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Always By Your Side

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Ashlyn’s tongue subconsciously swiped across her bottom lip as she watched Ali’s olive skin glisten under the Punta Cana noon day sun. She had never really enjoyed just sitting out in the heat to bake, preferring to carve waves and become one with the ocean, but the blonde had to admit there was a definite payoff when the beach baking included her gorgeous wife...who was now shooting her that expectant look. What? Ashlyn’s brow furrowed a bit, she had been caught staring and had obviously missed something.

 

“...right, babe?” Ali repeated, her eyes conveying her expectation of a response.

 

“Uh...yeeeess?” Ashlyn drawled out, the end sounding more like a question than a definitive answer.

 

The blonde’s cheeks colored as an older couple laying out next to them laughed at her clueless response. 

 

“Doesn’t sound like you are convinced. Is that because you want more or less?” the man innocently inquired.

 

“Puppies?” Ashlyn blurted out, still lost on the subject of their conversation...damned if Ali’s sexy body wasn’t always getting her in trouble.

 

A fresh wave of laughter and Ali’s eyes narrowing let the keeper know her guess was about as far off as she could get. Ashlyn’s eyes darted back and forth, quickly surveyed the immediate expanse of sand around them for clues to what the conversation could have been about, but they were in the middle of a pretty indistinct group of sunbathers. No help there.  

 

“Seriously Ashlyn...puppies?! Why am I not surprised.” Ali threw her hands up exasperated and then shook her head, it was beyond obvious that her wife had checked out on their conversation with the couple several minutes ago.

 

“Yeah puppies.” Ashlyn repeated with more conviction, “I mean, it only makes sense. We are married now, and I’d like to get a cute Frenchie pup or two. We need fur babies. They will be adorable, and cuddly, and cute, and...and...and require us to learn new skills that will be helpful when dealing with our eventual children.”

 

Ali crossed her arms in front of her chest, “Skills like what?”

 

“Like learning how to clean up puke and poop without tossing cookies.” the blonde retorted, proud of herself for coming up with something plausible so quickly.

 

“You already have experience with that, remember when I got the flu, oh, and the time I got food poisoning from that bad shrimp cocktail. You may have heaved and choked the bile down, but you stayed in the bathroom and held my hair up for me.” Ali reminded her keeper, not buying her wife’s logic for a second.

 

“Oh yeah...and I even had to clean up after you when it was flowing out both ends at once.” Ashlyn recalled out loud, much to Ali’s horror.

 

“Ashlyn!” Ali blurted out, her flesh deep crimson behind her hands that she had buried face behind.

 

The older couple chuckled as they watched the blonde dig herself in deeper with her patient wife. This was better than a soap opera.

 

“Ok, but having puppies will also teach us how to potty train our kids.” Ashlyn continued, trying to give her wife something to focus on other than the image she just gave the old couple of Ali puking in the toilet while shitting herself.

 

Ali shook her head and gladly supplied the older couple with a new vision, “Only if we want them to poop on newspapers before learning how to pee on trees. Not sure our neighbors would approve of that one, Stud.”

 

The amused old couple laughed at the newlyweds ‘fight.’ Finally, the old lady reached out and patted Ali on the arm, “Congratulations and good luck, dear. It is quite apparent you have your hands full with this one.”

 

“Oh you have no idea.” Ali replied and nodded politely, the color in her cheeks finally starting to return to normal.

 

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that, our Andrew had his hands full with Zachary. Such a free spirit! Of course, they were never allowed to get married before cancer took him. I’m so glad I lived to see the end of that ‘one man one woman’ sanctimonious bullcrap, please excuse my language. You two make a lovely couple, and don’t you ever believe anyone who tells you otherwise. I’d just work on her ‘hearing’ if I was you.” the old lady jerked a thumb in Ashlyn’s direction, sparing a wink for Ali. 

 

“Thank you. I do know how lucky I am...most of the time,” Ali paused and shot Ashlyn a pointed look as the couple laughed again, “and I will never take one day I get to spend as Ashlyn’s wife for granted, or forget the struggles of everyone who came before me and made that possible. We still have a long way to go, but god does being Mrs. Krieger-Harris feel damned good.”  

 

 The older couple turned over to give them privacy, and resumed their sunbathing while the brunette turned back towards Ashlyn. The blonde curled her lips into the most adorable smile she could muster and shot her wife her best puppy dog eyes...the ones that usually got her out of the dog house. Ali shook her head at the younger woman and rolled her eyes...puppies! 

 

“We really should get some puppies, Alex. Adorable little Frenchies. Just think how much fun they will be!” Ashlyn continued on her train of thought.

 

“We can’t right now, Stud. You know that. Hell, between the NWSL and National team we are barely home. Who would look after them while we are out chasing our dreams?” Ali reasoned.

 

“We have family...and Nikki. Besides, we could train them to be really really quiet and we could sneak them into our rooms inside our suitcases. The team would love them!” Ashlyn conspired with a twinkle in her eye.

 

“Absolutely not! Can you just picture Jill’s face if she came for a room check and a puppy piddled on her feet?!” Ali exclaimed in mock horror, “We would be off the team faster than you get naked when we are about to have sex.”

 

“Damn, that is pretty fast.” Ashlyn conceded momentarily, “But why would she? I mean, we have players that bring along their kids, why couldn’t we bring along ours?”

 

“Oh I don’t know, Ash, just taking a wild stab in the dark here...maybe because their kids are human?!” Ali sassed as she looked around her towel for her bottle of suntan oil.

 

“That’s discrimination! They can bring their human babies, but we can’t bring our fur babies? I think we should sue.” Ashlyn deadpanned.

 

“Oh sure, sue US Soccer Federation. Won’t win.” Ali replied, picking up the bottle of suntan oil laying on her towel and spreading some on her legs under Ashlyn’s appreciative gaze, “That’s the silliest idea you have come up with yet.”

 

“Come on Alex, two puppies. It’s not like I’m asking for the moon here.” Ashlyn softly begged.

 

“No.” Ali replied as she slowly spread the oil up her muscular thighs.

 

“Ok, one puppy.” Ashlyn bartered, trying in vain not to be obvious as her eyes wandered roguishly over Ali’s glistening flesh.

 

“No.” Ali replied again as she squirted some in her hand and spread the oil over her bare chest to where the small bikini covered her pert breasts, Ashlyn’s eyes following her every move.

 

“But…” Ashlyn started before Ali placed her forefinger against the keeper’s lips.

 

“It’s not happening, Stud. I’m sorry, I really am, but it isn’t the right time yet. Hell, we can’t even have real babies right now, but I promise as soon as we are staying home more, we will go out and get you two of the cutest Frenchies in the world.” Ali expressed with gentle finality.    

 

“Fine. But just for the record, it isn’t fair and it sucks, and sometimes I wish we didn’t always have to  sacrifice things we really want for football.” Ashlyn conceded as she took the bottle of suntan oil from her wife, motioning for her to lay down on her beach towel.

 

 Ali smiled and rolled over onto her stomach, “I know how you feel, babe, but it isn’t forever. We aren’t getting any younger and unfortunately our playing days are numbered. We have to play while we still can, and sometimes that means we have to make sacrifices...unless you are ready to hang up your boots.”

 

Ali squealed as Ashlyn playfully squirted suntan oil directly onto her back and mockingly challenged, “Who are you callin’ old, Princess?!” 

 

Before Ali could utter her reply, Ashlyn’s strong hands began to massage her back, the suntan oil allowing the blonde’s hands to glide across her flesh. The brunette’s eyes fluttered closed, her retort dying on her upturned lips. 

 

“Oh god that feels good, babe.” Ali mumbled appreciatively.

 

“You like that, huh.” Ashlyn replied, slowly sliding her hands down Ali’s back to just above her wife’s bikini bottoms before teasingly running her fingers along the edge of the bikini and then back up the brunette’s back.

 

“Mmm...yesssss.” Ali moaned, moving her head to give Ashlyn more access to her neck.

 

“Can I touch you here?” the blonde teased as her hands glided slowly down Ali’s long neck, across the defender’s ribs and slipped under the bikini top to the sides of the brunette’s small breasts.   

 

“Ooooh yesssss.” Ali quietly moaned, grateful that she was on her stomach as she felt her nipples tighten.

 

“Can I touch you here?” Ashlyn asked as she ran her hands down Ali’s back and over her bikini covered ass.

 

“Mmmm...yesssss.” the brunette moaned as she raised up slightly to meet the blonde’s large hands.

 

Ali’s breath hitched as Ashlyn’s hands continued down the backs of her powerful thighs, trailing her thumbs along the insides. When she reached the backs of Ali’s knees, Ashlyn changed direction and started up again...agonizingly slow...watching as her wife broke out in goosebumps. The blonde ghosted thumbs up the inside of Ali’s thighs...closer and closer to her center...the brunette biting her lower lip to keep from moaning loudly while her legs spread just the tiniest bit as an ache started deep within. 

 

“Can I have a puppy?” Ashlyn husked, her thumbs grazing across the damp fabric covering her wife’s core.

 

“Oh god yessss.” Ali moaned, a heartbeat later Ali’s eyes flew open as she realized what the blonde had just said, “Ashlyn Michelle Harris!”

 

“That’s Krieger-Harris, Princess...and you said yes!” Ashlyn declared with a smug smirk as she jumped up and made a mad dash for the ocean, a playfully indignant Ali chasing her.  

 

“That’s cheating! And don’t you be sullying my good German name!” the defender exclaimed as she caught up to her wife in the short surf.

 

“You said yes...you said yes…I get puppies...you said...” Ashlyn’s sing song voice taunted.

 

Ali launched a wave of water at the blonde’s face, effectively cutting off the keeper’s taunt as the water hit her mid-sentence. Ali giggled at the water dripping off her favorite human’s surprised face as Ashlyn sputtered. Suddenly a wall of water splashed the brunette’s face, and her left eyebrow arched. The situation quickly devolved into an all out water fight, each woman throwing as much water as fast and furiously at the other as she could, laughter ringing out over the waves. 

 

When they had tired themselves out with their ‘water war’ the newlyweds made their way out of the ocean. Ali searched the beach for their towels, not knowing exactly how far the currents had carried them. As her eyes scanned the beach, she recognized that same red-headed kid from a few days before. The brunette watched as the kid skipped through the sunbathers and reached down, scooping up a small blue gym bag next to the old couple they had been talking to earlier. Ali noticed they continued to lay face down, unaware of the theft.

 

“Alex?” Ashlyn uttered in surprise as Ali took off running. 

 

Determination etched on the brunette’s face as she sprinted through the sand, her finely tuned body able to change direction on a dime and avoid crashing into people as she tried to chase down the little thief. ‘Playing soccer would be great preparation for a career in law enforcement’ Ali thought as she juked right so she didn’t plow over a toddler who waddled into her path. A quick spin move prevented her from knocking over a woman chasing down a volleyball. 

 

Ali caught up to the kid halfway down the breezeway between the resort lobby and the first building of rooms. The kid yelped in surprise as the brunette reached out and grabbed the girl’s shoulder.

 

“Hey, where are you going with that bag?” Ali asked pointedly.

 

The girl looked up at Ali with big green eyes that narrowed into street hardened pools of jade...surely this pretty woman wasn’t one of them. She had been so careful. No matter what happened, she wasn’t going back!

 

“Get off me, bitch!” the youngster seethed.

 

The girl yanked her shoulder out of Ali’s hand with surprising strength. Ali’s eyes narrowed as well, and she reached out for the youngster’s arm, holding it with both hands this time. The red headed girl muttered to herself as she reached up with her free hand, and pulled the strap of her dirty tank top down off her shoulder, mussed her hair a bit, and then reached into her pocket. 

 

“Stop struggling! We are going back...” Ali stated in a tone that brokered no discussion.

 

The girl pulled a whistle from her pocket and started blowing for all she was worth, struggling against Ali’s tight grip. It wasn’t long before people started coming. The girl’s face suddenly softened, then changed again to a look of pure fear as she continued to blow the whistle and fight against Ali.

 

Ali looked up as angry voices got closer. She noticed people looking from her to the little thief and back to her...except that kid looked like a scared choir girl at the moment...uh oh. Ali retracted her hands from the girl like she had been burned and held them up at shoulder height.

 

“Para! Dejala!” a man yelled at Ali.

 

“It’s not what it looks like. She stole that bag! I was just trying to get it back to the old couple.” Ali tried to explain as the crowd pressed around them, talking in excited Spanish. 

 

God, why couldn’t she have taken Spanish at some point in school?! Ali watched helplessly as the girl smirked, stuck out her tongue, and ran off with the bag slung over one shoulder as the defender tried to explain that she wasn’t some disgusting Paedophile to a bunch of angry people who didn’t speak English. Ali went along with the mob who took her into the lobby, scared that they might try to hurt her if she didn’t. She was roughly shoved inside a security office, and the door locked behind her with a sliding bolt and padlock. It was a small windowless room with paint peeling off the walls that smelled like fear and sweat. A rickety desk with three chairs occupied the space. The brunette sank down onto the closest wooden chair to wait for an officer who spoke English to arrive. What a mess this had become! Ali chewed her lower lip. Who the hell was that kid?! 

 

Ali looked up when she heard the padlock being jiggled as a key worked through the sticking locking mechanism. A moment later she heard the slide being pulled back, the door swung open, and a resort security officer followed by a local policeman and one of the resort executives filed in. 

 

“Hello, I’m officer Perez. I’m told you are an American.” the policeman introduced himself in a heavy accented English.

 

Ali nodded her head, “That’s right. Look this is all just a huge misunderstanding.”

 

“That’s why I’m here. To take your statement. I have statements from several witnesses who say you attacked a child in the breezeway. What do you say?” Officer Perez asked as he took out a pen and pad of paper from his breast pocket. 

 

Ali fidgeted in her chair under the scrutiny of the men, “I was coming in from playing in the ocean when I noticed this red headed kid steal a gym bag from an elderly couple who were sunbathing and didn’t notice that she took it. I ran after her and caught up with her in the breezeway. When I grabbed her and told her that I saw her take the bag and she was going to come with me to give it back, she messed up her hair, pulled her shoulder out of her tank top, and used a whistle to make it look like I was attacking her. I don’t know Spanish so I couldn’t explain to everyone what was really going on.” 

 

“I see. And can you identify this ‘old couple’ so we can ask them if they have had anything stolen from them today?” Officer Perez inquired as he continued to furiously write out Ali’s statement.

 

“Of course!” Ali blurted, eager to get this misunderstanding fixed.

 

“Come, take me to this old couple then.” Officer Perez motioned for Ali to stand, “But don’t even think about trying to run from me.”  

 

Ali leads the men out of the security office, and sees Ashlyn standing next to the couple who are already talking with another police officer. She looks back at Officer Perez and points over to them.

 

“Actually, that’s them over there.” Ali supplies with a small smile.

 

The security guard puts a hand on Ali’s shoulder to remind her that she isn’t free to go while Officer Perez goes to speak with the elderly people across the lobby. When the officer starts speaking, Ashlyn’s head whips around as she searches the lobby. Their eyes meet as the blonde’s lips curl into a relieved smile, the dimple in her left cheek peeking out. Ali could tell her wife had been worried.

 

It doesn’t take long for the young officer to take the statement from the couple and return. He motions for the security guard to release Ali.

 

“It seems we have a young thief in our town. You are free to go with my apologies.” Officer Perez stated, his tone warm yet professional.

 

“I know you were all just doing your jobs, and I’m actually glad to see you take it this seriously. I’d hate to have real predators get away because nobody believed the child.” Ali replied honestly.

 

Ashlyn cautiously approached as the group of men dispersed from around Ali. She placed a gentle hand on the brunette’s shoulder.

 

“What happened? You ok?” Ashlyn asked, searching her wife’s eyes.

 

“I’m fine...now. Can we talk about it over lunch? I’m starved.” Ali suggested, wanting to get away from the resort for awhile. 

 

“What? Didn’t they feed you in the clink?” Ashlyn smirked and winked as they walked to the front entrance, “I thought you were supposed to get bread and water at least once a day.”

 

Ali playfully smacked Ashlyn’s shoulder, “Guess I missed that.”

 

Ashlyn held the door open for Ali, “Maybe I shouldn’t eat lunch with you. I mean, think of the damage hanging out with a hardened criminal like you would do to my sterling reputation.”

 

“Yeah, wouldn’t want that to happen. Perhaps you should sleep in another room too...I mean, you can’t be too careful and all.” Ali sassed back, and fell into step with Ashlyn as the blonde headed for the bus stop.

 

Ashlyn paused and tapped her chin in fake concentration, “I suppose I’ll chance it...for you.”

 

“Aren’t you just too sweet.” Ali deadpanned as they approached the bench at the bus stop. 

 

***

 

Ali pulled her legs up and crossed her ankles in front of her as she sat on the blanket Ashlyn had spread out for them, looking over at the gorgeous waterfall across the small clearing. She sighed and leaned her head against her keeper’s shoulder. Lunch had been good, and Ashlyn had been sweet about the whole incident, but it still had the brunette unsettled. She was happy that her keeper had suggested this little private outing after they ate. Nature and Ashlyn’s arms never failed to calm Ali. She took a deep breath and tried to push thoughts of that little red headed twerp out of her head. Thankfully the sound of the water rushing over the edge of the falls had a very soothing effect, and soon her thoughts turned elsewhere.   

 

“This is soooo beautiful, Ash.” Ali dreamily mumbled, breaking the silence.

 

“Not nearly as beautiful as you.” Ashlyn replied, pressing a tender kiss to her wife’s forehead.

 

“Mmm. You aren’t so bad yourself.” Ali stated as she lightly traced the intricate tattoos of her wife’s left arm.

 

“I know. It’s hard being this damned perfect.” Ashlyn deadpanned.

 

“And so modest too. I don’t know how you are gonna fit that fat head of yours through the door when we get back to the room. Too bad...I had plans for my wild monkey tonight.” Ali teased, ghosting her well trimmed fingernails up her wife’s muscular arm.

 

“Oh I’m sure we will think of something.” Ashlyn chuckled as she wrapped her right arm around Ali, allowing the brunette to cuddle further into her side as a companionable silence fell over them once again. 

 

Ali closed her eyes and slowly took in a deep breath, inhaling the clean peppery bergamot and sun kissed beach that was distinctly Ashlyn...the smell of home. Her lips curled into a serene smile. Nothing felt as good...as safe...as natural as having the blonde’s arms around her. Nobody had ever made her feel as loved...as cherished...as worshipped as her soulmate. Ali released a deep contented sigh. It was easy to picture their future. Championships. Gold Medals. House on the water. Kids…lots of kids…even cute little Frenchie pups. This woman at her side was going to be such a fabulous momma. 

 

“What’s on that beautiful mind of yours, Princess?” Ashlyn inquired.

 

“Mmm. Nothing really, maybe everything.” Ali mumbled in a reflective mood.

 

“I see. And would this ‘nothing really maybe everything’ include a certain gorgeous brunette princess with a swollen belly?” Ashlyn pressed, and Ali softly giggled...it was uncanny how the blonde read her like an open book at times. 

 

“Am I that obvious?” the brunette queried as she drew lazy circles on Ashlyn’s chest.

 

Ashlyn chuckled and tucked strands of Ali’s silky sable hair behind her ear, “Not at all, just a lucky guess.”

 

Ali cupped Ashlyn’s face and they locked gazes.

 

“I guess I feel so full I could burst because I can see it all. I mean...I see us winning all these gold medals, buying a house, having parties, and filling our home with lots of love from friends and family...I see us with kids, Ash...a house full of them. I see birthdays and holidays and so much love we don’t know what to do with it all. I see what a great momma you are, what a great wife you are...and it just makes me feel...whole...loved...and definitely lucky.” Ali finished in a near whisper of revelation.

 

Ashlyn blinked her watery eyes and swallowed down the huge lump in her throat that Ali’s sweet words had put there, and she leaned forward capturing the gorgeous brunette’s lips in a very emotion filled deep kiss. 

 

Ashlyn leaned her forehead against Ali’s when she finally broke the kiss and whispered, “Yes please.”

 

“Yes please what?” Ali whispered back, her eyes closing.

 

“I want it. All of it...with you.” Ashlyn replied, sliding her hand through wind blown dark locks and gently cupping the back of Ali’s head.

 

“Good. We should probably look at our options and pick out what we want so when the Olympics are over…” Ali allowed her thoughts to trail off, hoping that she and her wife were on the same page.

 

“We will be ready to make a baby. It’s Perfect, Alex, my love...just like you.” Ashlyn replied as they both smiled into a tender kiss.

 

***

 

Ali swatted Ashlyn’s hand away from her plate, “Get your own tostones, Stud!”

 

“I did. I already ate them all.” Ashlyn whined as she leveled her sad puppy dog eyes at her wife, “Besides, now that we are married, technically half of that is mine.”

 

“Oh I see. So where is my half of your food?” Ali inquired as she popped another delicious mashed and double fried plantain into her mouth, moaning a little just to rub it in, “Mmmm. Soooo goood.”

 

“You are evil, woman. Eeeeeeeevil.” Ashlyn jokingly huffed and crossed her arms across her chest. 

 

Ali giggled and popped another of the Dominican specialty into her mouth, savoring the flavor as the blonde’s bottom lip turned out into a pout. She was very happy that they had found this highly recommended side walk café 

 

“Here, big baby.” Ali tossed a couple tostones on her wife’s empty plate.

 

Ashlyn flashed Ali a dimple bearing grin as she triumphantly brought one of the plantain treats to her mouth and paused, “Aw, you are the best, Princess.”

 

“Hmph. The best evil woman you know, huh.” Ali winked while the blonde happily crunched her tostone.

 

“Mmmhm.” Ashlyn hummed with exuberance, allowing the tostone to sit on her tongue bathing her tastebuds in fried salty somewhat sweet goodness.

 

“Good thing you’re cute.” Ali commented as she looked out at the people hustling up and down the streets, and the tourists window shopping.

 

A flash of red across the street caught her eye and she gasped. It was that little red headed menace from the other day, ducking into one of the shops! 

 

“Ash, look!” Ali blurted out, pointing. 

 

Ashlyn turned around in her seat and her forehead scrunched in confusion, “Look at what, Alex?”

 

“C’mon, we gotta go!” Ali insisted as she got to her feet quickly, grabbing for Ashlyn’s hand.

 

“Hey, slow your roll, we still have to pay for our lunch.” Ashlyn replied and quickly added up the bill in her head, doubling it so she was certain there would be enough plus a generous tip. 

 

Ashlyn took three thousand Dominican pesos out of her wallet and slapped them down on the table before she allowed the determined brunette to pull her to her feet. The blonde reached back and snagged the last tostone off her plate as Ali tugged her forward and led her through the small sidewalk café to the entrance. Once they were back on the public side of the fence divided sidewalk, Ali attempted to make a beeline to the store on the other side of the street. Just as she was about to step off the curb, Ashlyn gruffly pulled her back. A couple of seconds later, cars zoomed past in both directions.

 

“Sorry baby, but the light had changed. I didn’t want you getting splatted. That would kinda ruin our whole honeymoon.” Ashlyn apologized for being so rough with her. 

 

“Always looking out for me.” Ali grinned as she allowed Ashlyn to steer her up the street to the light and the crosswalk.

 

Once the light changed, Ali and Ashlyn power walked across the street and hurried towards the store that Ali had seen the girl enter. The focused brunette hadn’t taken her eyes off the door. That girl was still in there and she was going to find out who the hell she was, and why her parents were letting her run around like a little street thug. Ashlyn noticed the sparkling jewelry in the huge front window display and did a double take as Ali reached for the door handle. The blonde grabbed Ali and pulled her back.

 

“Holy shit, Alex! Look!” Ashlyn exclaimed, pointing to a very familiar set of rings in the center of the display.

 

Ali’s eyes widened, and she let out an excited squeal. Their wedding rings were right in front of their eyes! 

 

***

 

“Here ya go, $500 pesos like I promised you.” the short man with the big round belly behind the wall to wall display cases of jewelry fanned the bills out as he spoke.

 

“Thanks.” the dirty red headed girl replied and quickly grabbed the money from his hand, stuffing the bills into her front pocket.

 

They both looked up at the sound of a woman squealing in joy. The girl’s eyes got big and she looked over at the hallway behind the counter.

 

“Hey, I’m just gonna use the back door, ok?” the girl nodded in that direction.

 

The shop owner gave her a knowing look and smiled, “Sure thing. I’ll keep them busy.”

 

Relief washed over her face and the girl took off as soon as the owner picked up the built in countertop gate, giving her access. As the red headed thief carefully closed the back door, she heard the unmistakable chime of someone entering the front of the store. She sighed and took off sprinting down the alley, navigating around the broken beer bottles, pot holes, and passed out homeless guys at break neck speed. As soon as she could, the girl rounded a corner to stay out of sight if anyone chasing her got to the alleyway, her heart pounding wildly in her chest. It had been quite a while since a tourist had managed to get that close to busting her.

 

***

 

Ashlyn held the door for her wife and followed her inside. They both looked around at the empty jewelry store, and Ali’s shoulders sagged. How? How had she disappeared? They had been so close!

 

“Hola! Hello! Please, come in. Welcome to my shop. What can I help you with?” the heavy set man behind the counter called out to them in a very friendly voice.  

 

“For starters, you can get our wedding rings out of your display here.” Ashlyn replied, trying to keep her voice neutral.

 

“Oh excellent choice. We have beautiful rings. Which ones are for your magical day?” the shop keeper replied, his voice sugary sweet.

 

Ali’s head snapped towards the man and her brow furrowed in anger, “We aren’t paying for our wedding rings twice, you…”

 

Ashlyn quickly covered Ali’s mouth to muffle the rest of her angry tirade. She received a death glare for her efforts, and the blonde felt a stab of guilt even though she was only protecting her wife from herself. She was pretty sure two police encounters in as many days would probably be frowned upon, and she certainly didn’t need the brunette starring in the next episode of ‘Locked up Abroad.’  

 

“What my wife means is that those are already our wedding rings. I had them made for us several months ago. If you look inside the band with the gorgeous pink princess cut diamond, you will notice it has been engraved with ‘ABKH defender of my heart.’ Our room was broken into a few days ago and these were stolen.” Ashlyn explains as Ali slowly calms down.   

 

The shop owner ran his fingers through the short brown hair that circled his head like a wreath, and scratched his neck, “Let me get my keys.”

 

Ashlyn turned to Ali when the man disappeared into the hallway behind the display case. Ali’s eyes had softened a bit, but her annoyance was still palpable. 

 

“I’m sorry, Alex, I just didn’t want the guy to call the cops on a couple of rowdy tourists. After yesterday I thought maybe it would be best if we laid low for awhile.” Ashlyn quietly confessed.

 

Ali blew out a breath and closed her eyes. Ashlyn probably had a good point if she were being honest, but damn…

 

“Fine...but we are gonna talk about this later.” Ali conceded as the corners of her mouth turned up into a very tight lipped half smile. 

 

They turned as the man came back into the room carrying a large specially made key. He flipped up the counter top gate and squeezed through, then waddled across to the front display. The shop owner slid the key into a slot in the wall and turned it. Once it was unlocked, he opened the back of the case and reached in, grabbing the rings the couple had described. After he inspected the band, the man shook his head sadly.

 

“I paid top dollar for these. That old guy told me he was in gambling debt and needed to pay it off or else, so I felt sorry for him. Happens a lot around here. Now I’m going to be out money and I’ve got five kids, a wife, and her mother to feed. Oh well…” the man lamented as he turned the rings over to the blonde.

 

Ali’s right hand covered her mouth and her eyes misted over with tears as Ashlyn carefully grasped her left hand, rings ready. The world shrank until it was just the two of them, the shop owner and window shoppers long forgotten. Tears fell unchecked onto Ali’s cheeks as her rings were slid on her slightly trembling left ring finger.

 

“With these rings, I choose you, Mrs. Alexandra Blaire Krieger-Harris...always.” Ashlyn stated, her loving voice strong with conviction before she brought Ali’s left hand up to her lips and reverently kissed her ring covered finger. 

 

Ali took Ashlyn’s ring and grasped her left hand, “With this ring, I choose you,  Ms. Ashlyn Michelle Krieger-Harris...always.” 

 

Ali held her wife’s kind hazel eyes as she slowly slipped the ring on her left ring finger. Repeating Ashlyn’s actions, the brunette brought her wife’s left hand to her lips and placed an emotion filled kiss against the ring covered left finger. 

 

“You may now kiss your bride.” Ali pronounced around the lump in her throat. 

 

Ashlyn leaned forward as Ali pushed up on her tip toes, their lips meeting in the middle, their hands twined. The two reluctantly pulled apart as they heard an awkward throat clearing behind them, and leaned their foreheads together as their lips curled up into shy smiles. Ashlyn pressed one last kiss to Ali’s nose and then straightened. She turned and faced the shop owner, and pulled out her wallet. 

 

“Even though we have already proven that we are the rightful owners of these rings, here. I hope this helps soften the blow.” Ashlyn said, tugging ten one hundred US dollar bills out of it.

 

“Thank you. It will help.” the man replied, taking the money and smiling as he noticed he was going to be making a huge profit.

 

Ashlyn wrapped her large hand around Ali’s and they walked out of the store, hand in hand. As they made their way towards the bus stop at the corner the blonde noticed her wife’s mega watt smile directed at her.

 

“What?” Ashlyn inquired, feigning ignorance.

 

“You are amazing, Stud...and you are all mine. You know that guy was most likely full of bullshit, but you didn’t want to take the chance kids would go hungry if you didn’t give him something. I absolutely adore your huge tender heart.” Ali explained as she continued to look adoringly at her wife.

 

“Bah, I have no idea what you are talking about. I’m a big lean mean ball stopping machine...a brick wall. I have no heart.” Ashlyn playfully protested, “And don’t be spreading those lies around or you will ruin my badass reputation.”

 

Ali pulled the blonde to a stop and placed her left hand reverently over the center of Ashlyn’s chest, the sunlight casting multiple dancing prisms of pink over the keeper, “Don’t you worry, Ms. Krieger-Harris, your secret is safe with me. I’ll always be the defender of your big beautiful heart.”