Part Five of Little Disquietude.

Chapter Twenty-One

She left Sophia sound asleep and walked home through the sunny morning. As she climbed the steps, shouting came from inside the house. Ward's voice. "I can't take this anymore, I need to think."

"Since when do I pay you to think?" Adam said.

Leah opened the door.

Ward saw her and threw up his hands, and asked, "Well, how was your night?"

Leah cocked her head.

Adam grabbed his bag and passed Leah and went out the door. He called over his shoulder, "Whenever the divas show up, we'll have our final dress rehearsal. Don't forget the fucking press will be there." He slammed the door.

"Don't forget the backers," Ward said, with his lazy smile. "They'll be there, too."

"Can't forget them," Leah said. "I'm going to shower."

"Gotta wash off your hot night?" Ward asked.

Leah turned around on the first step and met his eyes. She said, "I hate you, you know."

"All the better to make you cry," Ward said.


"It's all Method. What's your style, trial and error?"

"A good director," she snapped back.

He smiled.

She bunched her fists and stormed up the stairs. He was right; Sophia's scent was everywhere. Kisses had dried on her skin. She'd woken up to Sophia's sweat. In the shower, she scrubbed with plain Ivory soap, so that the makeup and costume people wouldn't complain as they primped her, so that Ward wouldn't make comments when his lips touched hers.

But everything inside her lingered. Sophia's tongue in her mouth. The warmth in her stomach. The tingling in her fingertips. Everything Virginia was supposed to feel, that Poe must have felt, writing down the words. If she carried Sophia to the stage with her, maybe it would all work out.

She looked at herself in the mirror after wiping the fog away. She traced the wrinkle at the corner of her eye. The makeup artist would cover it up. Her dresser would wax her eyebrows. There were bags under her eyes. Her lips still felt swollen. She prodded them, and then chewed on the tip of her finger.

Ward was gone by the time she got downstairs, so she went back out into the sunshine alone. The modest houses across the street startled her, the trees seemed indulgent. Never would she get used to not seeing buildings--the comforts of civilization. They were doing Poe in the wilderness. And it was sold out.

* * *

Adam slept. The dress rehearsal had been beautiful. Ward had been right there with her, present and hateful and passionate. She'd called upon her voice and hadn't missed a single note. When she sang, the audience had been perfectly still. When she sighed, she felt them sighing with her.

"We should have an audience more often," Leah had said to Adam.

"Spoken like a true leading lady."

She'd rolled her eyes. Adam hugged her and said, "The audience is going to come in from now on. Every day." She smiled. He kissed each of her cheeks and said, "Twice on Saturdays."

Leah sipped lemonade. She sat on the front porch, pretending. Trying to let herself melt into the humid, sunny evening. Macbeth was going on in a few minutes. Leah hadn't realized that it started in daylight and ended in darkness. The lemonade rushed coolly down her throat, settled in her stomach, grounded her.

Poe had taken every bit of herself out of her, had given it away, and left her feeling hollow, and exhausted, and so tense she couldn't rest. Adam, despite his pages of notes after the rehearsal, felt as if he'd seen something come alive on stage, something living, giving birth. He was so happy at that. He would give the judgement, the good or the bad, to other people. For him, creation was enough.

No one else was out on the other porches, though the swings were there, and the lawn furniture, and children's toys and bicycles and the occasional refrigerator. All that stuff, waiting to be inhabited. She took a sip of her drink. A car passed. She raised her glass. The driver waved.

"Neat," she said.

The phone rang. The ring tone was one she hadn't heard in a long time, obnoxious and jarring, and she'd never admit to anyone it was her favorite song, or that Grace had covered it at a benefit, low and smoky, completely belying the original tune, making everyone laugh. Grace had belonged to everyone that night, but she'd kissed Leah in the dressing room, with fresh flowers covering every surface..

She answered the phone. "Hello?"

"Leah?" Grace's voice. Leah didn't fall off the chair, or break into a million pieces. She took a sip of lemonade. Interesting. Except for the low, dull anger in the pit of her stomach, only there if she bothered to search for it, Leah's nerves felt perfectly normal. She exhaled.

"Yeah? Hi," Leah said.

"Is this a bad time?" Grace asked.

"No, no. I'm just--enjoying the night."

"What?" Grace asked. She had that actress voice, that Bette Davis darling voice that made Leah picture long cigarette holders and stage makeup and Times Square. She had three albums out.

Leah said, "I'm on the front porch. Drinking lemonade. Thinking about life."

"My God," Grace said.

"Yeah, well." Leah jangled the ice in her glass.

"Look, Leah," Grace started, and that's how Leah knew she was calling about business. She sighed. Grace continued, "I did a reading for this thing, last year, this swashbuckler thing--"

"Hasn't that already been done?"

"Not successfully," Grace said. "Anyhow, they're doing a three week workshop, looking at launching in the spring, and I put your name in for it."

"Doing what?" Leah asked.

"A witch?"

"Like, double double toil and trouble?"

"Yeah. Creepy. Dark. Goth. You'll like the song, though. I can fax over the sheet music. Do they have faxes, um, where you are?"

"Yes. And indoor plumbing. And HBO," Leah said.


Grace had never liked her wit, such as it was, and during the time they were together, Leah had practiced being kinder and more patient with people. Even though no one knew exactly why. She'd gotten compliments from producers and fans alike--"She's so nice. She's so generous." And then when she and Grace had ended their relationship, all the sarcasm came back, released with vengeance upon the world. She'd had a lot to make up for. She smiled grimly, and then gave Grace the fax number for the house.

"Thank you," Grace said. "I think this part is really you. When can you meet with the casting agent?"

"Next week I can fly up on my day off," Leah said.

"He'll call," Grace said.


"Well, that's all. Good luck in two days?"

"Thanks, Grace," Leah said, trying not to sound bitter. Her tone was habit more than feeling, just the instinctive stance she went into whenever they talked. She silently asked forgiveness. To ask forgiveness out loud would just cause a fight.

"Break a leg," Grace said, and chuckled.

Leah frowned, and remembered what it was like to be nice to people, and said, in her best kind voice, "Thank you, Grace. It's good to go home to the promise of work."

"Like I said, you'll be great for the part. Goodnight, Leah."

"Goodnight, Gracie."

Grace huffed, and hung up. She'd always hated that. Leah smiled to herself. The sun had set, and the light had become grey. Leah went inside. She poured the ice and lemonade into the sink, put the glass in the dishwasher, and leaned on the counter. The tension had left her, and Grace's call, though meaningless, was slightly reinvigorating. She shook her shoulders. In a couple of hours, she'd go to the Macbeth closing night party, but it was too early to start getting ready.

The house was quiet. Adam was still asleep upstairs, and Ward was gone. Leah settled in at the piano. She put side the Poe sheet music and rummaged through the books on top. There were no basic books of showtunes, so she settled for movie themes, and played Terms of Endearment was quietly as she could and hummed along.

She played until the sky outside was pitch black and Adam stumbled downstairs in his rumpled clothing. "Party tonight?"

"Yeah," Leah said.

"You seem--I don't think I've ever seen you play the piano."

"One note at a time," Leah said.

Adam took a beer from the fridge and twisted off the top. He asked, "Want one?"

Leah shook her head.

"It's kind of nice here," Adam said, looking at the window.

"Calm before the storm," Leah said. "I was on the porch, earlier."

"Did anyone shoot at you?"

"No. But Grace called. She offered me work."

"Really?" Adam raised an eyebrow.

"Really," Leah said. "I'm going to at least meet with the agent."

Adam nodded. He said, "I've been approached to consult on a reading here. Some guy from the coast. Want in? I don't know if they have any female parts, yet."

"Sure." Leah lowered her voice. "Or I could be a man."

Adam raised his beer bottle, and said, "A consummate actress."

Leah grinned. She put the movie book back on the top of the piano, and got up.

"How's Grace?" Adam asked, watching her.

"I didn't ask. But she sounded fine."

Adam nodded. "And how's Sophia?"

Leah's face broke into a smile before she could even think of a noncommittal response. She blushed furiously, and before she could start to say, "How should I know?" Adam was already waving her off.

He asked, "You'll be there tonight, then?"

"Yes," Leah said. That she could answer, and definitively. She went upstairs, ignoring his grin as she passed.

He called, "Let me do your makeup!"

"I'm not twelve," she shouted back.

"Let me anyway? Tonight's a night to glitter and be gay."

Thanks to Adam, she ended up singing Candide in the shower, and still had the operetta stuck in her head as they left for the party. Adam led her to the car.

"Where are we going?"

"They rented a restaurant downtown."

"We're downtown," Leah said, though clearly she saw the houses and trees that surrounded them.

"There's a whole city out there, Leah. Durham!" Adam waved his hand with flourish.

"If it's over two miles away it's not the same city," Leah said. She walked to the theater each morning, she'd walked to the club with Sophia, and the donut shop, and she presumed she could walk to the gas station on the corner if she needed survival supplies. Der Fledermaus didn't count because that was in another city--like going to Albany. But driving to a restaurant just...wasn't done. "Can't we take a cab like normal people?" she asked.

"Honey, I promise there will be food, and you smell exceptionally good, and everything will be all right."

"All right." She got into the car.

Adam settled into the driver's seat. "Buckle your seatbelt," he said.


* * *

Chapter Twenty-Two

Leah scanned for Sophia as Adam pushed into the crowd at Thyme, but she didn't see Sophia, and instead saw one of the South Pacific producers, with a stage hand on his arm, who said "Leah Fisher, isn't it?"

She shook his hand and nodded.

"Pleased to make your acquaintance. We're all so excited about Poe."

"Are you coming?" she asked, dumbly, still scanning for Sophia. She tugged distractedly at the strap of her halter dress. Velvet in a casual cut made an impression, Adam said, but she was afraid she'd get a rash. The merlot-shaded fabric, though, blended with the crowd dressed mostly in black. Rented tuxes and little black dresses for most of the crowd, black jeans and skin-tight tee shirts for the crew, who didn't care anymore, and just wanted to get drunk on a night when they didn't have to go to work in the morning.

"Opening night, of course," the producer said. She tried to remember his name. Paul?

"You'll have a wonderful time," she said.

"No doubt," he said. And then they smiled at each other and he inclined his head, and wandered off to the next celebrity. Leah breathed. She went further into the crowd, and shook hands with an actor she knew, and someone she didn't know who turned out to be a benefactor, there with the mayor. He asked for her vote. She just nodded and smiled.

Meet, greet, go. She used to give out business cards; she didn't anymore. Industry contacts were not made at parties. Impressions were made. If they remembered her, they'd seek her out. She had come for one reason, and it was a better reason than any she'd had in previous parties.

And there she was. Sophia, standing next to Elaine, who sat in a wheelchair, covered in blankets, smiling grandly and sipping champagne. Sophia wore a black gown, floor-length, strapless, that Leah had not seen her wear before. Her hair, a matching shade of black, was piled on top of her head, Leah started toward her, just as Sophia's attention was entranced by a man who seemed to be asking her to dance.

Sophia demurred. Leah felt relief, and then guilt at her own jealousy, but really, who danced at parties anymore? Macduff's henchmen appeared at Sophia's side, and said something that made her laugh. She lifted her drink to them. Leah arrived, and let her hand slide across Sophia's back as she knelt to greet Elaine.

"There's only one question to ask a famous actress," Leah said.

"I'm afraid to know, darling," Elaine said. She eyed Leah.

Leah tugged at the hem of her blouse, and asked, "Would you sign my boob?"

Sophia, still talking to Eric, kicked her.

Elaine said, "I'm afraid I don't have a pen."

Leah did her best impression of a sad face, which must have worked, as Elaine frowned. She said, "I could touch your boob."

Sophia kicked Leah again.

"Ow. Hey, I didn't say that. Kick Elaine! Kick the woman in the wheelchair." Leah said. She stood, and squeezed Elaine's hand.

Adam shouted, "Leah!"

"Duty calls. It was nice meeting you."

"You, too." Elaine lifted her chin and beamed at Leah. "It's so nice to go to a party and see a new face, for once. The same old scene gets so old."

"I know exactly how you feel. Come to New York sometime, be my show-and-tell."

Elaine sighed, and said, "I would, Miss Fisher, but it's so cold in New York." She drew her blanket around her shoulders, and her hand shook. She looked away from Leah. Leah brushed Sophia's elbow and went to Adam. When she looked back, Sophia smiled beatifically at her.

Adam said, "Leah, I'd like you to meet Joshua Litton. He's the regional theater editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution."

"You've come a long way," Leah said.

"There's a bit more money for regional theater in Georgia, but I hear North Carolina sure would like to put itself on the map," Joshua said. He was a big, overweight man, with a Southern accent that made Leah think of Senator stereotypes. She tried not to giggle as she shook his hand. He said, "I'm interested in what compels the New York crowd to come down here, when it's not obviously a try-out situation."

"Why do you think it's not a try-out?" Adam asked.

"Because you don't have those kind of backers, Mr. Lippman. And because Durham doesn't have that kind of audience. I can't imagine any city in North Carolina being able to host an out-of-town."

Adam grinned. He asked, "But Atlanta?"

"Absolutely. And is this your leading lady?" Joshua asked.

Leah glanced at Adam.

Adam said, "I already told him the Triangle is where the money was. That's why he decided to ask an actress."

"Because we don't have any money?"

"Exactly," Joshua said. "I can't quite believe Lippman here, when I don't see 'Funded by RTP' on any of your playbills."

Leah smiled and said, "While it is true, Mr. Litton, that Manhattan is the center of the universe, it's a big universe. The same instinct that drives me to act--to be different people, to transport myself and the audience to different places--is the same instinct that compels me to do it all for real."

"And what instinct is that?" Joshua asked.

"The drive for self-actualization," Leah said, and smiled charmingly.

"Thank you. A well-trained woman you have there, Mr. Lippman."

"She sings, too."

They chuckled together, and then Joshua went to talk to Elaine, and Adam and Leah sagged in relief.

Adam said, "I wanted to say that we vomit our innards onto the page, and the other dogs come and lick it up. How's that for quotable?"

Leah shrugged. Freed from responsibility, however briefly Adam would let her be, Leah turned to watch Sophia.

"She looks lovely," Adam said at her shoulder.

"I'm going to seduce her, tonight."

"I don't think you'll have to do that much seducing," Adam said.

"Still, she deserves it."

Adam kissed her cheek, and said, "So do you."

It was the nicest thing he'd said since they'd crossed the Hudson.

She was used to taking compliments from strangers, of course, but from friends, it felt different. She knew, for some, like Adam, hooking up at a strange party in a same city was easy. His beginnings with Ward were effortless, even if things were falling apart now. But though Leah had done the circuit enough to know what felt good and what didn't, and what she wanted, rarely did she have any chance to stand across the room from someone and ache for them.

She was going to take this chance. She looked over her shoulder for Adam, but he was gone, presumably chatting up someone who could pay for his dreams. She turned back to Sophia, who caught her eye across the room, and then blushed and looked away.

Leah made her way across the room. Eventually the crowd would thin around her; the night would grow later. Those who had been in the show went home to sleep off the exertion and the adrenaline. Only the backers would stay, to celebrate their wealth with the open bar, to clap the composers and directors on the back, and take what credit they could.

Sophia didn't glance her way again, keeping her attention instead fully on the deputy mayor, who had her hand clasped. Leah put her hand on Sophia's shoulder, and smiled at the deputy mayor.

"Leah, I'd like you to meet Adrian Foster, and his wife, Teela," Sophia said.

Leah smiled and shook their hands.

"We saw Sophia as Lady Macbeth," Teela said, apparently just in case Leah had no idea why there was a party. Leah gave Teela her best listening face. Teela said, "It makes me want to go home and watch all the Shakespeare I can. I forget how powerful his plays can be."

Leah forgave her with that, and said, "I know. Theater is about being lucky to be in the right place, at the right time, to see moments that will never be recreated."

"Exactly," the deputy mayor said.

"Leah's in the new musical," Sophia said. "Are you going to see it?"

The disdain that crossed the mayor's face made Leah's stomach sink, though Teela stepped in to say, "No, we can only really catch one or two performances a season, due to other engagements."

"I guess life is picking and choosing your moments of wonder," Sophia said, not unkindly, and Teela patted her arm and led her husband to talk to the owner of Bernie's Hardware, who may or may not question his artistic integrity, but at least it wouldn't be from the perspective of a starving actor he had to look in the eye.

"Hm," Leah said.

Sophia turned around and smiled.

"You look beautiful," Leah said. She took Sophia's hand. Sophia glanced around, but didn't pull away. She blushed. Pink tinted her cheeks. Leah wanted to take Sophia's chin in her free hand and kiss her. Her lips burned for it. But she didn't press her luck. Instead, she squeezed Sophia's hand and said, "Really."

"So do you," Sophia said.

Leah took a step closer, into Sophia's personal space, so that their clasped hands were at her side, instead of between them. She said, "I'd like to ask you to dance, but there's no music." Sophia's blush deepened, and Leah went on. "So can we go home?"

"Leah, should we--talk?"

"Not tonight," Leah said. She unclasped Sophia's hand, and stroked her wrist, and then up her arm. Sophia shivered.

And then Leah thought of something. "How on earth are we going to get home?"

Sophia said, "Adam gave me his keys and caught a ride with Eric."

"Bless him," Leah said.

"How did you get a friend like him?"

Leah, startled, considered. She said, "I sang for him."

Sophia smiled.

"Miss Medina!" someone shouted. Sophia turned around. She grabbed Leah's hand, gave it a quick squeeze, and walked off to greet the couple rushing toward her.

Leah sighed. She had been so close. She went to the bar for a drink, to waste time, ended up with a Shirley Temple. No falling asleep drunk tonight. She sipped the sweetness, let the bubbles tickle her nose, smiled at the bartender. He had no idea who she was, and though Leah was tempted to tell him, as his eyes followed Sophia across the room, that she taking Lady Macbeth home.

Sophia came to the bar. The bartender flushed, but she ignored him, and told Leah, "I have to stay. There's going to be cake."


"And photos," Sophia said.

Leah draped an arm along the bar, behind Sophia's back, and said, "I'll wait."

"You will?"

Leah leaned in, so that her side pressed against Sophia. Sophia shivered. "Do I get cake?" Leah asked.

"Yup," Sophia said.

"Is that against protocol?" Leah dropped her hand behind the bar, settling on Sophia's back, just above her ass.

"I don't care," Sophia said.

Leah squeezed her waist, and Sophia, pressed against her, sighed with pleasure and took a sip of the drink the bartender handed her. When she turned to Leah, the sweet scent of gin wafted between them, and Leah licked her lips.

"Miss Medina!"

Leah was beginning to hate the sound of that.

"Can we get a picture?" Glick Brice lifted his camera, and smiled charmingly at them. "It's for the Daily," he said. Leah frowned at Sophia.

"Independent weekly," Sophia explained.

"Ironic, right?" Glick asked.

"It caters to the gay community, you know," the bartender said behind them.

Leah looked over her shoulder, and said, "You can't be in our picture."

He sulked.

Leah draped her free arm across Sophia's front to clasp her shoulder, and rested her head against Sophia's arm. She gave Glick her celebrity smile. Sophia wrapped herself around Leah in turn, and turned her head to the camera.

"Fabulous, girls," Glick said. "I can't promise you the cover, but at least a quarter page."

Leah kissed Sophia's cheek and said, "You'll be famous."

Glick snapped a few more as they sagged against each other, and then let his camera hang around his neck as he pulled out a notebook. "Sophia Medina," he spelled it out. "That's your stage name?"

"Yes," Sophia said.

"And Leah Fisher?"

Leah nodded.

Glick said, "I'll grab your bios from the playbills. Thanks, ladies. Oh, there's the deputy mayor. Excuse me."

Sophia lifted her hand from Leah's shoulder and gave a little wave.

Leah cupped the back of Sophia's neck and asked, "Where were we?"

"Not here," Sophia said, and twisted away, a little.

Leah slumped against the bar. "This is the worst party ever," she said.

Sophia smiled at her, and lifted her drink.

Leah clinked hers, and said, "To us?"

Sophia nodded, and took a sip of gin and tonic.

Leah ran her fingertips down Sophia's arm. Sophia closed her eyes. Leah pressed her forehead against Sophia's shoulder, and said, "In three seconds, someone is going to call your name."

Sophia shook her head.

Leah put her glass on the bar, and took Sophia's hand, and tugged.

"Where are we going?"

"The bathroom."

"I don't have to go to the bathroom," Sophia said.

"Neither do I."

Sophia said nothing, just bit her lip as Leah pulled her along. The bathroom was cramped, and smelled of potpourri. The two tiny stalls were empty, and there was enough space for Leah to wedge herself against the door and pin Sophia against the sink.

"Leah," Sophia breathed.

"Just for a little bit," Leah said. "Or I'm going to go crazy." She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. Her makeup was still intact and her hair, moussed and styled by the men in her life, had not strayed from the setting. She looked perfectly normal, and not like the sex-crazed maniac she felt like. She swallowed and looked at Sophia.

Sophia's lips were parted, she panted through them, and her eyes were wide and focused on Leah's face.

"Too much?" Leah asked, though her thigh was already between Sophia's legs, and her hand was around Sophia's waist, protecting her back from the sink edge. She used her other hand to brush hair away from Sophia's face, the black strands giving way to smooth skin.

"I'll tell you when it's enough," Sophia said.

Leah leaned in, and hesitated, her mouth hovering just in front of Sophia's She waited for the cell phone to ring, or the knock to come at the door, or Sophia to protest, or her own conscience to show her that this being the tiny, posh bathroom of a fancy restaurant didn't stop it from being a bathroom, but there were no sounds beyond Sophia's breathing, no signals other than the tingling in her hands and the low ache that insisted she kiss Sophia.

So she did. Sophia mewled against her lips, a soft cry of need that compelled Leah to deepen the kiss. Sophia's arms went around her neck. Leah braced herself with both hands against the sink, leaning into Sophia, offering her mouth for kisses.

Sophia tugged on her lower lip, and Leah snaked out her tongue to protect herself, and met Sophia's. Sophia squeezed her neck, tangling fingers in her hair, and tugging as she enticed Leah's kiss. Leah abandoned the sink and held Sophia close. Their bodies pressed together at breast and hip and thigh, and Leah couldn't stop her hands from traveling down Sophia's back.

Something banged into the door, which only half-opened as it slammed into Leah's hip. She yelped. Sophia bit into her lip, startled, and she yelped again.

"Sorry," a woman's voice called.

Leah let go of Sophia and ducked into the passage beside the stalls, and Sophia gingerly opened the door. She said, "It's okay."

"Tiny bathroom," the woman commented.

"Yeah," Leah said. She waved the woman into the stall, and then met Sophia's eyes.

Sophia laughed.

Leah went back to the sink. Her hair was now tousled from being pulled, her eyes and lips were swollen, her lipstick was smeared. But only if she looked hard. She mostly still looked like herself. Sophia, too, was wild-eyed, but not indecent. She turned around and washed her hands, and Leah said, "I'll see you at the bar."

Sophia nodded.

Leah escaped. Her drink was gone, so she ordered a new one, just water and lime, earning a scowl from the bartender. She put a dollar on the bar and he was mollified. "When's cake?" she asked.

He went into the back to check.

Sophia came out of the bathroom, waved at her, and went over to the Macbethians.

Leah wanted to kiss her again so much that she clutched the bar to keep from running across the room. Desire made her skin hot. Having a taste was worse than denying herself completely. The fire had started, it would be hard to put out again. She gulped her water, and made herself not look at Sophia.

Ward came up behind her and asked, "Waiting for cake?"

"I am," Leah confessed.

"You think they'll let experimental musical-sters like us partake?"

"You've been getting it, too?"

"Yes. Everyone loves theater, as long as they've heard it before, a thousand times."

"Works for Shakespeare," Leah said.


"Sorry you took the part?"

Ward leaned on the bar and shook his head. He said, "Everyone who comes to see me--They'll know. They'll feel it. They'll be the special ones."

Leah pressed her forehead against her glass.

Waiters wheeled out the cake, with blood-red icing. "Apropos," Leah said.

"Cool," Ward said.

Leah sighed. "It's like a wedding. As soon as we eat the cake, we can leave."

"To the happy couple," Ward said, raising his glass of water.

Leah clinked.

Glick was there, taking photographs, as the director, Macbeth's lead, and Sophia smiled and cut the cake, all three hands on the oversized knife. And then the waiter took over, and Sophia took the first two pieces and struggled through the mass of people.

"I hope one of those is for me," Ward said.

"Go away," Leah said, and pushed him.

He slunk toward the cake, and Sophia came to her side.

"No forks?" Leah asked.

"I thought we could eat back at the hotel," Sophia said, and then looked away, as if avoiding the way Leah's expression changed.

Leah asked, "Do you need to say goodbye to anyone?"


She took the cake from Sophia and said, "Lead the way."

Sophia raised her eyebrows.

"You have the keys."

"Oh, right."

They headed straight for the door, ignored all cries of "Miss Medina!" and "Miss Fisher!" and refused to talk to anyone.

* * *

Chapter Twenty-Three

Sophia drove to Adam's, with Leah's hand resting in her thigh, and when the car stopped, Leah looked longingly at the house. The lights were on in the living room. Leah wondered if Adam was alone, or if Ward was there. Or anyone else.

"Would you--um." Sophia started.

"I was just thinking, a shower, maybe some more makeup... I'm fine. Right? I'm fine," Leah said, mostly to herself. She glanced at Sophia.

Sophia tilted her head, and smiled. She held the two pieces of cake.

Leah turned away from the house, and put her hand on Sophia's back. "Let's go," she said.

They walked together down the street, too enchanted by each other, too worked up, too expectant, to worry about muggers or drive-bys. The theater was dark as they strolled past. They bumped shoulders, grinned at each other. Sophia was at a disadvantage, holding both pieces of cake, so Leah took one from her, and they held hands, walking together down the street, listening to the crickets and frogs and the distant traffic.

A block past the theater, just before the lights of the hotel became visible, Leah pulled Sophia to a stop. Sophia looked at her curiously. Leah hesitantly leaned in toward her mouth, until she could feel Sophia's breath, slightly hitched, against her lips. She swallowed.

Sophia said, "Um."

"Yes?" Leah asked.

"Okay." Sophia licked her lips, reflexively, and Leah pressed herself to Sophia, kissing her gently enough to not spill the cake, firmly enough to taste those lips, to try and still the trembling in her own body by holding onto Sophia.

Sophia hugged her waist with one arm, and kissed her back, showed Leah her hunger. She was surprisingly strong, even one-armed, and Leah broke the kiss when Sophia sucking on her tongue threatened to rob her of breath. And the ability to stand. She opened her mouth to say something, couldn't think of anything reasonable to say, though a thousand mumblings were in her mind. She looked toward the hotel.

"Too much?" Sophia asked.

"I'll let you know when it's too much," Leah said.

Sophia grinned. She squeezed Leah's side and resumed walking.

In the hotel room, Leah stood nervously between the beds as Sophia closed the door and then kicked off her shoes.

"Right," said Leah. She sat on the bed and lifted up her foot, bending it onto her knee to undo the strap.

"Let me," Sophia said.


Sophia sat down on the opposite bed and gestured. Leah extended her foot. Sophia settled it comfortably onto her lap, grasping Leah's ankle. The touch of Sophia's fingers on her skin sent lightning up her calf, right to her clit, where the dull ache that followed her wherever she was with Sophia became sudden, hot desire. Leah gasped. Sophia ran her thumb over Leah's toe.

Leah remembered the first time with Grace; awkward, lustful, bad. They'd been drunk, giving into unspoken flirting of a month's duration, and it had been several more times before they'd really look at each other, and acknowledge that something was there that they both wanted.

"I want you," Leah said.

Sophia got the strap undone and loosened Leah's shoe. She looked shyly at Leah, peeking out from under lidded eyes, and said nothing. Leah shook her foot and let the shoe drop to the floor. She offered her other foot to Sophia.

Sophia worked off the shoe, and when Leah lowered her foot to the floor, Sophia dropped her hands to her lap, and with her head down, said, "I want you, too."

Leah stood up. She dug her toes into the carpet, and took Sophia's hands. Sophia stood up. They kissed, lightly, and then Leah draped her arms over Sophia's shoulders and asked, "How does the dress come off?"

Sophia tilted her head. "The same way it got on," she said, smiling.

"Ripping and tearing?"

Sophia met Leah's eyes, and said, her voice hoarse, "I've never had anyone rip off my clothes before."

Leah put her hand on Sophia's hip. "Is it an expensive dress?"

"I--" Sophia halted. She breathed audibly, and quickly, and looked away from Leah, down at her dress. She said, "I can afford a new dress."

Leah moved to Sophia's bed and sat beside her. She kissed her, leaning into her and lifting one hand to her cheek. Sophia kissed her back, coquettishly, and limply, but made no move, so that Leah had to be bold and urge her back on the bed. Sophia smiled up at her, and Leah paused to marvel at that smile, that longing, for whatever she had to give.

Then she knelt over Sophia, and captured her lips in a hard, passionate kiss. Sophia yielded to her, letting Leah's tongue plunder her mouth, breathing hard between kisses, and then whimpering if they paused for breath too long.

Leah boldly took the collar of Sophia's dress, right above the breast, and yanked.

"Ow." Sophia nearly kicked her. She broke the kiss.

Leah tugged again, more gently, and the fabric didn't budge. "What, this is the one piece of clothing that wasn't made at a sweatshop?" she asked.

"For what I paid for it," Sophia said, grinning and biting her lip.

"This always works in the movies," Leah complained.

Sophia brought her down for another kiss. She said, "I think they use a different fabric."

Leah sighed, and said, "I think they use Velcro." She resigned herself to kissing, lacking the barbarianism her fevered imagination had suggested was inside her. Animalistic sex, she'd had before, but with Sophia... She buried her face in Sophia's neck, kissed her skin, sucked at her throat, and the hollow between her collarbones, at the underside of her chin.

Sophia squirmed underneath her. She tugged at Leah's dress, leaving nail marks on her skin in frantic frustration. Leah found her mouth again. Sophia arched her head back, giving more of herself to Leah's kiss. Leah settled onto Sophia, felt the shifting body, wanting to pin Sophia down and keep her still enough to kiss each part of her face precisely. She hadn't expected Sophia to be like this; to yearn for her touch. To pull her close with strength that could not be undone. To make such high-pitched, keening sounds that Leah could feel vibrating in her throat when she kissed Sophia's neck.

Now was not the time to ask why they were here; how they had arrived, where they were going. The doubts pressed at the back of Leah's mind. Only one night of this might tear her to pieces. Trying to build a life from it might be worse. She couldn't tell what was in her own heart, was afraid to look past herself to Sophia.

But there Sophia was, lying on her back with her eyes closed, and her lips parted. Leah, at least, at the very core of her need, at the basic cells she had left still operational, traveling down her spinal cord, making sure she could survive this fire, told her it would be stupid to turn away.

Stupid to ask questions.

Stupid to pretend, as she had with Grace, that it wasn't really happening; stupid to try and get it over with.

There had been moments on stage where she'd feel a rush of arousal go through her, and it was the heat that brought the thought of Sophia with it. She'd let Ward touch her, caress her back, brush a kiss along the curve of her ear, but she'd feel nothing. The arousal, like an ember, would diminish and gust away.

The difference between his touches, even in heat, and Sophia's, were incomparable.

Sophia cupped her cheek, and pushed her up from the kisses. Leah blinked, and focused on her face. "Hey," Sophia said. "Stop thinking."

"I'm not thinking," Leah said. She was feeling everything at once, unsure which instinct to follow; to mate, to fight, to flee. She said, "I'm afraid--" but didn't know how to finish the sentence. She was afraid of everything.

Sophia turned her hips under Leah's, playfully, and ran her thumb over Leah's lips. She said, "I'm not afraid."

Leah grasped her wrist. She nipped at Sophia's thumb, and drew it into her mouth. She sucked. Her cheeks and lips hollowed into a kiss. Sophia stopped breathing. Her lips remained parted, her eyes focused on Leah's face as if there was nothing else to see. Leah ran her tongue along the underside of Sophia's thumb. Sophia twitched. Interesting. Leah dropped her mouth to Sophia's wrist. She pressed her lips to the fine veins.

This time, Sophia shuddered. Her arm went limp in Leah's grip. Leah moved to the hollow of Sophia's elbow and Sophia let out a shuddering breath. So responsive, and they were just beginning. "Just beginning," she said out loud. Sophia closed her eyes.

Leah wondered how many others had made love to Sophia. Were they gentle? Rough? Did they take or give? Had Sophia had enough experience to know what she wanted from Leah? Did she have enough boldness to tell her? Leah draped Sophia's arm behind her neck and leaned down to kiss her. Sophia kissed her back eagerly, squirming to get a better connection with her mouth, using her arm like a weight to hold Leah against her.

Wanting nothing more than to ravish her, Leah found herself constricted by her clothes. She could take Sophia, complete their passion in a matter of seconds, but not fully clothed. Not even partially clothed. They were meant to be naked.

She left the bed. Sophia reached out for her, blindly, and then opened her eyes. Leah winked.

"Is it over?" Sophia asked. Her eyes were bright. Her lips twitched into a smile. Rarely had Leah seen Sophia smile so brilliantly. Sophia tucked her hands behind her head.

"Oh, you'll know," Leah said.

Sophia smiled, with teeth.

Leah stood in front of the bed and reached behind herself to work the zipper.

"I could--" Sophia offered.

"No," Leah said. Sophia raised her eyebrows. Leah clarified, "No, lie just like that."

Sophia blushed deeply, but settled back on the pillows, stretching one leg in front of her, the gown riding up to reveal her calf, smooth and pale, and her ankle, rotating the high-heeled pump she still wore. She kicked it off, still watching Leah, and Leah lost all focus on the zipper as her hands trembled.

She turned away from Sophia, imagining Sophia's pout. She finally got the zipper down below her waist, ending near her tailbone. Sophia gasped. Leah looked over her shoulder. Sophia was lying in the same position, smiling brightly. As Leah met her eyes, Sophia licked her lips and dipped her head to give Leah a sexy, smoldering look.

Leah turned around again. She pulled the straps off her shoulders, and let the front of the dress hang down around her waist. Her bare back, slightly sore and already marked with Sophia's fingernails, was crossed by the thin white band of her strapless bra. She said, "You can do that part," and then held her breath.

Fingers danced along her shoulders, and then down her arms. She shivered, and said, "Tickles." The fingers dug into her arms instead, massaging.

Sophia asked, "Better?"

Leah nodded rapidly.

Sophia kissed the back of her neck.

Leah hissed. When Sophia was on the bed, ten feet away from her, it was almost possible to keep her concentration, but Sophia's fingers and gentle, tickling lips robbed her of her senses. Then, mercifully, Sophia unclasped the bra and let it fall to the floor. She pressed herself against Leah's back. Her arms wrapped around Leah's stomach. Leah took her wrists and pushed them down to her sides. She said, "Not done yet."

"Clearly," Sophia said, laughing against her shoulder. Her fingertips stroked Leah's abdomen.

Exposed to the air, with Sophia's hands hovering close to them, Leah's nipples felt as hard as diamonds, tight and demanding more direct stimulation. Sophia's touch on her breast would be a relief, and it would undo her.

Leah said, "When I turn around, I want to see you on the bed." Her own boldness further aroused her. The possibilities of what she might see, what she might do, flooded her mind. Sophia's caress left her. The bed creaked. Leah bit her lip until it hurt to hold back a squeak, from the sound alone. She turned around, baring herself to Sophia, whose dress rode up even further, revealing a knee.

Sophia gave a long, lingering look to her chest, and then her gaze traveled slowly up to Leah's face, not changing expression, just taking her in. Leah pushed her dress off her hips. The thong went with it, pooling on the floor. Leah took a step out of it. Her face burned with the shame of the wetness on her thighs. She let Sophia look at her, at the trimmed patch of hair at the crux of her hips, at her belly, at her breasts, which felt swollen. Her nipples were still on fire, and were now connected to the pulse between her legs. She knelt on the bed, and took the hem of Sophia's dress in her hand.

She said, "I think I gave up on the tearing too soon."

Sophia lifted her leg, sliding the arch of her foot along Leah's tricep. Leah took Sophia's foot in her hand. She kissed Sophia's ankle. Sophia twitched. Her legs were open enough that Leah could see the shadowed promise past the knees. Leah bit into Sophia's leg, just above the ankle. Sophia yelped. Leah looked up at her face, and Sophia's expression was one of lidded lust. No shock, no fear. Sophia rubbed Leah's cheek with the pad of her foot.

Leah was naked, but she didn't feel exposed at all. She felt powerful and limber, crawling up between Sophia's legs, pushing the dress up. Sophia, languid, able to tease Leah with the slightest gesture, stayed mostly still. Leah pressed a kiss to the hollow of Sophia's knee. She arched her back, like a tiger, and said, "If we had scissors, I could cut it off."

Sophia trembled, but didn't break her gaze with Leah.

Leah asked, "Would you trust me? Pressing the cold blade against your skin?"

"Yes," Sophia said, and inhaled sharply.

"Tearing," Leah said.

Sophia didn't speak, just swallowed visibly, her throat rising and falling.

Leah slid her hand under Sophia's dress. She found heat, and pressed harder, and Sophia's hand covered hers, over the dress, and squeezed. Leah kept her hand under Sophia's grasp and moved up Sophia's body to kiss her. Sophia kissed her back, making keening sounds against her mouth. Leah kept her hand still. Sophia moved against it, shamelessly.

Breaking the kiss, Leah said, "You're not naked."

"Are you a fucking nudist?" Sophia asked.

Leah kissed her ear, and then withdrew her hand. She wrapped her arms around Sophia, a difficult maneuver with Sophia's body between them, with Sophia's back crushing her hands, she managed to unbutton the four buttons holding Sophia's dress together, and then she peeled it off Sophia's upper torso.

The sight of Sophia's breasts made her lose her resolve, and she sank down onto Sophia and took her mouth in a crushing, hungry kiss, rubbing her breasts against Sophia's. Her nipples tingled, pressed into Sophia's skin. The points of Sophia's breasts poked into her breasts. Leah dropped her head to Sophia's neck, kissed her throat, sucked her earlobe, and finally she realized that the sounds of Sophia's harsh panting were words.

She lifted her head, and asked, "What?"

"Mercy," Sophia breathed.

Leah brushed hair out of her face.

"I need--" Sophia said, and lost her breath again. She inhaled.

"What?" Leah asked.

"To be naked," Sophia finished.

Leah grinned. "Told you," she said.

"Mercy," Sophia pleaded.

Though she was so aroused her labia felt heavy and desire compelled her to push into Sophia, to forget about elegant form, to take her, but Sophia had asked for mercy. She sat up, and pulled Sophia into a sitting position on the bed. Her feet dangled over the side. Leah held her hands. Sophia squeezed them, and then lifted them to her mouth and kissed each knuckle.

Sophia's dress, half-off, was not torn, but rumpled, the fabric crushed and twisted around her waist. Leah studied the remnants of the black dress instead of Sophia's breasts. That way lie madness. Sophia sucked at her skin between the first finger knuckle and the thumb. Leah met her eyes. Sophia bit her hand.

Leah stopped breathing.

Sophia bit harder, and Leah felt trapped. She couldn't wrest her hand away without Sophia mangling her, and though Sophia's teeth weren't hurting, they transmitted the promise of pain. She leaned forward, careful not to push too hard against Sophia's lips, and whispered in her ear, "Mercy."

Sophia held her in her grip.

Leah kissed her ear, and then whispered again.

Sophia released her. Leah covered Sophia's mouth with her whole hand, and then stroked her cheeks with her fingertips, then lower, lingering on her jaw and her neck. Sophia arched her neck.

Leah reluctantly pulled back and stood up, naked before Sophia. She took one of her hands, and drew her up into a standing position. The dress, bunched at her waist, did not slide invitingly to the floor as Sophia stepped into her embrace, so Leah sighed, hugged her close, and then knelt, pulling the dress down with her.

She kissed Sophia's hip, grazing the bare skin. Sophia touched her hair. They stayed like that for a moment, Leah soaking in the intimacy, and then she helped Sophia step out of her dress. Leah stroked Sophia's calf. She had smooth, rich, tanned skin, and naked, her hips were wider than Leah had noticed, and her waist petite. Leah stood, sliding her hands up the sides of Sophia's body, for balance. Her apple-shaped breasts ended in dark areolae and jutting nipples which Leah covered with her hands. Sophia leaned into her.

Her eyes, meeting Leah's, were intensely dark and watery, and Leah couldn't remember why she'd thought Sophia wrong for the classic stage. She was born for Macbeth, for tragedy. Leah wrapped her arms around Sophia's shoulders and held her close, tucking herself into Sophia's neck and closing her eyes. Sophia's hands settled against her back, and they were together, skin touching from cheeks and chins to their feet, pushing against each other, toes curling, arches rubbing, as close as they could get and still stand.

The sexual energy between them smoldered and filled the room. There was no space for old lovers here. This was neutral territory, a gap between universes, Leah's in New York, and Sophia's here, and everything beyond them evaporated. Leah, filled with wondrous and unexpected joy, wanted to laugh. Her throat closed, though, and her jaw tightened. She gripped Sophia and dug her nails into Sophia's shoulders.

Sophia moaned, quietly, into her hair. Leah said aloud, "I'm not sure where to begin."

"Haven't you done this before?" Sophia asked, chuckling. Her hand slid over Leah's ass, cupping and squeezing.

"It kind of feels like 'no,'" Leah said.

Sophia held her tighter.

Leah rubbed her back, worked her thigh between Sophia's, and asked, "Any suggestions?"

"Start at the end, and work backwards," Sophia said. There was something in her voice, a keening, that told Leah, along with the way Sophia was moving against her thigh, that revealed Sophia's desperation. The sound made Leah bolder. She could have what she wanted, the way she wanted. No compromise. No need to negotiate with Sophia, to modulate her voice to the seconds someone ticked off for her, no need to change her expression based on command.

She stepped back from Sophia. Her body protested, wanting her to fall back into Sophia's arms, and for a moment she could only walk backward, one step at a time, until she was sufficiently free from Sophia's aura that her legs would function again. She was still heavy and trembling with need, but she walked around the bed, knowing Sophia was staring at her, tried not to be self-conscious about how her ass looked, or her breasts, dangling as she bent down and pulled back the covers on the bed. Sophia moved to help her on the other side, and once the comforter was dumped on the floor, quirked a brow at her.

"What?" Leah asked.

"I can't help but notice this seems to be starting at the beginning," Sophia said. She smiled, radiantly, to take away the sting from being teased.

"Technicalities," Leah said. She knelt on the bed and extended her hand. Sophia knelt, too, matching her posture, and took her hand. They came together, and kissed, and hardly had they embraced when Leah rolled them onto the bed, Sophia on her back, Leah above her, her arms around her, her hands pleasantly crushed by Sophia's weight, her knee settled in the sheets, between Sophia's legs.

She kissed Sophia, long and deep, until Sophia's fingers in her shoulder started to hurt, and her writhing under Leah seemed to indicate she'd finish without Leah. Leah began to work her way down Sophia's body, disentangling herself from Sophia's legs, which prompted a cry of protest from Sophia.

"Don't stop now," Sophia said, just as Leah's mouth settled over her breast. Sophia said no more, just cradled Leah's head in her hands and pushed herself against Leah's lips. Leah sucked. The nipple, already swollen, was firm against her flicking tongue, and she left it, angry and glistening with saliva, to capture the other one.

Sophia's hands went slack as Leah nosed her breast. She looked up to see Sophia with her head arched back, her eyes closed. She was breathing hard, almost panting. Her chest heaved with each breath. Her stomach fluttered under Leah. She seemed beyond caring about the sweetness of Leah's kisses or the trails of her fingernails down her hips. Leah scooted down the bed.

She pushed Sophia's legs farther apart; they fell open easily, revealing swollen, slick folds. Sophia shaved everything. Leah stared dumbly, pressed a kiss to the lowest part of her stomach, tasting the bare skin, and said, "You shave everything."

"For the play," Sophia mumbled, opening her eyes just enough to gaze through the slits at Leah.

"Did I miss something?"

"To make me feel more vulnerable. More bald and connected to my own infertility. My own womanhood and how it defines me."

"Amazing," Leah said.

Sophia reached down and cupped her cheek, and then worked her fingers into Leah's hair, and squeezed.

"You don't want to talk about acting?" Leah asked.

"I'm not acting," Sophia said, half-angry, half-breathless.

Leah surrendered to the rawness in Sophia's voice. She kissed Sophia, and Sophia didn't exactly push, but held her there, mouth pressed against slick flesh. Leah licked, and Sophia cried out at the first firm touch of her tongue. She licked again, and the resulting cry was more incoherent. The third one, guttural.

"Here?" Leah asked.

"Higher," Sophia pleaded.

Leah rubbed her lips against Sophia's clitoris. A shudder went through Sophia. Her thighs tightened on Leah's shoulders. Leah settled in, kissing, teasing, lapping with her tongue along the firm, swollen point. Sophia no longer vocalized, just shivered, lifting her hips to Leah's mouth. Leah tasted the pulse below her hip, tasted Sophia, all that Sophia was offering, unabashed, until Sophia seized, clutching Leah's skull, and Leah stopped moving her tongue, just pressed it to Sophia's flesh. Sophia cried out, and then pulled harder, and Leah licked, bringing her to a second, slower trembling, and then kissed her inner thighs and stomach through the aftershocks.

Sophia's fingers seemed attached to her hair by sweat, so Leah gently grasped her wrist and kissed her hand. Sophia sighed and loosened her grip. "It's been a long time," Sophia confessed. Leah was half-afraid she'd said, "Never," but she didn't, merely smiled faintly up at the ceiling, while Leah continued to plant kisses on her abdomen, still deeply aroused, sensitized to every touch between them.

"I knew that you were a tease," Sophia said, pulling on Leah until Leah crawled up beside her and kissed her.

Leah said, against the kiss, "I protest."

"I'm sure."

"What about you?" Leah asked, wriggling closer, stroking Sophia's side, becoming more aggressive in her kisses.

Sophia's answer was muffled by her lips. She put her hand on Leah's breast, and said, turning her face slightly from the kiss, "I'm no tease."

Leah's lips curved into a bold smile. She kissed Sophia's cheek. Sophia squeezed her breast, massaging the whole with working, strong fingers. Leah closed her eyes. She couldn't breathe. When Sophia's thumb brushed her nipple, already sensitive and aching, Leah let out a voiceless squeak.

Sophia pulled back to look at her, their heads side by side on the pillow. Her hand moved lower, scratching at Leah's belly. Leah bit her lip. She wanted to seize Sophia's hand and press it against herself, but Sophia seemed happy, smiling at Leah, her fingers moving mischieviously, and Leah wanted to see what she would do. And she didn't really have the strength to move, anyway. She wet her lips, and asked, "Mercy?"

"Mercy?" Sophia asked.

Leah covered Sophia's hand on her stomach.

Sophia moved her hand lower, and said, "Leah Fisher does not have to ask anyone for mercy. Least of all, me."

Leah grinned. She tossed her head, her hair spilling across the pillow, and squeezed Sophia's hand. Their hands moved together with Leah's uneven, excited breathing.

Sophia said, "Especially the night before her show opens."

"I like to concentrate my success in 48 hour segments, and then have a really bad rest of the year," Leah said.

Sophia cocked an eyebrow, and slid her hand down, over Leah's fine hairs, and then to her core. She pressed her whole hand against Leah. Leah swallowed hard, and slid her hand over Sophia's wrist, up her arm, and then braced herself on the bed between them. Sophia's middle finger worked between Leah's lower lips. Leah cried out.

"Are you loud?" Sophia asked. She stroked Leah.

Leah nodded a response, and bit her lip. She knew she'd be as loud as Sophia wanted, as soon as her oxygen rebuilt in her lungs again. She panted shallowly as Sophia's hand teased her. Sophia curled her fingers, dipping the tips just into Leah, and increasing the pressure against her clit. Leah gasped, and let out a hoarse cry. Sophia knelt, keeping her hand against Leah, and then straddled her thigh, sitting above her, right behind her hand. She looked glorious, rising above Leah, smiling down at her while she stroked. Playful and radiant. Her breasts swayed just out of reach. Sweat made her skin gleam. Leah could feel the slickness where Sophia sat against her thigh. She'd been the cause of it; the conclusion of it, and the reminder only increased her desire for Sophia.

Her hips pinned Leah's leg to the bed. Leah lifted the other one, giving Sophia more access. Sophia studied her face, and then seemed to come to a decision, and pushed a finger inside Leah.

Leah bucked and groaned. Sophia, still intently watching her, asked, "More?"

"More," Leah said.

Sophia slid her finger out, and added a second when she penetrated her again. Leah gritted her teeth as she felt Sophia inside her, stretching her, exciting her with just her hand, her very practiced fingers, her very confident posture. Leah surrendered to Sophia, wasn't even jealous that she obviously knew what she was doing, just grateful, as Sophia's fingers pressed in interesting places, maintaining her arousal, taking her higher.

"You're enjoying yourself," she said, as Sophia's fingers slid into her again, lingered, slid out, leaving Leah feeling empty just long enough to welcome Sophia's intrusion again.

"Just a bit. Though this is harder than you'd think." Sophia tossed her head, and lifted her shoulder. "I almost blacked out. You kind of exhausted me."

"You should see what happens when I really try," Leah said. She flushed at her effect on Sophia. Flattery and pride were just as arousing as Sophia's technique.

"When will that be?"

"In just a second."

Sophia smiled. She said, "You should see yourself."

Leah's face contorted in ecstasy. She thought she must look foolish, but Sophia beamed at her, and rode her. Leah's toes curled. She tried to let herself go. Sophia twisted so that her thumb strummed Leah's clit. She leaned down to kiss Leah's forehead, and then her cheek, and then whispered in her ear, "Maybe if you closed your eyes."

Bending had shifted the position of her hand deliciously inside Leah. Leah closed her eyes, which helped free her from the physicality of it all, the visual of how Sophia looked reflecting back on how she must look. She felt suspended. The universe was made only of Sophia's hand and Sophia's breath on her face. Sophia kissed her lips, lightly. Leah lifted her chin for another kiss, but didn't find Sophia. Sophia's hand shifted, settling outside her to stroke her swollen folds. Leah could imagine Sophia above her, back arched, hair sweaty and tousled around her face, grinning.

Leah screamed as Sophia's fingers unexpectedly entered her again. There must have been a third, she felt fuller than before, and the knobby texture seemed to cause more friction against her nerves.

"That's it," Sophia said, unneeded encouragement as Leah's cries became constant, interspersed with moans and panting. She was on the cusp. Her stomach quivered. Her breasts and stomach felt hot. Sophia seemed to sense it. Her voice was close to Leah's ear as she said, "You're so beautiful."

Leah let out a rough gasp. She grabbed for Sophia's shoulders, and Sophia was there, on top of her, her fingers taking her, hard and slick and slender. Sophia kissed her ear. Leah clung to her, thrusting her hips in cadence, close and beyond any sense of shame.

"I think you're the most beautiful thing I've ever seen," Sophia said, in a low and seductive voice.

"Now you're acting," Leah said.

Sophia covered her mouth in a kiss, robbing her of breath, asphyxiating her, and continued touching her relentlessly. Leah struggled for a brief moment, and then her ears roared and her mind went blank and she came, her senses all focused at the point of Sophia's hand, feeling herself explode. She screamed, sending air against Sophia's lips, and Sophia released her. Leah cried out, and bucked against Sophia as the orgasm rocked her. She fell back against the bed, shaking her head to protest Sophia's continuing touches, now torture to her sensitive, swollen folds, and breathing deep, gulping breaths.

Mercifully, Sophia settled down at her side, pressed against her, and let her hand rest neutrally between Leah's breasts, over her heartbeat. Leah waited until the room stopped spinning before turning her head to meet Sophia's eyes.

Sophia grinned.

Leah licked her lips and said, "I have no idea what to say."

Sophia's grin got wider.

Leah closed her eyes, and asked, "What time is it?"

Sophia kissed her shoulder, and then shifted to raise herself up far enough to see the clock. "One thirty," she said.

Leah rolled onto her side, and considered Sophia. Sophia wrinkled her nose. Leah said, "My show is opening."

"Tomorrow, I hear," Sophia said. The corner of her mouth quirked into a smile.

"That means I don't have to be at work until six in the evening," Leah pointed out.

Sophia raised her eyebrows.

Leah nodded.

Sophia kissed her, and then murmured, "That's wonderful. There are things I haven't done."

"Let's do them," Leah said. She ran her finger down Sophia's stomach. Sophia sucked her breath in, tightening her abdomen. Leah asked, "Showing off?"

"You're tickling me," Sophia said.

Leah slid her hand over Sophia's ribs.

Sophia squeaked.

Leah trailed her fingers down Sophia's hip.

Sophia whined.

"There too?"

Sophia said, "Everywhere."

Leah relented, and cupped Sophia's cheek, and leaned in to brush noses with her. She said, "This time, we're starting from the beginning."

"What's that?" Sophia asked, quickly stealing a kiss and then leaning back to hear her answer.

"Making out like schoolgirls," Leah said.

Sophia stuck out her tongue, and then stretched it toward Leah. Leah met it with her own, and then sealed their mouths in a slow, hungry kiss. When they parted, Sophia said, "I'm glad we're already naked."

"Me too. It was a good idea."

"Do you have any more good ideas?" Sophia asked.

"Tons." Leah rolled onto Sophia, and braced herself against Sophia's shoulders, and murmured, an inch from her lips, "Good idea number two..."

* * *

To Be Completed in Part Six

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