"The charges have been dropped Ms. Garrett," the officer said as he unlocked the cell door. He escorted her into the outer office area where she was processed and released. Maggie finally left the station, looking around and hoping to spot Nessa. The redhead was no where to be seen. Fighting back tears of disappointment she headed for the corner payphone to call a cab.
The answering machine was flashing when she got home, reminding her that her cell phone voice mail would also need to be checked. The battery was nearly dead so she placed it into the charger then sat in the chair next to the flashing machine. Part of her wanted to listen and part of her feared further heartache if Nessa didn't call.
Unable to risk missing any word from her she pressed the playback. The first call was from Sherry, demanding to know why she up and quit. The second call was a reminder from her landlady that she was past due on her rent. The third call made her hold her breath.
‘It's me, Nessa," her voice said shakily. "I spent all night staring at your piece of paper, trying to figure out what this is about and telling myself to just discard it. If you are listening to this you know I dropped the charges. Look, I need some time to think before I speak to you again, please? I'll call you. Bye'
Maggie played it over and over, needing to hear her voice. It sounded so vulnerable. Was it possible Nessa felt something between them too? She hoped so. She sat by the phone and waited.
Days passed and the phone didn't ring. Maggie decided Nessa chose to ignore what happened and wasn't going to call. She was busy packing her things when a knock on the door interrupted her concentration. Maggie opened the door without peering through the peephole to find the redhead standing there nervously.
They stared at one another for long seconds.
"May I come in?" Nessa asked. The former reporter stuttered and invited her inside. Nessa looked around and saw all the boxes.
"Are you leaving?" she asked, her voice surprised.
"Yes. I can't afford this fancy apartment without a job so I'm moving in with my brother until I find work," she explained bitterly. Her brother hated the fact she was gay and harped on her about it.
"You don't sound thrilled."
"No, my brother is a jerk in the best of times."
Nessa looked uncomfortable. She had spoken to Karen who had repeated the conversation between she and the reporter. Maggie quit her job because of her. Now she was homeless. An idea came to her. She wasn't certain what she wanted to happen between she and Maggie but she felt she owed her the chance to…she wasn't sure about what anymore. Her head said one thing and her heart said another.
"If you want, I have an empty cottage apartment over the garage you can use. It isn't much but you would have privacy and a place to stay until you wanted to move into a new place," she offered.
"I'm not one of your charity cases Nessa," Maggie sighed. "I'll get by." She was still a bit upset about the long stretch of silence because Nessa never contacted her.
"I know you're not." She just stood there, unsure where to begin. "I'm sorry I didn't call."
"That's okay," Maggie replied. Nessa heard the hurt lacing the words.
"No, it wasn't. I was afraid and couldn't make myself pick up the phone. I'm sorry."
"Afraid of what?" the taller woman asked, confused.
Nessa turned at sat down on the only spot not covered with boxes or items needing packed. "Of what your simple piece of paper was implying. Maggie, you have to understand something. I don't trust easily. Too many have tried to use me for various reasons and I've been hurt. Money brings out the fortune seekers. Do you know how hard it is to tell if it's me or my money people want? Even other wealthy people aren't suitable for relationships. We expect people to try and use us. We wear masks and keep people at arm's length. Then there's you," Nessa whispered.
Maggie leaned against the wall but didn't speak, allowing Nessa to continue without interruption.
"Karen told you to forget me because of your career—the job you love. Yet you gave it up and left the ball in my court. You made no promises, no grand statements; just a quiet plea that made me quake in utter fear. Did I dare continue the game or drop that sad little ball and walk away? Tell me what you want of me Maggie—I'm so lost,' she begged, tears trailing down her cheeks.
Maggie walked the few steps between them and scooped the smaller woman into her arms. She easily carried her into her bedroom and gently placed her onto her bed. She didn't speak right away. Instead, she leaned forward and softly kissed away the tears on Nessa's face one by one before brushing her lips softly against the smaller woman's trembling ones. Her hand rose and lightly caressed a damp cheek as her eyes looked down at the trembling woman.
Nessa looked so lost and afraid. What Maggie wanted to say and what Nessa was able to handle were two different things. They needed time to build trust between them, so she answered simply, "I want to be with you."
* * *
They woke the next morning; stiff and feeling grungy from sleeping fully clothed all night. They had fallen asleep clinging to one another, unable to part. Maggie had agreed to move into the cottage apartment and to put off seeking work until the following month so they could spend time together.
Nessa felt a bit awkward at first but Maggie's obvious pleasure as she woke and looked into her eyes made her feel better. The tall woman gave her a warm hug and a kiss on the cheek before offering to fix them some breakfast.
"What? Why the giggle?" the reporter asked with a grin.
"I never pictured you as the domestic type," she confessed.
"Not the domestic type?" Maggie giggled herself and did a poor caveman imitation. "Me big mean butch. Me kill mighty deer and eat raw. Ugh!" as she pounded her chest like a gorilla, causing Nessa to snort in a much unlady-like manner.
"Alright, stop poking fun at me. I'll eat your ‘mighty deer' but try and cook it first. I'm going to make use of your bathroom and attempt to look presentable."
Maggie grinned. She liked how the redhead looked in the morning. She was adorable with mussed hair and hoped to see it often in the future. She left the smaller woman to her morning absolutions to prepare breakfast. She whistles happily while she whipped up a meal of small fluffy omelets filled with cheese, slices of smoked ham, and warmed some croissants that she had bought the day before. She steeped some tea and set the table. She was glad she hadn't already packed her fine china.
"It looks nice. Is that Earl Grey I smell steeping?"
Maggie nodded and held out a chair for Nessa to sit. She placed milk, sugar, and lemon slices on the table, unsure how Nessa drank her tea. She placed the old fashioned teapot onto the folded towel and gave her guest time to prepare her tea before placing a plate in front of her.
"I couldn't possible eat all this!" she protested.
"Give it the old college try, Nessa." The reporter didn't want to point out that Nessa had lost weight lately and needed the calories. She could feel her fragile ribs last night and had been worried about it. She sat opposite of Nessa at the small table and began eating her own meal.
"Mmm, this tastes wonderful. Thank you," the smaller woman dug in with obvious pleasure and managed to eat most of her breakfast. They chatted about light subjects and avoided the subject of the move until they finished eating.
"When must you have the apartment empty?" Nessa asked.
"Not until the 26th. That way the landlady has a few days to do any last minute repairs or cleaning before renting to someone new. So I have a few weeks to move this all out. I'm putting most of it into storage."
"That seems sensible. Why don't we move the essentials today such as your clothing and groceries? The cottage has a bed and furniture so you won't need much."
"Alright. I have those big plastic storage totes we can put the perishables into and some empty boxes. Most of my clothing is already packed except for the dirty laundry."
"You can use the laundry room at the estate. It's just outside the kitchen and quite large," Nessa offered. Maggie agreed. The kitchen clean up took little time and they spent the morning packing. Maggie decided to take along her favorite cookware since Nessa wasn't certain what supplies were available in the cottage. In spite of what they had thought it had taken numerous trips to take ‘the essentials' to the cars. Both vehicles were filled to capacity when they finished.
"Whew. I'm already tired and we've yet to take this all into the cottage," Maggie commented.
"I have a half-dozen servants with little to do most of the time. We'll have help unloading."
"Great! Shall we get moving? I'll follow you to your place."
It hit Nessa suddenly. Maggie was actually moving in. Was this all real? She forced a smile onto her lips and prayed she hadn't made a colossal mistake.
* * * *
With the help of the servants, including the intimidating Charles, they quickly unloaded the cars and placed Maggie's possessions upstairs in the loft quarters. It was small yet sunny and inviting. It had a small kitchen but the bathroom had one luxury that made Maggie moan in pleasure—a huge old-fashioned tub with clawed feet. Modern tubs just weren't long enough for her nearly six foot stature.
The recluse saw Maggie eyeing the tub with a smile. "Like it? Mother wanted to remove it but my father refused. He was quite tall and hated all the newest fiberglass tubs that had been installed into the house."
"I bet he came up here just for a good soak once in a while," Maggie comment. "I know I plan on it. I'm going to fill it full of perfumed bubble bath and soak until I look like a prune."
"You are a constant surprise to me today, Maggie, do you know that? Outside your are a gruff butch but privately you are very feminine in your pleasures."
Maggie had to laugh. "Just because I'm a butch doesn't mean I live like a teenage boy out of college. There isn't any cinderblock shelves or stacks of empty beer cans on my table. I like my home neat and I do like my comforts."
"Duly noted." Nessa looked at her watch. "It's nearly time for lunch, interested?"
"Sure! I never turn down a meal if possible." Maggie patted her flat stomach. Nessa doubted the tall woman ever gained a pound. They walked down the stairs and began crossing the garden along the stone path. Maggie reached out her hand and took Nessa's with a shy smile. The redhead's grin was just as bashful but she didn't pull away even though she knew they were visible to the occupants of the estate. The servants would gossip but she didn't care. Maggie seemed to have read her mind.
"Will we raise eyebrows with your staff?"
"Probably. You're the only person to move in who wasn't an employee or family. I'm sure the grape vine is thrumming as we speak," she chuckled.
"Does it bother you? I mean, well, do they know you're a lesbian?"
"Oh, yes, the older staff members knew. When I told my parents there was quite a to do over it. My parents were very disappointed because I was their only child and the last of our line."
Maggie slowed her pace, wanting a tiny bit more time. "Have you considered adopting or artificial insemination?"
"Of course I have, but to raise them alone? No, it was better to be the last of my line and leave everything to charity." They reached the ornate French doors and entered the building.
The reporter in Maggie wanted to ask so many more questions but she held back, afraid that Nessa might back away. The redhead was giving her a chance but what if she believed Maggie quit her job but was considering freelancing and going to sell her story to the highest bidder? No, she would try to avoid anything that could lead to financial matters or anything remotely related to her previous story line.
They both headed for the dining area but a sturdy woman with a wooden spoon in her hand stepped in front of them.
"Don't you even think about sitting at that table before you clean up Nessa Renee O'Shea! And that includes your friend! Git!"
Maggie quickly backed away from the huge woman, her eyes wide in shock. The woman easily weighed over 225 pounds and looked like she could wrestle alligators. She was dressed in a flowered dress and a huge frilly apron. Her dark eyes glared at the two of them.
Nessa meekly murmured a ‘yes ma'am' and tugged on Maggie's hand. She was lead to a small bathroom near the laundry room. They took turns removing the dust from their hands and neatly tidied after themselves. Nessa explained that Tess was the family cook and ruler supreme of the kitchen. Entering her domain and touching anything was likely to bring down the woman's wrath.
"Well, there went my plans of kissing you senseless on the kitchen table. I like my butt without welts," Maggie gulped comically.
"Oh? And you thought I'd willingly go along with this fantasy of yours?" Nessa grinned.
Maggie smirked. "Well, a girl can hope can't she?"
"She certainly can," the redhead whispered with a smile and winked as she grabbed the door handle and walked out of the bathroom. Maggie grinned and followed, pleased that the chase had begun.
* * * *
After lunch they returned to the loft to unpack. Maggie had hopes of sneaking in a little slap and tickle time but the servants kept knocking on the door and bringing little items for the place that Maggie might need until more of her things arrived. The former reporter sighed inside and forced herself to smile politely and thank them. At this rate they might not be left alone for weeks.
As to the billionaire, she was torn between annoyance at her too faithful watchdogs and touched that they were keeping an eye on her. She wanted to spend quiet time with the tall brunette—after all that was why she invited her to stay in the loft.
Another servant left them after refusing to get the hint for nearly twenty minutes. The door shut and Maggie lightly banged her head against the wall.
The redhead chuckled and slid behind the tall woman and wrapped her arms around her waist and nuzzled her face between her shoulder blades. It felt quite nice and she was amazed she had done it without thinking. It seemed quite natural. A warm hand rested on hers and Maggie's body seemed to relax at her touch. The smaller woman felt her own torso melt against the brunette's tall frame and seemed to settle in for the long haul. "Mmmm, this feels nice," she murmured.
Maggie turned slowly and drew Nessa against her. "Yes, it does feel nice. Do you think they might leave us alone for bit? I wouldn't mind taking a nap with you."
A strawberry brow rose in suspicion. "Just a nap?"
Maggie smiled softly. It was too soon for more no matter what her body was screaming for. She was determined that Nessa would be hers for a lifetime, not just an affair. For that goal, Nessa needed to trust her completely so seduction was out of the question. When both of them were ready they'd feel it. Until then she would keep it sweet and undemanding.
"Yes, just a nap. Do you think your over protective servants would allow us to sleep if we kept the bedroom door open and most of our clothes on? I refuse to sleep in jeans and shoes again," she grumbled good-naturedly.
"Lend me a pair of sweat pants?" Nessa asked with a grin.
Not fifteen minutes later Tess managed to haul her huge frame up the narrow wooden steps. She rapped lightly on the door but got no response. With the daring of a long time employee she tried the handle. The door was unlocked and she entered the loft. She listened carefully. If those girls were doing anything naughty…well, she wasn't sure what she'd do. Hearing nothing but silence she took a few more steps inside and looked around. The apartment was tiny and had no hallways. She glanced towards the bedroom and saw the door open but the shade had been closed.
Curious, she walked towards the room and stopped. Both young women were on the twin bed sound asleep. Her employer was draped over the tall brunette, one sock-clad foot was sticking out from beneath the blanket. The room was far from dark and she could easily see that the girls were dressed in T-shirts and baggy sweats.
Well, they certainly hadn't been left alone any longer than ten minutes so they didn't have time for anything wild. Deciding the young women looked prepared to sleep half the afternoon away that she'd leave them alone for a while. Perhaps have someone peek in every 30 minutes or so. Yes, that would be good enough. She nodded to herself and left them to sleep.
Nessa woke when a sharp sound from the kitchen nudged her awake. She lifted her head from Maggie's comfy shoulder and peered into the small kitchenette.
"Ahh, you're awake. Coffee?' Karen asked quietly, trying not to wake Maggie.
Nessa rubbed her face. "What are you doing here?' she asked sleepily.
"Oh, just came to watch the fun. You do realize your loyal servants are having a real row up at the house? Your housekeeper is livid because Tess told them to let you sleep. That girl who does the laundry is rolling her eyes and hoping the two of you are up here screwing like weasels. Meanwhile, Charles just shakes his head and is quietly drinking his tea, looking like he hasn't a care in the world. You threw them all for a loop you know?"
The redhead chuckled silently and placed her head back onto Maggie's shoulder.
"Screw ‘em all," Nessa mumbled.
"Well I never! Nessa O'Shea, did I hear you use the word ‘screw'? I'm quite shocked," Karen grinned.
"Yes you did. I'll have you know it is a word in the dictionary. Look it up."
Karen chuckled and took a sip of her coffee. The two of them looked quite comfortable together. Although the tall brunette was soundly asleep she had both arms wrapped around Nessa protectively and had her nose was buried into Nessa's strawberry colored hair. It was funny how life worked. Two weeks ago Nessa was prepared to throw Maggie into a cell and toss away the key. Today they were snuggling like they had been together for years.
Maggie shifted in her sleep and spoke without opening her eyes. "I smell coffee."
Karen laughed. "Sure do. I just made a pot. Would you care for some?"
"As long as I don't have to get out of my nice warm bed," the brunette grumbled, not in the least surprised they had a visitor. Karen chuckled and asked how she took it. Maggie told her and Karen grabbed a cup and prepared it as told.
"Here you go, one cream and sugar with a little coffee added." Maggie shoved a pillow behind her and sat up to drink it. Nessa wasn't ready to end the cuddling yet and shifted until her cheek was resting on Maggie's firm thigh. Maggie smiled indulgently and began gently combing her fingers through Nessa's long hair.
The volunteer sat on the simple wooden chair near them and smiled inwardly. The servants might have doubts to Maggie's feelings for Nessa but she had none. The gentle look in brunette's dark eyes said it all.
"So, not at the shelter today Karen?" Maggie asked and took a gulp of her coffee.
"Nope. Today is Tuesday and when Nessa didn't show up I called. I got an earful, let me tell you."
Maggie grinned. "I bet. Did they shock you with tales of Nessa bringing home some homeless dyke and setting her up with a place to live?"
"Not exactly worded in that manner, but yes. Nessa called them on her cell phone and announced she was bringing a friend to the estate and putting her into the loft apartment so give it a quick clean, she'd be there in fifteen minutes. Angela sputtered and wanted to know who this friend was and she said-"
"Someone I just may keep around if things go right," Nessa finished for her.
Karen grinned and waved her hand. "And voila! She arrives with a tall pretty woman and shocks their poor old hearts—except that little number who does your laundry. She keeps muttering ‘go girlfriend' and is betting on the two of you setting off the smoke alarms tonight."
Maggie choked on her coffee and nearly spit all over Nessa. Karen handed her a napkin.
"Well, you did ask," the older woman grinned. Karen looked at Nessa. "So, are you going to keep her?" she teased.
Nessa blushed but smiled. "I'm thinking about it. I think I need a little more than a few hours to make up my mind."
"What am I? A puppy that followed you home? Sheesh!" Maggie grumbled but ran her hand along Nessa's shoulder affectionately.
Karen held out her hand like she was holding a dog treat. "Sit Rover, sit!"
Maggie gave her a mock glare and growled.
To be continued