Disclaimer: Welcome to another original story by this lunatic. This is the sequel to Scarred for Life. The story and the characters are mine. Do not use them without my permission. Also, any and all characters, events, and situations found in these stories are fictional. If there are any similarities between these things and real people, events, and situations, it is purely a coincidence.

I'm sure you know there will be a sexual relationship between two women, but if you don't know this is me warning you. There will be a sexual relationship between two women in this story.

Many thanks to my betas, RevSrVixena and Ken-zero.

New Cuts, Old Wounds

1: Rebirth

The spring was back, bringing warmth and promise along with it. For the first time in a long time, Dane Wolfe—or Danny as she was called more often than not now—found that she could feel that vibe. For the first time, she could understand why people enjoyed the spring. It was simply delightful. The renewed energy, as if new breath was breathed into everything. There was a sparkle and shine to the whole world as if everything was touched by a fond, loving hand. Love surged through everything and floated from all things. She could even feel that sparkle flow through her and there was no question to her why that was.

She could hardly believe that it had been a year since she first met Nicole Cardell. Her life had changed so much since then and she would not change anything about it. No, she would not even change her ill-fated decision to leave Nicole a few months ago, despite all of the pain it caused. That decision taught her and Nicole just how much they meant to each other. It made them stronger, individually and as a couple. And, now, spring brought them more enthusiasm and energy.

Today they had decided that they would use that vigor and take a step forward as a couple: Nicole was going to introduce Danny to her mother's side of her family. Dane was nervous, mostly because Nicole's mother, Kate, still detested her. She imagined that the rest of Kate's family would be the same. After all, they had raised Kate, so she had to get her personality from somewhere.

"Come on, Danny, you can't keep pretending that you forgot something. We need to go now," Nicole ordered, standing by the front door, but looking into the room off to the right. I just got her out of the living room, searching for nothing and now I have to deal with this. She shook her head and sighed. And I thought the fact that I got her downstairs in decent clothes would be the most difficult thing today. Shows how much I know.

Danny had fled into the den after Nicole had managed to get her out of the living, claiming that she forgot something. That was the same excuse she used when she sneaked into the living room. Nicole could not imagine what might be in the den that her girlfriend needed. Impatient green eyes glanced down at her watch and a foot covered in a stylish golden-rod pump tapped against the floor.

"I really forgot something this time!" Dane insisted.

"Oh, yeah? What did you forget?" Nicole asked skeptically.

Just as the question left her mouth, Danny hobbled out of the room holding her guitar across her back. Nicole arched a perfectly curved auburn eyebrow, not sure why her lover was taking her guitar with her. The only time that Danny left the house with the guitar was to go teach her music lessons.

"Danny...?" Nicole's face said much more than anything else.

"Trust me, it's a good ice breaker. If all else fails, I play a few chords on my guitar and I'm pretty sure your family won't hate me so completely and totally like Kathleen does," Dane answered with a confident smile.

Nicole's agitated expression softened and she reached out a gentle hand to put on Danny's shoulder. "You won't need to do that, Danny. You're the kindest and sweetest woman on the planet. My family will see that," she tried to assure the younger woman, caressing Dane's arm a little to help put her at ease.

Dane glanced down at Nicole with just about the most dubious look her grey eyes could muster. "Have you been missing these last few months? Your mother hates my guts and this is her family. I would like someone with your similar genetic makeup to like me," she replied. Never in her life had others opinions mattered so much to her until she started dating Nicole. It was a little daunting, but she was going to try her best because she was certain it would help their relationship.

"Daddy likes you," Nicole reminded her.

"No, he tolerates me. There's a difference and you know it. Chem, just let me bring the guitar. It'll make me feel better," Dane replied, somewhat pleading. She figured her pet name for Nicole would help put her over the top.

Nicole sighed, but conceded with a slight nod. Dane grinned and took that as a great excuse to embrace her lover. Giggling, Nicole returned the embrace before stepping up a little to give Danny a tender kiss on the lips. Dane took that as an invitation to fondle Nicole, who was wearing a flowing, deep yellow sundress, so it made it easier for Dane to touch her bare skin. Nicole was not surprised when she felt knowing fingers snake underneath the dress and she had to suppress a shiver. She pulled away and shook a scolding finger at Danny.

"We don't have time for this, baby. We need to get moving right now," Nicole stated in a stern tone.

"But, you look so hot!" Danny complained, reaching out and brushing her lover's deep red hair from her shoulder. She loved seeing Nicole in dresses. The cloth always seemed to hug every inch of her luscious form in a way that made Danny close to envious of the fabric. Sleek, toned legs that went on for days made her almost drool whenever she thought about them and whenever she saw them all she wanted to do was touch. Plus, Nicole always wore dresses that seemed to be made just to tease Dane's senses—at least Dane's mind anyway.

"Yes, but I'll look just as hot when we get back home. Right now, we need to leave because my grandmother will not be happy if we're late for Easter dinner," Nicole said, knowing that would get her lover moving because Danny was not trying to displease any of the family even before they met her.

Danny practically flew out of the door, which was quite a feat considering the fact that her right leg was lame and she had a limp. Nicole had to double check to make sure her lover had not gone through it. By the time Nicole was sure the front door was all right, Danny was in the car and had the nerve to honk the horn for her. Nicole chuckled as she locked the door and went to the car, sliding into the driver's seat.

"You know, if you only sat on this side, you'd be halfway there by now," the auburn-haired woman teased as she hit the button to start the engine.

Dane stuck her tongue out at her girlfriend. A year ago, such behavior would have been beyond unheard of for her, but Nicole brought it out of her. She did not mind it one bit. It felt freeing. Being with Nicole made her feel so right and at peace with herself. She never wanted to let that feeling go.

"You have been cleared to drive if I recall," Nicole said as she pulled out of the driveway.

"But, I so much enjoy having a chauffeur," Dane remarked with a smile.

Nicole snorted. "Stop smiling at me like that. It makes it so damn hard to mad at you for being a smart ass."

The grin that Dane sported made it even harder to be upset with her. She did not give Nicole much time to be even pretend-angry with her. After turning on some classic jazz, Dane leaned over and took Nicole's right hand into both of hers. She gently caressed Nicole's hand with her own and smiled fondly at the redhead.

"I really want your family to like me," Danny confessed as she held on tightly to her lover's hand. She knew how much family meant to Nicole and was certain that if she could make a good impression on half of Nicole's family, then it would help their relationship somehow. She wanted to minimize any problems that she could cause between Nicole and her family. It was bad enough that she was a source of trouble between Nicole and Kathleen. It bothered Danny because she knew how close the mother and daughter were. She hated the thought being a reason for them to drift apart and she did not want to do that with Nicole and anyone else in her family.

"Danny, I promise, they will like you. My mother's family is not that scary," Nicole assured her.

"How can they not be? They raised your mother!" Dane pointed out with a laugh.

Nicole chuckled too, even though she felt somewhat bad for doing it. Her mother had been extra-hard on Danny since the day they met. Nothing that Dane did was good enough for Kate's little girl—as far as Kate was concerned anyway. Of course, Nicole begged to differ, not that it ever changed her mother's mind. Her mother was just set on making Danny's life difficult and needed little prompting to do so.

"Danny, you know I would never knowingly subject you to anything bad," Nicole said, glancing over at her girlfriend to make sure that Danny believed her.

"What? Every freaking Saturday you do that!" Dane countered, teasing a bit, even though she honestly felt like her Saturday mornings were a form of torture.

Clicking her tongue, the redhead shook her head. "Baby, physical therapy does not count."

Grey eyes narrowed, showing that Dane believed it very much did count. She had been in physical therapy for four months now, working on her injured hand, knee, and leg. It was working wonders for her hand, which meant a lot to Danny since she was musician. Her leg was not coming along as quickly, but Nicole told her to be patient and it would work out, but Danny hated going and swore up and down that her therapist was a sadist. Having sat in on several sessions, Nicole knew that her lover was very much exaggerating.

"Baby, being serious, you do know I would never knowingly subject you to something bad or put you in a bad situation, right?" Nicole asked, worry coloring her emerald eyes.

Dane smiled a little and kissed her lover's knuckles. "Of course I know that, Chem. I'm just nervous and that's why I'm being so difficult. I'm sorry for acting like this."

"I understand why you are, but I promise you, my family is not that bad. In fact, they're pretty normal."

Little did Nicole know, but hearing that they were "pretty normal" did not help Danny in feeling better. For Dane, normal meant against same-sex relationships, like Kate. Normal also meant disliking the fact that Dane was pretty much unemployed, lacked a college education, and still dressed like a teenage bum more often than not. Well, at least they would not see her "bum-gear," as she now thought of her casual wear.

Danny had dressed in her Sunday best, as she jokingly referred to it. Nicole had to help her pick it out, but she was dressed in black slacks, dark blue sweater vest, and a sky blue shirt underneath. She felt a bit preppy, but Nicole liked the outfit and how she looked in it. Nicole liking something was just about the easiest way to get Dane to do something, except go to physical therapy. Added to that, Danny was not completely uncomfortable in the clothing, having dressed in such a way a few times when going out with her lover.

Dane tried to take her mind off of things by staring out of the window. A smile worked its way on her face as she saw the greens of the season arriving, reminding her again that she had known Nicole for a year. Emerald eyes took note of the smile.

"What're you smiling at, Big Dog?" Nicole inquired curiously, playfully taunting Danny with one of her nicknames.

"Just thinking about how it's been a hell of a year," Dane answered.

Nicole nodded in agreement. "It certainly has. I mean, this time last year I was just realizing what a bastard Tyler was and then you drifted into my life. Danny…" It took her a moment to get herself together and she squeezed the hand that was still holding onto hers. "Danny, I want you to know that living with you has been one of the best times of my life. You have improved my life in so many ways. I'm happy you're here."

Grey eyes seemed to brighten thanks to that news. "Me too, angel. Being with you is the best time of my life."

Nicole smiled, loving it when her sweetheart got so mushy. It touched her because she knew that Danny was sincere and that was not something that she was used to from a lover. Her honesty and openness were two of the many things that made Danny special to Nicole. She hoped that Danny remained that way.

The ride was not too long, a little over thirty minutes. Danny was shocked when they pulled into a middle class neighborhood, not too different from their own neighborhood. Danny thought that Kate's parents would live in a gated community like Kate and Raymond did and thought that the house would be massive, but quickly found out that was not the case.

Nicole pointed out the house as she parked across the street from it. Dane stared at it from across the way and she could hardly believe her eyes. The music teacher had to resist the urge to say, "this is it?" She could not believe that Nicole's grandparents lived in a modest sized, middle-class house. There were even toys on the front lawn.

"Chem, are you sure this is the place?" Dane asked, a raven-colored eyebrow arched high in disbelief as she exited the car.

The redhead giggled as she got out. "I think I know how to get to my grandparents' house, baby. Just like most people, my grandparents are regular people and they have a regular house in a regular neighborhood. Just because my mom is rich doesn't mean her parents are."

Dane nodded as if she understood, but she really did not. "Sorry, Chem, but you know where I'm from riches are inherited, so I just assumed…"

Nicole shook her head, her auburn locks swaying a little. Instead of correcting her lover, she wrapped her arm around Dane's and led the confused musician into the front yard. Dane looked around, as if she was suspecting everything to change at any moment. Her expectations were not met as they made it to the front door and everything was still as ordinary as they were before.

"Hello?" Nicole called into the house as she opened the door. Dane was not surprised that the door was not locked, often seeing that people did not lock their doors when they expected a lot of company. It was something that she never noticed until she started going places with Nicole.

"Nikki!" a couple of childish voices called.

Dane was surprised when two little kids charged into the small foyer, hugging Nicole around the waist. Dane correctly guessed that these were Nicole's cousins. Nicole had explained to Dane that on her mother's side she was the oldest of her cousins by a decade. This was because her mother was the oldest of three girls, also by a decade.

Nicole hugged the children back before directing their attention to Dane. "Guys, I would like you to meet my friend, Danny. Danny, these are my cousins I told you about, Sabrina and Eddie," she introduced them.

"Pleased to meet you," Dane said, extending her hand to both children. Thanks to some prep time Dane knew that Sabrina was eight and had dreams of being a dancer. She had the biggest brown eyes, just like Nicole swore. Dane could not believe it, but she thought the little girl was cute as a button and she looked downright adorable in her powder blue dress.

"I'm gonna be ten," Eddie informed Dane, shaking her hand with more force than necessary. She expected that because Nicole told her that Eddie wanted to be like his older cousin, Philip, who was an athlete with a very strong hand shake, among other things.

"That's amazing," Dane said, as if she was really impressed. She was more impressed with his deep dimples and ruffled dark brown hair. He looked very much like a cherub and he was way too cute in his little black suit, which was complete with a vest and dark red tie.

"You're really tall," Sabrina commented with awe in her voice, staring up at Dane.

The musician shrugged and smiled a bit, not too sure what else to do. She ran her hair through her unruly ebony hair and glanced off to the side. Nicole smiled because her lover seemed shy. She could not help wrapping her arms around Dane's arm.

"Excuse me, guys. I want to introduce Danny to Grandma and Papa," Nicole explained to her young cousins.

"Okay," the pair agreed and charged off.

"Just to warn you, they're going to bug you later. I'm surprised they didn't have their little sidekick with them. Wayne is adorable, but he's probably sleeping. He takes a million naps during the day. It drives my aunt Katrina insane," Nicole informed her lover.

Dane nodded for lack of a better thing to do. Mentally, she was matching the names with things that Nicole already told her. Wayne was the youngest of the cousins, coming in at four years old. Nicole suspected that he was a vampire from the way her aunt spoke about his sleeping habits; Dane had laughed long and hard when Nicole told her that because she just pictured a tiny four-year-old with fangs.

Katrina was Nicole's youngest aunt and Kate's baby sister. Dane was not too stunned to find out that Nicole and her aunt were very close in age. Katrina was in her early thirties and the three younger children were hers. She recollected that Nicole said Katrina was in advertising, but she doubted that would come up in a conversation, so she tried to think of some other relevant information. Dane recalled that Katrina was married, but she could not remember the husband's name. Shaking it off, she figured it was not a big deal since she was about to meet him anyway.

It did not even register to Dane's mind that Nicole was leading her deeper into the house. It was a straight run from the front door to where they needed to go. Sounds of conversation floated through the house, but it seemed like garbled noise to Dane. Things only got worse when they got to the kitchen and she spotted an elderly woman sitting at a table in the middle of the room. She knew that was Nicole's grandmother and—worse still—she appeared to be speaking to one of Nicole's aunts.

Dane anxiously tugged at the guitar strapped across her back while her eyes seemed to scan the room as if she was seeking an escape route. Nicole took hold of her arm and continued to lead her. Before Dane could process the level of fear that she was feeling, she standing in front of the two women.

"Hi, Grandma. Hi, Auntie," Nicole said, leaning down to give her grandmother a hug and a kiss on the cheek. She then did the same with her aunt.

"Hey, sweet-pea, glad you could make it," her grandmother said with a smile. Dane had expected an accent for some reason, even though Nicole explained that her grandparents both lacked accents. In fact, her grandparents did not even speak Spanish, despite their Puerto-Rican ancestry. Nicole joked that her grandparents ancestors were probably rolling over in their graves because her grandparents were Puerto-Rican by blood and that was about it.

"You know I wouldn't miss it for the world. Last year was a fluke, I assure you," Nicole replied. Last year was more like turmoil and she just could not bring herself to show up last year with Tyler on her arm. She knew that he would have ruined the gathering and the holiday for everyone.

Her grandmother smiled more and patted Nicole's arm. "I know you were under a lot of stress. Now, who is this young lady with you?" the elderly woman inquired, eyeing Dane.

The guitarist resisted the urge to gulp when twin sets of brown eyes turned to her. She wanted to study her feet or find an interesting tile, but she knew that would not help her. She needed to appear strong and confident, even though she was so nervous that she would not be surprised if her teeth started chattering. Her hand was trembling, aching to go through her hair, but she managed to keep it at her side and ready for when she had to shake hands.

"Grandma, Aunt Kimber, I would like you to meet my girlfriend, Danny Wolfe," Nicole introduced them with a proud smile on her face. "Danny, this is my grandmother, Alicia Torrez and my aunt Kimber Johnson."

"Pleased to meet you. Nick has told me so much about you both," Dane said, shaking both women's hands. She hoped it did not sound like she rehearsed those lines, even though she had done just that. Mentally, she patted herself on the back for not stammering or messing it up, though.

"Nice to meet you too, Danny. We've heard a little about you too," Kimber commented, an amused smirk on her face.

And that made Danny gulp. She had a deep inkling that they heard about her more from Kate than from Nicole. Looking at them, she could almost see Kate looking back at her, looking down on her. In fact, Dane could see the strong resemblance between Kate, her sister, and her mother. The brown eyes, the similar facial structures, and full lips matched up almost perfectly between the three women. Kimber's hair was longer and appeared more of a dark brown than a black like Kate's hair. Alicia might have had black hair, but it was all white now.

Danny hoped that the resemblance was only skin deep. Despite the fact that Nicole had tried to assure her everything would be fine, seeing that everyone looked like Kate just made her feel a sense of dread. Not only did they all look alike, but their names were similar, so in her nervous mind that meant they probably all thought alike. Great, now one side of her whole family is going to hate my guts.

"Good things I hope," Dane muttered, sincere in that.

"Some," Alicia replied, glancing at her granddaughter. "Make sure you introduce her to Papa quickly, okay, Nikki?" she instructed Nicole, patting her on the arm again.

"I was going to. I just wanted her to meet you first," Nicole answered.

"Okay, but you know that old man will complain if he thinks you've forgotten him," Alicia commented with an amused smile. She then turned her attention back to Danny, who was looking down and off to the side because she was not sure what else to do. The older woman laughed a little. "You've certainly picked yourself a pretty one, sweet-pea," she remarked, making her granddaughter blush.

"Grandma!" Nicole pretended to huff, glaring at the elderly woman.

Dane was a bit surprised by that. She did not expect Alicia to be so comfortable with Nicole being in a same-sex relationship. Alicia seemed totally fine with everything; she had not even blinked when Nicole said the word "girlfriend." She considered that Kate might have gotten her attitude about same-sex couples from her father then and she was about to find out.

"Come on, you. You don't want to hang around these two old ladies anyway," Nicole said to her lover, taking Dane by the hand and leading her out of the kitchen. They turned around, back in the direction that they came. Going into the living room, where an elderly man was sitting in an armchair and there were three other guys on the couch. They were focused on the television.

Nicole glanced over to see what they were watching. She was not surprised to see an old football game on TV. Her grandfather was a football fanatic and was grateful that two out of his three sons-in-law were the same. Raymond watched football, but not to the same degree as the others.

"Papa, could you pause that for a second?" Nicole requested in a sweet tone.

"What?" the elderly man said and then he turned to see Nicole standing before him. A grin spread across his face. "Nikki! I'm so happy to see you!"

Nicole's grandfather slowly climbed to his feet and wrapped Nicole into a tight embrace. Dane took a moment to examine the old guy. She doubted that he was ever tall, but since he was in his seventies now, he was probably a bit smaller than he was in his heyday. Like his wife, he had a head of white hair, but his was much shorter than hers. His tan skin was darker than his wife's too. His dark brown eyes glanced her way, but Dane did not feel as nervous as she did before.

"Who's this with you, Nikki girl?" her grandfather inquired.

"Papa, I'd like you to meet my girlfriend, Danny Wolfe," Nicole replied. "Danny, this is my grandfather Benito Torrez."

"Nice to meet you, sir," Dane said, holding out of her hand to shake his. He had a strong grip and hurt her hand a little when he shook it. She suspected that was done on purpose if the glint in his eyes meant anything. Okay, so maybe Kathleen does get her attitude from him…or he could've just been warning me that he could break my head if I piss him off.

"And these guys are my uncles," Nicole said, motioning to her aunts husbands. "This is Jarred. He's Kimber's husband," she motioned to a muscular, well-dressed, middle-aged black man. He leaned over and shook Dane's hand. Nicole then motioned to the man next to Jarred. "This is Eduardo. He's Katrina's husband," she said. The Hispanic male with very messy, short black hair and wearing a midnight blue suit leaned over next to shake Dane's hand. Nicole then turned her attention to the last one. "And this is my cousin, Philip. He's Jarred and Kimber's son," she said, motioning to the teenager.

"Nice to meet you," Dane informed all three men, shaking Philip's hand. He was just as well dressed as the other men, wearing a fine tan suit. Dane guessed that the family took Easter dinner seriously.

"Philip's got an older sister, Jodie, somewhere around here," Nicole added, glancing around in case she spotted the other teenager.

"Probably in the back, trying to get Papa's ancient computer running again," Philip commented, nodding in the direction of their grandfather's office.

Nicole chuckled a bit and pulled Danny away to introduce her to Jodie. The teenage girl did not seem too interested in meeting Nicole's lover and she hardly turned her attention away from the old computer that she was inspecting. Dane did not take it personally as Nicole warned her that Jodie tended to be a bit antisocial, especially compared to the rest of their family.

With all of the introductions made, Nicole left Danny to fend for herself. Dane did not mind, thinking that she might be able ease her way into things and carefully feel the family out without making a complete jackass out of herself. Besides, she would rather Nicole enjoy her family instead of trying to babysit her. She made her way back to the living room, figuring watching television with the guys would be easier than socializing with the women. Football was not really her cup of tea, but she assumed it would be better than gossiping in the kitchen, where they probably wanted to talk about her anyway. Besides, when Kate finally arrived, Dane was sure that the last place the powerful lawyer would be was watching a football game from twenty years ago.

Dane did not socialize with the guys, mostly because she did not know enough about football to chime in the conversation they already had going on. Her saving grace came in the form of Sabrina and Eddie. They trotted over to her, wanting to know what was in the pack that she was carrying. Dane was all too happy to show them her guitar. Once they saw it, of course they wanted to know if she could play it.

"I play a little," Danny answered modestly.

"Play it, play it!" Eddie commanded her with an eager grin.

Danny ran her hand through her hair, not sure if she should. It could be seen as a disruption to game time. Glancing over at the adult men in the room, she could tell that they were a little curious about her playing too. She played a short melody, earning looks of awe from her small audience. After the short concert, Eddie and Sabrina decided that Danny was "cool" and she was going to hang out with them for the day. They took her by the wrist and pulled her off with them. No one stopped them and Danny did not resist.

Nicole laughed some when she noticed that Danny was the "hostage" of her two younger cousins. She did not move to help Danny, especially since the musician did not seem bothered by them. The children dragged Dane out into the backyard, wanting her to see their puppy. They had a small golden retriever puppy, who was overly friendly, but Danny did not mind all of the puppy kisses that she was given.

Laughter from the backyard filtered into the house, so every now and then an adult had to go look outside. What they usually saw were the kids and the dog chasing Danny, who did not seem to be trying hard to get away. Nicole smiled from the sight whenever she glanced in the backyard.

When Kate and Raymond arrived, the couple was scolded by Alicia for being late. They cried work as their defense, but she would hear none of that. When the matriarch was done reprimanding the late couple, the kids were called in, so that they could all do a family tradition. Everyone was expected to paint Easter eggs. They gathered in the kitchen and Dane tried to move close to Nicole, but Eddie and Sabrina were not ready to let go of their new friend.

"Come down here with us!" Eddie ordered while Sabrina yanked Danny down to the end of the table next to their mother.

"Guys, don't pull on Danny like that," Katrina gently scolded her children. There was a warning look in her warm, chocolate eyes. She, like her other sisters, was a short brunette. They all seemed like clones of Alicia.

Dane shot the mother a grateful smile, even though she did not mind the overzealous children. She just wanted to show that she appreciated the effort from Katrina, whom she noticed had been watching her closely all day. She knew it was because she was hanging out with Katrina's children, so she understood. She was thankful that the concerned mother had not said anything to her, silently giving her a chance.

"Okay, guys, I need you to take it easy on me. I've never made Easter eggs before," Dane informed her two, young companions. That news not only shocked the children, but the adults too. Nicole was the only one that was not surprised that her lover had never made Easter eggs. She doubted that Danny had much of a childhood at all.

"You never made 'em before?" Sabrina asked as if she thought that was totally and utterly impossible. Her large, sienna eyes were mixed with disbelief and sorrow.

"No, I never did," Danny answered.

"You ever been on an Easter egg hunt?" Eddie asked.

"I've seen 'em before," Danny replied. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Nicole looking at her. She knew that she was going to have to explain that one later. A hand went through her short sable locks and then she turned her attention back to the children.

"We'll show you how, Danny!" Sabrina promised.

That declaration got a large grin from the musician. "Thank you."

Making Easter eggs proved to be quite an enjoyable experience. Nicole had to help Danny a little because Eddie and Sabrina were not the best of teachers; not to mention they were having trouble with their own eggs. After everyone was done, they went around and showed what they had done to the eggs. Dane was a little surprised that even Kate and Raymond participated and enjoyed the activity. They were even proud to display their creations.

"My Honest Abe egg," Raymond remarked with a laugh, showing his egg that looked like Abraham Lincoln…if you squinted…and had an eye infection…and did not know what the sixteenth president looked like. He would readily admit that after many years of participating in the family egg painting tradition, he never got any better, but it was fine.

"I think Danny's egg looks more like Honest Abe than yours," Jarred remarked, nodding toward Dane's creation. All attention turned to her.

"Dad, are you blind? That's not Lincoln," Philip commented, motioning to the egg in Danny's hands.

"Then who is it?" Kimber inquired, siding with her husband.

"A blind man could tell that's only one of the rock gods—Slash," Philip declared.

Dane shot the young man an impressed look. "It is Slash!" she said with a smile. She guessed that she did pretty good for her first time if at least one person knew who the egg was.

That moment helped Dane get to know Philip because after that, they started talking about rock music. He was very interested in rock music and confessed to her that he was trying to learn the guitar. He had wanted to ask her for advice when she was playing before, but the kids were occupying her time then. Danny walked off to talk to him and Jarred followed, curious as to how much lessons would cost and things like that.

"What do you think of her so far, Grandma?" Nicole asked Alicia once Dane was away from them. She had already checked with her grandmother a couple of times that day on Alicia's opinion of her sweetheart, but she just wanted to make sure everything remained positive.

"She seems very nice. Polite, trying to get along with everyone. It was great that she jumped right in on the egg painting, even though she's never done it before. You clearly like her and she clearly likes you, which is a plus," Alicia commented.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Nicole inquired, forehead wrinkled a bit in confusion.

"Your grandmother means that in the past when you've brought partners here, you seemed into them, but they did not seem so into you," Kimber explained.

"Danny does seem very interested in you and in your family, which is also good. She's also happy to mingle with the children. In the past, your partners act like they're too good for the kids. Sometimes, they acted like they were too good for us altogether," Alicia added.

Nicole nodded and smiled. "Danny was surprised that you lived in this type of house, but not in a negative way like others have been. She's not as materialistic as the people I've been with before."

"She even jumped right into our little tradition, which isn't something many of your partners have done in the past, Nikki. I can't believe she's never painted Easter eggs," Katrina commented, shaking her head incredulously.

Nicole sighed a bit. "Danny's had a very difficult life, but she's sweet and kind and understanding."

"We also hear she's the spawn of Satan, who has ruined your life," Kimber said with a light laugh, looking off in the direction that her elder sister walked off not too long ago.

"Mommy's never going to forgive Danny for talking me into going back to school," Nicole said, shaking her head.

"How is school?" her grandmother asked with great interest in her voice. Her two daughters nodded, also interested in the new chapter in Nikki's life.

A spark went through green eyes and a bright, satisfied grin settled onto Nicole's face. "I love it! I have a month to go before I'm finished with my first semester. I love the labs and the classes. The only thing that bothers me is that it takes away from my time with Danny, but she's okay with it. She just keeps pushing me to stay the course and get my degree."

"Sounds like a keeper to me," Alicia stated with a smile.

"Me too, but don't tell Mommy that," Nicole said with a grin.

"Don't tell me what?" Kate asked, coming back into the kitchen after having left to use the bathroom.

"We think Nikki should just marry Danny and call it a day," Kimber proclaimed, teasing her older sister.

Kate frowned. "Nikki will be doing nothing of the sort. Danny is just a passing fancy, isn't she?" she seriously demanded, eyeing her daughter.

"No, ma'am," Nicole replied, continuing to grin. "I told you, Mommy, Danny is the love of my life. You really should get use to her being around."

"Katie, you should let Nikki live her life. Besides, Danny is very different from anyone else Nikki has ever brought over here. She fits in and doesn't act snobbish like most of Nikki's partners. Think about giving Danny a chance," Alicia urged her eldest daughter.

"I'm not giving her a chance, Mom. She's out to ruin Nikki's life and Nikki is all too happy to let her. As her mother, I have to make sure that Nikki does the right thing and lives her life as best she can," Kate argued.

"That's a lot of bull," Kimber chimed in and Katrina nodded.

"You're just trying to control Nikki. You're always trying to do that. You always want things to go your way and if they don't then everyone else on the planet is wrong and you think you're right. Nikki's a grown woman, Kate. Leave her alone and let her make her own decisions. Besides, Danny is by far the best girlfriend or boyfriend we've met from Nikki and we haven't even been around her that long," Katrina stated soundly.

"You three don't know Danny, so don't try to defend her," Kate replied sharply.

"Can we not argue about this? It's been so long since we've all been together. Let's just enjoy each other and save the arguing for when it's been less than a whole year since we've last seen each other," Nicole requested.

The older women all agreed with that, so there was no more discussing Danny…at least while Kate was around. The rest of the day went smoothly and they sat down for a huge family dinner in the evening. Nicole and Dane were not used to eating so early, but that did not stop them from pulling up to the table like everyone else.

"All right, let's say grace and then dig in," Benito declared with a smile.

Dane watched as the family all joined hands. She copied them, taking Nicole's hand in hers and also Sabrina's hand since the child was sitting next to her. Dane was a bit surprised that the family seriously said grace. Nicole never seemed particularly religious and neither did Kate, so this was the first time that she saw a hint of religion from them. It then occurred to her that Nicole's family—at least her mother's side—was Catholic. Now, some of the stories Nicole told her about her childhood made sense, especially stories about her getting in trouble at church.

Dinner was full of conversation with everyone speaking, even the youngest among them—Wayne. The toddler actually tried to dominate the conversation, which everyone seemed to think was cute—Dane included. But, in between Wayne's four-year-old rambling, Danny was able to learn more about the family and the family was able to learn more about Danny. The best thing about it was that Nicole could tell her lover was having a good time and she could also tell that her family genuinely liked Dane.

It was a first for Nicole's whole family to all like someone that she brought to a family function. Usually, only a particular group in her family liked someone she brought—if anyone liked the person at all anyway. Perhaps her uncles would like her partner, then her aunts would like another partner, and on rare occasions her grandparents might like one. The children never liked her lovers and tended to complain before Nicole and her lover were even gone. But, this time, everyone seemed to find something that they enjoyed about Danny. At the end of the night, her grandmother and grandfather ordered her to keep Danny happy because "that one is a keeper."

"I'm so glad you like her, Grandma and Papa," Nicole said as she was hugging them, trying to leave. It seemed that she was trying to leave by herself because Danny was lost in the backyard with the kids.

"She is a doll, just like you promised," Alicia replied.

"She could stand to learn a bit more about football, but I'll teach her the ropes," Benito remarked with a small smile.

"I'd appreciate that, Papa. My poor baby has had very bad family experiences, so I know she's happy that everyone here accepted her. So, you hold those football lessons for one of the family Sunday dinners because we will be back," Nicole promised.

"You might never leave. I think Eddie and Sabrina have adopted your girlfriend," Alicia joked.

Nicole tried to look out into the backyard, figuring that Danny was out there with the kids and the dog again. She was surprised to find out that she was wrong. Dane came walking down the stairs with Philip and Jarred, explaining how she ended up learning other instruments aside from the guitar.

"Hey, love, I'm sorry to cut your conversation short, but we need to get going," Nicole informed her girlfriend.

"Oh," Danny said, glancing at Nicole and then turning her attention back to the two guys. "Guess I'm being abducted. I hope I can talk to you guys again. If you're serious about the guitar lessons, I can give them to Philip or I can get you in touch with a lot of people that will, so you're not paying for super expensive lessons," she explained to them.

"All right," Jarred agreed. "Me and Philip will talk it over and get back to you. You're staying with Nicole, right?"

"Yup and most days you'll find me at home, no matter what time you call. My lessons schedule isn't really a schedule," Dane explained.

Jarred nodded. "Okay. Well, Danny, it was great to meet you. You make sure you take care of Nicole."

"Don't worry. I've got that all taken care of," Danny replied, shaking his hand. She then turned her attention to Nicole. "Just let me go say bye to Eddie, Sabrina, Wayne, and the puppy, okay?"

Nicole smiled and nodded. Dane shot off as best she could, limping quite a bit because of her lame right leg. The others noticed the limp and wondered if it was polite to ask about it. Well, most of them wondered.

"Hey, Nicole, what happened to Danny's leg? Why does she limp like that?" Philip inquired.

"A couple of years ago, she was involved in a horrible accident," Nicole answered. She figured that would cover things without anyone asking for details.

"Is that why her hand is messed up too?" Philip asked, earning a glare from his father.

"Yes. Did you notice it when she was playing the guitar?" Nicole inquired curiously.

"Yeah, and she said she can't play too long because of her hand. Plus, when she was making her Slash egg, I could see her hand shaking," the teen explained.

"Yes, sir, it was all a part of the same accident," Nicole answered.

She did not have to go into detail as Danny returned and they were able to live after some very long goodbyes. The couple left grinning, very happy with the way the evening had gone. Nicole felt confident and comfortable with keeping Danny around for a very long time, glad it would not cause any friction with her family. Danny was just glad to feel accepted.

"Nick," Dane said.

"Hmm, baby?" Nicole asked, keeping her eyes on the road as she drove.

Danny took her girlfriend's hand. "You were right. I had a great time and I'm glad I went. I like your family a lot and I had a lot of fun with all of them. I just have one question."

"Which is?"

"How the hell is your mom related to them? Is she adopted?" Dane asked with a giant grin. This earned her a laugh from Nicole.

The day went much better than expected for both of them. They hoped that was a good sign of things to come.

-8-8-8-8-

Next time: Danny takes Nicole out on a date.