Sorry about the delays in posting, but I took some time off to finish the thing. Im pleased to announce that it is finally finished and shall be posted here in its entirety sometime soon. For those too impatient to wait <g> its all at www.bluedragonslair.com
Jay was waiting by the Maitre Ds stand when they arrived at the restaurant. He waved them over before continuing his conversation with the tuxedo-clad man at the stand. As soon as the four of them came within polite speaking distance, the Maitre D had a hostess escort them all to a table in the conservatory area of the restaurant.
Laurel was impressed. The buffet looked huge, the place looked bigger. The conservatory was an enclosed patio, the walls were plates of glass that looked out onto the courtyard. Vines formed the ceiling of the outside patio, and grew in strategically placed areas around the entire outdoor complex.
The table they were lead to was a round wrought iron one. It was set with the typical white plates, glass wear and heavy silver flatware. There were white gardenias in the middle of the table. The smell was intoxicating. The jazz quartet was situated in the corner of the enclosure, and Laurel was pleased to see the stand up bass present.
"Here you go, someone will be with you in a moment to explain the buffet and take your drink order," The hostess smiled before leaving them at the table to sort out the seating arrangements.
"Ok, Nicky, Laurel, Jessie, Stan, me and wonder uncle should be here in a moment." Jay handed out the seating order.
"Moments up, Im here," Phil joined them at the table. He smiled at them all as he took his seat next to his partner. "Sorry to keep you all waiting, but I ran into a friend at the bar. Have you placed the drink order yet?"
"No, we were waiting on the waiter or waitress. What does everyone want? Ill place the order while yall go check out the buffet. Laurel, Im sure Nicole will show you around." Jay settled back into his chair and waited for their orders.
Laurel and Nicole both requested an ice tea before making their way to the buffet line. The buffet was split into two main sections. On one side of the hallway there was every type of salad the bassist had ever heard existed. Farther down there was crawfish, boiled shrimp, and cold salads made with different types of pasta and seafood. On the other side of the hallway they had arranged a line of typical southern breakfast foods: hash browns, grits, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, ham, and a station that made fresh omelets or eggs benedict.
Nicole pointed everything out to her companion. The two found plates and began pilling up food. Laurel really wanted an order of eggs benedict, but decided she would wait until the line was shorter. They carefully made their way back to the table. Waiting for them was a flute of orange juice and a glass of sweet tea at every place on the table.
"Orange juice? Are your uncles health nuts?" Laurel laughed as she put her napkin in her lap.
"No, its a mimosa, a drink with orange juice and champagne. Its actually special champagne. The restaurant has it made and bottled just for their use. Try it, its pretty good" Nicole set the example by sipping from her glass.
Laurel tried it and found it mildly interesting but good. Jessica and Stan soon joined them at the table. Both looked gratified by the orange filled flutes next to their plates. Laurel felt a little like a country bumpkin, but decided that not knowing the drink existed did not indicate ignorance. She did learn quickly that drinking tea before drinking the mimosa kept the drink from tasting like eggs.
"So, how is everything?" Jay placed his laden plate on the table.
"This is the best buffet Ive ever seen. Beats the casinos we have hands down," Laurel told him.
"Oh, are you from the Coast?" Jay sliced a little of his eggs benedict with his knife.
"Yes I am. We dont have casinos in the county Im from, but they are short drive from my parents house."
"Do you go home much then?" Phil asked for his partner.
"No, I really dont get down to the coast often. You might say that my parents and I had one too many disagreements about the direction my life took." Laurel tried to make the comment sound off handed.
Wisely, Jay worked the conversation around to something a little less volatile. The six of them finished their first courses and their mimosas almost at the same time. The waitress refilled their carafe of orange juice, their water, and their tea while the bus boy took the used plates away.
"More?" Nicole asked Laurel as she stood up. The bassist nodded and stood as well.
The two wound their way back to the hallway where the buffet stood. This time, Laurel went for the hot food station. She watched in fascination as the chefs behind the partition made omelets and eggs benedict for the line of people. She placed her order and waited for her food. It took very little time since the water for the eggs was already boiling.
She made it back to the table before anyone else. Just as she was about to enjoy her eggs benedict, Nicole and Jessie returned. Laurel moved her chair up to allow Nicole to squeeze into her place at the table. She grinned when she noticed the photographer had an omelet and a helping of hash browns.
"Big omelet fan?" She asked.
"Sort of. Someone I know got me hooked on them," The photographer grinned.
Before too long, everyone was enjoying his or her choices. Stan engaged Jay in a conversation about the upcoming football game while everyone else made small talk. Laurel was soon dragged into the football conversation, causing Nicole and Jessica to roll their eyes.
"Least this one plays well with others," Jessica leaned over and whispered to her cousin.
"Yeah, she is great isnt she?" Nicole smiled fondly at the bassist.
"You got a winner with that one. Im almost jealous," Jessie teased.
"Huh?" Laurel had the feeling she was being talked about. She turned in time to catch the adoration on Nicoles face. It took her breath away. Damn. Now that is a look to come home to.
"Oh, I was just asking Nicole if she was looking forward to being a football widow," Jessica covered easily.
"Widow? Nah, Ill just have to get her to appreciate or at least tolerate the game," Laurel replied with a grin.
"So, what does everyone have planned for this evening?" Stan asked the assembly.
"Well, Sheryl called and said that she and Danny were coming down for the weekend. They want to hit the Oz tonight," Nicole informed them.
"Cool, Im up for that. It will be a wild night," Jessie grinned. She got along surprisingly well with the critic and the deejay.
"I think Ill skip out on that. Some of the guys wanted to go out to a different kind of club this evening," Stan made his excuses.
"Wouldnt happen to be a strip club would it?" Phil asked. Stan turned bright red in answer. "Anyway, you three should be careful. I dont want any midnight calls to come bail you out of jail tonight."
"Dont worry, you wont get one of those," Nicole promised her uncle. She spared a glance at Laurel, but the jail reference did not seem to bother the bassist.
"Well, wed go with you, but Im sure you youngsters dont want us oldsters around," Jay grinned.
"Now, why do I get the feeling you two could out last all five of us?" Laurel asked him. Both Phil and Jay laughed.
"Well, we would join you, but we have plans. It seems that our wayward niece isnt the only one in the hospital. Last night we received news that one of our friends was admitted to the hospital in Baton Rouge yesterday. We went up there last night, and were planning on going again this afternoon." Jay did not tell them why their friend was in the hospital. The look on his face kept them from prying.
"Matter of fact, we need to be heading out if we want to meet everyone else there," Phil reminded his partner.
Everyone at the table took the hint. Jay dropped several bills on the table for a tip as the group made their way to the exit. They all stopped by the hostess stand so Jay could pay for the meal. After receiving his receipt, he hugged each of them and warned them to behave. Phil followed his example but with a request to keep his cellular number with them in case they did indeed have to call him at midnight.
The three cousins and Laurel said goodbye to the pair outside the restaurant and began the walk back to the Warehouse. Royal Street was open to traffic, but none appeared. They had almost the entire two blocks to themselves. The day was as clear as the street, and all four felt much better after the meal and the cigarettes they had lit upon leaving The Court of Two Sisters.
"Who has keys?" Jessie asked as they stopped in front of the door to the garage.
"Oh, I still have yours dont I?" Laurel had forgotten to give the key back to its owner.
"Keep it, we have a ton of spares. I just forgot my extra set. Theyre sitting on the bathroom sink of all places."
"Here, I have mine," Stan unlocked the door. He was more accustomed to it anyway. He was the only one that lived at the Warehouse full time.
"Do we have to go back to the hospital today?" Jessie whined. She was the only one brave enough to point out the complete waste of time she felt the vigil to be.
"Not as far as I know, but Grandma will call us if she wants us there," Nicole groaned. "Ill let you know if she calls. Right now though, I feel like taking a nap."
"Im with you on that one, cuz," Stan yawned. Laurel and Jessie shrugged.
"Guess well catch up with you two in a bit," Jessie said from the elevator. Stan was already inside and impatient for his nap.
"Yeah, well come and find you later," Nicole promised.
Wordlessly she waited as Laurel opened the courtyard door. Mozart ran inside and straight up the stairs. Baffled the two women followed him. They found him muzzle deep in his water dish. Apparently someone had forgotten to make sure he had food and water downstairs.
"Oops," Laurel felt bad, but he did not seem any worse for the two hours he was down there.
"Hell be ok I hope. Well just have to make sure one of us puts water and food in the courtyard before we leave to go anywhere." Nicole felt guilty, but did not want Laurel to as well.
Mozart did indeed prove to be fine. After his water, he curled up on the couch and dared anyone to make him move. Fortunately for him, the humans had already opted for the bed.
"Feel up to a nap?" Nicole asked as she sat down on the bed and took off her shoes.
"You mean do I want to curl up in a huge bed with you?" Laurel started pulling off her boots. "Theres nothing I want to do more."
"Nothing?" Nicole asked with a raised eyebrow. The Champaign had made her daring.
"Well, I can think of one or two other things I would like to do," She grinned evilly. "But that will have to wait for a moment while I take care of something."
Nicole watched as Laurel walked to the bathroom barefoot. She had an incredible feeling in the pit of her stomach. She sincerely doubted the alcohol had put it there. It did not take her long to conclude that the bassist was intoxicating enough.
"Hey, whats that look for?" Laurel asked as she came back into the room.
"I was just thinking," Nicole shrugged off the question.
"Were not in Brigadoon are we?" Nicole did not know what made her ask that question.
"Brigadoon?" Laurel was suddenly confused. She walked over and sat down on the bed beside the photographer. "Oh, you mean like a fantasy land?" Nicole nodded and stared at her hands.
"Nicole, look at me for a moment," Laurel placed her hand under the photographers chin, forcing Nicole to look at her. "Does this relationship feel real to you? It does to me. This would have happened had we stayed home or taken a cruise of Norway. For weeks Ive wanted to tell you how I feel. Its as real as life can be."
"Promise?" Nicole had tears in her eyes.
"With all my heart," For the first time in her life, Laurel did not hesitate.
"Im sorry, I dont know where that bout of insecurity came from," Nicole gave a weak laugh. "I guess its all the pressure."
"Hey, no problem," Laurel let out a real laugh. "And here I thought that Id be the one with all the doubts. Guess were both a mess. So lets just concentrate on being messed up together ok?"
"Ok," The photographer put her head on the bassists shoulder. "Now, didnt we originally intend to take a nap?"
"Yeah we did," Laurel unceremoniously caused them both to fall back on the bed. "So lets get comfortable and get some sleep."
They stayed dressed this time. However, Nicole had discovered that Laurels shoulder made a better pillow that the one on the bed, so the bassist soon became a partial mattress. It was not long before Laurel heard the gentle snores emanating from her shoulder. She started at the ceiling and mentally reviewed their conversation. She had no idea where Nicoles doubts had sprung from, but she could readily guess. It was however, her insistence on the relationships stability that had most surprised her. Was she ready for a life long commitment at the tender age of twenty-one? She could only hope. She was too much in love to think otherwise.
"Aww, isnt that sweet?" A patently sugar coated voice wound its way through Laurels dreams and brought her back to reality. As she eased into consciousness, she realized that Nicole was still sound asleep. Therefore, the voice had to have come from someone else in the room. Cautiously she raised her head and looked around, worried for a moment that Adia had decided to surprise her granddaughter with a visit. Fortunately, after her eyes began to focus properly, she saw who the intruders were.
"Did we wake you?" Danny did not even try to sound penitent. Sheryl looked like she was about to start laughing.
"Yeah, whats going on?" Laurel was not awake enough to be completely polite. She started to gently shake her companion, knowing that Nicole would want to greet her friends.
"That wont work if shes really tired," Sheryl advised. "You have to really get her attention."
"And how do you propose I do that?"
"Be creative," Danny winked. "Meanwhile, well wait downstairs in the courtyard. Dont be long."
Laurel was left shaking her head in disbelief as the two disappeared as quickly as they had appeared. She fell back into her pillow, anchored to the bed mainly by the photographer. Nicole had barely moved since she had fallen asleep earlier. Laurel managed to catch a glimpse of her watch and was surprised at the time. Barely an hour had passed since they had laid down for the nap.
Be creative? She thought to herself as she looked at the photographer. Nicole looked peaceful in sleep, almost childlike. What were they playing at? Fairy Godmothers?
Maybe it was the irreverent fairy tale reference, but Laurel was suddenly struck by a wicked thought. Her mind called forth all of the sleeping damsel in distress stories she had been force-feed throughout her youth and gave her a bit of inspiration. Slowly, she worked her way from underneath the photographer until she was lying at Nicoles side. Then carefully, she lifted the photographers head until Nicole was lying on the pillow instead of the mattress.
Silently chuckling, Laurel took a moment to survey Nicoles prone form. The photographer was lying on her side, with one arm tucked beneath her. The other arm was lying across the mattress, almost reaching the bassist. Laurel took that hand in her own, brushed the dark brown bangs from the sleeping womans brow, and leaned in closer.
Nicole had stopped snoring. Something Laurel was extremely grateful for. One of her shortest flings had been ruined by wall rumbling snores. Fortunately, the photographers snores were barely audible. However, she was a blanket thief of the first order. Laurel was fine with that. She had been told more than once that she talked in her sleep, so she was more than willing to overlook the blanket stealing.
Laurel placed a light kiss on Nicoles lips. When that elicited no response, she leaned in for a slightly longer one. That one was also a failure, so with a wicked grin, Laurel began to nibble and tease the photographers lips. The responses started out slow, as if Nicole was responding to a dream, but as Laurel continued, Nicole became more ardent.
"Now that is a way to wake up," Blue eyes opened and met grey ones.
"Well, Danny told me to be creative," Laurel rolled back into a more comfortable position.
"That was creative," Nicole followed the movement in hopes of another kiss. "Wait a minute. Did you say Danny told you to be creative?"
"Yep, Danny and Sheryl are waiting for us downstairs. They showed up a couple of minutes ago. Sheryl implied that you were hard to wake," Laurel smiled as she watched Nicole try to work through what she had just been told.
"Im not hard to wake up. Whered she get that idea?" It was true. Nicole usually woke up before her alarm clock had a chance to perform its function.
"I have no idea, but it was a fun way to get you coherent."
"Evil, you are pure evil," The photographer smiled to show she did not mean the tease to be an insult.
"Nope, evil would have been waking you up in a completely different fashion while your friends were in the room. Although, they did suggest that I use this method and then left us alone. Makes you wonder what they had in mind, doesnt it?"
"Hmm, why yes it does. What do you suggest we do about it?" Normally, Nicole would have been horrified at being caught in a quasi-compromising position, but she knew Sheryl and Danny would not have left them alone had they disapproved of the relationship.
"Well, they are your friends. Do you want to leave them waiting for a little while I finish what I started?" Laurel moved her hand from Nicoles and began rubbing the photographers arm. "Or do you want to go down there and see them immediately?"
"What time is it?" Nicole was becoming increasingly distracted by the look in Laurels eyes.
"2:30 PM," The bassist began messaging Nicoles shoulder. Her unoccupied hand found employment by cupping a breast. She moved forward and placed a small kiss right below Nicoles ear. "Well?"
"Let them wait," Nicoles decision was met with a throaty chuckle as Laurel began her quest in earnest.
Forty-five minutes and a hurried shower later, Laurel found Sheryl and Danny sitting at the patio table talking to Stan. The three of them looked up at her approach and stopped their conversation. A natural clue that led the bassist to believe that she was somehow involved in the topic.
"Hey, wheres Hotshot?" The critics gaze took in the change of clothing and the wet hair.
"Changing clothes. Shell be down with Mozart in a moment." Laurel took a seat at the table and proceeded to light a cigarette.
"What were you two doing up there?" Danny asked. "Never mind, I dont think I want to know." He forestalled Laurels answer after he noticed the wet hair.
"You told me to be creative," She shrugged at the two of them and then winked at Stan.
"Hey, yall are here early," Nicole pointed out as she closed the French doors behind her.
"Well, we had nothing better to do. Did you enjoy your nap?" Sheryls tone of voice took on arch significance.
"Why yes I did. It was most relaxing." Danny and Sheryl exchanged shocked looks at their friends off hand demeanor. Little did they realize that Nicole had answered the question at face value. "Naps are probably the best carry over from childhood."
"Somehow I dont think it was the nap that got rid of those tension lines around your eyes, Hotshot," Sheryl smiled fondly as Nicole turned a surprisingly bright shade of red.
Nicole refused to comment as she took the last remaining seat at the table. This one was conveniently located at Laurels side. The bassist reached over and took her hand, caressing the back of her hand with a calloused thumb.
"Well, at least we had most of our questions answered," Danny laughed. "And here I thought we were going to have to break out the lamps and wooden chairs to get information."
"Dont tell me you came down here to check on us?" Nicole finally regained her voice, not to mention her normal skin tone.
"Well, in a way. We found out why you were here, and decided a little moral support couldnt hurt," Sheryl answered. "Seeing if you two had come to your senses was just an added bonus."
"Yeah, this one here was ready to break out the cattle prods, two by fours and any other heavy, blunt object she could think of to use as a clue."
"Oh, I dont think that is necessary," Jessie joined the party at last. "Im quite sure they have more than a clue. By now, Laurel should at least have a road map."
Jessie sat down with an amused look on her face. Nicole however was concerned. Her cousins comment had caused the bassist to choke as she was exhaling a cloud of smoke. Whether it was the exertion or the comment, no one knew, but it was the first time Nicole had seen Laurel turn red.
"You ok?" Nicole patted the bassist on the back.
"Yeah, Im not sure what happened," She shook her head to clear it. "Im ok though."
"So, what are you gals planning on doing tonight? Other than the obvious?" Danny thought a partial change of conversation was in order.
"Well, we were under the impression that you two wanted to go out tonight," Nicole spoke for the group.
"Yeah, that was another added bonus to the trip home," Sheryl laughed. "Course I didnt let my parents know that we were here, so "
"You can stay in Margies apartment I guess." Stan caught the hint.
"Actually, it might be better if they stayed in Uncle Franks." Jessie mentally calculated the vacant floors. "No one in the family ever uses that one, and the other two seldom used floors are being renovated."
"How many people stay here anyway?" Laurel wondered why the younger cousins seemed to be the Warehouses only inhabitants.
"Well, our parents have a floor that they rarely use since they live in Baton Rouge. Nicole you stayed there last time you were down didnt you?" Jessie asked.
"Yeah, Grandma had my part repainted so Danny and I stayed in Aunt Kays living room. Thats the second floor." Nicole explained for Laurels benefit. "Stan and Margie split the third, Jay and Phil have the fourth floor, I have the fifth, and the sixth is split between Cassie and Jessie."
"Which is being renovated," Jessie interrupted. "The seventh, eighth and ninth all belong to other aunts and uncles that rarely use them. They all live out of state, and generally stay at Grandmas when and if they come home."
"And the tenth, the top floor belonged to Grandmas favorite son, Frank," Stan took over the explanation.
"What happened to him?" Laurel wondered.
"He was killed in Vietnam. Now, no one uses that room except us, and we arent supposed to because it is left the way it was before he was shipped out. However, it is the only way to the roof, so sometimes we have to go up there. I am the only one who lives here permanently at the moment." Stan finished the story.
"Well, now that the back story is finished," Danny grinned. "What do we want to do today?"
"We can go bumming around the Quarter for a while before we go out. Want to move your stuff up first?" Nicole asked. "How did you two get in here earlier anyway?"
"Oh, I meet them at the door after I came back from the ice cream shop," Jessie pulled another chair around the table. "So, where do we want to go bumming?"
"The French Market?" Sheryl hazarded.
"Sounds good to me," Nicole liked the suggestion. It had been a year or so since she had been to the French Market.
"Lets get our stuff up here first," Danny took the role as the voice of reason.
"Great, Ill show you up and give you a hand with the baggage," Stan stood and gestured for the two to follow him.
"Well meet you on my floor," Nicole rose as well and indicated Laurel should follow.
Laurel was quiet as they went up the stairs. She was looking forward to their planned night out, but was also looking forward to a quiet afternoon alone with the photographer. She resolved to spend more time in New Orleans with out the emotional upheavals they had already faced.
"So, your grandmother has lost two sons?" Laurel fell back onto the couch. Nicole sat beside her.
"Yeah she has. Why?"
"That might have something to do with the way she is," Laurel shrugged. "But enough of speculation."
"Ok," Nicole leaned into the arm wrapped around her shoulder.
"Sheryl was right. You do seem more relaxed now," Laurel compared the mental image of Nicole to the reality sitting beside her.
"I wonder why," The grin was present in her voice. The photographer sifted and rested her head on Laurels shoulder. "Could have something to do with all the rest Ive been getting while weve been here."
"Oh yeah, weve really been sleeping in," Laurel yawned to underscore her sarcasm. "And I was hoping I had something to do with it."
"Nope. You had everything to do with it," Nicole placed her hand on Laurels knee and squeezed it gently.
"Now, dont start or well really get caught in an embarrassing position," The bassist warned as she kissed Nicoles forehead. The photographer laughed at the threat. "You think thats funny?"
Nicole soon found herself lying back on the couch with a grinning bassist on top of her. Laurel began to kiss her deeply. Hands began roaming without warning, causing the photographer to forget her friends could walk in on them at any moment.
"You shouldnt tempt me," Laurel whispered as she began sucking on an earlobe.
"Why? So far it hasnt been a bad thing." Nicole managed to wedge herself against the back of the couch, bringing Laurel to lie facing her.
"We just need to find a way to lock your door," Once started, Laurel had no desire to stop what she was doing. "Or program that sadistic elevator to not stop on this floor."
Nicole could only nod. Laurels skillful hands had quickly unbuttoned her shirt in an effort to reach the skin hidden within. The bassist moved her knee so it rested between Nicoles thighs. Groaning, Nicole pulled Laurel closer to her. Their kisses became more passionate, more demanding until they both heard the elevator stop on their floor.
"Not so fast," They heard Jessies voice from behind the partition. "Ive learned its best to announce yourself first. Yo Nicky, get vertical so you can greet your company."
"Shit," In their haste to be presentable, Laurel rolled off the couch. She sprang up and sat down at the far end, smoothing her hair as she did so. Nicole buttoned her shirt and nodded at the bassist.
"You can come in," Laurel hollered. She was longing for the time they would be able to spend alone at Nicoles house. It had locks and no other inhabitants but Mozart.
"Ah, young love. Complete with all the lust the human body can handle," Danny waltzed in and took a seat. Sheryl and Jessie followed.
"Bite me, Cowboy," Nicole stole Gregs favorite phrase.
"Now Nicole, that was not nice," Sheryl struggled to keep from laughing.
"And this is coming from the people that woke us up this afternoon?" Laurel noticed that the critic sat on the loveseat next to Jessie in easy intimacy.
"Hon, its not their fault their timing sucks," Nicole defended her friends from Laurels teasing.
"So, are we ready to go?" Danny was eager to get out of the apartment. He was hoping a different type of physical exertion would keep the bassist from killing them all out of frustration.
"Yep, lets go conquer the French Quarter."
The day turned out to be a mild one. The humidity was fairly low, and clouds and buildings defeated the sun. The five made their way to the French Market slowly. Several tourists were out enjoying the afternoon. Street entertainers, fortune-tellers, and artist lined the fence around Jackson Square.
They walked the length of the Square before crossing Decatur. They caught one another up on gossip and small talk as they walked past Café Du Monde and several small shops. Laurel kept looking around in wonder. She had never been that far down Decatur Street. The stores on either side specialized in everything from imported toys and replica artifacts to tacky souvenirs. Clusters of what the populace named street rats, homeless and runaway teenagers, were lined along the far side of the road. Laurel was more than thankful Mandy had kept her from becoming one of them.
They had to recross the street after it became one way. The French Market was nestled in the "y" Decatur made when it split. In actuality, the street split because of the Market. It was there first after all.
"Wow, this is bigger than I thought," Laurel informed her companion. Nicole laughed and led her inside.
The five ambled down the walkway, trying to keep up with one another in the crowd. The first half of the French Market was an actual market. Several stands were set up along both sides of the enclosure. Fresh fruits and vegetable sales took up the first part of the market. The stands progressed from food to hot sauce to boiled peanuts the farther one walked its length.
Once past the grocery part of the market, the five entered a large space. This space had a roof over it, but was with out walls. Booths were laid out in rows the length and width of the area. If possible, this section was more crowded than the market.
"Whats this?" Laurel asked Jessica. Nicole had ended up in the lead by Sheryl.
"This is the flea market part of the French Market. It goes on everyday until dusk if I remember right. You can find just about anything you want here or on Bourbon Street."
Separate interests took them off in different directions. Laurel quickly lost sight of the rest of the group as she made her way through the booths. She quickly realized how right Jessica was when she saw a table selling Chinese statuary next to a booth selling pipes, bongs and incense. Imitation brand sunglasses and cheap shirts failed to catch more than her passing interest, and it was not long before Laurel found herself farther back into the flea market. She was examining a smiling red Buddha when Nicole found her.
"Having fun?" The photographers voice startled her.
"Yeah, I was just thinking Mandy would love this," Laurel indicated the small statue.
"Is she a Buddhist?" In all their talks, they had never covered religion.
"Not really, more an eclectic New Ager. She does like Buddha though."
"Oh," Not knowing what else to say, Nicole began looking around at the various carvings on the table.
"How much?" Laurel managed to get the ladys attention.
"Fifteen dollars for the whole set," She handed Laurel two more pieces. One was the thinner, future Buddha, and the other was a Chinese dragon. "Its all three. Future, Heart and Dragon for protection," She explained in broken English. "My grandfather made."
"Ok, Ill take them," Laurel handed her the money.
"Be right back with bag," She took the statues with her.
"Well, that was painless. Since you attended Catholic school, does that make you Catholic?"
"Yes, well I was raised Catholic. I dont practice though. What about you?" Nicole turned her attention back to her companion.
"Southern Baptist. I quit going at the age of fourteen. I got tired of being told I was going to hell. I dont believe in hell anyway, so I guess it didnt matter if I went or not," Laurel took her bag from the lady. "Thank you."
"You come back again. Good luck and good travels."
"Thank you, same to you," Laurel turned to her companion. "So, now what?"
"Find the others or continue looking around I guess."
"Lets browse," Laurel led the way down a row of booths she had not been able to look at yet.
They found Sheryl and Jessie at the booth selling local New Age tapes. The critic was haggling over the price of one of them. Finally, she wore the young man selling the tapes down and paid for her purchase. The four of them decided to find Danny and vacate the premises before they spent too much money.
"I dont see him in here," Nicole had the advantage of being at the most three inches taller than the others.
"Maybe hes outside," Jessie suggested.
Outside the actual flea market were several more tables and booths. Over the years, the market had outgrown the space it held. The newer or at least the more unfortunate proprietors were forced to sell their wares beyond the old buildings ceiling. Danny was standing at a larger booth in that area.
"Hey, Cowboy, you ready to head somewhere else?" Jessie asked as she came up beside him. "Whats with the military theme? You thinking of joining up?"
"No, my dad collects this stuff, so I was kinda browsing for presents," Danny had a close relationship with his family. All in all, they were the most liberal parents anyone in the group had. "Where to now?"
"Just walk back to the Warehouse and put our stuff up I suppose. Then dinner and a club?" Sheryl was apparently taking lead of the group.
Without protest, the other four followed the critic through the streets of New Orleans. She led them down a different route, one containing more New Age and Goth stores. Laurel knew without a doubt that she wanted to come back when she had more time to explore. She did not think any of the other people in the group would have wanted to venture into the stores they passed until Danny rushed into a large, retro and gothic shoe store. Groaning, the rest followed him.
"Danny, what are you looking at?" They located him drooling over a rack of mens shoes.
"Wingtips, spats, loafers, all in leather."
"Um, you ok there Cowboy?" Nicole asked.
"Fine, just fine. Now to see if they have these in a size I can wear," He took one of the wingtips over to the salesperson.
"Can I help you?" The voice was two octaves deeper than any of them expected.
"Yes, I was wondering if you had these in a size twelve," Danny showed her the wingtips.
Laurel left the group around the counter and wandered. She could not stand still for more than a few minutes at a time, especially when shopping. The range of products in this store astounded even her, the worldly musician.
"How can someone wear those?" Sheryl asked as she joined the bassist. Laurel had found a pair of black leather boots that were almost taller than she was.
"Talking about being all leg," She turned to the critic. "I have no idea, but I think Im going to stand outside and pollute the air."
"Ill join you outside at least."
Laurel leaned against the stores wall and lit a cigarette. Sheryl stood slightly in front of her. She had a feeling that the critic had been longing to talk to her one on one. She was right.
"So, I guess its time for the normal best friend rites," Sheryl crossed her arms. She did her best to look intimidating.
"Ok, as long as you dont try to sacrifice me," Laurel affected humor.
"Only if you hurt her. As of now, thats all I really have to say. I care for Nicole, shes the best friend Ive ever had, and weve been through too much together. I dont think you will, I just had to threaten," Sheryl grinned.
"I know," Laurel grinned back. She was going to say something else, but Sheryl warned her against it. Nicole and Jessica were leaving the store as well.
"Hey, its cooler out here," Nicole borrowed Laurels cigarette and took a long drag off it. "Thanks."
"No problem. Whats he doing in there?"
"Buying a pair of black and white wingtips," Jessie lit her own cigarette.
Jessica had time to finish her cigarette before Danny came back out of the store. He bounced as he proudly displayed his shopping bag. The rest of the group pretended their enthusiasm.
"Well, lets get back to the Warehouse. I want to change into these before we go eat,"
"Danny, do you think its wise to change into new shoes before cruising the Quarter?" Laurel asked with some concern.
"Ill be fine," He was too eager to wear his latest acquisition to think about possible consequences.
They managed to make it back to the Warehouse without any more stops. The foot traffic had dwindled. Most of the tourists were getting ready for dinner or resting before heading out to enjoy the nightlife. The wind was cooling off the pavement quickly. All five were glad when they reached the shelter of the garage.
"Wanna meet back in the courtyard before dinner?" Sheryl asked the group.
"Sure, what time do you want to go?" Jessica asked.
"Well, its a few minutes after 5, want to meet back here at 7?" Nicole thought another shower might be in order. After all, they had done a lot of walking.
"Thatll work," Danny agreed for the rest of them.
Nicole and Laurel let the other three take the elevator as they took the stairs to their floor. Mozart was back inside; Stan must have led him up before leaving. He made no move to go back downstairs, so Nicole left him on the couch. She however, headed straight for the bed and fell into it.
"Tired?" Laurel laughed. She lay back on the bed as well after removing her socks and boots.
"Not really. I mean I am in a way, but I still feel exhilarated. If that makes sense," She shook her head trying to work it out.
"Oh, I think I know what youre talking about," Laurel rolled over on to her back and stared at the ceiling.
"Good, cause I think my head would explode if I had to explain it again," Nicole rolled over and claimed Laurels shoulder as her pillow. Laurel just chuckled and kissed her forehead.
Nicole took a moment to kick off her shoes before crawling back onto the bed. Claiming the bassists shoulder again, she was suddenly struck by something. They were alone. Taking advantage of the situation, Nicole rose up and stretched out at Laurels side. The bassist had her eyes closed, but her breathing was too erratic for a sleeping person. Nicole spooned up closer and bent down for a kiss. If Laurel were startled, she recovered quickly.
"You know, something occurred to me just a few moments ago," Nicole said when they broke apart.
"The fact that we are alone and no one is supposed to meet us in here?" Laurel had been thinking along similar lines.
"Well, aside from that. If we were keeping score, it would be 3-1 in my favor," Nicole showed off her limited sports knowledge.
"What do you mean by that?"
"Well, Ive been sated three times," She leaned down for another kiss. "And you just once. Something tells me you might be just a little frustrated."
Laurel could only nod. The photographer had been making lazy circles around her breast the entire time. Laurel could feel the goose bumps starting already. Nicole leaned down and began kissing the bassists neck. Slipping a hand under Laurels shirt, the photographer began rubbing the smooth skin she found there. Growing impatient, Laurel pushed her off and pulled the shirt off. Where it landed, neither of them knew.
Several times, Laurel tried to take control of the situation. She succeeded in removing all of Nicoles clothing but her underwear before the photographer could do the same to her. Nicole however used her height and additional weight to her advantage. She pinned Laurel beneath her before peeling the bassists jeans and underwear off. She followed the movement, leaving her hands teasing Laurels nipples into hardness.
When Laurel felt a warm tongue encounter what felt like the tightest part of her body, she almost climaxed then and there. However, Nicole seemed to notice that and began teasing other parts. That was when the bassist did something she had never done before during sex; she talked.
"Oh, god, Nicole," Laurel was panting. "More please."
Nicole complied and moved her right hand down to help. Laurel felt more alive than she ever had before in her entire life. Nicole stopped in her task and looked up for a brief second. That second almost got her killed, but the photographer saw the most beautiful sight she had ever seen before. Laurels bangs were plastered to her forehead. Sweat beaded up around them, and her eyes were closed tightly. Those sensuous lips were parted and a tongue snaked out to wet them. Nicole felt as if she were looking at an angel in ecstasy.
"Dont stop, Hotshot," Laurel managed to get the words out. Once again, Nicole met her request. "Nicky. Oh goddess, Nicole."
Nicole rode out Laurels climax. She lay between the bassists thighs feeling extremely proud of herself. Annie had never been that easy to release. She moved up and gathered the still shaking woman in her arms. The role reversal felt comfortable.
"You ok?" She could not keep the satisfaction from her voice.
"More ok than Ive ever been in my entire life," Laurel raised her head and gently kissed the photographer.
"Well, now we know who the screamer is," Nicole teased.
"Screamer? Need I remind you about last night?" Laurel shot back.
"Was I that loud?"
"Not possible," The photographer knew Laurel could not resist a challenge.
"Ill show you whats not possible," She accepted.
It was not long before Nicole was proven incorrect. Unfortunately for the bassist, Nicole was in no mood to hear her own voice, much less pay attention to the contest. Finally sated, they laid in bed side by side. Neither had the strength to move. It was only then that they drifted off to sleep.
Danny had gone back down stairs to retrieve a pair of pants he had left hanging in the backseat of Sheryls car. He noticed Mozart lying by the French doors that led to the Courtyard and decided to let the poor dog outside. He waited until the big German Sheppard had finished his business before taking the elevator back upstairs. They had just made it to the fifth floor when a loud scream reverberated off the walls. He thought there was trouble until her heard the second right behind the first.
"Oh, God, Lakky." Silence. Then: "Laurel!"
Smirking, he started the elevator again, taking Mozart with him to the top floor. He was still grinning when he walked into the apartment. Sheryl was sitting on a beanbag flipping through a magazine. Mozart walked over to get his ears scratched.
"Whats up with the grin?"
"You wont believe what I just heard," He told her about his experience in the elevator. Sheryl was laughing before he was through.
"Well, I guess this is the real deal then isnt it?"
"I guess so. Ive never heard Nicole scream like that."
"Me either, and I was staying at her house one night when the Bitch was there," Sheryl did not mention that all she had heard that evening was a fight echoing through the bathroom.
"So, did you threaten Laurel yet?"
"Yep, twice actually," She sat her magazine down. "I dont know if she believes me or not, but Im fairly sure she can hold her on."
"After what I heard, Im inclined to agree with you."
Continued in next part
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