Chapter 1

As I sit here, at my dressing table, thinking about the time we wasted at the beginning of our life together I can't honestly say I regret the wait. We certainly knew each other well by the time we finally figured out we were in love with each other. We could read each other's moods with a degree of accuracy that few couples achieve even before we were a couple. We soon learned we were as well matched as lovers as we were as partners and friends. It wasn't all plain sailing from that first night onwards, what relationship is, but we stuck it out, together.

There are other considerations in that lack of regret. It's unlikely, had I just started a new relationship, that I would have gone through with the plans for the surrogate pregnancy which had given my family Nathan and who knows whether the procedure would have been as successful a year or two later. The nephew I gave birth to still holds a very special place in my heart and if Bobby is honest in his as well.

Mind you, there have been additions to the Horde since Bobby and I got together, five of them ours. Yep, that's right, five kids. Twins run in my mother's family, so when our first pregnancy produced two bouncing, healthy, identical boys nobody was surprised. After all, my two oldest brothers are identical twins. The triplets two years later were a bit of a shock, especially as we hadn't planned on having any more kids. Raising three boys and two girls certainly has kept life interesting, especially while they were all under the age of ten. Luckily there have always been plenty of aunts, uncles and cousins, both actual and honorary, around to help keep our kids amused.

Donny Carlson has been amongst those cousins. The kid came good in the end, turned himself in. An understanding judge went easy on him, ordering probation and supervision to ensure he remained medicated rather than sending him back to serve more time. It turned out he was just as bright as his Uncle, who helped him get back into school, where Donny got a degree in psychiatry. These days he works with young adults with mental health problems, helping them find their niche in a world that still sometimes finds it difficult to accept those who see it differently to others. Mike Logan and Carolyn Barek have been amongst the aunts and uncles and provided a couple of honorary cousins along the way. Who would have thought that both Deakins' best teams would have ended up inviting him to their weddings.

There have been losses as well, over the years, both professional and personal. When our original Captain, Jim Deakins, retired it caused tensions between me and Bobby, I couldn't understand why he didn't want to fight the false allegations against him, Bobby accepted Deakins' decision without question. Oh, he helped me find the evidence that could have exonerated Deakins but he wouldn't try to argue the Captain into staying. Ron Carver left the DA's Office to go into private practice, who would have thought we'd actually miss arguing with him about how to handle a case. The news of Lenny Briscoe's death resounded throughout the NYPD and Goren and I attended the funeral, it was a full dress occasion as befitted such a long serving member of the force.

The cancer and death of Frances Goren, coming as it did whilst my own mother was recovering from a stroke, was a major blow to the heart and soul of the devoted son she left behind. The pain was compounded by the indifference of his less than devoted brother, or half brother, Bobby never did find out the truth about his paternity, it really didn't make any difference to who he was, the man he had worked so hard to become, so why bother. Frank's own death, only five years later, left another scar on Bobby's soul.

As happens when you have family on the force I suffered a sudden loss, not near so devastating as that of my husband in similar circumstances years before, but one of my cousins. Too familiar a scenario, idiot kid holding up a corner store and a beat cop walks in, go figure. Tony Francetti had been my favourite cousin on my mother's side growing up, we were less than a year apart in age and ended up going through the Academy together. We'd grown apart over the years, as adult life took over from childhood escapades. Putting on my dress blues and watching as my eldest brothers and other family members carried his coffin into church was a very strange sensation.

The sudden death of our old Captain, Uncle Jimmy to our children, ten years ago was a heartbreaking experience. A man with so much life in him should not be taken from this world before his time by a drunk behind the wheel of a car. I've never been able to decide if losing Angie Deakins in the same accident was a blessing or a curse. Certainly it was hard on their girls and the rest of their family but, following his retirement from MCS, the couple had spent more and more time together until you really couldn't image either surviving without the other. They lay at rest together, in the same cemetery that holds my first husband, Bobby's family and our third daughter. I like to think Jimmy is standing guard over the baby I lost the year after the triplets were born, he was always a good protector whether the 'protectee' wanted to be protected or not.

I count myself blessed not to have lost any more family over the years, given the number of us serving the city in one capacity or another, not to mention our ages. Unbelievably both my parents are still alive. Mom never fully recovered physically from her stroke and the weakness in her left hand side now confines her to a wheelchair but her mind is still as sharp as a tack, unfortunately for any of her grandchildren, great grandchildren or great-great-grandchildren who try to pull the wool over her eyes. Dad is as robust as ever, still claiming that each new addition to the Horde keeps him young. Judging from the size of our extended family I figure my father should still be going strong when he's two hundred years old.

You may be asking yourself what's brought on this introspective interlude. Perhaps another death, God forbid, the loss of Bobby. Don't get a panic started. My partner is just fine; fit and healthy, for a man his age. No longer my partner in the professional sense, not for a good many years now. These days he lectures in Criminal Psychology at Hudson University. He's very popular with the female students, even if his hair is impossibly grey when I compare it to the dark curls that he sported when we first met. Several students have taken the ring on his finger as a challenge, none have succeeded in drawing his attention away from the woman he convinced to stay at his place that night back in January 2004.

I feel a familiar touch on my shoulder and a familiar tingle down my spine, I don't think anyone would believe it if I told them he can still do that to me. I suppose that's one of the reasons that, despite all the turmoil that hit us over the years and the offers that came along when others thought I might be open to opportunity, I have never strayed nor even thought of straying. The idea that fixed itself in my head that first night, before he'd even kissed me, that this man would be my last lover has turned out to be correct.

I look into the mirror meeting his eyes there, eyes that haven't changed with time, eyes that still tell me everything I need to know when he looks at me as he is doing now, as if I were the only woman on the planet. His fingers draw a gentle, familiar trail up my neck, moving my hair aside. He bends down, bringing his lips close to my ear and the warmth of his breath on my skin sends sparks flying down my nerves.

"You look beautiful, sure I can't convince you we should stay home?" He grins as he kisses my neck.

"You may be very good at convincing me, Goren, but I'm not explaining why we're late if you succeed."

He straightens up, shrugging his shoulders. "Okay, you win this round, Eames."

We still do that, 'Goren' and 'Eames', though I've been Mrs Goren now for almost thirty years. Professionally I continued using my maiden name right up until I retired from MCS, as their first female captain, but outside the squad room I became Alex Goren, wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt and most recently, grandmother.

No see, I've been sat here dragging my mind through the past, yet today is really about looking forward. Today we're going to church, there's a new generation of the Horde due to be christened and our three month old granddaughter is among those, as my husband so eloquently likes to put it, being dunked.