Author's Note: So sorry for the delay in posting. Here are my excuses: I have been traveling for work 50% of the time, I was home for the holidays, and I've been ill. Thank you all for sticking with me throughout this story - it means so much. I hope you are all still enjoying, and I promise I'm working on the next chapter as I post this. Thank you to Barbie Shoes for reading through this chapter for me! Love you, girl. You're invaluable.


Emma thought she knew what it was like to make love to Regina. After all, they'd had sex plenty of times before - in Emma's car, at the sheriff station, even in Regina's office at Town Hall - but never in a bed. Especially not in Regina's bed, inside her home.

For Emma, being inside Regina's personal space, making love to Regina within the sacred sanctuary of her bedroom, felt like Christmas morning and winning the lottery and her birthday all rolled into one.

Each husky sound slipping through Regina's claret lips was another gift Emma couldn't wait to receive, and elicited a lightning bolt of arousal straight to her heated core. The sensation of warm skin sliding against her own, the tiny beads of sweat trickling down Regina's collarbone before dipping between her breasts, and the soft ends of her dark tresses skimming Emma's shoulders brought her closer and closer to the edge until finally, Regina set her free.

Curling three fingers and twisting her wrist, Regina pressed her thumb in tight circles against her lover's hardened clit and ghosted her mouth over the soft shell of her ear. Emma came with a hoarse moan, the knot of desire in her belly uncoiling in waves of white-hot pleasure until she sagged limply against Regina, spent.

Withdrawing her dexterous fingers, Regina slowly brought each moist digit between her lips and dragged her tongue across them with a satisfied smirk. Emma watched, slack-jawed, as arousal began to simmer feverishly in her veins yet again.

"Christ, woman," she mumbled, grabbing Regina's hand and yanking it from her seductive mouth, "you're gonna be the death of me."

"That may be true, dear. But, as they say, 'what a way to go,'" Regina replied, attempting to waggle her eyebrows comically but only managing to raise them in a pointed arch.

Emma laughed and grabbed the woman by her waist, pulling her closer and lightly pressing their foreheads together. "You're so cute when you try to act like a normal human," she teased, brushing her lips against Regina's in a gentle kiss.

Regina crinkled her brow in consternation, pulling her head back to stare into the moss green abyss of Emma's eyes. "I am not cute," she declared, giving Emma her best Evil Queen glare.

Emma smiled and suddenly rolled Regina onto her back, flipping their positions with one smooth, practiced motion. "You so are, babe. You are very cute - deal with it." Bringing her mouth down to Regina's face, she punctuated each word with peppered kisses across her forehead, cheekbones, eyelids, and chin. Before the surly mayor could protest again, Emma pressed their lips together and slid her tongue against Regina's, cutting off her indignant objection.

Regina's heart pounded wildly in her chest at being on the receiving end of Emma's open displays of affection. Throughout their entire date, Emma showed Regina just how deep her feelings ran, and the intensity of it all suddenly began to overwhelm the formerly closed-off Queen. She closed her eyes and silently absorbed the feeling of Emma's mouth sliding reverently over her skin…

… and then she was hit with a sudden realization.

"I'm ready," Regina blurted out, looking up at Emma with earnest, brown eyes. Her heart swelled and her breath caught in her throat, love and fear swirling together in the pit of her stomach as she squeezed Emma's hand tighter. "I'm ready to do this."

"Again? Jeez, Regina, I knew you were insatiable but that was like, the fifth time..."

"Not for that, you idiot," Regina snapped, swatting playfully at Emma's muscled arm. "I'm ready to do all of this... with you."

Emma's recognized the seriousness behind Regina's abrupt statement and her green eyes widened in shock. "Oh. Oh! You're ready to - okay, but are you sure? I know we're each other's True Loves and everything, but Snow and David won't tell anyone and…"

Regina cocked one eyebrow and fixed Emma with a pointed stare, her dark eyes conveying her severe disbelief.

"Well, David won't tell anyone at least... but Regina, are you sure this is what you want? I don't want you to feel pressured just because of what happened tonight. I want you to be ready whenever you're truly, actually ready… I already said I'd wait for you, for as long as that takes."

Emma's bumbling, blustery response had Regina nodding and offering a small smile. Reaching up and cupping Emma's cheek, she stroked her thumb over one smooth cheekbone and forced the woman to meet her gaze. "I know, dear. And that's why I'm ready now."

Emma's smile started slow and then stretched so wide, she thought it would split her face open. Warmth bloomed in her chest and burst, flooding her body in a hot, visceral rush. Regina's words evoked an emotion she couldn't put into words, although she suspected if she was forced then she would sputter out things like "love" and "perfect" and "forever."

Instead, she kissed her - deep and slow, pouring all her emotions into it, as she slid her hands up, up, up, from the curves of Regina's waist and over the edges of her ribs, until her thumbs grazed the sides of her plump breasts.

Whimpering lightly, Regina pressed her fingers hard into Emma's back and pulled her so close and tight that neither breath nor air could fit between their two bodies.

Emma drew her head back and separated her mouth from Regina's with a gasp. Panting slightly, her eyes flickered with wild abandon over Regina's face in a desperate attempt to memorize every detail. She wanted to store this moment, this entire evening, inside her memory forever so that she could access it whenever she wanted in the years to come.

She wanted to remember the way Regina's eyes glittered with love and emotion, darkened with lust and seduction, and glistened with unshed tears as they implored Emma to understand her words. She wanted to be able to recall, in perfect detail, the smudge of charcoal makeup under Regina's obsidian eyes and the way her mouth tasted after Emma kissed off all her lipstick. She wanted to relive the feeling of sliding her fingers through Regina's silky, raven hair and the synchronous pounding of their hearts as they lay tangled together after making love, bodies sweaty and flushed.

"What's wrong?" Regina asked, smoothing Emma's tangled curls off her forehead and tucking them behind her ears.

"Nothing," Emma replied honestly, pushing herself up to rest on her forearms as she gazed down in adoration at woman underneath her.

"Then what are you thinking about?" Regina inquired, stomach fluttering with nerves and arousal.

So Emma told her, curling her body around Regina's before leaning down to whisper in her ear the details of her yearning desire to remember this moment forever. As Emma spoke, Regina slowly moved her hands down the woman's spine and clutched at her back, reveling in the sensation of being cocooned in Emma's warmth. She allowed Emma's low voice to slip through her veins like warm honey, soothing her into a state of peaceful rest from the inside out and lulling her into a tranquil sleep.

"Are you sure you're ready?" Emma asked, squeezing Regina's hand affectionately.

Regina nodded and gave Emma what was supposed to be a confident smile, but her thinned lips and the crease between her eyes gave away her nerves. Emma squeezed her fingers once and placed a soft kiss against Regina's cheek before pulling away to unlock the door and step out of her car. Walking around to the passenger side, Emma gallantly swung the door open and extended her hand, grinning as Regina accepted and climbed out of the small, yellow vehicle. Keeping their hands laced together, Emma slammed the door and locked the car.

"Have I told you how beautiful you look this morning?" Emma asked, allowing her eyes to roam appreciatively over Regina's toned body. The mayor donned a pair of tan, linen shorts and a crisp, pale pink button-up, even begrudgingly rolling the sleeves up to her elbows in acquiescence of the afternoon heat.

"Yes, dear," Regina responded dryly. "You also said it was because I was, quote, 'glowing in the aftermath of really awesome sex.'"

Emma laughed as they walked hand-in-hand into the diner. "Well, I was right, wasn't I?"

Regina just shook her head and chuckled in response, allowing Emma to guide her to one of the center booths. After taking their seats on the same side of the table, Regina leaned into Emma and whispered in her ear, "Everyone is staring at us."

"Would you believe me if I said they're only staring at us because you're so pretty?" Emma joked, bumping her arm against Regina's. Regina glared at Emma and dug sharp nails into her palm, making the sheriff yelp in surprise. "Okay, so that's a no," Emma grumbled before turning and allowing her eyes to roam over the diner's other patrons. It wasn't a particularly high-traffic time in the restaurant – much too late for the breakfast crowd and not quite late enough for the lunch arrivals.

"What time did they say they'd be here?" Regina asked in a strained voice, doing her best not to roast the ogling, nosy diners on the spot. Her fingers twitched with the restrained urge to use her magic as she eyed the door, waiting for the jingling bells that would announce their companions' arrival.

"Relax," Emma instructed in what she hoped was a soothing voice. "They'll be here soon."

"And you're sure they know why they are meeting us here?" Regina questioned, uncommonly anxious and jittery with nerves.

"I think they're familiar with the concept of 'lunch,' Regina," Emma responded lightly, trying to ease the other woman's tension. When all she received in reply was a tight smile, she tried again. "Everything will be fine, I promise. They know the reason we're having lunch today is so we can make our official, public debut as a couple – and as a family."

At that, Regina's body relaxed and the worry lines creasing her face disappeared. Exhaling a deep breath, she gave Emma a genuine, albeit small, smile. "Thank you for saying that, Emma. I don't know why I'm acting this way. It's completely ridiculous but, for some reason, I still find that I want them to…"

"Like you?" Emma tried, prompting Regina to immediately curl her lip in disgust. "Accept you, maybe?" Regina's sneer uncurled slightly, but still remained fixed on her face. "Accept us?"

The formerly evil queen's expression softened at the sound of hope creeping into Emma's forcibly nonchalant tone. Regina felt her cheeks flush at being caught and she lowered her eyes, reluctant to show any vulnerability in front of Storybrooke's residents' prying eyes. "Yes," she forced out, the word itself sticking in her dry throat.

Emma's heart flipped inside her chest and she squeezed Regina's hand with a viselike grip. "Even if they don't accept us as a couple, I accept us, and I accept our family. As long as you feel the same way, that's all that matters to me."

Regina looked up and saw the sincerity and determination in Emma's eyes, and it filled her with her old sense of calm and steely reserve. She felt her queenly confidence returning, fueled by Emma's declarations and reassurances. Emma accepted her, Henry accepted her, and that was all Regina needed. Straightening her shoulders, she made sure to meet Emma's gaze and opened her mouth to speak, even as the diner's tingling bells rang out to announce the arrival of their lunch date.

"I accept us," she replied.

Emma smiled and barely resisted her desire to press a reassuring kiss against Regina's lips. "Good, then let's have lunch," she replied as the tinkling of delicate bells indicated another patron's arrival. "It looks like it's show time."

Stay tuned for more. I love you all more than I can say. Thank you for reading! Until the next chapter.. xx