Continued from Part 4
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FEEL LIKE A WOMAN (5)
Claire scowled as she watched that Kelli woman strut back into the party smiling and laughing, acting like the cat who ate the canary. If she had the chance, she would expose Kelli’s unsavoury character to everyone.
Her alcohol soaked brain stewed on Elena’s disdain and, she was sure, Kelli’s arrogant attitude, just because women fell at her feet. The rumours about her must be true because here she was, back again to work the room as soon as Elena left. What a pig.
Her feet took her right up to Kelli, who merely cocked an eyebrow. “You still here?”
“I know what you want.” Claire’s words were slurred just a little. She stood up straighter to look down her nose at the other woman.
“Don’t smart ass me.” It burned that Kelli seemed amused. “I know all about you and your sluttish ways. When Elena finds out, she’ll drop you like a hot potato.”
Kelli’s eyes glittered dangerously.
“She’s very respectable. Not like you at all.” Deliberately leaning closer, she blew her fermented breath on Kelli’s face. “She would never do anything as cheap as sex in an alley. Oh, yes, you know what I’m talking about. Keep away from her or she will be told every detail of your sordid reputation and then some.”
Helpless anger and guilt descended on Kelli in twin blows of frustration, the truth of the event making her impotent to react. Her fists curled from wanting to smack Claire’s smug look from her face.
“A short goodbye will suffice. I’m sure you’ve had enough practice at that,” Claire said over her shoulder, leaving the other woman speechless.
Kelli felt like she had been kicked in the teeth. Her chance to clean up her act for Elena lay broken before it got started. Destiny in a moment’s glance or a lifetime with Elena were seared into her blood, like craving an addiction lying in wait. Any woman might have been enough once, if she hadn’t fallen into the open blue of Elena’s eyes or tasted her sweetness. In Elena’s presence, her blood thrummed forward racing in anticipation of skin-on-skin contact, barring that, like tonight, her tongue had born the brunt of her greedy body seeking entry into Elena’s soft, sucking mouth. It had to be more than sex because she was content to wait, for as long as necessary until Elena was ready for her. To lose her was not an alternative she could survive.
Elena laughed at the sight of her son wiggling his padded butt on the carpet as he bounced along to a Wiggles’ video, the basket of laundry in her hands forgotten. He was such an undemanding child, and she knew she was lucky to have him. He was always warmly welcomed as part of an impressive extended family that was still headed by her parents, no doubt because he was easy to love, but Elena wondered where the same attention was not bestowed on her when she was growing up.
The Hammonds were an established banking family with high expectations on those who carried the name. Elena had endured high school and college fiercely focused on her studies and the family business. She was loyal and worked hard beyond reproach, until her parents discovered that the women she brought home did not sleep in the guest bedroom. If not for her mother’s intervention, she knew she would have been ostracised from the family – her father too proud to admit her difference. It stung that he didn’t acknowledge the sacrifices she had made for the family, the long hours she spent working to please him nor the discretionary relationships she had been careful to hide to protect his reputation. His cold silence was as loud a judgement as the words he would never say.
It was then she had opted out for a simple life away from his reach, the formidable single mindedness she had inherited from him placed them on opposite sides until now. Her siblings, to their credit, never questioned her decision. Their lives seemed to be headed for one purpose only, and that was to extend the reach of the family empire; less competition meant a bigger piece of succession for them.
She had left the estate to spare her son manipulation but if her parents could see him now, if they could be a part of his life, he would know that he was part of a dynasty and not alone. Her parents were askance when she’d told them that she was pregnant but as they had resigned themselves to be as little involved in her life as possible, it was no hardship. Except that the estrangement hurt.
And then there was Claire, another person who sought to control her life. She had tried to please her parents with a suitable match but while they accepted Claire, she found herself suffocating from their combined authority, something her ex still apparently believed she had a right to do.
But I’m free now. I make my bed, in my own house, and I sleep in it. Alone. The sight of her costume hanging on the wall was a reminder that she was no longer under the influence of her ex or her father. Andrew’s happy dance was another reminder of the important choices in her life.
Kelli had not asked about her past or who she was or what she wanted. She was only interested in her, simply and straightforward. Elena’s smile, entrenched from last night, reflected the way she felt about Kelli – like a secret pleasure bursting to come out.
She couldn’t believe how a small decision to act out of the ordinary had led to a full blown crush. She had never felt this way about anyone. Here she was, a 33 year old mother madly in love?
Mother’s weren’t supposed to desire another woman in places that ached for their touch. Mother’s didn’t have affairs or lovers. Kelli was an aberration in her life, but oh! What an aberration. Elena could not put aside the emotional risk of falling for the younger woman even if she wanted to. Stroke of fate or luck, she was smitten, much more and deeper than anything she had ever felt before. If only her mother could understand.
The phone hadn’t rung but it would. Kelli had promised to call. Funny how after her brave actions, she was now waiting for Kelli to make the next move. If the irate cabbie hadn’t persuaded them to separate last night they would have scandalised the neighbourhood. Elena traced her lips still tingling from the effect of Kelli’s kisses. Restraint had stayed Kelli’s hands but not her mouth; hungry and bold, her plundering tongue had almost made her give in. Kelli’s touch raised an answering response in her so intense that the boundaries between them simply vanished each time. The acute pleasure of her caresses overwhelmed even as they triggered her nerve endings to the surface, greedy for more. She remembered clutching at the hard leather just to stay upright, or to press as close as possible.
Elena sat down in the nearest chair. Her knees had gone wobbly as her insides started pulsing to life.
The warm water sluiced over Kelli’s head, down her erect perspiring body, and pattered noisily on the tiles, bringing relief in a long wave that washed away the grime of the day. Absenteeism from Rod’s party had added heavily to her workload so that she hadn’t had a moment’s rest to make that phone call. Such a small gesture yet the thought of Elena was enough to make her hurry despite her fatigue. She was anxious to hear Elena’s voice to confirm that last night was not a mistake; that the details were real and she had not disappeared again.
Elena consumed her thoughts every moment. When she woke, her gaze had landed on the piece of paper on her bedside, innocent white within close range, representing the only tangible connection to Elena. She swept her arm over the bed, wanting and wishing the blonde was lying there. Then, Claire’s taunting words had eradicated the wisp of euphoria she had tried to hang on to.
The urge to be with Elena grew stronger. If she could have more time, she would show Elena that she was serious. Dead serious.
Lathering the shower gel over her tanned arms and around her breasts, Kelli rubbed the muscled groove bisecting her abs in familiar strokes. More gel was squirted on her hands and worked to foam. Absorbed in her thoughts, she reached down to clean her privates thoroughly before bending to attend to her legs. The noise of the shower masked the presence of another woman moving into her stall until hands smoothing over her back made her shoot up straight. She spun round, shaking the water out of her eyes to better see.
A naked blonde smiled sultrily at her. “You’ve been in here awhile. Need some help?”
“Jesus, Pat. You scared the shit out of me.” Kelli wiped the excess water off her face.
“I’ve been trying to get your attention all day.”
“It’s been crazy today.”
“Yeah, tell me about it. I’m beat.” She watched Kelli step back under the water to wash off. The brunette’s tanned body was in peak condition, her breasts in perfect proportion to the rest of her body. Pat let her eyes wander down the rest of it, then returned to her chest and the dark triangle between her legs. “Got any plans for the weekend?” They had sampled each other a couple of times for fun and since she was at a loose end …
Turning the water off, Kelli said with a smile, “I most certainly do.” She unhooked her towel and gathered her stuff.
“No.” Kelli looked wistful for a moment, then smiled widely. “The right woman.”
She wanted to leave quickly so she could ring Elena. Perhaps they could meet up sooner than a couple of days.
Kelli padded to the lockers leaving a trail of footprints that dried up by the time she reached the metal rows. Oblivious to the other women coveting her body, she quickly towelled dry and dressed.
After tying her shoes and checking her bag, she slipped her wallet and keys into her pocket. A second later, she pulled everything out as she frantically tried to find the piece of paper. It was inside her wallet, where it had been all along. Kelli slumped against the lockers as her racing heart slowed. I’m out of control. She looked at the crumpled note in her hand, or in love.
The doorbell rang unexpectedly, waking Elena from her doze on the couch where she had fallen asleep. The previous evening’s excitement had kept her awake late with Kelli dominating her thoughts and then her fitful dreams. Andrew stirred next to her but did not awaken. She carefully stood up, pulled her hair free from its ponytail, and walked barefoot to the door, hurrying when the bell chimed again. Through the peephole, she saw the last person she wanted to see. Sighing, she opened the door.
“What took you so long?” Claire said.
“You’re not supposed to press the doorbell more than once.”
Claire shrugged. “I didn’t know if you were in.”
Rolling her eyes, Elena let out a long sigh. “What are you doing here? I thought we were done last night.” She leaned her head to one side and hand combed her hair, the action sweeping her scent toward Claire.
“I was in the neighbourhood.”
“Are you spying on me?” Elena folded her arms. “Why do you do this? I get more attention from you now than before we broke up.”
“We would never have broken up if you hadn’t decided to …” The cold look in Elena’s eyes stopped Claire from blurting out the rest. “Um, you looked fantastic last night.” She thought Elena looked beautiful in her comfortable way now, dressed as she was in pink linen pants and a short polo shirt, with her thick blonde hair just this side of manageable. From experience, she knew that Elena was naked under her clothes, not that her shirt could hide the shape of her heavy breasts.
Elena looked at her blandly.
“About what I said last night, I just … I didn’t mean to tell you what to do.” Nobody told Elena what to do, she was always a woman unto herself, Claire thought, feeling a bit resentful. What Elena wanted Elena got, one way of another. “That woman is nothing but trouble.”
“Her name is Kelli, and what do you know? Until last night, you didn’t even know she existed.”
“Surely you must realise that you can’t be with someone like that. What will your family think? Frankly, I’m surprised by you. How well do you know this woman anyway?”
“You’re right about that. One thing I’ve learnt after you, I’m going to take it slow with Kelli, get to know her until I know she’s the one I want and not what everyone else thinks I should have. Then, I’ll jump her bones.” Elena grinned at Claire’s gobsmacked expression. “Actually, I’ve already done that. And I plan to do it again and again for as long as I can. I’m not blind. I know Kelli has a past, but this is what I want. She is who I want. And I believe she feels the same about me.”
She patted Claire’s shoulder. “Can you at least be happy for me?”
“I think you’re making a mistake.” Claire was angry that Elena had chosen once again to disregard her advice about the important things but jealousy motivated her intervention. The hot looks between Elena and her lover sizzled the air so hot that she could feel the sparks. She had not missed the little stunt with Kelli’s cloak that reinforced her exclusion from Elena’s life – it was humiliating to be set aside by that tramp. And here Elena was admitting that they had slept together regardless of her reputation when she herself had to court her for six months before she even got to second base. Kelli might be the Devil’s gift to women but she would not let Elena fall into her clutches.
Elena nodded sagely. She had had a variation of the same argument with herself – worrying about Kelli’s reaction to Andrew, or that she was just another conquest on her bedpost foolishly hoping for more. She couldn’t answer those questions yet but they were hers to find out; the way Kelli made her feel was worth it. It would take more than her family’s disapproval by proxy to thwart her off the path.
She said, “Even if it is, you and I will never get back together again, so you can forget your schemes. I’d really like it if we remained friends. You’re still in papa’s good books. You don’t have to worry about your career.”
Claire had the grace to blush.
The phone rang. Elena glanced at her ex standing on the steps. “Do you want to come in?” She left the door open as she rushed to pick up the phone.
Kelli dialled Elena’s number from her cell phone even as her feet walked towards her address. It might not have been the wisest thing to do but she was compelled to head over there. The episode in the locker room had derailed her already shaky confidence and she let her feelings take over. Elena had said a couple of days. Screw that. I need to see her.
“Hello?” Elena answered the phone out of breath.
“Hi, Elena? It’s Kelli. Hi.”
“Hi.” The warmth of Elena’s smile transmitted all the way into Kelli’s chest and suddenly, her anxiety disappeared. A smile bloomed on her face.
“Did I catch you at a bad time?”
“No. I’ve been waiting for your call. I hoped you would ring.”
She stopped walking. “You did?” Her smile grew bigger.
Elena laughed. “Fervently.”
“Well good. I’m glad I’m not the only one.” Her shoulders straightened as her fatigue disappeared. “Listen, I know you said to wait a couple of days but I was wondering if I could see you sooner.” Like now.
“Where are you? It sounds like traffic.”
Kelli laughed sheepishly. “I’m about two blocks from your house.” The phone was muffled and Kelli could hear voices in the background.
Then, Elena said, “How long will that take you, to get here?”
“Great! I’m glad you rang, Kelli. I’ve … I can’t wait to see you.”
Kelli’s pace resumed, this time at a light jog.
Elena turned to face an unhappy Claire.
“Was that her?”
Elena nodded. “She’ll be here soon.”
“Guess I should leave.”
Elena walked up and took her hand. “I think that’s best for now. But we could meet up one day, and you can visit anytime.” She was surprised when Claire kissed her.
“That’s just like you. Always too nice.” Claire moved in to kiss her again. Elena’s lips were so soft. She took them again in a bruising kiss.
“Stop.” Elena pushed against Claire’s breastbone but she was held in place by arms that had crept around her. Claire tightened her embrace, imprisoning Elena further.
“Why?” She said into her ear as she breathed deeply and levered her leg between Elena’s. Elena always smelt so good, like sweet rich honey cream, and she felt warm and solid in her arms. Claire took a step forward, forcing Elena off balance, and walked them until they crashed into a wall. Her hands started fumbling under Elena’s shirt.
“Claire, no!” Elena cried. She tried to buck her off but the other woman had pinned her whole bodied against the wall and insinuated herself between her legs. Elena could barely breathe. A sharp bite on her neck made her yelp. When she tried to push Claire off, her breasts were warningly squeezed. Shocked, she stopped struggling, which allowed Claire to slip one of her hands past her waistband.
“No, please, no. Claire, stop! You don’t want to do this.” Tears of fear ran down her cheeks as she realised Claire’s intent. “Please, you’re hurting me.”
Claire’s head snapped up. As Elena watched, her pupils narrowed into focus. Her feral expression changed to one of confusion and shame. “Oh my god.” She said as if she couldn’t believe her actions. She backed away from Elena with stilted steps. “Oh my god.”
Her hands came up. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what came over me.” Claire dropped to the floor, the adrenaline drained from her completely. She clutched her head in her hands.
Elena stayed plastered to the wall, her chest heaving from gulping air in deep intakes. For a few moments, she had been scared of what Claire might have done. If she hadn’t stopped … Elena shuddered at the thought. She was going to be sick.
“I think you’d better leave.” Elena was amazed her voice was steady when she was trembling inside, the force of her pounding heart almost shaking her limbs.
Claire assented with her head down. She couldn’t look Elena in the eye.
A knock on the front door sounded like a shot in the room.
The modest bungalow in an affluent neighbourhood corresponded to the address on Elena’s note. The house was partially hidden by trees that Kelli almost missed it. She passed through a simple latch gate set in the same sandstone and iron fence like most of the street and stepped onto a handmade mosaic path that lead to a house with white window shutters spread open against the friendly blue exterior attended by gauzy curtains that frosted the view inside just so.
A dog’s bark made her turn back to the street. The senior lady who had watched her progress ever since she entered the road was still staring at her. It hadn’t missed her attention that most of the residences had signage warning of security alarms and guard dogs. She winked at the lady to no effect.
Skipping up the three short steps to the front door in a single bound, she rapped her knuckles on the open door.
“Elena?” she called out from the threshold.
Elena gasped when the quick turn of her head pulled the bite on the side of her neck. She winced at the sudden stab of pain and reflexively cupped one hand over the site.
Claire was still on the floor, hugging her knees and mumbling her apologies. Elena couldn’t allow Kelli in to see her there; she wasn’t sure how she could explain the situation. She moved as quickly as her unsteady legs could allow.
Kelli’s smile grew to full wattage when she saw the blonde. “Hi, you probably think I’m silly for coming over so soon but I couldn’t wait to see you.”
Elena wasn’t smiling. In fact, she looked … busy. Her hair was mussed and her face was flushed delicately, even her lips were red. One hand held her neck and her clothes were wrinkled.
“I should have rung earlier, I know, I wanted to but we were so busy today all because of Rod – the guy who threw the part last night? Half our staff were hung-over so I had to cover extra … Did I come at a bad time? I can leave, or at least stop babbling like an idiot?” She crooked a smile.
Elena glanced over her shoulder carefully, and said, “Kelli, honey, could we take a raincheck for today? Something’s come up.”
Elena’s tone was even and her words polite but Kelli noticed the heightened colour on her face and her stiff carriage. She sensed a distance between them that stretched further than the four feet separating them. The uncertainty was back in Elena’s eyes and her budding emotional state quaked at what that might imply.
“Are you alright?” The blonde was clearly distressed. Kelli wanted to open her arms and let Elena fall into them. She needed to know that all her fears could be wiped away by a kiss and a promise, that she would be the one that Elena could come to for anything and she could take care of them.
Any response was cut by a crashing noise and a child’s cry. Elena bolted back inside with Kelli following.
Claire cursed weakly at the toppled baby chair fallen from her grasp. The noise it made had startled Andrew awake and when as he couldn’t find his mother, he started crying. Now, she cursed him for getting her into more trouble.
“Shut up, you brat.”
“That’s enough.” Elena said. She lifted her son and crooned softly to him while stroking his back, ignoring his added weight on her bruised back and shoulders. His cries subsided almost immediately.
Claire cringed at her harsh tone. She knew she was in the shithouse. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.” She awkwardly tried to hug them both. At the sight of Kelli entering the room, she placed a kiss on Elena lips.
The scene that met Kelli as she walked into the family room dropped the bottom from her world. Elena held a baby in her arms and a glassy-eyed Claire was holding them both. The couple kissed in a move that exposed the red welt on Elena’s neck that could only be one thing.
The pain that incised her chest was so sudden that she stumbled back a step. It ripped through her heart to escape strangled out between a cry and a whimper. Of all the surprises she might have imagined, this was not one of them. Elena and Claire had a baby, they were a family, and Elena had clearly chosen to return to her ex. The smirk on Claire’s face taunted her with her own reputation. How could she ever think that she had had a chance?
Elena wrenched herself away from Claire with a snarl, mindful of her son’s presence restricting her choice of words. But more important than Claire was Kelli. She would have to introduce Andrew to her now.
“Kelli, this is …”
“Please don’t say it.” Kelli had a terribly sad look on her face.
“I don’t want to hear it. I can’t.”
Elena was dumbfounded by Kelli’s response. “You don’t want to meet my son?”
Kelli wasn’t listening. She didn’t want to hear that Elena was choosing Claire because Elena thought she wasn’t good enough. “I can’t do this.”
“I see.” Elena said, stone faced. Her heart shattered. She had hoped wrong.
Claire smiled from behind Elena at the look on Kelli’s face. It couldn’t have been any sweeter than if she had planned it herself.
“Don’t you see? I don’t fit into your life. There’s only one thing I’m good at.” Kelli’s gaze followed the line of Elena’s body. She wanted to hold her, to tell her without words that she would do anything to have a chance. “I don’t know if I can be what you need.”
“Is that why you came here, because you thought I was easy?” Elena’s voice tightened with anger.
“Yes. No. No. Look,” Kelli shook her head, she was so confused. “I came over because I wanted to see you. I thought we had something special. But this,” she gestured at them, “is too much. I can’t be what you need. I can’t be a fuck buddy. Not for you.”
Elena clutched Andrew protectively closer to her bosom though she might have been shielding herself. “I guess you saved us both a lot of heartache by doing us a favour, then.” Kelli’s words had dashed her hopes. It was a rotten way to find out that she was just a good lay - good enough for a second round but nothing more, and with Claire standing too close behind, she felt humiliated and used by both women.
She just needed a few more moments before she broke down. “For the record, I never asked for more than you could give, and I certainly never asked for any favours. Don’t give excuses if you want to leave. Just leave.” She turned her face away. “Just leave.”
“Claire?” She said without looking at her.
her son upstairs, counting each step slowly till she reached her bedroom. She
kneeled next to the bed, laid him on it then laid her face on her arms. Deep
breaths gave way to sobs that released the shock of Claire’s assault and the
unstoppable anguish of reliving Kelli’s rejection; the force of her muffled
weeping jerked through her slumped frame. She cried for misjudging both women,
but Kelli was the loss harder to bear because she had had no defence against
her growing feelings. Her heart felt like it was being dragged through broken
Continued in Part 6
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