by KG MacGregor
As parents, Anna and Lily’s guiding principle is to help their children reach their potential and capture their dreams. Ten-year-old Eleanor is a STEM whiz already building apps for her mobile phone, while her twin brother Georgie is climbing the youth tennis rankings in Southern California. Andy continues his love affair with cars, but his dream is threatened when Anna decides to sell her empire of dealerships and move on to her next career challenge.
At her wits’ end with sixteen-year-old Andy, Anna can’t fathom how he got to be so strong-willed and stubborn. Lily has a pretty good idea, but she’s mostly keeping those thoughts to herself. Now a family court judge, her experience playing peacemaker is coming in handy at home.
What they need is a family vacation, a chance to draw closer and reaffirm their love for one another. Those plans are suddenly upended when Andy goes missing.
Don’t miss Words Unsaid, the fifth installment in KG MacGregor’s ground- breaking, award-winning Shaken series.
FROM THE AUTHOR
"I never planned to write another book in the Shaken Series after Mother Load. When the twins came along, Anna and Lily’s family was complete. What better point to send them off on their Happy Ever After?
I’ve been blessed with loyal readers of this series, going back almost twenty years ago when it was first posted as fanfiction that imagined Xena and Gabrielle meeting again in a future life. I hated to disappoint fans by saying Mother Load would be the last one. Instead, I fell back on my usual response to questions about sequels: “I have no plans at this time for a sequel, but if I get a good story idea, I promise I’ll write it.”
When I first got the inspiration for Words Unsaid, it was to be a standalone romance with fresh characters, but it languished for months while I tried to develop women who would fall in love against the backdrop of a more dramatic plot I wanted to weave through the story. The characters just wouldn’t talk to me—not a peep out of the women or the teenage boy at the center of the drama. I almost quit on it. Then suddenly I realized I already knew their voices—Anna, Lily and Andy—and this was a crucial chapter of their ongoing story. And since I’d promised…well, I had to write it."
Mikhila - This book is a continuation of the Shaken series by KG MacGregor which started as two women trapped in a mall after an earthquake and slowly falling in love. In this book we get a further look into their family.
Everything about this book was perfect to me—from more of my favorite characters to even more character development and to top it all off a gut punch of reality. We see Anna struggle with what many parents fail to even notice they’re doing and that is forcing their wants onto their child. She wants Andy to do everything her way and the satisfaction of her facing that adds on to my enjoyment of this book.
It’s been awhile since I’ve been unable to put a book down and admittedly for the first few pages of this book I had already made up my mind to give it four stars out of my lack of excitement but as I approached the climax of the book I found my self all over the place in emotion. As someone who’s previously read up on the topic of ICE methods there was not a doubt about the realism of the story which helped add to the emotions that I felt.
Five stars! My only complaint is that it wasn’t longer because I would’ve loved more parenting scenes with them and their other two kids.
Bonnie K. - This is a great family drama that touches on issues that are currently going on today. As the story progress it really sheds a light on immigration, ICE, politics and what some families might be facing today in this country. The page turner is beautifully crafted and well written. I recommend 5 stars.
Nutmeg - Fantastic 5th instalment to the Shaken series. I was surprised and could not believe that the author gave us another book for the series. Before I delved into this book, I went back to the previous 4 and basked in the love of Anna and Lily once again. For those who have not read the series, the ladies met while trapped under the debris and fallen structure of a mall due to an earthquake. What started as an oven toaster romance grew into a family with kids added into the mix.
This time around the spotlight is on Anna and Lily’s kids and some changes to Anna’s car dealership empire. What stands out for me in this book is the bond between Anna and Lily. The pair has gone through so much in the previous books yet the love and support that radiates through the pages cannot be contained. Andy, their eldest son who was adopted when his birth mother (Lily’s sister) died, is 16 now. He has eyes on being the successor to Anna’s business but has not quite developed the fortitude and maturity to do so. In this book, Anna has her hands full trying to manage her expectations of Andy and the sale of her empire. Lily, the ever nurturing parent, who has left her career on the sidelines to care for her children and family is finally a judge. You see her at her best, presiding over family matters and no doubt terrorising parents due to her personal experience and knowledge of the system.
5 stars. You cannot miss this series of love, family and life. Although this latest addition does not focus as extensively on the couple, it is a natural progression of their great relationship and a very welcomed update of their family life.
Dianne K. - KG MacGregor is one of my favorite authors, and her Shaken series is right at the top of my favorite work of hers. I love the characters of Anna and Lily and was so happy to read more about their journey together. MacGregor has a knack for adding socially conscious information into her books and this one was very timely (immigration and how children are detained by ICE).
Wrapped around this whole story though was the continuing love story between the two women. They may bicker and snip at each other now and again, but it felt good to read how solid their relationship has become and how firm their love is.
Loved it—is it too much to hope that there may be yet another installment?
A grimy light fixture cast a dim glow over the steep wooden stairs to the basement. Why did it always have to be a dark basement? This one smelled of rot. Mold, sewage, dead rodents.
Without a rail to grip, Anna slid her hand along the wall, amassing cobwebs as she picked her way down and through a curtain of darkness. The only light ahead came from a far corner, where the voices of two men and a woman were muzzled by a rap tune.
All ice no thaw Ima drop ur call
Don’t gimme no cheata cause I can do betta
As Anna drew closer, she realized the woman was Tawna Cooper, the police detective they’d sent to negotiate for Andy’s safe return. “You have to talk to Hal. He’s the finance guy, Anna’s brother-in-law. If you want money from Anna, you have to go through him.”
“I want at least a million dollars. She owes me that.”
Anna recognized the voice of Mickey Cheung, the general manager of the BMW dealership in Redondo Beach. Like the others, he blamed her for losing his job.
“We worked our tails off to make her rich and she left us high and dry.”
Try to climb my wall Ima watch you fall
Ringside satisfied its Isaacs law applied
Anna inched closer to the group to see Andy sitting cross-legged on the floor beside a pizza box and an empty soda bottle. He wore a greasy jumpsuit over his school uniform, and his hands were bound in front with duct tape.
“Mom only cares about herself,” he said flatly. He didn’t seem at all concerned about his predicament. “Tell her you’re sorry. She makes you say sorry even if it’s not your fault. She might give you the money then.”
Why would Andy be helping his kidnappers? Anna knew she was missing something… unless this was a dream. She double-checked her surroundings. The concrete floor, a stack of tires that smelled of fresh rubber. It had to be real—those were the same tires Andy had knocked over. Surely she wouldn’t dream she was dreaming.
“What should we do with him?” the other man asked.
Anna couldn’t see his face from behind, only his beefy arms covered with brightly colored tattoos. This had to be the gang member Tawna had arrested. Why wasn’t he in jail?
“If he testifies we’ll go to prison.”
The detective moved between Andy and his captors as if to protect him. “You have to let him go. Anna won’t pay you a ransom but if you let him go she might give you a reward.”
“He’s a witness,” the gangbanger growled. “We’re not supposed to leave any witnesses.”
As they discussed coaxing Andy to change his story, Anna watched to see if he’d stand up to them and refuse. His lying made her furious. Maybe this was why he did it so often, because other people pressured him to do it.
He told them, “You should ask my other ma for the money. She’s the only one my mom ever listens to.” He looked at the detective. “Tell them—she’s nicer. Ma can make her give them the money. She’s always sticking up for me.”
That much was true, Anna had to admit. It drove her crazy when Lily sided with Andy, always making her the bad guy. All she wanted was for their son to live up to his potential.
Andy was right though. Lily would fix it. She always fixed it. That was the only way to end this.
With a sigh of relief, she stepped out of the shadows and offered her phone. “I have Lily’s number if you want to give her a call.”
Mickey shook his head. “It’s too late. You already missed the deadline.” He turned to the tattooed man and said, “You told her what would happen. She never listens to anyone else. Go ahead, do it.”
The gangbanger raised his weapon, a hook-shaped dagger.
Anna shouted, “Andy, I love you!”
He looked back with narrowed eyes, his lips pressed tightly together—refusing to answer.
“I love you, pal. I love you.”
She went limp as Tawna grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her hard.
“Anna! Anna…wake up, sweetheart. It’s just a dream.”
Breathless and shaking, she opened her eyes to find Lily looming over her in their bed. “A dream…”
Was she awake for real now? She sat up and looked around the room. The bed, the alcove, the clock.
“Honey, are you okay?”
“How am I supposed to be okay when we don’t know where our son is?”
The brain trust of Premier Motors sat huddled in the back of a stretch limo, a sliding window sealing their conversation from the chauffeur. This secretive group consisted of owner and CEO Anna Kaklis, chief financial officer Hal Philips, vice president for human resources Vivian Zhao, and general counsel Lupe Segura. They’d spent the past week holed up with other executives in a conference room at the posh Beverly Hills Hotel where they’d drawn up the basic framework for a deal that would spell the end of the Kaklis family’s auto empire. Their presumptive buyer was Pinnacle Auto Corporation, a publicly traded management group that owned hundreds of car dealerships up and down the West Coast. For now, complete secrecy was required to guard against the potential for insider trading, the kind that had led domestic maven Martha Stewart to prison for perjury.
“It’s hard to wrap my head around the idea of that much money,” Anna said.
“For a minute there I thought you were going to faint,” Hal said with a laugh. Since he was her brother-in-law, he could get away with teasing the boss.
She felt alternately thrilled and sick to her stomach. After taking the helm from her father fifteen years ago, she’d grown Premier Motors from a single dealership in Beverly Hills to twenty-two throughout Southern California, all selling German cars: BMW, Volkswagen or Audi. Following industry-wide consolidation, Premier was still a small but valuable player in the Southern California market—streamlined, efficient and reliably profitable. Though Anna had taken on considerable debt at purchase, each acquisition had been carefully vetted to boost revenue and increase the company’s value. This was her chance to extract that value and reward herself and her team for a job well done. Given the volatility of current trade partners and tariff wars, now might be just the right time to get out of the sales business and turn her attention to new opportunities.
The challenge was divorcing her emotions from the deal. Premier Motors had been started by her maternal grandfather in 1956, the first year BMWs were sold in the United States. After her mother’s death when Anna was only ten, it was held in trust until she inherited it outright at age eighteen, though her father had run the company with her blessing until he retired fifteen years ago. She’d practically grown up at the dealership, walking the few blocks from school every afternoon to watch the service and sales teams at work, proud to see her dad make deals on just a simple handshake. If anything was holding her back from the sale, it was nostalgia.
“Just so you all know, I might still change my mind about this. If it keeps me awake after my head hits the pillow, I won’t be able to go through with it.”
“Pinnacle delivers virtually everything you wanted,” Vivian said, checking the other faces for confirmation. A labor attorney by profession, she had joined Premier Motors eight years ago, the only corporate holdover from Anna’s acquisition of the four Audi dealerships. “A seamless transfer of pension and benefits, and guaranteed severance for anyone downsized in the first eighteen months. I don’t have to tell you, Anna—that’s a fantastic deal for everyone.”
Taking care of her employees was paramount to Anna’s decision, but so was the fact that she stood to pocket well over a hundred million dollars. It was mind-blowing. At forty-eight, she was in her prime, with plenty of years left to make her mark in a second career. She already had an intriguing prospect.
It was dark and drizzling by the time they pulled onto the lot of the BMW dealership where they’d left their cars. Though most of the lights were off, Anna spotted Andy in the dimly lit showroom wiping down the flashy i8, BMW’s plug-in hybrid roadster that retailed for $180 thousand. He came to the dealership almost every day after school, shadowing her sales team much the way she’d shadowed her father. Losing Premier Motors would be hard for him at first, she figured, until she showed him the doors the sale could now open.
Before stepping out into the steady rain, she said, “Good work, all of you. Remember, we need to keep this under wraps until the offer’s signed by both sides. There’s still a lot of work to do in the weeds.” Addressing Hal and Lupe, she said, “Get your teams together and go through the fine print. Offsite, so people don’t ask questions. But keep Vivian and me in the loop.”
As they headed for their cars, she tugged Hal’s sleeve and asked him to come upstairs for a private word.
Andy met them at the employee entrance in the back. His growth spurt had slowed at five-four, same height as his other mother Lily, who also happened to be his biological aunt. “Hey, Mom. You ready to go?”
“In a minute. Tell Holly she can go home,” she said, a reference to the dealership’s general manager, and one of Anna’s best friends. “We’ll set the alarm when we’re done and go out the back. First I need a quick chat with your Uncle Hal.”
Hal tousled Andy’s curly brown hair as he walked by. “Somebody needs a haircut.”
“So I can look dorky like you and Jonah?” he replied cheekily.
“Hey, what’s that?” Hal asked as he caught Andy’s hand and admired his commemorative gold ring for the Class of 2020. “That’s your senior ring—a whole year early. What if you don’t graduate? They’ll make you give it back.”
“Is that what happened to yours?”
Anna laughed. “He’s got you there, Hal.”
“Can I drive home, Mom?”
“In the rain after dark?”
“Come on, please. I need at least eight more hours at night. I’ve gotta learn sometime.”
He’d gotten his learner’s permit last summer but was well short of the fifty hours he needed to qualify for his license. Though he was already sixteen, Anna continued to hold him back, concerned about his maturity level after a disappointing report card and a fight at school. As he brought home better grades on exams and papers, she was gradually allowing him more time behind the wheel.
“I’ll think about it, pal. You got your homework?”
“Who can think about homework? I’m starving to death.” He raised a hand to his forehead and added, “I feel like I’m going to faint.”
“Probably best not to let you drive then. You might pass out and run us off the road.” She mocked his dramatic gesture with one of her own—the world’s tiniest violin—before passing him a couple of bucks for the vending machine.
With Hal on her heels, she trudged upstairs to her office and closed the door. “So what do you think? Is this Pinnacle deal going to happen?”
He helped himself to a bottle of water from the small fridge beneath her bookcase. Nearing his fiftieth birthday, he’d lost the hair on his crown, but he still was a handsome man. “It’s obvious they really want it. The real question is, do you?”
That, in a nutshell, was why the lurking headache behind her left eye had been threatening for a week to become a full-blown migraine. “It almost feels like an omen, getting this offer out of the blue. I keep thinking about our worst-case scenario. The industry’s stable right now, but we can’t count on US trade policy to remain that way. If Merkel says something that bruises you-know-who’s ego, the whole German sector could get torpedoed overnight.”
“Maybe that’s your answer. You’ll look like a genius for getting out when you did. What does Lily have to say?”
“Mmm, just that she trusts me to make the right decision. We try not to talk about this at home. I can’t deal with it all day and all night too. Besides, I’m not ready for the big family discussion yet. Someone isn’t going to take this well,” she said, gesturing with her thumb toward the door.
Hal snorted. “Not just Andy. George won’t take it lying down either. I know he technically has no say over this deal, but he could sure make our lives miserable.”
Her father probably would make some noise at first but he’d see the wisdom in it eventually. It was Andy she worried about most. Since the day he came to live with them twelve years ago, Anna had encouraged his dream of taking over Premier Motors someday. This move might very well leave him feeling betrayed, but what choice did she have? A sale would spare him from the truth—that she had serious doubts he could ever run as complex and demanding a business as this.
Careful to keep his voice low in case Andy had followed them upstairs, Hal asked, “Any more word from Helios?” referring to the German automotive startup on the cusp of bringing solar-powered vehicles to market in Europe. They’d approached Anna two months ago about heading up their California initiative—exactly the sort of challenge she had in mind for life after Premier Motors.
“We spoke last week but I put them off so I could deal with the sale. But I’m seriously thinking about it.”
“Helios could be fun for a motor nerd like you,” Hal said.
“Not until I know exactly what they have in mind. I’d drop everything to be part of something revolutionary, but not if all they really want is a pretty face to charm investors.”
“Nobody who knows you would hire you as a pre—” He cocked his head and wrinkled his brow. “Wow, I can’t believe I almost said that.”
“No kidding. Be glad you weren’t talking to your wife.”
“Oh God, don’t even joke about that.”
Anna’s stepsister Kim, normally a good-natured wisecracker herself, was in the throes of menopause. A remark like that would have landed Hal in the pool.
She snorted and said, “See you tomorrow.”
* * *
Five-year-old Dreama Doe had been a ward of the state since being found two years ago, dirty and hungry, abandoned in a downtown park. Today she was getting a new start in the home of Prince and Tamara Peavine, her foster parents for the last eighteen months. One day she would look back and call this the luckiest day of her life.
If there was one person in the courtroom who understood what an auspicious day this was, it was Superior Court Judge Lilian Kaklis. Like Dreama, she’d been neglected and abused as a toddler, and shuffled off to a series of foster homes. On her luckiest day, she walked out of the courtroom holding hands with her new mom, Eleanor Stewart, who’d helped her become the woman she was today.
Child services supervisor Sandy Henke, Lily’s longtime friend, rose to represent the State in today’s proceedings. In their respective lines of work, there was no greater success story than the adoption of a child like Dreama into a loving family. “Your Honor, the State of California is satisfied these petitioners meet all necessary criteria to complete this adoption.”
“And is the State also confident this permanent placement is in the best interest of this child?”
“Oh, we’re extremely confident, Your Honor.”
“All right then, it looks like we have some celebrating to do.” Smiling broadly herself, Lily peered down from the bench at the excited child. “Dreama, would you like to come up here and help me make this official? Who’s taking pictures?”
“I am.” A gray-haired Black gentleman—Dreama’s new grandfather, Lily guessed—rose from the gallery flaunting an expensive-looking camera. Quite a few members of the Peavine extended family had turned out for the happy occasion.
Wearing a lavender crinoline dress with patent leather shoes, the girl skipped up the steps to the bench, where Lily pushed back her chair to make room in her lap. With Dreama settled on her knee, she picked up her pen. “Do you know what happens when I write my name on this piece of paper?”
Dreama’s brown eyes danced with excitement. “It makes me a family,” she said, causing a chuckle around the courtroom.
“It makes you a family! That’s right. Should we ask your mom and dad to come up here and help us?”
Without waiting for an answer, the couple hurried up to join them. Once they were in place, Lily signed the order to a chorus of cheers. Dozens of celebratory photos later, she adjourned the court for lunch.
Sandy squeezed through the side door before it closed. Now in her mid-fifties, she’d finally surrendered to the extra thirty pounds that clung to her under her well-tailored suit despite years of dieting. Lily couldn’t help but note how much more relaxed she seemed. Holding up an insulated bag, Sandy said, “I hope we’re still on for lunch, Your Honor. Suzanne made us chicken sandwiches on fresh sourdough.”
“Bless Suzanne!” Lily looped their arms and led her down the narrow hallway to the labyrinth of judges’ chambers. Best friends for twenty years, they always relished the occasions when their work brought them together. “You don’t have to call me Your Honor back here, you know. High Priestess of Familial Justice will do when it’s just us.”
“High Priestess it is, then. It still blows my mind every time you walk in wearing that robe. Don’t get me wrong, it suits you. But it seems like just yesterday you and I were juggling impossible caseloads, going to battle every day against the system.”
“We’re still juggling impossible caseloads, but now we are the system,” Lily said, “and all these young, idealistic lawyers and caseworkers probably feel like they’re out there doing battle with us.”
Lily’s surprising appointment to the Los Angeles County Superior Court bench had come just five months ago following the retirement of persnickety family court judge Rusty Evans, who’d championed her to his colleagues as his replacement. Though Judge Evans had been notoriously tough on attorneys, she’d always held him in grudging esteem for his consistent focus on what was best for the children who came to his court. Lily was determined to follow in his footsteps.
At forty-five, she was among the youngest of the hundred-plus judges in the Stanley Mosk building, the downtown courthouse where for years she had argued family law and criminal cases in her work at Braxton Street Legal Aid Clinic. As a relative newcomer to the bench, she had a windowless office that could barely hold three guests without one getting into another’s personal space. Still, this was her “chambers,” and she’d decorated it with her diploma from UCLA and framed photos of her family, including her favorite candids of sixteen-year-old Andy and twins Georgie and Eleanor, who’d recently celebrated their tenth birthday.
“I like your hair, by the way,” Sandy said. “Funny, it looks even blonder now that you aren’t coloring it anymore.”
Lily ran a hand through her fresh cut. Anna liked it short, said it made her green eyes look bigger and brighter. “It looks blonder because it’s starting to come in gray. At least it saves me a couple of hundred bucks a month. And a lot of time.”
Sandy cleared a space on the desk and unpacked the lunch bag. “I passed Claré Zepeda and her entourage in the hall earlier. She did not look happy.”
“Oh, she wasn’t.” Zepeda—or simply Claré, as she preferred—was the hottest thing going in Latina hip hop, and Lily had caught her divorce case. “I strongly urged her to go to mediation and try to reach a settlement. Someone’s blowing smoke up her ass if she thinks she’s going to leave her husband high and dry. Her attorney should be disbarred for malpractice. It’s bad enough he let her marry her pool boy without a prenup. Now he’s got her convinced she can buck California’s community property laws. She’d do well to give her ex the pool and the house around it. Walk away from her mistake and be done with it.”
“I bet you never thought you’d find yourself in the middle of that media circus. Can’t you just see Rusty Evans catching a hip hop case? ‘What’s all this got to do with rabbits?’”
Lily laughed as she hung her robe on the back of her office door. “I always thought that was just his schtick. Ol’ Rusty knew a lot more than he let on.”
“Absolutely. I swear he played that naive card just to make us look like idiots. Like that time he kept interrupting me when I was trying to place a six-year-old named Compton with an uncle named Compton who lived—guess where.”
“Compton,” they said together, dissolving into laughter.
Wiping her tears, Lily said, “I bet we could tell Rusty stories all day.”
“He was one of a kind. You making any new friends here?”
“I already knew a lot of these folks. I’ve been darkening their courtrooms for ages. To be honest, no one has time to socialize. There’s so much minutiae to handle with filings and transcripts. And the dockets have to run like clockwork or it all breaks down.”
“Sounds a lot like being a caseworker…or a legal aid attorney. But you still like it, right?”
“No,” Lily paused thoughtfully before her smile leaked out. “I love it. This is my dream job, Sandy. The absolute top of the pyramid…though I wouldn’t mind having one of those big offices across the hall someday.”
They both knew that would be a while. Superior Court judges were appointed by the governor and served six-year terms before coming up for reelection. In the absence of a shocking scandal or controversy, voters almost always retained incumbents, so an appointment to the bench was all but guaranteed for life.
Lily peeled back the bread on her sandwich to find sliced apples and soft white cheese atop thin slices of roasted chicken breast. “Suzanne makes the best sandwiches. My mouth is watering already.”
“Speaking of significant others, how’s yours? We haven’t seen Anna since the week before Christmas.”
“I’ve hardly seen her myself, but that’s February for you. She goes straight from year-end sales to tax season.”
“Why don’t you guys come over next weekend? Suzanne has the whole weekend off. She’ll fire up the grill.”
Lily checked her phone’s calendar and saw a yellow bar, the marker for a family event. “Sorry, next weekend’s no good. Georgie has a tennis tournament in Newport Beach on Saturday, then Sunday’s a big birthday bash for Hal. He’s turning fifty and their daughter Alice turns thirteen the day after. You guys are more than welcome to join us for that. We’d love to have you.”
“I’ll check with Suzanne, but she’s turned into such a homebody these days. I doubt I can get her to leave the house. I still want to get together though, the four of us. At least have Anna look at her schedule and let’s try to make a date.”
“Will do.” Lily silently congratulated herself for successfully dodging more questions about her wife. She was on pins and needles about letting something slip about Pinnacle that could land them all in prison.
* * *
Lily relaxed on the couch, where she called out seventh-grade spelling words to fifth-graders Georgie and Eleanor. She loved these moments after dinner when they all hung out together in the family room, though Anna was working late tonight so she and Andy had missed dinner. It was understandable since a lot was at stake. She’d be so glad when this grueling process was finished, no matter what Anna decided.
“Your turn, Georgie. The word is laboratory. Eleanor conducts experiments in her laboratory.”
“Correct. Ellie, your word is tournament. Georgie has a tennis tournament this weekend at Newport Beach.”
“It’s a match, not a tournament,” Georgie complained. “I should have gotten that word.”
As Eleanor spelled, Serafina Casillas entered from the kitchen, drying her hands on a tea towel. She was petite like Lily, with dark hair and wide brown eyes that lit up whenever the children were near. “Everything’s clean and put away. And I put two plates in the oven for the stragglers.”
“Thanks, Serafina. They don’t deserve you.” Lily nudged Georgie with her foot. “You guys go say goodnight to Serafina.”
Eleanor rose first and ran to give their housekeeper a hug.
Lily couldn’t imagine their household without Serafina. Her husband Enzo, who’d worked in the service department of the BMW dealership for over fifteen years, died unexpectedly from insulin shock while visiting her parents in Mexico. As a natural born US citizen, he’d sponsored Serafina for a green card soon after they married, but her march toward citizenship had been derailed by his death and now was bogged down in a system deliberately slowed by politics.
Feeling a duty to Enzo, Anna had offered Serafina the job of managing their household, since the twins were starting kindergarten and Lily was itching to go back to work full-time. In a matter of weeks, they built her a private apartment above the garage and gave her a car to ferry the kids to their activities. Now after five years, Serafina was family.
“Whose turn is it?” Georgie asked when Serafina had gone.
“Yours,” Lily said, noticing a flash of headlights in the driveway. “The word is negotiable. Your bath and bedtime is right now and it’s not negotiable.”
Both children groaned but lumbered to their feet and collected the papers they’d scattered.
“I’m going out to meet Mom with the umbrella. You guys run on upstairs and we’ll be there in a few.”
Georgie asked, “What about Andy? I can get another umbrella and go meet him.”
“Andy can get wet. It’s your bath time. Up you go.”
Andy burst through the door and raced past her on his way to the kitchen.
“Hi, Ma. How was your day?” Lily yelled sarcastically. “Serafina left two dinners in the oven. Don’t you dare eat both of them.”
Carrying a wide golf umbrella, she dodged puddles in the driveway to reach the garage, where Anna was folding her silk jacket inside out so it wouldn’t get spots from the rain. Behind her was a 230i, BMW’s entry level coupe. Anna usually borrowed this demo for Andy’s practice driving, but she’d taken him out a few times in her M4 so he could learn to drive a manual transmission.
Though Anna was soon to be fifty years old, she still made Lily’s heart race. She especially loved when Anna swept her long dark hair into a loose bun at her neck. Her business look, she called it, but Lily found it chic and sexy. Even standing in the rain. Her face was gently lined with laughter, showing off her high cheekbones and sterling blue eyes.
“You let Andy drive home in the rain? That’s brave.”
“He has to learn sometime, or so he says,” she said, bending down for a kiss. “Sorry I’m late. It’s been quite a day.”
“Good or bad?”
“Possibly excellent. I’ll give you the details when we get upstairs. But first, I’m starving.”
“Too bad. Serafina saved you some but Andy went straight to the kitchen. He’s probably eaten it all by now.”
“Are you saying I might have to cook something for myself?”
Hooking their elbows, Lily conjured the string of kitchen disasters Anna had wrought over the years. “I’d never let you do that, sweetheart.”
* * *
Next to the family hour after dinner, late evening was Anna’s favorite time of day. The house was quiet, homework was finished, the kids were in bed. These were her precious moments alone with Lily. Once their bedroom door clicked shut, they connected as best friends, as partners, as lovers.
They’d renovated the master suite a few years ago, giving up space in their bedroom for a larger bath and two walk-in closets. The window alcove, which years ago had held the twins’ cribs, was now a cozy TV nook with a small L-shaped sofa and ottoman, and colorful throw pillows. The rest of the bedroom held only a platform bed and a pair of nightstands.
Lily emerged from the bathroom, adorable as ever in her usual sleeping attire, flannel boxers and a worn tank top. “Sounds to me like you’ve made up your mind already.”
Anna had laid out the substance of their meeting with Pinnacle along with the pros and cons of accepting their offer. The more details she shared, the more convinced she was of its merits. “The whole reason I bought all these dealerships was to grow the company and increase its value. I’ve done that. But it’s only worth something if I’m willing to sell it.”
“It’s so wild to hear you talking like this,” Lily said as she drew back the comforter on their king-sized bed. “I can’t imagine Anna Kaklis not in the BMW business. You’re like a kid at Christmas every time a new model hits the market. What would you do with all that pent-up energy?”
Excited by her growing resolve, Anna wrapped her arms around Lily and they crashed together onto the bed. “How about I lavish it on you instead?”
They laughed as they wrestled, each trying to pin the other on her back. When Lily finally surrendered, Anna noticed raised eyebrows that flirted and dared. After fifteen years of lovemaking, she knew that look—Lily was up for it tonight.
“Where should I start?” Anna teased as she playfully began to walk her fingers across Lily’s collarbone, knowing how much the anticipation of being tickled somewhere would wind her up. Suddenly she buried her face into Lily’s neck and pretended to devour it. “Chomp, chomp, chomp.”
Lily squealed and wriggled, trying to protect her neck. “Not there, not there. Please, not there.” She gasped for breath and braced for the next assault.
“If not there, then…” Anna lifted the threadbare tank top and drew a spiral on her breast, each ring bringing her closer to the stiffening nipple. “I think I’ll start riiiight…”
“Good God, just bite it already!” Lily tugged Anna’s head down until her lips finally met the nipple. “I want teeth!”
Anna obliged, nipping and tugging as Lily squirmed with delight. It thrilled her to hear Lily plaintively voicing her desires, unabashed about her wants. As Anna’s excitement surged, she gave up their playful game and covered Lily’s mouth with a hungry kiss. Their bodies followed, with legs tangled and writhing.
“Tell me what you want,” Anna murmured. “Anything.”
Lily was swarming every part of Anna’s body her hands could reach. “Stay here with me. I want to look at you.”
As Anna kissed her again, her hand slid inside the waistband of Lily’s shorts and cupped her sex. She knew exactly what Lily liked when they lay face-to-face like this. Two fingers gently tracing… teasing… opening. Every stroke growing wetter. In and out, up and around. Lily’s hips rolling like waves in the ocean. Then the tremors started and her nails dug into Anna’s skin.
“That’s my girl,” she said, their eyes connecting as Lily climaxed. After barely a moment, Anna tested her readiness for another.
“I’m good, babe,” Lily panted, covering Anna’s hand to hold it still. “Just give me another couple of minutes to enjoy this.”
This too was a part of their familiar coded dance. If Anna wanted to be touched, she could signal that with a simple word or gesture. She had something different in mind for tonight. “It’s fine. You can lie there and relax. I feel like touching myself.”
“Oooh.” Lily shuddered so hard it shook the bed. “Keep talking like that and you’ll make me come again.”