The Planning

Part 5

“Fuck, man!” Anni threw her phone on the hotel bed, causing it to bounce off the other side. No one was answering their damn phones, and she still couldn’t get ahold of Jasmin. She grabbed her duffle from the closet, tossing clothes in it as she went, not bothering to fold them. Anni was leaving tonight, the tour be damned. She wasn’t even going to bother talking it over with the band. As far as she was concerned, she did enough by telling Cruz in passing that she was quitting.

 

She started planning in her head as she packed her shit up. Get a train, a taxi, pick up her car, beg Jasmin to go with her if she has to, explain what happened with Cruz while they were on their way to her parents, find out what’s going on with her dad, and then fix what she screwed up with Jasmin. Of course, all of that sounded simple in her head. I can do this. I have to, she brooded as she felt tears well up. I can’t lose Jasmin.

 

Anni was going to have to face her biggest fears, laying them all out for the woman she loves. It was worth it, right? Being on tour, having her freedom had taught her a lot. Mainly that success means nothing without someone to share it with. She wanted that someone to be Jasmin. The more time she spent alone, the more she realized how good Jasmin was for her. She was an amazing woman, and if Anni ever thought she could do better than Jasmin Flemming, she was dead wrong. She would fight any foe to keep Jasmin in her life, even her own demons.

 

Anni took a quick look around, deciding that whatever she left, she could live without. She retrieved her phone, hitched her duffle onto her shoulder, strapped her guitar around her, and walked out of the room, off tour, and into the unknown.

 

***

 

Kiara eased herself onto her couch, exhaling a long, somber breath. She set down her glass of wine just in time to be bombarded by a small black and white kitten. “Hey there, Figaro. Come to keep me company?” Kiara picked the little furball up, holding him in the palm of one hand. “Why do I do this to myself, hmm?”

 

“Mew?”

 

“Yeah, I don’t know, either.” She peered into the eyes of her cute, little companion. The kitten yawned widely, letting out a little squeaking sound.

“That about sums up my love life,” she chuckled wistfully. Figaro wriggled impatiently until he was let go, then scampered off to do whatever kittens do.

 

Kiara picked up her wine, sipping delicately. Thirty-eight years old, and still looking for ‘The One’, she thought bitterly. Everyone thought she would have no problems finding someone to be with. Problem was, Kiara was actually looking for love, not some insignificant fling. She had been told she was too choosy. However, no one really understood that being who she was, made it much harder to find a genuine woman. A woman like Jasmin.

 

“Damn it.” She swallowed another mouthful of wine, savoring the slightly acidic flavor on her tongue. Another night alone with a good book. It wasn’t so bad, really. At least she had Figaro . . . wherever he went. Kiara grabbed her book, and tucked her feet under her, ready to lose herself in some mindless lesbian romance.

 

A loud, urgent knock pierced the quietness of her apartment, startling Kiara. “Who the hell could be here at,” she checked her watch, “eleven at night?” Standing, she tightened the belt of her robe around her. Glancing out of the peephole, Kiara’s annoyance turned into surprise as she opened the door an extremely agitated Jasmin.

 

“Jasmin? What are you mmph!” Kiara’s words were forcibly cut off as Jasmin’s mouth crushed down on hers. White hot desire coursed through Kiara’s veins, burning even hotter when Jasmin’s hands frantically pulled at Kiara’s robe. It took every ounce of her willpower to still Jasmin’s hands, and push her away. “Woah, woah. What’s going on? What happened?”

 

“I don’t want to talk,” Jasmin panted, trying to reach for Kiara again, but stopped by the firm grip on her wrists.

 

Kiara somehow found enough brainpower to kick the door closed, while managing to keep Jasmin’s wandering hands immobile. She didn’t know if she would be able to deny her craving for Jasmin a second time.

 

She searched her mind for what could possibly bring the young woman here in this state. When she had left Jasmin, she had been contemplating calling her girlfriend. Obviously the phone call didn’t go well.

 

“Jasmin, tell me what happened.”

 

“I thought you wanted me, Kiara. I’m here, giving myself to you. Does it matter why?”

 

The question angered Kiara. Of course it mattered! At least it did to Kiara. Knowing it didn’t to Jasmin was a slap in the face. She spun Jasmin around pushing her against the wall, pinning her hands securely above her head. “You look me in the eye, Jasmin, and you tell me that you won’t regret this in the morning. If you can do that, I will take you into my bedroom and fuck you until you forget everyone else’s name but mine,” she promised, passion and ire making her voice low and dangerous.

 

Jasmin swallowed hard, lowering her eyes from the stormy jade ones fiercely staring her down.

 

“No!” Kiara transferred both of Jasmin’s hands into one of hers, using the other to lift Jasmin’s chin. “Look at me, and tell me you won’t regret this!” When Jasmin remained silent, Kiara let her go, pushing away from her. “That’s what I thought.”

 

Jasmin watched Kiara run a trembling hand through her hair. It shamed her that she had come here, toying with Kiara’s emotions just because she was pissed off at Anni. “I’m sorry.”

 

“Does it ever work for you?” Kiara asked quietly.

 

Jasmin’s brows furrowed in confusion. “Saying sorry?”

 

“Meaningless sex.”

 

Those two softly spoken words burned Jasmin to the core. “It wouldn’t have been meaningless,” she argued.

 

Kiara finally turned to face her. “Yes it would have. For you. I won’t allow you to do that to yourself.”

 

Jasmin was stunned. “What do you mean?”

 

Kiara shook her head. “Come sit down.”

 

Jasmin followed her into the spacious apartment. Unable to focus on her surroundings, she allowed herself to blindly be led to a large, comfortable couch. She felt Kiara nudge her, and she dutifully sat down. Every nerve was shot to hell, and Jasmin didn’t know whether to cry, yell, or beg Kiara to do exactly what she had promised earlier. She could say she wouldn’t regret it. But would that be true? She didn’t want to lie to Kiara. Not after everything she’s done for her.

 

“I’ll get us some water.” Kiara picked up her wine glass, and headed towards the kitchen.

 

“I could use one of those,” Jasmin called after her, gesturing towards the wine.

 

“Alcohol is not a good idea. For either of us.”

 

Jasmin watched as Kiara disappeared, wondering if she just fucked everything up with her. Not the contract, but the friendship. She knew Kiara was attracted to her, and if she were honest with herself, Jasmin felt the same way. But she was in love with Anni. Fuck Anni. She swiped angrily at the tear that escaped just as Kiara came back into the room.

 

“Here. Drink this and take these.” Kiara handed her a glass of water and two aspirin.

 

“How did you know I had a headache?”

 

Kiara shrugged. “I always get them when I’m upset. I figured if you didn’t have one yet, we could prevent it.”

 

Jasmin swallowed the aspirin, drinking down half of the glass of water. “Thank you.” She regarded the older woman silently. Kiara looked emotionally tired. That’s my fault. “What did you mean when you said you wouldn’t let me do that to myself?”

 

Kiara sighed deeply, taking a seat next to Jasmin, but far enough where she wouldn’t be tempted to touch her. “What happened with Anni?” she asked, effectively avoiding the question.

 

Jasmin laughed mirthlessly. “She’s screwing someone else.”

 

Kiara’s eyebrows raced towards her hairline. Surely Anni wasn’t that stupid. “She told you that?”

 

“She didn’t have to. The woman answered Anni’s phone. When I asked who she was she said, and I quote, ‘the woman that’s about to get laid’.”

 

Ouch. “So, you didn’t talk to Anni at all?”

 

“I’m sure she was busy,” Jasmin answered bitterly.

 

I can’t believe I’m about to defend a woman I don’t even know, and miss out on being with Jasmin. Kiara sighed again. “There could be a perfectly good explanation, Jasmin.”

 

“Are you serious?” Jasmin would never think Kiara would be that naïve.

 

“Yes. Look, you obviously know Anni better than I do. Does this seem like something she would do?”

 

“Fuck other women? Yes.”

 

“Let them answer her phone, especially when it might be you, and say something like that,” Kiara clarified.

 

Jasmin hesitated. “I don’t know anymore,” she confessed. “I would have said no before, but since I set her free . . . ”

 

Jasmin’s voice cracked, and tears pooled in her eyes. Kiara wanted nothing more than to take Jasmin in her arms, and hold her tight. “Meaningless sex is a punishment to you, not Anni.” It was an observation rather than a question. “You weren’t looking to get back at Anni, you were looking to hurt yourself because you blame yourself for what you think happened.” Kiara put emphasis on the word think, because she still couldn’t believe someone would be so stupid as to cheat on Jasmin.

 

Jasmin stared at her for a long moment. “It has to be me,” she whispered finally. “Everyone I’ve been in a relationship with has cheated on me.”

 

Kiara felt her anger begin to surface. Assholes. Every single one of them. “That’s not on you. It’s their fault.”

 

“I’m the common denominator, Kiara. I’m unlovable.”

 

“That’s bullshit!” Kiara uttered with vehemence.

 

Jasmin shook her head sadly. “I’m damaged. I’ve always known that. I don’t know why I thought . . . ”

 

“Stop.” Kiara took a gamble, and reached for Jasmin’s hand. “That’s why you use sex to punish yourself,” she ascertained. “It’s what you’re used to.”

 

Jasmin’s eyes widened almost comically. “How?”

 

“I used to be the same way,” Kiara answered matter-of-factly. “Whatever you went through, Jasmin, that doesn’t make you damaged goods. You’re a beautiful person, inside and out. Believe me, you’re the least unlovable person I know.”

 

“Tell that to Anni,” Jasmin muttered.

 

“Give her a chance to explain,” Kiara countered. “I have been cheated on many times myself. It fucks with your head enough that when you do find that one person who truly loves you, you can’t seem to trust fully. The accusations come, the communication goes, and you find yourself sitting home alone with a kitten who has better things to do, a glass of wine, and a good book.” She smiled wanly. “Did she try calling you back?”

 

“I turned off my phone. I’m not ready to talk to her, Kiara. I don’t think it’s a good idea knowing how I feel inside.”

 

Kiara nodded amiably. “Does she know you’ve been hurt before?”

 

Jasmin hadn’t told Kiara about her past. It unnerved her that the woman just seemed to have sensed there was something there. “Not all of it, no.”

 

“Maybe you should tell her,” Kiara suggested.

 

“I was going to. She’s just not the type that likes all the emotional talk. Which is odd considering she writes music that is pretty emotional.”

 

“Then perhaps she’s capable, but scared? Jasmin, you love Anni. The least you can do for yourself is talk to her face to face, without accusations, and see what happened. You’ll never have to think ‘what if’.”

 

“Maybe,” Jasmin conceded. “I’m too tired to think about that right now. I think all of my adrenaline has evaporated.”

 

“You can stay here if you like? No strings attached,” Kiara added quickly.

 

“I’m sorry about before.” Jasmin turned her hand that Kiara was still holding, palm up, linking her fingers with the long, graceful ones. “That was completely insensitive of me.”

 

Kiara gave her a wry shrug. “Can’t say I minded being kissed like that from you. Just do me a favor, don’t do it again unless you can go through with it without regrets.” She smiled, softening the harshness of her words.

 

Jasmin smiled too, wondering how Kiara made her want to smile even when she was feeling so much turmoil inside. “Deal.” Sleep now, turn on phone tomorrow, maybe take Anni’s phone call, and deal with stores stocking Tussi Attack. It was a terrifying list of things to do, and Jasmin found herself hoping she was up for the challenge. Especially with Anni.

 

***

 

Jasmin woke up in a bed that was not hers. Her head hurt, and she could feel the puffiness around her eyes. She was disoriented for a moment before it all came back to her. Rushing over here, throwing herself at Kiara, being rejected (which hurt), talking, crying, more talking, and more crying. Kiara had been amazingly sweet, and surprisingly familiar with the emotions Jasmin had felt most of her life. Kiara didn’t offer any insight into her past, and Jasmin didn’t ask. She was loath to bring up something that may be painful for her friend.

 

“Good morning.”

 

Though the words were spoken softly, Jasmin flinched. Realizing she wasn’t alone, she pulled the sheets to her chin. Her eyes landed on Kiara, who was sprawled on an over-sized chair near the only window in the room.

 

“Good morning.” Jasmin glanced around the room. Was this Kiara’s room? Did she give up her bed for me? “Did you sleep there all night?”

 

“Mmhmm.”

 

“Kiara, I could have slept on the couch. You didn’t . . . ”

 

“It’s okay,” she interrupted gently. “Did you sleep well?”

 

Jasmin blushed slightly. “Yes. Your bed is incredibly comfortable.”

 

Kiara grinned, looking beautiful even after spending the night taking care of an emotional Jasmin, and sleeping in a chair. It almost wasn’t fair. Jasmin self-consciously pushed a hand through her hair, which probably looked like a bird’s nest. And, I’m sure it goes perfectly well with my puffy, make-up stained face.

 

“You look beautiful,” Kiara said, seemingly reading Jasmin’s mind.

 

Jasmin scoffed at the tender sentiment. “I look terrible.”

 

Kiara shook her head, tossing the blanket off of her. Jasmin blushed again, taking in the short shorts and tight-fitting cami. In the weeks they have spent together, Jasmin had never seen her wearing anything less than long pants and loose fitting shirts. No wonder she was a model.

 

“You’ll feel better after a shower,” Kiara declared, oblivious of the scrutiny she was receiving. “My clothes may be a little long for you, but they should fit fine.” She picked up a pile of clothing from her dresser, and set it on the foot of the bed. “I think I got everything you need. There are towels in the bathroom, and I set out a spare toothbrush for you. If you need anything else, just yell for me.”

 

“Kiara,” Jasmin called out before the other woman walked out of the room. Kiara turned back, an eyebrow raised in question. “Thank you. For everything.”

 

***

 

“So, here is the list of stores that will be getting shipments of Tussi Attack today. I know it doesn’t look like much, but this is just the beginning.”

 

Kiara slid a printed piece of paper containing an alphabetized catalogue of boutiques. Five were highlighted in fluorescent yellow, others were labeled with expectant delivery dates, and the rest were stores they would be campaigning to win over. It was all very overwhelming, but Jasmin was determined to show only gratitude to the CEO, who was now all business. A far cry from the woman she saw after her shower. Jasmin had dressed in her borrowed clothes – which were a couple of inches too long - and padded out to find Kiara cooking them breakfast, dancing to music that pumped out of unseen speakers. The woman was full of surprises, and not for the first time, Jasmin found herself wondering why the former model wasn’t already taken.

 

“Doesn’t look like much? Kiara, this is amazing! I can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done to help me.” She got an uncharacteristically shy – and quite endearing - smile in return.

 

Though they had busied themselves with preparations as soon as they got to the shop, Jasmin couldn’t keep her mind off of Anni. She had turned her phone back on during breakfast, immediately besieged with countless missed calls, and voicemails from Anni. She hadn’t been able to listen to them out of that ‘useless’ fear. Instead she put her phone in the back room to charge, and tried to concentrate on the tasks before her. It wasn’t exactly working, but she was trying.

 

The intense conversation with Kiara the night before reminded Jasmin how much she genuinely missed the musician she loved deeply. She just wasn’t ready to talk to Anni.

 

“Jasmin?” Kiara waved a hand in front of Jasmin’s stoic face.

 

Finally, the young designer blinked, bringing the still slightly unfocused eyes to Kiara’s. “Hmm?”

 

“You were a million miles away. Where did you go?”

 

Jasmin’s attention finally clicked into place. “I’m so sorry! I just . . . I – ”

 

“Anni?” Kiara guessed.

 

Jasmin lowered her eyes apologetically. Here this woman was, helping her make her clothing line successful, sacrificing her time in order to make sure Jasmin was ready, and Jasmin was caught daydreaming. She willfully left out the part where Kiara was attracted to her – and vice versa. It just complicated things even more.

 

“Hey.” Jasmin felt the pressure of Kiara’s finger beneath her chin, and looked up. “You don’t ever have to be sorry for the way you feel. Especially about someone you obviously adore. Have you talked to her yet?”

 

Jasmin shook her head sadly. “That’s what I was thinking about. I just don’t know if I’m ready. I’m afraid if I hear her, or hear about this other woman, I’m going to go off.”

 

“Come here.” Kiara took Jasmin in a warm embrace. “Give yourself a couple of hours so you don’t say something you’ll later regret. Harsh, emotional words don’t help anyone.”

 

“Who the fuck are you, and why do you have your hands on my fiancée?”

 

Jasmin stiffened in Kiara’s arms. Elation and fury battled each other as Anni’s angry words hit her. First, Anni was there. For weeks she had hoped and prayed that every time the bell chimed, Anni would be the one to walk in. How fitting that she didn’t even hear the chime this time. And, that’s where the fury came in. How dare she barge in here, spouting off at the mouth when she was God knows where doing God knows what!

Kiara felt the tension in the air, and in an effort to diffuse the situation, she turned to face their new visitor.

 

“You must be Anni,” she stated mildly, hoping Anni would understand that the hug was strictly platonic. Mostly platonic, she thought wryly.

 

“Great. You know who I am. Now tell me who the fuck you are, and why you’re groping what’s not yours.”

 

“Anni!”

 

“Jasmin,” Kiara interrupted gently. “Do you think you could get those new designs you were working on? I think you left them in the back.”

 

Jasmin wanted to argue. Hell, at this point, she didn’t care who she was arguing with, she just wanted to yell at someone. Which is why she nodded tersely, turned on her heel, and got the hell out of there. Kiara had been right. She was too worked up, and would most likely say something she would regret later.

 

Anni made a move to follow Jasmin, stopping abruptly when the tall, beautiful woman stepped in front of her. It pissed her off. She didn’t care how hot the woman was, she was standing between Anni and the love of her life.

 

“Get out of my way,” she snarled.

 

Kiara stood her ground. “Why don’t you give her a few minutes.” She smiled at Anni’s glare. “Do you think you intimidate me?”

 

“Who the hell are you?”

 

“Kiara Adler.” Kiara politely held out her hand, chuckling lightly when Anni ignored her. “I’m helping Jasmin get her brand into stores.”

 

Oh, shit! What if I screwed this up for Jasmin? Wait, why the hell was she hugging this woman? “Do you always get so handsy? Or is that your payment for ‘helping’?” Kiara surprised her by laughing.

 

“I hug my friends when they’re having a hard time,” she allowed. “Jasmin and I have been working together for a few weeks now. I care for her.”

 

“You want to sleep with her, you mean.”

 

“Yes,” Kiara admitted honestly. “But I’m not the type of person that stands in the way of love.” She lost her smile, pinning Anni with a serious stare. “Get your head out of your ass, Anni. That woman in there loves you, but you’re going to lose her for good if you don’t change things.”

 

“What the hell do you know about any of this?” Anni’s anger faltered because she knew what the audacious woman was saying was true. It hurt that Jasmin was confiding in someone new, but could she really fault her for it?

 

“Enough to know that if you screw up again, I won’t back down another time,” she promised. Anni’s face fell, and Kiara couldn’t help but feel bad.

“Anni, listen to her. Talk to her. Whatever you’re scared of, I assure you, losing someone like Jasmin is worse. You know that, don’t you?”

 

Anni didn’t answer. Inside she was seething that this stranger had more insight into her girlfriend’s state of mind than Anni did. Of course, she had no one to blame but herself. Doesn’t mean she had to like this woman throwing herself into their lives.

 

“What are you doing here?”

 

Both women turned to find Jasmin standing close by. Her eyes were rimmed red, and Anni’s heart dropped. She hated hurting her lover. As much as she loathed admitting it, this Kiara chick was right. It was time to stop being selfish.

 

“I tried calling you.”

 

“I’m not ready to talk to you yet.” From the corner of her eye, Jasmin saw Kiara retreat, giving them space. Part of her was grateful for the privacy.

Another part of her wanted to feel the security she had started to feel when Kiara was around.

 

“Jasmin.”

 

“I’m sorry, Anni, but . . . ”

 

“My father is dying, Jasmin.” Anni felt the shock of that all over again. It was the first time she had said it out loud, and it was still hard for her to believe.

 

“What?”

 

“My mom called me in the middle of me trying to phone you back. She said it was a stroke.” Anni shuffled her feet a little, and started picking at a non-existent piece of fuzz on her shirt. She knew the fashion lady was still there, and it was making her really uncomfortable to feel this vulnerable in front of a stranger. “She wants me to come and make amends before it’s too late.”

 

Jasmin’s heart went out to Anni. She followed her first instinct, and went to Anni, wrapping her in her arms. “I’m so sorry.”

 

Anni sank into the embrace. This was home to her. This is what she was missing the past few weeks. “I need you to come with me,” she murmured into Jasmin’s hair. “I can’t do this alone.”

 

Jasmin froze. Of course she wanted to go and support Anni. But spending four hours in a closed space with someone she was upset with? ‘There could be a perfectly good explanation, Jasmin’. Kiara’s words filtered through her doubt. Kiara. Shit! They still had work to do to get Tussi Attack to the rest of the boutiques on their list. Jasmin couldn’t just take off. Anni needs me. What do I do about my obligations?

 

“I – I don’t know if . . . ” She pushed away from Anni a little, catching the anguish in her expression.

 

“I traveled all night to get here, Jasmin,” Anni said quickly. “Mom wanted me to go there right away, but I couldn’t. Please? Look, it’s a long drive. We can . . . talk. I’ll explain the misunderstanding. You can tell me what’s been going on here.” She looked pointedly at Kiara, who continued to look busy doing whatever she was doing. “Please?” she pleaded again.

 

“It’s not that I don’t want to go with you, Anni. But my Tussi Attack campaign has just started. I don’t think I can leave now.” Jasmin chanced a brief look in Kiara’s direction. After all of their hard work, how could Jasmin abandon her line and Kiara and take off?

 

“Go, Jasmin,” Kiara said tenderly. “I’ve got things covered here.”

 

“Kiara, that’s not your job.”

 

The former model gave her a droll smile. “I’ve done this long enough to know what my job is, Ms. Flemming. I also know that family trumps business. Every time. Go.” Kiara’s expression told Jasmin there was no use in arguing.

 

Jasmin nodded. She didn’t think she would have been able to concentrate anyway if she had stayed. Anni would have constantly been on her mind. “Thank you. I just need to get my things from the back.”

 

Both women watched her go with interest. One would fight to get her back. The other would sacrifice her own happiness in order to keep Jasmin happy.

 

“Thanks,” Anni muttered. Even though she really was grateful the other woman pushed Jasmin to go, she couldn’t get her warning out of her head.

 

“I didn’t do it for you,” Kiara assured her. “I did it for Jasmin. Use this opportunity wisely, Anni.”

 

Before Anni could respond, Jasmin hurried out. “I need clothes.”

 

“We’ll stop by the apartment and get the car, too.”

 

Jasmin agreed with a slight nod. “Thank you, again.” She called to Kiara on their way out. “I’ll call you.”

 

“Don’t worry about anything, Jasmin. Just concentrate on what you’re going for. Be careful.” She smirked before tossing out, “Nice to meet you,

Anni.”

 

***

 

“Nice clothes,” Anni remarked. “Are they new?”

 

Jasmin looked down at herself, totally forgetting that she had borrowed some of Kiara’s clothing. “Um, no.” She didn’t offer anymore, grateful that Anni didn’t press her. If it came down to it, Jasmin would tell Anni the truth. For now, she didn’t feel the timing was right.

 

The rest of the walk to the apartment was made in awkward silence, making both women sad. It had been such a long time since they’ve felt uncomfortable with each other. Jasmin wanted it to end, but couldn’t bring herself to say any words. Anni was too afraid to find out if Jasmin had moved on while Anni was gone.

 

“Do you need help? I wanted to go to the store, and get a few things for the road.”

 

Jasmin eyed Anni warily. “No. I’ll just pack a bag really quick. I’ll meet you at the car.” She paused, clearing her throat. “Do you need me to get you anything from the room?”

 

Anni perked up slightly. At least Jasmin hadn’t moved her out of their room while she was gone. “Maybe some clean underwear?” She shrugged sheepishly. “Laundry day was supposed to be tomorrow. And, maybe some shirts?”

 

Jasmin’s lips twitched. “Okay.”

 

***

 

Jasmin stuffed the last of her and Anni’s clothes in a bag, grunting a little as she fought to close the zipper. She had no idea how long she would be gone, but she was determined to stay for as long as Anni needed her. Estranged or not, she loved Anni, and did not want her to have to go through this alone.

 

A glint caught Jasmin’s eye from the dresser. She hoisted the bag, and trudged over to the sparkle. Her ring sat there innocuously. One of the first things she noticed when she first saw Anni was she was still wearing her ring. The thought of that made Jasmin’s heart light with hope. With a small smile, she picked up her ring and slipped it in her pocket.

 

Anni was leaning against the car by the time Jasmin made it back down. She hastily pushed away from the car, taking the overstuffed bag from Jasmin’s hands.

 

“Thanks.” Jasmin rolled her shoulders. Four hours. Hopefully it won’t be this awkward the entire way.

 

“I really appreciate you coming with me. I got us some licorice and drinks.” Anni threw the bag in the hatch, the rushed over to open Jasmin’s door for her.

 

Jasmin paused before getting in, looking Anni in the eye. “I want to be there for you,” she said softly, then slid inside the car.

 

Anni closed the door, and took a deep breath. Four hours. Hopefully I don’t screw this up. Shit, hopefully I haven’t already screwed this up.

 

***

They had been on the road for at least thirty minutes, and neither one had enough courage to start a conversation. Every once in a while Anni would fiddle with the radio, only to have her hand slapped away, and be told to keep her eyes on the road. Strangely enough, it made Anni feel a little better to know Jasmin was still doing things with her she normally did.

 

Jasmin waited for Anni to start talking. She had made that first step by calling her the night before – Jesus, was it really just last night? Now it was Anni’s turn. However, as time passed, she began to wonder if Anni was hesitating because something really did happen with whomever it was that answered her phone.

 

Anni waited for Jasmin to begin asking her questions. She knew she had to explain what happened last night, but she was more interested in what was happening with the fashion lady that had been holding her woman earlier. As time went on, Anni became increasingly agitated not knowing exactly how this Kiara Adler fit in Jasmin’s life.

 

“Did you sleep with her?” they both asked at the exact same time.

 

They glanced at each other not knowing whether to giggle, weep, or be infuriated.

 

“You first,” Jasmin insisted. “Who answered your phone, and did you sleep with her?”

 

“Her name is Cruz, well that’s her nickname,” she began to explain. “And, no, I didn’t sleep with her.”

 

“Why did she have your phone?” Though she was trying to give Anni the benefit of the doubt, her reluctance to believe her was filling the car with even more strain.

 

Anni sighed hearing the accusation in the words. “She found me sitting around, looking at my phone. She took it from me, and started making fun of me.” She risked a glance at Jasmin who was frowning. “I was looking at pictures of you,” she told her self-consciously.

 

The confession charmed Jasmin, but it didn’t explain why this Cruz person answered Anni’s phone, or said what she said. “I need more, Anni.”

 

Anni took a deep breath, letting it out slowly between pursed lips. “I’ve been pretty pathetic on this tour,” she disclosed. God, this is hard. “When the band would go out to party, most of the time I wouldn’t go. I kind of separated myself from the group. Cruz is one of the only other women in the crew, and she sort of made it her mission to figure out what was wrong with me.”

 

Jasmin wanted to ask if Cruz wanted more than that, but Anni was finally talking.

 

“Before you called, after she saw your pics, she thought I should go out with her, and . . . forget about you,” she finished in a low voice.

 

“By having sex with her?” Jasmin finally asked.

 

“No. Well, not at first. She’s all about finding someone new each night, or each city. She thought I should find some stranger to ‘help’ me.”

 

“Charming,” Jasmin muttered.

 

Anni shrugged. “She doesn’t think relationships work in that line of work. Thing is, she was saying all this shit, and all I could think was how pathetic it all sounded. If I’m going to be successful in life, no matter what I’m doing, I would want that one person that really got me to be there for me. I would want to be able to come home to someone that loves me for me, and forever. Not someone who will love on me for the night because I’m ‘with the band’. That one person is you, Jasmin.”

 

It was the most open Anni had ever been with Jasmin. Besides the songs Anni had written for her, Anni was usually very sparse with her words. The last time she had said something so romantic and loving had been when she had asked Jasmin to marry her. Touched, Jasmin wiped a tear from her eye. She wanted to trust that Anni wasn’t with anyone else those weeks she was away. Could she? And, after what happened with Kiara, could Jasmin really condemn her if she had?

 

“You just happened to call right when I was thinking how much of an idiot I had been,” she continued, interrupting Jasmin’s thoughts. “I forgot she had my phone. Apparently she did, too. She answered it thinking it was hers. She was going out whether I went or not, and that’s why she said what she said. But it wasn’t going to be with me.”

 

Jasmin took in everything Anni had said. ‘There could be a perfectly good explanation’. I guess Kiara was right. However . . . “Has there been anyone else, Anni?”

 

“No,” Anni answered immediately. “I won’t lie and say there hasn’t been temptation. But when it all came down to it, no one was you.” Anni brought up her hand still adorned with the ring Jasmin gave her. “I never took it off, Jasmin.”

 

“Why didn’t you call me?”

 

Anni thought about that for a moment. “Pride,” she answered finally. “And, fear. I thought you would call me when you weren't upset with me anymore. When you didn’t, I was afraid I had blown it, and I didn’t want to hear the reality of that.”

 

Anni’s candor shocked Jasmin. It certainly left little room for doubt. She believed in her heart that what Anni had just told her was the truth.

 

“Your turn,” Anni said, a hard edge creeping into her tone. “Did you sleep with that woman at your shop?”

 

She would be candid with Anni. She deserved nothing less. “No.”

 

“But?”

 

“I was close,” she said quietly.

 

Anni gripped the steering wheel so tight, her knuckles turned white. She pressed her lips together to avoid saying anything she wouldn’t be able to take back. And, to keep the bile down that was threatening to come up.

 

Jasmin felt the tension coming off of Anni in waves. “It was last night when I thought you were . . . ”

 

“So you thought you’d get back at me by sleeping with her?” Anni spat.

 

“Not you.”

 

Jasmin responded with such sadness that Anni felt chills cover her body. We have so much to talk about, she thought sorrowfully, and hoped like hell she wasn’t too late. She didn’t think she could survive losing Jasmin’s heart to another woman.

 

To be continued...

Read from the beginning by starting with Committed

The Planning (Interrupted) is a small, sad interlude.

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