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
It was a ringing sound, distant but still annoying…and persistent in its quest to drive both women insane. Tess pulled the pillow from under her sleepy head and proceeded to place it on top, effectively covering her ears in hopes of drowning out the sound. Nikki snickered as she realised what the older woman was doing and tried to prise the padded material from the brunette's head.
"Come on Tess…answer the phone, it is cold out there and you feel it less than I do!"
"No…I'm still sleeping." Came the muffled response.
"Whoever it is will hang up soon!" She tried.
"So what...that is why we have a machine."
With an exasperated sigh, Nikki decided on a different approach. Grabbing the edge of the quilt she slipped her hand under the cover and located a known sensitive spot on the taller woman's ribs. With a swift attack she pounced on the prone form moving her wiggling fingers rapidly around the brunette's sides. Tess gasped and squirmed at the sudden invasion.
"It's still ringing…" Nikki laughed as she tried to bat away hands that were in turn trying to push away hers, "and I…" She paused as the phone stopped ringing. "Damn."
"The machine got it."
Sighing Nikki fell back down to the bed and reached out, searching fingers located her audio watch with familiar precision. She pressed the button and listened to the time.
Tess's head shot from underneath the covers, "Six o'clock, six o'clock in the morning, who in the hell would call at six o'clock in the sodding morning."
Nikki smirked, "What time?"
The photographer pursed her lips, "Oh ha ha…I don't believe, it's still night time." She flipped the cover back over her head, closing her eyes.
"Um, Tess?" Her answer was a stifled groan, "I…" Nikki paused as the phone started ringing once again. "I don't believe it!"
"My point exactly." Came Tess's still muffled voice. "I think somebody has it in for us today."
About to get out of bed, Nikki stopped as she heard the sound of footsteps descending the wooden stairs. "I think your mother is going." She said and Tess answered with the same muffled grunt. Listening, Nikki heard Hyacinth answer the phone; there was a fifteen second conversation before the handset was replaced back on the receiver. A minute later Hyacinth ascended the stairs and Nikki reached for her tee shirt; she was sure they were about to get a visit.
Seconds later there was a timid knock on the door, "Anybody awake in there?" Hyacinth listened until she heard the definite sound of her daughters' grunt and Nikki's quite permission to enter. She opened the door and poked her head around the barrier seeing the blonde sitting up in bed, "Nikki dear, that was a young man calling to let you know that your horses are to be transported here in about two hours."
"Oh that is great!" Nikki beamed, she had hoped they would be arriving nice and early.
Hyacinth turned to the unmoving form of her daughter under the covers, "And Tess honey?" She eyed the lump curiously.
"There was a call on the machine, it was Andrew Spencer, he wants you to call him about some exhibition next week…you didn't tell me there was an exhibition!"
Tess begrudgingly pulled herself from under the warmth of her covers, and squinted in the artificially lit bedroom. "Last minute decision, didn't agree to do it until the other day." She rolled onto her back and looked up to the sitting blonde, "Why the hell are people ringing us up so god damned early anyway?"
Nikki let her hand fall to the brunette lying by her side and patted the body beneath her palm with a grin, "Ah it must be that raw sexual magnetism of yours, you just can't help drawing people to you like…"
Tess looked up suddenly, "Careful with your analogy here blondie." She warned.
Nikki's face was the picture of innocence, "I was just going to say um…moth to a flame." She felt the body beneath her shake with a silent chuckle.
Hyacinth shook her head as she backed out of the room, "Huh…funny I was thinking…flies around shit!" she stated and disappeared out the door, shutting it firmly behind her.
Tess sat up suddenly, her mouth open in shock, "Hey." She shouted as Nikki fell back into the bed with laughter.
Lisa stood by the large wooden doors, as she watched Thunder being led out the stables by her father. The Mayor carefully walked the tall black stallion into the back of the large trailer making sure the area was secure. The teen stood back as she watched her father converse with the two men who had been hired to transport the horses to their new home.
She studied both men. The first must have been in his late twenties, but she didn't find him particularly attractive, mostly due to his rather crooked looking nose. The other guy was more to her taste; he was younger with bleached blonde hair and a dark stubble. The young man looked in her direction and caught the blatant perusal; he smiled giving her a quick wink. Lisa grinned shyly and blushed as he headed towards her.
"Hi there…" he said giving her his winning smile.
Lisa stomach fluttered nervously, "Hi." She said as he stopped in front of her. She smiled looking up into dark brown eyes as he held out his hand.
"Lisa right?" He asked. Taking her hand he kissed the appendage as she nodded her head. "I'm CJ."
"Ah." She looked at him in question, "And can I ask what CJ stands for?"
He smirked mischievously, "You can ask…"
"But I don't have to tell you…unless." His eyes twinkled with humour.
"Unless?" She asked.
"Well I could be encouraged to divulge that piece of information if…you allow me to take you out sometime." He looked at her expectantly.
Lisa folded her arms, "Well somebody certainly seems sure of himself."
CJ smirked, the right corner of his mouth turning to one side. "That isn't the answer I was hoping for." He turned looking quickly at the Mayor talking with his brother before looking back at Lisa and taking a step closer. He lowered his voice, "You are supposed to say yes."
The teen looked deep into the chocolate brown eyes and knew she couldn't refuse. She nodded, "Um…I…err yes?"
The tall blonde pursed his lips to keep the smile from his face, "Okay." He nodded, "I have your number…I shall call you tonight?"
"Tonight is fine."
CJ nodded and took a step back, "Talk to you later then." He turned to walk away but stopped when Lisa asked him to wait. "Hmm?"
"Ah…okay it's Cee Jay."
Lisa looked at him with a frown, "Yes but what does CJ mean."
The young man laughed, "That is it Cee Jay, I don't think my parents had very active imaginations. My brothers…" he turned and pointed to the sandy haired man with the crooked nose, "His name is Bradley, after my father!"
"Well CJ…it's original…I like it." Lisa smiled shyly at bleached blonde.
"Listen I have to go and get these horses taken to your sisters is it?" Lisa nodded, so he continued, "So I guess I will talk to you tonight?"
The young man turned and headed back towards the trailer. As he passed the two men still talking, he threw a quick wink in his brothers' direction before disappearing to the drivers' side of the vehicle.
Hyacinth Alexander exited the spare bedroom and made her way down stairs. Her daughter had shockingly offered to make breakfast and she didn't want to miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to witness such a rare act. Reaching the lower level of the house, she turned on the parquet floor and headed towards the kitchen. The sight she was greeted with forced a tender smile upon her lips.
Nikki stood at the work surface, in front of her a selection of food, and behind her Tess. The tall woman had her arms wrapped around the blonde, her chin on the slender shoulder as she listened tentatively to instructions on how to cook a traditional English breakfast.
"Right…" Nikki began as she fingered the pack of bacon, pulling out one slice and holding it up, "When it comes to bacon…if you cut the rind off and cut three of four small incisions along one side that will stop it from curling."
Tess, still with her chin on the blondes' shoulder and arms around the small waist, picked up the sharp scissors and cut the bacon slices as instructed. Occasionally she would place a teasing kiss on the tempting neck, enjoying the slight tremors that coursed the smaller body. She finished the sixth slice, "Okay done that…now what?"
Nikki felt around for the sausages, "Right now if you pierce these, a couple of times in each one, it will stop the sausages from bursting in their skins while they are cooking." She found a fork and held it up for Tess to who proceeded to prick tiny holes in the meat.
"Done" she proclaimed proudly.
Hyacinth grinned as she watched her daughter follow Nikki's instructions, moving away and placing the meat under the grill for cooking. Once done, she returned to her place behind her blonde lover and slid her arms back around the waist. Next were the eggs, and Nikki went through the many different ways in which they could cook them, both finally agreeing on scrambled, simply because it was the easiest.
Tess cracked four eggs in a bowl and Nikki added the milk before beating the mixture together with a fork. The tall woman watched over her lovers shoulder, "I think that our future house keeper will definitely have to cook for us as well, there is no way I will be able to do this again. If you weren't here those eggs would burn right there in the bowl."
Nikki poked the inside of her mouth with her tongue, trying to keep the smirk away from her lips "Tess this is hardly cordon bleu honey…most chefs would scoff at the thought of having to cook something like this…and look…for us it is a combined effort."
Tess leaned forward taking Nikki's chin gently and pulling her around to kiss soft lips, "Mmm…but I like combined efforts." She deepened the kiss briefly before pulling back, "Some things are much better done as a team effort." She whispered seductively.
Deciding that the scene was getting a little personal Hyacinth quietly left the doorway of the kitchen and went off to have another look around the house. She still couldn't get over the change in her daughter. Since meeting the blonde she had opened up a side of herself that even her mother had never seen, but was always sure existed; her ability to open her heart to love and be loved unconditionally. The older woman always knew that if her daughter could overcome her fear of losing that one special love, she would be able to give her heart fully. And she had.
Hyacinth was brought out of her musings by the sound of an approaching engine. Curiously she walked over to one of the living room windows at the front of the house and looked out. She spotted a large trailer heading towards the building. With a sudden feeling of excitement brought on by the prospect of finally having a chance to get up close to a real horse, she headed off to tell Nikki. She came to a halt in the hall way as she noticed the two women heading towards her.
"Nikki says there is a large vehicle heading our way." Tess said from behind the blonde. Together the three women headed out into the courtyard.
CJ slowly manoeuvred the large trailer over the wooden bridge as he approached the driveway. From the front door he saw three women emerge, and recognised their descriptions immediately. One small blonde, a tall dark brunette, he wasn't expecting the older greying brunette. Stopping at the front of the house, he left the engine running as he jumped out the drivers seat and watched the women draw near. "Miss Morris?" He asked the small blonde.
Nikki smiled, "That would be me."
"So were do you want me to take these." He patted the vehicle gently, indicating the two horses inside.
Tess stepped forward and pointed to the side of the house, "Can you back up through there?" She asked the young man, wondering why he was looking at her so intently.
CJ blinked, so you're the one who smashed up my brothers' nose, he thought. "Sure can." He replied, and climbed back into the trailer.
The women moved back slightly as CJ steered the vehicle around to the side of the house as instructed, and backed up to the stables now in sight but on the other side of a large wooden gate. Tess followed closely behind, ready to open the gates for Thunder and Jenna to enter. The gentle nickering of the two animals filtered through the air, and Nikki smiled glad to get her two companions back. When the trailer came to a halt, Hyacinth led Nikki around to the side of the house.
CJ jumped out of his seat and headed around to the back of the compartment. Unlatching the lock, he opened the back pulling down the ramp for the horses to exit their confines. Tess stood back, leaning against the wide gate as she watched the expression of joy on Nikki's face as the first beast was led down the ramp. She smiled to herself, a warm feeling surrounding her as she gazed at the unrestrained delight on the blondes face.
Nikki approached the first horse, instantly recognising the sound of hoofs against the cement drive way. "Jenna honey…how is my beautiful girl?" She pushed her hand across the large body, feeling the swelling of the golden mares pregnancy and impending birth. "Not long to go now hey baby?"
Tess pushed herself off the gate and proceeded to open the latch, "Hey I thought you called me honey!"
The blonde smirked, "It's a term of endearment used for all my loved ones."
CJ listened quietly to the women's banter with a frown. He looked over to the tall dark woman who held an unguarded expression of tenderness with this short blonde, and could not figure her to be the same woman who had managed to get one over his brother at the Gallowtree shopping centre. Secretly watching the pair, he led Thunder down the ramp and up to Nikki who was waiting for the stallion.
Thunder nickered happily as he was greeted by the blonde offering the usual petting and apple half. The large creature took the piece of fruit off her hand with delicacy and munched on it happily.
"I'm so pleased to have you both back with me." Nikki stated.
Hyacinth watched quietly until she could stand it no longer, "Okay I have waited long enough, can I please pet your horses now…I am just dying to meet them."
Tess rolled her eyes and Nikki chucked as she turned to the woman, "Hyacinth it is my greatest pleasure to introduce my two babies…Jenna, who is to give birth very soon…and Thunder, the proud father."
The old woman stepped forward, "Is he okay to stroke?" She asked Nikki.
With a nod the blonde pushed her hand over the stallions body, "Yes he is fine, Thunder here has quite an easy temperament. His last owners mistreated him, which is very sad because he has such a gentle nature really."
Hyacinth nodded as she stroked the horses nose, "Well hello there handsome."
Thunder nickered and gently nudged the woman causing her to chuckle at the large animals antics, "Does that mean he likes me?"
"Well you see that is the thing." Nikki started, "Thunder is a great judge of character, he can always tell the nature of a person…no matter how hard they may try to hide it," she prodded Tess whom she could feel standing behind her.
The tall woman looked down wearing a clueless expression, "What does that mean?"
"Just that Thunder doesn't take any notice of the fronts most people wear…like those who can be aloof and stoic in nature," she prodded Tess's stomach again. "He can see the person inside…and if he didn't like or trust a person, you would know it." Nikki smiled ruefully, "I guess that is why he never went near my mother."
Tess put her hand reassuringly on Nikki's back and kissed the top of the blonde head.
"Well…" CJ closed the back of the trailer and turned around to the women, "I guess I am done so I will be off." He looked intently at Tess, "I'll be seeing you." He stated and turned, heading back to the drivers side of the truck, where he jumped in and drove swiftly away.
Hyacinth watched him leave, "Strange young man." She commented.
"Hmm." Tess agreed as the trailer disappeared out of sight. She turned back to the blonde with her horses, "Well shall we go and introduce these two to their new home?"
"Lead the way." Nikki exclaimed, and together they familiarised the two ‘happy to be back with their owner' horses around their new residence.
Waiting half a mile up the road and hidden in a crop of thorny bushes, Bradley White stood patiently waiting for his brother. He had exited the trailer as his brother delivered the horses, knowing that his face, though now slightly altered, would still be recognised by at least one of the women.
Hearing the recognisable engine of his brothers' work vehicle he emerged from the undergrowth just in time to spot two women heading down the road. He nodded at them politely and turned away, anxious to get away from their curious eyes.
CJ spotted his brother and pulled to a halt at the side of the dirt track. Bradley jumped into the passenger side of the truck, and the vehicle headed off down the road.
"Well?" Bradley asked.
CJ looked at his brother; "You are sure that is the woman who put you in hospital?"
"Don't ask stupid questions." He growled, "Just tell me."
The younger brother clenched his jaw, "Err…okay. Well I think I am in there. The blondes sister will be easy, and through her we can get to the other women, no problem."
Bradley turned back to the road with a smile, "Perfect."
Tess opened the boot of the blazer. It had taken her a while, but she had finally remembered Andrew Spencer's call and had called him back to ask what he had wanted ‘so damned early in the morning'.
The man, who completely ignored Tess's grousing, informed her that she had to get her shots to him today, in order help the exhibition be ready in time. So, she had no choice but to get down to the studio and collect the work she intended putting on show Tuesday night.
Tess picked up the only picture that she had kept at home. It was the one she had taken of Nikki out with Leto in the forest the day before Christmas. She hadn't intended on doing anything with the shot, but after seeing the picture it struck a cord deep within her and she just had to show it. There was something so eye catching about the sight. It was Nikki walking in the distance, cane in one hand, Leto and stick in the other. They were surrounded by the overwhelming presence of looming trees and fallen snow. To her it symbolised a portrayal of both visual delicacy and inner strength.
Placing the wrapped image in the back compartment of the vehicle, Tess made sure it was secure before closing the boot, instantly locking it shut.
Tess looked across to the bridge where she saw her neighbour Kate, crossing the wooden structure, another woman by her side.
"Not come at a bad time have we…you appear to be going out?"
She headed towards the approaching women, "Hi Kate, no not a bad time. Well I have to go out, but Nik and my mother are inside. Is this about the house keeper?"
The woman nodded and turned to the woman by her side, "Tess I would like you to meet Sam."
Tess looked at the medium height woman with long auburn hair, slowly recognition began to sink in and she blinked in surprise. "Oh!" was all she said.
Sam held out her hand with a friendly smile, "Hello Tess, pleased to meet you, I've already heard about you and your effervescent little hound."
The photographer smirked, "Yep Leto does tend to make an impression on the people she meets, that's for sure." She looked at the house then back to the women, "Well I have to nip into work in a few moments, but you can talk with Nik about the house keeper."
The visitors nodded so Tess led them to the house, "I apologise in advance if you stumble over the odd box, we pretty much have all the furniture sorted, but there are still the basics to put away. The trials and tribulations of moving house, I hope I never have to go through this again, that's for damned sure."
Sam and Kate looked at each other knowingly, "Oh believe me." Sam said, "We know all about that, we have moved many…many times over the years."
Tess opened the front door and looked back at the two women stunned, "Wow…how so?"
"Work." Kate shrugged, "We both used to serve in the armed forces, the army actually, so tended to get sent here there and everywhere."
Dark eyebrows disappeared under equally dark hair in surprise, "The Army! And um…I mean…were you both together then?" Tess stopped in the hallway as she waited for an answer.
It was Kate who spoke, "Yes in a way, whenever we could be I suppose…it was hard, very hard at times but we got through it. As you may have heard or seen on the TV, relationships like ours were not really tolerated, and investigation departments were set up in order to route people out."
Tess nodded, "Yeah I saw a program on the TV once, based on a true story." She frowned, "So when did you both leave the forces?"
"Five years ago." Sam announced, "Not at the same time, but within five months of each other. Then we brought the house across from this one and we have been there ever since. Never to move again we hope."
The women's conversation stopped as they heard the recognisable sound of the back door shutting, the sound echoing through the half furnished house. Tess turned to her visitors; "Well I think that sounds like Nikki coming back from settling in her horses." Leading the way, Tess directed the women into the kitchen to await Nikki's arrival. She knew that the blonde would be pulling off her outer clothes by the door.
Nikki braced herself against the wall as she pushed off her boots, then lifted the large fleecy jacket she was wearing over her head, placing it on a near by table. She knew Tess was to fix a coat rack by the door, but hadn't had time to do it as yet, and with Hyacinth still out with the horses, she wasn't sure where she was to put her things. Nikki knew she didn't want to trek her possibly muddy boots over the floor, and she was aware that she had trudged over a stretch of sludgy land.
Clad in her light blue tee shirt, jeans and black socks she reached out for her cane. Nikki had asked Tess to place it on the table for her return from the stables. She didn't think the photographer would still be there, as she had already presumed the woman would be on her way to the studio by now.
Finding the cane where she expected it to be, Nikki snapped it into place and headed trough the house. She intended on calling her sister, but as she neared the kitchen the blonde became aware of at least two voices, one of them, Tess's. Frowning she entered the kitchen, "Tess?"
Seeing her lover enter the room, Tess jumped up and approached the small woman, "Hey I bet you didn't expect me to still be here…we have visitors."
"Oh?" Nikki grinned.
Standing by the blondes left side, Tess put her arm around slim shoulders and drew her towards their neighbours. "Nikki…this is Kate and Sam our neighbours." Nikki held out her hand as each woman shook it and introduced them selves. "…Kate and Sam, this is Nikki…my other half." She smirked at the slight surprised look on the women's faces.
After initial introductions the four women fell into an easy rhythm of light conversation. Nikki led the discussion, questioning the women about themselves and the area. She was pleased to find that there was a recently built sports centre a few miles away, and internally made a note to drag Tess down when they had the time. Swimming was an enjoyable past time of hers but one she wasn't able to partake in often due to her mothers somewhat over protective nature when it came to public or crowded places.
Ten minutes after the blondes' appearance, Hyacinth appeared and Tess decided it was time for her to get to the studio. So after making a quick apology about running out on women, she left for Snap Shots.
After Tess made her exit, Hyacinth decided to make drinks and they all moved to the comfort of the living room. Nikki led the way, and sat in a single chair facing the visitors.
Kate looked thoughtfully at Nikki, "Tess mentioned having to get to the studio, could I ask what she does for a living…is she an artist of some form?"
"Of course." Nikki beamed, happy to discuss her favourite topic…Tess. "She is a photographer, does a lot of freelance work, but she also works at…"
"Snap Shots!" Kate finished.
The blonde grinned, "That's right."
"Well well, I don't believe it." Kate looked at her partner stunned, "All this time I thought she looked familiar and it turns out she is the Tess Alexander. Why I saw her on the television last year, there was a news article about an exhibition in the city, and she was the main attraction…who would have guessed."
Nikki smiled proudly, "Yep that's my Tess, and actually the reason she had to leave today is because of finalisations for the ‘modern arts exhibit' at the city gallery next week."
Hyacinth walked in with fresh tea and biscuits that she had baked the night before. She placed the tray on the coffee table as Kate spoke, "I was just saying to Nikki, I thought I recognised your daughter when I saw her yesterday but couldn't place it. When I mentioned this to her she stated that she just had one of those faces."
The old woman laughed, "Oh that's typical of my daughter. You know considering the occupation that she is in, she really doesn't like any form of personal publicity. When she came down to visit me in Cornwall last year, she was stopped by a couple that asked whether she was whom she indeed was. And do you know what her response was?"
"Do I want to know?" Kate asked.
Hyacinth laughed, "Oh it wasn't bad really. She made a little bit of a scene about hating the fact that people thought she was this Tess Alexander, and how personally she hated the woman's work, and thought it both unimaginative and trite."
Kate stifled a laugh; "Oh those poor people."
"Hardly." Hyacinth spouted, "They were quick to jump to her defence, and told my daughter off good and proper. They also said she obviously didn't have an artistic bone in her body…and that Tess Alexander was a true visionary of the photographic arts…then left!"
Nikki laughed out loud, "Oh jeez, and what did she say to that?" She asked, curious as to how Tess would have reacted to such an outburst.
The woman frowned bemused, "Actually, she didn't say anything. She gave me a mysterious smile, winked…then strolled off down the beach. But I did notice her shoulders move as she chuckled silently to herself."
The blonde shook her head, "Oh yes that sounds like Tess alright."
The dark green Blazer pulled into the car park behind the Snap Shots building and Tess switched off the engine. With a content sigh she opened the door and long legs exited the vehicle. Pushing hands in the pockets of her khaki combat trousers she headed off towards the employees' entrance.
The familiar but distant aroma of coffee invaded her senses, and Tess breathed in deep, revelling in the customary scent. It was true, she thought, that certain smells are able to trigger the brain in to remembering certain events in ones life. For her, the fresh smell of coffee always made her remember the first time she entered the Snap Shots building. The aroma of lilacs always conjured up images of her grandmother, and the smell of natural wood now reminded her of the first time she held Nikki in her arms. She smiled slightly to herself as she entered main reception.
Upon entering she saw a familiar sight that always meant trouble. Kat and Jason sat with their heads together, obviously engaging in some form of scandalous gossiping. She shook her head. Keeping her expression neutral, and folding her arms Tess approached the duo, "So tell me, have either of you actually done any work today or have you both been too busy prattling to even bother?"
They looked up surprised, but it was Jason who was the first to speak, "Well hell, if it isn't the woman of luxury. Enjoying your time off?"
Tess playfully scowled, "There is no time for luxury when moving house Jason."
"So." Kat interjected, "How is the new house, how was the move, how are you settling in, and when are you going to invite us all around for a house warming party?"
Tall woman rolled her eyes, "Fine, fine, fine…and when hell freezes over…how's that?"
"What no party?" The blonde asked dejected.
Pursing her lips the photographer narrowed her eyes, "I'll think about it." She looked around the room briefly before turning back to the duo, "But if you will excuse me, I have some things to collect and have to get going." She turned to exit the main reception.
"Ask her," came the sudden whisper.
Tess stopped and turned around to see Jason prodding Kat in the ribs. The woman shook her head vigorously and moved out of the way, shooting eye daggers at the receptionist.
"What?" She asked.
The pair stared, their eyes boring holes in the others. "It's nothing." Kat stated, shaking her head at the receptionists' behaviour.
Tess glared, "Doesn't seem like nothing to me."
Jason looked poignantly at Kat, "It was you who asked the question in the first place girl…now you have the perfect person to ask and you go chicken." He closed his eyes, shaking his head with faux disappointment.
The receptionist sighed dramatically, "Oh for crying out loud, I will ask her."
"It was something that I saw in a film and wondered whether it was true." Kat stated knowing there was no way Jason was not going to stop from asking the question he himself admitted to being intrigued about.
Tess looked at the digital readout on her wrist, indicating she wasn't into time wasting. The watch was one of Nikki's, and had an audio time feature. She had taken to wearing it so the blonde would always have at least one watch at hand if she ever wanted the time of day.
Jason smirked, "Well it's like this. You see, Kat was watching this film…one that Jake and I rented out a while ago…anyway; part of the story line included this blind woman getting into a relationship with a copper. And we were both wondering whether it was true what was said in the film…that blind people make incredible lovers because like…the sensitivity and touch perception is increased?"
The brunette was silent as she tried valiantly to stop the upturn on her lips, "That's it?"
They both nodded mutely.
Pulling the corner of her bottom lip between white teeth, Tess smirked and turned to leave the room. She stopped again and spun around at the sound of Kats exasperated sigh.
"What…and you aren't going to answer?" She asked.
Tess looked back at her colleagues and shook her head, "Guys, do you really expect me too?"
Jason shrugged, "You know I'd tell you anything you wanted to know."
"Uh huh." Tess nodded her head with a grimace and left the room.
Kat shook her head, "Yeah but she never asks does she, you always get that way after a heavy night." The blonde photographer elbowed the younger man, "I told you not to say anything; one day you may just listen to the voice of reason."
"Oww!" Jason rubbed his side with a pout, "Voice of reason maybe…actual physical harm…not fair." He lifted his shirt with a look of concern, "Am I bleeding?" He winced.
Kat sighed and strolled away, "Men!"
The room had been left untouched for only four days, yet already Tess felt that there was enough dust on her equipment to cause a whole new strain of allergies within her system. It was bad enough that she had hay fever during the summer and would suffer streaming eyes and nose for a couple of days…at least until her medication kicked in. But this was just amazing. Okay…so she would be the first to admit, that she has personally scared the companies cleaner so much about the consequences of accidental breakage that the poor woman refused to even enter the photographers' studio. Still she didn't expect the room to look like she had been away for weeks. Maybe that was a slight exaggeration, she thought, but it was still bloody dusty.
Intent on searching through her latest works, Tess headed towards a small back room in which she stored all her personal shots. She opened the door, and turned on the overhead diffused lighting, instantly illuminating the room in a bright white glow. Stepping inside, Tess set about choosing her works for the exhibition.
Lisa Morris had decided to stay in home all day on the off chance that she may get a call from CJ. Having refused a shopping expedition with her friends, she had opted instead for cleaning her room…a monumental shock to both male inhabitants of the Morris household. She just couldn't believe that a good looking guy like CJ would ask her out on a date, but there was no way she was going to miss the possibility that he may indeed ring her.
So all day she was waiting, and as every hour passed she got a little more disheartened, that was until the main line of the house rang again for the eighth time that day and she ran to the stairs intent on listening to whom it may be. As usual, it was James who answered the phone, "Good evening…this is the Morris household how can I help you?" Lisa hung over the banister as she listened to James's quick conversation, and when her name was called she casually, but a little swiftly made her way down stairs.
The teen was more than a little happy to find that it was indeed CJ, and together they made plans for him to pick her up Sunday at three o'clock, to catch an afternoon showing at the cinema. He was aware that Lisa had college on Monday and didn't want to get her home too late.
When their conversation was over, Lisa hung up, but quickly lifted the receiver again intent on ringing her sister to tell her the news…after all she herself had met the guy as well.
Sam and Kate had been gone for half an hour, and Nikki stood in the kitchen washing up their dishes. Carefully she lifted each item in turn and thoroughly scrubbed the crockery making sure she removed every single mark. Washing the pots was something else she never got to do at home, mostly because she was told that was why they had both hired help and a dishwasher, but Nikki actually found it quite a relaxing chore. Plus she loved immersing her hands in the nice hot water.
As the blonde lifted the last cup from the water and placed it on the draining board, she was startled out of her reveries by the phone ringing. Sighing at the bad timing, she shook off her hands and reached out for the hand towel. Nikki grumbled in exasperation when it wasn't in its place, and felt around for the missing object. She soon came across the item, as she happened to stand on it, and bent down to retrieve towel when she heard Hyacinth answer the phone. A few seconds later the woman came into the kitchen, "Nikki dear, it's Lisa for you."
"Oh thanks Cinthy." She replied as she hung the towel back in its designated place and wandered into the hallway. Knowing exactly where the phones hand set should be she reached out and found purchase of the receiver, placing it by her ear, "Hi Lisa, what's happening?"
"You'll never guess what!" Came the disembodied voice.
"Probably not so why don't you tell me."
Lisa sighed, "You know the two guys who delivered the horses this morning?"
Nikki thought for a moment, "No there was only one guy this morning."
"How can that be…two guys came here to pick up Thunder and Jenna…they were brothers," Lisa commented. "Anyway, guess what."
The blonde rolled her eyes, knowing Lisa and where this would lead, "What…and don't tell me to guess…just tell me what you seem so excited about okay."
"God you are no fun. Anyway CJ the younger of the two brothers, he asked me out tomorrow…we are going to the cinema."
"Hmm…which one was CJ then. Hyacinth described the guy who came here to have bleached blonde hair and to be quite ‘dashing'."
"That's him…that's him…so what did you think?"
Nikki shrugged, "I don't know, he didn't really say a whole lot, but he seemed okay I guess."
"Oh he is." Lisa gushed, "And he is so gorgeous…I can't wait."
She may not have wanted to sound matriarchal, but she felt the need to instil a little caution in her sister, "Well just remember, he may be gorgeous be you don't know him…if you want to go out with him remember be careful, stay in public places and…well…just be careful okay?"
"I will, I will, god sis, don't go putting a downer on this already."
"Hey I'm not trying to do that I was just…"
"Yeah I know…looking out for me. Thank you, but I have a good feeling about CJ, I like him, and his has lovely big brown, friendly eyes."
Nikki shook her head; "Fine well have a lovely time tomorrow then."
"I will." Lisa remarked, "I'll call you when I get back."
"Yeah you do that Lisa…bye."
Nikki hung up the phone, "Kids." She said and chuckled to herself, deciding to make a mental note to ask Tess what she thought of CJ, when she returned home.
Tess mounted the wide rising of stone steps that led to the entrance of the city gallery. There were thirty grey stone steps in all, with handrails on both sides and one in the middle. To the right side there was a chair ramp, that Richard Morris had proposed and had built the year before, as he wanted the gallery to be as accessible as possible.
As she reached the top step, Tess pulled open the large glass door and walked into the foyer of the building. The room was large and covered with original prints and paintings of local artists of all ages. The floor was a tiled grey, and her booted feet echoed over the cold ground as she approached the reception, a circular structure that stood in the centre of the foyer.
Along the three remaining walls was a selection of glass doors, each leading off to a different section of the building. Photographic art, paintings, sculptures, the showing room for when the gallery was given a high profile piece on loan and a room which told the history artistry from stone age times, antiquity, the birth of the Renaissance, to modern day.
Tess loved this place, and on many lunch breaks her aimless ambles around the city would often end outside the glass doors of this huge building.
Stopping at the main desk, Tess spotted a familiar face. It was Tracey, the young woman who had worked the information desk now for almost four years. "Hey Trace, how's things."
The mousy blonde smiled at the tall woman, "Been just great Tess thanks for asking…you? Andrew tells me you moved house."
"Yep…and everything is fine. So is the boss in?"
Tracey looked towards the ‘History of Art' room. "He sure is, I saw him disappear down there not ten minutes ago…I bet that's where you will find him."
Tess grinned, "Thanks Trace…catch you later." She turned towards the last known place Andrew had been spotted and went in search of her college friend.
Entering the main door Tess started her search at the beginning of man. Walking through the carefully constructed caves she passed a group of waxwork cave men busy finger painting the walls. The human forms were all works of Madam Tussaud's, and served as a popular attraction especially with the galleries younger visitors.
The photographer carried on her search for Andrew and soon found herself in the history of classical art. Images of the early Greeks and Romans, creating mosaics, statues of gods and such fine pieces of works, that Tess found utterly fascinating. By the time the brunette reached the Renaissance section she was beginning to wonder whether the guy was actually in this part of the gallery at all. With an internal growl she decided to finish her search before checking his office.
Tess shot a look to her left in time to see a hurling projectile of used packing tape heading towards her. Easily catching the sticky ball, she gave a stern look to the man with a large black marker pen hanging out of his mouth.
"Andrew I might have known."
The tall man laughed and pulled the bulky pen from his hips, "Tess you were always good at catching balls, but damn hopeless at kicking them."
The photographer threw the ball of tape at the black haired man, and it stuck to his colourful Simpsons tie. "And you always had a rather un-natural interest in gut wrenching, headache causing multicoloured ties from hell."
The man looked down at the portrayal of Homer Simpson in his underwear, "What you don't like it? I thought it was funny." He pulled the tape from his chest.
"You would." Tess approached her old friend who stood four inches taller than her and pulled on the visually offending neck garment, "It certainly wasn't a female admirer who brought you that, I am sure."
"Actually no, my latest seems to think that a man in my position should wear boring stripy ones or ones that have those ugly paisley patterns." He snorted, "Fat chance, not even for my bleeding funeral thank you…I do have some taste."
Tess arched an eyebrow, "Questionable in standard, but true. Anyway less of this chit chat." She looked around at the illustrations of Leonardo da Vinci's work. "I am sure you know why I am here…I've got my stuff in the back of my car."
Andrew's eyes bulged, "Tess! Don't tell me that you have just dumped your latest works in that bloody heap of yours. Where's the pride, you should have called and I could have sent a transit round to pick them up." His face was a portrayal of pure horror, causing Tess to smile.
"Don't sweat it Andy, one…I have a new car now, two…they are not just dumped in, and three…I individually wrapped each on in cushioned packing material to keep them safe. I had to set down the back passenger chairs in the Blazer to get them in though, two of them are rather large canvases."
The man visibly sighed, "Well good, you had me worried there for a moment." He placed a hand on his brow and shook his head, "Shall we go and get them?"
"Age before beauty." Tess remarked, as she followed the tall man back to the main foyer.
It was almost seven o'clock in the evening by the time Tess returned home, and as she pulled into the driveway the beaming ray of the security light shone down on her.
Heading through the front door, she was not in the least bit surprised to find herself pinned up against the wall as Leto traditionally greeted her home. "Hiya ‘tow tow' baby you missed mummy?" She slid down the wall and allowed the dog a few moments of indulgence. Squirming her face away from the pooches' insistent tongue, she looked up to see Nikki descending the stairs. The blonde was already dressed for bed, wearing one of the photographers oversized rugby tee shirts and black sweats. Tess smiled and pushed to her feet, "Cold?" She asked as Nikki reached the bottom step.
"Tis a bit chilly this evening." The small woman answered, and held out her hand for Tess. The brunette took the small appendage and together they walked into the living room.
Tess sat down on the single chair and pulled Nikki into her lap. Nikki sat slightly to the side and wrapped her left arm around the photographers shoulder. They sat that way for some minutes in content silence, just relaxing in the comfort of each other. Nikki was the first to break the quiet, "How did it go at the gallery?"
"Fine." Tess commented, "I got the prints there and together with Andrew we got them put up in my little part of the exhibition room. It's going to be quite a night by the looks of things."
Nikki wiggled excitedly in Tess's lap, "Great I can't wait for Tuesday."
Tess shook her head with a smile as she turned the blonde towards her and placed a gently kiss on cherry flavoured lips. "Mmm, lip balm…my favourite." The kissed them again, "So how did things go with our new neighbours, did they give you the information on where we could look for a house keeper?"
"Oh they did more than that." Nikki beamed, "They are such nice people, and ended up staying for about two hours…we just talked about all sorts."
"And the house keeper?"
"Oh yeah, well it seems that Sam was actually looking for that kind of work and if her cooking is anything to go by then she is as good as hired. I said I would discuss it with you first, but knew you would be okay with that."
Tess looked surprised, "Sam huh? And yes if she can cook as good as she can bake cakes then I think we have our first employee." She nodded, "Well that's the house keeper sorted, now all we need are the stable hands right?"
Their conversation stopped as the sound of descending footsteps floated into the front room. Tess looked up to see her mother enter and her mouth dropped. The woman was wearing a simple but elegant long blue dress with a string of cultured pearls around her neck. Tess looked at her mother in shock, "You look nice…going out somewhere?"
Hyacinth smiled, "Thank you dear, and yes I am going out. James offered to take me to dinner this evening."
"James Abbot?" Tess asked looking briefly at her lover.
"Of course dear, I don't know that many people around up here you know."
"Oh!" Tess fidgeted in her seat, "What time are you…" She stopped when the outside security light came on. "I guess that would be him then."
The doorbell sounded and Hyacinth went to answer as Tess gently eased out of her seat, depositing Nikki on the warm cushion. "What's wrong?" The blonde asked.
"Nothing, just checking to make sure she leaves okay."
Nikki rolled her eyes at Tess's behaviour; she knew what the brunette was up to.
Out in the hallway, James Abbot was helping Hyacinth on with her coat. He looked up to see Tess exit the living room. "Miss Tess, nice to see you again, how are you?"
"Fine." She replied evenly, "You?"
"Oh I am wonderful."
"That's great…so…where are you taking my mother this evening James?"
The butler looked at his date for the evening and smiled, "Well actually it is a surprise."
"I see." She looked at her mother, "Well I hope you have a good time mother, and I shall see you when you get back."
Hyacinth looked at her daughter, hiding her perceptive smile, "Tessa honey you don't have to wait up."
Tess shrugged, "I am not really tired yet anyway, there was a film I wanted to watch on TV tonight …so no problem, I shall see you later okay." Her expression was one of forced innocence.
"Yes dear…see you later." With a smile and shake of her head, Hyacinth and James left the house, the old man waving to Tess and shouting a quick good bye to Nikki, as he was unsure as to where she was at the time.
When the door shut and Tess turned around she noticed Nikki standing by the entrance of the living room. The look on the blondes face was one of mild amusement. "Tess what was all that about. You are not really going to wait up for them are you?"
Tess shrugged "Might do, I'm not tired and I want to make sure she comes home safely."
"Tess this isn't about the fact that your mother may in fact start a relationship with James is it?"
Looking at the floor the tall woman sighed, "I just don't know how I feel about another man taking my mum out. Yes I know James is a decent guy, but I feel weird about the fact that she is with someone other than my father, even though I know that isn't possible. I know it isn't really like cheating, but…" She shrugged again.
Nikki moved towards her lover and wrapped her arms around the tall body, longer arms followed suit, "Look honey, it is only dinner, it may not mean anything…just two new friends who enjoy each others company…there really isn't much point in jumping to conclusions." She placed her head between the valley of the taller woman's breasts and closed her eyes.
Tess lay her cheek upon the blonde head, "I know, you're right." She sighed, "So do you want to have something to eat, we could order pizza?" She asked hopefully.
Nikki shook her head, "No I'm actually a little tired, and I was going to lay down for a while maybe have an early night."
"Oh…are you okay?" Tess felt a sudden concern.
"Yeah fine, must have been all the time spent outdoors today" she yawned, "Or all the hectic last few days finally catching up with me."
Tess leaned forward and kissed soft lips, "Okay, well in that case I will see you in a little while, I'll just have something to eat and come to keep you company." She kissed her again, and then watched as the blonde disappeared upstairs.
Having found nothing she could zap in the microwave, and no bread for a sandwich, Tess decided on a pizza after all. And an hour later the half eaten remains of the heavily topped meal lay on the coffee table in front of her.
Tess was sitting sideway on the single sofa, her back against one arm and her legs dangling over the other, watching an old black and white horror. She would occasionally chuckle at the poor effects and wonder how on earth people could have been so easily impressed by such things back then. The ringing of the phone interrupted her musings, and not wanting it to wake Nikki she dived out of her chair to answer the shrilling object.
"Oh hello, I was wondering whether I could speak to a Miss Nicole Morris…I was given this number by her father."
Tess frowned at the unrecognisable voice, "Nikki is in bed right now could I take a message?"
"If you could that would be great. Could you please tell her that Doctor Jacobson called, regarding our conversation last year…I wanted to know whether she has changed her mind about the surgical procedure I proposed and could she please get in touch with me so we can discuss this matter further."
"Surgery?" Tess frowned, "Um okay sure…I will get that message to her as soon as possible."
"Thank you…good bye."
"Bye." Tess put down the receiver with a confused look. Nikki never mentioned having surgery, she thought, what's going on?