Therese lay on the plush rug completely nude and basking in the warmth of a roaring, crackling, fire. The flames foretold a story on naked skin and Carol appeared to be captivated by every meandering shape. She was laying beside her, cream white body bare to see, and occasionally Therese's hand would dart out to touch soft, sublime, skin. It was as though she needed to remind herself that this moment was real, to grasp onto something tangible to steady herself. They were content to lay here together and had for long hours. They had not made love, yet, but had grappled, clung, to one another in a type of desperate need. Just to be close to one another, closer than skin.
"How long have you felt this way?" Carol asked, momentarily, towering over Therese to drink a mouthful of red wine. A droplet spilled onto her chest and painted a crimson line to her breasts.
Therese sat up and brought her hands to circle Carol's waist, mouth suckling at the crimson stain. She knew Carol's eyes would be closed now, her own hands coming to the back of Therese's head to steady her at her breasts."For quite some time" Therese admitted. She gave her breasts one last kiss before she relinquished her laying back into the plush softness of the rug. "Does that scare you?"
Carol leaned back on her arms. No she was not afraid but she was curious. Her mind traced back to moments they'd shared together as she attempted to somehow pinpoint the exact moment she fell in love with her. Carol was a logical person. She knew there would likely be no solitary moment but rather that love grew in fragments confirmed when you least expected it. When did she realise she had fallen in love with Therese? She wasn't sure she could trust herself to give a genuine answer not when she had been lying so expertly to herself.
"Now you've gone quiet" Therese's small voice uttered and it made Carol snap back to reality in a second. Therese could have cried over the softness, the care, that warmed those beautiful blue eyes.
"I'm sorry darling...I suppose I was curious. I was thinking about the moment I knew I was in love with you"
Now it was Therese's time to wonder. She had presumed Carol had not known she had fallen in love with her until Therese had dared to say those words herself. "When was that moment?" It was a game they could play now as...lovers? Girlfriends? The words sounded preposterous to Therese's ears and yet she relished the confirmation that they belonged to each other in some way.
"Do you know I fooled myself for quite some time into thinking I craved you when really I think I became enchanted by you quite quickly" Carol was smiling, mind traveling to the early days when she would book them into hotels and they would ravage each other. Therese set her very skin alive and yet even as they'd laid there in the aftermath of their lovemaking Carol had begun to agonise over whether to stay or go. "I certainly tried to distance myself. I behaved like a monster at times" The smile had faded from her face as she dwelled on all the cold barriers she had constructed to keep Therese at bay. "But you showed me! You had me feeling like a love sick teenager. When you played me at my own game I could barely function"
"What did you do?" Therese couldn't help but desire this idea of the ever cool and composed Carol Aird becoming undone, ever so slightly, at the seams.
"Agonised over you. I became bitterly jealous. In fact it was a comfort at the time because I could fool myself that it was just my wounded ego. When we traveled to Boston I knew that I had fallen madly in love with you" Yes Carol could see the moment now.
"Because of that woman?"
"I was incensed but it was more than that. Just when I had supposed I might have totally screwed up my chances with you, you were so kind to me. Heaven knows I didn't deserve your warmth but you gave it to me and I realised that I was very much in love with you"
Therese was listening. Carol had her undivided attention and she absorbed every detail relishing its snapshot of Carol's thoughts. She felt as though she were seeing a new Carol born before her very eyes. "I knew I felt something for you even on our first trip to New York. It was lust, of course it was, but when I saw you sleep on the plane ride I knew there was something more, something beneath the surface. And you showed me parts of yourself bit by bit. When you brought me to your home. When you came looking for me that night when you'd been so abrupt in the jazz bar. And now I know I was right to wait" She smiled at Carol content to be entirely unguarded with her. For the first time since they'd met she was certain she would not leave, that she would not allow bravado to interrupt what was blossoming between them.
"You've been very patient" Carol's voice was melting honey now and she beckoned Therese over to her with an extended hand. Therese obliged crawling on her hands and knees toward the taller blonde. It was a sight not lost on Carol and she watched the curve of her hips swelling with every movement. How did she get to be so lucky? She wasn't sure but she was starting to believe that there were perks to being honest about her feelings. It sure beat evenings spent alone or evenings spent with Therese on some kind of mental timer, counting down the hours in which a threshold for feeling would be reached. She welcomed Therese onto her waiting lap. In fact, she loved the feel of her straddling her by the waist, that resonating heat between her thighs at the contact and then the full weight of her lithe body anchored to her naked skin. It seemed instinctive to Therese to drape her arms around Carol's neck and their breasts brushed, just lightly, just enough to stir up that biting feeling of desire.
"I have been very patient" Therese acknowledged but she was smiling warmly from ear to ear simply enjoying the feeling of being close to Carol. She kissed her collar bone, her naked shoulders and finally a featherlight kiss against her mouth. "But it was worth it" She confirmed, giving extra attention to Carol's earlobe. She heard that sharp intake of breath and she smiled even with the soft flesh snagged between her lips. Carol would prickle all over when she so much as hovered near her ear or her neck. Therese wondered how many layers she would grow to learn about this mystery woman.
"I'll make it worth it" Carol aspired, there was passion in her voice but also a layer of pain. She would have to learn to change if she wanted to keep this wonderful woman in her life. She would not share this with Therese, why ruin this magical moment? But Carol was fearful, foreboding, of her ability to change into a better person. She had not become this cold overnight. Circumstance had turned her into a ghost of who she'd been before all the mess of divorce, the heartache of estrangement. She was not born this way but she had become deeply attached, embedded in the Carol she'd become out of sheer necessity. What if she could not shed those self-constructed layers? What if Therese was too pure, too kind, for her? "I'll make it better" She insisted attempting to brush away some of the fears which were casting doubts.
Therese could sense the confliction in Carol. She saw it in the way her eyes misted over and her mouth pursed, seriously, in thought. "I think you're brave" Therese assured her even though an incredulous look sprung into her eyes. She gripped Carol harder and looked deep into her eyes. "I mean it. You were brave. You came to find me. You love me. I can't ask for more than that"
Yet! Carol's internal voice suggested but she warmed to Therese's words, feeling the butterflies build aknew in her stomach. "You're magnificent" Carol beamed.
Therese woke in Carol's bed alone and she was gripped with an initial sense of disappointment. Had Carol gotten cold feet? Surely not? She thought back to the hours they had spent in front of that fire whispering sweet nothings to each other. That Carol couldn't run, she was sure of it.
"Morning sleepy head" Carol cooed emerging from the opened doorway with a tray in her hands.
Therese felt an instant rush of relief and then the prickling aftermath of guilt. What would it take for Therese not to second guess her intentions? "Morning" She beamed and she sat up straight in anticipation for the breakfast Carol had so adorably crafted.
"You slept so soundly I didn't have the heart to wake you for breakfast. So I brought breakfast to you!" Carol announced and she placed the tray down onto the bedspread revealing buttered bagels, freshly squeezed orange juice, champagne which fizzed and bubbled in flutes bejewelled with raspberries which bobbed delicately. There were segments of fruit, melon, mango and ripe perfect strawberries. Off to the side was a cafetière of coffee, steam rising to match the smell of rich roasted coffee beans.
"You're spoiling me" Therese remarked as she snagged a strawberry and popped it into her mouth with an indulgent smile.
"Nonsense" Carol insisted and she pressed a kiss to the side of Therese's head before joining her back in bed.
"We're celebrating! Besides, it's romantic" There was that signature wink and how did it still manage to make Therese's heart melt?
"It's very romantic" Therese agreed leaning in for a good morning kiss. They were smug in their blissful enjoyment of each other and Therese did not want the moment to end.
"I'm feeling very romantic. It's quite uncharacteristic of me" Carol handed Therese a flute of champagne and then they clinked their glasses together in unison. "I'm lovesick and I can't imagine a second without you"
"Me either" Therese smiled but she was thinking about the two of them working in close confines. It had been hard enough when they had snatched mere moments but now there were no boundaries? "How are we going to work together Carol?" Therese asked drinking down a mouthful of champagne. She could not imagine Carol keeping her hands to herself. She thought about Brian almost walking in on them. Carol had not even heard the sound of the door handle turning.
"I don't see that anything needs to change"
"No?" Therese met Carol's grin with a searching look. "You'll be able to remain professional?"
"Therese I haven't had a single professional thought about you in months!"
"And isn't that the problem? I can't keep my hands to myself"
"And neither should you" Carol winked.
"What if somebody walks in and finds us?" Therese could not keep the alarm from her voice. She pictured Brian finding them in a compromising position and she couldn't help but flush.
"Let me worry about that won't you? Therese, I don't want a new assistant. It's the perfect arrangement and I promise we'll be a little more careful" Carol assured her even though she was certain their office rendezvous would not be coming to an end.
"A lot more careful!" Therese interjected.
"You drive a hard bargain Miss Belivet" Carol smiled broadly. She picked up a glowing piece of golden mango and brought it to Therese's waiting mouth. "Now let's eat breakfast"