Harrods was busy this close to Christmas, with people bustling around in search of the perfect gift. There was currently a pop-up booth of luxury watches that had attracted several well-to-do women, all looking for something to buy their husbands, and the gift wrapping station had a line halfway to Leeds.
Harriet Dowling stepped neatly around both the pop-up and the gift wrapping line. She wasn’t here to shop for her husband.
No, she was engaging in a bit of much-needed retail therapy, the only kind of therapy she allowed herself since the one time she’d brought up couple’s counseling and Thaddeus had earnestly asked her to consider what the State Department would think if they had to bill it to the insurance. Since that was how he wanted it, she had resolved to spend his money on other things. Namely the Chanel Boutique on the fifth floor. It had been awhile since she’d changed up her makeup. Maybe some lipstick would make her feel better about life.
After an exorbitant makeup tutorial that gave her a tasteful daytime smoky eye and a bag full of skin care products, she popped down to the second floor where the women’s clothing was located. Alexander McQueen was always a hit with the British society ladies; if Kate Middleton wore it, then it was good enough for Harriet Dowling.
And if she cast a longing glance at a black Balenciaga dress that was just the right slide of slutty, then no one had to know but her.
She took her selection of silk blouses, pencil skirts, and sheath dresses to the fitting room, already debating how much more time she would have to shop before the bespoke tailor closed for the day.
“—honestly, my dear, I can’t see why you can’t simply buy your trousers downstairs. The pockets are ridiculous on these things!”
“It’s called fashion, angel, and even if it’s news to you, it’s progressed since 1890.”
“Shame. I rather like a good crinoline.”
Harriet frowned as she pulled off her cashmere sweater and slipped into the first of the dresses. That voice sounded so familiar...
“Right. I’m coming out, and you’d best keep your hands to yourself.”
God, to be that couple. She felt her mouth twist bitterly and listened to the creak of the other fitting room door.
“Oh,” came the breathed judgment. “Oh, my dear, you look lovely.”
“Not bad, hm? You don’t think it’s too saucy to wear to the opera, do you?”
“I think you’ll look scrumptious.”
Harriet decided to break up this party before she had to listen to them fuck in the fitting room. Harrods wasn’t usually the kind of place where one expected outrageous flirting. She opened the door and stepped out, ready to take her navy blue dress, with its subtle tweed and exquisite pleats, to the three way mirror, and stopped dead.
That was her nanny. Her son’s dowdy, sunglasses-wearing nanny, who dressed like a Victorian dominatrix and towered over both Harriet and Thaddeus. And she was wearing the slutty Balenciaga gown that Harriet hadn’t had the courage to try on herself.
“Oh my God,” she heard herself say.
The nanny and her gentleman friend both turned to her, surprise blooming across their faces.
“Oh shit,” said the gentleman friend, which was rich coming from the human incarnation of a marshmallow.
“Mrs. Dowling!” exclaimed the nanny, and Harriet could have sworn she’d had an English accent a minute ago. “What a pretty dress! So good to see you, dear. Francis and I were just—”
“Francis?” asked Harriet blankly, and the gentleman friend winced. “You mean that’s our gardener?”
“Former,” said the nanny smoothly. Her name was right at the tip of Harriet’s tongue; it was bothering her that she couldn’t think of it.
That was right, they’d both put their notices in only a week or two before Warlock’s birthday. God, it was annoying that she couldn’t remember. Maybe she was cracking. Let’s see Thaddeus try to deal with a crazy wife. Now that thought made her smile. Maybe she could be Mrs. Rochester, trapped in the attic like a ball and chain and keeping Thaddeus from his boob job bottle-blonde Jane Eyre.
“I like the dress,” she said without thinking.
The nanny glanced down at it. “Thank you.”
“Which opera are you going to see?” She really should shut up and go back in her fitting room. Give them a chance to escape their former employer who now knew they went to the opera and flirted in fitting rooms. Lord, Francis cleaned up nicely. Who’d have guessed he was so freaking adorable under those bad eyebrows and the truly horrifying teeth?
“Turandot,” Francis told her. “We haven’t seen it in ages.”
“Not since Pavarotti put Nessun Dorma on the map.” Nanny absently smoothed her hands down the front of the dress; Harriet noticed—not for the first time—that she had absolutely huge hands. Unusually big, for a woman, with long, elegant fingers. Did she play the piano? Harriet couldn’t remember if she played the piano.
“That really is a killer dress,” she caught herself saying again.
They both paused. Barely; not enough to be obvious or rude about it, but Harriet was a politician in her own right, and she caught it. She was mentioning the dress too much. She was making it weird.
God, this was mortifying. She could feel her face heating up, and she opened her mouth to tell them she was going back into her fitting room.
Then Nanny said, “I bet if we looked they would have one in your size, dear. Angel, would you go be a love and check?”
“I couldn’t possibly—”
Francis gave Nanny an absolutely besotted smile. “Of course, my dear,” he said, and vanished.
“I have nowhere to wear a dress like that,” Harriet protested. And she wasn’t tall and statuesque, with strong shoulders and surprisingly delicate wrists either. “It’ll look ridiculous on me.”
“I very much doubt that,” said Nanny briskly. “You’ve a lovely figure, dear. And as for an occasion to wear it—” She grinned suddenly. Her teeth were very white and seemed a little too sharp. “You can simply create your own.”
Harriet was trying to think of how to respond to that when Francis bustled back in. He held up a dress. “This ought to do it,” he said, beaming at Harriet and handing the dress to her.
God, it had no back. There was no way to wear a bra with this. Maybe that looked good on Nanny, who barely had any tits to speak of, but Harriet was far more well-endowed. She chewed her lip. “I don’t have the right undergarments,” she tried to hedge.
“Did you check your fitting room?” asked Nanny dryly. “Never know what people will leave behind. Honestly, it’s getting as bad as Tesco these days.” She raised her eyebrows.
Harriet narrowed her eyes in return. Something was very weird here.
When she looked inside her fitting room, there was a bustier that definitely hadn’t been there before. She picked it up suspiciously and stared at it. It was her size, just like the dress.
“Okay, what the hell?” she muttered, less surprised than she really ought to be. Now that she thought about it, things like this were always falling into place with those two around.
“Did you find anything?” called Francis, sounding delighted.
“Wouldn’t you know? I did,” she called back dryly.
“Good. Then try the dress on and let’s see.” Nanny’s voice wasn’t sharp, exactly, but it was clear there wasn’t going to be any argument tolerated.
Harriet swallowed. Then she reached back and unzipped the navy tweed dress, letting it slide off her body and puddle on the floor. She unhooked her bra next, hanging it on the hook and shivering when she slipped the silky bustier over her skin. And then she slipped on the dress.
For a moment, she just stared at her reflection. It hardly looked like her, honestly. The smoky eye, the dewy lip, the dress that clung to her curves like water. She blinked, and noticed the way it hugged her belly.
“Let’s see then,” came Nanny’s voice, and Harriet wilted.
“It looks better on you,” she said in a small voice. “You’re tall and thin.”
“You’re halfway to wraithlike, dear, I’ve watched you diet for years,” said Nanny impatiently.
“Yeah, but—” She’d had a baby, after all. And how could she possibly forget that things were never the same after that, when all the women in her social circle talked about it constantly?
“Oh, for—come out here,” Nanny snapped.
Harriet’s face felt warm, but there really wasn’t any getting out of it. She opened the door and stepped out, avoiding their eyes.
“Why, you look beautiful!” sighed Francis, and he sounded so sincere that Harriet almost believed him.
“Thank you,” she muttered, wrapping her arms around her middle.
Nanny was giving her a critical look. “This isn’t a dress to curl up in, you know,” she said, crossing her arms.
Harriet, bizarrely, felt the need to apologize. “Sorry, it just—clings.” She flapped a hand across her midsection while keeping it covered with her other one.
“Yes,” said Nanny slowly, “it does cling. That’s rather the point.”
Harriet shrugged. “Not sure it’s my style.”
Nanny reached out and gently pried her hand off her stomach. “Come on, stand up straight.”
Harriet bit her lip, but it was hard to argue with a middle-aged Amazon who wanted you to do something. She let herself be twirled around to face the three-way mirror.
“Chin up, now,” Nanny said, and Harriet had to admit that she didn’t look half bad.
“Darker eyeshadow, that’s all you need,” said Nanny with a decisive nod.
“Maybe some vampy red lipstick,” Harriet suggested weakly.
The sunglasses still covered her eyes, but Harriet got the impression that Nanny had narrowed them. “Not sure that would suit you, dear.”
Harriet looked at her reflection in the mirror. “No?”
“Nah.” And there was the English accent slipping through the practiced Scottish. “With a face like yours you’ve got to walk the line between wholesome and vampy.”
“As opposed to going all out?” asked Harriet wryly. The woman was wearing Louboutins, after all.
Vampy red lips curled in satisfaction. “We all work with what we’ve got,” said Nanny.
“Why, if you two aren’t the loveliest ladies I’ve seen in ages!” Francis beamed at them. Literally beamed; Harriet could swear the lighting improved. The weirdest part was that he sounded completely sincere.
Nanny’s entire face softened into something indulgent and sweet. “Too kind, angel. But we can’t possibly both walk out of here with the same dress, can we?”
“I—I guess not?” Harriet wasn’t sure what was happening.
“What do you think she’d look nice in?” Nanny rested her hands on Harriet’s bare arms. They were cold, which probably explained the goosebumps that rose in their wake. “You’ll pick something tartan, no doubt.”
Francis was indeed wearing tartan. Harriet, who remembered quizzing Thaddeus on tartan patterns for weeks before a major trip to Balmoral, couldn’t place it. He sniffed. “Now, my dear, you know tartan is stylish.”
“Go on then, find her something she can wear to her Christmas parties.” Nanny smiled.
“Gold,” Francis decided immediately. “It will bring out the highlights in your hair.”
“And don’t make it too wholesome, angel,” said Nanny with an evil-looking grin. “I know the concept of sex appeal is lost on you, but give it an effort, hm?”
He fixed her with a rather beady look. “There are many different ways to be sexy,” he said loftily, and stomped out with his nose in the air.
“I always could have sworn he was gay,” Harriet remarked before she could think better of it.
“Depends on the day,” said Nanny, not looking at all offended.
Weird. Harriet gestured at the black dress and ventured, “so are you going to get that?”
“I think I just might. The opera can be rather stuffy considering the subject matter.” There was another one of those toothy grins. “How’s Warlock?”
Harriet smiled. “He’s good. I was a little worried for a bit, we had an incident on a trip to Israel that was really unsettling, but you know Warlock. He bounces back.”
“Mm.” Nanny pursed her lips. “Nothing too dangerous, I hope?”
“No.” Harriet shook her head. “Just this unhinged archaeologist. We ended up going to Tel Aviv and swimming for the rest of the trip.”
Nanny grimaced. “Could have been worse.”
“Are you...” Harriet wasn’t sure how to phrase this. “Have you been faking an accent?”
Her eyebrows shot up. “I—fuck,” she sighed, dropping the Scottish completely. “Yeah, alright. I’m not Scottish.”
Harriet wasn’t sure what her face was doing. “Why would you fake that?” She knew accent bias was real, but she’d never heard of an English person adopting a Celtic accent; usually it was the other way around.
“Sounded soothing,” she muttered, looking embarrassed.
Harriet decided to throw out an olive branch. “I hate to admit this, but I’ve thought of you as Nanny for so long I can’t remember your first name.”
“Yeah. Sorry.” Harriet flashed her an embarrassed smile. “That’s terrible of me, since we’ve known each other so long, but we always just called you Nanny.”
“Nanny was perfectly fine,” she said, a bit stiffly.
“I can’t call you that anymore. You’re not my nanny.” Harriet snorted.
“Crowley, dear, I’ve found just the thing,” said Francis happily. He held out an absolutely stunning gold dress.
“Crowley,” said Harriet slowly. It didn’t sound like a given name, but the way she bit her lip told Harriet that it was the one she went by. Well, it wasn’t her business to pry. She focused her attention on the shimmery thing in Francis’s arms. “It’s beautiful,” she murmured, reaching out to touch an elegant rose-shaped knot on the front of it. There were several, creating a path across the bodice for the eye to follow, and the whole thing glittered with sequins under the light.
“I’m so glad you think so.” He smiled at her, and then gave Crowley—that would take some getting used to—an insufferably smug look. “Too wholesome?”
“Give her the right pair of strappy sandals and she’ll look like the Whore of Babylon,” said Crowley, looking delighted. “I didn’t think you approved of sequins, angel.”
“I’m not sure I should look like the Whore of Babylon at a Christmas party with the Prime Minister’s wife,” Harriet demurred.
“Who else is going to bring the sex appeal?” Crowley grinned. “Besides, the Tories could use a bit of scandal right now.”
“Dear, no,” said Francis severely, and got a grin for his trouble.
“Consider it a freebie, as the Americans say,” she hissed.
“We can discuss it later.”
“Maybe I can pair this with some boots,” said Harriet, thinking of her college days spent walking from club to club in mini skirts and sandals and how she was way too old for that shit now.
Crowley pursed her lips. “Well. Bound to be some sexy ones we can stuff you into. Go on, let’s see it on.” She shooed Harriet into the fitting room.
Harriet went; this was kind of fun, and anyway she wasn’t entirely sure she was allowed to say no. It had been a long time since she’d gone shopping with anyone else. Warlock’s annual wardrobe reset when he inevitably outgrew everything she’d just bought him wasn’t exactly fun for either of them and therefore didn’t count.
She carefully hung the black gown back up on the hanger and then unzipped the gold. Burberry, she noticed approvingly, and slipped it on.
She loved it. She loved the way it hugged her body in all the places she liked. She loved how it shimmered and made her look warmer, somehow. She loved the long tight sleeves and the gorgeous knotwork on the front and the weight of it. “This is perfect,” she told Francis as she stepped out of the fitting room.
His entire face lit up. “You’re a vision,” he said, taking both her hands for a brief squeeze before throwing a supercilious look at Crowley.
“Not bad,” she said, circling them both with an appraising expression. “Not bad at all. You’ve got some taste, angel. Maybe I ought to send you downstairs for some more flattering trousers.”
“We’ve talked about this, my dear,” said Francis primly.
Crowley sniffed. “Right. Well, this does do you some favors, dear.”
Harriet stifled the urge to squirm. “Thanks.”
Crowley circled in tighter, raking her eyes over Harriet in a way that almost looked predatory. It shouldn’t have, since she was just checking over her outfit, but Harriet couldn’t help but think of birds and snakes. “Oh yes,” she purred. “Perfect to wear to your Christmas party. Maybe a diamond cocktail ring and some tasteful earrings. You’ll outshine all the other women there, which will make it all the more humiliating when their husbands take them for a dance, each of them in turn, while you’re left on your own by the hors d'oeuvre table. He’ll ignore you in public, snub you in front of all the chaps from his office who know he’s shagging twenty-year-old Tiffany or whatever her name is. But in this dress, you can grab a glass of champagne and find the handsomest intern at the party to talk to, and dazzle him with your knowledge of London and your scathing remarks about the other people in the room. And before long you’ll find this dress pushed up around your waist while he’s fucking you in the coatroom—”
“Too much, my dear,” said Francis patiently, and snapped his fingers.
Time seemed to pause, squint, then shuffle slightly to the left and reorient itself. Harriet found herself blinking in front of the three-way mirror, listening to hissed voices in the nearest fitting room.
“—too close to the situation to see it clearly, Crowley—”
“Look, I’m fond of the boy, alright? And if this is what it takes to get him out of that bloody situation, then I’ve no qualms about doing it!”
“Darling, I’m not complaining! But it seems you’ve lost your touch.”
“What the He—what is that supposed to mean?”
“It means,” said Francis in a tone that implied Crowley was very stupid, “that a strapping young intern is hardly the way to approach this.”
“Oh.” There were worlds of sarcasm in that syllable. “Oh, you’re going to school me now? You’re better at my job than I am? How long, comparatively speaking, have you been doing my work for me? Hm?”
“As I said,” came the patient voice, “you’re too close to the situation.”
There was a long silence. “Surely not,” Crowley finally said.
“I’m surprised you can’t see it.”
“She is not either!”
“You really didn’t notice?”
“Notice what? There’s been nothing to notice!”
There was another long pause. “You’d better be right about this,” Crowley said in a low voice.
“I’ve never yet been wrong.” After another pregnant pause Francis hastened to add, “on this particular issue!”
“Mmhm.” Crowley sounded indulgent now. “I don’t usually go through with it, you know. You’re alright with that?”
“You did say you were willing to do whatever was necessary. I quite agree, the end result would be best for everyone.” Francis’s voice turned sly. “And I’ll get to hear all about it after you’ve finished.”
“Filthy.” Crowley’s voice was honey sweet.
“Now, really,” sniffed Francis.
“Right then. I suppose we ought to start over.”
“I suppose we ought. And do make sure you buy that dress. You look absolutely ravishing in it.”
“I always look ravishing, angel.”
“Hence the present situation.”
Harriet blinked. She was standing in front of the three-way mirror with Crowley directly behind her. Francis stood off to the side, beaming at the pair of them like a pudgy ray of sunshine.
“Right,” said Crowley, sliding her hands down Harriet’s arms. “Well, this does do you some favors, dear.”
Some lingering sense of déjà vu made Harriet frown, but politeness demanded that she thank the woman for the compliment. So she did, ducking her head in a fit of uncustomary shyness.
“Now, now, don’t be so modest. Wear this to a Christmas party and you’ll look tastier than the figgy pudding.”
“Oh, I love figgy pudding,” sighed Francis. “We really ought to have one this year, my dear.”
“Of course, angel. I’ll light it myself,” said Crowley in a doting sort of voice. In a murmur to Harriet, she added, “don’t tell him, it’ll go straight to his head, but I spoil him terribly and enjoy every minute of it.”
Harriet forced a smile; Crowley’s breath tickled her ear. “That sounds nice,” she managed.
“He certainly doesn’t complain.” Crowley straightened up. “Yes, this dress makes you look positively radiant. It just needs a little extra something to make it all sing.”
“I can probably get some killer shoes,” said Harriet uncertainly. She wasn’t sure her usual beige pumps would do this justice, although there was nothing objectionable about them.
“No no, not the shoes.” Crowley eyed her, letting the sunglasses slip down enough to almost reveal her eyes.
Something in the back of Harriet’s mind was screaming about snakes and mice, but more to the point was the fact that she desperately wanted to see this woman’s eyes. It was unnerving, having known her for years and never having seen them. What color were they? Were they like the rest of her, by turns stern and indulgent? Harriet wanted to know.
“What do you mean?” she managed to ask, pulling herself back to reality.
“I mean a certain....” Crowley mused over the word she was looking for. “A je ne sais quoi. Something to really make you glow.”
“Like what?” Harriet couldn’t stop staring at her face. At the barest hint of an eyelid visible over the rim of her glasses. At the curve of those wine-red lips.
“What you need,” Crowley said slowly, “is a secret.”
“A secret?” Harriet repeated stupidly.
“Oh yes.” Large, capable hands took hers, making her look down at their reflection. She looked so small next to Crowley, petite and delicate. Those long fingers curled around her hands, trapping her, but somehow this didn’t feel as strange as it ought to. “There’s nothing more alluring than a mysterious woman.”
That, Harriet was forced to admit, was very true. Case in point, she was still burning to rip those glasses off Crowley’s face and look at her naked eyes. “I suppose,” she agreed cautiously, still transfixed by the sight of their hands.
“Secrets have power, you know,” Crowley cooed at her, and it was Nanny’s voice again, the fake accent that always made Harriet stand up a little straighter in her presence. It had the same effect as Ashley Ryder’s cheerleader voice back in high school; a desperate, pathetic need to impress, to be approved of. To pass muster and earn the queen’s favor.
And she knew that. She knew secrets had power. Her husband worked for the State Department, for Christ’s sake. So of course she knew that whatever Nanny was going to tell her next would be very important. “They do,” she agreed.
“And backroom deals are what determines the course of the world, don’t you agree?” Nanny’s voice was so soothing. Like silk or velvet being rubbed all over her skin. It made Harriet shiver.
“Of course,” she agreed, swallowing.
Something about Nanny’s body language went sharp and predatory. “Shall I give you a secret to keep, dear?”
Harriet swallowed again. “Okay,” she whispered as the air around her seemed to tighten with anticipation. Or maybe that was her own body, hanging on every word Nanny spoke.
“I’m going to offer you a deal, Harriet,” Nanny whispered against her ear, and her hot breath made Harriet swoon. “Three times I’ll ask you and three times you’ll have a chance to accept or refuse me. Reject me at any turn and this ends. You keep your tidy, loveless little marriage and your increasingly resentful son and your lonely life with your Chenin blanc to ease the heartache.” Nanny inhaled deeply, the tip of her nose brushing Harriet’s hair. “Accept, and I can take you away from all that. You and Warlock will be free to start over here in London, with no worries about visas or immigration. You can choose what you do, who you see, and where you go without being uprooted every time Thaddeus needs to curry favor. Doesn’t that sound lovely?”
Harriet felt dizzy. There was no way this woman had the power to offer this, but God. Sometimes she dreamed about being able to walk away with Warlock and get a nice little house here in the city, away from Thaddeus and his constant excuses and thinly veiled lies. “What are you offering me?” she croaked.
One hand left her wrist and came up to take her chin. Nanny turned her head until they were staring into each other’s faces with barely an inch between them. “You can take them off if you like,” Nanny offered in a whisper.
Harriet startled when she realized she was talking about the glasses. Before she could think twice, she reached up and ripped them off Nanny’s face, tossing them aside carelessly. And then she gasped.
“Think carefully before you decide,” Nanny told her, and she had yellow eyes. Yellow eyes with a thin slit pupil. Inhuman eyes. Eyes like a snake or a cat, and Harriet was caught, staring into them like a frozen mouse.
“Shhh.” Nanny’s thumb brushed her lips. “No need to scream, dear. I’d never hurt you.”
Her lips tingled. “Then what—?”
“What I’m offering,” said Nanny slowly, “is to make you feel more alive than you have since the night you and Thaddeus decided to fix your marriage. You know the one.”
Harriet did. Oh God, she did. She remembered champagne and salty sea air and the way his hands had felt on her skin. She remembered how they’d fucked until she was sore, and then again after that. She remembered thinking it would be enough, that things would change.
“How?” she asked in the softest of whispers.
The thumb brushed her lips again. “You know how. There are some things that scare you about yourself, aren’t there, Harriet?”
Harriet’s heart started to race. She couldn’t know about that. No one knew about that, not even Thaddeus. Hell, even the other girls had all laughed it off as a drunk one-off and gone back to their boyfriends. There was no way Nanny could know that when she really needed to get off she closed her eyes and remembered shaking thighs on either side of her head, and breasts pressed against her back, and lipstick smeared on pale skin.
She couldn’t even open her mouth to speak a denial, just stood there in shock as this woman (or woman-shaped thing, the back of her mind whispered) gently pried out her secrets.
“Well, Harriet?” purred that low, soothing voice. “Yes or no?”
“What are you?” she finally had the wherewithal to ask.
“I’m the original tempter of women, dear. Changed the fate of humanity with one taste of an apple. Tell me what you want a taste of, Harriet.” Nanny blinked her snake eyes once.
There was a part of her that was scared. The kind of scared that turned her blood to ice water in her veins and made it impossible to think. This was a demon, a literal demon from Hell, and she had a second of clarity about all of it—Warlock’s strange birth, the unusual things that followed their family, the unsettling man in Israel—all of it made complete sense. She was dealing with diabolical forces here, and she should take care.
But mostly she was mesmerized by the gold in those eyes. “You said three times?” she managed to ask.
Nanny’s lips curled in triumph. “I did, yeah.”
Harriet nodded slowly, and closed her lips around Nanny’s thumb.
It earned her a hiss, and a muttered, “good girl,” which made her eyes fall closed in a mix of shame and excitement. She touched her tongue to the tip Nanny’s thumb and nearly moaned at the taste. Something salty and smoky, like a good whisky. It was addictive.
She could have spent an eternity worshipping that thumb, but Nanny drew it out of her mouth, tapping it against her lips to stop the whine that emerged without her permission. “Now, now,” Nanny tutted, “mustn’t ruin your lipstick, dear.”
Fuck the lipstick. Harriet didn’t care about the lipstick. She’d smear it all along the insides of Nanny’s thighs if she asked it of her, and she opened her mouth to say so, but stopped when the grip on her chin tightened.
“Ah ah,” Nanny whispered. “This is for you, Harriet. No need to perform, here. No need to do anything at all, really. Just let me enjoy you.” And then she tipped Harriet’s chin up and licked a wet stripe up her throat.
Harriet gasped; lust stabbed through her gut, so intense it was nearly painful. Like a cramp, but accompanied by a delicious, spreading heat. She was too warm suddenly. The dress had felt amazing but now it was stifling, laying uncomfortably against her sensitized skin. She wanted to be naked, to let Nanny run those big hands all over her. Or cover her in lipstick prints so she could see everywhere she’d been marked.
“You’re panting,” Nanny cooed. “Isn’t that precious?”
Harriet closed her eyes, feeling her face heat up. This was too much like her old fantasies of being outed as a dyke by the cheerleading squad and having to pleasure them all in exchange for keeping her secret. How did this woman know so much? Was it some demon magic, or was Harriet just that obvious? God. She was probably obvious. She wondered how long Nanny had known what she was like.
“Your hair smells lovely,” Nanny told her softly. “Did you know that?”
Harriet swallowed. She knew she liked her shampoo, but this was different. “Thank you,” she whispered, not knowing what else to say. Her nipples were hard; she wanted Nanny to touch them.
Instead, Nanny let go of her chin and pressed close behind her, chest flush against Harriet’s back. She wrapped one arm around Harriet’s chest, above her breasts, and nuzzled her hair while her other hand relinquished its grip on Harriet’s own to tease along the dress. “We are quite pretty together, aren’t we?” Nanny hissed against her ear. “Go on. Look.”
Harriet met her own eyes in the mirror and nodded. She looked stunned, fuck-drunk, as she leaned back against Nanny’s body. “Yeah,” she whispered faintly, mouth falling open as she watched Nanny’s hand play across the dress. Her nail caught on a sequin occasionally, and it seemed to thrum against Harriet’s skin.
“Are you wet, Harriet?” Nanny asked in a soft, understanding voice, and Harriet’s whole body flushed with a heady mix of shame and need. “Go on, dear, you can say.”
But Harriet couldn’t. She shook her head weakly, averting her eyes.
“No.” Nanny’s voice was sharp now. “I didn’t stand you in front of this mirror to look away, girl. You’re going to watch.”
Harriet made a noise then that she didn’t think she’d ever made before. It was needing and pathetic, and it made Nanny smile.
“Steady on, dear. I suppose if you can’t answer we’ll just have to check.” She began to tug up the hem of the dress.
Harriet gasped. “You can’t!” she hissed, suddenly remembering where they were. She threw a panicked look behind her, expecting to see Francis standing there with a heartbroken look on his face.
But he was nowhere to be found.
“Did you just tell me I can’t?” asked Nanny in a soft, dangerous voice. “Was that a refusal, Harriet?”
“Wh—no!” Harriet grabbed at her wrist, feeling flushed and stupid and overwhelmed. “I just—someone could see—-and what about Francis?”
Nanny blinked, and then she chuckled. “Oh, that’s sweet. Don’t you worry your pretty head about him, girl.” She put her lips to Harriet’s ear again. “He’s out there making sure no one interrupts us.” And then she bit her earlobe with those sharp white teeth, and Harriet felt it down to her toes.
“I—God—” Harriet couldn’t quite manage a full sentence.
Nanny chuckled again, licking her ear with something like fondness. “No more thinking from you, dear.” She reached down again and gripped the hem of the dress, and this time Harriet let her. “Good girl,” she whispered.
Harriet’s heart was pounding so hard she could hear blood rushing in her ears. She stared, transfixed, as Nanny raised her dress, baring her thighs and the simple beige underwear she’d thrown on today with no expectation that anyone was going to see them.
“Hold it for me,” Nanny instructed her, and Harriet took hold of the dress without thinking. “Good girl. You’ve got to keep it up and out of my way, that’s a dear.”
Harriet gripped the dress and bit her lip. She actually let out a whimper when Nanny’s big hand gripped her thigh. “Please,” she gasped without knowing what it was she wanted.
“Steady on,” Nanny murmured. “Oh, Harriet, you have been a naughty girl. These are nearly soaked through.”
Harriet flushed, mortified, as Nanny snapped the waistband of her underwear.
“Filthy,” she tutted, but with an indulgent smile. “Tell me, dear, how long have you wanted a woman’s hands on you?”
Harriet squeaked. There wasn’t a better response. She couldn’t say how long exactly, just that she’d always been too eager to kiss girls when she was drunk, and too willing to follow powerful women around hoping to bask in the glow of their attention. “Please,” she whimpered again, knowing how pathetic she sounded.
But Nanny didn’t tut at her again. In fact, she smiled. “I’ve got just the thing, girl,” she said soothingly. And then she tugged Harriet’s underwear to the side, baring her pussy.
Harriet had to shut her eyes then; it was too much. She could feel cool air against her heated skin, and the shame that washed over her at the thought of Nanny just looking at it was more than she could handle.
“Harriet.” Nanny’s voice stopped her thoughts before they could spiral out of her control. “Open your eyes, dear.”
Harriet swallowed and shook her head. “It’s too much,” she whispered.
“I won’t touch it until you look,” Nanny said sternly. “Make up your mind, Harriet. Yes or no?”
Harriet shuddered, gripping the dress too hard. She hadn’t dropped it. “Yes,” she choked. “Yes, just—God.”
“She’s not paying any attention, dear,” Nanny purred. “Now open your eyes. Not every day you get to fuck in front of a three-way mirror.”
Harriet took a deep breath. Nanny was still holding her underwear to the side, fingers dangerously close to where Harriet both dreaded and craved them. “Tell me again,” she begged. It was too much to ask her to do on her own.
There were teeth at her neck then, startling a soft cry out of her. “Open your fucking eyes,” Nanny hissed. “You’re going to watch what I do to you.”
Harriet’s eyes flew open and flew to her reflection. She looked a mess; her hair was mussed, her face was red, she was breathing hard, and she had her dress bunched in her hands while Nanny teased her.
“Good girl,” Nanny murmured again, sliding wicked fingers along the satiny material of her underwear and raising goosebumps on her skin. “Keep being good for me, dear.”
“I’ll try,” Harriet breathed.
Nanny chuckled. “Good,” she purred, and then—finally—slid those long fingers over Harriet’s clit.
Harriet bit back a whine. God, she was so excited already and this had barely begun. Nanny explored her carefully, as though they had all the time in the world, first touching her labia, then dipping a finger inside her and remarking, “my, we are excited.”
It made Harriet flush again, but she couldn’t look away. She watched as Nanny’s fingers moved over her, heart pounding so hard it hurt. “Feels good,” she squeaked.
“I’m sure it does.” Nanny smiled gently at her. “After all, you’ve wanted it for so long.”
Harriet nodded, licking her dry lips. This was really dirty. She couldn’t look away. In the mirror, Nanny petted and stroked her, never staying in one place long enough to give her any satisfaction.
“Tell me, dear,” Nanny murmured, “do you shave this because you like to, or because your husband prefers it?”
For a moment Harriet was too overwhelmed by the blunt fingertips tracing her labia to answer, but then she swallowed. “I don’t know,” she whispered. “I guess it’s just the thing to do.”
“Hm.” Nanny pursed her lips. “Odd thing, that. Wasn’t so long ago that no one thought a thing of hair on a woman. Only a hundred years or so, really.”
“I suppose,” Harriet agreed, shifting her hips in what she hoped was a subtle way to encourage Nanny to rub her clit.
It got her an indulgent chuckle. “Needy,” Nanny said with a biting kiss to her neck. “I won’t make you beg here. Next time—if there is a next time—I’ll catch you alone and then we’ll see how loud I can make you scream. But for now...”
Harriet whined when Nanny started to circle her clit properly, canting her hips forward and panting through her open mouth as those long, clever fingers worked her up. “Oh my God,” she whispered again. “Shit, that’s—oh my God.”
“When’s the last time you felt this good, Harriet?” Nanny whispered, breath hot against her ear. “Before Thaddeus, surely. Wild university days, perhaps? Or did you have a special friend you used to play with at sleepovers? Bit of petting under the covers, hm?”
“I just—” Harriet’s breath caught as Nanny pinched her clit gently between her big fingers. “Oh God—just the once, it just happened once.”
“Is that right?” asked Nanny softly, and Harriet had to stifle a squeal as she tugged, just a little. The threat of pain shot through her like lightning, and she could come like this, she really could. “Tell me.”
“We were—fuck—drunk. Sorority house party, I was pledging.” Harriet’s hips jerked and Nanny went back to rubbing her in quick little circles.
“Classic. Was it hazing? Did they demand that you please them before they let you join?”
“No.” Harriet closed her eyes before she remembered and opened them again. Something made her whisper, “I wish they had.”
“That’s because you’re filthy, dear.” Nanny’s arm tightened on her waist. “So you touched these sorority girls,” she prompted.
Harriet nodded. “Yes,” she moaned. “We were drunk and they took me upstairs, and it went from there.”
“Sounds delicious,” Nanny hissed.
“It really was,” Harriet whispered. She could still remember that night; the giddy drunk feeling from too many vodkas with cranberry juice, the taste of Malibu on Jillian’s tongue, the feel of Sam’s nipples tightening under her fingertips. She’d been dizzy with lust, shaking with how badly she wanted it when Jillian had guided her between Sam’s legs.
“What did you do?” Nanny’s voice was hypnotic, drawing Harriet back to the present.
“I—Jilli—she—one girl fingered me while I went down on the other one,” Harriet whimpered. “Please don’t stop.”
“Never.” Nanny rubbed her a little faster, just rough enough that Harriet felt slightly used. It was perfect, riding the edge of too much. “You poor dear. Got a single taste and nothing since. I know how that feels, Harriet, and I’m not going to leave you wanting.”
“Oh,” breathed Harriet. “Oh, thank you. Thank you—”
“Such a polite girl,” cooed Nanny. “Did you thank those sorority girls for treating you like a plaything too?”
Harriet bit her lip; instead of answering, she focused on keeping her legs from shaking as Nanny dipped a finger inside her to get it wet before returning to Harriet’s clit. She was focused now, trapping her clit between her middle and index finger and rocking her whole hand. It was enough to send shock waves through Harriet’s entire body, and she clutched at the dress as she fought to hold in the noises she wanted to make.
“So pretty like this,” Nanny hissed, and bit her ear.
Harriet couldn’t muffle her squeal then, and Nanny chuckled, warm and steady against her back as she moved faster, winding Harriet tighter and tighter like a spring about to snap—
Her orgasm was a building, spreading thing that started in her clit and swept through her whole body. Nanny kept her upright with an iron grip on her waist, and Harriet was gasping for breath, letting out high little moaning sounds as she rode it out. Harriet couldn’t say for sure—time stopped mattering as she writhed under Nanny’s fingers—but it felt absurdly long. Impossibly long. As if Nanny had broken the laws of physics to keep Harriet coming as long as possible, until she was covered in sweat and her thighs trembled.
“Mother of fuck,” she panted when it passed and she could speak again. “God, I’m not sure I can feel my legs.”
Nanny’s lips curled into a smug little smile. “Then I rather think I’ve done my job properly.” She pulled her hand out from between Harriet’s legs (and even that was enough to make her shudder) and laid her fingers against Harriet’s lips. “Go on, dear. Here’s another taste.”
Harriet groaned. This woman was trying to kill her with what should have been cheesy porn moves that somehow managed to be insanely hot. She wrapped her lips around Nanny’s fingers, sucking the taste of herself off her skin. Fuck. Fuck, this was so goddamn dirty. Harriet couldn’t believe Francis was okay with his girlfriend fucking women in fitting rooms, even if they were demons or whatever. But if he was, well, she wasn’t complaining.
“There’s a dear.” Nanny pressed a swift, searing kiss to her cheek, miraculously managing not to smear lipstick across it. “Now you change back into your own clothes, and you go downstairs and buy this dress.” She bit Harriet’s earlobe and gently pulled her fingers out of her mouth. “You wear it to your Christmas party,” she hissed, “and when your husband ignores you, or you feel boring, or unappreciated, or dull, you think about me.”
Harriet closed her eyes and nodded, shivering.
“Good girl,” Nanny hissed again. “Go on then, sort yourself out. Give Warlock my love, and I’ll see you again.”
“When?” Harriet’s eyes flew open.
Nanny smirked. “Eager, are we? After you’ve had a bit of time to think. Ciao, dear.” She tapped her nose conspiratorially and sashayed out of the fitting room.
Harriet slowly lowered the hem of the dress, flexing her hands as the discomfort of gripping the dress for so long caught up to her. She turned and stared, lips parted, at the doorway to the fitting room, hoping against hope that Nanny would come back through and—
And what? Harriet shook her head as reality began to creep back in. This wasn’t a thing. Things like this didn’t happen to Harriet Dowling. It was tempting, in fact, to believe that she’d made the whole thing up.
Except that her hands ached, and she could still feel muscle spasms between her legs. She suddenly became aware that she was very, very exposed, and threw herself into the fitting room to hide. It was better in here, safer somehow. Harriet took several deep breaths, closing her eyes and trying to center herself like her yoga instructor had taught her. She didn’t like yoga, but all the other women in the embassy swore by it. Harriet was nothing if not a follower.
The deep breaths worked. She centered herself. She changed back into her own clothes. She decided against the navy tweed dress. And she took the gold one downstairs to the register.