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 receivedJ
Let me know what you think: firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert stood in the large employees lounge. In front of him stood his new toy and while he set about choosing his drink, a large grin formed on his face as he perused the multitude of options. Checking the digital clock, another feature on this new toy, Robert frowned at the time. It had already gone nine o'clock and he would have expected Tess into work by now.
Robert turned to see the woman in question entering the lounge. He frowned, "Morning Tess…whoa…sorry my friend but you look like shit."
Tess sighed, "Thanks Robert, but it was a rough night." She pushed a hand through her hair ruffling the dark strands. "Jenna gave birth to her new little son…we have called him Jasper." She smiled widely, "Actually I got to name him," she said proudly.
"Wow…hey that's great, and did you actually get to see the delivery?"
The photographer shook her head, "Ah no…I just sort of woke up and there it was, right in front of me…it was pretty amazing."
The tall dark man nodded, then frowned, "Whoa, hold on. 'You just woke up', where were you when this happened?"
"In the stable."
Robert looked at her strangely, "You were asleep in the stable. Please don't tell me Nikki has gone and chucked you out already? You could have said you know, I have a shed you could have used." He grinned at the exasperated look on the woman's face, "It really didn't take long for that pseudo moodiness of yours to wear thin did it!"
The brunette scowled, "You know if you weren't my boss Robert I would have to kick your butt…and I am not moody around Nikki!"
"Yeah, yeah…why I bet you are just one big ole teddy bear."
Tess's eyes narrowed, "Why did you say that?"
"Teddy bear…have you been speaking to Nikki?"
The large man scratched his head in complete confusion, "Huh? What are you talking about Tess? What's wrong with Teddy bears?"
"What Teddy bears?" Jason asked as he entered the employees' lounge.
Tess shook her head, "Nothing…absolutely nothing. So…" She looked around the room, deciding a change of subject was in order. The large machine caught her attention, "What's that?" She eyed the monstrosity curiously.
Roberts wide toothy smile caused Jason to groan, "Ugh, it's the bosses new toy. The Ultra Deluxe Coffee Machine; it makes all those fancy drinks, cappuccinos, espressos, blah…blah…blah."
Tess stared at the illuminated machine that stood a foot shorter than Robert and an inch higher than herself, "Impressive."
The proud boss beamed, "Yep it's just wonderful. And what's more, it takes no money…I wangled it so you don't have to pay, just key in your choice and away you go." He sighed, "All the way to caffeine heaven."
Jason looked at his boss strangely, "If you don't mind me saying sir, you seem to have an unnatural attachment to that thing…it is only a machine you know."
"No no no Jason you are mistaken," Robert patted his new toy, "This is not just a machine…it is a miracle of the twenty first century."
Tess folded her arms, "Oh boy," she shook her head, "Well I would love to stand here and chat some more with you about the wonders of the twenty first century, but I have a booking at half past nine and would like my own caffeine fix before then so gimme." She moved towards the machine and looked down at her selection. A frown creased the photographers' brow, "Okay where's the coffee?"
Robert moved his hand in a sweeping motion across the options list, "Earth to Tess…right in front of you."
She shook her head, "No…non of that garbage, I just want plain and simple black coffee."
"Tess with all these options, you can have anything you want," said Robert astounded.
"Yeah? Well then where is my plain old boring, black coffee?"
The large man sighed and pressed a button, "There, that's your boring button." The machine whirled as it produced the photographers' beverage. Robert looked over at Jason, "So what delight can I tempt you with this fine Monday morning Jason?"
The receptionist smiled weekly, "Um, I was thinking maybe warm milk?"
Roberts face dropped in horror, "Milk?" He asked, like man had just uttered blaspheme.
"Err yeah I need my daily fix of calcium…got to keep my bones nice and strong you know."
Tess smirked, blowing on her own beverage as she went to leave the room, "Uh huh." She said mono voice, so only the young man could hear, "Got to keep Jake satisfied." Then left, leaving a completely confused Robert wondering why Jason was standing there, crimson cheeked and slacked jawed.
The city council offices were housed in a large ominous building. Built almost a thousand years ago, the structure was dark in appearance and held a sinister gothic like appearance. Within this building was the entire cities congress, a mass of different areas of business all linked to the administration of the whole city. And within this mass of offices was a certain chamber that stood out above all others; it was the headquarters of the Lord Mayor.
The room was large and almost regal in appearance. All the furniture was a deep glossed mahogany, the soft furnishings a mixture of rich creams and reds. Seated at a sturdy desk sat Richard Morris, engrossed in scanning certain areas of the yellow pages. His daughter had returned home the evening before and had informed him of her sighting of his wife. At first he found this hard to believe, but as all the pieces began fitting into place he realised two sure facts. One, Rosalind was back with an agenda, and two, that it involved his daughter and Tess. He also figured that being as though she hadn't returned to the family home, the marriage was over, and for completely obvious reasons…he was monumentally relieved by that. He just thought it was a shame that it took the events that it did to force him to see this. Picking up the phone, he dialled yet another number of a local hotel, trying his hardest to find the scheming woman before it was too late.
The word hectic didn't even begin to describe the kind of morning Nikki was having. Never had she felt the pressure of responsibility so much in her life, and if she was to admit it…she loved every minute of it.
Monica had arrive within twenty minutes of her calling the woman, and had set to work on giving Jasper a quick check over while Nikki held Jenna. She had informed the blonde she'd had been able to get in contact with Janie, and the girl was more than happy to be given the opportunity to help in looking after of the horses.
After the vet had left, Tess and Nikki had gone in for some much needed sleep, and managed to grab a couple of hours before Tess had to get up and go to work. The photographer did suggest staying home, but Nikki assured her that with Sam and Janie's arrival, she would be able to cope just fine. So begrudgingly Tess had dragged her exhausted butt out of bed and into the invigorating spray of the cold shower. Of course it wasn't meant to be cold, and the brunette quickly discovered that the boiler had shut down, so she had no choice…besides it did shock her uncooperative body, and woke the hell out of her. So that turned out to be yet another job on the list of things Nikki had to accomplish this Monday morning.
Sam had arrived first, bright and early and bang on nine o'clock. Nikki had only just gotten dressed and had answered the door with sopping wet hair and a hungry Leto hanging from her heels. While feeding the dog, Nikki and Sam had discussed what her responsibilities were to be, when she would be needed, (Nikki hoped weekdays would be acceptable…it was) and what her wage was. The blonde thought that the woman may want to negotiate on that, but it seemed she was quite happy with Nikki's first proposal and that had been agreed upon.
At a quarter to ten the repairman arrived to fix the boiler, and Sam let him into the house, to a customary greeting from Leto. Unfortunately the guy seemed to have a fear of Leto's breed and refused to enter the house until the dog had been properly secured. Sam did so as Nikki let the man in and explained the problem, but while talking with the man whom she discovered was called Jonathan, she was interrupted by three phone calls. The first by a window company trying to sell double glazed windows, next Monica to let her know what time Janie would be arriving, and straight after Tess, wanting to know how her day was going. Nikki had refrained from growling down the phone at that question. Eventually she was able to get back to Jonathan, and explained to him what the dilemma was. Minutes later, he was well on his way to sorting the problem.
By half past ten, Nikki was already tired out and had flaked out at the kitchen table while Sam offered to make her a drink. She was busy working her way around the kitchen, getting used to where everything was stored. "Is it always going to be this hectic around here?"
Nikki's head fell to the table, "God I hope not." She blew out an exasperated breath, "And it is only half ten, the new stable hand Janie, should be here any minute…why do I get the feeling this is the only time I will be able to sit down all day?"
Sam laughed, "Things will settling by the afternoon…it's like Tess said the other day… 'The trials and tribulations of moving home'…can be rather taxing to the system." She opened a cupboard and located a box of fruit tea, "Wonderful, how does strawberry and raspberry tea sound?"
"Bring it on." Nikki stated and sighed as a loud clashing echoed through the house followed by a loud cursing male voice. She chuckled, "I hope we are not about to get our very own indoor water fountain!" She shook her head, "And there was me practically pushing Tess back to work this morning."
Sam patted the blondes shoulder, "Don't worry Nikki, House Keeper Sam is ready to help however she can."
"Famous last words." Nikki stated as the doorbell rung.
Sam went to answer it, so Nikki set about getting preparing the drinks.
Behind the door, a young woman with long, light brown hair and blue eyes, stood nervously. She hoped she had gotten the right house, but being as though there were only two that were accessible on this road, she figured she was close. Still she thought; she would be so embarrassed if she had indeed chosen the wrong place. Janie was startled out of her wonderings as the door opened and a medium sized woman with long auburn hair stood looking across from her with a smile. "Hi," she said nervously, "Nikki Morris?"
Sam shook her head, "No sorry darling," she noticed the awkward look on the girls face and smiled, "Nikki is inside, I am the newly appointed house keeper...come on in."
Janie relaxed visibly as she entered the house, she noticed an assortment of boxes piled up by one wall and realised this residence was recently moved in to. Following Sam they made their way into the kitchen.
Nikki was standing by the work surface, pouring hot water into two mugs; she stopped and turned at the sounds of footsteps entering the kitchen.
"Nikki…this is Janie."
Nikki held out her hand with a smile and waited, "Hi."
Realising she wouldn't be recognised until she made a move, Janie stepped forward and took the blondes hand, "Hello Nikki."
"So Monica tells me you are looking to work with horses," she said as she released the young woman's hand, "Tell me why…oh and would you like a drink?"
"Oh whatever you are having will be fine."
"Okay…fruit tea it is." Nikki searched out another cup from the cupboard, "So tell me why you want to work with horses."
"Um…" Janie stuttered; she didn't expect this interview to turn out the way it was. She had expected a formal room, sitting at opposite sides of a desk. Not in a kitchen, drinking tea, with her prospective new boss perched on the edge of the work surface. "Well I have grown up around them, my father is a trainer and I helped him. I have taken care of horses for quiet a few years now, and have even had some experience with training myself. I just love them really…they are my favourite animal."
Nikki nodded, "I know what you mean," she smiled, "So…at the moment there are three horses out there, Thunder, Jenna, and her new foal Jasper. I will at times be taking in rescue horses and eventually I will be starting a stud farm…but in the meantime it will just me you and me…how does that sound?" Nikki picked up her drink.
Janie blinked, amazed at this opportunity. "Um, sounds just wonderful…too good to be true…just the kind of job opportunity I was looking for."
"Great." Nikki beamed, "So how about after these," she held up her drink, "We go out and you can have a look around. Jasper has only just been born, so things are still a little delicate between mare and foal, but you can still check out the sights, and I can show you where the office will be etcetera…then you can tell me whether or not you want to work for me."
The young woman frowned, "Me decide…I thought you were supposed to do that?"
The blonde shrugged, "I figure it is a two way street, you have to work for me as much as I would want you to work for me. I tend to think I am a good judge of character, and I am happy to employ you…it is whether you wish to work for me now."
Janie nodded furiously, "Well then yes, I have already made up my mind, I would really like this job."
Nikki slid off the counter, "Wonderful, so why don't we go and have a look around?" She asked as the doorbell rung.
Sam entered the kitchen; "Nikki the plumber would like to discuss something with you about his findings concerning the boiler. There is a delivery for you to sign, and a sales man at the door trying to push the owner of the house into buy a new brand of multi purpose vacuum cleaner."
Nikki rolled her eyes, "Typical." She turned to Janie, "Welcome to the mad house, I hope you don't get scared off by this hectic day…I don't think it will always be this bad." Her speech ended with the ringing of the telephone.
Richard Morris sat rigidly at his desk; he had tried all morning to locate his estranged wife and had drawn a blank every step of the way. Either Lisa had only seen somebody who looked like Rosalind, or the woman had entered the city under a false name. And although the second seemed more likely, it would have been hard considering the cities Mayoress was a pretty recognisable figure.
Holding the phones receiver to his ear, he waited patiently for his daughter to take the call. The phone had been answered by an unrecognisable female voice, and he didn't even have time to ask whom it was before the disembodied voice had gone in search of his daughter.
Richard smiled down the phone, "Hi sweetheart…how are you today?"
Nikki sighed, "At this moment in time…thinking I might be grey before my twenty-fifth birthday!"
"Bad day?" Richard asked.
"Not bad really…just hectic. What with Jenna delivering, Tess off at work, the boiler conking out on me, numerous phone calls, visits, my new stable hand and house keeper arriving…you could say I have been on my feet all day."
"So that's who the voice belonged to…" Richard paused, "wait a minute… did you say Jenna foaled, hey that's great news what did she have, and how are mother and baby?"
"She had a colt, Tess called him Jasper…" after her stuffed toy, she thought with a grin, "And they are both doing fine."
"Excellent news." Richard nodded, his face falling serious as he tapped the index finger of his free hand onto the solid mahogany desktop. "Listen sweetheart, the reason I am ringing today is to tell you that it seems your mother may be back in town. Lisa saw her yesterday, but as yet she hasn't made contact…because of this I am thinking that her presence is not that of a remorseful parent."
The blonde was silent for a moment, "You…think she is here to cause trouble dad?"
The Mayor sighed, "I don't know, but I feel that after everything that's happened we should all be aware that she could make an appearance at any time." He frowned, "Nicole honey…I want you to know that, well because of all this…there will be no way your mother and I will be reuniting martially. I know that time is supposed to heal, and you are supposed to forgive, but all I feel is…" he paused shaking his head; there was no way he could express to his own daughter the contempt he was feeling towards the woman who had tried to hurt her.
Nikki sensed his hesitation, "It's okay dad; I know what you're trying to say."
He nodded, "So I…" Richard paused as Leto's barking suddenly sounded down the phone. He pulled the phone away from his ear, looking down the receiver with a bemused expression. Three different voices, talking in a less than quiet voice echoed down the line.
The man put the phone back to his ear.
"I've got to go. Janie was just having a look around the house, and she accidentally released Leto from the laundry room. Now she's gone on a mad greeting escapade and apparently she has the plumber cornered in the airing cupboard."
Richard frowned in confusion, "Um…okay sweetheart…you go and calm things down."
"Okay…I'll talk to you later…sorry."
Putting down the phone Richard chuckled, it really did seem hectic over there. A fleeting concern crossed his mind as he wondered whether his daughter could cope, but inside he knew the answer was yes…Nikki had shown more strength and courage in the last few months than she had ever done living under the restrictive grasp of her mother. He wondered whether things would have been different now if Rosalind had never coerced him into employing Tess Alexander. Somehow he knew the answer was yes.
Tess sat in her office, pushed back onto the rear legs of her chair, eating her lunch. She swayed slightly as she readjusted her position on the seat, but managed to keep herself balanced. Sandwich hanging out of her mouth, Tess perused a copy of the Exhibition brochure that Jason had given her when he brought in her lunch. He didn't need to do it…bring lunch, but he seemed to see it as his responsibility to make sure all the employees of Snap Shots were properly fed. He liked choosing Tess's lunch the most because he knew the photographer would eat whatever he gave her, no questions asked. So he tended to be a little on the experimental side, and had on occasions given her such things as rabbit and even kangaroo meat sandwiches. Jason considered her his test subject, and if she liked it…he would try it himself. Tess didn't mind, she often stated to him that she would eat anything as long as it didn't spend its life covered in slime and eating vegetables from the garden. He could live with that, he never did understand that whole fascination with escargot anyway. Of course the draw back to feeding Tess whatever he chose, was the moment he had to tell her what she had in fact just eaten. Tess especially remembered one time in particular.
She had taken the lunch Jason had given her out that day and had eaten it during one of her ambles around the city. She did enjoy the food, but couldn't quite put her finger on the meat. When she got back to the studio, she had asked Jason what was in her lunch, and the receptionist had casually told her she had just eaten 'Skippy'. 'The bush kangaroo?' she had asked disbelievingly, and after a simple nod Tess had been infused with guilt. Of course she didn't want the rest of the gang to see that she felt remorse about eating kangaroo meat, but she had adamantly told Jason not to give her that again. Her excuse… 'It was a little on the bland side.'
Leafing through the brochures pages, Tess scanned the itinerary for tomorrow night's exhibition. It looked interesting enough, drinks, talks, food and of course more drinks. She frowned when she realised that the local press had been invited, not that it surprised her; Andrew liked as much publicity as possible. She read that the evening was to be kicked off by the Lord Mayor and smiled; she hadn't even thought to ask whether Richard would be going, but it would be nice for him to be there…and another known presence for Nikki.
Chucking the paper back onto her desk, Tess pushed herself back to a less precarious position on the chair and picked up another sandwich. She peeked in between the slices of bread with curiosity, and thankfully found another slice of chicken. She was glad, she really wasn't in the mood to be Jason's test subject today.
Breaking the comforting quiet, the phone unexpectedly rang. She picked up the receiver, "Hello Tess Alexander speaking."
"Oh I have never heard you sound so professional…I like it."
Tess smiled, "Hey gorgeous, how are things going, and how's Jasper?"
There was a blushing smirk, "Fine…Jasper is just great. As for how things are going here…now they are okay…a while ago, I thought I was living in a circus." Nikki rolled her eyes, "But I am glad to say things have quieted down now, and Leto has given up her pursuit for the plumbers affections."
The photographer scratched her head, "Huh…what the hell has been going on over there?"
Nikki chuckled, "Oh you really don't want to know…but I have things totally under control now…I will explain later." The blonde sighed, "So how are things going your end?"
Tess shrugged, "Oh you know, a pretty normal day I guess. Jason got me something boring for lunch…for a change, I did three shoots this morning, have one more at half past one, then I am done for the day. I was going check in the gallery on my way home and bug Andrew for a while." She grinned evilly at her final comment, and Nikki laughed almost as if she could sense the pleasure Tess was to get by bugging her college friend.
"Well may I suggest you play nice…you don't want to get his goat before the big night do you? I could well imagine him getting his revenge by leaving you alone in a room full of reporters tomorrow night."
Tess shuddered at the thought, "Ugh…okay you have a point, I will only bug him a little bit. Just enough to get him back for Saturday when he pretended that he had dropped one of my framed shots in the gallery."
"Well okay." Tess heard a quiet whisper, then Nikki came back to the phone, "Tess I've got to go Sam says the plumber has returned with the part he went to buy."
"Alright see you later…I love you."
Nikki smiled, "Love you too…bye."
Tess hung up the phone with a toothy smile. She actually had an ulterior motive for going to the gallery, but she wasn't going to tell Nikki that, it was a surprise. A good one she hoped.
Jason chose that moment to barge into Tess's studio, "Oh whatcha thinking about to give you a cheesy smiled like that…or need I ask?"
Tess looked up at the receptionist standing in the doorway and frowned, didn't he look different the last time she saw him? "Jason, if you don't mind me asking…where's your hair?"
The man ran a hand over his head, "What do you think? I just popped out and got it cut."
The photographer shook her head, "No, getting a cut means you have the ends chopped off Jase, you my friend are bald."
Jason smiled, "Nope not bald, I had a number two blade, there is still some hair here," he paused, "Just not a whole lot…so what do you think?" He did a mini twirl in the doorway.
Tess put on her diplomatic face, "Well err okay …the look as it is…is fine. But I'm afraid you've lost that smart, boy next door appearance."
Jason flapped his hands, "Well I have had enough of that all sweetness and light image. I want to go for something a little bit more macho."
The brunette chewed on the inside of her mouth, "Jason you are wearing beige slacks, a white shirt and pink tie…I am afraid I must be the one to tell you that pink and macho just don't cut it…especially on you!"
"Well…" Jason flexed his arm making a muscle, "Who said anything about being macho with clothes on, I am thinking more of the old birthday suit…you know to give me that 'grrrrrr' look." He smirked, "Do you want to see?" He began to loosen his tie.
Tess dived out of her seat, hands up in front of her vision, "Hell no, I'm an artist, are you trying to blind me for gods sake." She stalked towards the smirking receptionist, "Now did you come in here for a specific reason, or just to annoy me because I have things to do."
"Actually yes…I came in to tell you that your half one booking had to cancel…something about a guinea pig, a pencil, and a vet … I really didn't want to know, so anyway I moved it to tomorrow morning."
The brunette sighed, "Jason I'm not in tomorrow remember?" she paused, "Oh well I can make an exception being as though it is in the morning."
Jason nodded, "Good thinking…sorry," he turned to leave, "Oh and by the way…good luck for tomorrow evening. I shall be there showing my support, and maybe gloating slightly to your adoring fans because I know you in person," he winked.
The photographer chuckled, "Thanks Jase, I'll see you tomorrow."
Jason exited the studio, shutting the door behind him.
Tess folded her arms and looked around her empty studio, "Well if I have no other reason to be here, I might as well go and see Andrew now." With an affirmed nod, she grabbed her bag, jacket and left the room
Train stations had always been a pet hate of hers. Having to wait around the working class as they stood like flocks of sheep waiting for the inevitable late train to arrive. Rosalind had always tried to avoid them as much as possible, preferring any other form of transport than this; and right now she was glad that she was just waiting for somebody else to arrive.
Sitting in a sectioned off waiting room beside the platform, on a seat she hoped was clean if nothing else, Rosalind looked impatiently through the window. Out to her left was a group of teenagers with probably nothing better to do; she idly wondered why they weren't at school, and was just glad they showed no interest in her. To her right stood a couple of smartly dressed figures, holding suitcases and umbrellas like it was about to rain. The fact that the forecast for the week had been rather sunny seemed to have missed them, but then again she thought, when has anybody ever trusted the weather in England anyway.
Looking down at her gold watch, Rosalind scowled at the time; the train was near on ten minutes late. Muttering to herself she got up and exited the waiting room, walking out onto the platform. The sky was bright, but the air cold, with a brisk easterly wind chilling the atmosphere. Wrapping her long wool coat tightly around her small frame, the woman looked out along the tracks. A voice suddenly filled the calm, informing passengers that the train from Oxford was about to arrive. The small woman sighed in relief; she was beginning to get impatient.
Out in the distance the blurry image of the passenger train came into view. Rosalind watched as it neared the platform, slowing in its approach. Then with a loud hiss and crank of brakes, the large vehicle came to a halt. The woman watched as bodies mounted and dismounted the train, all the while keeping a look out for a certain individual. She didn't exactly know what this person would look like, but she could start by a process of elimination. She dismissed every elderly man and woman, every child, obvious couple, and man until she had narrowed her search down to one of two women in their late twenties. The first wasn't particularly striking in her appearance, and wore what the Mayoress considered cheap market clothes. The second woman was more appealing, with shoulder length red hair, and an expensive looking two-piece skirt suit. It seemed that her deep canal green eyes were also searching the platform.
Rosalind approached her, "Mrs Baldwin, Mrs Jennifer Baldwin?"
The woman looked at her, "Rosalind Morris?" She asked
The Mayoress nodded, "Hello…I am so glad you were able to make it down," She sighed, "And that you are able to help myself and my daughter."
Jennifer nodded sympathetically, "When I heard, I was more than willing to help you Mrs Morris believe me."
"I am so glad." Rosalind looked around and spotted a porter, motioning him to approach, "Well shall we get back to the hotel, I for one know that I am more than willing to get out of this place."
The red head nodded, "Oh please lets, I would have taken the car but mine is being serviced and my husband has gone away in his, so I had to take the train…something I usually try to avoid."
"I understand completely."
The porter arrived and picked up Jennifer's bags, following the two women as they headed towards Rosalind's car.
Nikki stood in the bathroom pulling off her clothes. She had been unable to have a shower this morning due to the boiler being down, and now that it was back up and running she was going to make full use of the fact. Nikki had decided that she never wanted to wash her hair over a sink ever again; more water had landed on the floor than in her hair. Pulling the final garment from her body the blonde stepped into the shower and turned on the spray, instantly the water warmed to her specification. With a content sigh, she immersed herself under the rapid beat of the water and closed her eyes in bliss. After this chaotic day, she was so much in need for a few moments of tranquillity.
Holding Thunders reigns tightly in her left hand, Janie walked the large black horse around to the front of the house. She had decided to get Thunder used to her and of course, vice versa if they were to be working closely together. They'd already had a small trek around the back fields, and Janie wanted a few moments to look around the front of the house as well. She liked the place, the whole area in general and knew that she was going to love working here. Even her boss was an unexpected surprise. She had never expected somebody so close to her own age…and blind. Still she thought with a smile, she was going to have a great time here.
From the distance Janie heard the sound of a car engine, and looking up she spotted a dark green vehicle crossing the bridge. She approached the visitor cautiously. The car door opened and a tall figure emerged from the drivers seat.
Tess turned to her right to see a young woman standing with Thunder. She moved towards the girl whom she presumed was the new stable hand. "Hello."
Janie blinked, "Oh hi…um can I help you?"
The photographer smirked, "Hmm…I don't think so, but I'll let you know if anything comes to mind."
A slight frown, "Excuse me?"
Tess had to smile, "I'm Tess; I live here with Nikki."
Blue eyes turned to saucers, "Oh…god I am so sorry I didn't know who you were and I just presumed you were another sales person or something like that." She blushed profusely.
A shrug, "Hey that's okay, nice to see you are keeping a look out…thank you." Tess looked towards the house, "So I presume Nikki is inside?"
Janie nodded, "Uh huh, she said something about finally being able to use the boiler. I think she was going to have a shower." Janie watched as blue eyes glowed with mischief.
"Really? Hey do me a favour, if anybody comes around looking for us or if there is a phone call…whatever; just take messages or tell the person to call back. There are a few matters I need to discuss with Nikki and I think it should be done now. Is that okay?"
The mousy haired young woman looked up at Tess, "Of course, I shall go and tell Sam as well not to disturb you as you are in a meeting." Janie nodded seriously and walked off to stable Thunder.
Tess watched the girl go, well a meeting of sorts, but hopefully more of the bodily kind.
She heard it, even though Tess was trying her very best to be as quiet as possible. It still seemed that the photographer tended to forget just how sensitive Nikki's hearing actually was. Yet she played along, innocently taking her shower seemingly unaware of the body sneaking up behind her.
Tess crept as quietly as possible, advancing on the small form in the shower. She reached the cubical and tried to open the door with as least amount of noise as possible, but as the magnetic strip along the door was pulled away from the frame, she knew she had to have been caught.
Nikki turned to face Tess, "You do realise I knew you were around from the first moment you entered the house, Leto is an excellent alarm system."
Tess grinned and stepped into the shower, closing the door behind her and looking down at the soapy body, "Well then I guess you know what my intentions are then hmm?" She said with a thick voice.
The blonde stayed under the hot spray of water, "What about the others down stairs?"
"We are not to be disturbed while we are in a meeting." Tess assured.
"Ha…and you really think anybody would buy that line?"
The brunette shrugged, "It seems Janie did…she can be convincing enough for the both of us, she has an innocent look about her."
Nikki arched her eyebrows as she reached out and pulled the tall woman towards her and gasped in surprise, "Your still dressed!" She said to the rapidly soaking woman.
"Not for much longer." Tess whispered.
Suddenly she heard it, a quiet but definite sound of knocking coming from the outer bedroom door. Nikki sighed, her head falling to the soaked chest in front of her, "There is somebody at the door."
"Impossible," Tess groaned, "I gave specific orders."
"Then it must be something urgent do disturb our 'meeting' I guess."
Tess ground her teeth, "Hell." She stated as Nikki turned off the shower and she stepped out, leaving a wet trail along the carpet as she went. With a huff, Tess opened the door and Sam was greeted to the sight of one severely soaked and moody looking photographer.
"Whoa what happened, did the plumber break a pipe?" She asked.
Tess shook her head, "Nope!"
"Oh, okay." She eyed the woman curiously, "Well I know you were supposed to be having a meeting or something but there is a Richard Morris on the phone…hey do you think that is the Mayor?"
"I should think so." Tess said, "That's Nikki's father."
"Really, gosh I never realised. Well then Nikki's father is on the phone and he wants to talk to her urgently."
Tess frowned wondering what the urgency was, "Sure okay, she will be right down."
It soon became increasingly apparent that wet clothes were incredibly uncomfortable to wear, and as Tess pulled off the annoying garments, she had to peel certain items away from her body. Grimacing at the feeling, she muttered that it would have been much better having Nikki do this, but the blonde had already gone down to take her call. The final piece of clothing landed with a slosh on the bathroom floor, and Tess grabbed a towel and wandered off in search of something dry to wear.
Leto sat tall on her masters' bed watching the photographer amble through the bedroom with a towel wrapped around her torso. The golden dog wagged her tail, the appendage moving rapidly across the beds navy surface. Tess glanced at the friendly hound and narrowed her eyes in suspicions, "No way 'tow tow' you are not going to get any attention from me at the moment so stop looking at me like that. And don't for one moment think that I have forgiven you for that whole spider incident yet." Leto whimpered and rolled onto her back, legs suspended in the air, "At least let me get dressed first," the brunette pleaded. Leto huffed and rolled onto her side, watching her master out of one eye; her vision shifted as Nikki walked into the room.
"Sam and Janie have gone home now." She walked over to the bed, sensing Leto's presence and sat on surface. Leto rolled onto her back as perceptive fingers started a tickling exploration of her chest and stomach. "My mums back in town."
The statement was so unexpected that Tess almost did a double take at the blondes' words. Pausing only briefly the photographer resumed her task of pulling well-worn blue jeans over her hips. "Is that what you father wanted?" She looked over at Nikki who was chewing the thumbnail of her free hand. It was a nervous gesture of the blondes but one Nikki had only told her about, thinking she was free of the habit. Pulling on a white cotton shirt, but leaving it unbuttoned Tess walked over to the seated woman and gently pulled the hand away from her mouth as she knelt down at the edge of the bed. "Nik?"
There was a slight shake of the head, "No, he told me earlier today but said he was doing some investigating to see whether it was true. I didn't say anything because I wanted to be sure." She sighed, "He just told me that one of his own colleagues spotted her at the train station earlier today, so I guess there is no doubt now."
"She couldn't have been there waiting to leave the city I suppose?" Tess hoped.
Nikki shrugged, "I doubt it." Pulling her hand away from Leto, she pulled her legs up from the ground and crossed them. "The fact that she has yet to even make contact with any of us is what makes me nervous, why cant she just get it over with, what ever she has to say…just say it." Rubbing her eyes, the blonde sighed again, "God I'm so pissed."
Tess blinked; it was not like Nikki to use any kind of harsh language. "Look I can't say I know what Rosalind is up to, but I can personally assure you that what ever it is, will not work."
"You personally assure me huh?"
"Yep." Tess climbed onto the bed, sitting beside her lover. She fiddled with the corner of her unbuttoned shirt, "For a start we know that she is here, and secondly although we have found out what she is capable of, whatever she has in mind will not work. My guess is that she has some devious little plan in mind to try and discredit me; she did say she would attempt it. Now although I know you wont believe her…as for everyone else," She shrugged, "what can that do to my career anyway… most people see me as this grouchy, temperamental artist," she chuckled, "Hey it's what is expected, your mother said she would ruin my reputation, but to be honest it is like what Robert said, it really wouldn't make any difference."
Nikki frowned, "I don't like the perception people have of you Tess."
The photographer let her head fall to Nikki's shoulder, "It only matters what you think of me anyway, and besides I am not going to think this is all about me…so to speak. She wants her daughter back from the clutches of the devils spawn."
The blonde chuckled, "Hey those were Lisa's words!"
Tess shrugged, "Whatever…look the point I am trying to make is that we know she is here and we are ready for whatever she has in mind. Hey it could even be a reconciliation and apology for her behaviour."
Tess scrunched up her nose in disbelief, "Well it is one of many possibilities, lets keep our options open shall we."
"Hmm." Nikki let her head fall onto the brunette's; her eyes glazing over with unshed tears. The more she thought about the way her mother had behaved, the more it hurt her. "Why is this happening Tess? Why does she have to be like this? You know part of me just wants to give her that money if it means she would stop all this hate…if I thought it would make her just love me as her daughter…I think I would."
Tess heard the hitch in Nikki's voice and pulled away, turning so she could pull the blonde into her chest and wrap both arms around the slight frame, "I'm sorry Nik, but if it were really that simple then I would truly have to hate your mother." She sighed, "Nik, the love a mother has for her child should be lasting and unconditional, and if the money is more important to her than her own daughter then she doesn't deserve either." She paused in thought… "I know it may not help much, but my mother already loves you like a daughter."
Nikki smiled through her tears, "It does…" She wiped her eyes, "help I mean. I don't think I could ask for a better mother in law."
"And I am sure she feels the same way about you." Tess smiled. "Look whatever happens we will face it together, nothing is going to break us apart right?"
"You say that like you need reassurance." Nikki said with half a smile.
"Just hoping you agree with me."
"Well I do, and you are right…so lets not dwell on this anymore and talk about something a bit more interesting, like do we have any plans for tonight?"
The photographer frowned in thought, "Um, I don't think so why?"
"Because my father had reservations for the Japanese restaurant in town, only now he has decided not to go, he said we could have them if we so wished."
Tess could hear the hope in Nikki's voice, "Well okay if you want to but I must warn you…I have never done Japanese."
Nikki pulled back in shock, "What! Tess…miss I'll eat anything as long as it doesn't leave a trail in the garden Alexander, has never tried Japanese?"
She shrugged, "Never had the opportunity before, I take it you like?"
"Oh yes." Nikki's scrunched up her nose with a wide smile, "I love Japanese, my father used to take us to that restaurant all the time. I can use chopsticks but find them a bugger to eat with. The good thing about this is you get to use your fingers if you wish."
"So are we talking sushi, and that kind of thing?"
"We sure are…are you game?"
"You know me." Tess stated, "Just lead me to…hey hold on, do you have to sit on the floor?"
Nikki rolled her eyes, "You can if you wish, but you see they have this long curved table, kind of around half the bar where you can sit and eat from this wide selection of foods. There is also a secluded eating area with tables if you wish to sit in there, so do you want to go or are you going to ask me more questions?"
Tess narrowed her eyes, "Just one more…what do you have to wear? At the moment I have on jeans and a shirt."
"That's okay." Nikki reached forward feeling the garments, she grinned "But you may want to do the shirt up."
She looked down, "Good point."
"Hmm." The blonde smiled, "Wouldn't want to scare the patrons away now would we."
Tess looked up from her task of buttoning up her shirt, "Hey!"
MikiMoto was by far one of Nikki's favourite places to go. She loved the atmosphere, the food, the music, and the staff. The interior of the restaurant was typically oriental in design with white, black and maroon colours. Nikki entered the establishment first, followed by a curious Tess who having never been there before studied the setting with intrigue.
It was large, and divided into three main areas. There was the kitchen, open to view by the cliental where cooks with white uniforms and red ties and chef hats prepared the dishes in full view of the patrons. The private dining area was set off to the right side of the building and entered into by a small archway. Tess took a quick look inside and found the room to be subtler in appearance. The colours were lighter with more creams and beiges with framed Japanese prints on the wall.
The main area where Nikki preferred to eat was a lot livelier; the atmosphere was quite jovial, and light music played in the background. To the left was a curved bar, where you could sit and eat if you so wished, but Nikki preferred the conveyer. It was a long seating area where a wide variety of foods would pass by and you could take your pick of whatever was on offer. Richard would always sit with his daughter in the MikiMoto and describe every selection that passed by them until she became quite proficient in recognising those foods herself. She could even identify some of them as they passed simply by detecting their aromas.
From out of nowhere a small oriental man approached the couple. "Nicole Morris, how nice it is to see you again; we were expecting Mr Morris here this evening."
Nikki smiled, "Hi Junya, no I am afraid he couldn't make it so you are stuck with us." She turned to the tall woman by her side, "Junya meet Tess, Tess this is Junya, his father owns this restaurant."
They shook hands, as Junya moved his vision back to the blonde, "So Nicole I am guessing you would like a spot in the usual area right?"
"You know me so well" Nikki chuckled, "As long as it is near the influx of moving food I will be happy."
The young man led them over to a spot by the long conveyer, luckily there were just two seats available; even for an early week night; the place was full. Tess sat down on a low back chair after Nikki had boosted herself up onto the other. The seats were round in shape and stationary, only turning in circular movements. Looking down at the conveyer, Tess watched the steady movement of brightly coloured foods as they passed her by.
Junya appeared by their side, "Would you like any drinks?"
Tess looked to the blonde, "Nik?"
"Just a water for me thank you."
The brunette nodded, "I'll have a tonic water with ice and lemon thanks."
The young man disappeared, leaving Tess looking down at the array of foods on offer. She watched as certain items passed her by, checking to see what looked raw and what looked cooked.
"So what do you think?" Nikki asked.
Tess frowned watching a particular piece of suspect fish pass her by, "I'll let you know later. So is all this stuff supposed to be good for you…personally I don't see how raw fish can be good for you."
Nikki rolled her eyes, "Tess, it isn't exactly the raw part, but the fish in itself, you know all that omega three fatty acids that's good for the heart, the bones, and of course the brain."
"You are not going to start lecturing me now on the benefits of healthy eating are you, I used to get enough of that from my mother. 'You have to stop eating ready meals and eat more fresh produce…" she imitated then smirked, "Do you think she meant fresh as in raw?"
The blonde shook her head, "You know if I could issue a glare at you right now I think I would."
Tess shrugged, "Anyway…" She looked over at the moving selection of foods on offer. "When do we eat? I am starving over here."
Junya re-appeared holding a try with the women's drinks and a selection of plates and bowls upon the surface. Holding the serving apparatus with one hand, he placed down the drinks followed by the crockery and eating implements. He smiled at the couple, "There you go Nicole, the chef has prepared your favourites tonight ohitashi, and inari."
Tess leaned to the side, "What's that?" She whispered.
Nikki grinned, "Ohitashi is boiled green vegetables in a sesame sauce, and inari is sushi and tofu cooked in a sweet soy sauce…my favourite."
The photographer looked along the conveyer, "Well damn it what are we waiting for? I am about ready to gnaw off my own fist here."
Nikki grinned in Junya's direction, "She's a little hungry." She stated with a chuckle.
They left the restaurant just before eleven o'clock, Tess sweating and red in the face, Nikki with an amused smirk still on her features. The brunette looked down at her lover, "You know it wasn't that funny."
"Am I still laughing?" Nikki asked, with a chuckle, "Oh okay maybe a little, but you can't blame me, it was funny."
"No it wasn't funny, it was blasted hot!"
The blonde hooked her arm tighter around the taller woman's, "Of course it was hot…it was wasabi, it's supposed to be hot."
"Well you could have warned me."
"Tess how was I supposed to know you don't go for hot foods, you seem to eat anything and anyway if I knew you were going to try it in the first place I could have warned you." She chuckled, "I was trying to talk you through the different items, but you were getting carried away with yourself." She let her head fall to the strong arm by her side, "So how are you feeling now…has your tongue stopped swelling." She grinned again, unable to help herself.
"Hmm." Tess looked down at the crown of blond hair, "Thank god for chilled lagers that's all I can say."
"Just a shame you had to grab the one that belong to that guy sitting next to you." Nikki snickered as she remembered the incident, Tess had gone through four drinks to try and get the taste and temperature out of her mouth. "Still if it makes you feel any better, the same thing happened to me the first time I tried wasabi, which is why I tend to stay away from it."
Standing at the curb, Tess waited for a break in the traffic so they could cross to the other side. She had parked the Blazer facing the restaurant, but on the other side of the road, and although it was getting quite late, there was still a generous flow of traffic. She laughed, "Well at least I am not the only one who has gotten a vocal cord scalding, curtsey of the MikiMoto."
Nikki sighed dramatically, "Nope, and can you believe it, before I first tried wasabi I used to have a really deep manly sounding voice."
The traffic cleared and Tess led the blonde across the road, "Hmm, I can actually."
"Oh you cheeky sod."
Tess chuckled, "Just getting you back for laughing at me in there."
"I didn't laugh while you were going through your consumption of liquid products though," Nikki stated, "It wasn't funny until you told Junya that if you'd had wanted 'hot flushes and a mouth full of searing liquids you would have stayed at home'."
The photographer snickered, "At least he didn't get it."
"I'm glad he didn't." Nikki pulled her arm from Tess as they reached the car and the tall woman unlocked the doors. She climbed into the passengers' side and waited as Tess took her place behind the wheel. "Unfortunately the man beside you understood that statement completely."
Tess laughed out loud, "Yeah I guess that's why he started choking on that temaki thing." Pushing the key into the ignition, Tess pulled out into the road, and headed home.
She had recognised the dark green Blazer parked on the side of the road, mainly by accident. Having gone to close the curtains of her hotel room, Rosalind's eyes caught the familiar looking vehicle and on closer inspection of the number plate, confirmed it did indeed belong to Tess Alexander. It seemed only obvious that her eldest daughter would have been with the photographer and as her constant vigil continued she eventually spotted the couple exiting the MikiMoto a couple of minutes before eleven o'clock.
Rosalind watched them make their way towards the green vehicle, noting their close proximity. She scowled at the happy look on both faces, knowing it wouldn't last much longer. Soon they would all be aware of her return to the city, and with the help of her new ally, Nikki would discover the true nature of Tess Alexander.
End of chapter 5