Disclaimer: This is the second part to my original story Snap Shots part 1.
Language warning: Not often but yes.
Love and sex warning: This story definitely portrays a loving relationship between two women.
Violence Warning: Yes definitely more than a projectile camera this time and from about chapter 8 onwards.
Thanks: First of all I would like to thank Garnet for Beta reading this story. Tammy for once again provided me with all the relevant horsey information, and her patience in explaining to me the purpose of a girth!
And to everyone for the overwhelming feedback I received
Let me know what you think: firstname.lastname@example.org
For the first morning of March, the sky was perfectly clear resembling the beginning of a cool crisp day. The air was cold, as usual, but the sun shone hazily through a scattering of wispy white clouds, making its presence known. The scent of the atmosphere was fresh, creating a tingling sensation in ones nose, clean and salubrious.
Tess leant against the drivers' side door of her Blazer, and looked around. She felt like she was in the middle of nowhere, hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the big city…and it was wonderful. Pushing her body away from the vehicle, she took long strides across a wide gravelled pathway and looked out to the scenery ahead with hands on hips.
For as far as her green eyes could see, there was a lush expanse of emerald fields, occasionally divided by approximately three-foot high cobblestone walls. Each square division held one wooden gate that led into another field, connecting all the land together. To her very left was a large house, built with old grey stone. It was two stories high, with ivy covering the right hand side. Although the house was old, it held modern triple glazed windows, and solid wooden door. She looked to the second floor and the five square windows in a row. On the ground floor, there were two larger windows on each side with the robust wooden door in the middle; it was all very symmetrical looking.
The sound of lightly trickling water drew her attention away from the building, and she walked over to a slightly slippery bank. A narrow stream ran passed, about fifty meters from the house, and in order to reach the residence you had to drive over a reinforced flat wooden bridge. Tess had already crossed the bridge, and as she looked over at the land opposite the house, taking in the scattering of trees and bushes, she was sure she spotted a couple of black berry bushes out there…her favourite.
Closing her eyes, she once again breathed in the fresh morning air, letting her head fall back, and her long dark locks fall down her back. It was beyond calm out here, more tranquil…serene. The slightest sound to be made was sure to echo for miles.
Turning around Tess looked towards the blonde who stood in the centre of the driveway, her blue eyes closed as she listened to the peaceful sounds of nature. Smiling, she made her way back to her lover, approaching her from behind, and wrapping her arms around the slender waist.
"What do you think?" asked Nikki, already knowing the answer.
Tess breathed in the scent of Nikki's shampoo, and buried her face into the short blonde strands. She kissed her head, "I can't believe this is all ours, I think you'll have to pinch me, because I'm scared I may be dreaming."
Nikki turned in the woman's embrace and let her hands fall to the firm behind. She squeezed the flesh gently "Believe it now?"
"Not quite, try again." She smiled as Nikki's hands squeezed a little tighter and rose up to meet her waiting lips.
For Tess and Nikki, the months of January and February had been hectic. Tess, knowing how much Nikki wanted to purchase the farm, had been behind her one hundred percent. And as soon as Riverside farm had been placed on the market for sale, Nikki had jumped in, offering the present occupants the asking price.
Within a few days her offer was accepted and exchanges in contracts began. Being that the former owners of Riverside couldn't move out until the last days in February, it gave the photographer enough time to set about selling her house. And after only two weeks on the market, a recently married couple brought the place; so then, they were all playing the waiting game. For Riversides former owners…their new home in Wales to become available, and for Tess and Nikki…the farm to become available…and so on.
It was as Tess realised, a stressful time; filled with working, packing boxes and meeting with surveyors who in Tess's own words stated that they ‘demanded extortionate amounts of money for sitting on their arses all day'.
Nikki had helped out as much as possible, but realised that moving house was not going to be one of her skills, especially as she hoped never to be doing it again. So the blonde had done all she could, splitting her time between being with Tess and looking after her horses.
Her father had sent his official car for her every other day while Tess was working so she could return home and pack the remainder of belongings in her own room and look after Thunder and Jenna.
At the back of Riverside farmhouse, were stables for ten horses, with planning permission for an extension. Nikki wanted to move her horses as soon as possible as Jenna was due to give birth in March. So when contracts and been signed and sealed and keys had been exchanged on the last day of February she was happy that they would be moved in time.
During all this time Rosalind Morris had yet to make an appearance. She hadn't returned from her brothers since she had left on Christmas Eve. Richard had on occasions tried to get in touch with her, but she always seemed to be out when he called, and for both him and his daughters, it was starting to get frustrating.
This wasn't to say that life had been miserable without her presence…far from it. With only Richard, his youngest daughter Lisa and the butler James Abbot residing in the house, it was a pretty peaceful time. Anita the maid was regrettably let go after it was realised that with the lady of the house gone, nobody else was able to communicate with her. Still, things managed to run smoothly, and lives began returning to certain degrees of normalcy.
Everyone had assisted as much as possible with helping Tess and Nikki make all the necessary arrangements for moving into their new home. Robert had kindly given Tess three days off work starting from the first day in March onwards, and had also offered to help with the moving. Richard had taken a three-day personal leave from his official Mayoral duties, and Lisa had managed to sweet talk her father into a day off from college in order to help them move in. James had also been recruited, though he did admit that he was too old to be lugging around large boxes, so offered to concentrate on providing the workers with refreshments when needed.
So with everything arranged all they had left to do was wait for the big day, and though it seemed to take forever to arrive, within the blink of an eye…it did.
Pulling her lips away from Nikki's, Tess looked down into sightless blue eyes. She smiled and pushed her hand through shaggy blonde locks, separating the wind blown strands. Could it be possible, she thought, that she seemed love this woman more every day? Placing a kiss on the golden head, she pulled Nikki in close and placed her chin on top of the smaller woman's head.
"Want to go into the house?" asked Nikki.
"In a minute." Tess chuckled, "I am just revelling in the contentment of my life."
The blonde smiled, "Just one more day, and we will never have to leave here again, it will be our home."
"Yep… and I think Leto is going to love it here too."
"With all this open space we may not see her for days on end."
The photographer chuckled, "No way, Leto is a definite home girl…she likes being around people, the prospect of regular food and water, and as much fussing as she can handle."
"True." Nikki pulled away slightly, "So have you finished revelling in the ‘contentment of you life' yet…can we go in the house now?"
"You are just way too excited aren't you?"
Nikki laughed, "Oh like you're not?"
The brunette shrugged, "Maybe a little…"
"Oh okay a lot." She shook her head smiling, "Come on, lets go and tour the place." She put her arm around the smaller shoulder and proceeded to lead Nikki towards the house.
As they approached the door, Nikki turned to her lover, "Hey do you think we have time to christen the place before we leave." She waggled her brows suggestively.
Tess pushed her key in, opening the sturdy wooden barrier, "I thought you wanted to check out all the rooms, you know get a feel for the place?"
"Can't we do both?" Her hands landed on slender hips and sidled up Tess's side.
Tess closed her eyes willing self-control not to fail her now, "Not if we want to be at that meeting by eleven, we have to see the RSPCA guy remember?"
Nikki sighed as she remembered the man she was supposed to meet with today. If she was to start her own horse sanctuary she need to be registered, and this was her first step. He would also be able to help her out with employing the right kinds of people. "I guess so."
Tess led the smaller woman into the house, "But we can make up for it tonight, then we have the rest of our lives to christen and re-christen every room in this house." She said as she shut the door.
Nikki's smile brightened, "Sounds like a plan to me!"
One finely sculpted brow rose over a clear green eye, "Hmm, you know I kind of thought it would be." Tess grinned in thought at the prospect of the night to come.
Sensitive fingers moved over the car radio's buttons with practiced ease. Pressing each one in turn Nikki tried to find a station that played ‘decent' music. Shaking her head at the meagre offerings, she switched it to the CD player, deciding that whatever Tess had been listening to had to be better than this. She was sorely mistaken, and groaned internally as the first notes of Bach filtered through the speakers. Still she had opted for the lesser of two evils, and decided to let it play, besides, Tess had already started whistling to the piece.
Laying her head back against the car seat, Nikki thought back to her meeting with a guy called Roger Dobson at the RSPCA. He'd been very helpful and had assisted Nikki as much as he could. Questions had been asked, on both sides, and a time had been set for him to visit Riverside farm and look over her stables. She had felt quietly confident that everything was going to turn out, although she was more that a little exhausted with all the running around they had been doing lately.
Tess looked over at Nikki just as the blonde closed her eyes and smiled. She knew that it couldn't be the music relaxing the blonde, as Tess was very sure Nikki didn't like her taste in classical pieces. She was a Bach and Beethoven kind of girl where as Nikki was more into Mozart and Chopin. Looking back towards the road Tess growled at the slowest of slow drivers ever, that she had the misfortune to be stuck behind. The road they were travelling was set at the national speed limit yet this guy was driving at half that.
"And us women are supposed to be the worst damned drivers." She mumbled, stepping on the accelerator and shooting past the old box of bolts with relief.
Nikki chortled to herself causing the photographer to look around in question, "And what are you laughing at Miss Morris?"
Arching her eyebrows, the blonde pinched her lips together desperately trying to calm herself, "Mufing." She forced out through sealed lips.
Keeping one eye on the road, the brunette looked side ways at her lover, "Awe come on Nik, what's so funny?"
"Oh all right." The blonde rolled her eyes, "You…moaning about bad drivers, yet you are showing a classic bad drivers attitude!"
Tess's mouth dropped, "Am not…what?"
The photographer frowned and poked out her bottom lip, "I just decided that I would like to get home before the second coming! It is sixty miles per hour speed limit and that guy…" She grinned, "Way…way back there was doing thirty."
"Oh just admit it Tess, you like cruising the fast lane. When we get on the motor way I feel the car move right into the fast lane and you hardly ever go back."
Tess grinned, "I just like to get from A to B in as little time as possible." she stepped on the accelerator again and passed another ‘slow' moving car.
"Well I just hope you aren't planning on driving the truck tomorrow when we move all our belongings, I have fears of it all hitting the back door as you take a sharp turn and our stuff jumping onto the road."
An evil smirk spread across the drivers face, "Ah…I get it, are you sure this is about my driving abilities and not about what items you would imagine being strewn out over the road…for other people to see…huh?"
Nikki scrunched her nose then sniggered, "Well I was just thinking of you! I mean I wouldn't want you to be embarrassed if people ever got to find out that the infamous Tess Alexander owned the entire collection of Disney Videos!"
Tess shot the woman a quick look.
"Not only on video, but she's also buying them on DVD."
"They're classics." She whined.
"Of course they are. Well of how about those old Disney albums, or the stuffed toys that you had stashed away in your closet?"
"Hey they are from my childhood…and just what are you trying to say?"
Nikki shrugged with a sly grin, "Nothing."
"Huh…seems to me like you are making fun Miss Morris."
"Me making fun…hey no, I was just pointing out the down sides of over-zealous driving."
Tess grinned and looked over to the blonde with an arched brow, "Sure…well just remember, you let slip about my Disney videos and I will blab about your collection of…"
"Okay…okay…jeez I was only teasing," said Nikki with a smile.
The photographer snickered as she turned into the driveway, pulling to a stop in front of her garage, "Uh huh."
Nikki unclipped her seat belt and opened the door, "I like Disney too…" She climbed out of her seat and paused at the door, "…when I was five." She stated and quickly shut the door.
The brunette laughed, "Oh I will get you back for that blondie." She said, and turned round in her seat to grab her things from the back.
Standing by the car door, Nikki let her head fall back as she breathed in cool, fresh air. She was surprised how warm the day was, especially as she was only wearing jeans and a tee shirt. Waiting for Tess to emerge from the car, she sighed, tilting her face towards the warm sun, a light wind blew stray blonde locks around her head.
Suddenly an unknown and somewhat ominous feeling washed over her. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end, and cold feeling invaded her spine. It was disconcerting, eerily familiar and enough to instil a memorable feeling of apprehension.
Quickly moving around the car, Nikki made her way over to Tess's side of the vehicle, her hands feeling across the dusty bonnet of the Blazer. "Tess?" She asked nervously, a strong feeling of being watched putting a hint of desperation into her voice.
Hearing her name being called, Tess looked up from her bag collecting and saw Nikki moving around the car.
"Hey yeah I'm here, what's up?" The brunette asked as she emerged from the green vehicle.
Nikki walked towards her lovers voice until she was touching the taller woman, "Is there anybody else out here?"
Tess looked around with a frown, "Um…nope, nobody why?"
"I just got a feeling there was somebody else here, watching us."
Looking around once more Tess studied the empty street, before gazing down upon a nervous looking face. "There is nobody here Nikki, maybe you just got one of those ‘somebody walked over your grave' type feelings."
She placed her arms around slender shoulders, pulling Nikki in close.
Nikki placed her head upon the taller woman's chest, "Maybe, and I can't say I have ever had one of those walking over your grave type feelings."
Kissing the blonde locks under her chin, Tess smiled, "They can be a little spooky…makes me shudder…just like those feelings of dÈjà vu."
Nikki frowned, "I guess."
Pulling away the photographer pushed her hand through Nikki's hair, making the smaller woman's face turn up to meet hers. "Want to go in and finish off the rest of the packing, we still have the basics to pack away before the cavalry gets here tomorrow."
A light smile, "Sure, I bet we still have a lot to get through."
Tess chuckled, "I hope not, I want an early night." She put her arm around slender shoulders and began making her way to the front door.
Walking close by the taller woman's side, Nikki wrapped her right arm around Tess. The feeling was still there. It was just like the sensation she got, whenever Tess looked at her, only this one was not pleasurable, it was troubling. The pleasant tingles and sudden feelings of warmth had been replaced with a feeling likening to touching an exposed nerve, or foil touching a filling in her teeth. Shuddering once again, she followed Tess into the house, shutting the door firmly behind her.
Sitting in the drivers' seat of a dark blue hatchback, vengeful eyes watched the women with interest. When they entered the house and closed the door behind them, the engine to the large car revved into life and disappeared out of sight.
The TV sat upon a large heavy box in the centre of the fairly crowded living room. Piles of boxes stood against the far wall, one on top of the other, filled and ready for transportation. The house seemed different with everything packed away. Voices echoed and the air seemed colder, less homely than before.
Tess sat in the middle of the floor, leaning back on one hand as she flicked through the channels aimlessly. With her satellite TV disconnected until she moved, she was restricted to five channels, and they were nothing if mundane in their offerings. Sighing she switched it over one more time and settled for a late night sitcom called Gimme Gimme Gimme. Smirking as the music started she leaned back onto her elbows and looked over at Nikki. The blonde had fallen asleep on the sofa half an hour ago and thankfully, just after they had finished packing the last of the boxes for tomorrows move. She lay on her stomach, her face was turned towards the photographer and her lips were parted slightly in slumber. One arm by her side, the other hanging down towards the floor, fingers lying limp on a sleeping Leto's stomach.
Tess smiled at the sight, and gazed at the woman lovingly…for Nikki it had been a couple of tense months. Though she hadn't actually mentioned it, her mothers' actions were still playing heavily on her mind; and if Tess was to admit it, on her own mind too. Rosalind seemed to have removed herself from the scene and as far as the brunette was concerned that was not good. Maybe it was her internal voice, or just pure paranoia, but the fact of the matter was that Tess knew the woman was not finished. How could she be, after her parting remarks on the night of the confrontation it was obvious she was never going to accept their relationship. Richard had tried countless times to contact her, and he was rebuffed every step of the way…no, Tess was sure they hadn't seen the last of her.
Sighing she turned back round to the TV and realised she had missed what was going on. Deciding it was time for bed anyway, she leaned over and switched off the box, disconnecting it from the socket and coiling up the flex for good measure. It was one of the last things to ready for removal in the morning.
Looking back at Nikki, Tess shuffled over to her and pushed a hand through soft golden Tress's "Nikki?" She whispered…nothing. She tried again, "Nikki…come on we should get to bed."
She stirred, "Hmm…what time is it?"
Tess smiled, "Bed time…it's gone ten and being as though we have the cavalry arriving tomorrow for the big move I think we should get some sleep."
Nikki pouted, "I was getting some sleep before you woke me." She pushed herself to a sitting position and yawned. Leto looked up at the sudden movement and woofed lightly.
"Yeah, yeah ‘ tow tow' come on time for bed."
The golden dog sprung to her feet and trotted to the door waiting for her master. Tess looked back at Nikki who was still sitting on the sofa sleepily. "Are you coming?"
She nodded, "God I am sorry I fell asleep on you, did we get the packing done?"
"Yep everything but stuff for light refreshments." She pulled Nikki to her feet, "I don't think your father could survive without his morning infusion of tea…and Leto of course."
At the mention of ‘tea' and ‘Leto' the dog looked at her master with desperate eyes. Tess shook her head, realising her mistake, "No Leto not now…bed."
The dog cocked her golden head to the side, looking at Tess in question.
The photographer shook her head, "I mean it Leto…no tea…get to bed."
Getting the hint the dog huffed and trotted out the room.
Tess looked down on Nikki with a smile, "Ready?"
After a slight nod, they made their way out the room. Tess switched off the lights and made sure all the doors were secure as she went. When done, they mounted the stairs Leto scampering off happily in front. Tess allowed her to sleep in their room, just not on the bed like she used to.
Walking with an easy familiarity, Nikki entered the bedroom and disappeared into the en-suite. Everything in there was packed away and all that was left were bare minimal necessities: Toothbrushes, toothpaste, comb, shampoo, soap and a bottle of moisturiser. Nikki had lined them all up on the shelf below the mirror for easy access.
Tess appeared in the doorway, "Are you nervous about tomorrow?"
The blonde nodded, "Yeah, it is going to be hectic and I feel like I will just start getting in the way you know…I am still not sure what I will be able to do…and help out with." She pursed her lips with a frown.
Standing behind Nikki and wrapping her arms around the small frame Tess leaned forward and placed her cheek against the blondes, "You will never be in the way okay? Look you will have loads to do…don't think you will be getting out of this." She grinned, "You can delegate…"
"Yeah, we will need somebody to order us around ya know. And you can assist James, put away…stuff, um watch over Leto because you know that when she is with you she behaves herself."
Nikki laughed, "Hmm…I guess I will have responsibilities. So I get to order you guys around huh? Does that mean you have to do whatever I say?"
"Sure…starting from tomorrow." Tess smirked, knowing where Nikki was heading with this.
"Oh." Nikki covered her mouth as she yawned; "Well I guess I can wait until the morning. Oh hey did you decide which room you wanted to use as your dark room?"
Tess thought for a while, she had been considering where to put her darkroom all day. It was a toss up between a room in the downstairs part of the house, or in one of the four remaining bedrooms. Both were on the side of the house, and there was a tree outside the window that filtered away a lot of the natural light. Whatever room she didn't choose Nikki had decided would become her office.
"Well I think I will choose the bedroom upstairs, mainly because it has a small sink area in the corner, which will be handy." She pulled away from Nikki and picked up her toothbrush, "And the room downstairs does have that door that leads out to the side of the house, it will be easier access to the stables…especially when you start employing your stable hands." She grinned, "You can stick your head out the door and issue orders."
Nikki ran her hand across the shelf until she located her toothbrush; "It's going to be hard to find somebody who I feel I can trust, especially somebody who will work for somebody like me."
Tess frowned, "What do you mean somebody like you?" she asked, hoping her mothers' words weren't still playing in her conscience. Tess didn't want Nikki to take to heart all the hurtful things Rosalind had said. And as much as she didn't want to admit it, she just couldn't stop the hate she felt for the woman who had tried to hurt the woman she loved.
Nikki shrugged, "I just meant that would somebody be happy working for a blind person?" She sighed, "Oh I don't know."
The photographer turned Nikki around until they were facing each other, "Okay Nik, what is this really all about. You know as well as I do that you are an excellent judge of character, you will have no trouble finding the right person or persons to work for you. So what's up?" The blonde lowered her head, but it was quickly captured in a gentle grasp and lifted again to face the brunette. "Tell me."
Taking a deep breath Nikki sighed, "I don't know…it's just that things are changing, and so quickly. Moving into a new house all of our own, starting the refuge for neglected horses…and then maybe the stud farm. I guess I am just feeling a little overwhelmed with all of this, and scared…"
Leaning forward Tess kissed the blondes' forehead, "That you won't be able to cope?" she asked.
Nikki shrugged again, "In a way…but more that fact that I don't want to let anybody down…what if I can't cope…what if my mother was right and that I have no place in this world?"
Shaking her head vigorously, Tess pulled Nikki close into her body, "Please don't ever think that Nik, because it just isn't true." She paused and kissed her lips, "I for one wouldn't even want to imagine my life without you in it now." Her head fell to one side; "I love you Nik."
"You know what?"
Tess smiled, "What?"
Placing her head on the taller woman's chest Nikki closed her eyes; "Nobody makes me feel as good as you do."
"And if I am being honest, I will say that I am very glad about that." The photographer said with an indulgent smile. Leaning backward she looked into Nikki's face, "So are you ready for bed?"
The blonde nodded.
"Good, come on then we have a long day tomorrow, and I want to get plenty of rest if I am to be ordered around all day…I will need my energy."
Nikki smiled as she finished cleaning her teeth, and placed her toothbrush back on the shelf. She had no doubt that tomorrow was going to be a long, exhausting day and as they made their way over to the bed, the only item left in the room, she still felt a little apprehensive. The prospect of starting the venture she had been dreaming about for so long was now suddenly upon her, and the inner feeling of apprehension would not leave. She sincerely wanted things to be a success, and an internal feeling of doubt still persisted to plague her better judgement. Still…the feeling of the warm body wrapping around her, served as a constant reminder of the unconditional love and support Tess offered. That alone gave her the confidence to face whatever lay ahead with courage and conviction in her ideals.
Lacing her fingers with Tess's, Nikki smiled sleepily to herself, "G'night Tess."
Tess pulled the smaller frame close to her body, and breathed in Nikki's unique scent, "Night Nik, love you." She whispered.
"Love you too." Replied the blonde as the first waves of sleep claimed her.
It was a constant sound of yapping, loud and relentless that finally brought the sleeping women into the land of the living. Tess lifted her head from the warmth of her pillow and groaned as she recognised Leto's rapid shrilling bark.
"What in gods name is wrong with her?" Nikki asked, she too only just waking up.
Pulling the quilt cover up and over their heads, Tess sighed, "She probably saw a bug on the floor, or a piece of lint floating around in the air…damn mutt."
"Maybe she wants to go out…poor thing could be crossing her legs down there." Nikki chuckled at the thought and wondered if that were even possible.
Tess sprung up; the cover falling from their tee shirt covered bodies as she did so; instantly the chilled air assaulted their bodies. Since they were moving today, Tess had already turned off the heating…the hot water was still on, but central heating was history.
"Ho jeez that's c-c-cold." Nikki squirmed and reached out for the cover pulling it back over her body.
"Sorry." Tess looked apologetically at the blonde, "But the thought of Leto peeing on the carpet suddenly spurred me into action, this isn't really our house anymore…I don't think the new owners would be happy to know that Leto had peed on the carpet only a day before they moved in!"
Snuggling her body back under the quilt Nikki sighed, "Lets hope that's all she did." She mumbled.
The blonde grinned, "I said it's okay…at least I'm still cocooned in warmth."
Tess narrowed her eyes and warmed her exposed arms with friction from her hands, "Yeah, yeah, well as soon as I go and let Leto out, I will be right back." She turned and headed towards the door.
"I'll be waiting." Nikki called out as Tess opened the bedroom door and disappeared out the room.
There was a loud thudding coming from the front of the house and suddenly Tess realised what Leto's barking was all about. Cursing she jogged down the stairs and up to the front door. There she spotted the golden hound, braced on her back legs as she started another round of yaps at the noisy door. "Tow tow." Tess shouted, and the mass of muscle turned around, spotting her master and launched herself into the brunette's stomach… "Ooof…damn Leto that is it, I am putting you on a diet." The dog dropped to the floor and looked at her master in puzzlement. Grinning at the hounds' expression, Tess shooed her into the living room and closed the door, effectively locking her in the large, box filled room.
Tess then moved to the door and after swiftly releasing the locks she pulled it open. The sight of a crowd of impatient looking faces greeted her. Grinning sheepishly she looked at each person, "What time is it?"
Lisa, who was leaning against the back of the large blue removal van look to her father, who in turn looked at James the butler. James then turned to Robert who had been the one pounding on the front door for about five minutes. It was the tall, dark man spoke, "Tess, it is gone nine o'clock. Now you asked us all to be here at nine, and we were, but you…" he looked down at her shorts and t-shirt covered body to make his point, "…were still fast asleep!"
The tall woman placed her hands on slender hips, "It was a long night, and we were packing the remainder of things so everything was done and ready for today."
Richard walked forward into Tess's view, "And I see you disconnected the door bell while you were at it."
Tess moved to the side as the amateur removal team entered the soon to be vacant house, "Sorry, one of those things I guess." She moved towards the stairs, "Listen why don't you guys make yourselves a drink while Nikki and I get dressed hmm?"
"Great idea I'm parched." Richard proclaimed.
Lisa walked towards the living room door; "I'm going to say hello to Leto…hey Tess do you want me to give her a walk in the woods at the back."
The photographer smiled, "That would be wonderful, thanks Lisa. Now if you all will excuse me, I shall be back in a sec." And she was gone, mounting the stairs three at a time.
She dived into the bedroom to find an empty bed and the sound of running water echoing from the en-suite bathroom. "Nik?"
"Yeah in here." Nikki answered, "I heard all the commotion and realised the ‘cavalry' had arrived. Jeez Tess did you know it had already gone nine o'clock? You see, this is why I said you shouldn't have packed the alarm clock until this morning."
Tess approached the bathroom and opened the door; a swift gust of hot steam assaulted her, "Whoa…cold?" She questioned
Nikki poked her head out from the shower cubical, "Just a little." She grinned.
Tess picked up her toothbrush, "You know I didn't think I would need the alarm clock with you around, you always wake up before me." She applied a liberal amount of white paste to the bristles and stuck the brush in her mouth, vigorously scrubbing her teeth.
Pulling her head from under the spray of water Nikki chuckled, "I probably still would have woken up before you anyway, we both just over slept…I guess we needed it."
"Gooft jwobb weef haaf wwleetow."
With a look of complete confusion Nikki poked her head back out of the cubical, "Huh?"
Tess pulled the brush from her mouth, "I said good job we have Leto…you know?"
"Oh yeah…too right." Nikki shook her head and retreated back to the warmth of the shower.
Robert braced himself as he squatted down on the floor and pushed his hands under the underside of the sofa, "Ready?" He questioned the Mayor who was getting into the same position.
"When you are." The small man stated.
With a grunt both men pushed themselves to their feet, the three-seat sofa in tow, and started a slow shuffle towards the living room door.
Tess stood with hands on hips as she watched the men manoeuvre the heavy item out of the room. She grinned as she watched Roberts face, the large man showed no sign of exertion at all, yet Richard was forcefully sucking air through pursed lips. "Are you sure I cannot help you guys?"
"No." both men replied, and Robert continued, "We have it covered."
She nodded and looked over at Lisa who was rolling her eyes at the men's display of macho pride. Once they had shuffled out the room she grinned at the teen, "So want to help me move the two seater?"
"Will this be our own display of feminine strength?" Lisa joked.
Tess smirked, "Something like that."
Walking over to the couch, the two dark haired women squatted down, "Right." Tess began, "Just remember to keep your back straight and lift from your knees okay?"
"You got it."
Together they easily lifted the cushioned seat and began to move slowly out the living room. They passed James who was going back and forth moving the smaller boxes and Nikki who was transporting a pile of light bags to the Blazer. Leto sat timidly by the wall, a look of confusion on her canine features as she tried to not get in the way of the humans, while at the same time wonder what they were all doing and why nobody was paying attention to her.
"Coming through." Tess shouted as she backed her way towards the door.
All bodies moved out the way as they spied the two brunette's angling the sofa through the front door. Richard looked at his daughter with a hint of surprise, "Lisa honey are you sure that isn't too heavy for you?"
The teen grinned, "No…no I can handle."
Tess backed up slowly towards the van, "Yeah us women are not as fragile as you guys like to think you know!"
Robert emerged from the back of the van, jumping onto the ground. "Don't I know it." The burly man stated.
Tess looked around to glare at her boss, "And what is that supposed to mean?" She asked as she and Lisa completed their journey to the van and Robert helped them slide it in before he jumped back into the compartment and moved it into a far corner.
The large man smiled and shrugged, "I don't know?"
"Uh huh." The brunette stated eyeing him suspiciously.
He smiled weakly and made off into the house again mumbling what Tess thought sounded like ‘I rest my case.'
Three hours and many playful insults later, the gang had more or less completed their task. The van was completely full, and Richard and Tess's cars were almost to the same point. They all sat on the floor of the empty living room, eating a lunch that James had prepared the night before.
Tess looked down into the sandwich that she had just lifted from her pile and grimaced as the smell hit her. "Ugh tuna…anybody want to trade?" She asked pulling a face of disgust.
Nikki who was leaning against Tess's right side jumped at the chance, "Tuna…I love tuna, I'll have it."
"Um…" Tess grimaced, "I don't know Nik, I really hate tuna, smell and taste."
The blonde frowned, "Yeah well that is why I will eat it then…gimme." She reached out but Tess didn't hand over. "Hey!"
The photographer looked around and seeing the three men engaged in their own discussion she turned back to Nikki, leaning close to her ear, "I mean I really don't like it…even if it was on the set on another pair of usually tasty lips." She arched her brow "Get me?"
Nikki flushed, "Err, yes…no tuna for me when you are around?"
"If you don't mind?"
A slight shake of the head, "Mind, why would I mind. Eat tuna or…" She waggled her eye brows for emphasis, "You!"
Lisa who had been trying so hard not to hear their conversation suddenly looked round to them, "Oh please." Her voice was a tight whisper, "I am eating here you know."
Tess looked at the teen with a smile, "Sorry Lisa." She winked playfully at the younger girl.
Nikki shook her head as she cleared her suddenly dry throat, "Um…yeah."
Lisa rolled her eyes and then looked around the room, something wasn't right. "Hey…you know with all this food about I would have expected Leto to be mooching around."
Tess frowned, "Yeah, that is weird. LETO?" She shouted. Nothing. "LETO…FOOD!" Still nothing. Suddenly concerned she got up, the rest of the gang watching her.
"What's wrong Tess, where is Leto?" asked Richard.
The photographer frowned, "I don't know, but if there is food around so is she…this isn't like her. I better go and just check and see where she is."
Curious eyes watched as Tess left the room and started a search of the house, she returned a minute later. "I can't find her." She stated worriedly.
Suddenly everybody rose to his or her feet, "Let us all have a look." Robert stated, and they left the room.
The search started, Tess going out the back with Lisa to look around the woods, James upstairs checking through the wardrobes, and Richard and Robert looking down stairs and around the front of the house.
Nikki stood on the doorstep, "Leto?" She listened carefully with sensitive hearing, "Leto…do you want some tea?" A sudden whine caught her attention. "Leto…where are you?" She heard it again, and after grabbing her cane from the wall beside the door, she moved towards the sound. "Leto?" Nikki heard golden dog again and smiled, "HEY I'VE FOUND HER!"
Suddenly Tess and Lisa came out the front door, followed by James… Richard and Robert emerged some seconds later.
"Where is she?" Tess asked concerned.
The blonde smiled and tapped the closed hatch of the van. Tess frowned and moved towards the vehicle, putting her ear to the back door. "Leto?" She heard a sudden whine. Arching her brow she turned around to face everybody, "Okay, so who packed Leto into the back of the wagon?"
"Awe the poor thing." Lisa stated as Robert jogged forward and unlocked the back pushing the rolling door upwards. He frowned as they all looked into the mass of Tess and Nikki's belongings, "Um, well I am guessing she is in here somewhere. Leto?" The bog barked twice then whined again.
Tess sighed, "Okay guys…it's operation dog rescue…I just hope she isn't right at the back of the damn trailer."
Another forty-five minutes later they had rescued Leto and loaded the quarter of the items that she had been stuck behind, back into the truck. Tess looked down at the sheepish looking dog and shook her head.
Nikki stood beside Tess, "This was my fault, I was suppose to be looking out for her."
The photographer smiled, "No it's not your fault. Remember when I called you over to hold something for me…I think it was then that she escaped, you had to let go of her lead remember."
"Yeah and I forgot to go back to her."
"And so did I…none of us remember to make sure she wasn't getting herself into trouble…it wasn't anybodies fault okay?"
Nikki shrugged, "I guess."
Tess turned away from the moping dog and wrapped her arms around Nikki, "Hey no harm was done…so she decided to follow one of us into the back of the trailer and then got stuck, it was no big deal. Personally I think she is more disappointed that she isn't going to get that tea we were all shouting about ya know?" She leaned down and kissed soft lips, Nikki moved into the contact but Tess pulled away.
"Um…I don't think we should be doing this now huh? Lisa might complain again." She smiled and waggled her brows.
Catching herself, Tess mentally shook her head. Sometimes she acted as though Nikki was able to see her; it seemed so possible with the way the clear blue eyes would seem to find her…look into her…that she was sure the blonde could actually see her.
James emerged from the house carrying a one of the few remaining boxes from upstairs, "Well this just about does it. There are three boxes left in there, Robert has two and Mr Morris has the other one. After this we will all be done.
Tess beamed at the old man, "Great, so I guess that means we are just about ready to get on our way yes?"
"I should hope so." The Mayor stated emerging from the hallway, "It is almost two o'clock and we still have to get to the farm and unload all this stuff."
"Well let's get finished then shall we?" James stated as she emerged from placing his box in the Mayors car.
Twenty minutes later everything was loaded into the small gathering of vehicles. Tess stood in the now completely empty house, her arm securely wrapped around Nikki's waist. Every tiny sound and movement echoed around the vacant building.
"What are you thinking?" Nikki asked, directing her head up towards the brunette.
Tess looked down and smiled, "Just about when I first moved in here, three years ago…wasn't that long really I guess. I had mum, Jeff, Barbara and Andrew helping me then, it was quite a time. I had just brought Leto the day before and she spent most of the time hanging off my ankles. It is a good job these dogs have lock jaws as it meant I was able to keep an eye on her…what with the new and sudden growth on my foot."
Nikki smiled, "Hmm, poor Leto being dragged around all day." She suddenly frowned, "Hey…Andrew, do you mean the guy who runs the Art gallery?"
"Yep that's the guy, the one I had the meeting with at the studio the other day. He has been planning another exhibition and wants me to show some of my latest shots."
"Oh hey that's great, I remember mum talking about him." Nikki replied.
There was a sudden moment of uncomfortable silence at the mention of the Mayoress, but it was quickly broken when the rest of the gang entered the quiet room.
"Are we all ready?" Richard asked with a cheerful smile.
Tess nodded, "Um…yep everything is packed, including Leto whom I have already put in the back of the Blazer to make sure she doesn't go for anymore impromptu excursions." She shook her head.
"So." Lisa stated clapping her hands together, "Are we gonna get going then, times a wasting guys and gals"
Taking one more look around Tess sighed, "Yep I guess there is no reason to stay any longer." She dug a hand into her denim jacket and pulled out the sets of keys for the house. "Richard you said you would drop these into the solicitor right." The man nodded as he caught the keys Tess threw in his direction, "Great, and James is driving…"
"The rust bucket." Robert interrupted.
Tess looked at her boss, "Hey be nice to my old car, it is still my pride and joy…even when I spend five hours a week under the bonnet."
Nikki nodded, "Yeah, at least when she disappears for long periods of time, I know where she is…the dark room or with the rus…" She winced when Tess poked her in the ribs, "I mean Escort."
"That's damn right!" The photographer stated with a wicked smirk, and wiggled her fingers in the blonde's ribs a little longer.
Squirming Nikki pulled away from Tess, "Hey ticklish here!"
Tess feigned innocence, "Really?"
Nikki folded her arms, "As if you didn't know!"
Lisa rolled her eyes and the three men looked from one woman to another with amusement, "Are we going to get going before it gets too dark to see… we wont be able to start unloading at the farm other wise" She stated.
"Yep come on then guys lets get going shall we?" The photographer said with arched brows.
With final nods the group left the house and Tess locked it securely behind her. She stood by the front door one last time. "I guess this is it huh?"
Nikki nodded, "End of an era?"
"Maybe." Tess said and put her arm around the blondes' shoulder and kissed her head, "Or maybe like I said before, it is just the beginning."
With one final look, Tess and Nikki climbed into the Blazer and followed the chain of vehicles as they all headed down the street.
From a safe distance, the sole occupant of the blue hatchback watched them leave. The observer waited until the last of the vehicles turned the corner before taking off and following them from an unseen distance.
End of chapter 1
This story will be posted one chapter per week.