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It took another hour's worth of discussion before Dugan was able to think it was his idea. He finally 'decided' her punishment should be a week off without pay for her little stunt. Nadine accepted the punishment gracefully and asked for one small addition to the terms. Dugan reluctantly accepted her request.
By 11:15, Kate and Amy had been sitting together in Coffee Table Books for nearly three hours. KELF playing, as usual, through the ceiling-mounted speakers. Neither of them noticed when the music ended and the DJ began speaking.
"Good almost afternoon, everybody. My name is Ben Jones and I will be filling in for Nadine Butler in this slot for the time being. The temperature is a nice and comfortable sixty-four right now, but I know you don't want to hear about the weather. We have a special guest in the booth right now, so I'm going to turn the mic over so she can tell you a bit of really good news. Nadine?"
Amy stopped speaking mid-sentence and looked up at the speaker. Kate turned as well and said, "Did he just say...?"
Nadine's voice came through loud and clear. "Hello, boys and girls and miscellaneous. You're not hearing things, you're not listening to a recording. I am Nadine Butler, the Pixie, and I am live on the air once more."
Kate and Amy both thought they were the only ones listening until the entire store exploded in applause.
"It turns out the squeaky wheel *does* occasionally get the grease. And the supporters I mentioned yesterday rose my squeak to a roar. So, I am happy to report that following a week's suspension for my 'unauthorized broadcast content,' I am returning to the airwaves bright and early next Monday afternoon. So be good to each other between now and then and be good to Ben. He's just a weekend DJ; he's doing the best he can."
There was a scuffle and then Nadine added, "Ow! Okay, he just hit me. Roast the fool."
"Get out my booth!"
"Not this week, it isn't!"
"I'll be back!"
"That was Nadine, the Persistent Pixie there and, as she said, I am only going to be here until Monday. So I might as well make the best of it. I'm going to have a contest for dinner for two at Duck Soup Restaurant if you can give me the correct answer to this question..."
That night, Miranda invited Nadine out to Gail's Seafood Restaurant for a victory dinner. They arrived not long after the last ferry of the evening and eased their way through a small crowd of tourists who were staying overnight that were swarming the boardwalk. Nadine tightened her hand around Miranda's and didn't release until they were inside. "What's wrong?" Miranda asked softly.
"Crowds. I'm uncomfortable when there are large groups of people lurking about."
Miranda kissed Nadine's forehead, just over the square of gauze between her eyes. "Do you want to go home and eat in?"
"No. I want to sit at a table and have dinner with my girlfriend."
Miranda smiled and took Nadine's hand. They walked up to the hostess stand and waited. The restaurant was partially lit with a handful of glass lights along the back wall, but most of the light came from the old-fashioned lanterns in the center of each occupied table. The wood-paneled walls and low ceiling gave the room an undeniably romantic air. A young woman wearing a black tuxedo stepped up to the podium and smiled. "Good evening, welcome to Gail's. Do you have a reservation?"
"Powell, for two."
The girl checked and smiled. "Right this way." She pulled two menus from the slot next to the podium and turned on her heel. Miranda and Nadine followed the bobbing red ponytail across the restaurant. Nadine fought the urge to pull her hand from Miranda's, struggled to remain at her side and not two paces apart. They could walk hand-in-hand, they could be on a date. It didn't have to be a secret anymore.
The hostess guided them to a small two-person table next to the window. It overlooked the boardwalk and, more importantly, the dock where dozens of sailboats waited stoically for the morning. The moon was high and reflecting off the water as they took their seats. The hostess lit the lantern on their table, handed them each a menu and said, "Your waitress will be with you shortly."
"Thank you," Miranda said. She was seated with her back to the wall and could see most of the restaurant. A few patrons had turned when they passed and a few more were taking occasional peeks over their shoulders at their table.
"How many people are staring?"
"None," Miranda said. "It's mostly just quick glances."
Nadine smirked and looked down at her menu again. The waitress approached and introduced herself, took their drink orders and promised to return when they'd had a chance to look over their menus.
Someone across the room pushed their chair back and stood. Miranda's hand tensed around her menu. When the man's path was certain to take him by their table, Miranda breathed, "Dean, someone's coming."
Nadine moved slightly to her right and made sure she could see the man out of her periphery. He stopped next to the table and smiled sheepishly. "Um. Hi. I hate to interrupt your evening, but you're Nadine Butler, aren't you?"
"I'm a really big fan. I just wanted to let you know I was ready to throw my radio out the window when I heard what had happened. Really good to know you'll be back. Well... anyway, I wanted to... say that. Again, sorry for interrupting."
"Thank you. What's your name?"
"It's really nice to meet you, Steve. Thanks for listening."
He nodded, smiled to Miranda and headed back to his own seat. Nadine smiled sheepishly and said, "I still have fans."
"You always had fans," Miranda assured her. She reached across the table and took Nadine's hand.
Later that week, on Friday, Miranda left work early and went directly to the ferry lanes. She met Nadine, who had parked her car on the front row, and drove onto the five o'clock ferry.
Their tickets to the theater were for forty-five minutes after docking, so Miranda drove like a woman possessed to get there on time. After the show, they ate a leisurely dinner at a small family restaurant and went sightseeing in downtown Seattle. They finally called it a night when Miranda was spending more time covering her yawns than pointing out sights.
When they checked into the hotel, Nadine hesitated when the clerk asked if they wanted one room or two. Nadine looked willing to make it The Night, but Miranda answered, "We'll need two rooms."
When they were in the elevator, Miranda explained, "You weren't sure." She touched Nadine's cheek and said, "You should be absolutely positive before we spend the night together."
Nadine smiled and kissed her before the elevator doors slid apart.
A few days later, Nadine was back at work and Miranda was back behind her desk. They were forced to reduce their dates to the occasional take-out and making out on Nadine's couch. They always ended it before it got too far, but Nadine admitted it was becoming harder and harder to break apart at the end of the night.
Two Fridays after their trip to the mainland, Nadine invited Miranda to her apartment for a 'home-cooked' meal. The day before she ordered their meal, making sure it arrived in time for her to transfer everything from containers to bowls and plates. Nadine went straight home from work, met the delivery man from Harbor Lights Restaurant and proceeded with her ruse.
When the food was laid out and the air of the apartment was resplendent with the smell of fresh sea bass and rice, she went to the bathroom to shower and change clothes. She was fine until the actual knock came on the door, which set her heart to double-time. She smoothed her dress, made sure the table was set and went to the front door. She turned the knob and stepped aside. "H-- wow."
Miranda smiled. She was wearing a gorgeous black dress, her hair obviously shaped by the hand of a gifted stylist. The dress formed a teardrop shape, flowing from the neck and then spreading out over her body like ink. Her shoulders were bare and, when she did a mock runway turn, Nadine saw that her back was completely bare as well. The dress was tied behind her neck.
Nadine cleared her throat and finally found her voice. "Wow. So this is what 'speechless' feels like."
Miranda's smile widened and she looked down at herself. "You like?"
"Yeah," Nadine breathed. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. I... should change."
Miranda shook her head. "Are you crazy? That's the dress."
Nadine blushed; she had been sure Miranda wouldn't remember the story, but she was wearing the dress she had worn to work one hot summer day. Only tonight, her chest and shoulders weren't hidden by a t-shirt. "Is it like you pictured?"
"Better," Miranda said.
Nadine stepped aside and said, "Come in." Miranda stepped into the apartment and pecked Nadine's lips. "Something smells delicious." She sniffed and said, "Oh, and there's seafood."
Nadine laughed and closed the door. She took Miranda's hand and said, "We'll eat in a minute, but there's something I want to show you first."
She led Miranda across the living room to the hallway that led to the back three rooms of the apartment. Once they were in the hallway, Nadine hesitated. She turned to face Miranda and said, "I'm just... showing you this. I'm not trying to pressure you or imply that anything is going to happen."
"Okay," Miranda repeated, curiosity now overwhelming her hunger.
Nadine opened the bedroom door and stepped back. "Tada." The mass of boxes and old clothes had vanished, replaced by a brand-new queen-sized bed. The royal blue comforter was pulled back at one corner to reveal pristine white sheets, the pillows sitting against the headboard like plump marshmallows.
Nadine worried her bottom lip with her teeth and looked at Miranda. "I bought a bed," she said.
"I can see that," Miranda said softly. Her eyes were bright, her lips curled in an amused smile. "Why did you...?"
"I've been thinking about... you know... The Night. And I hated knowing that every night you were here wouldn't be... The Night because I didn't want to consummate our relationship on the couch. So, I... bought a bed."
"I love it," Miranda said. She turned Nadine and bent down to softly kiss her lips.
Nadine let herself be pressed against the doorframe and slid her hands up Miranda's arms. When she had her fingers linked behind Miranda's head, she broke the kiss and said, "Of course, when I said I wasn't trying to pressure you, I didn't mean tonight *couldn't* be The Night, just that I... you know, wasn't... I-I wasn't..."
"I think it is The Night," Miranda interrupted as she claimed Nadine's lips again.
"Really?" Nadine said against Miranda's mouth.
They moved into the bedroom and Nadine gasped, "Good. I was about to tackle you in the foyer."
They moved into the bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed. Miranda stroked Nadine's cheeks and pulled back, resting her hands on Nadine's shoulders. Nadine's skin was pale pink, her nostrils flaring with each exhalation. Her hands shook where they rested on Miranda's hips. Miranda kissed Nadine's cheek and said, "Have you slept in this bed yet?"
"No," Nadine said.
"Then we're going to christen it?" Miranda asked. She stood up and moved in front of Nadine, lifting her skirt past her knees so she could straddle Nadine's legs. Nadine's eyes trailed down from the smooth material of Miranda's dress to the length of stocking she had just exposed and felt her mouth go dry. "And it won't ruin the dinner you slaved over?"
"We both know it's take-out," Nadine said. She brought her hand up and used the edge of her index finger to lift Miranda's skirt a little higher.
Miranda bent down and kissed Nadine's temple, slid her lips down to her ear and licked the curve. Nadine shivered and Miranda whispered, "Lie down."
Nadine let herself be guided down to the mattress, which was at least ten times as soft as it had been in the showroom. She realized she was holding her breath and exhaled as Miranda put a knee on the mattress. The bed sank slightly under her weight and she crawled up to Nadine's hips. She leaned down and stroked Nadine's hair. "You are so lovely," Miranda whispered.
Nadine moved her hands down Miranda's bare back and put her hands beneath the soft material. She cupped Miranda's ass and pulled her closer. They kissed again and Miranda sank down onto Nadine, pinning her to the mattress. To Nadine, it felt like being wrapped in a sheet of cotton; Miranda's gentle weight on top of her, the blanket and mattress below.
As they kissed, Miranda had moved her hands down Nadine's body and pulled her dress higher with every pass. "I thought this would never happen," Miranda whispered. "I never thought you could want me."
Nadine kissed the curve of Miranda's neck and whispered, "I want you, Miranda. I want you so much."
Miranda shivered and moved to one side so her left leg would be between Nadine's. When she sat up, her thigh pressed against the wet cotton of Nadine's panties and she began to thrust with her entire lower body. Her thigh pressed against Nadine with each upward thrust and soon she was writhing erratically on the bed.
When Miranda reached behind her neck to undo her dress, Nadine gasped, "D-d-don't... I'll come..."
Miranda undid the tie and folded the front of her dress down. "Then come," she said as her bare breasts came into view. Nadine whimpered and reached up, cupping one perfect breast. She saw freckles that ran the length of Miranda's cleavage, the small, ancient scar marking one collarbone, the brown nipples and the pale skin. Her thighs tightened around Miranda's leg and she arched her back. Her entire body went rigid and her hand tightened around Miranda's breast as she came.
After Nadine's orgasm, Miranda bent down and kissed her lips. They groped each other slowly for a few moments and then Miranda rolled to one side. She got off the bed and shed the rest of her clothes in the blink of an eye. She rolled her stockings and panties down her legs and climbed back onto the bed naked. Nadine ran her hands over Miranda, finding nothing but bare skin dappled with sweat. They kissed and Miranda breathed, "I want you, too, Nadine."
Nadine rolled onto her side and faced Miranda. She rested her fingertips on Miranda's temple and slowly trailed down, over her cheek and across her neck. She felt the pulse pound beneath her index finger and kept going, circling both nipples until they stood proud and erect against the alabaster skin. She used all four fingernails to scrape over Miranda's belly, drawing an impatient hiss from the other woman, and then cupped her mound with one warm hand.
Miranda gasped and spread her legs. Nadine looked down at the short, stiff hair that was rubbing against her palm and used two fingers to spread the wet lips hiding below. Miranda's eyes were closed, every ounce of concentration focusing on what those two fingers were doing to her.
Nadine put her lips to Miranda's mouth and was rewarded with a hungry kiss. As their tongues grappled for dominance, Nadine slipped one finger inside Miranda's pussy. She bent her trembling fingers and began to thrust. Miranda tilted her head back and exhaled long and slow. "Nadine..." She moved her hands to Nadine's shoulders and closed her thighs on Nadine's hand. "Nadine, touch me..."
Nadine looked down and saw Miranda's legs, her wetness on her fingers and on Miranda's thighs. She shuddered and gasped, "Oh, Miranda."
Miranda brushed her cheek against Nadine's and wondered whose tears she felt. Not that it mattered; she was surprised to find that she was comfortable with the idea of crying in front of Miranda. She started slow and steady, adjusting the pace according to the cues she picked up from her lover. They found each other's lips once more and Miranda growled as she came. She nipped at Nadine's bottom lip, bowing her head as she came.
When they were both still, Nadine withdrew her hand and held it up. She examined the wet fingertips and, locking eyes with Miranda, touched her tongue to her index finger. Miranda groaned and watched Nadine's tongue dance around until she'd had her fill. They kissed again and Miranda tasted herself on Nadine's tongue. She reached down and grabbed the hem of Nadine's dress.
They broke the kiss just long enough to get the dress over her head. Nadine pushed her own panties down her legs with one hand. Miranda looked down at Nadine's sweaty stomach, at the moisture gathering on her thighs, and scooted closer. Insinuating her thigh between Nadine's legs once again, she resumed the kiss and rocked forward ever-so-slightly.
Nadine groaned and used her own leg against Miranda. She moved her hands down, gripped Miranda's ass with both hands, and rode her. The kiss broke and Nadine's grunts became louder. Miranda threw her head back and Nadine assaulted her throat. "Yes, Dean, yes, Dean," Miranda was panting.
Miranda came first and redoubled her attack on Nadine. She pushed her onto her back and rose above her like a predator, using her whole body as a weapon. They locked eyes, Nadine's wide behind her glasses as her mouth widened in shock and pleasure. "I'm coming," she whispered. Her eyes rolled back in her head and she arched her back, pressing herself tightly against Miranda's thigh. "Oh, fuck, Miranda..."
They sank to the mattress together, sweat clinging to their bodies and holding them together. Miranda covered Nadine's cheek and throat with small kisses, brushing her hair out of her face and giving her another series of lingering kisses. When they had caught their breath, Miranda rolled to the side and lay with her arms around Nadine.
"Wow," Nadine breathed.
"Wow," Miranda agreed. She looked up and saw tears on Nadine's cheeks. She hooked her finger under Nadine's chin and turned her head, raising up to kiss the tears away. Nadine shivered and Miranda said, "Was it okay?"
"So okay," Nadine whispered. She kissed Miranda's lips and said, "I love you."
"I love you, too."
Nadine nuzzled Miranda's cheek and said, "Are you hungry?"
"I could eat."
Nadine sniffled and smiled. "Our food is probably cold by now."
"S'okay," Miranda said. She rose and slid lower on the mattress. She kissed Nadine's nipple and looked up, eyes twinkling. "I wasn't thinking of eating food."
Nadine's eyes widened.
Later that night, Nadine returned from the bathroom and paused at the doorway. Miranda was curled on her side, her body curled around a void about the size of Nadine's body. Her hand was curled against her chest, the fingers that had given her such pleasure limp and motionless in dreams. Nadine stood for a moment, just watching her sleep. It was a simple thing, but she'd never felt the need to just watch Kate sleep. She'd never just stared at one of her lovers like this.
As she was about to walk to bed, Miranda's arm stretched out and found empty mattress. Miranda didn't wake, but she shifted and whispered, "Dean."
"I'm here," Nadine whispered as she slid under the covers. Miranda's arm found her and pulled her close. Nadine closed her eyes as Miranda's naked body slid against hers, as Miranda sleepily kissed the back of her neck. She found Miranda's hand between her breasts and brought it up to kiss the knuckles. "I'm here," she repeated.
"You got that end?"
Miranda knelt and pushed aside the box of clothes that was in their way. "Okay, you've got a clear path."
The mover lifted the mattress and his partner turned it so they could get out the bedroom door. Nadine stepped in from the hallway and said, "Miranda, I... Whoops." She moved to the side and let the movers carry the mattress away. She watched them go and said, "I was going to ask about the bookshelf. Do you want to alphabetize them together or put your stuff then mine?"
"Put 'em all together," Miranda said.
"Okay," Nadine said. She motioned over her shoulder and said, "You're getting rid of your bed?"
"Yeah. We don't really need two beds. Now that I'm out, we don't even need a decoy bedroom." She pulled Nadine close and kissed her neck. "I don't have to tell people you're my roommate, Live-in Lover."
Nadine giggled and moved to the side. "Stop it. I was just going to say that your bed was so beautiful. We could give my bed to Goodwill or something. I've only had it for about a month."
"Yeah, but it's seen a lifetime of action in those few weeks."
Nadine smiled shyly and said, "I feel weird, though. This is your *bed.* You've had it for years."
"Yep," Miranda said. "Almost ten years in fact. Lot of history. Lot of one-night stands, lot of memories of relationships that went wrong. But the bed in your apartment only has one memory: you and me. Us. That's my bed they're taking out and I'm replacing it with *our* bed."
Nadine blushed and turned in Miranda's arms. "In that case, I'll stop giving you grief about it."
Miranda smiled and kissed Nadine.
Two months later, Nadine was riding down Spring Street when she spotted a familiar navy pea coat on the sidewalk. She angled the bike towards the pedestrian and whistled as she rode up behind her. "Kate!"
Kate turned and smiled when she realized who was coming up behind her. "Dean!" Nadine straddled her bike and leaned over the handlebars to give her ex-girlfriend a hug. "How are you? I haven't seen you since you moved out!"
"I know! It feels like ages!" She looked at Kate's hair and said, "Look at *you,* though. What happened to all your hair?!"
Kate reached up and fluffed the pageboy cut. "You like? I've wanted short hair for ages, but Amy suggested it."
"Ooh, I see," Nadine winked. "How are things with you two?"
"Fantastic," Kate said, a slight blush rising in her cheeks. "I think we've really got something there."
Nadine beamed. "That's wonderful, Kate! I am so happy for you."
"Miranda," Nadine smiled. The game was far from getting old and, so far, Kate hadn't repeated a single wrong name. "She's wonderful. We're still arguing about who will do what chores, but we're getting there. I've almost worn her down on dishes duty."
"Hang in there," Kate laughed. They embraced again and Kate pecked Nadine's cheek. A move that, not very long ago, would have caused both of them anxiety and forced them to look around to see who was watching was now done so casually neither woman noticed. "Amy wants to have you two over to her place for dinner sometime soon."
"That sounds very doable. I'll see when Miranda can get free."
"Okay," Kate said. She checked her watch and said, "Ooh, you better get going..."
"Yep. No rest for the weary," she said as she climbed back onto her seat. "It was good seeing you again, Kate. Give me a call sometime?"
"You've got it."
They parted ways and Nadine rode the rest of the way to the station with a smile on her face. She chained the bike up in front and looked across the street at her parent's shop. The lights were on, but she couldn't see either of them behind the counter.
Since her father called into the show, she and Miranda had been invited to dinner at her childhood home. It was the first time she had been inside since she was twenty, packing some things for college. Her father had remained cold, but she could see cracks in his fašade. He spoke to her, acted sociable to Miranda, but seemed aloof and distracted the entire time. Nadine put this up to a lack of social skills rather than lingering bad feelings. Old habits died hard, but at least he was trying. Nadine had kissed him on the cheek when they left and he shook Miranda's hand.
As she walked inside, Sue said hello and handed her a few phone messages. They were still getting calls from people coming out of the closet. Nadine was still shocked by the sheer number of calls they were receiving. Half the island had to have come out by now. She thanked Sue and headed upstairs.
Miranda had left before Nadine was even awake, so she hadn't seen her lover at all that day. She dumped her messages and satchel at her desk and went to Miranda's office door. She saw she was on the phone, so she waved to get her attention. Miranda smiled and blew a kiss across the office to her.
Billy, who was pushing his bucket past when Nadine caught the kiss, snapped, "Now, there'll be none of that, Miss Nadine. This is a place of business."
Nadine shook her head. "You're just jealous."
"Yer darn tootin'," he said as he continued on.
Nadine went to the door of the booth and waited patiently for Simon and Willa to finish their show. The red on-air light went dark and she went inside. Willa was still acting cold to her, but it had improved from the cold shoulder to a reluctant acceptance. "Good show today?" she asked.
"It was," Willa said. "Have a nice day, Nadine."
"You, too. Bye, Simon."
He offered a wave as he slipped out of the booth.
Nadine slid into the chair Willa had been using and waited until Buffalo Springfield stopped singing *For What It's Worth.* She pulled the microphone forward and said, "Good morning, Squire's Isle. Willa and Simon are gone, but your beloved Pixie is here in their place. So sit back, relax, grab something good to eat and get ready for six hours of non-stop great music and maybe even a couple of giveaways. Coming up in the next hour, I'm going to be playing some ELO, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and the rest of it is up to you fine folks. Call in with your requests and I'll do my best to get them all on for you.
"My name is Nadine Butler, the Pixie, and I am going to be here with you for the rest of your work day. We'll start playing all those great hits soon, but first we have to get a few dreaded commercials out of the way. So stick with me. We'll be right back."
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