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
Looking through the viewfinder of her camera, Tess studied the family coming into focus. Father, mother and two pre-teenage sons. She narrowed her eyes as she witness the elder of the two boys Michael, stick his tongue out at her. He had been doing that all through the shoot and she had been hard pressed to get many decent shots, especially with the two brothers working together. It seemed that every time their parents attention turned to the camera, they would pull faces, stick out their tongues and at one point give her the finger.
Internally the photographer shook her head, knowing exactly why that poor defenceless guinea pig had bitten the youngest of the brothers, Fredric. She guessed that was what happened when you tried to stick pencils in places that weren't meant to be touched. Fredric had been made to keep his gnawed finger hidden for the shoot, but he still managed to produce it in time to ruin one of Tess's pictures with a nice shot of him holding up his middle finger and smiling proudly. The brunette sighed, oh how she wished she were still in bed this morning; still if all went well and the rightly named Michael and Freddy would just behave for a few more minutes, she would be finished and back home for eleven o'clock.
Tess poked her head above the camera and looked at the grinning Freddy, I wonder whether he has the stripy orange sweater yet? She thought and grinned to herself, causing the eldest brother with the two missing front teeth to stare at her in suspicion. Tess noticed the look, and hid her face back behind the camera hiding her smile. She usually had a way with the people she was shooting, able to bring out best in them, make them laugh with strange stories and knowingly lame jokes. But with this sitting she was having no luck. It seemed the parents were aware of the boys' typical behaviour and seemed more focused on hoping the shoot went well than actually getting involved. Still the photographer had to be patient, she was formulating a plan and if all went accordingly, she would soon have these two tear-aways eating out of her hands.
Frowning, the tall woman backed away from the camera, "Excuse me a moment Mr and Mrs Simpson, I need to go grab another film." And with that she quickly escaped to her office. Picking up the phone the brunette dialled the front desk and Jason answered the phone. "Good Morning Snap Shots, this is Jason speaking how can I help you?"
"Jase, it's me…can you do me a fake card check and I need it now, got it?"
There was a muted snigger, "Yep no probs Tess, give me one minute."
"Thanks." She placed down the receiver and walked back into the studio. "Sorry about that I wanted to make sure I had enough of a certain type of film." She approached the family, seeing the toothless grin on the eldest boys face. "So shall we get back to it, oh and will you be wanting some pictures of the boys together?"
Husband and wife looked at each other wearily, "Um I don't know…it would be nice?" The woman said quietly, "But I don't know how the boys will feel about that, they are not big on getting their pictures taken." She said.
Tess nodded, Uh huh, well they better get used to it because in a few years they will be sitting for their mug shots! she thought and just managed to keep the smirk from her face. As the brunette approached the camera there was a sudden knock at the door, and she shouted for the ‘unknown' person to enter.
Jason appeared in the doorway looking a little perplexed. "Um, Mr and Mrs Simpson, I just tried to get validation on your card for those frames you wanted to purchase but it seems it has been denied."
The couple looked at each other, "That is impossible," said the husband, "Are you sure?" Asked the wife.
Jason shrugged, "As far as I know…I could try again."
The woman got up, "Yes please, I don't understand how it could be refused."
"If you would like to go and check, I can wait…you are my only booking this morning so I am in no rush," said Tess.
Husband and wife nodded, "If you don't mind?"
Tess smiled sweetly, looking in the boys' direction, "No go ahead…we will be fine here wont we guys?"
After casting a nervous glance at the two boys, both parents left the studio.
Silence reigned for a few seconds as the remaining occupants of the room sized up their opponents. Tess stood tall, folding her arms, while the two boys looked at each other with nervous expressions. It seemed that all of a sudden the tall photographer looked a little on the intimidating side.
Pursing her lips, Tess approached the little horrors with a blank expression. Once they were inches apart, she stopped and looked down upon the seated brothers, with an arched brow. She smiled sweetly, moved to a kneeling position and cleared her throat. "I bet it really hurt when your guinea pig, what was his name…" she grinned, "Oh yeah…Tinkerbell, bit you?"
"No." Replied Freddy.
"Uh huh." Tess let her arms fall to her lap and switched her look between the two boys; she narrowed her eyes in thought. "You know…I really don't like it when people make faces while I am trying to take pictures, it makes me a little annoyed, and kind of makes my job a little harder to do, you know!"
The brothers shrugged smugly.
The brunette frowned in thought, "Hmm…trouble is that when I get annoyed, it's not a pretty sight, I tend to lose my patience if you know what I mean."
Michael rolled his eyes, "You can't touch us…were kids and you are a grown up, you would get done by the police. I would tell on you."
"Oh you would huh…" She rocked back onto her heals deciding on a slightly different tactic. Getting up Tess walked over to her door and leaned against the frame. She looked at the dent still in the hardwood, "See that there." She nodded towards the indentation, "That hole."
"Yeah?" Both boys said in unison.
"Well that is what happened the last time somebody made me angry." She pulled her hand into a fist and placed the appendage into the dent, fitting it together like a jigsaw. "See?"
"So what, you hit the door…wow," Freddy said sarcastically.
Tess shook her head; "No I hit the door because the person that made me angry wasn't here at the time. You two are here…just you and me, it's like Tinkerbell…you annoyed him and he bit you. You see that's the thing guys, you play up too much, annoy somebody for too long…and eventually they will bite back."
There was silence as comprehension dawned on the brothers. Tess made her way back to the camera when she heard the parents approach. They entered the studio, and after an apology for the interruption, an explanation that it had been a misunderstanding and comment on how quiet the boys had been, Tess carried on taking their pictures. The rest of the shoot went off without a hitch.
She had wanted a few moments of peace and quiet, a little piece of solitude in order to observe her own thoughts, to bask in the calm stillness of this cool spring morning and allow her mind to wander.
Nikki reclined on the back of the shallow stream, her naked feet hanging over the dirt ditch, just touching the cool water below. She had put on a pair of cropped trousers that morning, and although it wasn't intentional, they were indeed a good choice. Hanging just below her knees, they were well out of the waters reach. Nikki was surprised by the relatively warm temperature of the atmosphere, and had decided on a short tee shirt with sweater that she had wrapped around her waist.
Leto sat by the blondes' right side, idly looking out over the fields at the front of the house. It was Leto who had decided to follow the blonde outside, and although Nikki hadn't considered it at the time, she always welcomed the golden dogs reassuring presence. Leto seemed to understand her, and as unexpected as it had been, she was a natural guide. With a sigh the dog fell to her stomach, conveniently placing herself by Nikki's removed shoes and of course…socks. Nikki let her hand fall to the golden dogs head and gently stroked the soft fur, "Don't you go getting any ideas about my socks there ‘tow tow'." Leto rolled onto her side, closing her eyes in contentment.
Nikki smiled and pushed herself forward slightly, letting her feet lower further into the water where she moved them through the gentle current. She was happy for these few moments of tranquillity. Sam had arrived on time that morning and was already set on clearing away the empty boxes in the house, Janie had arrived an hour later and was busy cleaning out the stable. She had things to do herself; in fact there was a whole mental list of things for her to be getting on with, but for the moment she was content to do nothing at this precise moment in time.
Running the fingers of her right hand through Leto's soft fur, Nikki wandered in thought. Tonight was going to be big. Many artists from all around the country were going to be at the gallery this evening, either showing off their works whether it be photographic, painting, or sculptures; or just viewing them. Tess had even told her there would be one artist whose flair was fresco and that was something she would have loved to feel. Apart from Tess there were three other photographers there this evening, all male. In fact the more Nikki thought about it the more she realised that there were only two female artists attending this evening, Tess being one of them.
Nikki leaned back onto her one free hand, tilting her head towards the sky and letting the gentle breeze flow over her features. She took in a deep breath, as her heightened senses caught the familiar sound of an approaching vehicle…Tess's. With a smile, she pushed herself forward and waited as the Blazer rolled gently over the bridge. Beside her Leto rose to her feet, tail wagging in anticipation as she waited for her master approach. "I guess Tess is home hey ‘tow tow'?" The dog barked excitedly as Tess opened the door to her Blazer and stepped out onto the driveway. Nikki chuckled, "Oh go on then, go and greet her before you just burst with excitement." At her words Leto took off towards her master.
Tess laughed and prepared herself for the impact as Leto hurled herself into her masters' stomach. The golden hound hurtled towards the brunette and threw her small muscular form into the tall woman, knocking her slightly, but Tess still managed to keep on her feet. "Hey there ‘tow tow' I have only been gone for a couple of hours." Leaning down Tess allowed the dog a few more moments of excitement before standing back up and issuing an order to calm herself. Leto did as ordered and stopped her insistent quest to cover as much of the photographer as she could with her tongue. With a satisfied nod, Tess moved past the dog and walked up behind Nikki. Kneeling down she placed her arms around the smaller woman and kissed her right cheek.
"You are earlier than I expected." Nikki said with a smile.
"Hmm…thought I would come and spend some time with you. So what are you doing?" She asked as she placed her chin on Nikki's right shoulder and looked down into the trickling river below.
"Thinking, enjoying some peace and quiet," she grinned, "Trying to get out of doing all the chores I have."
"Want help now that I'm here?"
Nikki shook her head as she let it fall back to the photographer shoulder. "Actually no…I have a suggestion, if you are game though."
Tess arched her eyebrows as she turned to Nikki, feeling the soft strands of the blondes hair tickle her cheek, "Oh sounds fun, do tell."
"I was wondering…well actually it was one of the things I intended to do today probably with Janie, but now that you are here I was thinking maybe you would like to come with me?"
The tall woman frowned, "You know you just asked me to do whatever you are intending on doing, without even asking me."
The blonde bit her lip, "Um…come riding with me? I want to take Thunder out for some exercise around the boundaries. Would you come with me? We can walk him for a while, ride if you are willing but I really want to take him out." Nikki internally crossed her fingers. She knew how Tess felt about getting up on a horse, but hoped her lover would trust her enough to know that she would be in experienced hands.
Sucking on her bottom lip Tess frowned, "I err…um…" she nodded, "If you want me to go with you…then of course."
A wide smile, "Really?"
"I'll admit that I will be a little cautious, but I trust you Nikki so of course I will go with you…however much I may grouse about the thought of getting on a horse, there is a part of me that really wants to try it."
Nikki turned and put her arms around Tess, "Great…trust me this will be wonderful, it really is a great experience." She pulled away, her hands cupping Tess's cheeks, "You ready to do it now?"
"No time like the present." Tess leaned forward and kissed the blondes lips once, "But let me just go and get changed, I don't think riding in my work clothes will be a very wise move."
"Okay." Nikki moved to the side, climbing from Tess's lap and rising to her feet. "You go and get changed while I get Thunder saddled and ready to go."
Tess got to her feet, then leaned down and picked up Nikki's cane, taking the blondes hand and placing it within her grasp. "Lets go," she said, and together they made their way to the house. Walking across the gravelled driveway Nikki hooked her arm around Tess's with a smile as the taller woman looked down at her, "What are you grinning at Miss Morris?"
Nikki shrugged as Tess pushed open the front door and guided her into the house, "Just happy you are coming with me."
The photographer smirked, "Hmm…well just remember I am putting my life in your hands here." Nikki rolled her eyes, "Hey don't give me that look."
"Fine." The blonde pulled away and headed towards the kitchen as Tess approached the stairs, "You go and put on your protective body armour, and I'll saddle Thunder."
Sniggering as she mounted the stairs, Tess pulled off her jacket, "Protective body armour," she chuckled, "Smart arse."
"I HEARD THAT!"
Tess stopped and looked back bemused, "That's my line."
Moving through a crop of high bushes, Bradley White stopped as Riverside Farm came into view. Squinting in the sunlight, he scanned the house and surrounding area. He took off again, moving to the side for a better view but in no way closer to the building. In the distance he spotted the small golden dog running around the houses left side. It stopped, moving around the ground as it detected a familiar scent, before taking off again and disappearing to the houses rear.
Crouching in the thick undergrowth Bradley pulled a small pocket size pair of binoculars from his jacket. Placing them before his eyes, he twisted the eyepiece into focus and obtained a closer look at the house. He saw a young woman probably early twenties; standing outside a large outer building that he presumed was the stables where CJ delivered the horses. He observed the girl as she turned, obviously hearing something, and watched as the blonde woman approached her. With a sneer, he pulled the binoculars away from his face and simply watched.
Janie turned at the sound of her boss's voice, and smiled as the blonde approached. She had been expecting her, knowing Nikki intended on taking Thunder out for some exercise this afternoon; she wondered whether she would be required to go with her.
"How's Jenna and Jasper doing?" Nikki asked as she approached the young woman.
The mousy haired girl placed the brush she was holding by the side of the brick structure, "Mare and foal appear to be doing just fine…Jasper is feeding well, and trotting around the stable happily."
"Good." Nikki stopped by the stable door; "I am going to take Thunder out for some exercise…Tess is coming with me."
"Okay," she didn't realise Tess had returned from work, "Do you want me to saddle him?"
Nikki shook her head, "I can do that…I love preparing the horses for riding." She entered the stable, Janie following directly behind.
"Do you want me to fetch everything from the tack room?"
"Yes please, thank you Janie."
The young woman went off as Nikki moved further into the room. "So Thunder are you ready to come out with Tess and me?" Thunder trotted into the centre of the barn, approaching the blonde then nuzzled her neck. "Hey baby," she pushed her free hand over the horses' head, "Are you ready for our excursion?" Thunder nickered softly causing Nikki to smile.
"Okay…are we ready to go?" Tess entered the stable arms out wide in expectation. After Nikki's joke about body armour, Tess had taken the statement seriously. She had donned a pair of black steel toecap boots, her thickest pair of jeans over Lycra gym sweats. All topped off with three tee shirts, a sweatshirt and her thick denim jacket…and still she wanted more.
Nikki approached her lover, "We sure are, just as soon as we saddle Thunder." She put her hand on Tess's arm and frowned as her hand moved over the photographers body, "Tess what are you wearing?"
"Your entire wardrobe?" The blonde asked incredulously as she felt the density of her garments.
Hands landed on padded hips, "No…just a couple of layers…it's cold out."
She sighed, "Alright fine, I'm being precautious."
Nikki snorted as her hands travelled over the tall woman's body taking on the extra layers of clothing. She bent down feeling Tess's legs, "Jeans and something underneath? Patting the woman's knees she frowned, "Are they your roller-blading knee pads?" She felt lower, "Steel cap boots." Nikki shook her head as she righted herself and allowed one of her hands to run through Tess's hair.
"Just seeing whether you had on that construction helmet you own as well."
"No!" She paused, "I figured you would have the protective head gear."
Wrapping her arms around the taller woman, Nikki let her head fall to the woman's chest, "Oh…don't worry I'll look after you." She lifted up onto her toes kissing the photographers chin before pulling away, hearing the sound of approaching footsteps outside.
Janie entered the stable loaded down with Thunders tack. Tess noticed the girls discomfort and moved to release her of some of the burden. "Nice to see you again Janie." The photographer stated as she took the large leather saddle out of the girls arms.
"You too Miss Alexander."
"Ugh" Tess growled, "Call me Tess please."
Janie placed the remaining tack on a side bench, "Okay Tess." She smiled and looked towards the blonde "If you don't need me for anything else, I shall get on with cleaning out the other side of the stable."
"Sure Janie go ahead, Tess and I can handle this."
The stable hand wandered off into the back of the building as Nikki rubbed her hand together, "Right then ‘Evel Tessa Knievel', lets get Thunder saddled shall we?"
Scowling Tess picked up the saddle, "Lead on oh wise assed one."
With practiced hands Nikki tightened the girth, then checked the saddle, "Hmm I think that just about does it."
Not knowing what to do Tess fussed around the horse, "Are you sure they are all on tight?" She circled the large creature checking every nook and cranny; not that she knew what she was looking for.
The blonde straightened herself with an exasperated look, "Tess…trust me, I do know what I am doing, and yes everything is safe and secure."
"Okay…I trust you." Tess smiled with thin lips as she studied the large black stallion, "It's him that I am a little wary of." She took a step towards Thunder, looking him squarely in the eyes, "Just so you know horsey, I have never ridden before so I am hoping you will be gentle with me." Thunder nickered and nuzzled the photographers' cheek. "Is this a good sign?" she asked with uncertainty.
Nikki smiled as she took Thunder reigns and began to lead him out the stable, "Hey if he comes near you, he likes you…if he really didn't like you, you would know."
"Do you really want to know?"
Tess thought for a while as she exited the building, "Actually no…I think I would prefer not to."
Nikki nodded, "Wise choice."
The sky was littered with an array of peculiar shaped white clouds, floating swiftly through the breezy mid morning sky. The sun was out, shining brightly over the grassy lands, but its rays were constantly interrupted by the overshadowing presence of wispy billowing vapours.
Tess approached the gate that led into the first field and pulled it open, allowing Nikki and Thunder to pass through. She then entered the field herself, securely shutting the gate behind her and looked out over the surrounding area. They had entered the smallest field, which Nikki intended on being a paddock for the horses; there was another slightly larger field just beyond this one that she wanted to use for the horses exercise as well. The women walked together quietly, peacefully enjoying the tranquil sounds of the countryside, the distant sound of the trickling stream, birds singing in the multitude of sporadically situated trees. High above, a jet aircrafts thunderous engines echoed throughout the sky.
Nikki sighed in content bliss. This was where she felt most at home, out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the comforting sounds of nature. Holding Thunders reigns in one hand and Tess's in the other, the tall woman led her to the outer edges of their land. Beyond that was the general countryside, and a lake where small wooden boats were moored around the edges, their painted shallow structures faded and peeling, showing their age. Tess looked out over the lake spotting the ‘no fishing' signs around the boundaries. "Maybe one day we could go out on that lake over there."
"Hmm…what lake?" Asked the blonde.
Tess nodded in its direction, "Over to our right, there is a small lake with some old boats around the edges. Not big ones really, slightly larger than canoes, but the same kind of shape."
"That would be nice." Nikki answered lightly, enjoying the feeling of solitude in the wide-open space of her rural surroundings.
They were quiet once again, and as Tess closed the last gate to their own land, she looked out upon the open space beyond. To their left was a densely populated forest but she really didn't think Nikki would take her riding in there; it seemed much too precarious for her first time on a horse. Instead Nikki headed towards the lake.
"I want to sit by the water for a while," she stated, putting her arm around the brunettes and leading her in its general direction. She began to hear the gentle splash of water as a family of ducks glided over its rippled surface. "It sounds like we are not the only ones out here toady!"
The brunette looked out across the water, "Mmm hmm, there's some ducks out there; a big one that looks like the mother, and four," she frowned and looked closer, "no five babies swimming behind."
"Do you think they will mind the intrusion?"
Tess shrugged, "Probably not, though if we had some bread they would probably welcome us with open arms…or um wings."
Nikki smirked, "Uh huh!"
Once reaching the lake, Nikki turned to Thunder and patted the large horses neck lightly, "Okay boy, I am going to let you wander freely around here for a while okay?" The stallion nickered and Nikki grinned, "Good boy…don't go too far…and come when I whistle." She released the reigns and allowed him to stroll around the shore of the lake.
Tess looked down at the blonde, "Will he actually do that?"
"Come when you whistle?"
Nikki shrugged, "It's a talent in training, he comes when I call him but I wondered the other day whether he would come when I whistled, so far it has not worked…I don't think he likes being liken to a dog. He probably saw Leto come when you whistle her and decided that was more the trick of a lowly hound."
"Lowly!" Tess asked incredulously.
"Hey I am just thinking in horsey terms now, and Leto's difference in size etcetera, I mean Thunder is taller than you…even I used to wonder how I managed to get up on him."
The photographer looked down at Nikki's legs, "Hmm…I have no idea." She grinned lecherously then cleared her throat, looking away to the gentle lapping of the lake. "Do you want to sit?" she pulled off her jacket instinctively and lay it upon the ground. With the amount of layers she was wearing, in no way would she feel any sort of chill outside today anyway.
"Oh such graciousness." Nikki gushed with a smirk as she heard the photographers' antics, and lowered herself to the denim-covered ground. Taking in a lung full of cool fresh air Nikki sighed, closing her eyes and lowering herself to lay fully upon the grassy surface. "Ah this is pure bliss."
With a bemused expression Tess plonked herself next to the blonde and looked across the water. The family of ducks seemed to be taking an interest in the new arrivals, probably wondering whether we have any food, Tess thought.
Lacing dainty fingers behind her head, Nikki turned her head towards Tess, "Are you nervous about tonight?"
"Tess, you know you can't hide your feelings from me."
A slight sigh, "Oh okay…maybe a little, it's a big night Nik and there are going to be quite a few influential people there." She turned her eyes to the wispy sky in thought, "You know I just realised something."
Reaching over Tess rubbed her palm against the blondes stomach, "This will be our first time out together…as a couple I mean."
Nikki bit her lip as a sudden feeling of uncertainty inched its way into her mind, "Does that bother you? I mean especially when all these people are going to be there." She paused, "You…do still want me to go don't you?"
Tess turned suddenly and looked down at the reclined blonde, "Nik, of course I still want you with me…jeez…I was just making an observation that's all." She frowned, "Why would you think that?"
Rising to a sitting position the blonde shrugged, "You once told me that Andrew Spencer used to have feelings for you…in the eyes of a lot of people, you two would make a much more acceptable match than us, especially with you being in the public eye."
Tess snorted, "Nik this is England," she chuckled wryly, "This would just be considered another facet to my ‘enigmatic' personality I guess." She sighed, "Besides, I can't wait for them all to see the most stunning looking woman there tonight on my arm." The blonde blushed, lowering her head but it was pulled back by gentle fingers, "What have I told you about that hmm?"
A frown, "Do you mean that?"
"What?" Jade eyes searched the heart shaped face confused.
"That I am ‘stunning'?"
With gentleness, Tess lifted up and straddled the smaller woman's legs, making sure to brace her weight on her own limbs. She cupped Nikki's face, "Nik you are gorgeous. I know it maybe hard in a way for you to understand physical beauty when for you, it comes through in personality… which by the way still makes me wonder why you liked me in the first place." She chuckled, "But as I was saying before I rudely interrupted myself, everyone has different ideas of the ideal beauty, and to me…that is you." God if only you knew how much.
There was a tiny smile "Tess, I was attracted to you from the onset because I could see through that unapproachable exterior of yours…it was like I felt the person that was inside." She poked her index finger into the photographers' chest, "This person…the one that I wake up with every day, that cares for others much more than she herself would care to admit, and the one that lays her jacket down on the ground so I don't get a damp back side!"
Tess laughed and leaned forward sealing her lips with Nikki's and kissing her softly. She pulled back and looked into sightless sky-blue eyes with wonderment, "Ugh, we better stop this before I start getting all mushy on you."
"Ready for your first riding experience then?" Nikki asked.
"On second thought." Leaning forward the photographer sealed her lips with Nikki's as she pushed her back towards the grass. They kissed for some minutes, until both women pulled away for the mutual need of air. "Hmm, seems I like the mushy stuff after all."
Nikki pushed her hands across the body above her, "You wouldn't be trying to stall would you Miss Tess?"
Tess became a picture of innocence, "Moi…why of course not," she said as her right hand started a journey across the woman's chest, "What would make you think such a thing?"
"Because…" Nikki gasped as the roaming hand reached its intended destination, "One, I know you; two, you couldn't play innocent even if you tried, and anyway…there is still the journey back to consider so no matter what you have in mind…either way…I still win." She smiled, trying to ignore the growing need within.
Tess's head paused millimetres from its intended target, "Damn." She sighed, "Well then I guess I am just going to have to make the most of this aren't I?"
"Be my guest." Nikki groaned as the dark head completed its journey.
The sound of a shrill, high-pitched whistle shattered the peaceful calm. Tess grimaced and placed her finger in her ear, wiggling it around as she tried to ease the sudden popping sensation. She looked at Nikki accusingly, "Damn it do you have to be so loud, I think you just burst my ear drum."
Nikki rolled her eyes and listened, "He isn't coming is he." She sighed and tried again, placing the middle and index fingers of both hands into her mouth and blowing harshly.
Tess's face scrunched as she pulled away, "Whoa, you have some mega lungs on you there blondie."
Nikki raised her hand and listened, there was no sign of Thunder. Feeling a little nervous she called out, "Thunder come on boy." There was nothing and Tess looked around the fields with a frown.
"Thunder come on, time for home." There was still no sign of the stallion and the nervousness within her grew.
Tess looked at Nikki concerned, "Shouldn't he be here by now?"
Nikki nodded, "Yes. THUNDER…COME ON BOY." She shouted as loud as she could through cupped hands to enhance her volume. Nikki listened intently as Tess scanned the horizon. "What if something's happened, what if somebody's got him…THUNDER?"
Tess frowned, "There isn't anybody out here Nik."
"Well what if…" Nikki paused and tilted her head to the right, she smiled, "Oh good here he comes."
Looking up the photographer saw the black stallion emerging from the forest; she breathed an internal sigh of relief. "He had me worried there for a moment!"
Nikki let her head fall to her hands, "For a while there I had this awful feeling," came the muffled response, "I thought something had happened."
Tess watched as the horse trotted happily over to the blonde and nuzzled her cheek, she shook her head, "Thunder, you ever do that again and one of us may just have a break down." She sucked in a deep breath, "So that was a bit of excitement huh…I think a nice calming walk would do us all the world of good." She looked towards Nikki, "Don't you agree?"
Tongue in cheek, Nikki snickered, "Tessa Josephine Alexander!"
The photographer scowled, her eyes glaring with hidden mirth at the blonde.
"I cannot believe you would try and get out of this, especially after all the time you put into padding your body with as much layers of clothing as possible." She scratched her nose, hiding the smile behind a conveniently placed hand. "Trust me Tess, you will love this."
Twisting the toe of her booted right foot, Tess kicked the grassy earth, "Aww…okay, come on then." She sighed dramatically.
Nikki clapped her hands, "Excellent."
Sucking on her bottom lip, Tess's eyes narrowed as she studied the large stallion. Standing at Thunders left side, she folded her arms as Nikki checked over the fastenings, securing the girth one more time, just for the brunettes' own peace of mind.
"Okay." Nikki stepped back, "We are all set."
"Are you sure?"
A sigh, "Yes!"
Nodding, Tess blew out a forced nervous breath, "Right, lets get to it."
Giving an affirmed nod, the blonde stood by Thunder. "Okay, now listen. I am going to hold onto Thunder and I want you to get up on him first." At Tess's high pitched ‘what' Nikki continued, "Look, all you have to do is put your left foot in the stirrup and lift yourself up and into the saddle, taking hold of the pommel. I will hold Thunder to keep him still, trust me Tess you will be fine."
Arms hanging limply by her side, capable hands clenched and unclenched repeatedly. Tess stared at the stallion and took a breath of courage, feeling her heart flutter in her chest. Was that excitement? She shook her head, "Right." Stepping forward the photographer braced her foot in the stirrup. She closed her eyes, Okay Tess girl, here we go…one…two…three "Oh shit!" She exclaimed as she vaulted up into the saddle, hand grabbing a firm hold of the sturdy pommel.
"How do you feel?" Nikki asked from beside Thunder.
"Okay, um are you getting
up here now?"
"Uh huh." Nikki moved herself to the stallion's side and placed her foot in the stirrup, lifting herself up onto Thunder, easily and efficiently. She landed behind the photographer. "Feel okay?"
Tess held the pommel securely, squinting forward through one eye, unmoving. Taking a deep breath she opened her other eye and took another deep breath, "Um, yeah…I feel okay."
"Ready to go?"
Nikki smiled, "Of course."
With her heel Nikki urged the stallion into a gentle gait. In one hand she held Thunders reigns, keeping her other arm wrapped securely round Tess's waist. "Remember to keep your eyes open Tess, I may be controlling Thunder, but you are my guide."
Tess nodded, "Sure."
She held on to the pommel with a strong grip, but as their slow pace continued, Tess's confidence grew. She began to relax in her surroundings and sighed at the comfortable feeling of closeness she was able to share with the blonde behind. Leaning into the body behind, Tess's mind began to unwind, and aided by the gentle sway of Thunders pace she drifted in random contemplation. Pleasant memories and feelings came to mind, and she smiled in thought. However, she soon lost that smile as a specific person came to mind. Rosalind. Nikki had seemed positive that her mother was back in town, and as far as she was concerned that meant trouble. The photographer didn't want to express to her lover just how much contempt she had for the woman, and had done so much as to try and find explanations for Rosa's behaviour. Nikki had been hurt too much already, hurt by a mother who seems ashamed of her daughters' disability. A woman who had done so much as to put her two year old daughter through a serious operation just because she was displeased with the prospect of a daughter with one eye. Anger seethed through the woman and she held a little tighter to the pommel, her fingers digging into the hard leather.
"Hey! What's wrong?"
Tess blinked, becoming aware of her surroundings, "Hmm?"
"What are you thinking about?" Nikki asked sensing the taller woman's sudden agitation.
"Oh um." She thought quickly, Hell…to lie or not to lie…damn it I can't do that to her, Tess swallowed, "Um, I was just thinking about everything that has happened over the past months."
"My mother!" The blonde stated; it was not a question.
She nodded, "Yeah…I'm sorry Nik, I know you could sense my anger."
A shrug, "I know." Leaning forward Nikki rested her head on Tess's back. "We are not going to let this bother us remember…whatever she has in mind we will face it together." She smiled, "Besides this is supposed to be a nice relaxing day, you're not allowed to think broody thoughts today."
Tess smirked, "Oh is that right?"
"Uh huh, I know you feel more anger to my mother than you will admit Tess, and I think I can understand your feelings, but I wont let what she says or does affect me anymore. If I do, I will never move on."
Tess smiled, "You are right…"
She rolled her eyes, "As I was saying…you are right, we have our own lives to live, and I will not let anybody change that."
Nikki nodded with a contented sigh and Thunder increased his gait a little. "How are you doing?" When she first felt the tension slipping into Tess's body, she had thought it was nervousness brought on by her current position, but as the tension turned to ire, she realised that wasn't the case, and in a way was glad. Now she could feel the relaxed state Tess emitted and was happy; she knew she would enjoy this.
"I'm doing fine." Tess replied, feeling an ounce of shock at her own statement…she really was quite comfortable.
"And that surprises you?"
"That I am having fun on a horse…too right."
A sudden laugh, "Tess did you really think horses were that bad?"
Tess bit her lip, "Well no offence Nik, but before I met you, I wouldn't have given one the time of day…or you know, any consideration or acknowledgement of any kind."
"And now…you have introduced a whole new experience to me, one that I am actually enjoying very much!"
Nikki laughed, "Again that element of surprise in your voice." She paused as a mischievous smirk cornered her mouth, "So…do you fancy going for a light trot?"
Tess looked down, "Huh? A light trot as in speeding up a little…um no thank you, with this being my first time I am quite happy just to move at this safe pace."
"Whatever you feel most comfortable with." The blonde stated and leaned into Tess's, content to move at this leisurely pace if it meant spending longer with lover'.
It was one of the best rooms of course, and although The Carnwood Hotel was only five floors high, it definitely was the most prestigious in town. Each room decorated with a certain regal air, it was the lodgings of choice for many important visitors to the city. It was a combination of these facts that obviously drew Rosalind to reside there, and thanks to a naïve young girl on reception, she had been able to sign in under an assumed name.
Though the room was occupied, to an outsider it would appear that it was in fact vacant. The plush double bed was immaculately made, tucked and folded rigidly in each corner. The light green carpet showed not a scuff nor indentation that anyone was using the room at all. All the furniture, comprising of one wardrobe, a chest of drawers and bedside table, were all completely clear, free from dust or any every day objects that would prove the room did indeed have an occupant. The silence was palpable, and if it weren't for the slight form of the small middle-aged woman sitting in a large chair by the far corner…you would think the suite empty.
Rosalind looked at her watch; it had only just gone midday. She sighed and pulled her attention back to staring at the elaborate print of the of the hotel rooms wallpaper. There was just less than seven hours to go, so with nothing left to do, she waited. Constantly going over the plans in her head, a smile formed as she devised her reprisal; one way or another she would get back what was rightfully hers…and if that meant her eldest daughter had to be part and parcel of that…then so be it.
The black stallion came into view, Tess strolling causally by its side as she opened and closed the gates to each part of land they entered. Nikki sat high atop Thunder, enjoying the feel of riding one of her favourite horses… of course she did have three now! They had made it back in good time, as Sam had informed Tess before she left that she would have lunch prepared for them by one o'clock, and Nikki was ‘starving'.
As they entered the paddock, Nikki felt a shudder of discomfort run through her. She frowned, recognising the same disconcerting feeling of being watched…again. It was cold, constricting and down right scary. Leaning slightly forward in the saddle Nikki moved towards the photographer, "Tess?"
"I know," the brunette replied, "I feel it too."
"You do?" She asked; her fear escalating giving credence to her perceptions that she had hoped was nothing more than Tess's explanation of a ‘dÈjà vu type feeling'.
"Yes." Green eyes scanned the surrounding area with caution. "I can't explain it Nikki, but I sensed a change in you then all of a sudden I felt like we are being watched." She frowned, "It's a strange feeling though, almost like I recognise or am familiar with where it's coming from."
Nikki stopped Thunders gait and swung her leg over the large horse sliding to the ground beside Tess; taking the woman's hand as soon as she was able. "Can you see anything?"
Looking all around her Tess took in the distant forest, expanse of fields, the emerging house and stables, and bordering bushes. She paused suddenly, something catching her eyes.
"What is it?" Nikki asked sensing the change in her lover.
Looking harder she saw it again, a flash of light, liken to sunlight glinting of a shiny object. It was sudden, brief and if Tess had at that moment she would surely have missed it. But she didn't miss it, it was there and whatever it happened to be, it was pointed in their direction.
"I don't know Nik, but it looked like sunlight reflecting of a foreign object in the bushes." Tess stood her ground, looking across the field and into the over growth of shrubbery, but she no longer saw it. No flash of light, no shining objects and no movement to indicate any sort of presence whatsoever. She sighed, her eyebrows drawing together as she turned away. "Whatever it was, I can't see anything now. Maybe I should go and take a closer…"
"No!" Nikki said suddenly, "Please don't go over there."
Tess looked over at the bushes one more time, then down to the heart shaped face so full of concern, "Okay…I won't." She rubbed her forehead, ironing out the creases of uncertainty, "But what if there was somebody out there Nik?"
"I don't know." A trembling hand took a hold of Tess's right arm, "But I just didn't want you to go over there Tess."
Tess's mind pounded with indecision. This time she felt it, whatever this feeling was that had disturbed the blonde had worked its way into her consciousness. Usually her skeptical mind would insist that it was her emotions towards Nikki that had felt an empathetic response. But the fact that she had felt it before Nikki had even spoken, forced her be believe that was not the case. Putting her arm around slender shoulders, she pulled Nikki in close as they made their way back towards the house.
Once more she looked back, her vision intently poised on the tangled branches of the overgrown bushes. But there was nothing, no glint of sunlight hitting a reflective surface, no ounce of movement or presence at all. Sucking on her bottom lip, she turned her vision back towards the house and led Nikki and Thunder to the stables.
He had watched them return, sitting quietly in the bushes he was quick to spot the two women make their way back from wherever they had been. The brunette walking idly by the black horses right side, the blonde…sitting confidently on top. They seemed strangely content to be lost in their own thoughts, and then unexpectedly it happened. With a shift the mood changed, and suddenly both women seemed alert…almost as though they were aware of his presence. Bradley had stared through his binoculars with an interest that soon vanished as the tall brunette look straight in his direction. He had pulled the object away suddenly, feeling a certain amount of shock and confusion as to why they would seem aware of his presence.
Then he watched from a distance, aware that his binoculars my indeed be signaling his position, he kept still. Watching as the taller of the two women stared intently in his direction; then seemed to make a move to get closer. At that point he had on impulse pulled the knife out of his pocket and readied himself. But it seemed that the blonde had held her back, and he breathed an internal sigh of relief. He wasn't ready for them yet. So keeping as still as possible Bradley watched as they completed their journey back towards the stables and disappeared from sight. Once he felt the coast was clear, he backed his way out of the undergrowth and disappeared from hidden sight.
They had returned home, both feeling a little subdued and lacking the appetite they had originally gained. Nikki entered the house, working her way through the lower floor until she reached the stairs, where she ascended the wooden structure and disappeared into their bedroom.
Tess made her way to the kitchen, knowing that was where she could hear Sam; she wanted to speak to the housekeeper. Entering the large area, Tess found Sam with her nose buried deep in a large book, "Something interesting?" She asked.
Sam jumped and looked up from the book, hand on heart, "Oh for crying out loud, you just scared the life out of me."
Tess smiled apologetically, "Sorry!"
Putting the book down Sam shrugged, "I was just looking through one of these cook books." She tapped the rigid cover, "Nikki led me to believe that it didn't belong to you though." She smiled
"They publish books on how to cook?" Tess joked with faux surprise.
Sam arched her eyebrows, "Uh huh…which is why I presume you have a wide variety of frozen ready meals in that fridge of yours." She looked behind the taller woman, "Nikki still in the stables?"
"Ah!" Tess shook her head, "Actually no, she has gone up stairs to get changed…and while she is gone I was wondering whether I could ask you a question Sam."
"I was just wondering…being as though you have lived here for some years now…I was wondering whether you have seen any unrecognizable faces round here in the last few days?"
Sam thought for a moment, "Um…I'm not sure…not that I can recall why?"
Folding her arms, Tess leaned against the kitchen work surface, "I was just wondering." She didn't want to alarm the housekeeper with matters she was still uncertain about herself.
Tess looked up suddenly.
"…I did see somebody the other day, I think it was when Kate and I first came to visit you and Nikki. There was a youngish looking man standing on the road leading towards the house…I hadn't ever seen him before, but he did seem pleasant enough…well as far as I could make out, he smiled and nodded a hello to us, he had rather a bent looking nose if I remember correctly."
"Hmm…" Tess rubbed the back of her neck, "Well if you do happen to see him or any other unrecognizable characters could you let me know."
"Sure…but I don't understand why?"
Just then Janie entered the kitchen from the side entrance. She noticed the two women who appeared deep in conversation and paused, "Should I come back later?" She asked, poking a thumb over her shoulder.
Tess frowned then shook her head, "Oh…no, no, Janie let me ask you…have you seen any people hanging around here…other than the three of us?"
The photographer pushed her bottom lip into her mouth with her right thumb and began chewing on the soft flesh. She couldn't really not provide some form of explanation for the questions she had been asking, "The other day Nikki thought she sensed somebody out here, and today I thought I saw somebody…it may be nothing, but I would much rather be safe than sorry."
"Sometimes distant sounds can seem louder, closer in countryside. The wind blowing in the trees or wildlife mooching around can catch our attentions." Sam stated, "It has happened to me on occasions, thinking there was somebody out there when it actually turned out to be a little fox, or badger in the undergrowth."
"Maybe." Tess replied, still unsure herself. She didn't want paranoia to overcome her, but she did feel something, even if she didn't understand what that something was. Pushing away from the worktop, Tess headed towards the door, "Well if you will excuse me, I need to go and see how Nik is, we have to choose our clothes for tonight, and she is trying her best to get me in a dress."
Sam laughed, "Oh a fate worse than death!" She joked.
Tess pulled a face, "For me…yes." She winked and left in search of Nikki, joined by Leto who emerged from the living room, carrying one of the blondes socks happily between her jaws. Tess looked down at the golden mutt, "Give me that." She bent down, pulling the woolen piece of clothing out the dogs grip, "One of these days Leto you and I are going to have a serious chat about chewable and non chewable objects…but just for the record, Nikki's socks are not to be eaten…got it?" Leto huffed as she followed her master up the stairs, "I hope that means yes!"
"What means yes?"
Tess spotted Nikki standing by the bedroom door, "Oh you know I was just having a few words with Leto." She followed Nikki into the bedroom, "So how are you feeling now?" Tess stood by the bed and sat down. Leto who had watched her master followed suit and jumped up beside the photographer. Tess looked at the golden hound with an arched eyebrow and pointed to the floor. With yet another doggie huff, Leto slid to the ground and lay down on the carpeted floor.
"I feel alright." Nikki responded, "Better now."
"Good." Tess watched Nikki open her wardrobe door and feel around the items of clothing, "What are you looking for?"
A frown creased the blondes brow as she searched the garments, "The dress I want to wear tonight. Lisa thinks I should wear the light blue one with the thin straps, I can recognize it by feeling those straps." She paused as she located the familiar garment and pulled it out with a smile, "So what have you decided to wear hmm? Personally I think a dress would be just wonderful on you."
Tess grimaced as she rose to a standing position and stalked towards her own wardrobe, "I don't know, let me look." She opened the double doors and looked inside, pulling out two black dresses, "There are these I suppose." She held the first one out as Nikki stepped forward and felt the garment, "It's strapless and reaches all the way down to the floor."
Nikki ran her hand over the material, "Oh silky…I like…and the other?"
Tess held out the second black dress, "This one is shorter, comes just above my knees, is fitting and has thin straps similar to yours."
"Oh I like the sound of this one." She pushed her hands over the soft material, "Yeah I think you should go for this one."
"Really?" Tess looked down studying the dress, "I don't know Nik; dresses aren't that comfortable you know."
Nikki rolled her eyes, "Tell me about it, but sometimes it is nice to dress up for an occasion…it makes you feel special."
Tess held the dress in front of her, studying it with a confused expression, "Really? The only thing I ever feel in a dress in exposed."
Shrugging Nikki hung her dress on the wardrobe door handle, "Well your choice…I am not going to force my opinion on you. As long as you are comfortable that is all that matters."
"Hmm." Tess looked at the dress then at the expression on the blondes' face, an expression that gave away her desire to have Tess wear the dress, "Well I will see." She hung her own garment next to Nikki's as though the decision was already made. "So are you looking forward to tonight?"
Nikki's face lit up with excitement, "Oh yes I can't wait…why are you?"
"Yeah it should be fun…as long as the press stay away from me that is."
She shook her head, "Oh come on Tess it wont be that bad…besides I have a feeling that tonight is going to be one hell of a night!"
Tess nodded, in one way or another she was very sure that was indeed to be the case.
End of Chapter 6