started to follow Greenlee but stopped to glance back at Marissa and Bianca. “Have fun.”
/
“We really need to do a road trip to Harvard.”

“We do?” Kendall looked at her friend.

“Yes, we do. It’s our civic duty. You heard Marissa. We’re legends there which means we need to share our knowledge, our experience with those who look up to us. It’s only right.” Greenlee reasoned.

“Plus, there’s the possibility of young, hot guys looking to be educated in another way.”

Greenlee grinned. “There’s that too. Who am I to stop the thirst for higher education?”

Kendall laughed. “Who indeed? You’re such a giver. Maybe, we can get Bianca and Marissa to go with us. I have a feeling that wherever one goes, the other will be sure to follow.”

“How long until we need to rent a U-Haul for them?” Greenlee cracked.

“That is a very good question.” Kendall smiled as she glanced back over at her sister and the redhead.
/
“They’re nice and seem like a lot of fun. They also seem like they’d have your back.” Marissa said as Kendall and Greenlee headed to the bar.

“You’re right. They have definitely been there for me more times than I can count.”

“I’m sure they’d say the same thing about you.”

“I try. I have a feeling you’re the same way, Rissa.”

Marissa grinned again.

“What?”

“You called me Rissa. My parents are the only ones that have ever called me that.”

Bianca’s eyes grew wide. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I did that. It just slipped out. I …”

“It’s okay. It’s more than okay actually. I really like you calling me that.” Marissa said shyly.

“You do? I’ll keep that in mind.” Bianca grinned.
/
Kendall kept an eye on Bianca and Marissa throughout the rest of the evening. Marissa was back behind the bar working while Bianca was seated on the stool she had occupied for most of the evening at the redhead’s station, and the two continued to talk and flirt. Kendall saw that the smile never left Bianca’s face, and after a while, she glanced at the couple less and less and had some fun of her own.
/
When closing time rolled around, Bianca was still at the bar while Marissa cleaned up her station.

“Here.” Krystal handed Marissa her purse and a very thick envelope.

“What’s this?”

“Your purse. I’ll finish cleaning up. You’ve had a long day. Go home and get some rest. Breakfast will be on me tomorrow.”

“Thanks. What’s the envelope for?”

“It has your tips in it. Don’t even try to argue with me. If you won’t let me pay you, at least take your tips. You definitely earned them. Now, go. It was good seeing you, Bianca.”

Marissa took the envelope and put it into her purse. “Goodnight, Krystal. I’ll see you tomorrow to take you up on that breakfast offer.”

“Goodnight, Krystal.” Bianca said as she held the door open for Marissa.
/
Once they were outside, Marissa turned to Bianca. “Where are you parked?”

“Just right over there. What about you?”

“Believe it or not, that’s my car right behind you.”

Bianca laughed, and the two crossed the street. They stopped by their cars and gazed at each other. Neither really wanted the evening to end. Bianca was hesitant, and Marissa could sense it.

“Thanks for staying and keeping me company tonight.” Marissa said.

“I had a good time. I’m glad I ran into you.”

“Me too. I was wondering if I could call you sometime. Maybe we could do lunch or dinner? I have some tip money burning a hole in my wallet.”

Bianca blushed. “I’d like that. I’d like it a lot.”

Marissa smiled brightly. “Great! Could I get your number?”

“Only if I can get yours.”

The women exchanged cellphones and typed their numbers into the devices.

“I should go. I have to work tomorrow.”

“Okay.” Marissa nodded, and then, she had a great idea. “How would you like to join me here for breakfast tomorrow? It should be a lot less crowded than it was today.”

“You don’t want to sleep in?”

Nah. It’s overrated, especially if it means I miss the chance on spending time with you.”

“Smooth, Counselor, very smooth. I’ll meet you here tomorrow. How’s seven sound?”

“Sounds perfect.” Marissa took a chance and quickly kissed Bianca on the cheek. “Goodnight.”

A goofy grin appeared on Bianca’s face as Marissa got into her car. “Goodnight.” The brunette followed suit and got into her own car. She fastened her seatbelt and watched Marissa drive away. “St. Patrick’s Day is definitely my new favorite holiday.”

Chapter Text

A/N: I’m back with an update for this story! First, thanks for all of the reviews for the first chapter! I really appreciate them. This was originally going to be a one shot, but because of the reviews I received, I’m going to continue it. I don’t know for how long or how often I’ll update, but there will be more of this story. Don’t worry, I’m not giving up on “Things Change”. I got a little burst of inspiration for this story though and went with it so there won’t be an update of “Things Change” this week. Hope you enjoy this update!

/

“Can we please go? It feels like we’ve been out here forever, and I think I’m starting to lose my buzz.” It was late, and while they probably should be on their way to their respective homes, Kendall and Greenlee were parked across the street from Krystal’s waiting. Greenlee wasn’t sure what they were waiting on exactly, but she didn’t drive so she really couldn’t do much about it other than whine.

Kendall rolled her eyes and glanced at Greenlee. “Given how much you drank tonight, I highly doubt that.”

“Since you volunteered to be the designated driver, I took it upon myself to drink for the both of us.” Greenlee grinned as she rested her head on the headrest of the passenger seat in Kendall’s car.

“You are such a giver.” Kendall smirked.

Greenlee grinned even more. “I know. I try my best. So, can we go?”
“Not yet.”

“Ugh. What are we waiting on?”

“Bianca. She’s still in there.”

Greenlee perked up a bit. “Really? The bartender/lawyer?”

Kendall nodded. “Yeah. She was talking with Marissa all night. She only got up from that stool a couple of times, and whenever she did, Marissa was sure to save that seat for her. I saw her hustle a couple of people away that seemed to bother Bianca. She was very protective of her.”

“True, especially when it came to Dipshit. When he started on Bianca, I thought Marissa was going to jump across that bar and kick his ass. I really would’ve enjoyed seeing that. I totally would’ve bet on her.” Greenlee grinned.

“You and me both. I don’t understand his problem with Bianca. She’s never done anything to him, but JR loves to torment her and seems to revel in her pain. I’d love nothing better than to knock that smirk off of his face. One of these days, I will.”

“And I’ll be there to help you. You’re right about him when it comes to Bianca. It’s like he feels like he’s competing with her for some reason.”

Kendall pointed excitedly at her friend. “I know, right?! I just don’t get it. Tonight though, with Marissa, it didn’t look like there was any competition. She shut him down cold, and anyone with a brain, which automatically excludes JR, could see Red was just not interested. Then, she stepped in when he started to go off on Bianca. She wouldn’t even let him get a word in edgewise, and I knew exactly what he was going to say.”

Greenlee sighed. “Me too. He was going to dredge up Reese and all of that drama. And for what? To try and make his sorry ass look better. As if anything could do that.” Greenlee then grinned and nudged her friend. “You know who would’ve liked to have seen that, Marissa taking Dipshit down a few pegs?”

The brunette laughed. She knew exactly who Greenlee was talking about. “My Mom. Oh yeah, Mom would have loved to have seen that, to see someone sticking up for Binx simply because it was the right thing to do. Red didn’t seem to give a damn about who Dipshit was. He couldn’t buy her like he’s tried to buy others. Yeah, I’m definitely going to have to tell Mom about this.”

“You better do it before she hears it from somebody else.”

“Like Opal?”

Greenlee laughed. “Exactly! Somebody else could tell her, but odds are good that Opal will be the one to race over to tell her first thing tomorrow.”

“Yeah, Opal does love to gossip, especially with her best gal pal.” Kendall chuckled. She stopped suddenly and smacked Greenlee’s arm. “Oh! There they are!”

Greenlee released her seatbelt and practically climbed over Kendall to get a better look at the couple out of the driver’s side window. The brunette had it down since it was a nice evening for mid-March. They observed the couple cross the street to where their cars were parked. They stopped by the vehicles and talked for a few minutes.

Kendall sensed that neither of the younger women wanted to say goodbye, and she couldn’t help but think they were both pretty adorable. Then, she saw Marissa lean forward and kiss Bianca on the cheek before she got in her car. As for her sister, Bianca had the biggest grin on her face that Kendall thought she had ever seen. Kendall watched as her sister stood in place for a brief moment longer before she got into her car and drove away. “Yes! Way to go, Binx!”

“I have a feeling that Bianca is pretty damn happy that you talked her in to coming here tonight.” Greenlee said as she climbed back into her seat, fastened her seatbelt, and leaned back with a smile on her face. “Good job, Kendall.”

“Thanks!” Kendall smiled proudly and started her car up.

/

Opal looked up from what she was doing when she heard the front door to Krystal’s open. “Good morning, Marissa. I have to admit that I’m a little surprised to see you back here so early. I thought you would still be in bed catching up on some well-earned sleep after all of your hard work yesterday.”

The redhead smiled and took a seat at the restaurant’s bar. “Good morning, Opal. I could say the same for you.”

“You forget that I left a couple of hours before you did. I needed to get my beauty rest. What can I get you?”

Marissa laughed. “I’ll just have a coffee for now.” The redhead needed the boost of caffeine this morning. She had barely slept last night, and when she did, she dreamed of a certain brunette. It was thoughts of that same brunette that filled her mind which kept her awake. Marissa didn’t mind this vicious cycle however. The smile on her face hadn’t diminished one iota since she left Bianca last night. She had surprised herself when she kissed Bianca goodnight because she wasn’t normally that bold, but there was just something about the brunette. Marissa just felt this indescribable pull towards her, and it had her taking a chance. The good news was that, if her smile was any indication, Bianca seemed to be okay with it. Now, Marissa was anxiously awaiting the brunette’s arrival.

“Earth to Marissa.”

“Huh?”

“I was just asking if you wanted to see a menu. You kind of zoned out there on me. Is everything all right?”

“Sorry. Everything is actually pretty good, Opal. I’m going to wait to order. I’m meeting someone.”

Opal perked up when she heard that bit of news. She had an idea of who it might be but wasn’t positive. Opal wanted nothing more than to ask the younger woman exactly who she was meeting, but she didn’t know her well enough. Her curiosity would be satisfied soon enough though. “Well, let me get you that coffee then while you wait.”

“That would be wonderful. I really need the caffeine. Is it okay if I move to a table?"

“Of course it is. Make yourself comfortable, and I’ll bring your coffee over.”

/

Bianca sighed as she looked at herself in the mirror. Just like the others, this outfit didn’t look quite right either. She was trying to find the perfect thing to wear for her breakfast date with Marissa, and everything she had tried on up to that point was coming up short.

Wait. Date? Is this a date? Neither of us said it was, but is it? Do I want it to be? I like Marissa. I like her a lot. She’s smart, funny, kind, and not to mention beautiful. Her smile just lights up the room, and there’s something in her eyes, a glint that conveys her intelligence, sincerity, and humor. There’s also some mischief too. I like it. I like all of it. I haven’t been on a date since Reese though. I haven’t felt like dating. No one has really interested me.”

She bit her lip as she thought of the redhead again and realized what she wanted. Marissa is different. I feel like I can talk to her, really talk to her. And she listens to me. I just got this feeling that she’s different than the others. That she’s different than Reese. I know we just met, but I felt safe with her. For some reason, I feel like I can trust her. A smile broke out across her face. Yes, I want it to be a date. I really want it to be one. Marissa is just … Great! I’m talking to myself. I’m also going to be late if I can’t find something wear. Gathering herself, Bianca dove into her closet one last time and emerged in another outfit. She studied herself in the mirror, and then smiled and nodded to her reflection, satisfied with what she saw. Her attention turned to her cellphone when she heard it ring. A glance at the caller id told her it was her sister.

“Good morning, Kendall. I’m kind of surprised to hear from you this early. Is everything okay?”

“Morning, Binx. Everything’s fine. What, I can’t call my sister just to check on her without you thinking there’s some sort of crisis?”

“We’re talking about Pine Valley.” Bianca deadpanned.

Kendall laughed. “True enough. You’ve got me there. This time, however, there’s no emergency or crisis. I really am just calling to see how you’re doing. We didn’t get much of a chance to talk last night.”

“True. You did have your hands full with Greenlee. How is she by the way? She was definitely celebrating last night.”

“Yes, she was. She’s actually in my guest room. It was easier to deposit her there rather than take her back to her place and deal with getting her up those stairs. They really need to fix that elevator in her building. I think she’s okay. Although, she may have a bit of a hangover. I won’t know until she wakes up. It’s hard to tell with her sometimes. Oh, don’t be surprised if she starts asking you about a road trip to Harvard. After Red told us about our fan club up there, Greenlee has it in her head for us to share our knowledge. She now considers it our civic duty.”

“That sounds about right coming from her. Red? Do you mean Marissa?”

“I do. Granted it’s not the most creative of nicknames, but sometimes, the standards are the best for a reason.” Kendall the caught the happy tone in her sister’s voice when she had mentioned the redhead and imagined she had a smile on her face.

Kendall was right, to a degree. Bianca did have a smile on her face, but it wasn’t her usual smile. No, this one was so big and bright that it could be considered blinding. If she had stopped to think about it, Bianca might worry that her cheeks could start to hurt because her smile was that big.

“Speaking of Red …”

“I didn’t know we were talking about Rissa.”

Kendall raised an eyebrow at her sister’s slip but decided to let it go, for now. “Hmmm. We were, or at least, I was. You two seemed to hit it off last night.”

“Uh … yeah, I … I guess we did. She’s … nice.”

“Nice? You spent the entire night talking to her, and she’s just ‘nice’. Seriously, Bianca?!”

“Maybe more than nice. I …” Before she could say anything else, Bianca happened to check the time and realized that she would be late meeting Marissa if she didn’t leave at that moment. “Oh, sorry, but I have to go, Kendall.”

“What? Why?”

“I’m meeting someone for breakfast. If I don’t leave right now, I’m going to be late, and I really don’t want to do that.”

“Wait! Who are you meeting?”

“Can’t talk. Gotta go. Have a good day. Bye.”

/

Kendall huffed and tossed her cellphone back onto the kitchen counter. Something was going on with her sister, but she didn’t know what it was exactly. If she had to hazard a guess though, she would say it had something to do with a certain redheaded lawyer. A groan had her glance over to the kitchen doorway, and what she saw had her chuckle.
“Good morning, sunshine!”

Greenlee scowled. “Bite me, Kendall. There better be coffee.”

Kendall pulled out a mug from a cupboard and filled it for her friend. “Here you go. If that doesn’t perk you up, I know something else that will.”

Greenlee sighed as she took her first sip. She definitely wasn’t a morning person. “Better. Now, tell me what’s going on.”

“I just got off the phone with Bianca.”

“Oh. How did she sound?”

“Happy. Scratch that. She sounded very happy.”

“Good. Because of a certain redhead?”

“That would be my guess. When I started to ask her about Red, she changed the subject and then said she was meeting someone for breakfast and had to go or she would be late.”

“Did she say who? Did you even ask?”

Kendall rolled her eyes. “Of course I asked, but she hung up.”

“She hung up?! Huh. Well, damn. Who do you think it is?”

“I know it’s not Mom because if it was she definitely would’ve said. I think it’s Red.”

“Yeah, so do I. Good for her!”

“Definitely. I like Marissa. I know we didn’t really get a chance to talk to her …”

“You mean interrogate her.” Greenlee smirked.

Kendall shrugged. “That too. We are talking about my little sister, you know. I’m impressed by her though. She stood up to Dipshit.”

“Yeah, she did! Big points to her for that!”

“True. She seemed very protective of Bianca as well as very attentive.”

“Yeah, Bianca seemed uncomfortable when she got hit on a couple of times. Marissa stepped in though and sent them packing every time.”

“Did you see Bianca grin when she did that? She definitely liked that. Don’t get me wrong. My sister is perfectly capable of taking care of herself, but they didn’t seem like they wanted to take no for an answer. It was nice having someone offer some protection, especially after everything she’s been through. Yeah, Bianca is definitely smitten with Marissa, and meeting her for breakfast is definitely a good sign.”

“An even better sign would be them having breakfast at Bianca’s place.”

Kendall groaned and threw a dish towel at Greenlee which hit her in the face. “We are not talking about my sister’s sex life.”

Greenlee removed the towel and laughed. “Or lack of one.”

“That too!”

“You are too easy sometimes. Okay. Pine Valley is small enough that it should be fairly easy for us to find out who she’s meeting, but my money is on Red as well. So if this is in fact a breakfast date with Marissa, you know what that means, don’t you?”

Kendall groaned. “Unfortunately, I do. I need to get to Mom before the gossip mill starts churning. The last thing any of us, especially Bianca, wants is for Mom to find out from someone on the street or online. If I’m going to do that though, I’m going to need a shower and then more coffee.”

“You’re going to need to drop me back off at my place too.”

“Yeah, I know. That means you can go with me to Mom’s.” Kendall smirked as she hurried down the hallway towards her bedroom.

“Wait! What?! Why do I have to go with you?” Greenlee scowled. “That is so not fair.”

/

Marissa glanced at the clock for the umpteenth time since she had sat down at a table off to the side of the restaurant. It was only now just a couple of minutes after seven, and the redhead was doing her best to remain calm and reassure herself that Bianca would be there. At the moment, she was failing miserably, at least on the remaining calm part. Marissa was pretty sure that Bianca wouldn’t stand her up. The brunette didn’t seem like the kind of person who would do something like that. No, for Marissa, remaining calm was what she was struggling the most with because she was excited to see Bianca again, and she was afraid she would do something to mess it up. That was the last thing she wanted to do because she just felt that Bianca was someone special. Marissa glanced up at the clock yet again, and while only a few seconds had passed since the last time she checked, it had felt like a lifetime.

Opal observed the young redhead, and then shook her head with a smile. It was plain to see the younger woman was anxious, and she couldn’t help but feel for her. She grabbed the coffee pot and walked over to the table with the intent of throwing her a small lifeline. “More coffee?”

“Huh? Oh yeah, uh, that would be good. Thank you.”

“She’ll be here.”

“What?”

“Whoever you’re waiting for. I don’t mean to butt in …”

“Why do I have the feeling that you’re going to though?” Marissa said with a small smile.

“Because you’re right.” Opal chuckled. “I have a feeling I know who you’re meeting. If I’m right about who it is, you don’t have anything to worry about. I know her, and if she said she’ll be here, then she’ll be here. You can trust me on that.”

Marissa relaxed slightly with that reassurance. “Thank you. I don’t doubt that. I just don’t want to mess anything up.”

“Well, if what Krystal has told me about you is right, you won’t. You just need to be yourself. Our friend will appreciate that.”

“Yeah?”

“Oh yeah. You can take that to the bank.”

This time, Marissa’s smile was bigger. “Okay. Thank you, again.”

“You’re welcome.”

/

Bianca pulled up in front of Krystal’s and put the car in park. She was a couple of minutes late and couldn’t help but worry that Marissa would be upset, or worse, had left. With a quick check in the rearview mirror, she took a deep breath, turned the car off, and got out. Bianca smiled when she looked in the restaurant’s window and saw Marissa talking to Opal. She was still there. With one more deep breath, Bianca walked inside.

/

Marissa heard the door open and smiled brightly when Bianca walked through it. Bianca returned the smile as her eyes locked with Marissa’s.

“Hey.”

“Hey yourself.”

Chapter Text

A/N: Thanks for continuing to read, review, and follow! I appreciate it. This chapter picks up where the last one left off. Hope you enjoy this update!
/

Marissa heard the door to Krystal’s open and stood as a bright smile spread across her face when Bianca walked through it. Bianca returned the smile as her eyes locked with Marissa’s.

“Hey.”

“Hey yourself.”

“I’m really sorry I’m late.”

“No worries. It’s only a couple of minutes.”

“I know, but I didn’t want you to think I wasn’t coming. I can’t tell you how glad I am that you waited for me.”

“I didn’t think that at all. If you weren’t going to make it, I knew you’d call or text me. You wouldn’t leave me hanging. Why wouldn’t I have waited for you?”

“Because I was late?”

“Oh no, never. I have a feeling you’re more than worth the wait, no matter how long.” Marissa winked.

Bianca had a goofy grin on her face from the compliment.

Opal cleared her throat, and both younger women glanced in her direction. Each blushed as they realized that they had forgotten all about anyone else being there. “Good morning, Bianca. It’s good to see you again and so soon too. I thought for sure I wouldn’t see you until at least lunchtime.”

The brunette rolled her eyes at the older woman’s teasing. “Good morning, Opal.”

“Would you like some coffee?”

“That would be great. Thanks, Opal.”

The older woman shook her head and walked away, clearly amused by the younger women and the daze they both seemed to be in.

Marissa seemed to snap out of it first and chuckled. “I guess we should probably both sit.”

Bianca couldn’t hold back a chuckle as well. “Yeah, I think you’re right. It would definitely be less awkward for when Opal comes back.”

Once both women would seated, Marissa spoke first. “It’s really good to see you again. How did you sleep?”

“I slept okay.”

“Just okay?”

“Well, to be honest, I tossed and turned some. I was a little anxious.” Bianca wasn’t sure if she would be able to give the real reason for her restless night’s sleep but continued when she saw the question in the most beautiful hazel eyes she had ever seen. That gaze gave her the courage she needed to open herself up to what could be a wonderful possibility. “Because I couldn’t wait to see you again.”

Marissa grinned. “Yeah?”

“Yeah. I only got a couple of hours sleep so I’m sure I look …”

“Beautiful. You look beautiful.” Marissa interrupted.

Bianca blushed at the compliment. Before she could say anything else, Opal returned.

“Here is your coffee. Have you had a chance to decide what you want?”

Marissa looked at Bianca. “What do you recommend?”

“I’m partial to the chocolate chip pancakes.”

“Sounds like a woman after my own heart. I’ll have the chocolate chip pancakes with a side of bacon please, Opal.”

“I’ll have the same too please.” Bianca handed her menu to Opal.

“I’ll get that right in for you both. If you need anything else in the meantime, let me know.”

“Thanks, Opal.” Once the older woman was gone, Bianca turned back to the redhead. “So, how did you sleep?”

Marissa bit her lip and decided to take the plunge. “It seems the same as you. Only a couple of hours. I was both excited and nervous to see you again.”

“Really?” Bianca was surprised by the redhead’s admission.

“Oh yeah, really. I meant what I said before about you being beautiful. You are, and at the risk of giving you a big head or anything like that, I would say that you are simply the most beautiful woman that I’ve ever seen. I can tell there’s so much more to you than that though, and I want to know all of it or at least everything you’re willing to share with me.”

Ever since her break up with Reese, Bianca had been reluctant to open herself up again to anyone. She wasn’t sure if her heart could take another hit like the one it had taken with her ex. The brunette had been devastated nearly a year ago when she had found Reese in bed with another woman, but her heart had finally healed. Was she willing to put it back on the line? That was the question. Bianca found the answer when she heard the earnestness in Marissa’s voice and when she saw it in her eyes. She was ready.
“I’d like that, and I’m willing to share on one condition. You have to as well. I mean, this has to go both ways because I want to know everything about you too. And just so you know, I think you’re the most beautiful woman that I’ve ever seen. I know there’s definitely more than meets the eye with you as well. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about you …”

Marissa nodded. “I know what you mean. I feel the same way about you, and that’s one of the reasons why I want to know more.”

Opal had been observing the couple from across the room and could definitely see the sparks flying between them. So when their food was ready, she a little reluctant to interrupt them, but she knew that she had to. Opal walked over to the couple’s table and started to unload the tray she carried. “All right, breakfast is served.”

“Wow, this looks and smells wonderful.”

“I’ll be sure to tell the cook you said that, Marissa. Is there anything else you need right now?”

Bianca glanced up. “Could I have some more coffee, Opal? I’m good other than that.”

“Same here, please.”

“I can definitely take care of that for both of you. I’ll be right back with your coffee.”

“Thanks.”

Marissa took a bite of the chocolate chip pancakes and moaned in appreciation. “Oh my god. These are so good! Excellent recommendation.”

“They really are. I’m glad you like them.”

“Oh, I really do. They remind me a lot of the ones they have at this place called The Pancake Pantry back home in Devon. I’m definitely going to be getting these again, and I’m also going to bring Mom and Dad here when they visit.”

“Are they going to stay with you?”

“Yes, they will. My place has two spare bedrooms, but I’m going to make one of them an office.”

“Where did you move to?”

“I’m in a condo over on Harbor View. Krystal actually helped me find the place. I’m just renting for now. I want to see how much I like it before I decide to buy it.” Marissa noticed the shocked expression on Bianca’s face. “What?”

“You’re not going to believe this, but I live in that complex. You’re in 2441, aren’t you? That’s the one that was just taken off the market. I saw the moving van outside of it but not the new tenant. I’m in 2447.”

Marissa laughed. She was definitely going to have to thank Krystal again for helping her find that condo. “Small world. So, we’re neighbors.”

“Looks like it. Welcome to the neighborhood!” Bianca chuckled and held up mug in a toast.

The redhead clinked her mug against Bianca’s. “Thank you. Being neighbors with you, definitely a plus.”

Bianca grinned. “Are you getting settled?”

“I’m getting there. There are still plenty of boxes that need to be unpacked and things organized, but I’m making progress. I still need a few things to help it feel more like home.”

“If you need any help, just let me know.”

“I’ll be sure to keep that in mind.”

The conversation continued to flow easily between them. As they got to know each other better, they found more and more that they liked. After some time had passed, Bianca reluctantly had to end their conversation when she realized how late it had gotten.

“I’m sorry. I’d like nothing more than to stay and talk more, but I’ve got to get to work.”

“I understand. I don’t like it, but I do understand.” Marissa grabbed the check Opal had placed on the table a little earlier before Bianca could grab it. “Nope! This was my treat. I asked you out, remember?”

Bianca bit her lip. “I remember. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. I had a good time.”

“So did I.” Bianca paused before she decided to go for it. “Would you like to go out again sometime … with me?”

Marissa’s grin could have lit up the room. “I’d like that, a lot.”

“Great! How does tomorrow night sound? I would say tonight, but I’ve got class right after work.”

“That’s right, Dr. Montgomery.”

“Not quite yet, but I’m getting there, Counselor.”

Marissa definitely liked the way Bianca said that. “Tomorrow sounds perfect.”

Bianca smiled brightly. “Great! It’s a date then! This time, it’s my treat.”

“Okay, and it’s a date! So, what are you thinking?”

“I definitely have an idea, but I want it to be a surprise. How about I pick you up at 7:00?”

“Sounds good. Guess I won’t have to worry about giving you directions or you getting lost.”

Bianca laughed. “No, I think I’ll be able to find it. So what are your plans for today?”

Marissa sighed. “Unpacking and arranging things. It’s not my favorite thing to do, but it needs to be done.”

“I can relate. It’s not one of my favorite things either. Okay, I really need to go.”

“Could I walk you to your car?”

“I’d like that.”

Marissa placed some cash on the table to cover their bill along with a nice tip for Opal. “Let’s go.”

As they walked to the door, Marissa hurried ahead to open it for Bianca. “After you.”

“Thank you.”

Opal watched the two younger women leave and shook her head clearly amused by both of them. She pulled out her cellphone and placed a call. “Good morning. Yeah, they just left. From where I’m standing, it couldn’t have gone better. I’ll fill you in when you get here.”

/

When Kendall saw Bianca enter offices of Fusion, she couldn’t help but chuckle. Her little sister had a smile as bright as the sun, and she had really missed seeing that smile. In fact, Kendall couldn’t remember the last time she had seen it that bright. It was something she hoped she would be seeing more often.

“Morning, Binx.”

“Morning, Kendall.”
“So …”

“So?”

Kendall rolled her eyes. “You’re going to make me ask, aren’t you?”
“It would seem so.”

“Fine. How was your breakfast meeting?”

“It was good.”

“I’m glad to hear that. How was Marissa?”

Bianca hesitated just a second too long, and she knew she had been busted. “How did you know?”
“It was just a guess. I wasn’t sure until now.”

“Why did you think I was meeting her?”

Kendall smiled and patted her sister’s arm before she sat down next to her. “Because I know you. I saw how you were looking at her last night and how she was looking at you. When we were talking earlier on the phone, I could hear the nervousness and excitement in your voice. Now, I can see that smile on your face and the happiness in your eyes. You’re practically glowing, Binx, and it looks really good on you.”

 

A slight blush crept across Bianca’s face. “It feels good, Kendall, but scary too.”

“I know, but sometimes, you have to take that leap. If anyone deserves to be happy, it’s you, Bianca.”

“You do too, Kendall.”

“Thank you. So, tell me about your date. It was a date, right?”

“Yeah, it was a date.”

“Yes! So, tell me about it. Marissa behaved herself, right? I mean, am I going to have to have a talk with her?”

Bianca laughed at the protectiveness of her sister. “She was a perfect gentlewoman. We talked, and it was really good. Oh! Rissa’s the one who moved into the condo in my complex!”

“Get out! It looks like the universe is trying to you something then, Binx.”

“Maybe it is.”

“Are you going to see her again?”

“I … Yes, I am. I … I asked her out for tomorrow night.”

Kendall smiled and hugged her sister. She knew that this had been a big step for her little sister. “Way to go, Bianca! What did Red say?”

A goofy grin spread across Bianca’s face. “Rissa said yes.”

“Of course she did! She went to Harvard after all, and you’re supposed to be very smart to go there. I think this proves it!”

“You like her.” Bianca realized.

“For as much as I know her, yeah, I do. She seemed nice when we talked last night, and I just got a good vibe off of her. What really impressed me was how she stood up to Dipshit. Even more than all of that though is that she helped put that smile on your face, and that gives her big time points. Of course if she hurts you, I will have to hurt her.”

Bianca sighed. “I know, but something is telling me that she’s different.”

“Hmmm. You like her.”

“I do. I really, really do. I haven’t felt this way in a long time. Don’t worry. I’m not going to rush into anything, but I do want to see where this could go. I want to try.”

Kendall smiled. “Good. I’m so happy for you, Bianca. So, do you have something planned for your date with her?”

“Ooh, date? Who’s going on a date? Wait. Is it you, Bianca? You have a date? With who? Wait. Don’t tell me. Let me guess. You have a date with the lawyer, don’t you?” Greenlee asked excitedly as she joined the sisters.

“Give her a second to answer.” Kendall laughed at her friend.

Bianca nodded happily. “Yes, I have a date with Marissa.”

“Way to go, Bianca! So, she asked you out.”

“Thanks, and actually, I asked her out.”

“You did? Nice! Give me details.”

/

“Hi, Mom.” Marissa smiled as she answered her cellphone.

“Hello, Rissa. What are you up to today?”

“More unpacking. What about you and Dad?”

“Your father is in his workshop.”

“Again? He’s been doing that a lot lately, hasn’t he?”

“Yes, he has. Every night after work. He’s working on something but won’t tell me what it is.”

Marissa chuckled. “Ah, that means he’s working on a surprise for you. Your birthday is coming up.”

Lydia sighed. “I’m well aware. You know I don’t want him to go to any trouble.”

“I do, but I also know that he doesn’t consider anything he does for you to be any trouble. You’re worth it, and I agree with him.”

“You are definitely your father’s daughter.” Lydia chuckled. “I talked to Krystal this morning. She told me you stopped by yesterday and ended up staying and working. I believe she called you a lifesaver, said she wouldn’t have been able to get through the day if it hadn’t been for you.”

“It wasn’t a big deal. She needed some help, and I was free. Besides, it was the least I could do after all of the help she’s given me with my move here.”

“Well, I’m proud of you for helping her. It’s always a good thing to help out friends.”

Marissa smiled. That definitely was something her parents had taught her. “I know.”

“Did you at least have some fun while you were working?”

“I did. I … uh … I met someone.”

“Oh. You did? Does this someone have a name?”

“Yes, she does. Her name is Bianca Montgomery, and she is really nice. She’s also smart, funny, and beautiful.”

Lydia smiled as she heard her daughter describe the woman she had met. There was something in her tone, the way it softened, that told Lydia her daughter found this woman to be special. “How did you meet her?”

“I met her at Krystal’s. I actually saw her earlier in the day there, but we didn’t talk then. She had just stopped in for breakfast. Bianca came back later, and we started talking. We ended up talking most of the night. She stayed at the bar and kept me company while I worked. Bianca also helped with this jerk that was hitting on me. He wasn’t getting the hint that I wasn’t interested. She helped set him straight for me.”

“Well, I’m very glad she helped you. That definitely earns her some points. You like her, don’t you? I can tell by the way you talk about her.”

“I do, Mom. I like her a lot. I asked her out when we left Krystal’s last night, and we met there for breakfast this morning.”

“And how did it go?”

“It went great! She asked me out for tomorrow night.”

“Oh!”

“Before you start worrying, Krystal knows her so you can ask her about Bianca, which I’m sure you were planning on doing.”

Lydia laughed. “You know me too well, Rissa. She sounds lovely.”

“She is. I think both you and Dad would like her.”

“Will we get the chance to meet her when we come to Pine Valley?”

“If things are going well and Bianca is okay with it, then you know you will. Enough about me. How was work?”

“Today was an in service day at the school so it was just teachers and staff there. The students are getting antsy though, and we’re all looking forward to spring break in a couple of weeks. Do you think you would be up for a visit then? If you think you will, your Dad will ask for that week off.”

“I should be good by then. I don’t know how much time I’ll be able to spend with you during the day though because I’ll be working at the firm by then.”

“Don’t worry about your Dad and me. We can keep ourselves entertained during the day.”

Marissa smiled. She really was looking forward to seeing her parents. “All right. That works for me. You know Krystal will be happy to see you again.”

“We’ll be happy to see her again too. It’s been too long. Now, tell me a little more about Bianca. Do you have the time?” Lydia smiled when she heard her daughter laugh.

“Okay. For you, I do. Besides, I can use the break from unpacking.”

/

Erica strode into the offices of Fusion and glanced around. When she spotted her daughters, the diva headed in their direction.

“Good afternoon.”

“Hi, Mom.” Bianca stood up from her desk and hugged her mother.

Kendall followed suit. “Hi, Mom. What are you doing here?”

“I can’t simply stop by and see my daughters for no reason other than that?”

Bianca and Kendall glanced at each other and then back at Erica.

“Not really.”

“No.”

Erica rolled her eyes before she took a seat next to Bianca’s desk. “Fine. We’ll get straight to the point. I have a question and expect an answer to it.”

Chapter Text

Erica exited the elevator and strode into the offices of Fusion. The diva glanced around, and when she spotted her daughters, she immediately headed in their direction.

“Good afternoon.”

“Hi, Mom.” Bianca stood up from her desk and hugged her mother.

Kendall, who had been sitting by her sister reviewing some ad layouts, followed suit. “Hi, Mom. What are you doing here?”

“I can’t simply stop by and see my daughters for no reason other than that?”

Bianca and Kendall glanced at each other and then back at Erica. “No, not really.”

Erica rolled her eyes at her daughters’ responses before she took a seat next to Bianca’s desk. “Fine, we’ll have it your way. I have a question and expect an answer to it.”

The younger women both sighed and sat back down.

“What’s the question?” Kendall asked.

“There is no need for that tone, Kendall.” Erica admonished her oldest daughter who rolled her eyes. “Bianca.”

“Mom?” Bianca had no idea what her mother would want to ask her.

“Why am I just finding out that you are dating someone?

“What?” It dawned on Bianca that her mother was talking about Marissa. The only place they had been was Krystal’s, and there was only one person who could have seen them both times that they were together and would’ve outed them to Erica. That person happened to be her mother’s best gal pal. “Opal.”

“What about Opal?”

“I’m not dumb, Mom. Opal saw me with someone and told you. It’s good to see that you trust me so much.”

Kendall slowly sat back at the icy tone in her little sister’s voice. Bianca was pissed. It didn’t happen often, but when it did, it was best to stay out of her way. Now, her little sister was calling their mother out and preparing to go toe to toe with her, in Kendall’s eyes, Bianca was in the right.

“What are you talking about? Of course I trust you.”

“Not from where I’m sitting. If you did, you wouldn’t have people spying on me and reporting back to you on my every movement.”

“Don’t be silly. Your every movement? No.”

“Ah, but they are spying on me.”

Erica couldn’t find a way around her slip. “I love you, sweetheart, and worry about you.”

“I love you too, Mom, but you seem to forget that I’m an adult. I’m fully capable of taking care of myself.”

“I know that …”

“Do you? Do you really? Because when you have people spying on me, it tells me that you don’t really think that. It tells me that you think you could do a better job of running my life. It tells me that you don’t really trust me.”

“You know that I do, but Reese …”

“I know all about Reese. I have the scars to remind me of her. I don’t need you to throw my failed relationship in my face. You wonder why Kendall and I don’t talk to you about certain things. It’s because of things like this. You have people spy us, and then, you come in demanding answers because you feel that you’ve been wronged in some way. I know you do it because you care, but you have to back off. You have to let us breathe.” Bianca stood up and gathered her things.

“Where are you going?” Erica demanded.

“I have a class tonight. I’m sure you can confirm that with one of your spies at PVU. I wouldn’t be surprised you had one in my class. I’ll see you tomorrow, Kendall.” Bianca started to walk away, but stopped and turned back to face Erica. “Just so you know, I was planning on telling you about her, but we literally just met last night. I thought I’d get to know her a little better myself before I subjected her to an Erica Kane inquisition and have her possibly get scared off. Do me a favor. The next time you see Opal, tell her to butt out. Good night.”

/

Erica sat with her mouth agape as the elevator door closed and Bianca disappeared. Kendall didn’t say a word. She just sat there and picked up a piece of paper to make it look like she was reading it. If you asked her though, Kendall couldn’t be more proud of her sister than she was at that moment.

“Do you agree with her?”

“Huh?”

“Do you agree with Bianca? Am I …”

“Being a little overbearing when it comes to us running our own lives? Yeah, you could say that.”

“I wasn’t going to say that, Kendall.”

“Sorry.”

Erica eyed her daughter. “No, you aren’t.”

“You’re right. I’m not.” Kendall grinned and put the paper down. “Look, Mom. You know we love you, and we know that you love us. Sometimes though, even though you mean well, you go a little too far, especially with Bianca. Yeah, Reese did a number on her, but Bianca has healed. She’s finally let all that go.”

“Really?”

Kendall nodded. “Yeah, really. She’s happy. I don’t know what all Opal’s told you about Marissa.”

“You’ve met her?”

“Yes. I met her at Krystal’s last night. She seems really nice. Her parents are friends of Krystal’s. Marissa is from Devon. She graduated at the top of her class from Harvard and is going to be working at Jack’s firm. When Krystal needed help yesterday to deal with the St. Patrick’s Day crowd, Marissa jumped right in to help, and she ended up working all day. She and Bianca clicked. Bianca sat at the bar, and the two of them talked all night while Marissa worked. When someone would come up and bother Bianca, Marissa got rid of them. What’s best of all is what happened when JR showed up.” Kendall saw the disgusted look at the mention of the man’s name. “He was hitting on Marissa, but she was not interested in him. It was clear to everyone that she was only interested in Binx. When Bianca tried to help her out, JR went on the attack and started to mock and bully Bianca, like he usually does. Marissa shut him right down. She didn’t want to hear anything he was going to say, and told he had to leave.”

“She threw him out?”

“Yeah. He then started to threaten her, but she didn’t budge. Krystal backed her up and said she would call Adam if he didn’t leave.”

“I have to admit that I’m impressed by what she did. And you say that Bianca likes her and this Marissa appears to like your sister as well?”

Kendall nodded with a smile. “Yeah, they definitely like each other. Mom, I haven’t seen Bianca smile and laugh like that in so long. That spark is back. You saw how she was, how she fought back against you. There’s no way Bianca would have done that a few of months ago.”

Erica smiled as what Kendall had said sunk in. “And this Marissa, you like her?”

“I do. You know that if I thought for one second that something wasn’t right with her, that I didn’t trust her, I’d say and do something about it. There’s also the fact that Krystal knows her and vouched for her. You know how Krystal feels about Bianca. Plus, she has to have good character for the firm to have hired her.”

“I do. I also know how protective you are of your sister. I do reserve judgement, however, until I meet this young woman myself. In the meantime, how can I fix things with Bianca?”

Kendall chuckled. Her mother was going to hate what she was going to say next. “You know as well as I do what you need to do.”

Erica sighed. “I have to apologize.”

If there was one thing Erica Kane hated more than anything else, it was admitting that she was wrong. Kendall knew this, probably more so than anyone else with the exception of Bianca and Jack, but she also knew that the diva would do anything for her daughters. This included apologizing when she was wrong, and she definitely wrong this time. “Yes, you do. Give her about half an hour to calm down and get to PVU, and then send her a text because she really does have class tonight. Tell her you’re sorry and that you’ll call her later when she’s home. When you do talk to her, arrange to meet up for lunch or dinner. You can have a nice long talk with her then …”

“While I’m eating my serving of crow.” Erica finished for her daughter.

Kendall grinned. “Yeah. Look, you know as well as I do that Bianca will tell you about Marissa, eventually. This is all really new for her. They just met yesterday.”

“And that’s what has me concerned. I don’t want her to rush into anything. She’s been hurt enough.”

“I know. I also know Bianca. Despite what you think, she is not one to rush into anything. If anything, after all that she’s been through, she’s gun shy, and with good reason. I could still kick Reese’s ass for what she did to her.”

“That certainly makes two of us. If she knows what is good for her, she will never show her face in this town again, and more importantly, never bother Bianca again.”

“After the threat you made to her the last time she was around her, something tells me that she won’t be back.”

“You should know better, Kendall. That was not a threat. It was a promise, and one I fully intend to keep should she ever darken Bianca’s doorstep again.”

/

Bianca sighed as she plopped down on the sofa in her apartment. It had been a long day, but she was finally home. Her day did get off to a good start however due to her breakfast date with Marissa. That had helped her, more than she realized, get through her day. After spending time with Marissa, she had a full day at work and then class that evening with no break to speak of in between. If that wasn’t enough, she also had the dust up with her mother earlier in the day. Erica did text her an apology and said she would call her later that evening once Bianca was home from class if that was alright with her. Bianca was almost positive that her mother had sent the text and phrased it the way she did instead of storming Pine Valley University’s campus seeking her out at Kendall’s urging. That would have been embarrassing and brought way too much attention to Bianca. For that, she would have to thank her sister. It was a well-known fact that the youngest Kane woman liked to keep a low profile and shied away from the spotlight, unlike her famous mother and sister. They thrived in it, and while she was no shrinking violet, Bianca didn’t go out of her way to seek it out and the attention it brought with it.

The reason behind her approach to celebrity was actually quite simple. Bianca wanted people to like her for her and not because she was part of a famous family. So, she didn’t advertise or draw unwanted attention to herself. Bianca had learned that lesson the hard way early on in life. People had befriended her just to capitalize on her family’s celebrity and fame. Several times it had ended with them selling stories to the tabloids in an attempt to cash in on their connection. As a result, Bianca ended up getting burned badly. That’s actually how she ended up being outed publicly. A supposed friend sold that bit of information to a tabloid after Bianca had confided to her that she was gay. That story had made headlines before Bianca had the chance to talk to some of her family and close friends. Thankfully, she had come out to Erica and Kendall prior to the story’s publication. When it did come out, her mother was furious at the tabloid as well as the so-called friend. From that point on, Bianca was careful as to who she let close. That’s what made what happened with Reese hurt even more. She had lowered her guard, opened her heart, and was betrayed by someone who claimed to love her.

Now, one would think that would make her jaded, but they would be wrong because it didn’t. Even when she had declared to Kendall and Greenlee that she had sworn off love, part of Bianca never really gave up on it. She still had hope that one day she would find a love that would last. Bianca couldn’t help but wonder if maybe that day was yesterday, when she met Marissa. She couldn’t explain it, but there was just something about the redhead that made Bianca smile and fueled that hope. There was no denying they had shared an instant connection, and she wanted to see if there was more there. If there was, Bianca wanted to see where it could go. She didn’t want to rush things though, and she hoped that Marissa would be okay with that pace.

As Bianca sat and pondered where she was currently, her stomach grumbled and reminded her that she hadn’t had dinner. With a sigh, the brunette stood up and walked to the kitchen to see what she could throw together. A quick scan of her refrigerator revealed that she in fact had nothing. That’s when she remembered that she hadn’t been to the grocery store recently. Her big St. Patrick’s Day plans had included a trip to the store to stock up. Instead, Kendall had convinced her to go out, not that she was complaining now about that decision because it led her to Marissa. She was pulled from her thoughts by a knock on her door.

Bianca walked over to the door and looked through the peephole. A smile broke out on her face when she saw who was on the other side. After a deep breath, she opened the door. “Hey.”

Marissa’s smile was just as bright as Bianca’s. “Hey yourself. I’m not disturbing you, am I?”

“No, not at all. Come on in. I was just thinking about dinner.”

“Oh, so you haven’t eaten yet?”

“No, and judging by the contents of my refrigerator, or more like the lack thereof, I won’t be anytime soon. That is unless I go back out, and I really don’t feel like doing that.”

“Do you like Chinese?”

Bianca nodded. “Yeah, I do.”

“Well, you’re in luck! I come bearing Chinese food.” Marissa grinned, and she held up a large paper bag.

“Seriously?” Bianca couldn’t believe she didn’t see the bag when she had let Marissa in. “I couldn’t. That’s your dinner.”

“Yes, you can. I ordered extra. Seriously though, it’s been a long day, and I just didn’t feel like cooking. I also remembered that you had class tonight and had a feeling that you wouldn’t get a chance to eat in between work and class. That can’t happen. You need to take care of yourself. Now, I have to admit that I’m doing this for purely selfish reasons.”

The brunette raised an eyebrow. “You are, huh? What are they?”

“Well, you can get sick if you don’t take care of yourself. If that happens, you might not be up for our date tomorrow, and that would be a tragedy of epic proportions.”

Bianca burst out laughing. “Oh really? A tragedy of epic proportions? You don’t say?”

“Okay, maybe tragedy isn’t the right word, but it would be really bad and make me very sad. It would probably crush me.”

“Well, we can’t have that, can we now?”

Marissa grinned. “Nope.”

Bianca shook her head, clearly amused. The brunette glanced over to her dining table and saw that it was covered with some of her books and other documents she was using to help with research for a paper for her class. She turned back to the redhead. “Are you okay with eating in the living room?”

“Sure. I’m good with whatever works.”

“Okay. Make yourself comfortable, and I’ll grab some plates and something for us to drink. How does some red wine sound?”

“Sounds perfect.” Marissa started to unload the takeout bag and placed the containers on the coffee table.

Bianca returned with plates, napkins, and some utensils before she made another trip to the kitchen for their wine and glasses. While the brunette poured the wine, Marissa opened the various containers and dished everything out after she checked with Bianca as to what she wanted. If anyone had seen the ease and effortlessness in how the couple worked together, they would not have believed they had only known each other for two days.

“Do you want chopsticks?”

“Definitely.” Bianca said confidently. She was good at using them. The brunette took a set from Marissa and noted that the other pair was still sitting on the coffee table. “What about you?”

Marissa scrunched her face and sighed. “I’m going to stick with a fork if that’s okay. When it comes to using chopsticks, let’s just say that it’s best for everyone that I don’t.” The redhead saw the questioning look on Bianca’s face and continued. “There was an incident the last time I attempted to use them, and I almost took someone’s eye out as a result.”

Bianca’s first thought was how adorable Marissa looked when she scrunched her face up like she had just done. Her next thought was a cross between confusion and amusement.
“Wait. You did what? How? And don’t you dare say that you can’t tell me because there is no way you can just leave it there.”

“Yeah, I figured as much as soon as the words left my mouth. Some friends and I went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner one time. They knew how bad I was at using them, but they wouldn’t let up. I mean, they were relentless. So, I finally gave up and said I would use them. I think I got some sauce on my fingers because when I went to use them to pick up some sweet and sour chicken, I lost my grip. One of the chopsticks slipped out of my hand and flew across the table and almost hit one of my friends in the eye. To the surprise of no one, they have never asked me to try them again. Of course, they still tease me about it to this day as only friends will do.” Marissa could tell Bianca was doing her utmost not to burst out laughing. “Go ahead. It’s alright. You can laugh. My ego was bruised, but I’m over it and can definitely see the humor in it.”

The brunette couldn’t hold it in any longer and burst out laughing. Hearing Bianca’s laugh was like music to Marissa’s ears. She had never heard anything as beautiful, and the redhead promised herself that she would do whatever she could to hear it again and to bring that same joy to Bianca again.

Bianca wiped tears from her eyes as her laughter slowly subsided. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright.” Marissa chuckled. “I get it. I really do. You’d be laughing even harder if you had seen my friend’s face. Her eyes bugged out kind of like a cartoon character.”

“I can only imagine. You know, I could teach you how use them if you’d like. I’m pretty good with them.”

“I think I’m hopeless. A few others have tried and have failed miserably.”

“Maybe you’ve just never had the right teacher.”

The couple shared an intense gaze as Bianca’s statement seemed to take on another meaning.

Marissa cleared her throat, but her voice was still raspy. “I wouldn’t want to hurt you. I’d never forgive myself if I did.”

Bianca could see the truth behind those words in the hazel eyes staring back at her. “I believe you. Oh, I have an idea! I’ll be right back!”

There was definitely something mischievous in those chocolate eyes, but the redhead didn’t have the chance to question it. Bianca had jumped up off the sofa and dashed down the hallway. The brunette returned no more than a minute or two later sporting a huge grin and ski goggles.

As hard as she tried, Marissa wasn’t able to hold in her laughter as she gazed at the goofy grin on Bianca’s face. “You are adorkable.”

“Maybe. But I do have the proper eye protection to teach you.”

“Shut up. I’ll think about it. Now, please take those off. I miss seeing your eyes.”

Bianca blushed and removed the goggles as requested.

“Much better.” Marissa said softly.

“Thank you.” Bianca bit her lip and then decided to change the subject. “Tell me about your day. You said it was a long one. Why is that?”

“After breakfast, I went back home and unpacked some more before I had to go into the office. Human Resources needed me to sign some papers. I ran into Caleb when I was there. We talked for a little bit. He’s going to be my mentor.”

“That’s great. He seems a little gruff, but underneath it all, he’s really sweet. Don’t tell him I said that though.”

“Your secret is safe with me. While we were talking, I told him that I was anxious to get started. He came up with what I think was a pretty awesome idea. He took me down to the legal aid clinic that the firm supports, and he showed me around. I’m going to spend part of my time working there.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. There were so many people there that need legal advice, but they can’t afford to go to a big firm. I can help them, and that’s why I became a lawyer.”

Bianca could see the passion Marissa had for both the law and for helping people in her eyes and also hear it in her voice. “That’s wonderful. You’ll do great, Counselor. I just know it.”

“Thanks! We ended up spending more time there than either of us thought we would. When we were done, I came back home and unpacked some more and ran some errands which helped me get a little more familiar with Pine Valley. I asked around, and most of the people said this was the best Chinese place. We’re they right?”

“They were. It’s my favorite actually.”

Marissa pumped her fist. “Yes!”

Bianca laughed at the redhead’s response.

“So, you know about my day. Tell me about yours.”

“I have to say that breakfast was definitely the highlight. That is until dinner.”

“That’s good to hear. The same goes for me. What about the middle?”

“Work was okay. Kendall cornered me and asked me about this morning. She called while I was getting ready to meet you. That’s part of the reason I was late.”

Marissa raised an eyebrow. “Part of the reason. What was the other part?”

“I was nervous and had a hard time picking out something to wear.”

“Well, if you ask me, you definitely picked the right outfit. And for what it’s worth, I was really nervous too.”

“It’s worth a lot, and thank you. Anyway, having met Kendall, I’m sure you have a little bit of an idea of what she’s like when she wants to know something. I’ll put it like this. She’s like your friends, relentless.”

“Yeah, I got that impression. What did you tell her?”

“I told her that I had met you for breakfast, and she asked if it was a date. I told her it was. She was happy about that. Kendall likes you. You made a great impression on her, Counselor.”

“I’m very happy to hear that, Doc. I like her too, and Greenlee.”

“I’m not a doctor.”

“Yet. You’re not a doctor yet. You will be, and you’re going to be a really good one.”

Bianca grinned. She couldn’t remember the last time someone outside of her family had expressed such faith in her. It was definitely an incredible feeling. “I told her about us going out tomorrow night.”

“And what did you tell her about that?”
“Nice try, Counselor, but I’m not telling you.”
Marissa scowled playfully. “Fine. You can’t blame a girl for trying.”
“No, you can’t. Anyway, things were going pretty good until …”
“Until?”
“Our Mom showed up, and she was demanding answers.”

“About what?”

“You.”

“Me?”

“She wanted to know why I hadn’t told her about you yet.”

“I’m confused. If you hadn’t told her about me, then how did she know?”

“Opal told her. As Opal puts it, Mom is her best gal pal. She’s also one of the biggest gossips in town. You distracted me so much that I forgot all of that.”

“I distracted you that much, huh?” Marissa grinned.

Bianca rolled her eyes. “You’re getting awfully cocky, Counselor.”

“Sorry, kinda. So, what happened next with your Mom?”

“I lost it and blew up at her. I told I’d had enough. I was tired of her having people spy on me. I told her to tell Opal to butt out and mind her own business. Look, I know my Mom loves me, and I don’t know if I could’ve gotten through what happened with my ex without her and Kendall. It’s just that she’s so overprotective. Sometimes, it’s to the point where I feel like I’m being smothered, and I can’t breathe. I want her to realize that I’m adult and perfectly capable of taking care of myself. Yes, I’ve made mistakes, but who hasn’t? Lord knows that she has. It just gets old, and I’m so tired of it. I want her to stop trying to control my life. It’s my life after all and not hers.”

Marissa simply nodded and listened as Bianca vented her frustration for a few minutes.

Bianca stopped and glanced at Marissa. “I’m sorry. This probably is not the kind of conversation you thought we would be having tonight.”

“It’s okay. I get it, and I don’t mind. If you need to, vent away. I’m more than happy to listen, and hopefully, I can help by doing so.”

“I appreciate that. I really do. I’m sure it sounds like I’m a whiny, spoiled little rich girl.”

“It doesn’t seem like that at all to me. You’re probably one of the most down to earth people I know. I do understand where you’re coming from to some degree. Devon is a small town, and everybody knows everybody else’s business. I couldn’t do anything sometimes without my parents finding out about it before I got home. Do you want some advice?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Well, the one thing I got from what you were saying is that your Mom loves you, and you love her. That’s plain as day. You obviously know her better than I do, but I don’t think she’s trying to control you. I just think she’s trying to protect, but she’s going about it the wrong way. Now for the advice. Talk with her. Don’t yell even though you may want to and have every right to. Just talk with her. Tell her how you feel. Tell her what you just told me. Eventually, it’ll get through to her.”

“You’re mighty optimistic there, Counselor. Why is that? Personal experience?” Bianca teased lightly.

Marissa paused. “Yeah, you could say that. There’s something I should tell you. I should have told you earlier, but I wanted to get to know you a little more before I did. I’ll explain everything and answer any questions that you might have. Okay?”

Bianca nodded. She was slightly concerned by what Marissa said. “Okay. What is it?”

“I have a twin sister.”

/

A/N: The idea of Marissa having a twin sister in this story just came to me today. Her name will not be Babe, and she will not bear any resemblance to her. Remember, Marissa is Roy and Lydia’s biological daughter in this story.

Chapter Text

“I have a twin sister.”

“You do?”

“Yes, I do. Her name is Fiona, Fi for short. I’m older by a couple of minutes.”

“Are you identical twins?”

“No, we’re not. We are both redheads like our Mom, but I’m a couple of inches taller though and have hazel eyes where she has green ones. There is one other difference, and it’s significant. Fi has Down syndrome.”

Bianca was surprised. That was not something she was expecting to hear. “Oh.”

“The reason I didn’t tell you before isn’t because I’m embarrassed or ashamed of her. It’s just that we’re very protective of her, and you just never know how …”

“How people will react when they hear that?”

Marissa nodded. “Exactly. Like I said, we’re very protective of her.”

“I can certainly understand that.”

“I’m not nearly as bad as I used to be when it comes to being overprotective of her. I’ve learned to ease up, especially after she called me on it when I was in college. Our parents are a little better than they used to be as well, but I get the feeling they’re like your Mom. I guess it’s different with parents.”

“I think you’re right about that.”

“Yeah. I’m sure you know as well as I do that people can be cruel. When people find out that I’m bi, well, let’s just say that I’ve been called a lot of names and none of them nice.”
Bianca nodded. “Same here. It’s really hard sometimes. They don’t know anything about me, but they feel this need to call me so many ugly names when I’ve done nothing to them. They feel the need to judge me.”

“Yes. So, I find myself being very careful about who I talk with about Fi. Some of the names they’ve called her? It just makes me so damn mad. People can say whatever they want about me but not my sister. They need to leave Fiona the hell alone. She’s innocent and doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. She has never hurt anyone. These people don’t realize how much what they say hurts her, and there’s no reason for them to hate like they do or make fun of her.” Marissa’s voice cracked with emotion.

“I’m sorry. People can be cruel and thoughtless. It’s like it makes them feel better to put somebody else down. It makes no sense at all.”

“No, it doesn’t. So, that’s why I’m careful about who I tell.”

“But you told me only after two days.”

Marissa sighed. “I know. There’s just something about you. I can’t put my finger on it, but I feel I can trust you. There’s just this connection. It’s hard to explain. Am I making any sense?”

Bianca smiled. “I know what you mean, and yeah, you’re making sense, at least to me. Tell me about Fiona?”

The brightest smile appeared on Marissa’s face. “Of course! Fi has the purest soul I’ve ever known. She has the biggest heart too and the best smile. Oh, her smile lights up a room. Do you want to see a picture?”

“Definitely! It’s only fair. You do know what my sister looks like and my Mom too.”

Marissa retrieved her cellphone and pulled up the picture of her family that served as her device’s wallpaper. “True! I’m more than happy to show you my family. We did a selfie of the four of us the day before I moved here. They threw me a going away party. This is my Mom aka Lydia, my Dad aka Roy, and Fiona.”

Bianca looked at the picture and smiled. “You really look like your Mom, but you have your Dad’s chin. You also have the same glint in your eyes that he does.”

“Yeah, Mom says the exact same thing. She calls it her curse. Mom says when she sees that glint that she knows that we’re up to no good.”

The brunette studied the picture further. She spotted two of the more telltale signs of Down syndrome, the slanted eyes and flattened nose, right away. Then, Bianca saw it. “You’re right about her smile. That’s amazing. There’s just such a joyfulness there. It’s beautiful.”

Marissa smiled as she looked at the picture, her eyes tearing up slightly. “Yeah, it really is.”

“It’s just like yours.” Bianca said earnestly which caused Marissa to blush. “This is a great picture of all of you. Does the firm know about Fiona?”

“No, it never came up. They will know though as soon as I put this picture on my desk. I just need to get it enlarged and framed.”

“You don’t have to worry. They won’t have any problems with this.”

“Yeah, I got that feeling from them when I interviewed. Caleb told me that one of the charities they do volunteer work for is Special Olympics.”

“So, what else can you tell me about her?”

“Fi’s IQ is on the higher end of those with Down’s. She still lives at home, but Mom and Dad converted the top floor of our house which basically gives Fi her own apartment. She is taking some classes at the local college and has a job. She is a teaching assistant at the elementary school in Devon and works with the kindergarteners and first graders. They love ‘Miss Fi’. That’s what they all call her. She definitely loves them. I watched her in class one time, and she is so good with them.”

“You’re very proud of her, aren’t you?”

Marissa nodded. “I am. Fi always tells me that she’s proud of me and that I’m her hero. But to me, she’s the real hero. Every day holds a new struggle or challenge for her, but she doesn’t give up. She doesn’t let it get to her. Fi just keeps on trying. She persists. It’s amazing everything that she’s accomplished. They said that she should go to another school, a special school. She didn’t want that because she wanted to go to regular school with me. They didn’t think she would graduate, but she did. It was all on her own too. I never saw anyone work as hard as her. Fi wanted to teach, and she is. Granted, it’s not advanced math or anything like that, but the lessons she teaches are more valuable than anything you can learn in a textbook. She wanted to go to college, and she is. All in all, my little sister is badass.”

Hearing Marissa talk about her sister, something became crystal clear to Bianca. “I understand now. Where your passion for the law comes from. Fiona’s why, or at least a large reason why, you became a lawyer and fight the way you do, care about helping people the way you do.”

“She is. I see the challenges that Fi faces, and the doors that are closed to her that shouldn’t be. I want to do what I can to change that. I can’t find a cure for her. There is none. What I can do though is fight for her rights. And hopefully while I’m doing that, I can make things a little better for her and others.”

Bianca smiled softly. “If you ask me, Fiona’s big sister is pretty badass too.”

Marissa ducked her head slightly and then began to protest. “I don’t know about that.”

“Well, I do, and from where I’m sitting, that’s exactly what I’m seeing. Was it tough growing up?”

“A little. Having a child with specials needs definitely has its challenges. She needed so much of our parents’ attention when she was younger, but it was never done at my expense. I never once felt that they didn’t love me or that they loved her more than me. Mom and Dad had to plan early on for her future for obvious reasons. They’ve set money aside specifically for Fi’s long term care since the day we were born. Individuals with Down’s tend to have more health issues so that was done out of necessity. Things were a little tight growing up because of that at times, but I never really felt like I was missing out on too much. There was one exception however. The older I got, the more I realized that if I wanted to go to a really good college I wouldn’t be able to depend on them helping me too much financially. It would be too much of a strain on them. I knew my best chance to get into a good school was to get a scholarship. So, I worked my butt off, and I was able to get a full ride to Harvard. By doing that, I was able to take that burden off their shoulders. I knew that it was the one thing I could do to help them after everything they did for me and Fiona.”

Bianca nodded. “I’ll amend my earlier statement slightly. You’re pretty amazing too.”

“They’re my family. It’s what you do, no matter how much they try and shield you or drive you nuts.”

“Why do I have the feeling that this conversation has circled back around to me?”

“Because you’re very smart. Look. Your Mom loves you. She just wants to make sure that you’re okay. That you don’t get hurt again or as badly as you have been. I’m guessing your ex has something to with that. You don’t have to tell me anything if you don’t want to, but I’m here and willing to listen.”

Bianca sighed. Marissa had opened up to her by telling her about her sister. If anything was to happen between the two of them, Bianca knew she would eventually have to open up to Marissa about her past, and the brunette found herself wanting to. “Well, Mom has always been protective, but she’s even more so now after my breakup. Reese, my ex, she … it wasn’t pretty. I thought we were doing good. Reese was smart and beautiful. We had fun and seemed to have a lot in common, and she said the right things. We moved in together, and I’ll admit that we might have done the stereotypical u-hauling. Everything seemed to be moving in the right direction though. It turns out I was wrong.
I realized that when I had to go out of town for work, and the trip happened to be around her birthday. I hated that, and trust me when I say that she let me know how much she hated it as well. It wasn’t like I didn’t feel bad enough, but she just heaped the guilt on me. On the way there, I had made up my mind that I was not going to miss her birthday. I was going to do whatever I needed to do in order to be home in time to celebrate it with her and to make it as special as I could. So, I worked as hard as I could and was able to wrap everything up early. I switched my flight and was going to surprise her. It did not turn out like I thought it would. You know the saying, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry? Yeah, truer words were never spoken, at least in my case. See, I was the one that was surprised.” Bianca paused. While she was over Reese now, the betrayal still stung a little. “I got home and found her in our bed with another woman.”

Marissa winced at the revelation. She could see the hurt, the betrayal in Bianca’s eyes. If she ever ran into Reese, Marissa knew she would definitely be giving the woman a piece of her mind. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what else to say.”

“Thank you. What can you say? I hate to admit that it gets worse though. I threw them both out. I just couldn’t deal with Reese at that moment. I needed time to think. She gave me a couple of days and then called. She apologized, at first. Then, everything went off the rails. Reese tried to blame me for her cheating.”

“What?! You’ve got to be kidding me. How in the hell was it your fault? You didn’t believe her, right?”

“No, I didn’t. The more she talked, the more I realized how manipulative she was and had been during our relationship. There was something else I realized during that conversation. It wasn’t the first time that she had cheated on me. It turns out that she had cheated quite a lot. That’s when I pretty much lost it. I called Kendall and Greenlee, and they helped me clear everything of Reese’s out, including our bed. Actually, Kendall even rented a dumpster. She tolerated Reese when we were together. The good thing is that she never said ‘I told you so’. I really appreciated that. In case you’re wondering, this is a new place. The lease on my old apartment was up a couple of months after the breakup. I decided to let it run out, found this place and bought it. I needed a clean start.”

“I can understand that. So, what happened to Reese? Any chance I might run into her? I might like to have a few words with her.”

Bianca couldn’t help but smile at Marissa’s statement. She had a feeling that the redhead wouldn’t be sharing very kind words with ex. “She left town. My Mom encouraged her to do so. She told Reese that it was in her best interest to leave. I don’t know what else was said during their conversation. Neither one would tell me. Reese stopped by my office and made one more final plea for us to get back together, but that was never going to happen. I couldn’t trust her any longer, and without trust in a relationship, what do you have? I told her no. There was no us anymore. I wished her well and told her goodbye and that I never wanted to see her again. That was the last time I saw her.”

“And how are you doing?” Marissa needed to know if Bianca had any lingering feelings for her ex. If the brunette did, it would make having a relationship with her difficult. Marissa didn’t want to be a rebound.

“Good. I’ll admit that it was tough, but I’m over her. I realized what we had wasn’t real. If it was, she wouldn’t have cheated on me or lied to me.” Bianca looked Marissa in eyes.
“I know my past is messy and that you might have reservations because of it. You have every right to feel that way. I also know we just met, but I really like you. I’d like to see if there’s something there and where it might go. What do you think?” Bianca held her breath as she waited for an answer.

Marissa considered her answer before she replied. “You’re right. Your past is messy, but who doesn’t have a messy past? You know about my sister. There are some people that would want me to not have anything to do with her or acknowledge her. There are also some who would hear about her condition and run for the hills.”

“Fiona having Down syndrome doesn’t make any difference to me. She’s your sister, and she hasn’t done anything wrong. She has a genetic disorder, something that occurred by chance. For someone to make you choose between her and them, or leave you because of that? That’s just wrong on so many levels.”

“And so is leaving you because of your past. You say you’re over her. I believe you, and yeah, I really like you too. I want to see where this could go. I’m in if you are.”

Bianca breathed a sigh of relief and smiled brightly. “I’m in, Counselor.”

“Yeah?” Marissa grinned.

“Yeah.”

“I … I’d really like to kiss you but only if that’s okay with you.”

“It’s definitely okay. I’d really like that too.”

The couple leaned in slowly and kissed. It was soft and tentative but perfect to them, and when they separated, both had blinding smiles on their faces. They both wanted more but didn’t want to push or rush anything. Their conversation that evening had been intense, and to jump into something more at that point didn’t quite seem right. Both women wanted to get this right so they would take their time. Marissa decided that she would follow Bianca’s lead and let her set the pace.

“So, where are you taking me tomorrow night?”

Bianca laughed. “Nice try, but I’m still not telling you.”

“Fine.” Marissa huffed in fake annoyance. She picked up the two fortune cookies that were included with their meal and held them out. “You pick first.”

The brunette eyed the cookies and picked the one on the right. Bianca cracked it open and read the fortune inside. “You will find love when you are not expecting it.”

Hazel eyes locked with warm chocolate ones before Marissa broke the silence. “I like that one. It’s pretty good.”

Bianca took a shaky breath and nodded. “Yeah, it is. Okay, your turn.”

Marissa smiled and read her fortune aloud. “That which is right and true is worth fighting for.”

“That sounds pretty perfect for you, Counselor.”

“I have a feeling that it would be a good one for you too, Doc. Okay. Since you’re not going to tell me where we’re going tomorrow, will you at least tell me how I should dress?”

“Casual, but not too casual.”

“So, that would rule out my cutoffs, tank top, and flip flops?” Marissa quipped.

“Unfortunately, yes, at least this time. Maybe you should keep that in mind though for when the pool opens.”

“I’ll be sure to do that. How was class?”

“It was good. Some of the subjects can be tough, but you need to hear and read about them to get a full understanding. Your Mom teaches, right?”

“Yes. She and Fiona are at the same school, but they teach in different grades. Mom only put in a good word for her. Fi did the rest and got the job fair and square. Mom has said that teaching has definitely changed over the years. Her role has evolved. She’s not just a teacher anymore. There are so many things they have to be mindful of. She loves what she does though and is really good at it. That’s why I have a feeling that you’ll be good as a psychologist or counselor, or how ever else you use that degree when you open your shelter. You listen, and you care. Those are important skills.”

“Thank you. I try. Mom doesn’t quite understand why I want to do what I want to, but she does her best to be supportive. That’s means a lot to me. It’s not easy for her, but she tries.”

“That’s what matters.”

“What about your parents?”

“They are super supportive, now at least. It was tough on them when I told them that I was going to Harvard because I would be so far from them. They came around though. Fi helped them the most. She reminded them that they were always encouraging her not to settle. It was really hard for them to have any type of comeback on that one.”
Bianca chuckled. “I can imagine. She sounds amazing. It must have been hard being away from her.”

“She is, and it was. Fi has always been my biggest cheerleader. With that kind of encouragement, belief, and faith, there was no going back. I had to go. We talked a few times a week. Skype made it easier for all of us. I went home when I could, and they would come up and see me. It will be a little easier now since I’m in the same state and a lot closer. What about you with your family?”

“I’ve always lived here. After my Mom and Dad got divorced, he moved to New York, and I would visit him when our schedules were in synch. Mom traveled a lot so Kendall and I would stay with our Grandma Mona during the school year if Mom was out of town. During the summers, we would travel with Mom and got to see a lot of the world. While I enjoyed that, I always loved coming home. Kendall went through a phase of never wanting to be here for too long, but as she got older, that changed. When we traveled, I saw a lot of people not as fortunate as me. I saw their suffering, and that’s when I knew I wanted to do something about it, help them, give them a safe place where they can get the help they need and develop the skills to survive. A place where they know they can go to get out of that toxic situation they find themselves. A place that shows them they can end the cycle of violence that they are in.”

Marissa smiled as she heard the passion Bianca had on the subject. She could see it in her eyes as well. It was the same passion she had witnessed the previous day when she mentioned her desire to open a shelter. “When you’re ready to open that shelter, let me know, and I’ll be there to help however I can.”

“Really?”

“Definitely.”

“I have no doubt that I will need legal counsel.”

“Sign me up.”

“Done! So, when will you see your family again?”

“In a couple of weeks. Mom and Fi will be on spring break, and Dad is going to try and take a few days off. The plan is for them to come here since I won’t have the time to take off yet to go back to Devon. Do you think you could help me come up with some ideas of things to do with them here?”

“Yeah, I’d love to help!”

“Thank you! I ... I told my Mom about meeting you. I hope that’s okay.”

“You did? Yeah, it’s okay. I … I had planned to tell my Mom about you after we got to know each other a little more, but as you know, Opal beat me to it.” Bianca was still ticked off about that.

“I know you’re not happy about what she did, but having talked to Opal in general, she really cares about you. I really don’t think she meant anything by it. She just wasn’t thinking.”

Bianca sighed. “You’re right. I know she didn’t mean anything by it, but sometimes, Opal is just too much. I’ll talk to her and tell her to back off. That’s a conversation I really need to have with my Mom too. I know she does what she does out of love, but damn, she needs to ease up.”

“Tell her that.” Marissa encouraged the brunette.

Before Bianca could respond, her cellphone rang. “Speaking of.”

“Your mom?”

Bianca nodded. “The one and only.”

“Answer it.”

“Hi, Mom.”

“Bianca, sweetheart. Could we talk? Please.”

“I have company right now.”

“I see.”

“I’m going to go.” Marissa lowered her voice.

“Could you hold on a second, Mom?”

“Of course, sweetheart.” Erica said as she strained to hear her daughter’s conversation. The diva assumed the other person was the mysterious Marissa, and this only fed her curiosity.

Bianca turned to Marissa who was already standing and preparing to leave. “You don’t have to go. I can call her back later.”

“I know, but you should really talk to her now. My folks always tell me that it’s never a good idea to let an argument go on for too long, to let it fester, and when one side is offering an olive branch, you should take it.”

“Okay. Thank you for dinner.”

“You’re welcome. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“I’m looking forward to it. Goodnight.” Bianca leaned in and kissed Marissa. It was short but sweet, and it left both women smiling.

“Goodnight.”

/

Bianca sighed happily as she closed and locked the door. She giggled as she leaned against it. Thoughts of her mother waiting to talk with her were all but forgotten until she heard Erica’s voice coming through the cellphone as she called her name.

“Hi. Sorry about that, Mom. What would you like to talk about?”

Erica cleared her throat. “Do you have time to talk? I don’t want to interrupt.”

“It’s fine. My company just left. And before you ask, it was Marissa. She surprised me with dinner because she didn’t think I would have the chance to grab something between work and class.”

“Well, that was very nice of her. Was she right? We have talked about this, you know.”

Bianca rolled her eyes. “Yes, she was, and I know we have. I was just getting ready to fix something, but thanks to her, I didn’t have to.”

“May I ask how she knows where you live?”

“When we were talking this morning at Krystal’s, we discovered that we live in the same complex.”

“I see.”

“Uh huh. Let’s get back to why you called, Mom.”

“Yes. I wanted to apologize for earlier today.”

“Do you know what you did wrong?”

Erica huffed in annoyance. Not only did she hate apologizing to anyone, but she wasn’t thrilled with the tone in her youngest daughter’s voice. The diva knew that Bianca was right, and she supposed that her daughter earned the right to have her current attitude. It didn’t mean that she liked it though. “You and your sister are just alike. Yes, I do. I was wrong in how I approached you earlier. I know that I tend to go overboard in my concern for you and your sister. I only do it because I love both of you and can’t stand to see either of you hurt. I do realize that you are an adult and perfectly capable of handling your life. You need to realize, however, that no matter how old you may be, you will always be my baby. When you have children, you will realize what that means and just how difficult it is to step back and let them take control. I promise you that I will do my best to do better.”

Bianca wanted to stay mad at her Mom, but she couldn’t, especially when she knew how difficult it was for her to apologize and admit when she was wrong. “I accept your apology.”

“Thank you. I will also talk to Opal. She cares a great deal about you and did not mean to hurt you.”

“I appreciate that, Mom.”

“Did you and Marissa have a good evening?”

“We did. We talked about her family. They will be visiting her in a couple of weeks when her Mom and sister are on spring break. She’s hoping that her Dad will be able to take some time off as well.”

“She has a sister?” This was news to her. Marissa having a sister was a fact that not been mentioned by either Opal or Kendall, and Erica was positive they would have said something to her had they known it.

“Yes, a twin. Mom, I’m going to ask you to do something for me. I know it’s going to be hard for you, but I want your word on this.”

“What is it?”

“Please don’t ask me about her sister or investigate her. I know you’ll want to do both, but I’m asking you not to. This isn’t my story to tell. It’s Marissa’s, and she will tell people in her own time. Actually, people will know when her family comes to visit. I’m respecting her privacy, and I’m asking you to do this for me.”

Erica fought every instinct she had but finally relented because of the tentative truce they had just reached. Also, Bianca didn’t ask her for a great deal. This seemed important to her. “Very well. I will wait.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Now, will you tell me about Marissa?”

Bianca smiled. “I’d be happy to. What would you like to know?”

“Kendall mentioned that the two of you are going out tomorrow on a date and that you asked her out for it. What do you have planned?”

“I suppose I can tell you that as long as you promise that you won’t show up during it. Marissa was trying to get me to tell her, but I want it to be a surprise.”

“You have my word that I will not show up.”

/

Marissa’s smile never left her face as she walked a few doors down to her place. No sooner was she home then the redhead felt her cellphone vibrate indicating that she had a call.

“Hi, Mom.”

“Hi, Rissa. How was your day?”

“It was really good. I’m going to be able to help out at a legal clinic as part of my job.”

“That’s wonderful. I know how much you wanted to do something like that.”

“Yeah, it is.”

“What else happened?”

“I just got back from having dinner with Bianca.”

“Really? You had breakfast with her and now dinner.”

Marissa rolled her eyes. She could tell her Mom was intrigued by the tone of her voice. “Yes, really. It wasn’t a date though, not really. It was spur of the moment. I knew she had class after she got off work and didn’t think she would have time to grab anything to eat. Plus, I didn’t feel like cooking anything. So, I stopped and picked up some Chinese food for us in the hopes that she would want to eat with me, and she did.”

“That was very thoughtful of you, not that I’m surprised by that though. How was dinner then?”

“Really good. We talked, and I got to know her more. I uh … I told her about Fiona.”

“You did?” Lydia was surprised. She knew how protective Marissa was of her sister. For her to open up like this, especially to someone she’d just met, told the older woman that her daughter thought Bianca was someone special. Lydia hadn’t had a chance to talk to Krystal yet about her, but she knew she would definitely be making the time soon to do just that. “How did that go?”

“Honestly? It went really well. Bianca really wanted to know about her. She asked me some questions, and she listened. More importantly, Bianca didn’t judge or seem put off. She said she could tell how proud I was of Fi and how much she meant to me. Bianca also understood why I didn’t tell her about Fi right away.”

“I’m very happy to hear that. Is there a chance that we might get to meet Bianca when we come to visit?”

“Yeah, I think so. I’d like her to meet all of you. Do you know if Dad will be able to come?”

“Actually, that’s why I’m calling. Well, one of the reasons. He was able to get the time off so you will have all three of us there.”

“That’s great! I can’t wait for you guys to come. What’s the other reason for you calling?”

Lydia chuckled. “You were just talking about her. Your sister had a very good day at school and wanted to tell you all about it.”
“Yeah? Put her on then!”

There was some jostling on the other end of the line as the phone exchanged hands.

“Hi, Rissa!”

“Hey, Fi! Mom said you had a good day.”

“I did!”

“Tell me about it.”

“I will, but first, I want to hear about your girlfriend Bianca!”

Marissa shook her head as she overheard her Mom laughing on the other end of the line. Lydia knew that the one person that Marissa could never say ‘no’ to was Fiona. She also knew that her sister didn’t need any encouragement to question or tease her about her love life. “Okay.”

Chapter Text

Krystal looked up from the bar when she heard the door to the restaurant open. She smiled when Bianca walked in. Krystal had known the younger woman for a few years, and she couldn’t recall her ever looking happier than she did at the moment.

“Good morning, Bianca. How are you today?”

“Good morning, Krystal. I’m good, really good. How about you?”

“I can’t complain. Would you like your usual?”

“Yes, I would, please. I’d also like to talk to you for a minute if I could?”

“Of course. Why don’t you go have a seat, let me get your coffee, and then, we’ll talk.”

“Thank you.” When Bianca turned around to find a place to sit, she literally ran into the one person she hadn’t wanted to, at least not yet. “Opal.”

From Bianca’s less than warm greeting, Opal knew she had some groveling to do. She hated that Bianca was angry with her, but she couldn’t blame her. “Good morning, Bianca. I want to apologize to you. I’m sorry for telling Erica about you and Marissa before you had the chance to tell her yourself. It was wrong of me to do that. I was just so excited to see you happy. It’s been too long since you’ve been like that, and it was good to see. Erica asked that I keep an eye on you, which I was more than glad to do, but I went too far. It’s just that I care about you a great deal. I’ll do better. You have my word. Look, you don’t have to say anything right now.”

Bianca studied the older woman for a moment. It was obvious that Erica had talked to her last night in her bid to get back into Bianca’s good graces. That meant a lot to her. Bianca had to admit that Opal looked properly chastened as well, but she wasn’t ready to let her off the hook just quite yet. “I’ll think about what you said.”

“Thank you. That’s all I can ask. I should go check on things in the kitchen.” Opal hurried off.

Krystal observed the interaction between the women. Something was going on between them. She didn’t know what it was, but judging from the way Opal hurried off, she would say that her friend had done something to upset Bianca. Krystal shook her head and decided to let the two of them work it out between themselves. With two cups of coffee and a chocolate chip muffin in hand, she made her way to the table Bianca had chosen for them to have their discussion.

“Here you go.” Krystal said as she placed one of the cups of coffee and muffin in front of Bianca.

“Thank you.” Bianca took an appreciative sip of her coffee. “This is good.”

“I’m glad you like it. So, what can I do for you?”

“Marissa stopped over my place last night and surprised me with dinner. She knew I had a class and figured that I wouldn’t have had time to grab anything to eat.”

“Judging by that smile, I’d say it was a very nice surprise.”

“It was. It’s not something I’m used to having someone do for me.”

“Well, I know Marissa quite well. She’s nothing if not thoughtful. She’s a great like her parents in that regard.”

“We talked about them. Rissa said they’re going to come for a visit soon.”

“Oh, I can’t wait for that. It’s been too long since I’ve seen Roy and Lydia. I haven’t had a chance to talk to Lydia in a while, unfortunately. It will be wonderful to catch up with them.”

Bianca noticed that Krystal didn’t mention Fiona. She wasn’t surprised. The younger woman figured that she was respecting the family’s privacy. Bianca lowered her voice to make sure that no one, especially Opal, overheard them. “Rissa told me about Fiona.”

Krystal’s eyes grew wide hearing that revelation. For Marissa to tell someone about her sister, that was big. “She told you about Fiona.”

“She did. I haven’t told anyone else, and I don’t plan on doing so without Rissa’s permission. I understand her reasons for not telling anyone right away. People can be cruel, and she’s protecting her sister. I respect that as well as her privacy.”

“Thank you. I know that she would appreciate that. Her parents would as well.”

“You know, just hearing her talk about Fiona though, I could tell how proud Rissa is of her and how much she loves her.”

“Fiona is very special, and the two of them have such a close bond. They are each other’s biggest fans.”

“Yeah, I definitely got that feeling from Rissa. She showed me a picture of Fiona. Actually, it was of their whole family.”

“Oh, I think I know which one you’re talking about. It was from Marissa’s party.”

Bianca nodded. “That’s the one, and that’s why I’m here today. Rissa said she wanted to get copy of that picture and have it framed for her office. I was wondering if you could help me with that. I’d like to get two prints made and have them framed for her, one for her home and one for the office.”

Krystal smiled. That was just like Bianca to do something so thoughtful. This only proved to Krystal that there was definitely something special happening between the two younger women. “I would be happy to help you. This gives me the perfect excuse to call Lydia. I’ll ask her to send me a copy, and then, we can catch up with each other. What size are you thinking?”

“A 5x7 and an 8x10. I think that will work.”

“Sounds perfect. She can take the smaller one in to work and keep the larger one at home. She’ll love it. This is very sweet of you.”

“Well, I could tell how much she misses them. I figure this would be like having them around for her.” Bianca attempted to brush off what she was doing as if it wasn’t special, but Krystal was having none of it. She knew the significance of what Bianca was doing.

“Now, you listen to me, Bianca Montgomery. This, what you’re doing, is extremely thoughtful, and Marissa will appreciate it just as much as you would if she were to do this for you, which she would in a heartbeat. Marissa and her family are as close as you, Erica, and Kendall are. It was hard for her to leave home, but it was even harder for her family to have her leave. Roy and Lydia are so proud of her though. So much so that I don’t know if Marissa is aware of just how much. They would never stand in the way of her dreams. Roy and Lydia know exactly what she did for them. There was no way they ever could have afforded to send her to law school, let alone Harvard. Marissa knew that, and that’s why she worked her butt off to get accepted and get that full scholarship she received. Along with carrying a full course load, she worked two jobs to help relieve any financial obligations her parents felt in wanting to help her. It wasn’t that they didn’t do anything for her. Roy and Lydia did everything they could, and Marissa didn’t complain. She understood that having to take care of Fiona required some sacrifices on all of their parts. Roy and Lydia started saving for Fiona’s care the minute she was born. They knew they needed to. Fiona has obviously had her challenges and will continue to for the rest of her life. Marissa has understood that for a very long time. It was difficult at times for her when they were growing up, but as she got older, she understood more, accepted it, and helped however she could. I’m sure you’ve read of instances where families were torn apart due to the pressure of raising a child with special needs.”

Bianca nodded. She had read of cases like that in some of her classes. “Yes. While they may love the child, the stress of caring for them can take its toll on the family emotionally, psychologically, and financially. The strain can be too much for the family, and as a result, sometimes they separate.”

“Exactly. With the Taskers, that hasn’t happened. In their case, it’s made them stronger. They have this bond that is amazing. So, you giving Marissa this photo so she can feel like her family is around for her here is something special, something that will mean so much to her.” Krystal patted Bianca’s hand.

“I can’t wait to meet them, especially Fiona.”

“Oh, you’re going to love her. Well, I think you’ll love all of them. Marissa and Fiona are a perfect blend of their parents’ personalities. You know, if you’re nervous about meeting her parents and whether or not they’ll like you, you have nothing to worry about. The same with Fiona. All they will need to do is see the smile that you’ve put on Marissa’s face, and you’ll be just fine.”

“You think so?” Bianca asked nervously.

“I know so.” Krystal glanced over her shoulder and could see a contrite but curious Opal looking their way. “You want to tell me what’s going on with you and Opal?”

Bianca sighed. “She told Mom about Marissa and me before I had the chance to do it myself. I was at work yesterday talking with Kendall, and Mom came over and started her inquisition. She wanted to know I hadn’t told her. I was going to, but Opal beat me to it because of her spying for Mom. I know she means well, but sometimes …”

“I get it. I do. Judging by the way she’s looking over here though, you can tell she’s sorry.”

 

“Yeah, I know. She apologized earlier, and I could tell that Mom had talked to her and told her to cool it. I made it clear to Mom yesterday to back off. She means well, and I know she doesn’t want to see me hurt like I was with Reese. She needs to ease up though and let me live my life. If I get hurt, well then I get hurt. Between you and me though, Krystal, I just get this feeling with Marissa that I’ve never had before.”

“Not even with Reese? I know how serious you were.”

Bianca shook her head. “Not even with Reese. It’s just different with Marissa. It kind of makes me feel a little like the lesbian cliché.”

“Ah, you mean u-hauling.” Krystal chuckled when Bianca raised an amused eyebrow. “What? I listen and have picked up some stuff, some terms up from you and Marissa over the years. So, I know about toaster ovens and gold stars and the like.”

Bianca burst out laughing. “Thanks, I needed that.”

“You’re welcome. Now about Erica. She loves you and doesn’t want to see you hurt. Someday when you are a mother, you’ll understand. In the meantime, you are allowed to live your own life. I’m glad you stood up for yourself. That can’t be easy with Erica.”

“No, it’s not. Mom is definitely a force of nature.”

“I couldn’t have said it better myself.”

Bianca checked the time. “I better get going, or I’m going to be late for work.”

“Let me get you another cup of coffee to go.” Krystal said as she stood and walked over to the bar with Bianca following behind.

While Krystal fixed her coffee, Bianca got out her money to pay.

“Here you go, and thank you.” Krystal said as she handed the beverage to Bianca and took payment for her order. “I’ll take care of that thing for you and let you know when I have it.”

“Thanks, Krystal. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this.”

“You’re welcome, and I’m more than happy to help. Have a good day.”

“You too.”

/
As Bianca went to reach for one of the door’s handles, the door opened, and she was greeted by Marissa.

“Good morning!”

“It certainly is now. Good morning yourself!” Marissa smiled.

Bianca’s smile matched that of Marissa. “I have to say that this is a wonderful surprise.”

“Same here. Although, it looks like I’m just a few minutes late.”

“Unfortunately, yes. I’m heading into work. You’re up and about early. I thought you’d be sleeping in a little later while you still have the chance. Or are you going into the office again?”

Marissa shook her head. “Not quite yet, but I am going in for a little while after lunch. I’m not staying late because I’ve got a hot date with this gorgeous, intelligent, funny, kind, and sweet brunette.”

Bianca blushed as a goofy grin spread across her face. “You do, huh?”

“Yes, I do.” Marissa decided right then and there that she would do everything she could to see that grin as often as she could.

/

Krystal and Opal watched the younger women from across the room. Both women sighed at what they were seeing. It was definitely the beginnings of love. Krystal then remembered her earlier conversation with Bianca and grabbed Opal.

“What are you doing?” It would be obvious to anyone that Opal was clearly annoyed as her friend pulled her towards the kitchen.

“Saving your hide. I know Bianca is already upset with you. Do you want to make it worse?”

Opal shook her head. “No, I don’t. Let’s go.”

Once they were away from the younger women, Opal had to ask Krystal something because she was dying of curiosity. “So, what were you and Bianca talking about? It looked pretty serious. Was it about Marissa?”

Krystal shook her head. “I’m sorry, Opal, but I can’t tell you.”

“Can’t or won’t?”

“Both. It’s not my place to say. I will also warn you not to ask Bianca about it either because she won’t tell you. In fact, she’ll say the same thing I just did. I’m going to ask you for a favor. Don’t pursue this. Don’t ask any more questions about it. Please. You’ll find out soon enough, but for now, let it go.”

When she took a second to really think about it, Bianca was mad enough at her as it was. If Krystal was telling her to back off and also saying that Bianca would tell the same thing, for once in her life, Opal was going to listen. She nodded. “Okay, I will. No more questions, I promise.”

“Thank you.”

/

“So, what are you doing until then?”

“I thought I’d do a little exploring of my new home.”

“Ah, prepping for the family’s visit.”

“Yep, the Tasker invasion. Is there someone that works for the city that I should alert so they can prepare for it?” Marissa smirked.

Bianca laughed. “If Pine Valley can survive my Mom, Kendall, and Greenlee, it can survive anything. Trust me.”

“Good to know.”

“Well, I should go. I don’t want to, but I should. Kendall will never let me hear the end of it if I’m late.”

“Oh, we can’t have that.” Marissa had caught sight of Krystal and Opal as they ducked into the kitchen. “How are things with you and Opal?”

“She apologized and promised to behave, respect my privacy more. I’ll forgive her, eventually. I just want her to sweat a little while longer to make sure she’s learned her lesson.”

“Gotcha, and I’ll make sure to keep that in mind should I ever find myself in your doghouse. I’ll do my best to make sure that never happens though.”

“Good. That’s a place you definitely don’t want to be in.” Bianca sighed. “I’ve really got to go.”

“Okay. I’ll see you tonight then. I can’t wait to go to … Where were we going again?”

“Ha! Nice try, Counselor, but no. You’ll find out tonight.” Bianca chuckled.

Marissa grinned. “You can’t blame a girl for trying, Doc!”

“I don’t suppose I can.” Bianca glanced over her shoulder and didn’t see Krystal or Opal. With no audience to observe them, she decided to go for it. Bianca leaned in and gave Marissa a quick kiss. “I’ll see you later.”

Marissa could only nod before Bianca left. The redhead was wearing the biggest of grins when Krystal and Opal reappeared. The older women exchanged knowing smiles when they saw Marissa.

/

“Good morning, Marissa.”

“Good morning, ladies. How are you this fine day?”

“Not as good as you it would seem.” Krystal chuckled. “Would you like some coffee?”

“Yes, please, and a blueberry muffin.”

“You got it. Take a seat anywhere you want.” Krystal said as she headed back to the kitchen to get Marissa a freshly baked muffin.

Marissa decided to sit at the bar, and Opal placed a mug of coffee in front of her. As the younger woman added some milk and sugar to her coffee, Opal decided to do a little groveling.

“I’m not sure whether or not Bianca told you what I did.”

“She did.”

“I had a feeling. I just want to apologize to you as well. I overstepped, and I’m sorry.”

“You don’t need to apologize to me, but since you did, apology accepted. I’m not the one you need to apologize to though. Bianca is.”

“I know, and I’ve apologized to her. I can’t tell you how sorry I am that I hurt her. Do you think you could help me out and talk to her? Maybe put in a good word for me?”

“I don’t want to get in the middle of that.”

“Oh, I understand.” Opal started to walk away.

“Hey, Opal.”

“Yes?”

“I already did.”

Opal brightened hearing that. She really did like this newcomer. “You did?”

Marissa shrugged. “I can see how much you care about her and that you didn’t mean to hurt Bianca. Just don’t do it again.”

“Thank you, and I won’t. You have my word on that.” Opal could see Marissa was serious, and she would only be giving Opal one warning.

“You’re welcome. I’d advise giving her some time and some more groveling.”

“I’ll do that.” Opal smiled. “Thank you again. If there’s anything I can help you with, just let me know, and I’m not talking about coffee.”

/

It was later that day when Krystal finally had the time to call her friend.

“Krystal! How have you been? How are Tad and Jenny?”

“Hi, Lydia. I’m good, and so are they. How are you and the rest of your crew?”

“We’re doing good. We’re missing Marissa, but we’ll be seeing her soon. Plus, she is a lot closer to us now than when she was in school. It also helps knowing that you’re around to help if she were to need it.”

“You know that I will. I have to tell you though that she’s doing just fine here. I’d also tell you not to worry, but you’re a mom and we can’t help it when it comes to our kids.”

“Very true, my friend.”

“I hear the three of you are coming to town during spring break.”

“Yes, we are! I can’t wait to see Marissa again, and you too. It’s been way too long, my friend.”

“That it has.”

“So, I was going to call you tonight, but you beat me to the punch. I need some information. My daughter tells me that she has met someone that she thinks is very special. This woman is so special in fact that she has told her about Fiona.”

“Yes, she has. Her name is Bianca Montgomery, which I’m sure Marissa told you.”

“She did. And is she anything like Marissa has described her?”

“How did she describe her?”

“Marissa said that Bianca was intelligent, kind, funny, thoughtful, and beautiful. That’s only half of what she said.”

Krystal laughed. “Well, I think Marissa described her perfectly. Bianca is definitely all of that. She is one of the kindest, sweetest, and most thoughtful people I’ve ever met. In fact, I would put her on par with the Tasker women.”

“Really? She’s that special? Marissa wasn’t exaggerating?”

“Really. In fact when I tell you about something she did, you’ll be signing up to join her fan club. Let me tell you a little more about her first. Did Marissa tell you about her family?”

“Yes, she did. Erica Kane’s daughter! Who would have thought?”

“I know.”

“So, tell me about Erica. What’s she like?”

“She loves her daughters and would do anything for them. I will tell you that anyone who has hurt them has paid dearly. Reminds me of someone near and dear.”
Despite her best efforts, Lydia chuckled. She remembered several dustups she had had over the years when others had been nasty to both of her daughters, Marissa for being bisexual and Fiona for her Downs syndrome. Those individuals had been left regretting what they had said by the time Lydia was done with them. “I have no idea who you’re talking about.”

“Right.” Krystal wasn’t fooled by her friend’s response. She knew better because she had witnessed several of those verbal smack-downs. “Erica can be intimidating, and she uses that to her advantage. The thing with her though is that she respects people that stand up for themselves. So, I think Marissa will be okay when she finally meets her.”
Lydia laughed fully this time. “Marissa definitely doesn’t have a problem with that.”

“That’s because she gets it from her parents.”

“Seriously though, do you think she’ll be okay?” Lydia couldn’t help but be worried about her daughter. She’d heard and read the stories about Erica and needed to know if daughter would be okay.

“I think Marissa will be just fine. Erica just wants to make sure that her daughters don’t get hurt, and knowing Marissa like I do, I know that’s not something she would do. I don’t think the two of them will have a problem. Besides, Kendall is a fan of Marissa’s.”

“Oh yes, from the incident on St. Patrick’s Day. Tell me about Kendall.”

“Ah, Kendall. She is something else.” Krystal related a few stories involving Kendall as well as Greenlee because she couldn’t really talk about one without talking about the other.
“I can see where Marissa would get along with those two. Now, what’s this story you were going to tell me about Bianca?”

“Bianca was in to the restaurant today and told me that Marissa had told her about Fiona.”

“She did. I talked with Marissa last night, and she told me she had talked with her about Fi. That right there told me how much Marissa likes her.”

“Well, the feeling is very much mutual. Bianca asked for a favor. Marissa had shown her the picture of the four of you from her party. It gave Bianca an idea. She asked if I could help get a couple copies of it.”

“Why?”

“Bianca would like to get them framed for Marissa and give her one photo for work and another for home as a gift. She thought that would help Marissa feel like you all were around for her. From the way that Marissa talked about all of you, Bianca could tell that she missed you. She thought that might help.”

“She really did that?”

“Yes, she really did.”

“Huh. That is very sweet of her, and thoughtful too.”

“That is Bianca. Lyd, I know you worry about Marissa and that you don’t want her to have her heart broken, and I know it seems like they’re maybe moving a little fast. I know Bianca though. She would no sooner hurt your daughter than Marissa would hurt her. It’s just not in her. That’s not who she is. Bianca is the person who would give someone the shirt off her back. Even though her mother is famous, she is not at all spoiled. Bianca is just a good person. She’s been through a lot, and don’t ask me what because it’s not my place to give you those details, but I will say that it could have changed someone, hardened them. That didn’t happen with Bianca. When I tell you that she is kindest soul I know outside of your family, I mean it. Oh, you should see Bianca and Marissa together though. They just fit. The two of them light up when they’re around each other, and everyone else just kind of fades into the background. It’s something to see.”

“Well, I’m definitely going to have to meet this Bianca when we come to Pine Valley. Thank you for telling me about her and her family. Marissa has told me a few things, but it’s good to hear from someone else, someone who doesn’t have her heart on the line.”

“You’re welcome. When you told me that Marissa was moving here, I promised you and Roy that I would keep an eye on her and be there for her, and I meant that. If I didn’t think that Bianca was good enough for Marissa, I would definitely say something and do my best to protect her. Honestly though, you really don’t have anything to worry about because they’re kind of perfect for each other.”

“I’m starting to think that, but I’m going to reserve judgement until I meet her for myself. And she passes the ultimate test.”

Krystal chuckled. She knew exactly what her friend was talking about. “Fiona.”

“Yes, Fiona. If Bianca gets Fi’s seal of approval, then that’s pretty much a done deal.”

“True enough. Fiona is just as protective of Marissa as Marissa is of her.”

“Exactly, and though a lot of people would like to think otherwise, we both know that Fi is no pushover.”

“And that is definitely a Tasker family trait.”

“Yes, it is.” Lydia said proudly. “So, tell me what else I need to know about Pine Valley.”

“I’d be happy to.”

Chapter Text

Greenlee nudged Kendall as she handed her the coffee she had just fixed for her.

“What? Oh, thanks.”

“You’re welcome. Take a look over there.”

Kendall glanced in the direction Greenlee indicated and saw her sister exiting the elevator. Bianca had a big smile on her face. This was something that had become a regular occurrence since her little sister had met a certain redheaded lawyer, and Kendall couldn’t be happier about this development.

“Marissa?” Greenlee asked even though she was pretty sure she knew the answer to the question as to who was behind Bianca’s smile.

“What do you think? They have a date tonight.”

“Oh, that’s right. Bianca’s planning it. Do you know what she has up her sleeve?”

“I do, but I’m not telling you. Bianca told me not to.”

“What? Why? Tell me!” Greenlee whined.

“Nope. Sorry. Bianca didn’t want anyone showing up uninvited tonight.”

“And she trusted you not to?”

“Yes. After I promised that I wouldn’t. She told me that she would never forgive me if I broke that promise, and I have to say that I kind of believe her. So, I’m not going to show up unannounced and barge in on it.”

“Really? Just like that?” Greenlee was skeptical her friend would follow through on that promise because Kendall was very protective of her little sister.

“Yeah, just like that. Well, I pretty much had to take a blood oath. Besides, I don’t want her mad at me like she was at Mom. You should have seen her yesterday when she found out that Opal was spying on her for Mom. She really let her have it.”

“Seriously?”

Kendall nodded. “Yep. Binx pretty much read her the riot act. I was pretty impressed.”

“How did Erica handle it?”

“She was a little shocked. I mean, you know how Bianca is. For the most part, she’s easygoing, but she has had her moments.” When Kendall saw Greenlee’s expression, she couldn’t help but chuckle. “Okay, maybe not as many as me.”

“Talk about an understatement.” Greenlee smirked.

“Shut up, smartass. Anyway. Bianca let her have it and left before Mom could respond.”

“You gave Erica some advice, didn’t you? Your Mom can’t stand it when either of you are upset with her. I mean, she’s this kickass, take no prisoners diva, but you and Bianca are her kryptonite.”

Kendall knew what Greenlee had said was true. “I did, and she actually took it.”

“Wow. I have to say that I’m a little surprised.”

“That makes two of us. She called me last night and told me the two of them talked. It would seem that Mom did enough groveling, and Bianca accepted her apology. They talked for a bit, and Bianca even told her about her date tonight. Of course, she made Mom promise not to show up too.”

“Well, that’s good, and of course Bianca made her promise. Hey, if we can’t go, then neither should your Mom.”

“I can’t argue with that. You know who Binx is really mad at right now?”

“Who?”

“Opal.”

“Yeah, I suppose I can see that. Knowing Bianca, she’ll forgive her, eventually. Your sister is too nice for her own good sometimes. Plus, she knows that Opal adores her and that she wouldn’t intentionally hurt her for anything. Bianca will see that she didn’t mean any harm.”

“I know. I just hope that Binx doesn’t let her off the hook too easily. She should let Opal squirm a little bit. It’ll be good for her and maybe teach her a lesson.”

Greenlee nodded. “Definitely.”

“Good because that’s exactly what I did.”

Kendall and Greenlee were startled when Bianca joined them. They had been so immersed in their conversation that they had not seen her approach.

“Bianca, you scared me. Morning.”

“Morning, Kendall. Morning, Greenlee.”

“Morning, Bianca. That’s a heck of a smile. Would a certain redhead be the reason for it?” Greenlee asked as she waggled her eyebrows.

“Maybe. It’s not what you think though. I ran into Marissa at Krystal’s on my way over here.”

“Another breakfast date?”

Bianca shook her head. “Unfortunately, no. She was just getting there as I was leaving so we only talked for a couple of minutes.”

“Well, it seems to have done the trick. Of course, I’m in favor of anything that makes you smile like that. Now, did you say you talked to Opal?” Kendall asked.

“I did. She apologized and said she would try and do better. I told her I would think about what she said, but I didn’t let her off the hook. I know the two of you think I’m a pushover, but I’m not. Sorry to disappoint you.”

Kendall sighed. “That’s not what we think, Bianca. You are far from being a pushover. You’re one of the strongest people I know, but you’re also very nice, nicer than either of us.”

“I can’t really argue with that. Most people are.” Greenlee said matter-of-factly.

Bianca laughed. She knew that you didn’t want to cross them, and that it was definitely best not to have either of them as an enemy. At the same time however, she also knew if they said they had your back, they had your back. They also had big hearts and would do anything for those they cared about. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know that you’re nicer than you let on. Don’t worry though. Your secret is safe with me.”

“Keep it that way. Seriously though, I’m glad you didn’t let Opal off the hook right away. It sounds like you did the same with Mom too.”

“You talked to her?”

“I did. According to Mom, you didn’t back down from earlier, and she had to do a bit of groveling. Good job.” Kendall said proudly.

Bianca smiled. “Thanks, and thank you for talking to her earlier. I know you did so don’t try and deny it. I appreciate you reining her in some. I know that’s not an easy thing to do.”

“You’re welcome, and you’re right, it’s not. You’re worth it though. Besides, I owed you one, or several. You’ve done the same for me multiple times. Now, if you only talked to Red for a few minutes, it must have been one heck of a great conversation for that smile.”

“It was pretty good, but I’m also thinking about our date for tonight. I’m really looking forward to it, and Marissa said that she is too.” Bianca glanced at Greenlee who put her hands up.

“Don’t worry. I don’t know anything about the date. Kendall hasn’t spilled a thing.”

Bianca smiled. “Good. Okay, I better get to work so I can get out of here on time.”

“Like there’s anyway I would let you stay late tonight.” Kendall chuckled as she watched her sister head back to her desk with a bounce in her step.

/

After her conversation with Bianca, Krystal knew she would have to make time to call Lydia later that day. In the meantime, she had customers to take care of, starting with Marissa.

“Here you go, one blueberry muffin fresh out of the oven.” Krystal said as she placed it in front of Marissa.

The redhead smiled as she got of a whiff of the baked good. “Smells wonderful. Do you have a minute or two to join me?”

Krystal nodded and pulled out a chair. She could tell that Marissa had something on her mind. “Thank you. So, what are your plans for the day?”

“I’m going to do a little exploring. The Taskers are invading Pine Valley in a couple of weeks so I figured I would do a little advanced scouting and come up with some ideas of things we can do when they get here.”

“I can’t wait to see them. It’s been too long. I’m more than happy to give you some ideas if you want.”

“I would greatly appreciate it. Bianca said she would help too.” Marissa paused and lowered her voice. “I told Bianca about Fiona.”

Even though Krystal already knew this from her earlier conversation with Bianca, she knew that she couldn’t let on that she knew. “Really? How did that go?”

“Really well. She understood why I hadn’t told her about Fi right away. Then, she asked me all about her, and I showed her a picture of everybody.”

“That doesn’t surprise me at all about Bianca. She’s sweet, kind, and understanding.”

“Yeah, that’s definitely something that I’ve found out. She really is something special, Krystal. I don’t know what it is about her, but I feel I can trust her. I wouldn’t have told her about Fi otherwise.”

“I know. You’re very protective of her, and understandably so. If I was in your position, I would be the same exact way.”

“Well, you are pretty protective of her already. Mom told about the time you let that guy have it when he was making fun of Fi when the three of you went to the movies together.”

“He deserved it, and a lot more if you ask me.” Krystal scowled.

“Hey, I’m the last person that’s going to argue with you on that.”

“Well, that’s true. You are. I know what you mean about Bianca though. You can trust her. Okay, I better get back to work.”

“Krystal?”

The older woman paused. “Yes.”

“Is it okay if I hang out here for a little bit? Some of the places I want to check out aren’t open yet.”

“Of course you can. Stay as long as you want. You won’t get bored?”

“Nope.” Marissa grinned as she pulled out a well-loved paperback copy of ‘Pride and Prejudice’. “I came prepared.”

Krystal laughed. “That you did. Let me know if you need anything.”

“I will.”

/

Erica was a woman on a mission when she walked into Krystal’s. While she had promised Bianca that she wouldn’t investigate Marissa’s sister, the diva hadn’t said anything about Marissa. Even though Erica had that loophole however, she knew she had to tread lightly. The last thing she wanted to do was to incur Bianca’s wrath so soon after their latest argument by hiring a private investigator. That did not mean that she was without options. After some thought, she decided to go to the one person in Pine Valley who knew Marissa.

“Good morning, Krystal.”

“Good morning, Erica. What can I get you?”

“Some tea and a few minutes of your time.”

Krystal nodded. She was fairly certain what, or better yet who, Erica wanted to talk about. “Have a seat, and I’ll bring your tea over to you. Would you like anything else?”

“No, that will be fine.” Erica said before she found a table that offered some privacy. The diva glanced around the restaurant while she waited and noticed a younger woman with red hair who looked to be around Bianca’s age. Erica couldn’t quite make out the name of the book she was deeply ensconced in.

On her way over to Erica’s table, Krystal followed the diva’s gaze. Marissa had caught her eye, but from what she could tell, Erica didn’t know who she was. As for Marissa, she, thankfully, wasn’t aware that she was being studied.

“Here you go. Now, what can I do for you?”

Erica smiled. “Don’t play coy, Krystal. It doesn’t become you.”

Krystal chuckled. “Straight to the point as always, Erica. You would like to know about Marissa Tasker.”

“Yes, I would. I’m told you know her and her family quite well. I’m also told that she and Bianca seem to be quite smitten with each other. If that is indeed true, I would like to know more about this young woman. I am Bianca’s mother after all, and I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence if I didn’t ask about her. You know what Bianca went through with her former partner. If there is anything I can do to prevent her from experiencing that kind of pain again, I will.”

“I understand. What Reese did to her is completely unforgiveable. If she knows what’s good for her, she won’t ever show her face in Pine Valley again. There are a lot of people who will be more than happy to deal with her, myself included.”

“Thank you. I will keep that in mind should she make the mistake of returning. Now, Marissa?”

“I do know Marissa and her family. Her parents are very good friends of mine, and I’ve known Marissa her entire life.”

“And her sister?” Erica saw the raised eyebrow her question caused. “Bianca told me that Marissa has a sister, but that is all I know. She made me promise not to investigate her.”
Krystal nodded. “That sounds like Bianca. What exactly did she say about her?”

“She said that it wasn’t her story to tell. It was Marissa’s, and that she would tell people in her own time. Bianca also said that she was respecting Marissa’s privacy. She believes that people will find out soon enough when the Taskers visit though.”

“What would you like from me?”

“I was hoping you could fill in the blanks. Tell me what the big secret is.”

“I thought you promised Bianca that you wouldn’t investigate her.”

“I’m not investigating. If I were, I would hire a private investigator. I’m merely asking a friend questions.”

Krystal chuckled. “Sounds to me like you’re splitting hairs. Either way, Bianca is right. This is Marissa’s story to tell. When her family comes to visit, you’ll meet them, and you’ll understand.”

Erica huffed. “I’m worried about Bianca and what this mystery woman may do. She could take advantage of her, try and con her. I mean is this woman a criminal? Is that why she is such a big secret?”

“She is far from a criminal, and she is in no way a threat to Bianca. You have my word on that. Marissa has her reasons for being protective of her sister, and from what she told me, Bianca understands them. If you don’t trust me, then trust your daughter. Despite what happened with Reese, who had us all fooled for a bit, Bianca is a very good judge of character. You know that better than anyone else.”

“You’re right. She is. It’s very frustrating not knowing everything.”

“What else can I help you with?”

“Tell me about Marissa.”

Krystal nodded. “That, I can do. I suppose I should tell you about her parents, Roy and Lydia, first. I’ve been friends with them since college. They are good people. They’re kind, loving, caring, loyal, and maybe a little idealistic. Here’s the thing though, while they believe in right and wrong, they know everything isn’t black and white. There’s a lot of gray, and they do their best to sort through it. So, their eyes are wide open. If they give you their word, they’ll keep it. Trust is everything to them. Once that’s broken, it’s awfully hard to regain. Those are the kind of people Roy and Lydia are, and those are also the kind of people their daughters are. I’ve known Marissa and her sister since they were born, and they are just like their parents. Now, you’ve asked me about Marissa in particular so I’ll stick to her. She is very smart. Her getting a full scholarship to Harvard proves that, and you know they don’t hand those out to just anyone. She’s a hard-worker, as evidenced by the fact that she worked two jobs while going to school. Most of all, Marissa is a fighter. She fights for what she believes in and for those who, for one reason or another, either can’t fight for themselves or need help to fight. That’s pretty much why she became a lawyer.”

“To right wrongs? That is very idealistic.”

“Yes, but like her parents, she is also realistic. Marissa learned early on that life is not always fair and that you don’t always win. It was a hard lesson to have to learn at a young age, but she did. It’s also one that she took to heart and has used it as motivation to try and make a difference. I think that’s going to make her a really good lawyer.”

“Jack said all of the partners were impressed with her both on paper and in person. They wouldn’t have hired her otherwise.” Hearing what Krystal had said made Erica really wanted to ask about Marissa’s sister, but the diva sensed that she wouldn’t get anything else out of the other woman on that subject. So, she decided to tackle another line of questioning. “What about her personal life?”

Krystal chuckled. “Erica, I’m not delving into her past relationships.”

“I’m not asking you to.” Erica sighed when Krystal raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Fine. What can you tell me? I’m asking for Bianca’s sake. Bianca said that Marissa is bisexual.”

“She is. Marissa has had a few relationships, and there were very good reasons they ended. It’s not my place to go into that. Look, if you want to know if Marissa would cheat on Bianca, I can tell you that she wouldn’t. That’s not the kind of person she is. She’s not Reese. Marissa doesn’t play with other people’s emotions, and she doesn’t cheat. She truly cares about Bianca.”

“How can you be so sure about that?”

“Because she told me. Marissa has never felt this way about someone before. She said that there is just something about Bianca. She can’t explain it, but she feels this connection to her. She told me that it feels like she’s known Bianca for more than just a few days. Marissa sees how special Bianca is and really wants to see where this could go.”

/

As Erica thought about what Krystal had told her, she heard a server call out to another customer.

“Hey, Marissa. I hate to bother you, but could I ask you for a favor?”

“Sure. What do you need, Hayley?”

“Could you show me how to change a keg? I was just checking the taps and found out that a keg blew. Matt was going to show me how to change one today, but he’s not in yet.”

Marissa smiled and walked over to the bar. “No problem. I’d be happy to help.”

“Thank you so much. You are a life saver, and I owe you big time. Your breakfast is on me.”

“You don’t need to do that. Like I said, I’m happy to help. Let’s go.”

/

It was easy for Erica to put two and two together. “That would be Marissa Tasker.”

“Yes, that’s her.” Krystal knew what would most likely be coming next and that there was no way she would really be able to stop it. This didn’t mean, however, that she would just let it pass. “Erica, I know you want to talk to her and that I won’t be able to stop you, but know this, I won’t allow you to hurt Marissa. She doesn’t need me to defend her because I know that she is perfectly capable of doing that herself. But don’t attack her.”

“Are you threatening me?”

“No, it’s not a threat. I will do what I can to protect to Marissa, but I’m not the one you need to worry about. I know you’re a force to be reckoned with, but you don’t know Lydia Tasker. I do, and I’m here to tell you that she will give you a run for your money when it comes to protecting and defending her daughters.” Krystal paused. “Like I said before, Marissa is not Reese. She wouldn’t hurt Bianca. She honestly cares about her, and I can tell that Bianca cares about her as well. From what I can tell and from what Kendall has told me, Marissa is the only person that Bianca has shown any true interest in since her breakup. I know you worry about her and Kendall, but you have to let them live their lives.”

Erica knew Krystal was right on her last point. If she didn’t ease up and let them choose their own paths, they would end up resenting her, and that was the last thing she wanted. “I’ll take that under advisement, and I’ll tell you the same thing with Jenny is older.”

Krystal chuckled. “Thank you. I have no doubt that I’ll need the reminder.”

/

When Marissa returned a few minutes later, she headed straight back to her table where she began to read again, completely unaware of the two sets of eyes that followed her.

As Erica stood, Krystal stopped her. “Remember what I said.”

The diva nodded. “I will. I don’t wish to hurt anyone, Krystal. I’m merely looking for answers.”

/

“Excuse me, Marissa? I was wondering if we might talk.”

Marissa glanced up from her book and was shocked to find Erica Kane standing in front of her. Holy crap! It’s Bianca’s mom! “Uh, sure. Please, have a seat.”

Chapter Text

“Excuse me, Marissa? I was wondering if we might talk.”

Marissa glanced up from her book and was shocked to find none other than the one and only Erica Kane standing in front of her. Holy crap! It’s Bianca’s mom! She was sure she looked like a deer caught in a car’s headlights. “Uh, sure. Please, have a seat.”

“Thank you. I suppose I should introduce myself. I’m Erica Kane.”

“Yes, I … I know who you are, Ms. Kane. You’d have to be living under a rock not to know who you are. More importantly though, you’re Bianca’s Mom.” Marissa regained some of her footing back fairly quickly.

Erica raised an eyebrow but nodded. While it was true, the diva wasn’t normally addressed by the title of ‘Bianca’s Mom’ first. She would have to give the younger woman a point for that. “Yes, I am, and you are the woman who has caught my daughter’s eye.”

Marissa couldn’t help but smile when she heard that. “I guess that would be me. I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, Ms. Kane, but Bianca is very special.”

“I will agree with you on that. I’m told that you will be starting work with Jack Montgomery.”

“Yes, I will. I have a few days before I officially start work there. Jack is a great lawyer, and I’m looking forward to working with him. I have no doubt that I will learn a great deal from him as well as the other partners. Caleb Cortlandt has agreed to mentor me.”

“Caleb is very good as well. I have to agree with you again. You will definitely learn from both he and Jack. You are very lucky to be working there.”

“Oh, I know, and I’m not going to waste this opportunity. I’m going to work hard to prove they were right in hiring me.”

“That is very admirable. I heard that you and Bianca met while you were helping Krystal out here on St. Patrick’s Day.”

“Yes, I did, on both of those things. I’ve known Krystal my whole life. She and my parents have been friends since college.”

“You are from Devon?”

“Yes, I was born and raised there. My family still lives there, and I don’t see them moving. It’s their home.”

“Do you see yourself moving back there?”

Marissa shook her head. “No, I don’t. After being out on my own for a few years, Devon seems a little too small for me now.”

“Ah yes, you lived in Cambridge while you attended Harvard. Bianca has told me a few things about you.”

“Yes, I went to Harvard.”

“That would be the first thing most people would say when they introduce themselves.”

“I’m not most people then I guess. In my opinion, the fact that I went to Harvard is really only important from a professional standpoint.”

“True, but the fact that you received a full scholarship says something about you on a personal level. So does you being president of the Law Review while working two jobs. That’s quite impressive.”

Marissa chuckled. “You’ve either been talking to my parents or Krystal, and seeing as how my parents aren’t here, I would say it’s Krystal.”

“You would be correct. She speaks very highly of you.”

“She kind of has to, family friend and all.”

“My daughters speak highly of you as well, particularly Bianca.”

Marissa smiled at the mention of the other woman’s name. “That’s very nice to hear. Like I said before, Bianca is very special. As for Kendall, I like her. Again, I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but you have two very intelligent, successful daughters. Kendall and her friend Greenlee were a case study in one of my classes at Harvard because of their appearance on ‘Shark Tank’ and their success with Fusion. They really got a kick out of that when I told them about it. And Bianca working full-time and going for her doctorate at the same time is very impressive. Her wanting to build a shelter to help abused individuals is incredible. I have no doubt that she will do it and make it a success. Unfortunately, it’s something that is needed by far too many people. Of course, one person needing it is one person too many.”

Erica took note of the fact that Bianca shared her dream with Marissa. The diva searched her memory and couldn’t remember if her daughter had shared it with Reese. That was very telling. “I am very proud of both of my daughters. They are remarkable.”

“True. I did notice that while their personalities are different they have a lot in common. They love each other very much and are very protective of each other. They remind me of me and my sister.”

“Bianca mentioned that you have a sister. She did not tell me anything other than that however.” Erica quickly added. She didn’t want to get Bianca in any trouble with the redhead.

“She told me.” Marissa thought for a moment and then nodded to herself. Erica would eventually find out about Fiona since her family was coming to visit, and she couldn’t help but believe that it was better that she found out from Marissa than from someone else. She also knew that Erica donated time to Special Olympics. That was something they had in common. Marissa’s involvement was more personal however because Fiona had participated in the games when she was younger. The Tasker family still volunteered. They wanted to give back to the people and organization that had given so much to not only Fiona but to their whole family as well. As for Fiona, she cherished her role of being able to help others, of being on the other of that finish line cheering the participants on and waiting with open arms to congratulate them. She remembered how much it meant to her, and so, she wanted to pass it on. Marissa knew what she was about to do was a risk but decided it was something that needed to be done. There was no time like the present. So, Marissa unlocked her cellphone, pulled up her family photo, and showed it to Erica. “Bianca said you were curious about my family. This is my mother Lydia and my dad Roy. And this is my twin sister Fiona.”

The instant Erica saw the picture, everything made sense to her. She easily recognized the telltale physical attributes of someone with Down’s syndrome. Now, she understood why Bianca and Krystal had said it wasn’t their story to tell. It was Marissa’s. She also understood why Marissa hadn’t said anything at first to Bianca. To her, the hesitancy was perfectly natural and understandable. She was protecting her sister. Even more than that, she thought about what Krystal had said about Marissa fighting for those who couldn’t necessarily fight for themselves. Her sister was the reason for that. It was then that Erica remembered what Krystal had also said about Lydia giving her a run for her money when it came to protecting her daughters. She could only imagine the battles the other woman had to wage. Erica smiled and glanced at the redhead. She could see Marissa was waiting, gauging her reaction. “You have a lovely family, especially your sister. Fiona’s smile is simply beautiful and seems to light everything up.”

Marissa smiled and released the breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding. “Thank you. Yeah, you won’t get any argument from me about that. Her smile really does light up a room. It’s nothing compared to her personality though.”

“You love her very much.”

“I do. I want to be clear about this, I’m not the least bit embarrassed by or of her. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. I am so proud of her. She’s amazing, and one of the strongest and bravest people I know. Despite her many challenges, Fiona has accomplished so much. Most are things that people have told that she would never be able to do. The reason I don’t tell people about her right away is to protect her. I know most people are good, kind, understanding, but I also know about the other people, the ones that are cruel, prejudiced. The ones that feel the need to build themselves at the expense of others. The ones who think they’re being funny when they make fun of someone who is disabled. The ones who see nothing wrong when they discriminate against someone different. The ones who are guided by their ignorance and don’t see the need to educate themselves. I can’t save Fi from all of them, but I will do my damnedest to save her from as many as I can.”

Erica nodded. “I understand. Given that, I have to admit that I’m surprised that you told Bianca so soon after meeting her and even more surprised that you have told me.”

“Why did I tell Bianca when I did?” Marissa paused as she tried to find the words. “She’s different from anyone I’ve ever known. I know we’ve only known each other a few days, but there’s just something about her that tells me that I can trust her. Bianca has this innate goodness and kindness, and it shines through. She’s a remarkable, caring person. I just know that she would never do anything to hurt my sister.”

As she listened to Marissa talk about Bianca, Erica could tell she meant everything she said. The redhead was also spot on in her assessment of Bianca.

“Now for you. There are a few reasons why I decided to be upfront and just lay my cards on the table. One, my family is coming to town very soon, and you would definitely find out then. Pine Valley is a small town. It’s not as small as Devon, mind you, but small enough, and I know how fast word spreads in them.”

“I cannot argue with that.”

“Then, I thought about Bianca. I know she told you that I have a sister, and that you wanted to know about her. Bianca doesn’t strike me as the type of person that likes to keep things from the people she loves. I have no doubt that she would keep this to herself for however long I asked out of respect for my privacy, but she wouldn’t necessarily like keeping something from you.”

“So, you are taking the pressure off of her.” Erica had to admit that she found this somewhat admirable.

Marissa shrugged. “If I can, yes. Finally, there is you. I know you volunteer with Special Olympics on the local, state, and national levels. You are a huge supporter. I’ve seen the videos of you at the games. You’re great with the participants, and that’s something you can’t fake because one way or another it will come out. I know that from personal experience. Fi can spot a fake a mile away, and while she’s never met you in person, she’s seen the videos as well. You’ve got her stamp of approval.”

“Really? How does she know about me?”

“You’re Erica Kane. Like I said, you’d have to be living under a rock not to know who you are. I also told her that I met Bianca and that you’re her Mom.”

Erica chuckled when she saw the slight blush on Marissa’s part. “You told her about Bianca.”

Marissa nodded. “I did. Actually, I told my Mom about her first and then she told Fi. My sister then interrogated me. Fi is nothing if not persistent when she wants to know something.”

“That sounds an awful lot like Kendall.”

/

Opal had been watching Erica and Marissa ever since the diva joined the younger woman at her table, and her curiosity over what they were talking about was driving her nuts. “Krystal, do you think everything is okay over there?”

Krystal glanced over to the table and shrugged. “I think so. Why do you ask?”

“It looks like they’re having a pretty intense conversation.”

“I think they’re just getting acquainted.”

“So, you’re not concerned? Not even a little?”

It was then they heard Marissa laugh.

Krystal shook her head. “Nope.”

/

Marissa laughed. “Now that I think about it, you’re right. Kendall does strike me as someone who can be rather persistent. The same can be said for Greenlee too. I can tell Kendall really loves Bianca, and that she’s very protective of her.”

“Yes, they have always been close and have been through a great deal together. It hasn’t always been easy for either of them due in large part to my celebrity and notoriety. It was particularly difficult for Bianca however. She first came out to Kendall and then me. I have to admit that Kendall handled it much better than I did. A friend sold the story of Bianca’s sexual orientation to a tabloid. It was a story that was only newsworthy because of me, because of who I am. I regret the pain that she suffered because of me.”

“It wasn’t because of you.” Marissa continued when she saw the look of confusion on Erica’s face. “Bianca told me about that so-called friend and what she did. Ms. Kane, Bianca doesn’t blame you for that, and from what she told me, she never did. She did say that you had a difficult time at first when she came out to you, but she also said that you are now one of her biggest supporters. From where I sit and from what I’ve seen listening to the interviews you’ve given as well as the speeches at various LGBTQ rallies, I’d say that Bianca’s right.”

“Well, Bianca is my daughter, and I love her, no matter what. Her sexual orientation does not make any difference to me. And please call me Erica.”

“Thank you. Not everyone feels the same way that you do though.”

“Your parents …”

Marissa shook her head. “No, my parents are great. They were a little surprised when I told them I was bisexual, but then, they hugged me and told me they loved me. I was lucky, just like Bianca. Like I said though, there are way too many others that aren’t.”

Erica nodded. She knew what Marissa had said was unfortunately true. “Bianca told you all of that?”

/

While Krystal did her best to steer Opal clear of Marissa and Erica, she had kept an eye on them. She felt it was her responsibility to do so since Lydia wasn’t there. Krystal could tell their conversation had taken on a serious note when she saw the expression on Erica’s face. There was really only one thing she could think to do so she pulled out her cellphone and fired off a text.

/

“Yes, she did.”

“You are bisexual.”

“I am. I have had relationships with both men and women, and while I’ve dated both sexes, I’ve only ever been involved with one person at a time. I have never cheated on someone I’ve been involved with.”

“Never?”

“Never.” Marissa’s voice did not waver. “It’s just not something I would do. To hurt someone like that, to destroy their trust. I couldn’t do it.”

“Bianca told you about Reese.”

“She did. For her sake, Reese better hope that I never run into her.”

The flash of anger in the redhead’s eyes as she spoke did not go unnoticed by Erica. “May I ask about those other relationships?”

“You may ask, but I reserve the right as to whether or not I’ll answer.”

“Spoken like a lawyer. What happened that caused them to end? Or am I overstepping?”

“You are overstepping, but I’ll answer. One ended because of me going away to college. A long distance relationship can be very hard to maintain. Obviously, she was from Devon and we were young. The others ended mainly because of my sister. They were put off by the fact that she had Down’s. One acted like it was something they could catch, if you can believe that. Another didn’t want to chance having children with me because I had someone with Down’s in my family. My favorite was the one who called Fiona a …” Marissa paused because the word he used made her blood boil. “A retard and then he joked about every stereotype there is with those that are challenged. God, I hate that word with every fiber of my being.”

Erica could see Marissa’s distaste for the word as well as hear the combination of disgust and sarcasm dripping from her voice when she said the last was her ‘favorite’. “He said that to you?”

“Not to my face. I overheard him talking to one of his buddies.”

“What did you do?”

“Let’s just say that he never joked about Fiona or said any of those things about her again.” Marissa couldn’t help but smile at the memory of her fist slamming into his nose and breaking it. “I casually dated one or two others that didn’t understand why I was so protective of her, and they definitely didn’t like it when Fi would want to hang out with me when my family came for a visit. Like I said, none of them really worked out. Some were surprised when I ended it, but family is important to me.”

“And you became very selective as to who you told about your sister.”

“Yeah. I can’t stand by and not say anything when someone starts trashing someone else to make themselves feel better.”

“Speaking of, I heard you met JR Chandler, and that he was interested in you. That sentiment was not returned however.”

“Ah, JR. He’s handsome enough, I suppose, but then he made a fatal mistake.”

“What was that?”

“He opened his mouth and started talking.” Marissa smirked.

Erica laughed loudly at that comment. So loud in fact that it drew the attention of other patrons. This young woman was definitely growing on Erica. “He does have that effect on people.”

“I can believe that. His arrogance, cockiness, and privilege just … no. I was not attracted to him, at all. Someone else had piqued my interest. Bianca. When it finally got through to him that I wasn’t interested in him but was interested in Bianca, he started to get rude.”

“Kendall said he started to say a few things about Bianca, but you shut him down.”

“Why would I be interested in anything that he has to say about her? It was clear to me that he had a problem with her being gay. His only intention at that point was to hurt her. There wasn’t a chance in hell that I was going to let that happen. Even if I wasn’t interested in her, Bianca wasn’t doing anything wrong. She wasn’t bothering anyone. JR was being a bully, and trust me when I say that I’ve dealt with my share of them over the years, personally and professionally.”

“Professionally?”

“When I was bartending. Drunk bullies are awful.”

“I suppose you would have had to deal with them.”

“Yes. Thankfully, the bouncers weren’t too far away.” Marissa paused and decided to plunge forward. “Erica, I’ll put my cards on the table. I know you’re worried about Bianca. I also know you’re worried because we’ve only known each a few days and maybe think that we’re going a little too fast. You don’t really know anything about me, and you’re afraid I could hurt her.”

Erica did like Marissa’s straightforwardness. “Yes, to all of that. Do you think you can convince me I don’t have to worry about any of that, and that I should allow you to see my daughter?”

/

Kendall pulled out her cellphone when she heard the notification that she had a text. “Dammit.”

Greenlee looked up when she heard her friend. “What’s up?”

“I need to go.”

“Why? Something wrong?”

“I’m not sure. Krystal sent me a text. Mom is at the restaurant and talking to Marissa. Apparently, they’ve been talking for quite some time.”

“Holy crap. This could be all kinds of bad.”

“Yeah, I know. I’m going to go over there and see what’s going on. Hopefully, Mom is behaving herself.”

“Hey, Kendall. I was thinking of running out and getting some lunch. I pick you both up something if you want.” Bianca offered.

Kendall was nothing if not fast on her feet. “What a coincidence. I was just going to see if you wanted me to grab you something from Krystal’s. My treat.”

“Ooh, I want in on this. Get me the blackened chicken Cesar salad.” Greenlee grinned.

“Sure.” Kendall rolled her eyes at her friend before she turned back to her sister. “Binx?”

“Well, if you’re sure, that would be great actually. I could keep working on that layout. It’s almost done. Since I wouldn’t have to stop, I could leave early.”

“Ah, yes. The date. I’m positive. What do you want?”

“Club sandwich and an iced tea. Thank you. I appreciate it.”

“You’re welcome, Binx.” Kendall sighed as she watched her little sister walk away.

“Hopefully, your Mom isn’t messing anything up, and there will still be a date tonight.” Greenlee said aloud what her friend was thinking.

Kendall nodded as she grabbed her purse. “I know. From your lips to god’s ears. Bianca would be crushed otherwise. Wish me luck.”

“Good luck. Call if you need backup. In the meantime, I’ll keep an eye on Bianca.”

“Thanks.”

Chapter Text

Kendall sighed as she watched her little sister walk away.

“Hopefully, your Mom isn’t messing anything up for her and Marissa, and there will still be a date tonight.” Greenlee said aloud what her friend was thinking.

Kendall nodded as she grabbed her purse. “I know. From your lips to god’s ears. Bianca would be crushed otherwise. She will never forgive Mom if she does something to mess this up for her, and I won’t blame her one bit. Okay, I better go. Wish me luck.”

“Good luck. Call if you need backup. In the meantime, I’ll keep an eye on Bianca. Actually, I think I’m going to go see if she needs any help. I want to make sure she gets out of here early today, even though I’m not allowed to know where they’re going tonight.” Greenlee smiled at that last part. Truth be told, she really couldn’t blame Bianca for not telling her any details. If she did know, she probably wouldn’t be able to help herself and would end up making an appearance wherever they ended up. A large reason why would be the need to keep an eye out for Bianca just to make sure she was okay. Greenlee was an only child and had always a sister. In Kendall and Bianca, she had found the sisters she had always longed for, and if anyone hurt either one of them, there would be hell to pay.

“Thanks. I appreciate it. Oh, think about where you want to go tonight because we’re going out. We can’t let Binx and Red have all the fun, can we?”

“No, we can’t!”

/

Marissa paused for a moment and then decided to plunge forward. “Erica, I’ll put my cards on the table. I know you’re worried about Bianca. I also know you’re worried because we’ve only known each a few days and maybe think that we’re going a little too fast. You don’t really know anything about me, and you’re afraid I could hurt her.”

Erica did like Marissa’s straightforwardness. “Yes, to all of that. Do you think you can convince me I don’t have to worry about any of that, and that I should allow you to see my daughter?”

/

Krystal just happened to be walking by at that moment. While she didn’t hear what Erica had said, she could tell that whatever it had been wasn’t sitting all that well with Marissa. Krystal decided to attempt to break the tension. “Could I interest either of you in lunch?”

“Is it lunchtime already?” Marissa asked as she checked the time.

“Yes, it is. So, could I get either of you something or do you have to go?”

“No, I’m staying. We need to finish this conversation. It’s important. What do you say, Erica? Care to join me for lunch? My treat.”

If Erica was taken aback by Marissa’s boldness, she didn’t show it. The redhead wasn’t backing down and neither was Erica. “I would love to. I will have the grilled chicken salad, house dressing on the side, and an iced tea.”

“I’ll have the club sandwich, chips, and an iced tea, please. Thanks, Krystal.”

“You’ve got it.” Krystal had seen the grin on Marissa’s before. It was the same one that Lydia had right before she told someone exactly what was on her mind. Krystal whispered to the younger woman. “Is everything okay?”

“Yep. I got this.” Marissa whispered back.

“Good luck.” With that, Krystal headed back to the bar to place their orders.
/

Once they were alone again, Marissa took a deep breath and picked up the conversation from where they had left off.

“First of all, and please know that I mean no disrespect when I say this, Bianca is an adult and perfectly capable of deciding for herself who she will and will not see. I have the feeling that she’s told you that before. Now, it would certainly be easier, especially for Bianca, if you liked me and were okay with me seeing your daughter, and it would really be good if we got along. Here’s the thing though, I don’t need your permission to date Bianca. Like I said, it would be great if we got along, but as I see it, there are two people who matter the most here, Bianca and me. If she wants to see me, I will more than happy with that. Hell, I’d be ecstatic. If she doesn’t, I’ll be honest with you, I won’t like it. I won’t like it one bit. In fact, I would downright hate it, but I would respect her decision, as long as it’s her decision.”

“What if your parents had a problem with Bianca?”

Marissa laughed. “I seriously doubt that they would, but if on the off chance that they did, I would ask them to explain why they felt that way. I would listen to what they had to say, and then, make my own decision. While I love and respect them, it is my life. If it turns out to be a mistake with Bianca, then it would be my mistake. I don’t think that would happen though.”

“You don’t?”

“No, I don’t. Like I told you earlier, there is just something about Bianca, and I trust her.”

“The question is can she trust you?”

“That is for her to decide. Look, Reese was an idiot. She had Bianca, and she cheated on her, hurt her deeply, destroyed her trust, and made her doubt herself. Do you want to know the difference between me and Reese? It’s a big one. I’m not an idiot. I know how special Bianca is. I know you don’t know me, but I promise you that I would never intentionally hurt her. I care about Bianca. I know it’s only been a few days, but it’s true. I really want to see where it could go with her. If you give me a chance, I’ll do my best to prove that to you because while I don’t need your permission or approval, I would really like to have it. You see, we want the same thing, Erica. We both want Bianca to be happy.”

Erica studied Marissa intently as she listened to her speak. The diva considered herself an excellent judge of character, and Erica could definitely see the earnestness in the younger woman’s eyes. While she considered everything Marissa had said, she also thought about Bianca. It was clear to everyone, including Erica, that her daughter was interested in Marissa, and as much as she hated to admit it, Erica needed to trust Bianca. Her daughter was an adult, and in all honesty, Bianca was more than capable of running her own life. It was past time that Erica accepted that fact, and she found that she did like the redhead. Plus, Jack and Caleb had both praised Marissa’s character when she quizzed them about her. None of this meant, however, that Erica wouldn’t crush Marissa in heartbeat if she hurt Bianca. “Very well, I will give you a chance, for Bianca’s sake.”

Marissa smiled brightly. “Thank you. I appreciate the chance, and I’ll make sure that you don’t regret it.”

“For your sake, I hope you are right. Otherwise, I promise that you will regret it more.”
/

It was at that moment that Krystal returned with their lunch. As she placed their plates in front of the women, Krystal had to ask them both a question. “Is everything okay here?”

“Everything is good, Krystal. No worries.” Marissa assured her friend.

“Yes, Marissa and I have just been getting to know each other. I believe we have come to an understanding that is agreeable to both of us.”

Marissa grinned as she held up her glass in a toast. “I couldn’t agree more.”

Erica couldn’t help but chuckle and clinked her glass against the younger woman’s. There was definitely something about Marissa that she liked, and if the younger woman was what she appeared to be, Erica couldn’t help but think that she would be very good for Bianca.

Krystal looked first at Marissa and then at Erica. Oddly enough, she thought they were being honest with her, and she couldn’t help but think that that was a really good thing. “Okay. Um, I’ll leave the two of you to get better acquainted then. If you need anything else, let me know.”

“Thanks, Krystal!”

“Thank you.”
/

Kendall glanced around the restaurant, and when she didn’t see either her mother or Marissa, she rushed over to the bar. “Krystal, is everything okay? I don’t see Mom or Marissa. Did you have to call an ambulance or the police or both?”

“Relax and take a breath. I didn’t have to call any kind of emergency services.”

“Whew. Okay, where are they then?” Kendall whipped around when she heard her mother laughing. It was then that she saw the two women in a corner booth. “I’m confused. What’s going on? Are they having lunch, together? Your text had me really worried.”

“Sorry about that, but it looked really intense earlier.”

“What happened then?”

Krystal shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s not like I could exactly stand over there. It would be kind of obvious that I was eavesdropping since they are the only ones sitting in that area. I can tell you that it did get intense a few times, but then when I delivered their food, they said they had come to an understanding and then toasted to it. Now, they’re laughing like they’re the best of friends.”

“Huh. Well, the only thing I can think of them coming to an understanding on is Bianca.”

“That’s the only thing I can come up with too.”

Kendall continued to study the women. This time she saw Marissa laugh at something Erica had said. “You’re sure there was no yelling or anything like that?”

“Positive. I know that Marissa is a straight shooter.”

“And that is something Mom appreciates. They appear to be getting along. So, I’m going to take this as a good sign.”

/

“It would seem that we are being watched.” Erica said. She had caught a glimpse of Kendall as she hurried over to the bar to talk to Krystal. It was fairly obvious that the two were watching their table.

“Really? Who?”

“Krystal and Kendall. They are over at the bar.”

Marissa discreetly glanced over her shoulder and saw the other two women spying on them. “I think you’re right. Any thoughts on what we should do?”

A sly grin spread across Erica’s face. “I think we should invite Kendall to join us.”

“I do like your style, Erica.” Marissa laughed. “By all means, let’s.”

Erica nodded before schooling her expression to one of surprise at spotting her eldest daughter. The diva then waved her over.

/

A fake smile was plastered on Kendall’s face as she waved back to her mother. “Crap. They saw us. There’s no way I can ignore them now. Could you put this order in for me? My cover story to come over here was grabbing lunch for us, and I can’t very well return without it.”

Krystal chuckled. “No, I don’t suppose you can. Do you want something to drink?”

“I’d like a shot of something, but that would be pretty obvious and probably not that helpful since I think I’m going to need all of my facilities to get through this. I’ll settle for an iced tea.”

The older woman quickly fetched the drink and handed it to Kendall. “Here you go. I’ll get this in for you, and let you know when it’s ready. Good luck.”

“Thanks. I have a feeling I’m going to need it.”

/

“Hi, Mom, Marissa. Fancy meeting the two of you here. I didn’t know you knew each other.”

“Hi, Kendall. Have a seat. We didn’t know each other until today. Erica introduced herself, and we’ve been getting to know each other since then.

“Hello, Kendall. When I found out this was the elusive Marissa, I knew I had to meet her. Your sister hasn’t had the chance to introduce us properly yet so I decided to take the initiative and do it myself. We have been having a delightful conversation.”

Kendall raised an eyebrow. She couldn’t help but be skeptical of what her mother said. There was a lot of history with Erica meeting the men and women her daughters were interested in that told her otherwise. “Really?”

“Yes, really. Don’t act so surprised, Kendall.” Erica scolded.

“Sorry.”

Erica could tell from the smile on her daughter’s face that she wasn’t all that sorry. “What are you doing here?”

Marissa was amused at the banter between mother and daughter and didn’t say anything.

“I’m just grabbing lunch.”

Before Marissa could say anything, her cellphone rang. “Sorry. It’s Caleb. I should take this. We’re going to meet up in a little bit to discuss some of my responsibilities. I’ll be right back.”

/

Once Marissa was gone, Kendall turned to Erica. “Okay. Spill it, Mom. What’s really going on?”

“Exactly what we said, Kendall.”

“I’m not buying it. Come on, tell me what’s up. You know I’m not going to drop it. I don’t want you to ruin this for Bianca.”

Erica huffed. “Fine. I came here to talk to Krystal about Marissa. I know that she knows her and her family, and I merely wanted to know more about her. I know a few things from you and Bianca as well as Jack and Caleb, but none of you have known her that long. Krystal has known her all of her life. Who better to talk to about Marissa? Krystal and I talked, and then, I discovered that Marissa was right here. So, I introduced myself.”

“And?”

“She told me about herself and her family. I have to say that I am looking forward to meeting them, especially her sister.”

Kendall’s ears perked up at that. “Her sister? You found out about her sister?”

“I did.”

“Well, tell me about her.”

“I am sorry, but I can’t. It is not my story to tell, and I feel I should respect her privacy. You will have to wait for Marissa to tell you about her. I believe that will happen soon enough. Marissa likes you, and she likes Greenlee as well. I have no doubt that she will tell you very soon.”

Kendall found what her said extremely interesting. While she wanted to know more, it was clear that Erica was finished with that subject, and she wouldn’t be getting anything more from her on it. “Okay. What else? I know there’s more.”

“We both laid our cards on the table regarding your sister. I was very skeptical at first, but after talking to Marissa and getting to know her, as well as taking your sister’s feelings into account, I have to admit that I like her and will give her a chance.”

“Bianca doesn’t need your permission, Mom. You do know that, don’t you?”

“Yes, I am fully aware of that fact. You will also be happy to know that Marissa told me the same exact thing.”

“What prompted her to say that?”

“I asked her why I should allow her to date Bianca. It was nothing really.” Erica tried to downplay what she had said.

“You what? Mom, come on. You know better than to say something like that. Good for Red for telling you that.”

“She definitely doesn’t back down. I will give her that. After our conversation, I do feel like I know her better. I will admit that I believe that she and Bianca will be good each other, that they complement each very well.”

“I think so too. You really should see them together. They both just light up, especially Bianca.” Kendall leaned in. “I’ve never seen Bianca this happy, Mom, never. I’m not kidding you when I say that she was never like this with Reese, not even close to it. There is a definite connection between Bianca and Marissa, and you won’t be able to miss it when you see them together.”

/

“Sorry about that.” Marissa said as she rejoined the other two women.

“Is everything all right?” Erica asked.

“Yeah, everything is fine. I was going to meet with Caleb later, but he’s being pulled into a deposition with a client. We’re going to reschedule. Are you able join us for lunch, Kendall?”

“I’m afraid I can’t. In addition to getting my lunch, I’m also picking up lunch for Bianca and Greenlee. Basically, I’m saving Binx some time. She wants to wrap up her work on a layout so she can leave early for a date she has tonight.”

“Oh, yes. I believe I’ve heard about this date.” Erica added.

“Don’t worry, Red. There’s no way I would let her stay late today.”

Marissa grinned. “Thank you. I appreciate it. Now that I’m not meeting with Caleb, I’ll have plenty of time to get ready myself. If I only knew where we were going … You know what, scratch that and forget I said anything. I’m sure Bianca has sworn you both to secrecy. Besides, I can wait. It’s only in a few hours.”

Kendall laughed. “You’re right about Bianca, Red. She make us promise not to tell. She even made me promise not to tell Greenlee.”

“Why? Was she afraid Greenlee would show up?” Marissa started to laugh but stopped when she saw the saw look on Kendall’s face. “Seriously?”

“Yeah, seriously. Knowing Greenlee, it’s a distinct possibility.”

“Thanks for the heads up. I’ll have to keep that in mind.”

“Kendall, your order is ready.” Krystal called out.

“I need to go. You got a sec, Red?”

Marissa nodded. “Sure.”

Kendall kissed Erica’s cheek. “I’ll see you later, Mom.”

“I will see you later, dear.”

“I’ll be back, Erica.” Marissa said as she followed Kendall.

/

Kendall paused at the side of the bar, and Marissa followed suit. The redhead had a feeling of what was going to come next but remained quiet.

“First, let me say I like you. I like you a lot. You’ve brought a smile back to Bianca’s face, one that’s been missing for way too long, and I am beyond grateful for that. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t say this. If you hurt my little sister, everything goes out the window. All bets will be off, and I will make it my mission to hurt you tenfold. Do we understand each other?”

Marissa could see that Kendall was deadly serious, and if their roles were reversed, she would be saying the same exact thing. As a result, she wasn’t going to hold this against the other woman. Nor was she going to let it intimidate or discourage her. “Yes, we do. I understand completely. I would be making the same promise to anyone dating my sister.”

Kendall raised an eyebrow when Marissa said ‘promise’. The redhead had realized it was just that and not a mere threat.

“I’ll make you a promise of my own. I know you don’t know me very, and we haven’t had the time for you to build up your trust in me. I promise you this though. I will do my best to never intentionally hurt Bianca. Now, I’m not saying this because of what you just said. I’m saying this because I care about Bianca and don’t want to see her hurt. I especially don’t want to be the one to hurt her. Bianca has a beautiful smile, and what I want is to be the one to help put that smile on her face and keep it there.”

Kendall studied the younger woman for a moment and then nodded. “I’m going to hold you to that. Okay then. Have a good time tonight.”

“Thanks. And, Kendall.”

“Yes.”

“If you have some time in the next day or two, maybe the two of us could get together and talk some more and get to know each other better? You could include Greenlee on that if you think you should.”

“I’d like that, Marissa. Okay, I’ve really got to get back before Greenlee sends out a search party for her lunch. Good luck with the rest of your lunch with Mom. Although, I think you’re doing pretty good so far.”

“Thanks.”