Because what's a story without a dash of LGBT relationships thrown into the mix?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Mona's Morning

Something nice, lovely, and happy for Christmas morning. Remember Mona and Kelsey?

Mona woke up with a pounding headache and a hot arm thrown over her. She rolled over questioningly and saw a face she remembered from the night before. Pool table girl, she tried to put a name to the face. She flushed as she remembered the girl leaning over the pool table, cue steady and sure in her hands as she looked up to meet Mona’s gaze.

She’d caught Mona’s attention immediately, and after a couple more shots, Mona separated from her group of friends and shimmied over to the group of guys at the pool table. The tall blonde grinned and positioned himself in front of her, but she slunk past him, squeezing into the small space until she and the girl with the cue were toe to toe.

“Is at all that eye contact ever going to come to flirtation?” Mona asked brazenly, and the girl smirked, tucked Mona’s hair back.

“I think it just did,” she teased. “Name’s Kelsey.”  

Oh, thank God, Mona thought, finally remembering her name. She let out a sigh of relief and felt Kelsey's fingers moving along her skin with the motion.

The night before had been exquisite, awkward, giggly, intense, hot. Mona was torn between wanting to do it again and hopping in the shower to avoid the morning after scene. She hated being the clingy girl after a one night stand. First thing first, she decided, and that meant ibuprofen and a glass of water.

She pulled back the sheets and tried to slither out of bed as quietly as possible, but the hand around her clenched tight onto her hip. “You’re not running away, are you?” Mona turned toward Kelsey, who was raspy-voiced and probably a little hung over as well. “Because I haven’t had any breakfast,” Kelsey smirked, and Mona couldn’t help but laugh as her skin heated.

“I love breakfast,” she croaked out, and slid back under the covers. The ibuprofen and water could wait.

Mona finally emerged from the bed some time later, stretching and feeling much better than before. She threw on a long sweater and gestured around the room to her clothes. “Borrow whatever you want if you want to lounge and stay for breakfast,” she flushed, “real breakfast. Or, you know, if you want to shower and go, that’s fine too.”

Kelsey laughed heartily. “I’ve got a little time. Will you cook for me?” she joked, her eyes light with humor. Mona loved seeing it, and it was hard not to crawl back on the bed and kiss Kelsey thoroughly.

“If you’re lucky,” she raised an eyebrow. “Anything should fit,” she told the more slender girl, throwing a sweatshirt on the bed before turning toward the kitchen.

The apartment was chilly and it nipped at her toes, but Mona refused to put on socks. A girl in a sweater is hot, a girl in a sweater and socks is just lame, she thought to herself. She looked in the fridge and discovered she had all the fixings for pancakes, always good in case Kelsey was vegetarian or vegan. She could be on a gluten free diet, Mona frowned, and then decided to cross that bridge if she came to it. God, lesbians were hard to cook for!

She was pouring the first dollop of batter into the hot pan when Kelsey ambled out into the kitchen, face freshly washed, in an old sweatshirt and a pair of Mona’s colorful socks. It looks hot on Kelsey, Mona licked her lips with lust and just a hint of jealousy. Maybe she should go grab some socks.

Kelsey boosted herself up onto the counter. “Are you making pancakes? I’m starving and I love pancakes.”

Mona laughed and pinched Kelsey’s ankle. “Yes, I’m making pancakes. I’ve got orange juice, milk, water, and booze.”

“Hmm,” Kelsey pursed her lips in thought and Mona laughed again, flipping the pancake. “Alright, I guess it’s a little early. Where are your glasses?”

“Cupboard behind your head,” Mona pointed out helpfully and spooned another dollop of batter into the pan.

“Would you like me to get you a glass of something?” Kelsey inquired, two glasses already in her hands. She opened the fridge and grabbed the orange juice.

“Orange juice for me as well, thank you.”

“You’re cooking,” Kelsey set the glasses down and squeezed Mona’s hip. “Least I could do.”

“I want another round, but I need food first,” Mona admitted, patting her tummy.

“Definitely food. And I have the day off,” Kelsey nipped Mona’s ear, “so we’ll see about another round.”

Kelsey grabbed the glasses of orange juice and walked them to the small nook housing Mona’s dining table as Mona steadied herself against the counter.

“Pancakes,” she muttered to herself unconvincingly, “I wanted pancakes.”

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Caci Natalie p2

Caci whimpered and closed her eyes briefly, trying to block out the frustration and sexual tension building within her.

"I'm sorry," she whispered, but her voice was hoarse. "It's the-" it's your words, she wanted to say, but she was too embarrassed. I can't help it, she wanted to whine, but that was the cheap way out. She could help it. She was an adult and could make the adult choice an exercise her willpower. "Where were we?" she asked instead.

"I don't-" Natalie still looked tense, predatory. "I'll be right back."

"Wait!" Caci reached out to touch her and then recoiled. Physical touch probably wouldn't help the situation. "I'm sorry. Please don't go."

Natalie managed a smile, "I'm not leaving. I just need a minute. I need to walk, need to breathe."

Caci nodded, she could understand that feeling. Natalie overwhelmed her, consumed all logic and reason until all Caci's thoughts were clouded with the woman. Natalie got up and walked toward the back of the restaurant, and Caci slumped back in her chair. She was messing everything up, again.

If only I could just be normal, Caci thought, if only my imagination wasn't quite so active. She sipped at her water and tried to think of calming places, of landscapes and crystal pools, anything other than the gorgeous woman with the tilted eyes who smiled so alluringly.

"You okay?" Natalie asked. Caci felt like crying, but sat up and tried to smile.

"Fine. How was your moment?"

"I think I'm feeling better than you," Natalie eyed her speculatively. "Should I ask for the check?"

Caci closed her eyes. The evening had been a total disaster. She was going to lose her online friend and companion, the woman with the words, and on top of it all, also lose her chance with a total knock out that took her breath away.

"I'm sorry," Caci whispered, eyes downcast.

"Please don't apologize, Caci," Natalie reassured her. Caci heard the waiter approach the table but couldn't look at him. Natalie must have signaled him.

"I'd like to pay, thank you. Just take my card and bring me the reciept." Caci's head shot up.

"Oh no! You can't! Please, this is all my fault, I can't let you pay," she pleaded.

"Hush, Caci," Natalie chided her.

"And the tiramisu?" the waiter asked.

"Can I get it boxed? If not, we'll skip."

"Of course, not a problem," the waiter responded, ever helpful, and skipped away with Natalie's credit card.

"Natalie, this is beyond unfair for you. Honestly, you can't pay for dinner, and especially not for dessert. It's more than generous."

"Put on your coat, Caci," Natalie's voice was firm but gentle, softly sweet. Caci swallowed her protests and stood up to slip her overcoat on. Natalie stood and shrugged on her coat as well as the waiter hurried over with a bill and a bag containing the tiramisu.

Natalie quickly checked over the receipt and signed, snagging her card from the fold.

"Have a nice evening," the waiter smiled at them, and they both murmured their goodbyes with polite smiles.

The air outside was chilly as Natalie held open the door and Caci stepped into the dark. The sound of the city rose up to meet them, and Caci thought miserably about the blocks she'd have to walk home. Maybe she'd take a taxi to spare being alone with her thoughts.

"This is yours, Caci," Natalie's voice was soft as she passed the dessert bag to Caci. Their fingers brushed and Caci tried not to shudder or whimper at the contact. Her stomach clenched and she swallowed tightly.

"May I walk with you a minute?" Natalie asked.

Caci looked up, confused, but nodded anyway. They began walking slowly in the direction of Caci's apartment, away from the brightly lit restaurant windows.

"I find myself very attracted to you, Caci," Natalie confessed, quietly, and Caci stopped walking. She closed her eyes, certain she was hearing things. Her breathing quickened, her heart raced. Words, beautiful words, echoing through her head. I'm very attracted to you.

"Physically," that velvet voice was in her ear and Caci wasn't sure if she was dreaming, "and mentally," came the husky groan and a hand landed on her hip. Caci's breathing hitched and she opened her eyes. Her heart pounded in her ears and she felt dizzy with want.

"I'm going to kiss you," Caci warned, and Natalie's grin was mischievous.

"You better," Natalie breathed, and Caci reached for her, but Natalie met her halfway. Caci whimpered, pushed closer. Natalie's mouth, the source of all those beautiful, delicious words, was slick and warm and gorgeous. Caci held her dessert bag awkwardly in one hand, but used the other to twine her way up Natalie's body and clutch at the lapel of her pea coat.

Natalie's groan was soft and rich as she fisted Caci's coat in her hands and drew her closer. Caci shuddered at the sound and closed her eyes, dreaming, floating, not sure of anyone or anything as she got lost in the caress. She nipped at Natalie's lip, tugged it between her teeth, and Natalie groaned again. The sound was heaven, and Caci whimpered in response.

Natalie pulled away and looked at Caci questioningly, but as their harsh breathing slowed, Caci and Natalie both began to realize their surroundings. "Come," Natalie took Caci by the hand and led them down the block until she pulled Caci into the mouth of an alley.

"You moan when I do," Natalie commented pressing Caci into the brickwork. Caci flushed, embarrassed. She shook her head and looked down at the concrete, but Natalie reached out to lift her chin. "It's nothing to be ashamed of," Natalie was gentle, her eyes searching.

"It's the sound," Caci finally admitted in a murmur, "and your words." Natalie leaned forward to brush Caci's cheek against her own, and the small friction made them both breathe a little harder.

"Words," Natalie tried to piece it together. She took the big buttons of Caci's coat in her hands and slipped one out of place. "So, if I were to say that I want to fuck you," she tested, and Caci's eyes widened. It was a nice word, Natalie's pronunciation crisp, her plosives tight, but it didn't make Caci's breathing hitch. An image came forth, as they always did, of Natalie hovering over her - hot, determined, wanting. She felt a heat pool low in her belly.

Natalie wasn't so easily deterred. "What if I want to finger you," she lingered on the word. Caci's eyes closed and she whimpered, her breathing erratic. They were in a car, and Natalie took her hand off the gearshift and slid it up the length of Caci's thigh. She pushed Caci's skirt out of the way and did a double take when she saw Caci wasn't wearing any panties. "Eyes on the road," Caci smiled, and Natalie slapped her thigh sharply. 

Natalie grinned in satisfaction and opened another button. "Suck," she whispered into Caci's ear, and Caci's stomach clenched. She dropped the dessert bag and reached out for Natalie's shoulder to steady herself. Her eyes were closed and she was lost in a world of images, raunchy possibilities, and scenes brought on by Natalie's voice, Natalie's words.

Natalie pulled Caci's coat apart and stepped in, pressing against her. She lifted Caci's dress fractionally and slid her hand along Caci's inner thigh. Caci let out a shaky breath and let her head fall into the crook of Natalie's neck.

"Bite," Natalie's mouth was right at Caci's ear, her mouth brushing the sensitive skin. Caci was shaking and moaning in Natalie's arms, so close to orgasm without having been touched. Natalie pulled the fabric of her underwear aside and brushed the rough pad of her finger along Caci's slick skin.

"Oh," Caci breathed harshly across Natalie's skin. She was hovering on the brink, the hot ache throbbing thickly through her, stoked so quickly and urgently through Natalie's velvet voice. "Please," she murmured, but she didn't know what she was asking for. Words? Touch?

Natalie slipped one finger inside easily, and Caci shook and clung to Natalie's shoulders. "Please," she cried. "Please, Natalie!" Natalie spread the fluid to her thumb and circled Caci's clit.

"Lick," Natalie groaned into Caci's ear and twisted her fingers in time with her thumb. Caci gasped, quit breathing altogether, shuddering violently, clutching tightly onto and curling into Natalie's embrace. Natalie smiled, her own breathing harsh, and after a quiet moment she pulled her hand away to rest on Caci's thigh.

"God, Caci, the way you react -" she breathed, smoothing Caci's hair with her other hand as Caci tried to get her heartbeat under control.

"Don't get your hopes up," she pulled back to lock eyes with Natalie in the dim glow of the streetlights. "It's just the words. The physical stuff -" Caci shrugged.

"I don't think so, baby," Natalie smiled down at her gently. "Your body is one hell of a violin, but nobody's learned how to make you sing yet." Caci blushed and tried to find her balance, brushed her hair back behind her ears. "I don't want to rush you," Natalie started, hesitated, "but come back to my place, please. I don't want you to think I'm taking advantage of you, except that maybe I am, but I've never met anyone like you and I want you in my bed."

Caci flushed a bright pink and raised one eyebrow. "Was that supposed to be moving? What's in it for me?"

"Orgasms - tons of them. Long conversations and plenty of words. Whatever breakfast you want, I'll make it for you and you can eat it in bed. In fact, if you never want to leave my bed again I guarantee I'll be fine with it."

Caci laughed despite herself. "I still want that tiramisu," she noted, picking up the discarded bag and lacing her fingers through Natalie's.

"I'll feed it to you. In bed," Natalie promised, and they both laughed into the night air.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


"Bye, Sharon!" the littlest girl waved. "See you tomorrow!"

"Not tomorrow," Sharon smiled, but Amy was already eating a sugar cookie under the Christmas tree. The girl's mother smiled at Sharon. "She's already forgotten me," Sharon joked.

"No," Martina Castillo laughed. "She'll cry and wish you were here tomorrow when she's opening her presents. I don't suppose you'd want to work Christmas?"

Sharon laughed. "I do have to take a day off sometime. Merry Christmas, Martina! I put my presents for the kids under the tree for tomorrow."

"You're too sweet. You're their nanny, you don't have to get them anything," Martina chastised.

"Just small things. See you day after!"

Sharon stepped out of the warm house filled with Christmas cheer and pulled up the hood to her coat. She strode out into the pouring rain, hearing the puddles squish under her boots.

She skipped down the driveway and pulled the keys out of her pocket. She stopped dead as she looked up through the torrential sheets of water to see a figure standing at the door of her car.

"Hey, what are you doing?" she called from twenty feet away. It was a fairly nice neighborhood with a low crime rate, but better to be cautious than sorry.

"My door is jammed," he called back. "I can't get it open."

"Why don't you try again later, when it's not pouring rain?" she suggested, her voice a little hard, knowing full well it was her car he standing next to.

"Well, I really have to pick up my wife from the -"

"Go inside and call a taxi," she returned, her voice harder. "I'm sure it's the better option for you."

The man hesitated for a moment, as if he were trying to make a decision. He looked inside the car, at Sharon, and then up at the house they were in front of, where Sharon finally noticed someone had stepped out to watch them. He eased back.

"Sure, a taxi. I should have thought of that before."

Sharon nodded and waited for him to walk down the street before she moved toward her car. The figure from the house came down the driveway in an olive green raincoat and met her at the sidewalk.

"You okay?" the figure asked.

"Yeah," Sharon nodded. She made her way to the driver door and saw scratches all along the handle and key slot. "Not too bad, actually."

"You want to report it?"

"No," Sharon shrugged. "No harm done, and he left peacefully enough. I think it was the neighborhood that was targeted, not me. If you want to call, go ahead. I can stay."

"I'm Liz," the figure in the raincoat said instead. "You've got to be a little shaken, and cold. I've got hot drinks in my workshop. You want something?"

"Sure," Sharon smiled gratefully, remembering how the man noticed Liz before backing away. What would have happened had she not come outside? "Thank you."

"Come on in," Liz led her, not to the front door, but through the side gate and into the garage. Sharon followed somewhat skeptically, but the garage was toasty warm and she closed the door behind her. The sound of rain quieted to a dull thud on the roof.

There was a pile of metal in the middle of the garage, and Sharon wasn't sure what to make of it. Surely it couldn't be a car, but what else would it be? Liz shrugged off her raincoat and hung it on a row of pegs by the door. The heat in the room was almost overwhelming for Sharon with her wool coat and she itched to take it off, but dare not make it seem like she was inviting herself to stay.

Liz propped open another door, leading into the house, and Sharon could see her filling a kettle with water. She watched the other woman move. Small hands, strong, sturdy, short hair, a boyish grin, with little maroon gauges in her ears. Not pink, though they bordered on it, and they clashed horribly with Liz's red hair. They made Sharon smile.

Liz turned around and caught Sharon grinning, and Sharon quickly tried to tuck it away. Liz's mouth quirked. "Tea, coffee, chocolate, cider?"

"Tea, I think. What do you have?"

"Peppermint, chamomile, breakfast, and some sort of holiday cookie," Liz shrugged at the last one, her mouth puckering to the side.

"Peppermint sounds wonderful, thank you. No additions."

Liz raised her eyebrows but turned back to the cupboards. "You must be hot," she called to Sharon. "You can hang your coat on the rack."

Sharon flushed and removed her coat, hanging it gently next to the olive green raincoat. Unburdened and much more comfortable, she peered around the workshop. There were bits and pieces and lumps of metal everywhere. Tools and benches, tables with drawings and desk lamps and travel mugs. She saw a keyring with a USMCRD tag on it and fingered its twin in her pocket.

 She tried to put it all together: short hair, sure hands, a confident way of moving, an upright stature. "Are you, or were you, a Marine?" she called into the kitchen. Liz popped her head out into the doorway, eyebrows furrowed.

Sharon pulled her keys out of her pocket and then lifted the similar set from Liz's desk. "My brother is a Marine. I'd know these initials anywhere."

"I'm not, but my best friend is. We thought about joining - both of us, for a long time, but I didn't."

"It's not for everyone," Sharon shrugged and slipped her keys back in her pocket.

Liz grimaced like it still pained her and sagged against the door frame. "Looking back, I'm glad I didn't. I would have missed out on things I needed to be here for."

Sharon heard what went unsaid. She gave Liz a sympathetic half smile and stepped toward the kitchen. "How's that tea? Still chilly outside."

"You're not still cold, are you? It's well over seventy in here. I have a little space heater in the garage that keeps it nice and toasty. Working with too many layers on gets difficult."

Sharon laughed and tried not to imagine Liz working out here in her underwear. That would lead her nowhere good. "No, I'm not cold," she answered with a grin instead, and the smirk spread to Liz as well. Liz handed her a mug with tea bag and spoon still inside.

"I didn't know how long you like it to steep," she shrugged sheepishly.

"It's fine," Sharon's grin widened and she stepped backward into the garage. "So what are you working on out here?"

"Oh, this?" Liz looked around and closed the door to the kitchen. "It's a little bit of everything. Some things are pieces I'm building or repairing for vintage cars, some are sculptures, some is just scrap metal. This," she pulled out a twisted piece of metal that branched out into delicate tendrils, "is going to be a fire screen. See how it looks sort of like a tree? It's coming along. Functional and beautiful is sort of what I was going for."

"You achieved it," Sharon praised, eying the metal tree. "I'd love to see a finished product. Things like that are far beyond my price range. That is, I'm assuming you sell?"

"Oh yes, definitely. Too much time and effort to keep it for myself. I love when clients fall in love with a piece and I know it will be treasured. I made a cherry tree headboard a few months ago with blossoms like you've never seen. It was hard to let go, but worth it."

"I'll bet," Sharon grinned, leaning comfortably against a work table. "And the cars?"

"Love them. Not much money in it, honestly, but putting something together, mathmatically, functionally uses a whole different side of my brain. It's good exercise and I think I'd go crazy without it. Plus, I love cars."

"I think everyone does," Sharon commented, an eyebrow raised skeptically.

"No, I appreciate cars. Some people appreciate a fine wine, and I can appreciate a finely tuned engine, a model finally perfected that runs so smoothly- I'm rambling."

Sharon shook her head and laughed, "I totally get it. My dad and I raced a Shelby down a windy road in Idaho, the car had a slight miss at 135. Not too shabby, but we got her tuned up right after."

Liz burst out laughing in shock. "So you know your way around a car."

"Pops was a mechanic. I can check my oil and float a carburetor, but don't ask me to change your transmission or anything," Sharon joked.

"I'll handle the transmission," Liz assured, and they both paused. Sharon realized how that sounded, awkward and like- like something she couldn't quite put her finger on, but she didn't want to linger on it too long. She enjoyed the easy banter, the laughs, the beaming smile she didn't know she'd been missing but was now hurting her cheeks.

"And the tea," Sharon added. "I've officially got you on tea service."

Liz visibly relaxed. "I make damn fine tea."

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Caci Natalie

Caci threw outfit after outfit on the floor nervously. She paced in front of the mirror and then shrugged off her tights helplessly. Blind dates always made her anxious! How was she supposed to know what to wear, how to act?

She pulled on the knit dress she had discarded an hour ago and the boots that went with outfit number three. They were a good fit together; dressy, but still warm and comfortable. She bit her lip and glanced at the clock. She was running out of time, and late was not her ideal first impression. She slipped on her wool overcoat with gloves and a scarf and was decidedly happy she had done her makeup first. She pulled her hair out from under her coat and fruitlessly tried to make it lay nicely.

She glanced at the clock again and was shocked at how much time had passed. She grabbed her cellphone and wallet and ran out the door, locking it behind her before shoving her keys in her pocket. The restaurant they had chosen as a meeting place was only a few blocks away, not nearly far enough to make her take a cab, although after ten minutes in the cold with a bright red nose and flushed cheeks, Caci wished she had.

She paused outside the brightly lit display of the warm restaurant and wrung her hands. What if she messed everything up? She'd begun talking with this woman, Natalie, two weeks ago, through an online dating service that Caci had initially been skeptical of. Now, Caci found herself looking forward to the emails, the exchanges, the smiles and deep conversations. What if this meeting changed everything and she lost her new friend and companion? What if Natalie wasn't anything like she seemed through fiber-optic wires and a brightly light screen?

Words. Words were Caci's undoing, and Natalie had an abundance of them. Words poured from the woman's fingers like a freshly tapped spring. They bubbled through Caci and left her feeling giddy, light-headed, dizzy from all those beautiful words flowing over her.

Caci took a deep breath and unclenched her fingers, pulling the heavy door forward and basking in the warmth emanating from the restaurant's lobby.

"Hello," she greeted the headwaiter nervously. "I'm meeting someone, under Venois, party of-"

"She's with me," a woman cut in smoothly. She was tall, efficient, beautiful in a non-traditional way. Her mouth was wide, her eyes angled in a way Caci had never seen before.

Natalie smiled and offered her hand, "Caci? It's nice to meet you." Caci shook herself out of her stupor and smiled back, shaking her hand. She certainly hadn't expected Natalie to take her breath away.

"Right this way," a waiter beckoned, and Caci gestured for Natalie to go first. Natalie's stride was undoubtedly longer, and Caci wanted to take a moment to organize her thoughts, and also because Natalie was wearing jeans that accentuated her ass below her lovely pea coat and just maybe Caci found herself staring.

Caci removed her overcoat as the waiter handed her a menu and tried her best to sit down gracefully. Natalie ordered a glass of wine but Caci asked for water, sure that drinking was the best way to ruin the night quickly.

"I like your dress," Natalie smiled, a glimmer in her eyes. Caci flushed and took a sip of her water. Don't act like a school girl! She reminded herself.

"Thank you," she smiled. "I'm sorry if I kept you waiting."

"Just a minute or two," Natalie shrugged. "I'm always early. Do you always bite your lip when you're nervous?" Caci's hand flew to her mouth but she realized she wasn't biting her lip at the moment. She blushed further, realized Natalie must have seen Caci's indecision outside the restaurant.

"Bad habit," she admitted, lowering her hand to her lap.

"Beautiful habit," Natalie corrected, and Caci's eyes shot to hers. Natalie had never been so forward before. Flirty, yes, with plenty of innuendo, but here in person, it felt different. Here, all of her words were spoken with a voice smooth as honey and all those words dripped, sweet, low, and slow in Caci's ears. They warmed Caci from her hair to her toes, and she was having trouble breathing. She didn't have the words in return.

"I-" she swallowed, but her eyes were stuck on Natalie's. "I go through a lot of lip balm."

Natalie smiled at Caci's stutter and picked up her menu. "It's so cold outside, I'm not sure if I want soup or pasta, but definitely something warm," she said, looking over the entrees.

Caci couldn't make the switch in conversation, too stuck on Natalie's beauty, her words, her velvet voice in the din of the restaurant. She picked up her menu in a daze. "Warm sounds good," she agreed, still staring.

Natalie's mouth twitched.

Caci blinked a few times and tried to focus on her menu. Some of the words were foreign, but she could make out the meaning of everything. "I think I want the risotto, but all I keep eying is the tiramisu," she confessed.

Natalie laughed and set her menu down. "So get the tiramisu," she suggested.

"No," Caci shook her head. "I have to get dinner first. Plus, you're right, it's cold outside, so I should get something that would warm me up."

"You were paying attention," Natalie teased and Caci bit her lip, embarrassed.

"Yes, I- I was just distracted. You don't post pictures of yourself on your profile but you're-" Caci swallowed on the word, "well, you're beautiful," she confessed.

This time Natalie's smile was warm and gentle. "Thank you," her words melted over Caci and she felt cocooned in them. "How was work?" Natalie prompted.

"Oh, wonderful!" Caci smiled. "One of my students did her paper on the lives of sea otters and it was actually quite good. She put in little boxes for drawings and everything."

"Cute," Natalie leaned in. "Did you always want to be a teacher?"

"Not at all," Caci admitted. "I mean, I like kids, but my real passion is language. How it can be used, abused, painted with, given completely new life and meaning with each generation." It's what attracted me to you, she wanted to say, but the words wouldn't come out. "Teaching came later, because there are few jobs I can do with my degree. I spent a year listening to high school kids mutilate the English language and then decided I'd rather help shape how children use language than try to correct horrible mistakes later."

"So you're not just beautiful and talented, you're smart and have common sense. Isn't that too many gifts for one person?"

"You're much more beautiful and talented and smart, and funny. You make me laugh so often and sometimes I open a message from you and start giggling and everyone looks at me like I'm crazy."

"You do?" Natalie asked in surprise and Caci blushed.

"Yes," Caci reached for her water, "I love reading everything you write to me." Afraid of how that sounded, she quickly tacked on, "I do have a thing for words, you know."

"Mmm," Natalie hummed and took a sip of her wine, but the corners of her mouth were tilted. "I enjoy messaging you. You have a very unique perspective of the world and your descriptors are so contrary to anything I've ever read or anyone I've ever met."

"Are you two ready to order, or would you like more time?" the waiter interrupted, and Caci was glad for the distraction.

"We're ready, thank you," Natalie decided. "What would you like, Caci?"

"I'll have the risotto, please. House specialty."

"Very good, excellent choice," the waiter commented, taking her menu.

"I'll take the bucatini, please, and can we order a tiramisu for dessert?"

"Oh, no!" Caci jumped in. "We don't need to - it's fine."

Natalie merely smiled at the waiter. "Tiramisu after the main course?"

"Of course," he grinned back. He winked at Caci as he tucked his notepad in his pocket and walked away.

"Thank you, that's very sweet. But really, I don't even know if I'll be hungry enough for dessert after," Caci bit her lip.

"You can take it home," Natalie shrugged, smiling. "So, where were we? I think it was something about you giggling at my emails?"

Caci shook her head, laughing. "Please, anything but that. How was your day?"

"Busy. People get so picky about their advertisements. Sometimes I get frustrated because they are paying me to create something beautiful and extraordinary for them, and then they tell me how they want it laid out and I know it's going to look awful. But, they're in charge, so what can I do but take it?" Natalie shrugged with a half smile.

"That has to be difficult. Especially all the art school and training, and then to have someone with no knowledge or experience tell you how to do your job? Sounds stressful. How do you relax?"

Natalie grinned wickedly and Caci wished she hadn't asked. "There's quite a few options to choose from," she leaned in across the table as she reached for her wine, and Caci felt a blush creep along her skin. "I enjoy running, massages, photography. I like things that get me out of my head. I seem to spend a lot of time there. As do you."

Caci wrung her hands under the tablecloth. She couldn't meet Natalie's eyes. She could just picture Natalie all those ways: jogging through the cold morning fog, warm and soft and oiled under Caci's hands, with a camera shutter clicking between them as Caci sat up in bed in the morning light. All of Natalie's words had come to life on the screen between them, but her voice broad casted them as crystal clear videos that played continuously on a loop for Caci. She couldn't take a proper breath.

"I'm a very cerebral person," Caci admitted, but the images wouldn't go away. She looked up, and Natalie's eyes strengthened the connection. The images blurred, shifted. Natalie laughing over her at the windowsill with the camera in her hand, "Don't be embarrassed, you'll still have a sheet on." Natalie coming in the door from her run, sweaty, exhilarated. Natalie sipping coffee and leaning against the breakfast counter in a camisole as Caci stumbles forward groggily before school.

"I'm sorry, what did you say?" Caci asked, embarrassed. She shook herself into the present.

"I said that if you keep looking at me like that I'd have to skip the dinner formality and just kiss you. But knowing you were so lost you couldn't even comprehend-" Natalie paused, licked her lips. Her eyes were dark, pupils wide. "You are something else," Natalie decided.

Caci was caught staring at Natalie's glistening mouth. "Is that good or bad?" she asked quietly, and Natalie reached for her.

"Good," she assured, squeezing Caci's hand. "Definitely good." Caci tried to calm her breathing, but Natalie's skin covering hers was making her heart pound furiously. The pads of her fingers were scratchy and Caci idly wondered why, even as the sensory perception compounded to the images already floating through her.

She could almost feel Natalie's fingers on the back of her neck, could imagine them gripping a pencil or a whisk. She could see Natalie everywhere, like a shadow in all corners of Caci's life, having always been there, but unnoticed until now - so right, so normal.

"The first course, madams," the waiter interrupted with two plates. He smiled at them at Natalie released Caci's hand. Caci tucked her fingers in her lap and wrung them together, cheeks blooming. Stop acting like an idiot! she told herself, but she still couldn't bring her heart rate down. She kept her eyes cast on her plate as the waiter refilled her water and made sure they were settled comfortably. He left and Caci picked up her fork.

"Do you say grace?" she remembered to ask before she took a bite, and Natalie threw her head back to laugh.

"No," there was a smile in her eyes. "I don't say grace. Do you?"

"No," Caci responded, feeling chastised by Natalie's booming laugh. She wished she understood the joke. "I'm spiritual but not religious."

"That's a good way of saying you don't know what you believe," Natalie prodded her with a grin.

"What I believe doesn't seem to fit with any religion. They are my own paradigms and just because I haven't written them down and made up a name for them like Snofagolopagism doesn't make them any less real to me," Caci countered firmly.

"Fair point," Natalie grinned saucily and took a bite. "I just wanted to see you argue."

Caci's mouth dropped open before she closed it with a smile and a shake of the head. She could understand that. She and Natalie had such an interesting back and forth online that it was interesting to see how different it would play out in person. They would both be testing the waters all night.

 "You are so frustrating sometimes," Caci confessed with a laugh.

"Better than if I were boring," Natalie took a sip of her wine. "You need to be challenged, Caci. You need to think, to argue, to form thoughts and opinions and have deep conversations. It's how you were built."

Caci felt as if she were being stroked by all of Natalie's words. She could feel herself calming, being caressed by the silky touch of her reasoning. I do need all of that. I need the deep conversations and the arguments, I need the thought-provoking discussions and the topics no one else will broach, she wanted to cry out. Caci held her tongue.

"Boring is not so bad occasionally. A night in, Chinese food," Caci shrugged instead.

"Occasionally," Natalie smirked. "You know, there's a great Chinese place one block from my apartment," she winked and Caci blushed and picked at her plate.

"I can never tell when you're flirting to joke," Caci admitted. Natalie's smile dropped and she was silent for a minute. Caci's hand trembled. She wanted to cry. She never should have said anything. Better to not know where she stood than to have this - this awkward silence, this loss of the person with the words, so many words that could soothe, arouse, bewilder, bemuse.

"I'm sorry, Caci," Natalie started, setting down her fork. "It's a tactic. Flirting and then pulling back. I am not sure where we stand and-" she stopped, tapped her index finger on the handle of her fork.

"I'm not either," Caci confessed. "Look, we didn't, either of us, come into tonight expecting anything or with a plan in mind. I just didn't expect all the forward - I mean, it's fine - I just - "

Natalie smiled, "Oh, Caci, can we have this conversation after dinner? I'll try to be less outrageously flirty. Keep it to one level. I enjoy talking with you and I would like to share this meal with you."

Caci breathed again. "Sure," she smiled. "I'd love that."

"So," Natalie took a breath and closed her eyes. She licked her lips, speared a piece from her plate. "You have one brother?"

"Yes," Caci smiled, feeling surefooted. "He's older by two years. He is a baseball coach at a private high school a few hours from here."

"So you both work with kids?" Natalie noted with a smile. "Do you want any?" Caci almost choked on her risotto.

"Not at the moment, no," she managed to recover. "We'll see how life's road goes. For Jeff, he loves teaching high school kids because he still feels like one of them," Caci smiled. "Only perk is now he can legally drink. You have a brother and sister, don't you?"

"Mmm," Natalie murmured her agreement. "Two very temperamental people." Caci giggled.

"Are you close?"

"We call and text. Fairly short conversations because we seem to communicate without needing too many words, but it's comforting to know they are there when I need them, I suppose."

"Jeff tries to text me, but I refuse to communicate with him that way. He spells like a seven year old. It's just easier on me if I call him," Caci admitted with a laugh.

"That must be difficult in your relationships," Natalie's eyebrows furrowed. "Not many text with proper spelling or grammar."

"I can get over it," Caci shrugged with a sigh, "unless it's truly atrocious. Remember that I'm around kids who have trouble spelling all day."

"So if I were to text message you and spell every third word wrong..."

"I would know you were doing it on purpose," Caci teased, but her face flushed. It wasn't the same. All those beautifully spelled, perfectly punctuated words made Caci's mind run ragged, made her breath catch. A well placed phrase, a graphic sentence, could send her reeling until her muscles throbbed with want and a thick ache pulsed through her. A voice mail could be ecstasy, a text message, heaven.

She bit her lip and remembered Natalie's earlier words "A beautiful habit," she'd corrected, so languidly, such a matter of fact statement, and Caci could hear them being whispered in her ear. Caci squirmed as her breath caught and her gaze slid out of focus. She could feel Natalie's breath on her neck, Natalie's thumb at the corner of her mouth, tugging at her lower lip to release it from its prison.

 "I don't know where you go but I don't really care," Caci heard Natalie groan and made herself come back to the present. The heat was still there, in the back of her mind and in the pit of her stomach, but she tried to focus on the woman next to her. Natalie was staring, eyes wide, at Caci, her knuckles white as she gripped the table's edge.

Caci reached forward to calm her, but Natalie flinched back, drawing her hands into her lap. "I can't keep my promise unless you-" she swallowed with difficulty. "Unless you stop doing that."

Her promise? What promise? Caci tried to remember, but her brain felt overheated. She could still feel Natalie panting against her neck and tried not to close her eyes and lean into the illusion. Caci couldn't take a deep breath, couldn't cool down her oversensitive skin. She needed to plunge into the icy air outside and refocus, but all she wanted was for Natalie to lean in close and wrap more of those gorgeous words in her deep, velvet voice to push Caci over the edge.