Disclaimer : Characters and situations are all from my imagination.
Warnings : Sex and love between women
Feedback : Constructive criticism and feedback, both welcomed at email@example.com
Copyright © 2011 Geonn Cannon
Ari's dreams were full of half-naked and fully-naked women, glistening body parts, and a dance. Her clothes were torn from her by eager hands, and her body was covered by soft, wet kisses that sent shivers up and down her spine. A loud buzzing jerked her back into the real world, and she woke facedown in bed, straddling a pillow with her panties rolled down to her thighs. She was dripping with sweat, aching for orgasm. She bit her lip and gripped the pillow with both hands, grinding against it until she came with a sigh of release. Then she finally reached over and shut off the alarm clock that had so rudely interrupted her.
She flopped onto her back and pushed her hair out of her face. "Shit. Not again."
Ari kicked her blankets the rest of the way off the bed, tugged her underwear back into place, and put her feet on the floor. Her cell phone was on the nightstand and she flipped it open, accessing the date book function. It was Monday the fourteenth, and she mentally blocked off the next seven days as completely lost to her.
Ari stood up and dialed Dale's number. She was standing in front of the bathroom sink when the ringing stopped. "Bitches Investigations."
"It's me. I can't come in today. I need to take some time off." She opened the medicine cabinet. She sighed; she was well-stocked to deal with her time of the month, but all the pads in the world couldn't help her now. Her period had been the first warning sign, but it had been so long... She still kicked herself for not taking the hint and put herself into a coma. A good hard knock on the head could have saved herself a lot of the grief she was sure awaited her in the next few days.
Dale was still considering the request. "Normally I wouldn't say anything and hope you felt better, but... um, how long do you think you'll need?"
Dale laughed. "That's not going to work, Ari."
"Sure it will. It's been slow. We can shut down for a week and pick up again when we're feeling better. We don't have any outstanding cases."
"Right, it's been slow. But the bills keep coming in. We haven't had a paying client in almost a month. The coffers are running low--"
Ari went back into the bedroom. "Do we have actual coffers?"
"We have a coffee can, Ari. And when I shake it, I can hear the pennies rattling. And it's for that very reason I don't want to put off the potential client who called yesterday."
"Right. Damn, I forgot about that." Ari remembered how excited Dale had been, and relieved. Now she knew why. "Dale, I'm sorry. I didn't realize how stressed the business side of business has been for you lately. I'll come in."
Dale sighed. "No, you know, if you're really not feeling well--"
"I'm coming in. If we tell the client we have to put her off for a week, she'll just go to one of the other agencies. We need the cash. If it'll take a burden off of you, then I'm willing to suffer a little bit."
"How little are we talking about? If doing this just makes your problem worse, puts you out of commission for longer, then maybe we should err on the side of caution."
"It's fine. I'll explain when I get into the office." She sat on the edge of her bed. "Thanks for reminding me about the client meeting, Dale. I'd be lost without you."
Dale chuckled. "See you soon, Ari."
She hung up and dropped the phone on the bed. Hopefully whatever the client wanted her to do would be possible without bringing the wolf into the equation. If she just kept human form, it wouldn't be so bad. She stripped out of her nightclothes as she went back into the bathroom and pushed the shower curtain out of the way. The sweat had dried on her skin and she felt filthy. She turned on the water as cold as she could stand it and shivered as she ducked her head under the spray. It was going to be a long, long week.
Ari wore in a white T-shirt under a black vest and a pair of pinstripe suit pants. She liked dressing up for the clients, since she so often ended up in torn jeans and old faded T-shirts when she was working. She'd even gone to the trouble of doing her hair and putting on a pair of horn-rimmed glasses. The reflection in the bathroom mirror had been more of 'sexy librarian' than 'professional businesswoman,' but she figured the look worked for her.
Dale whistled as Ari came into the office. "Very nice, Ms. Willow. I do love when you dress up for a client."
"Yeah, yeah. What time am I supposed to meet with this person? I don't even remember her name."
Dale held out a memo slip. "Piper Robinson. She'll be waiting for you at the Pluto Bar and Grill at noon."
"Her name is Piper?"
"What's your point, Ariadne?"
Ari shrugged and stuck the note into the pocket of her slacks. Dale was examining her, a line of worry appearing between her eyebrows.
"Are you sure you're okay? You do look a little peaked."
Ari cleared her throat. "I'm fine, for the most part." She considered lying, but Dale knew everything else about her life. Why should this be different? "There is something I need to tell you, though. It's kind of personal."
Dale scoffed. "I've seen you buck-naked countless times, Ari. I think we're past that." She pushed back her chair and followed Ari into the inner office. She took a seat on the couch, obviously bracing herself for bad news. "So there is something wrong."
Ari closed the door and took off her glasses. "Not necessarily. I just can't transform for the next few days. And it would be better for everyone if I just spent this week at my apartment." Ari leaned against her desk and crossed her arms. "I haven't brought this up before because it's not exactly on a set schedule. It's been almost eight years since it happened the last time, so I was just hoping it wouldn't be an issue." She cleared her throat. "Sometimes, after my period, my canidae side goes through something similar. I go into heat."
Dale's eyes widened and she tried to hide her smile. "Really."
"It's not funny, Dale." She rolled her eyes and threw her hands up. "Okay, I guess it's not the worst thing in the world. But if I become the wolf and black out, there's no telling what I might do. The last time I wolfed out while I was in heat, I came to in a shelter with about eleven male dogs trying to knock down the fences trying to get to me. So I'm just going to stay bipedal, stay indoors, and prevent any possible mishaps."
"Wow. I've had a few regrettable evenings, but that would be a new one."
Ari managed a smile. "I can't tell you how many nightmares I've had about waking up pregnant with a litter of puppies."
Dale laughed. "So everything is okay otherwise? I mean, you're not ill or--"
"I don't know. It's basically like I'm having a two-week period."
Dale's humor faded. "Oh, God. I feel for you, hon."
Ari smiled. "Thanks. It shouldn't be too big a deal. I've gone a week without transforming before, it's just the fact that I can't change that makes it seem like an ordeal."
"Have you really gone a week without changing before?"
"Yeah." Ari was suddenly unsure. "I'm certain I have. I'll go and speak with the client and convince her that we're the agency for her. I won't need the wolf for that. Hopefully it's something we can manage as regular, mundane people. We don't advertise the wolf, so it's not like she'll be expecting it. We'll be fine."
"Famous last words. But if you're willing to work, then I'll be here for you."
"What else is new?" Ari pushed away from the desk and hugged Dale. "Thanks for always being here for me."
"Any time, Ari. You know that."
Dale was wearing a thin blouse and a black skirt, and Ari was suddenly very aware of her friend's curves. The fullness of her breasts, the way her cheek felt against Ari's neck. Ari's lips parted and she breathed in, almost tasting the sweet perfume of Dale's scent. She turned her head and kissed Dale's neck, sliding her lips up to Dale's earlobe and gently biting down on it.
Ari's hands slid down to the curve of Dale's ass, squeezing it and thrusting her hips forward as she groaned.
Dale squirmed away from her and gently eased Ari's hands away from her. "Easy. I have to file any sexual harassment complaints with you, and that would just be awkward."
"Sorry." Ari retreated, putting the desk between her and Dale. "I don't know what came over me."
"Maybe a little bleed-through from the wolf going into heat?"
Ari shook her head. "No, that's doesn't happen." Usually. She remembered the unusually vivid dreams that had plagued her all night. God, like anything could actually make this experience worse. "I'm sorry. It won't happen again."
"You don't have to go that far. Just give a girl some warning next time." She winked and went back out to her desk, leaving Ari's office door open behind her.
Ari dropped into her seat and exhaled. She rested her hands on her thighs and spun the chair to look out the window. She and Dale had been friends for a long time and, despite recently dipping their toes in the water of becoming something more, Ari wasn't sure she wanted to dive off that cliff. Girlfriends came and went, literally in some cases, but Dale was a constant in her life. If they tried something and had to break up, it would throw her entire life into a tailspin. It would be worse than starting over.
Of course, there was a chance that it could work out. But it was hardly worth calculating.
Ari realized that she was cupping her crotch with one hand, idly masturbating through her pants while her mind wandered. "Shit." She jerked her hands away and turned back toward the desk, resting both hands on the blotter. She closed her eyes and straightened her back, rolled her shoulders, and took a series of long, slow breaths. She wasn't going to let this damn biological glitch get in the way of living her life and doing her job. Maybe fresh air would help.
She stood up and put her glasses back on. She picked up her blazer as she headed out the door. "I'm going to walk to Pluto's. Hopefully the fresh air will do me good."
"Okay. Call if you need a ride."
Mm, I'll give you a ride, baby. Ari shook the thought from her head before it was fully formed. "Will-do." She waved over her shoulder as she hastily retreated.
A cozy restaurant made up the front half of Pluto Bar and Grill, with white walls and stark black accents. The tables were set up for lunch, but they did more business with the dinner crowd and only a handful of the tables were taken. All the booths were empty, and Ari walked past them to the dim bar that ran along the back of the building. She had left her name with the hostess and told her she was waiting for someone. The bartender smiled as she took a seat, making his way over to her before she was even settled on the stool.
"What can I get for you?"
"Just a fizzy water, please."
He nodded and filled a glass, placing it in front of her with a napkin. She sipped the drink as he returned to what he'd been doing on the other side of the bar.
She was a little early for the meeting, but she'd grown sick of walking. It was a warm day, so the sheer amount of flesh revealed by short shorts, skirts, tank tops and sundresses had been almost torturous to her. She was starting to wonder about her conviction over whether or not the wolf going into heat had some bleed-through. Maybe she was suffering from the effects even without transforming. Whatever was happening, there was no way she'd risk a blackout while in her canidae form. Too many chances for something to go terribly wrong. Maybe getting laid by a human would sate the need enough that she could function.
She turned toward the woman who had spoken, her voice tentative and unsure. Ari's eyes widened behind her glasses. The woman wore a cream-colored skirt and a blouse that almost matched the color exactly. The two items of clothing were separated by a thick leather belt. She had a purse slung over one shoulder, clutched tightly against her side like it was a security blanket. Her red hair was loose around her plain but attractive face, her green eyes wide and hopeful. Her mouth was open, just a little, in anticipation of speaking again.
Ari spread her legs unconsciously as she turned to face her fully. "That's me. Ari."
The woman smiled in relief. "Hello. I'm Piper Robinson. Uh, Piper." She held out her hand.
Ari hesitated at the flesh-on-flesh contact, but she covered it with a smile and took Piper's hand. The skin was warm and slightly clammy from the heat outside, but Ari didn't mind. She slipped off the stool, bringing her into Piper's personal space for a far too brief a moment. "Let's have a seat over here."
She guided Piper to one of the bar's tables, which stood next to a pass-through so they could see into the restaurant. Ari gently rested a hand on Piper's elbow, an innocent gesture that almost made her squirm. Piper sat with her back to the door, and Ari took the seat opposite her with a comforting smile.
"What can I help you with, Piper?"
She shifted uncomfortably and looked over her shoulder. The bartender lifted his head in a silent question, and Ari made a motion for two fizzy waters. He nodded and filled the glasses before bringing them over. "Let me know if I can get you ladies anything else."
"Thank you." Piper took a long drink and situated her glass on the napkin. "Have you ever kept something a secret for so long that it seems almost impossible to say it out loud?"
Ari smiled. "Yes, definitely. You don't have to worry about confidentiality, Mrs. Robinson. Whatever you tell me, I'll keep in the strictest confidence."
"Well, you'll still know. And even one other person knowing--"
"Might help take the burden off of your shoulders."
Piper nodded slowly, staring at the bubbles in her drink. "My husband is cheating on me."
"Is he blind?" The words slipped out before Ari could stop them. She closed her eyes and shook her head. "I apologize. That was unprofessional of me."
"It's all right." She was smiling a little, at least, but it faded as she went back to her problem. "It's hardly the first time. The first time I caught him, he told me it was just a fling and didn't mean anything. It was strange. I remember thinking that it would have been better if it did mean something. But he risked what we had for... what, a quick roll in the hay?" She pressed her lips together. "He promised it wouldn't happen again. But I found the receipts for a local hotel when he was supposed to be out of town, and I've seen the text messages from anonymous numbers. After a while I guess I just decided as long as he came back home to me, it didn't matter what he did elsewhere. "
"What changed your mind?"
"He wants to leave me for someone else. I'm not a vindictive woman, Ms. Willow, but my husband has never allowed me to work. If he files for divorce, I'll be left with nothing. I'll have to leave our house and live in some little apartment..." Her voice cracked. "But if I can file first, with proof that he strayed outside the marriage, then I'll have grounds to make a few demands before I let him go. Alimony and support, that sort of thing."
"The text messages and receipts aren't enough?"
"He stopped leaving those things around once he decided to cut me loose. I need proof, Ms. Willow. However you would go about doing that..." She opened her purse and withdrew a much-worried manila envelope. The corners had been wrinkled and folded so many times that they resembled the edges of a pie crust. She placed the packet on the table between them. "That's a list of places he goes, about what time you can find him there." She brushed at her cheek with the back of one hand. "There are some pictures of him, too, so you'll know what he looks like."
Ari picked up the packet and moved it closer, a tacit sign of accepting the case.
"I didn't know how much to expect to pay..."
"We can work that out later. Is there a deadline for this?"
"I'm not sure. As soon as possible. He's been spending more and more time with his mistress, and I think he's contacting lawyers. I called someone about representing me, and he was very careful about suggesting it would be a conflict of interests."
Ari winced. "That's a bad sign. I'll get on this immediately." She figured a simply sneak-and-peek wouldn't be too terrible. She could plant a few of her listening toys and sit safely out in her car while the machinery did all the hard work. They stood up together and Ari offered her hand to Piper. They shook again, and Piper's hand seemed to have cooled since her arrival.
"If there's anything I can do in the meantime," Ari said. Like take you back to my apartment, rip off your clothes, and show you how a woman ought to be treated. She cleared her throat.
"Just agreeing to take the case has been a load off my mind. And for listening. You're right. It really did help me a lot."
"I'm glad. I'll be in touch when I have something to report."
Piper thanked her again, and Ari went to the bar to pay for their drinks. The bartender's hand brushed her palm as he handed back her change. "Everything okay? It looked pretty intense over there."
"Everything's fine." She noticed the way his uniform shirt hung, the tightness of the material across his shoulders. If he shaved and maybe let his hair grow out a little... She realized what she was doing and pushed away from the bar with a start. If she was ogling a man, then something was definitely wrong. "Uh, yeah. Fine. Thank you."
She hurried out of the bar like her tail was on fire.
Ari had once joked that, without Dale, she would never charge anyone for her services. It wasn't far from the truth. She hated discussing finances, laying down a monetary amount for what she did. It didn't matter that no one seemed willing to use her services for free. The first thing out of the client's mouth was usually a question about daily rates or expenses, but Ari could never find the ability to cross that line. Fortunately Dale didn't have the same qualms and was more than happy to deal with the payments.
When she got back to the office, Ari laid out the facts of the case and handed over Piper's envelope. She took the pictures and familiarized herself with Kent Robinson's appearance. He was a handsome man, with brown hair worn just a little too long and combed so that it fell across his forehead. In the photos provided he was always posing with Piper, in front of buildings and water and various landmarks. They made a handsome couple, but Piper deserved better than a jerk who didn't appreciate her.
She took the pictures into her office and shut the door, chewing on her bottom lip before she took her phone from her pocket. She scrolled through the numbers until she reached the bottom of the list, women with a "Z" in front of their names like an anchor to drop them below all her other contacts. Deanna, Gina, first Mary, other Mary, Mindy, Betty and Veronica... She smiled as she remembered how those two had gotten into her phone book and continued scrolling.
Ari finally dialed Trudy's number and turned to look out the window as it buzzed in her ear. There was a click, and then Trudy answered in a professional tone. "Gertrude Hanson, how may I help you?"
"Gertrude? I thought you hated your full name."
A pause of almost ten whole seconds. "Ariadne."
"Right. Don't you have Caller ID on that phone?"
Trudy's voice dropped to little more than a whisper. "I programmed your name out of my phone a long time ago, Ari. I thought you would have done the same."
"So I'm nostalgic. Sue me. I thought maybe we could get together and talk about things. Catch up."
Trudy laughed. Ari heard a door close and assumed her ex was in a storage room or something equally private. "Tell me you're not calling me up after all this time for a booty call."
Ari felt suddenly humiliated. "We always were good together, Trudy. Sex wasn't the problem, everything else was." She toyed with the hem of her vest, feeling like a teenager playing dress-up.
"Yeah. Everything else." Trudy's voice was wistful. She sighed. "I'm seeing somebody, Ari. Even if I wasn't, you would be such a terrible, terrible idea that I--"
"I get it. Sorry I bothered you."
"Ari." She brought the phone back to her ear, hoping for an apology for being so blunt. But Trudy just twisted the knife. "Delete my number from your phone, please. I don't want any more calls like this."
"Right. You got it, Gertrude." She jabbed the button to disconnect the call and dropped the phone onto her desk. Was there anyone on her list who would have a better reaction? She didn't even know why she kept the numbers in her phone. Gina had basically told her to drop dead. First Mary had spent an hour after their break-up listing all the ways Ari was the worst woman to ever soil the planet with her presence. She burned bridges when she ended her relationships. She did it selfishly. The only people who were likely to enjoy hearing from her would be Betty and Veronica, but she hadn't really spoken to them after that Halloween night.
Ari was putting on her jacket when Dale knocked and came into her office. "I typed up and printed out Kent Robinson's schedule for you. Going somewhere?"
"Yeah, I'm going to take another little walk."
Dale read between the lines. "How bad is it?"
"Not bad. I swear." She flipped her ponytail over the collar of her jacket and took the schedule from Dale. "Do we still have those little bug things? The listening devices?"
"Mm-hmm. I'll get them ready for you. I'll have 'em here before Robinson gets off from work."
"Thanks, Dale." She wanted to kiss her cheek as thanks as she usually did, but she didn't want to risk another awkward grind. "I'll be back soon."
"Take care of yourself, Ari."
She smiled. "I always do. Maybe that's the problem."
Ari went home to change, and went to a nearby lesbian bar in her plain white T-shirt and a pair of jeans. She traded her belt for suspenders, finding them easier to deal with in certain situations. Plus she just flat loved how she looked in suspenders. She nursed her drink for almost forty-five minutes before a prospect arrived. She had long red hair, and she was dressed in a business suit but no tie. She had traded her high heels for a pair of sneakers, setting her purse on the bar as she waited to be served. She glanced toward Ari, laugh lines appearing by her eyes as she offered a polite smile before turning away.
Ari moved down the bar and settled on the stool next to the business woman. She turned and pressed her lips against the curtain of red hair close enough that her lips almost touched the shell of the stranger's ear as she whispered.
"I don't want to know your name. I don't want to take you home. I just want to kiss you, and touch you, and hear you moan."
When she finished making her pitch, the woman wet her lips with a quick sip of her beer and turned to look at her. She seemed surprised by Ari's beauty, and one corner of her lips curled up as she leaned in and said, "Where?"
Ari led the way into the bar's bathroom. She'd been there enough to know it was relatively clean, so she wasn't overly worried. The bathroom had three stalls, the furthest of which had a small space between it and the wall. Ari stepped into the recess and pulled the stranger to her, sharing their first kiss as she hooked her thumbs under her suspenders and tugged them off her shoulders. The other woman's tongue swirled inside Ari's mouth, quickly matching Ari's desperate passion.
The woman pressed Ari against the side of the stall and kissed down her body. The dull roar that had distracted Ari all day rose to a deafening cheer as her breasts were teased through her T-shirt, and she arched her back and bared her teeth. She ran her fingers through the thick red hair of her partner, urging her lower. A hand slid up the inside of Ari's thigh, cupped her, and then worked the button of her jeans. They were baggy enough that they dropped as soon as the button was undone, pushed the rest of the way by her friend's eager hands.
"Oh, God, you're wet..."
"Been a long day," Ari gasped. "Go on."
"Poor baby, walking around like this all day." She kissed Ari's hips just above the elastic of her panties. She peeled the underwear down, letting them drop before easing Ari's knees apart.
Ari closed her eyes and resisted the urge to cry out at the touch of the other woman's tongue. It was like a cool breeze on a sunny day, like slipping into bed after being on her feet for far too long. One gentle hand moved up the inside of her thigh, massaging the tense muscle before two fingers spread her open. She came quicker than she would have liked, but it felt wonderful. She moved her hips eagerly against the stranger, forcing her tongue deeper until she was able to fall limp against the stall again.
The redhead stayed on her knees, kissing Ari's hips and stomach while stroking her thighs. Ari eventually realized she was being selfish and tugged on the woman's blouse. "C'mon. Get up here. Stand up." The woman pressed her body against Ari's, and Ari offered two fingers to her. The woman sucked them, wetting them with her tongue as she pressed her hips against Ari's. Ari pulled her fingers free and kissed her partner, sliding her hand over her body. Full breasts, flat stomach, the perfect dream girl.
Ari managed to unbutton the other woman's pants and pushed her hand inside. Their tongues dueled, and Ari swallowed the redhead's moans as she twisted her wrist to get a better reach. She extended her wet fingers, curled them in a 'come hither' gesture, and the woman in her arms shuddered and sagged against her. Ari kept stroking, the stranger's red hair caught on her lips and eyelashes as the woman rested her head on Ari's shoulder.
"C'mon. Come for me, Dale. Good girl..."
The woman had her arms around Ari's waist, fingers gripping Ari's ass while she rocked her hips forward. She came quickly, gasping a name that wasn't Ari's, and lifted her head for a lazy, post-orgasm kiss.
"I knew something good would happen if I kept coming to this bar."
Ari grinned. "Thanks. You're a lifesaver."
"Yeah, you seemed right on the edge there."
She cleared her throat and backed up a step, both of them feeling the awkwardness settle over them like a blanket. The woman tucked her hair behind her ears and pulled her pants back up, buttoning them and then smoothing the material down. Ari tugged her pants and underwear up and shrugged back into her suspenders.
"Let me buy you a drink."
Ari shook her head. "No, that's not necessary. You went above and beyond, trust me." She kissed the redhead one more time before she walked to the sink. They washed their hands together, already going back to strangers who happened to be sharing a space. The other woman dried her hands and went to the door. She paused before going outside and walked back to Ari.
"I'm here a lot. In case you ever decide to... well, I don't have to spell it out. Just in case."
"Thanks. Hope to see you around."
She smiled and walked out of the bathroom. Ari watched her go, staring at her hair and wondering if she had noticed that it was the same color as Dale's. An accident? Or my subconscious acting up? One thing was certain; saying Dale's name during sex wasn't expected. She wet her hands under the tap, ran her palms over her hair, and wiped her hands with a paper towel before she left.
The redhead was already back at the bar with a friend, also in a business suit. A girlfriend? Did I just become the Other Woman? As ironic as that would be, considering the case she had just taken, the idea made her feel sick to her stomach. She eyed their body language and decided they were just friends or coworkers.
Whatever helps you sleep at night, sweetheart.
She put down some money for her drink and stood up. As she passed the redhead, she saw movement in the mirror behind the bar. The redhead had her hand tight against her chest, one finger extended to point at Ari as she walked by. She leaned closer to her friend and mouthed, 'That's her.' The woman turned and her eyes widened. "Damn, Renee." She immediately clapped a hand over her mouth, trying to capture the words as soon as they were out.
Ari couldn't help but smile as she reached the door. She turned, pushed it open with her hip and said, "Renee, huh? Nice to meet you. I'm Ariadne." She saluted and stepped out into the sunshine. For the first time all day, she felt normal. She dialed the office number to see if Dale had the listening devices ready for her.
She was ready to go to work.
Dale sat behind the wheel, as Ari undressed in the backseat. It was twilight, and the kids who had been playing earlier had all been called in for dinner. Dale would shout a warning if someone got close enough to peer into the car and get a free show. Ari folded her clothes carefully and then shrugged into her trenchcoat. "You know, you don't have to stay here all night. It's probably going to be pretty boring."
"Well, it is a sacrifice to give up my thrill-a-minute life, but I'm happy to keep you company. You have everything?"
Ari checked the pockets of her coat. She'd loaded them with the listening devices Dale had provided her with. There was also a small receiver. "Yep. Should be in and out."
"I'll keep watch."
Ari reached over the seat and squeezed Dale's shoulder before she got out of the car. She hurried across the street and, when she was sure no one was looking, slipped through the fence into the Robinson's backyard. Once the gate was latched behind her, she took off her trenchcoat and hid it between some leaves and the fence that ringed the property. The pathway from the fence to the back of the house was littered with dry leaves and debris that had been blown there by the wind, so she felt confident Kent wouldn't wander over and find the coat anytime soon.
She took the listening devices from the coat's pocket, along with the key from Piper's bag of tricks, and moved quickly to the back door. According to the schedule, Piper would be at work until ten. Kent would get home between six-thirty and seven, then spend the early evening entertaining his girlfriend. Ari stepped inside and left the door ajar behind her.
The living room was the center of the house; the kitchen and garage were on one side with the master bedroom and bathroom on the other. A den ran the length of the house at front, and she could see through the living room and out the thin curtains that overlooked the yard and driveway. Hopefully she'd have more than enough time to see someone coming.
Ari paused and examined the space. She only had five bugs, so she had to find the optimum places for them. There was an art deco lamp between the living room and den with metallic shades covering the bulbs. Ari hid one of the bugs underneath the shade, where it would be hidden by the light. Dale told her that the range for each bug was fifteen to twenty feet, so it should cover the majority of the living room and den without getting ambient noise from the television.
She looked around and noticed a pad on the table next to the couch. She walked over and skimmed the list of names. "Dale, I hope you're listening. I think these are the lawyers Robinson has contacted and a list of those he has yet to contact. Listen up. Albert Babbitt & Mitchell. Garetson and Associates. Hutter Lester McGraw. Julia Stone. Tyler & Byers. Those are all check-marked. Timmerson and Tate. Wiseman Phillips & Associates. Let's try and get those last two locked in for Piper, if we can." She dropped the pad and went to place the rest of the bugs.
The tall kitchen trash can was on wheels, and Ari put another bug on the axle in case they wanted to take in a snack. She crossed the living room and went down a dark, narrow hall to the master bedroom. One bug went on the back of the nightstand. She guessed which one belonged to Piper by examining the contents of the drawers. She assumed the side with dildos and other various sex toys wouldn't belong to the man of the house. Although...
She picked up a vibrating egg, rubbing her thumb over the smooth curve. Her face was warm. No. You scratched that itch. Stop it. She dropped the egg back into the drawer, pushed it shut, and went into the bathroom. The fourth bug found a home inside the light fixture. She looked at the shower and pictured Piper there, dripping wet, single for the first time in years. Maybe she'd brought her little egg into the shower with her to get some relief. Or was she the kind of woman who preferred to use her fingers in the shower?
Ari jerked her hand away from her crotch. She was very aware of her nudity, almost trembling from desire. No, no, no. What the hell am I doing? She took her final bug into the extra bedroom and placed it behind the headboard just in case Kent Robinson had any kind of conscience and didn't screw his mistress in his marriage bed. She had just secured the final bug when she heard a distant car horn beep twice. It was Dale's signal that she'd seen Kent's car.
"Shit." Ari stood up, closed her eyes, and focused.
Her body folded in on itself, and she inadvertently cried out in anguish. It was like getting hit in both sides by two baseball bats. She stretched her neck out as her face was reshaped, the bones splitting down the middle to form a muzzle. She hit the ground, her hands becoming paws before they made contact. She shook her body, her medium-length hair spreading out across her body. She got to her feet, stumbling only slightly as she moved toward the open back door. She was halfway across the living room when she heard the front door open behind her.
"Hey! What the hell... goddamn it."
"What, what is it?" A woman's voice, but not Piper.
"My damn wife left the fucking back door open again. Hey! Hey, mutt..."
Ari ducked out onto the porch with Kent Robinson in hot pursuit. She ran around the corner of the house and took a flying leap toward the top of the fence. She jumped to safety on the other side, shook herself, and started toward the rendezvous point she and Dale had prearranged. Behind her, she heard Kent say, "Make sure it didn't shit anywhere. Goddamn mutt..."
Ari sniffed at the idea, and her entire body tensed. Boy dog. There was a boy dog somewhere nearby. Her body quaked as she tried to pinpoint the scent, and she hurried down the street in pursuit. Her rational thought became a jumble of thoughts: Renee's tongue and fingers inside of her, the vibrating egg, the feel of Piper's palm against her own. She was making quiet, anxious sounds of arousal as she hurried through the streets. There! Boy dog was there! She ran in front of a car driving slowly and crossed the street.
The boy dog started barking, obviously smelling her as well. Ari howled back at him. She could hear the dog inside her head. Gm gm. Arlioo. Wuo!
I'm almost there! she shouted at him.
Someone suddenly grabbed her from behind, an arm around her neck and another looping around her midsection. She was lifted off the ground, but her feet twitched wildly as she tried to continue her quest. She yipped and barked, trying to get her head turned around enough to bite whoever had taken her. She didn't want to hurt whoever it was, she just wanted to be let go so she could get the boy!
She was tossed into the backseat of a car, and the door was slammed shut before she could scramble out. She stood on the seat and slapped at the locks with her useless paws. The boy is out there, he wants to fuck me, the boy is out there, let him fuck me! She whimpered and howled as loud as she could. Then she came up with a brilliant escape plan. She could become the lady! The lady could unlock the door. Then she could go find the boy! She stretched out on the seat, closed her eyes, and felt the change in her brain.
A few seconds of excruciating pain later, Ari pushed herself up on shaking arms. She was covered with sweat, and she immediately moved one hand between her legs. "Oh, shit, shit..."
Dale twisted to look over the back of the seat at her. "You okay?"
"Thank you, Dale. That was... too close." She sat up and gathered her clothes, pulling them on with trembling hands. She could still hear the male dog barking through the window. "Did you get the list of attorneys?"
"I left messages for the two that weren't checked. I told them it was regarding Piper Robinson in her divorce, so hopefully we cut Kent off at the pass." She was silent for a moment, deciding if she wanted to breach the subject. Finally she said, "So I thought you said going canidae was safe because you took care of the itch."
"I thought I did. Apparently I was mistaken." She pulled on her T-shirt and climbed into the front seat. "What's the range on this device?"
Dale accepted the subject change and picked up the small receiver. It was hooked up to the car radio, which they had been told would record whatever they heard.
"About six blocks. We should be fine here." They were on the outskirts of the neighborhood parked on a dead-end street. The view through the front windshield was an overgrown vacant lot, and the yards on either side of them were blocked by tall fences. Dale turned on the device and adjusted the volume. She took one earbud and let Ari have the other one.
"--promise. We just have the lay the groundwork to make sure the bitch doesn't have anywhere to turn. Then we'll just pick one off our list, and the bitch'll have to settle for whatever I tell her."
"God, this prick," Dale muttered. "I haven't been listening since he got home, but I've listened to enough to nominate Piper for sainthood. Most people get divorced because they drifted apart, irreconcilable differences, that sort of thing. This guy is just using it as a tool to screw his wife."
I saw a lot of tools to screw his wife. Love to use a couple of them on her myself. "My condolences, Piper. Let me comfort you with this strap-on cock."
Ari cleared her throat roughly and nodded.
"I just wish I hadn't met her," the mistress said. "It was easy when she was just, you know, a name and some lady in pictures."
Kent said, "Don't think of her as a person, Tammy. Just remember she's a bitch who deserves every damn thing that's coming to her."
"He sure likes that word," Dale muttered.
"Maybe it's why Piper chose us. I think it would be kind of poetic to have Bitches Investigations take him down."
Ari nodded. The talking had stopped and, when Tammy moaned quietly, Ari had a sinking feeling of what was coming next. No pun intended. She shifted awkwardly in her seat and glanced at Dale, who was already blushing.
"We probably don't have to listen to this..."
Ari's voice was low and husky. "We'll have to listen eventually, to tell Piper what's on the tape. Either that or we give it to her without any warning and let her listen to her husband fuck another woman."
Dale dropped her hand away from the controls and made a face. "I hate this job sometimes."
Ari just nodded and forced down the lump in her throat. She told herself that the man was a reprehensible prick, and the woman currently cooing in her ear was a willing conspirator in the breakup of this marriage. Her brain didn't hear any of it. All it heard were the sounds of clothes being removed, whispered affirmations of how beautiful that was, or how big this was. It was like eavesdropping on a porn movie.
"Ari, what I said... I mean, you don't have to listen to this. I can summarize. In your condition--"
"I'm fine." Ari didn't unclench her jaw as she spoke, growling through closed teeth.
"Look at your hand."
Ari looked down. Her hand was clenching her thigh hard enough to hurt, but she hadn't noticed it. She forced herself to let go with a sigh, but that returned her focus to the throb between her legs. She pressed her back against the seat and closed her eyes, trying to think of non-erotic things. Like baseball, women playing baseball, dirty faces wiping the dirt off the asses of their tight white pants, tilting their heads back to pour icy cold water--
"Shit, shit, shit."
"Ari." Dale's voice was steady, calm. "If you insist on listening to this, then just do it. I've seen you naked, I've given you a bath. Just do it. Take the edge off."
Ari shook her head. "I'm not gonna..."
Ari couldn't help but smile. "Never heard that one before."
"Just do it. It's obviously killing you. Just, just try to be quick."
Something in Ari's lust-ridden, heat-fueled brain snapped, and she said, "Do it with me."
Dale laughed. "No, I think I'll just sit over here and--"
They stared at each other, the tension rising between them as the moans, groans and grunts filled the car. The windows had started to fog up at some point. Ari licked her lips, and Dale's eyes dipped toward her mouth before darting back up to her eyes.
"You're in heat. You're not thinking clearly."
Ari lifted her shoulder in a non-committal shrug.
Dale stared out the front window, worrying her bottom lip with her teeth. Ari's breathing was shallow, her eyes locked on Dale like a predator waiting for its prey to make a move. Finally, Dale turned and looked at her again. "You know, the first time I ever saw you, you were naked in my bed." Ari smiled. "This is really the next logical step for our friendship."
Ari unbuttoned her jeans and slumped in the seat. Dale started to mimic her, but then tugged out the earpiece. "But I'll be damned if I do it while listening to this fat load huffing and puffing."
"Right. The only one huffing and puffing should be the big bad wolf."
"Oh, you're bad all right." Dale turned in the driver's seat, her back against the door with her foot up in the seat. She opened her pants and glanced over her shoulder out the window. "Let's hope they don't have a neighborhood watch in this place." Dale licked her fingers, lifted the waistband of her underwear with the thumb of her left hand, and reached between her legs. Ari watched her with eyes half-lidded from desire, her face flush as she stroked herself.
She was reminded of other dead-end streets and fogged windows. The first girl she'd ever seen naked lowering Ari to the seat and whispering, "It's all right. Let me do this." And then kissing, and fingers where only Ari had touched, and everything really was all right. She wondered what Dale was thinking about. Her? Was she a participant in Dale's fantasies?
Ari knew that time was of the essence. They couldn't just sit and masturbate in a car all night. Even if there wasn't a neighborhood watch, they would get caught before too much time passed. And if a cop decided to see what the little recorder between their seats was, it could cause all kinds of problems. But right now, Ari wanted to draw it out as long as possible. She'd thought about Dale before as a potential girlfriend, but it seemed to muddy the waters. This felt safe, like they weren't really crossing the line between friends and being more.
Their breathing was the only sound in the car, save for the tinny voices coming through their discarded earpieces. Dale leaned her head against the drivers' side window and Ari pictured her in a bed, surrounded by wrinkled sheets, her mussed hair spread out over a pillow. She imagined unbuttoning Dale's blouse, bending down to kiss her upper chest as she finished undressing her friend. Her coworker, her partner, her...
Dale started breathing heavier, arching her back so that her shirt pulled tight across her breasts. Her lips were parted just enough that Ari could see her teeth, and Ari moved her hand faster. She lifted her knees, hunched forward, and imprisoned her hand between her thighs as she came with a desperate cry. Dale slumped a moment later, keeping her hand between her legs while she covered the bulge in her jeans with her other hand.
They were silent for a long time, getting their breathing back under control. Dale cracked the window to let some fresh air into the car and twisted so that she was facing forward again.
"That was weird."
"Yeah. But it doesn't have to be awkward."
Dale smiled. "Says you."
"No, it's a fact. We don't act awkward now, and just go about our business. Tomorrow, we act normally and do what we normally do. Eventually, it becomes something that happened with no awkwardness."
"What the hell. I'll give it a shot." She picked up the earpiece and listened for a moment. "Ah, they're down to the pillow talk."
Ari picked up her earpiece as well, and Kent's voice came through mid-sentence. "--ruin her. Just completely leave her by the side of the road. Once we're done with her, she'll have to start turning tricks just to eat." He laughed and Ari heard the sound of flesh slapping flesh. "Just you wait, baby. It'll be a sight to see."
"I should have mauled him."
"Mauling is too good for him."
Ari nodded. They listened to the nauseating pillow talk until Robinson told his mistress she had to leave. "Okay. The receiver in your coat will keep recording for the night. How about we head back to the office and get the tape of what we just heard somewhere safe?"
"Sounds like a plan." She fastened her seatbelt and looked over at Dale. "See? Business as usual. Not awkward at all."
"Your pants are still unbuttoned."
Ari looked down as Dale pulled away from the curb.
Three days later, Ari put on her suit again and escorted Piper to the offices of Wiseman Phillips & Associates. Allison Wiseman, one of the partners, agreed to meet with them if they could make their case in fifteen minutes. Ari simply played the recording of Kent Robinson for her, and the lawyer stopped her after only five minutes. "Mrs. Robinson, I will definitely represent you." Piper reluctantly brought up her finances, but Ms. Wiseman held up a hand and stopped her before she could say much. "This asshole's main goal is to ruin you financially so he can move on to his next conquest. Taking him down will be a treat." She opened a ledger. "Our firm takes a certain number of pro bono cases every quarter. I'll make sure your case is one of them. Now, let's talk assets. What can we take from your husband?"
They talked about an acceptable settlement for the next half hour, with Ari excusing herself to get some coffee so they could discuss things privately. When their meeting was done, Piper found Ari in the break room and offered to buy her lunch as a token of her gratitude. Piper was actually smiling as she walked out of the building. She turned her head toward the sun, sighed, and turned to face Ari. "Thank you."
"I didn't do much. I just got the bastard on tape."
"I was backed into a corner. I don't... I couldn't see a way out. And now in just a couple of days, you turned everything around. I might even get to keep the house." She spontaneously hugged Ari, and Ari closed her eyes. The drawer with the sex toys popped into her head, and her body took note of all the lovely curves being pressed against hers. She ignored the maelstrom between her legs and gently extricated herself from the hug. "You're my hero."
"Just a woman with an illegal listening device. Come on, you promised me lunch." She turned and walked beside Piper down the street.
"I do have a little bit of money. If Ms. Wiseman is going to take my divorce pro bono, then I want to give it to you. You've more than earned it. And maybe the next person won't be able to pay you."
Ari nodded. "I appreciate that, Mrs. Robinson. Or... what's your maiden name?"
Piper smiled slowly. "Copeland. I'll be Piper Copeland again."
"Nice to meet you, Ms. Copeland."
"I just wish there was more I could do for you."
Ari considered the question and realized there was a bit of information she wanted. "Actually, maybe you could help me."
Tammy Winters moved down the bar and smiled at the customer who had just sat down. "Hey, darlin'. What can I get for you?"
"Something with a lot of alcohol, please. And a tall glass."
Tammy clucked her tongue and made a concerned face like the other bartenders had told her. "Oh, that's too bad. Problems with the boyfriend?"
Ari scoffed. "Yeah, you could say that. But it's my own damn fault for being stupid. And blind." She took a sip of the drink Tammy had poured for her. "I met him when he was married. I figured it wasn't so bad if the marriage was already over, right? I mean, the guy was practically packing his bags with one foot out the door."
"Uh-huh," Tammy said. She was starting to get uncomfortable. "So what happened? He never left the wife after all?"
Ari laughed and shook her head. "Oh, he left her all right. There really was no love left in the marriage. I don't think those two had any like left. So he kicked her to the curb and we were supposed to live happily ever after, right?"
"Right." Tammy looked down the bar to see if anyone else needed her service.
"Right." Ari sighed. "Until he found another me. Version three-point-oh. I didn't marry the guy, but damn. All those fucking years of my life just wasted. You ever been in a situation like that? Just riding along watching him screw over some woman in his life? The whole time ignoring the fact that it could so, so easily happen to you?"
Tammy just smiled.
"God. Look at me. I'm sorry. I've seen way too many movies with people pouring their hearts out to the bartender. You could probably care less."
"It's all right."
Ari slid off the stool. "I'm going to leave you alone anyway. Sorry about unloading on you." She dropped some money on the bar. "Just do me a favor, huh? Learn from my mistake. Seeing how your man ends a relationship is a glimpse into the fucking future. I'll see you later, Tammy."
She blinked. "How'd you know my name?"
"On your nametag, there." Ari pointed. "Anyway. Thanks for the drink."
"Any time. Come again."
Ari waved over her shoulder as she walked out of the bar and into the sunshine. Tammy watched her go and looked down at the money on the table. She could hear Kent's voice as clearly as if he was speaking right next to her. " Don't think of her as a person, Tammy. Just remember she's a bitch who deserves every damn thing that's coming to her. "
She rubbed her shoulder just above the collar of her T-shirt and went to refill someone else's drink as her mind raced.
Ari took a cold shower, her third that day. She dressed in baggy sweats and went into the kitchen to get something to eat. She hadn't been to the office since her discussion with Tammy Winter. Piper had given her the name of the bar, but Ari had been forced to go three times before Kent Robinson's mistress started her shift. She only hoped that her story had landed. She didn't know Tammy Winter, but no one deserved to be treated the way Piper had been. If she'd saved someone future grief, she considered it a good week.
And now, she was enjoying her splendid isolation locked inside her apartment. No contact with the outside world except for food deliveries. She left the money in an envelope taped to the door and insisted the delivery girl leave the food on the mat. She wasn't going to risk the canidae mind taking over her actions.
She had porn, she had a fine selection of accoutrements, and she would ride out this damn heat cycle until things settled down.
Ari sat on the couch with her feet propped on the edge of the coffee table, watching television. Apparently a lot of cable channels had started showing reruns of old sitcoms, so there were more options than just soap operas and court shows. She was halfway through a marathon of The Office , wondering when the hell Jim and Pam had gotten together, when there was a knock on the door.
"Just leave it on the mat!" She took another bite of her chocolate and the knock came again. "How much do I owe you?"
"I don't have anything to leave on the mat, and I actually owe you a check. From Piper. Open the door, Ariadne."
Ari put down her candy and went to the door. She twisted the locks and opened the door just enough to stick her head out, blocking the gap with her body. "Hey, Dale. What are you doing here?"
"I missed you. It's boring at work." She held up a white plastic bag. "I thought I would keep you company."
"Movies? Are they--"
"PG only. No sex, no romance, no nudity."
Ari stepped back and opened the door wider. "All right, c'mon in. I have... a lot of stuff in the chocolate family. Some leftover Chinese is in the fridge."
"That's okay. I brought Cheetos and other wholly unhealthy snacks. Really, it should be better to eat the bags."
"You're a saint and a goddess, Dale Frye."
They went to the couch and Dale held up two movies for Ari's judgment. She picked one at random and Dale slipped it into the player. She took a bag of chips and tossed them to Ari before she dropped onto the sofa. There was an empty cushion between them, and Ari placed the chips on it so they could share.
"So how much longer are you going to be in heat?"
"A couple of days. I'm over the hump." She snickered. "So to speak. It's almost run its course. It's a lot easier with a friend to watch my back."
Dale smiled. "Next time I'll be better prepared."
"Well, it's been years since it happened last. So it could be another five, six years until it happens again."
"Yeah." Dale looked at her. "I'll be here."
Ari grinned and tapped Dale's shoulder before she focused on the movie.
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