Hoodoo You Do Voodoo
Copyright 2006 by Texbard


Background: Rock star Kimberly Case and her wardrobe assistant, Seana (no last name yet), were first introduced earlier this year in my 2006 Academy Valentine's story, When the Lights Go Down, which is set a bit in the future, during Mardi Gras of February 2008.  This story is also set in the future, later that same year, during Halloween of 2008.  It takes place in post - Katrina New Orleans, which is rebuilding and coming back to life.  You do not have to read When the Lights Go Down in order to enjoy this story - it can be read as a stand - alone.  This is a Halloween tale, and these ladies travel in the fast world of sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll.

Pronunciation Note:  gris - gris = "gree - gree"


Kimberly Case stepped out of the sunken Jacuzzi tub and pulled on a soft plush terry robe.  She shrugged it into place and belted it with great contentment, noting the Ritz Carlton Club emblem embroidered neatly over her left breast.  "Nice.  At a thousand bucks a night, this baby should go home with us in the suitcase."  She inhaled the lingering scent of Bvlgari bath oil and twirled the robe's belt, doing her own little happy dance around the large space, keeping time to the jazz music wafting through the air over the penthouse speaker system.

On the marble counter nearby were a full flute of red champagne and a platter of even redder chocolate - dipped strawberries.  She drank deeply of the dry champagne, guzzling down half the flute, enjoying the bubbles as they popped on her tongue and the burn as the quickly - consumed beverage hit her stomach.  Kim never sipped her alcohol. 

Smiling in satisfaction, she bit a strawberry in half and closed her eyes, savoring the combination of tart - sweet fruit and slightly bitter dark chocolate.  She finished the strawberry and quickly ran a wide - toothed comb back through her wet hair, then worked a bit of mousse into her roots. 

Impetuously, she drew a heart in the steam that clung to the edges of the mirror and wrote "K + S" in the center of it.  She laughed at herself and shook her head.  "Got it bad, don'tcha?"  The reflection in the mirror nodded in knowing agreement.  "Yeah, yeah, I know.  Busted."

She grabbed the plate of strawberries and stepped out into the living room.  Shoving her feet into a pair of terry slippers, she glided across the hardwood floor and onto the ornate floral rug that filled most of the room.  The slippers were cozy warm and the room was beautiful, furnished in elegant French antiques and tapestries - the dark woods, rich feminine colors, and dainty accents pleasing to her eye.  The only sight more pleasing was the slim figure she spied through the beveled glass doors that opened onto the wrap - around balcony.

With an impish grin, she crept up to the doors and quietly pulled one of them open, hoping to sneak up on her girlfriend, Seana.  A gust of wind blew across the high tiled area, tinkling a set of wind chimes and rustling some papers on the Louis XVI computer desk just inside the doorway, spoiling the surprise. 

"Hey."  Seana turned, her eyes roaming leisurely up and down her lover's lanky frame.  She admitted privately that she would never get tired of looking at Kim.  The woman was a knock - out - her long chestnut hair, striking blue eyes, gorgeous chiseled face, and impossibly long legs commanded attention.  Kim did not merely enter rooms, she conquered them.  "Nice robe."

"Nice leather."  Kim's eyes sparkled in the soft light of the setting sun, as she drank in Seana's attire for the evening - a devil - girl costume that consisted of form - fitting red leather pants, a red leather bra lined in shiny black satin, black leather boots with nickel toe plates and silver spurs, little red sparkling devil horns attached to a braided black leather headband, and a long braided leather tail that matched the headband.  Her cloak and pitchfork were inside the penthouse.  "Can't decide which looks more delicious, you or these strawberries."  She set the plate on a table.

Seana poked out her lower lip in a pout but quickly smiled, as Kim closed the distance between them, offering up a juicy strawberry.  Seana bit into it and melted into Kim's arms, as the taller woman tilted her head and found Seana's lips, kissing her soundly.  As Seana swallowed the strawberry, Kim deepened the kiss, their tongues dancing languidly together as they explored each other, their senses heightened by anticipation of the night to come. 

They'd just come off the road, ending Kim's spring and summer tour. Opening at home in Los Angeles in April, they'd then gone to San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, and Juneau, before jetting across to Honolulu, Tokyo, and then a rare invitation to perform in Beijing.  From there it was on to Auckland, Sydney, Prague, Athens, Rome, Barcelona, Paris, Berlin, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Dublin, and London. 

They'd taken one week's respite from the killer itinerary to celebrate Seana's mid - summer birthday on a Greek Isles sailing cruise.  Then they were off again for Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, Toronto, and then back to the U.S., where they'd been to almost every major American city they hadn't hit on the opening leg of the tour. 

The exhausting schedule had paid off, with Kim's latest album going double platinum and producing not one, but four hit singles.  Between the four songs, Kim's music had dominated the number one spot on the charts for weeks.  Both women were more than a little ready to cut loose and have fun before heading to their Laurel Canyon home and a brief breather.  In less than a month, Kim would film a Christmas television special, then begin a round of holiday concerts including New Year's Eve in Vegas.

"Mmmm.  Delicious."  Kim broke off and studied green eyes brightened with passion, and the play of Seana's stomach muscles as she fought to catch her breath. "You taste best.  You win."  She winked and dove in for more, slowly backing the shorter woman toward a padded chaise lounge where they landed in a tangle of arms and legs, their touches and kisses increasingly urgent. 

Seana pushed the robe apart, her hand sliding against a firm inner thigh.  She trailed her fingertips upward, just a slight pressure against silky skin, until she reached even softer wet warmth.  "Just a quickie," Seana whispered into a pink ear, then pressed the earlobe between her lips and flicked it with her tongue.  "I know you don't want to be late for the party, but I can't help it. You feel so damned good." 

A low compliant moan was her answer, and she chuckled wickedly.  She could feel Kim's hands now, clutching at her mostly - bare back as she reached her goal, stroking Kim deeply and rapidly.  In a very short time Kim cried out, her breath warm against Seana's neck.  She held on tightly as powerful tremors shook her from head to toe, her stomach fluttering as Seana pressed her hand against her, drawing out her pleasure.

"Damn.  That was unexpected."  Her chest still heaving, Kim rolled toward Seana, who had a rather self - satisfied expression on her face.  "And a very nice surprise."  She reached out, pulling the younger woman into her arms.  I think it's your turn now," she mumbled breathlessly, fumbling with the button at Seana's waist with one hand, while she cupped a leather - covered breast with the other.

"Nuh - uh."  Seana shook her head reluctantly, gently pushing Kim onto her back before she snuggled up against the long desirable body, careful not to poke her with her spurs.  "I'm already dressed, but you can return the favor later.  Besides - " She tweaked Kim's nose.  "You started it, maneuvering us down onto this bench."

"And you did a mighty fine job of finishing it.  Bet you're aching." Kim laughed and retrieved a cigarette from a pack on the table next to them, lighting it with a flick of a gold - plated hotel lighter.  She inhaled and held the smoke for a moment, before releasing it in three perfect smoke rings.

"You know I am." Seana leaned across as Kim offered over the cigarette, holding it to Seana's lips and laughing again as Seana managed to nibble her fingers in the process.  "All night tonight while we're out, I'll be thinking about you touching me."  She rubbed herself against Kim in catlike fashion, before settling back into the curve of her arm.

"Might not be able to wait 'til we get back here."  Kim licked her lower lip suggestively, then took another drag from the cigarette.  "It'll be dark everywhere we go."

"Ah.  An adventure," Seana purred seductively.  "A tall mysterious angel sneaking up on me and taking me in a dark corner."

"Careful there, devil - girl, or the mystery angel might decide she doesn't care you're already dressed."  She ruffled her lover's short blonde hair playfully, avoiding misplacing her horns.  They shared the rest of the cigarette in contented silence, watching as the remaining trails of an orange Halloween sunset were slowly replaced by the dark cloudy dusk of a humid New Orleans evening.

After much heel - dragging, Kim managed to get dressed, her angel costume perfectly complimenting her devil girlfriend.  They took the glass elevator down to the lobby, accepting more flutes of champagne, which they drank while waiting for a hotel - provided limo to pick them up. 

They were bound for an exclusive costume party held at Rosegate, the setting for Anne Rice's Witching Hour novels. The mansion had changed hands a number of times, the current deed - holder being the owner of a Los Angeles - based film production company. The invitation had arrived via Kim's manager, addressed to "Kimberly Case and 'guest'." 

Seana felt like the luckiest guest in the world.  They ducked into the limo where they quickly poured two more glasses of champagne and lit more cigarettes.  Kim opened the moon roof and selected a classic rock CD, popping it into a player next to them.  With the push of a button, their seat reclined back halfway, and they were staring up at the spooky partly - cloudy sky as it whizzed by above them.  After a few turns, the limo edged its way into the evening traffic of St. Charles Avenue, where the funky cultural atmosphere of the French Quarter soon gave way to the tree - lined streets and elegant old mansions of the Garden District.

"Thank god I'm gay."  With a sultry smile on her face, Seana admired Kim's costume at close range.  Not exactly a traditional angel, she was covered in a form - fitting, shimmering spandex dress in the palest shade of blue. It had long sleeves and came down to Kim's upper - thigh.  Crossing over in front, it exposed enticing skin from neck to navel with just the inner edges of her breasts peeking out.  Thigh - high silver boots, a sparkling silver halo headband, and angel wings of blue and white feathers rounded out the costume. "Are you an angel of God or an angel of Lucifer?"

"Oh, I'm fairly certain I belong to Lucifer tonight, devil girl"  Kim leaned in and stole a kiss, gasping in surprise as Seana's hand snuck up, her thumb brushing across Kim's nipple.

Seana felt the hardness and palmed her lover, pleased at the knowledge there were no undergarments of any kind under the dress.  Two could play the sneaking - up game.  "That's right." She pinched Kim's nipple, eliciting a whimper of pleasure, and kissed her deeply.  "You belong to me now.  Don't you forget that."

Their eyes met in mutual understanding.  They'd shared their first kiss at Mardi Gras, some eight months earlier, in a hotel not so very far from the Ritz where they were staying for Halloween week.  Promises made in the dark while tripping on cocaine and Captain Morgan were much easier to make, than they were to keep, in the blinding light of a sober day. 

What started with a kiss took much longer to land on relatively solid ground.  There were several false starts and a few indiscretions in between, before Kim finally understood that Seana was in for the long haul, she was not willing to share, and she was the best thing that had ever happened to Kim.  Most importantly, she came to realize that she'd be crazy to let the love of her life escape over a few meaningless one - night stands.  Kim gave up her groupies, just like that.  They were still invited back stage, and some even made their way to concert after - parties, but they were no longer allowed to touch, only to look.

"Totally yours, sweetheart," Kim answered sincerely.  "Body and soul."

Appeased for the moment, Seana relaxed and leaned back, drawing deeply on her cigarette.  Smoke curled up and around her, escaping out the open roof, and she watched it idly before she sat back up, taking in the sights of the lovely old neighborhood as they passed by.  Unbeknownst to her, the figure next to her sat back much less easily, thoughtful blue eyes wandering restlessly over Seana's back.  For Seana, it was a short drive to what promised to be an entertaining and hopefully, romantic evening. 

Soon they were pulling up to the mansion, where they exited the limo.  The long sleek vehicle was at their disposal at no extra charge, for the duration of their stay at the hotel.  A two hundred dollar pre - tip slipped casually into the driver's hand assured he would not wander far. A pizza and six - pack of cold non - alcoholic beer would be delivered to the man in another hour, sealing the deal. 

They walked up to the house and stopped at a closed gate, but as Kim reached for the call button, the gate opened and they spied a small security camera mounted high up to one side of the entrance.  They looked at each other and shrugged, then made their way up a winding, decorated cobblestone walk.  All along the way, hidden speakers played spooky music and sounds.  As they approached a long porch, costumed figures greeted them and bid them enter the house, pressing yet more glasses of champagne into their hands as they crossed the threshold.

Once inside, Kim did one of the things she did best, making a slow circuit of the large room where most of the costumed guests were gathered, talking in small groups while they sipped their beverages.  Trays of finger foods were passed around, and both women partook of cold boiled shrimp, raw oysters, cut - up California rolls, and caviar on crackers, chasing all of it with the free - flowing champagne. 

Kim charmed her way into each circle in turn and politely introduced Seana to the people she knew.  Seana quickly realized that most of those in attendance were also in the entertainment industry.  She sighed quietly, as it dawned on her that they were there to network, as much as to party.

As the evening wore on, the house filled up, the music grew louder, and the laughter more raucous.  Seana dis - attached Kim's hand from her arm and smiled sweetly.  "Someone said the hallway walls upstairs are covered in Anne Rice memorabilia.  I'm going to go check it out."

"Have fun." Kim discretely patted Seana's  behind, then turned back to her conversation with Jimmy Buffett's drummer.  Seana couldn't deny Kim this - she was in her element, winning over future contacts and talking about the music she loved so much.  Seana, however, was more than a little bored, and relieved to get away from the claustrophobic room for a while.

She wandered up a polished winding staircase and sure enough, encountered a long wall of framed book covers, photos of Anne Rice, stills from the films made of her books, and what appeared to be Anne's own handwritten notes for some of her stories.  She giggled knowingly at a few raunchy artist's etchings, inspired by the Sleeping Beauty trilogy penned under Anne's A.N. Roquelaure pseudonym.  An avid reader, Seana had talked Kim into the New Orleans Anne Rice tour earlier that morning, and she was thrilled to find this extra private tidbit to add to what she'd seen on the public tour.

Moving slowly from frame to frame, she realized there was an awful lot of action going on upstairs as well.  Since meeting Kim, she'd been to plenty of parties in LA and around the world, for that matter. She'd learned to expect anything and everything when rockers partied, and almost nothing shocked her anymore.

As she passed one room, it became obvious three naked bodies were tangled together on a large bed, the semi - darkness hiding their features.  Seana merely rolled here eyes and continued to study the wall hangings.  In the process, she passed other rooms, featuring a strip poker game, another couple having sex, a woman performing a lap dance for two men, a group of drag queens trying on shoes they'd pilfered from the hostess' closet, and a room that reeked of marijuana.  In true celebrity fashion, only the pot - smoking room had bothered to close the door.

At the end of the hallway was an unoccupied bathroom, and she stepped inside and closed the door, answering nature's call.  While washing her hands she looked around, shaking her head at extravagance she was only beginning to be comfortable with.  There were baskets of high - end lotions, soaps, and other assorted cosmetics, and she indulged in a spritz from a three hundred dollar bottle of perfume, the price tag conveniently left on the bottle in case anyone was in doubt. 

In one basket off to the side were a dozen small squares of mirrored glass and packets of razor blades for those who needed a snort of cocaine.  The cocaine itself, to her relief, was not on the list of party favors.  However, as she started to leave she encountered a brass bowl on a pedestal, bearing what she finally realized was an assortment of all kinds of colorful pills.  It wasn't a temptation to her, as she stuck with booze, cigarettes, and the occasional joint, but she found herself hoping Kim did not make it to the second floor.

Shaking her head, she meandered toward the staircase, intent on finding Kim, but stopped en route to take a hit off a joint offered to her by one of the strip - poker players.  As she inhaled the sweet heady smoke, she curiously appraised the fairly attractive young man who had offered it to her.  Clad only in his socks and a top hat, he in turn studied her with hooded appreciative eyes - eyes that bore witness that his brain was flying higher than the rooftop.  "You wanna join us?"  He nodded toward the half - dressed people sitting around in a circle on a king - sized waterbed.  "Game's just starting to get interesting, but I'm losing right now."

"No, really?"  Seana smirked.

"Come on, join us." He grinned rakishly. "Maybe with you on board I'll get lucky."

"Um, no thank you."  Seana smiled and handed him back the joint.  Her eyebrows shot up as she inadvertently looked down and realized that perhaps he appreciated her costume a little too much.  Hastily, she made a beeline for the staircase, feeling vaguely unclean until she was out of his sight.  "Gee, is that a rocket in your pocket or are you just glad to see me? 'Get lucky' my ass," she mumbled under her breath.  "Toto, we are sooo not in Nacogdoches anymore."

Back in the main room, she weaved among the crowd, thinking surely a statuesque angel wearing what amounted to a baby blue body glove, should not be difficult to find.  She smiled politely at vampires, witches, pirates, can - can girls, and a couple of GI Joe wannabes, her eyes always a few groups ahead, but Kim was nowhere to be seen. 

Something large bumped into her from behind and she turned, almost jumping out of her skin. "Ah!"

"Sorry," a creature covered in thick white fur and a pink dress apologized.

"Bad pussy."  Seana scurried away, trying to clear the image from the back of her eyeballs.  "Ugh.  That was one scary Hello Kitty."

"You looking for Kimberly Case?"  A roundish man in a hula skirt with several leis around his neck stopped her.  She nodded.  "Group of 'em headed for the library for brandy, cigars, and Halloween candy."

"Candy?"  Seana cocked her head to one side in question.

"Expensive candy," he replied.  "Too good to leave out in a dish.  Go back out of this room and cut through the formal dining room on the other side of the entryway, and it's back behind there."

"Thanks."  Seana smiled in surprise as he removed a lei and placed it over her head, the fragrant scent of orchids filling her nostrils.  "Oh, very pretty.  Thanks again."  The man raised his drink glass in toast, and she disappeared, following his instructions.

She found the library with no trouble and stopped long enough to accept a fat Cuban cigar, already cut and ready for her to light.  A man in a cowboy costume produced a lighter and she ducked her head toward it, her cheeks puffing inward as she watched the end begin to glow red, and the spicy smoke filled her mouth.  She sucked at it a few times, enjoying the contraband treat and wondering if there was a way to smuggle some of them home.

"Hey Lucy - fer, you leaving the throne of Hell for Honolulu?" A drunken man tugged at the lei around her neck.  Seana noted privately he had no business wearing Superman tights.

"Been there, done that." She smiled.  "The devil gets around, don't you know?"

"I'll just bet." He burst out laughing.  "Well then.  You've been to Hawaii and obviously been lei'd.  If you like going on trips, you've come to the right place."

Something settled uneasily in the back of her mind, but Seana laughed over his little pun for a moment, then moved on.  The library, like the main room, was packed solid, occupants gathered in small intimate groups, the thick cigar smoke starting to collect in clouds at the ceiling.  A fire crackled in a large fireplace at one end of the room, and she finally spotted Kim sitting in a chair leaning over, her back to Seana.  Seana smiled.  Even from the back Kim was breathtakingly gorgeous.  She tiptoed up behind her and tugged on one of her wings.  "Hey, angel."

Kim sat up tall and her head snapped around, her eyes wide with surprise.  She sniffled, rubbed her nose with the edge of her finger, and then smiled, her hand shaking. "Oh, hey.  Did you see the Anne Rice stuff?"

"Yeah.  What are you . . . ?"  She peered past Kim, immediately noticing the small mirror lying flat on an end table next to Kim, a fine layer of white dust coating it.  As she looked down, Kim tucked a tiny silver straw between the chair arm and cushion, and hastily folded her hands in her lap.  "Candy.  Never mind," Seana finished quietly.  "Brandy and cigars not enough for you?"

"Seana, I'm sorry."  Kim stood.  "Just one little line is all I did.  No big deal."

"Look, I said 'never mind'."  Seana brushed off Kim's hand as she reached across to touch her shoulder.  "I have no room to talk.  I smoked a little weed upstairs.  Same thing, right?"

"Right," Kim answered unconvincingly.

The shared lie hung heavily between them, and suddenly the room was two small for both of them.  Despite the fire, Seana shivered.  She took a drag off the cigar, then angrily stubbed it out in an ashtray.  She regretted wasting it, but for some reason it was making her stomach turn.  "Maybe I should've played poker with the naked boy in his socks, after all."

"What?" Kim frowned in confusion.

"Nothing."  Seana shook her head.  "I'm going out in the back yard for some fresh air.  This room is starting to stink."  Kim's crestfallen face immediately got to her, and she looked down, wishing she could be stronger.

"Hey."  Kim carefully touched her shoulder and then took her hand, brushing her thumb across Seana's knuckles.  "I'll go you one better.  There's another party down near Jackson Square, out back of St. Louis Cathedral.  Someone said it's a big bash - lots of music and Voodoo queens and cool shit.  You game?"

Seana looked up and sighed, unable to stay angry, as Kim's blue eyes begged her for forgiveness - something else she couldn't deny her.  Kim's foray into rehab had lasted exactly a week after Mardi Gras, before she admitted with the upcoming tour there was no way she was going to stay clean and sober.  "Yeah.  Sure."

They'd reached a compromise, agreeing that cigarettes, booze, and pot were fine, but all other drugs were off limits.  As far as Seana knew, Kim had only broken the rule a few times, particularly in Amsterdam, where drugs flowed as freely as botox in Beverly Hills. 

"Let's blow this pop stand."  Seana's hand curled around Kim's, and they quickly said their goodbyes to the party hosts.  Neither woman could get to the limo fast enough, and soon they were headed back toward the French Quarter for some authentic New Orleans - style fun. 

As they neared Jackson Square, music drifted in through the open window, a mixture of DJ - spun dance tunes coming from the square itself, and the percussion of tribal drum beats from somewhere behind the cathedral.  The streets were full of people in costume, ranging from fully - clad bodies in nun costumes to one woman wearing nothing more than strategically - placed police crime scene tape.    It occurred to Seana that perhaps the nuns were not in costume, as the church was right there. 

She laughed, a sound that was a relief to Kim's ears.  "What's so funny?"  She leaned close and draped her arm across Seana's shoulders, touching her for the first time since they'd re - entered the limo.

"I was just thinking that real nuns and priests could go out on the town tonight, get sloppy drunk, have wild sex, smoke pot, and party it up good, and just claim they were regular people in costume."  She giggled again as another nun passed by the slowly - moving limo.

"Hmmphh."  Kim smiled at her lover's thoughts.  "Judging by what the Catholic Church has been going through lately, I'm not so sure the priests are waiting for Halloween anymore."

"Oh, too true." Seana nodded her agreement.

"This is as close as I'm going to be able to get, ma'am."  The driver opened the partition window.  "Square's a block away, is that okay?"

"Perfect."  Kim passed him another two hundred dollars.  "I've got your number.  We'll call when we're ready to go back to the hotel."

"Good enough, ma'am.  Thank you kindly."  The driver stopped and got out, opening the door and helping each of them up from the low - slung vehicle.

Still unsure of where she stood, Kim hung back, allowing Seana to take the lead.  Seana smiled and held out her hand, which Kim gladly took, relieved beyond measure when she felt a firm squeeze.  

They wandered around for a while, just looking at all the elaborate costumes and watching skilled break dancers and skate - boarders show off in the square.  Over to one side was a frozen daiquiri stand, and Kim bought each of them a large plastic cup of the refreshing spiked slush.  Despite it being late October, the temperatures had not dropped significantly at sunset, and even past midnight it was still in the low 70's and quite humid.

The sound of the drumming from behind the cathedral finally drew them, like moths to a flame, and rounding the corner, Seana simply stopped, her mouth open in mute surprise.  Tribal music washed over her in a wave, the beat of the drums pounding in her chest.  Several men and women were decked out in intricate colorful costumes, chanting and dancing around in a circle with huge, live boa constrictors draped about their arms and shoulders. 

In the center of the circle was a large barrel of fire with a cauldron suspended over it.  A man who appeared to be some sort of witch doctor stood over it, adding various ingredients to the pot and chanting along with the snake handlers.

Intrigued, Seana moved closer, dragging her smirking companion with her.  Having grown up on the bayous of Bay St. Louis, Kim had seen more than a fair share of Voodoo ceremonies, both real and fake.  This one appeared to be for the benefit of the Halloween tourist crowd.

"You tink dis is funny?"  A man in full tribal regalia tapped Kim on the shoulder.

"Um, yeah, I do, actually."  She flipped her hair back over her shoulder with one hand and faced him, aware of Seana's wary presence immediately behind her.  "Just some innocent Halloween entertainment, right?"

"Wrong," the man answered flatly, his eyes boring into her.  "Give me a strand of your hair." He reached out, his fingers pinched together, stopping just short of plucking it for himself.

"Kim, I don't think you should . . . " A squeeze to Seana's hand silenced her.

"It's okay."  Kim smiled and glanced sidewise, catching her lover's fearful expression, then met the man's gaze again.  "Sure.  Whatever."  She pulled a strand from the top of her head and handed it to him, placing her free hand on her hip in an attitude of boredom as they watched him work. 

He had a small doll, which appeared to be constructed of burlap, its insides open.  He poured a few pouches of some type of powder inside, added Kim's hair, and quickly sewed it up.  With eyes closed, his lips moved rapidly in what appeared to be some silent prayer.  Suddenly his eyes snapped open and with a menacing smile, he pulled a pin from his sleeve cuff, and slowly poked it into the dolls left arm, just below the shoulder.

"Ow!"  Kim let go of Seana's hand and grabbed her own left arm, vigorously rubbing it.  It felt as if a bee had stung her.

"Hey!"  Seana stepped forward and the man pulled the pin out.  Kim's relief was immediate, but just as quickly he moved the pin down and jammed it into the doll's leg, retrieved another pin, and rammed it into the other leg.

"Oh, god!"  Kim's knees buckled and she dropped to the ground, tears streaming down her face in agony.  "Bastard!  You broke my legs!"

"Stop it!  You're hurting her!"  Seana boldly closed the distance and snatched the doll from the man's hands, pulling the pins out.  Kim's cries ceased and while she did not stand, she did rise up on her hands and knees, before she sat back on her heels, looking up at the man in rage while swiping at her face with her sleeve.

"Next time, you will believe."  The man spat on the ground in front of her and stalked away.

On shaking legs, Seana knelt down next to her, her own heart still pounding in terror.  "Are you okay?"  She clutched the doll to her, unsure of what to do with it.  "Here . . . " She produced a tissue and dabbed at the tears trailing down Kim's cheeks.

"Yeah, I think so. Let me just . . . " Kim carefully stood and made her way over to a bench next to the cathedral wall.  "Son of a bitch.  That guy was the real deal."  She carefully examined her legs, which had felt as if they were snapped in two mere minutes before, but at the moment felt perfectly fine.  "Not even a scratch.  Can you take a look . . . ?" she pulled down the left sleeve of her dress, exposing her shoulder.  "Any marks there? Man, it felt like a big - ass bumble bee got me."

Seana moved so she wasn't blocking the overhead sidewalk lantern.  "No.  Not a one."  Impulsively, she leaned down and kissed the spot.  "I don't like this party anymore."  She sat down next to Kim and leaned against her, closing her eyes as Kim rested her head against Seana's.

"Me, neither.  Guess I should've listened to you, huh?"  She smiled wryly and took the doll from Seana, examining it closely.  "Damn him."  She tugged at the threads, intent on ripping the doll open, but Seana's hand closed around her fingers, halting her progress.

"Don't," Seana beseeched quietly.

"Why ever not?"  Kim tried to free her fingers, only to feel Seana squeeze harder.  "I want my hair out of there."

"What if you rip it open and your guts fall out?"  Seana patted Kim's stomach, then slid her hand up until she felt the reassuring beat of her heart.

Kim froze and the doll dropped into her lap.  "What the hell am I supposed to do with it, then?  Wrap it in lamb's wool and lock it up in a padded case?"

"Might not be a bad idea, unless that would make you suffocate." Seana kissed her shoulder again.  "I don't know what we should do with it, but I'm afraid to do anything to it until we know it won't do something to you in the process."

A commotion made them both look up, to find the man who had made the doll approaching them again, this time apparently against his will.  Another larger man was behind him, pushing him along, and as they grew closer, they could see the large man had the smaller one's arm pinned behind him at a painful angle.  "Old Hoodoo!"  The large man shoved him in front of Kim and Seana.  "Undo it, mon."  Stubborn resistance met his command, and he wrenched the man's arm even higher, until both women thought surely they would hear it crack.  "Ain't any Hoodoo be fixin' your arm in another minute.  You gonna be needing da doctor and a cast. You undo it!"

"Alright, already.  Lemme go!"  Shrugging his shoulders in a dignified manner, the shorter man took the doll from Kim and closed his eyes once more, speaking again in some strange silent language.  When he finished, he opened his eyes and with a wicked smile, pulled a pin out and stabbed the doll in the heart.

Both women jumped, clutching at each other, then stood up angrily when they realized nothing had happened.  "Get out of here!"  Seana kicked the man in the shin and drew her fist back, intent on punching him, when a gentle hand closed over it.

"He's a bit powerful to be trying to beat him up, sweetheart.  Not to mention bigger than you."  Kim held Seana back and the shorter man sneered at them, dropped the doll to the ground, stomped on it, and took off at a run, disappearing around the corner of the cathedral.

"Sorry, ladies."  Anger flashed in the larger man's eyes as he watched their nemesis run.  "Old Hoodoo, dat one was, practicing da dark arts.  Ain't suppose' ta be comin' round here on All Saints, scaring da tourists off."

"All Saints?"  Seana questioned.  "It's Halloween."

"Was Halloween," he corrected her.  "Look at your watch, lady.  It be da first o' November now - All Saint's Day.  Halloween be da prelude - eve o' da Hallowed Mass.  You don't be from 'round here, no?"

"No, she's not," Kim laughed lightly.  "She's from the backwoods of East Texas.  Thank you . . . ?"  She held out her hand and his large one engulfed it. 

"Joseph, but you can call me 'Joe'."  He smiled warmly, his white teeth standing out starkly against a face as black as soft coal.

"Joe.  Thank you , Joe.  I'm Kim and this is Seana."  They each shook his hand firmly, then Kim reached down and picked up the doll.  "Is it safe to toss this thing now?"

"More dan safe, Miss Kim.  More dan safe.  And I know who you be."  He looked around and leaned closer, smiling conspiratorially.  "I won't be tellin' no one 'round here."

"Thank you.  It's nice to be able to just walk around sometimes, un - noticed.  As for this thing, just in case . . . " Kim ripped the doll open, poking around inside until she found her strand of hair.  "Mine."  She tucked the hair in Seana's back pocket.  "I'll be right back, soon as I dump this thing in that fire over there."  She turned on her heels and strode away, making a beeline for the fire barrel.

"Bah."  Joe spoke to Seana and waved at the air.  "Dis stuff is for da tourists.  Da real Voodoo queen - she be on da other side o' da church in a tent."

"Real Voodoo queen?"  Seana's curiosity was piqued.  "No Voodoo dolls or pins?"

"None o' dat stuff, no." He shook his head firmly.  "Madam Laveau - direct descendent o' Marie Laveau, if you believe da local legends."

"Marie Laveau?"

"I see ain't much news from dese parts ever made it to East Texas."  Joe laughed heartily.  "Da most powerful Voodoo queen dat ever lived.  You gots a problem, Madam Laveau gots da answer.  No pain.  No pins.  Little magic is all."

With trembling fingers, Seana lit a cigarette. "Want one?"

"Yes, thank you," Joe nodded, graciously accepting the offering and producing a lighter from his own pocket.

Her eyes brimming with tears, Seana looked up at him.  "Any problem at all?"

"Doll - baby." Joe patted her cheek.  "I ain't seen nothing, what Madam Laveau can't fix.  You go on 'round dere.  I'll tell Miss Kim where you be when she gets back.  I'll be waitin' right here for her."

"She'll be pissed if I take off without her," Seana responded, her shoulders slumping.

"Let ol' Joe tell you somethin'."  He placed a hand on her arm, steering her in the direction of the tent.  "Dey say if you love somethin' 'nough, you let it go, it'll come back to you.  But I say, if somethin' loves you 'nough, you take off, it'll come find you, an' just in da nick o' time, too.  You gots some powerful hurt in dem eyes - you go take care o' you."  He gave her a little push, and she kept walking.  "She ain't gonna be pissed.  She gonna realize a good ting done be walkin' away.  I 'spect she be comin' after you in no time, doll - baby.  No time at all."

Seana stopped and turned, smiling through her tears.  "I sure hope you're right."

"I know I am."  He shooed at her.  "Go on, now."

"I sure do," she whispered sadly.  She wasn't sure why she was heading for the tent, given what had just happened to Kim when a little Voodoo was applied.  Or Hoodoo.  Or whatever Joe was calling it.  Black magic. 

All she knew, was a part of her needed something to believe in, and that something had not been Kim in a very long time.  "Body and soul?  I don't think so, babe.  I think I come in second to the white fairy dust.  That's what I think.  I could just walk away, except for one damned thing - I love you so much it hurts.  Might as well rip my heart out, as leave you."

As she approached the tent, a chill ran down her spine and she stopped a couple of yards short, taking a moment to catch her breath.  It seemed as if all the sounds around her rushed out of her ears - the music from the square - the beating of the ceremonial drums - even the noisy laughing crowd moving about, all around her.

Time slowed to a crawl and she became aware of all the little sounds as they zoomed in on her senses - the wind and her breathing and the sound of her own heartbeat.  She took one long last drag from her cigarette.  As she drew in the smoke she could hear it, like a hurricane inside herself, and could feel every particle as it entered and left her lungs.  Exhaling seemed to take a lifetime and then she came back to herself, shaking her head.  "What the heck was that all about?"  She tossed the cigarette to the ground, grinding it out with her heel.  "I think I've consumed too many stimulants tonight."

"You be seeking clarity, girl, you come to da right place," a voice responded from inside the tent.

Seana jumped, then cautiously closed the distance and pulled the edge of the tent flap back, peering inside.  It was dark, save two candles on stands and another in the center of a small wooden table.  Behind the table was a slender woman wearing a colorful batik - dyed kaftan and a matching turban wrapped around her head.  Her skin was the color of café au lait, and her smile immediately put Seana at ease.

"Come, child."  The woman gestured toward the empty chair across from her.  "Sit.  Tell me what Madam Laveau can do for you."

"I - I don't know where to start." Seana sat down, clasping her hands in her lap and looking down.  "I'm not even sure why I'm here."

"Look at me."   The voice was kind but commanding, and Seana had no choice but to obey.  "Troubled eyes.  You be sad for a very long time, no?"

"I . . . not all the time . . . just . . . yes." The words sounded full of defeat, even to Seana's ears, and she felt her eyes water up again, sniffling as a few tears escaped.  "I'm sorry.  Maybe this was a bad idea.  I should just . . . "

"You come here to find happiness?  I make you gris - gris bag for that."  Madam Laveau smiled warmly, and Seana relaxed a little more, unclasping her hands and swiping at her eyes.

"It's not that simple," she answered slowly.  "It's not just me."

"Ah." Madam Laveau nodded sagely.  "You have a broken heart.  I tink I see dis when you firs' walk up to my tent.  Someone leave you?"

"No." Seana released a long trembling breath.  "They're still with me."

"Dey cheat on you?" Madam Laveau's features hardened in anger on her behalf.

"No, not exactly."  Seana searched for just the right words, digging deep for emotions and thoughts she'd pushed so far down inside, she was only just realizing they were still there.  "Not with another person, at any rate.  It's the drugs."  She looked up, no longer crying.  Pursing her lips inward, she fought with herself, but only for a moment, then spoke again much more clearly, as the words came tumbling out this time with ease.

"Part of me feels like a hypocrite.  Booze and cigarettes and even pot, hell, I do those, in moderation.   But she never does anything in moderation.  And when she snorts coke and pops pills, especially when she mixes them with alcohol, she scares me.  I had to stop her from trying heroin once.  It's like a lark to her - a thrill ride or something.  I've put her to bed drunk or stoned out of her mind so many times, I've lost count.  And every single time, I stay awake to make sure she doesn't choke on her own vomit or quit breathing.  It scares me so bad, it's tearing me up inside, and she - she doesn't seem to see what a dangerous game she's playing.  I'm afraid one day the drugs will win, and I'll lose her for good.  I - I don't understand why someone like her, who has everything - why she needs to do the hard drugs."

She paused.  "I'm so in love with her.  I'd do almost anything for her - die for her if I had to.  But maybe to her I'm just another kick to try, like the drugs.  While she - she's everything to me.  My whole world.  Maybe - maybe my love isn't enough for her," she whispered, as the tears fell anew.  "Maybe I was kidding myself to think someone like her could ever fall in love with someone like me."

Just outside the tent, Kim's shoulders heaved, as she cried silently along with her.

"Your girlfriend, she gots da monkey on her back." Madam Laveau watched Kim's shadow, aware that Seana hadn't noticed it.  "You gots a choice, girl - I make you gris - gris for happiness an' you can walk away from her and be happy.  Just forget about her - let her take care of herself."

"Or?" Seana looked up, her grieved expression clearly conveying that forgetting Kim was not an option.

"Or I make you gris - gris to draw her love to you - fully to you.  Not jus' in da half - measure." She leaned forward, her eyes compassionately stern.  "But be warned, girl.  If I make for you dis gris - gris of love, it will bring you great happiness, but not always.  Wid dat happiness, da sadness will sometimes mingle.  Because . . . " She pointed a bony finger at Seana's heart.  "Dat is da nature of love.  So, you choose - easy road, gris - gris of happiness.  Difficult road, but wid great reward - gris - gris of love."

"I choose love," Seana answered softly.  "I already have."

Outside, Kim had been teetering on the edge, for fear Seana would decide to walk away from her.  It was what she deserved, after all.  Hearing her lover's firm choice, she felt as if she'd been slammed by a sledgehammer in the gut, but had landed on a thick, warm down mattress.  She covered her face with one hand and stifled the urge to sob aloud, as tears of sadness mingled with relief rolled down her cheeks.  Taking a silent shuddering breath, she willed herself to pull it together, at least long enough to move away from the tent and give her lover the privacy she deserved.

Her energy completely drained, she looked around and found another bench to sit on.  She felt badly about eavesdropping on Seana, but realized she'd heard some things she really needed to know.  And she'd been given a chance to get it right.  Now, she had to figure out what to do about it.  "I love you, sweetheart," she whispered.  "More than I ever thought I could love anyone."  And that, she acknowledged, was the problem.

Back inside the tent, Madam Laveau studied Seana silently for a very long moment.  "So.  You make your choice.  I tink it be a good one."

"It's the only one," Seana answered with conviction.

"Very well." Madam Laveau nodded once, and turned her back on Seana to retrieve the ingredients she needed.  She smiled privately, instinctively knowing to whom the listening shadow outside the tent had belonged.  There was more than one way to create magic.  Perhaps she didn't need to do anything at all.  Then again, a double dose of magic couldn't hurt anything.  Resuming her stern expression, she turned back around and spread some items out on the table.

Lifting a red velvet bag, she poured some packets of powder inside.  Dis be Queen Elizabeth  root, juniper, and damiana.  Dey help to draw your lover to you wit' irresistible pull.  Full moon be three days ago, but still be full enough, we anoint bag wid oil of ylang - ylang and da nutmeg, plus special ingredient."

"Special ingredient?" Seana watched her in utter fascination, wondering how much she should really let go and believe in such mojo.

"Dat song, da 'Love Potion Number Nine'..." Madam Laveau produced a toothy grin.  "It be based in truth."

"Hope I don't start kissing everything in sight." Seana laughed, grateful for the light moment.

"No worries, girl."  Madam Laveau set the bottle of oil on the table.  "Your sight be single - minded.  Now, we need somet'ing from your girlfriend - body fluid be best, but . . . "

"Oh, I have a strand of her hair in my back pocket." She sat up enough to retrieve it and encountered a soft piece of tissue as well.  "Or this!"  She excitedly laid both items on the table.  "This is her hair, and this . . . " She unfolded the crumpled tissue.  "This has her tears on it."

"Perfect."  Madam Laveau took both items and tucked them into the bag.  "Now we light da candles and anoint da bag."  She placed two small red candles in holders on the table in front of Seana and lit them, then handed the bag to her.  "You hold it, I add da oil."

Seana cradled the bag in her upturned palms, barely caressing the soft velvet as if it might shatter if she held it any tighter.  She watched breathlessly as a few drops of the fragrant red oil dripped inside the bag.  "Tie it closed, now?"

"Yes." Madam Laveau waited patiently while Seana accomplished her task.  "Now. Hold da bag between da candles and I have a chant for you.  You will say it now, and den you will say it again at each full moon, over da gris - gris bag and da candles, until you are certain it has worked."  She produced a piece of paper.  "You read it while concentrating on your girlfriend's face - dat picture in your mind's eye dat makes your heart sing."

Seana held the bag as requested and looked down, reviewing the words once.  She then closed her eyes for a moment, finding her picture.  It wasn't Kim the stage performer or Kim the hotel room party girl.  It wasn't even the incredibly gorgeous Kim currently in costume with perfect make - up and hair.  Instead, Seana went back to their time on the sailboat in Greece, to a Kim who was napping on a deckchair, wearing just shorts and a t - shirt, her face clean and sun - kissed. 

It was one of the few times Seana would have described her lover as serene.  She remembered walking up and just standing over her, drinking in the beauty of Kim, completely at peace.  Then those soulful blue eyes had opened, and Kim had flashed a brilliant smile upon her first sight of Seana.  "Now that's a sight I'd like to see every time I wake up."  Kim's voice had been husky with sleep - a sexy timbre that always got to Seana in tingly nice ways.

But it was her next memory and Kim's next words, she focused in on - "I love you, Seana.  I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be than right here with you."  With that, Kim had pulled her down onto the chair and they'd spent a good amount of time snuggling, just watching the sunset and the moonrise, as the boat sailed on, their hearts soaring with it.  Seana remembered Kim's face smiling back at her, bathed in their own private moonlight, and thinking Kim had never been more beautiful.

"I've got it."  Seana opened her eyes, cleared her throat, and began to read the chant:

"I sew your shadow with my heart,
I bind your shadow unto me,
Dawn and moon and night black sea,
Free thou art but bound to me,
And thou art mine eternally.

Dance the dance of dreaming,
Lonely by the crystal sea,
Spin the web of mist and moonshine,
Lover, come and follow me.

Chant the chant of souls entwining,
Around and through the sacred fire,
Drink the wells of mist and moonshine,
Come, beloved, to love's desire.

Dream the dreams of solemn passion,
Through the star encrusted night,
Weave the web of mist and moonshine,
Loved one knows all love's delight!

Hear the tides of heaving waters,
Somber on the crystal sand,
Hear the chant of lovers longing,
Waiting, fulfilled at love's demand.

Seek and love my waiting body,
Waiting by the crystal sea,
Thread the path of mist and moonshine,
Love, come, beloved to me,
And thou art mine eternally."*

As she finished, a great sense of peace washed over her, not too unlike what they had experienced together on the boat that day. "Wow. That was beautiful."  She looked up, her eyes soft in the candlelight.  "How did you know?"

"Know what?" Madam Laveau smiled mysteriously and blew out the candles.

"My memory - that picture in my mind's eye.  It was a time we shared together on the moonlit sea.  The chant, it fits perfectly."  She folded the piece of paper and tucked it safely in her back pocket.

"Dat is da power of da gris - gris, girl. Or maybe it just be da power of love."  Madam Laveau placed the red candles and the small bottle of oil in another velvet bag and handed it to Seana.  She then took the gris - gris bag, tied it to a red satin ribbon, and dropped it over Seana's head.  The bag landed just between her breasts, nestled prettily among the white orchids of the lei.   "Wear da gris - gris at all times, unless you be in da bath.  Wear it until you know it has done its work.  And now, I tink your love be waitin' for you.  Go to her."

"How much do I owe you?"  Seana reached for the small wallet in her back pocket.

"No charge, girl."  Madam Laveau shooed her out of the tent.  "Dis one be bigger dan Madam Laveau's magic.  No can charge dis time."

"Thank you.  I'll certainly never forget this night."  Seana smiled in gratitude and stepped out into the humidity of the evening, which was slowly beginning to cool down.  She didn't know what, if anything, to expect from the  gris - gris, but that one moment when she pictured Kim's face on the boat and remembered her words - in that moment she had known that Kim loved her.  It was really all that mattered.  If they had love, they could work through the rest of it, together.

"Hey," a quiet voiced called from her left and she turned, to see Kim sitting on a bench under a tree, only ten feet from the tent.

"Hey." Seana looked down at the bag, then looked up, smiling.  A hesitant smile echoed back at her. She made her way to the bench, her spurs jingling and her boot heels thumping against the concrete.  A glance at her watch told her it was past 3:00 A.M., and Jackson Square was starting to empty, just a little.

She sat down and looked down, leaning back and stretching her legs out in front of her, crossing them at the ankles.  She felt a breath of air shift next to her, and then Kim was down on her knees in front of her, taking her hands.  "I do love you, Seana.  I swear I do."

"You heard?" Seana's cheeks colored in embarrassment.  "That was kind of private, you know."

"I know.  And I'm sorry."  Kim kissed each hand in turn.  "Joe told me where to find you.  I only meant to let you know I'd be out here waiting, but when I walked up to the tent, I could tell you were crying and something in me just couldn't move away.  I didn't hear everything, just up to the part where you told her you wanted the gris - gris of love. I can't tell you how relieved I was."

"I couldn't make a choice that didn't include you."  Seana reached across, brushing Kim's hair back.  "Come up here.  It's gotta be cold down there."

Kim scrambled up on the bench, and Seana snuggled up against her.  "This the bag?"  Long fingers reached over and lifted the small bit of red velvet.  "You think there's enough magic in there to make everything right between us?"

"No." Seana looked up at her.  "I think there's enough magic here . . . "  She touched her own chest.  "And here . . . " She placed a hand over Kim's heart.  "To make everything right."

A tear tracked down Kim's face, and Seana leaned over, kissing it away.  Long arms wrapped around her, and Kim spoke quietly into her ear.  "There's so much I need to say to you that I should have said when I first knew how things were going to go between us.  The limo's waiting, and it's getting cold out here.  You wanna get inside and drive around and talk?"

"Yeah."  Seana stood and reached out, taking Kim's hand and dragging her to her feet.  She drew her close, wrapping one hand behind Kim's head and urging her face downward, as she kissed her for a timeless moment. Pulling back, she cradled Kim's face between her hands.  "For as long as it takes."

They found the limo, and after instructing the driver to take a long scenic tour around the city, and not to open the partition unless there was an emergency, they settled down in the back, glad to be out of the damp chilly air. Kim located a bottle of Perrier in the mini - bar and opened it, pouring up two glasses.  "Figured we've had enough booze for one night.  Might be time to re - hydrate."  She crawled forward on her knees on the limo carpet, a glass in each hand, until she was between Seana's legs.  "And I want to say some things you can know were said while I was sober."  She looked down.  "Not like that first time."

Seana took a glass and tilted Kim's chin up.  "One thing."

"Anything."  Kim closed her eyes, waiting.

"Please don't make me any promises tonight."  She wiped away more tears, as they squeezed out of Kim's eyes and trickled down her cheeks.  "If we are going to make it, it's going to have to be one day at a time.  I don't want either of us to kid ourselves into thinking we can make everything better, forever, with a bunch of words.  It's going to take some hard work, and I don't expect either of us is going to make it up this rocky hill without falling down a few times."

Kim opened her eyes.  "Are you sure you're only twenty?"  She cupped Seana's face, caressing the soft skin beneath her fingertips.  "Okay, no promises.  And no excuses. Just explanations."

"Com'ere."  Seana patted her lap, then the long expanse of seat next to her.  Kim quickly drank her seltzer water, removed her angel wings and halo, climbed up, and stretched out, her head pillowed against a leather - clad thigh.   As Seana combed her fingers through Kim's hair, Kim drew a deep breath and began to speak:

"When I was growing up, my mother worked nights at the power plant.  She slept during the day, so in the summer or other non - school days I went out with my father on his fishing boat. He also took me into New Orleans on the days he came into the city to sell fish to some of the restaurants here. As often as I could, I'd sneak over to the French Quarter and into the clubs, and listen while musical acts did their afternoon sound checks."

"By the age of ten, I knew I wanted to spend my life making music.  I saved my allowance and bought a guitar and taught myself to play.  Pretty soon I was writing my own music, and by high school, I was sitting in as an extra at any session I was invited to.  That's how I got discovered, and you know the rest, at least as far as my public career."

"Sure do," Seana crooned softly, still massaging Kim's head.  "Had pictures of you all over my bedroom walls, and read every article about you I could get my hands on.  Guess you could say I was kind of a fan."

"I know."  Kim turned her head and kissed Seana's bare belly.  "Getting to where I am now - that isn't such a pretty story.  When I first went on the road as a back - up singer, I was a naïve kid from the bayou.  Hell, I was so anxious to get on with my music that I got my GED the summer after my junior year of high school - didn't even finish up in the traditional way.  Anyway, I negotiated my first contract on my own.  Turns out I got a pretty bum deal.  Could've gotten a lot more money than I did.  It was alright at first.  I was just thrilled to be doing what I was doing, and living on the road, I didn't need so much cash anyway - most of our expenses were covered."

"Still sucks," Seana commented angrily.

Kim looked up, smiling sadly. "True, but I would soon discover there are degrees of suckage.  The way I ended up going solo - a guy who represented several other solo artists approached me after a concert one night, and said he could get me a record deal, my own band, and a concert schedule to go with it.  I was ecstatic and signed on with him to represent me."

"That must've been way cool."  Seana smiled.  "I can only imagine, given how I felt when you asked me to come join your crew."

"It was my dream come true, but it quickly became a nightmare."  Kim swallowed and broke eye contact.  "Sure enough, we held auditions and got a band together and a recording studio, and we laid down demos of a bunch of the songs I had written.  I was elated, and wrote a few more during my spare time.  Soon we had enough for him to shop record labels.  That's when everything changed."

Seana felt Kim tense up, her face hard and lined with some bottled - up emotion.  "How so?"  She traced Kim's eyebrows and then her forehead, trying to smooth the lines there.

"We were offered a deal and my manager - Wayne was his name - he and I went down to the recording office to sign contracts.  We got there and Wayne parked the car and told me there was one little detail he'd left out.  I had to sleep with the record producer, or all bets were off.  He told me we were almost out of our investment capital and we needed that deal.  He reminded me how much he'd done for me and that the band was counting on me - that they'd all be out on the street if we didn't get the contract.  He guilted me into it."

"Bastard," Seana hissed in rage.

Kim closed her eyes.  "So we went up to their offices, and the producer took me into a little room behind his office.  It was over pretty quick, and we signed the contract, and then I went to the ladies room and threw up.  I was eighteen years old.  I - I'd never slept with a guy before.  Just girls.  It hurt like hell.  I was sore and miserable, and my guts were constantly knotted up, thinking about it.  I puked for the next two days." 

She opened her eyes, to see tears trailing down Seana's cheeks.  "Hey."  She reached up, capturing a few.  "Been enough crying over all that, already."

"Can't help it." Seana sniffled.  "It makes me hurt, thinking about what he did to you.  I wish I could find him and kill him."

"Sweetheart, there are dozens of men and women like him out there.  Don't let anyone ever tell you the casting couch is dead.  It's alive and well, from LA to Nashville to New York, and every place in between where young people with talent and a dream live."  She sighed in resignation to a past she thought she'd left behind.  "Besides, that wasn't nearly the end of it."

She continued, "That's how it went for the next year.  We recorded the album and he started setting up a concert tour, but just about every booking agent we signed with, sex with me was part of the deal.  Every time I protested, Wayne reminded me of all the people depending on me for their livelihood.  I lost count of how many times I spread my legs or gave head for some horny old guy, signed a contract, then went to the ladies' room to throw up.  I started chain smoking and Captain Morgan became a constant companion. The problem is, I started smoking and drinking in sixth grade, and by the time I left home I had developed quite a tolerance for nicotine and alcohol. So no matter how much I smoked or drank, there was no escaping how much I'd come to hate myself."

Seana pulled Kim up a little  until she was cradling her in her arms, Kim's head pillowed against her shoulder.  "I - I just needed to hold you.  I hate this - hate what you went through. If it makes me feel this helpless, I can't even imagine how it made you feel."

"God, I never imagined needing anyone the way I need you." Kim began to cry with her, and accepted a tissue.  "I hate having to tell you all this, but I should have a long time ago.  It's how I got into the harder stuff.  Wayne knew I was sick all the time, and he knew why.  I was starting to look bad - my skin all sallow and I was too thin, even by Hollywood standards.  And me looking bad wasn't good for his wallet.  So one day, after I'd done yet another concert bookie, Wayne turned me onto cocaine.  When I was high, the casting couch wasn't so painful -   all I had to do was snort some coke or pop some speed or trip on some Ex, and I could forget just how dirty what I was doing made me feel, at least until the high wore off."

"I - I . . . " Seana was shaking, and wrapped her arms more firmly around Kim.  "If I ever meet him, I will kill him."

"No you won't."  Kim pulled her head over and kissed it.  "He got his, in really the worst of ways, for him.  Finally one day, a secretary to one of the concert bookies pulled me aside in the ladies' room.  I'd just come out of a stall, and I guess she heard me, puking my guts out after giving her boss a blow job.  When I got to the mirror to wash my face and hands, I noticed the guy had come on my shirt and I lost it.  Just started bawling like a baby, right there in front of her.  She helped me get cleaned up, found me a clean t - shirt, and clued me into something.  Wayne was pocketing extra cash on the side from all those guys he'd sold me to - she told me I'd have gotten every single deal just based on my talent.  My record was on its way to number one and we were getting a lot of air play."

"Damned bastard was pimping you out?!" Seana yelled in outrage.  "Kim, that guy should be in prison for crying out loud!"

"Yes he should, but like I said, he got his.  I didn't want the publicity of a lawsuit.  I just wanted rid of him.  I found a lawyer who went over my representation contract with Wayne.  Seems there were loopholes big enough to drive our tour bus through, and I was able to fire him on the spot - it was about a month before my album went gold."  Kim smiled thinly.  "Better yet, it seems Wayne wasn't a very good collection agent.  There were tons of outstanding proceeds that came in after I cut him loose, and due to other loopholes in the contract, if it didn't come in while he was my manager, he didn't get a dime, even if it was earned before I fired him.  In the end, the asshole didn't make so much off me after all."

Kim shifted and took a drink from Seana's glass of Perrier, her throat dry from talking and tight from crying.  "Funny thing - word got around I'd fired Wayne.  All those guys he sold me out to freaked out and quit doing business with him.  I think they were afraid they'd go to prison with him, if I ever did go after him.  Wayne lost all his clients after that due to inability to fulfill his part of their contract. He basically disappeared not too long after that, and I haven't heard from him since.  I think he's afraid of me."

"Still doesn't fix what he did to you emotionally." Seana hugged her close, wishing a simple hug could make everything go away, and knowing it couldn't.  "I'm surprised you want a relationship at all, after going through all that.  I'd probably be turned off sex forever."

"Oh, no." Kim laughed lightly.  "I'm too red - blooded to be checking into the convent, just yet.  Once I was free of Wayne, the tables were turned and finally, I was calling the shots.  My music was in demand and I could name my price, and I could choose who I slept with.  The thing is, I didn't know very many musicians who got married and stayed married.  And the ones who did, a bunch of them cheated.  Hell, I think in some cases they had agreements with their spouses that fuck buddies on the road were okay.  More than one of them told me to not ever get into a committed relationship - it would only screw up my career or my life, or both."

"Oh." Seana's breathing grew shallow.  "You never told me that."

Kim reached across and touched her face, tracing a full lower lip with her thumb.  "No, I didn't.  Commitment was off limits but sex sure wasn't.  You know who I was when you met me.  Recreational sex has been a way to let off steam for a long time now.  As long as it was casual, it was cool.  Men - women - if I was attracted to them, I was good to go - no regrets and no strings attached.  And I thought I could keep it that way.  I just never counted on one thing."

"What was that?"  Seana felt her own heart skip a beat, her palms sweaty with an un - named fear.

"Falling in love with you."  Kim leaned over and rubbed noses with her.  "That changed everything and it scared the hell out of me."

"Am I that scary, Kim?" Seana asked quietly.

"No.  Oh no."  Kim pecked her on the lips.  "I put pressure on myself, sweetheart.  Despite everything that happened, the one thing I'm always aware of is that there are a lot of people depending on me for their livelihood.  It's been my first priority for a long time - to keep this gravy train going for as long as I can.  You never know when your star is going to burn out and you're going to see your face on the infomercial for the 'remember when' CD."

"But that's not fair to you."  Seana pushed Kim's hair back out of her eyes and stroked her head.  "You shouldn't have to carry all those people on your back.  That's why you still do the hard stuff, isn't it?  To make the pressure go away?"

"Yeah, partly," Kim acknowledged.  "And part is that I am plain hooked.  It's reached a point where I can't get through a concert day without fortification in several forms. I know I say and do hurtful things when I'm under the influence, especially to you. Love is a scary thing for me, sweetheart.  It means I have to put someone else first, before all those other people counting on me.  That's a hard thing for me to do - cutting back on my chemical crutches will mean cutting back on my schedule.  And that means letting people down who have come to depend on me."

"You pay them well," Seana argued.  "I know you do.  They should be saving and investing, just like you do."

"True, but every time another good deal comes along, I feel like I have to take it.  Like the Christmas TV special.  Even if it means I miss Thanksgiving with my family due to the filming schedule.  I'm always afraid our luck will turn, or the next hot young singer will come along.  Each deal might be the last."  She searched Seana's eyes, hoping for understanding.

"You can't keep going like you do, babe," Seana answered seriously.  "You're going to drop dead one of these days from exhaustion or an overdose if you do.  It hurts to see you drive yourself the way you do.  I don't think that star is burning out anytime soon.  Seven number one albums at the age of twenty - seven is a pretty good track record.  You're far from being a one hit wonder." She nudged Kim playfully.  "I think you're gonna be like Streisand or Madonna or Cher.  Timeless.  They take breaks and then they keep coming back, stronger than ever."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence."  Kim sighed and laid back, one arm across her forehead.  "I don't want to get completely off track here, because I told you no excuses.  No matter what, I've hurt you, and I couldn't be more sorry for that.  When I started sleeping with you, I thought we could just keep it fun and light.  But if I was honest with myself, I was in love with you long before that kiss we shared at Mardi Gras.  At first I kept telling myself it was just heightened lust -   that hot little bod of yours - there's no resisting it."  This earned her a smile.

"That feeling is way more than mutual."  Seana drew her own legs up and wrapped her arms around them.

"Then one day I woke up and realized just what I felt for you, and I was scared for you.  Scared for how hard it would be for anyone to be with me."  Kim folded her hands across her stomach.  "I think I tried to push you away.  Actually, I know I did.  But standing outside that tent tonight - god - when that woman asked you to choose, those few seconds you took to answer - I couldn't breathe.  I was sweating, and when I heard you tell her you chose love, the blood rushing back to my brain almost made me pass out.  I had to go sit down.  And I was so, so sorry that I'd been such an ass to you.  I do love you, Seana, with all my heart."

"I know."  Seana sat back and pulled Kim's legs across her lap.  "So, what now?"

"You said no promises tonight, so what I think, is we start taking things one day at a time, like you said."  Kim bit her lower lip.  "I know I have a problem, and I know I almost lost you because of it."

"And now I know where you're coming from."  Seana leaned over, kissing Kim chastely on the lips.  "I'm so sorry for everything that you went through.  I'd give anything to take away that pain."

"Just love me, sweetheart.  You're the one thing keeping me sane in this crazy world I ended up in."  Kim pulled her close, hugging her tightly.  "I don't know about you, but I think I'm on overload for talking it out much more tonight.  Can I say one more thing, even if it sounds like a promise?"

Seana pulled back from the hug, their eyes meeting at very close range.  "How can I say 'no' to you?"  She smiled and leaned in, kissing Kim slowly for a very long moment.  "Sure, go ahead."

"You gave me another chance tonight.  You chose me."  Kim kissed her quickly.  "I just want you to know I choose you too, Seana.  Whatever the future holds, I want to face it with you."

"I love you," Seana breathed against her lips, then kissed her, tasting her as if it was their first kiss all over again.  "And I really, really want you right now.  Is that alight?"

"That . . . " Kim returned the kiss.  "Is always alright."

"Good, because I need to hold you after all that.  I'm crazy for you, you know?  And this dress - it's been making me hot for you all night."  Seana traced the edge of first one breast, and then the other, watching Kim shiver at her touch, her nipples suddenly straining against the thin material.  Ever so slowly, she pulled the stretchy fabric to the side, fully exposing each breast in turn.  Licking her lips, she ducked her head and took a hardened nipple into her mouth, sucking slowly at first, and then rapidly, until she felt Kim's hands at the back of her head, urging her on.  As she switched sides, her devil - horn headband fell off, and she chuckled wickedly, slowly pressing Kim back against the seat and stretching out next to her.

One hand glided up a firm thigh, pushing the clinging spandex up, inch by inch, until she reached Kim's hip.  She slipped a knee between Kim's legs, and kept going, until the material was up around her waist.  "Mmmm." She nuzzled her belly button, giving a tug with her lips to a diamond stud nestled in its center.  "Naked is good, but this is sexy as hell." 

"You are sexy as hell," Kim gasped, as Seana pressed the flat of her hand against her belly, then slowly stroked downward, cupping her and pressing upward.  "Oh, god."  The hand wiggled against her, pushing her legs further open.

"You're all wet," Seana purred.  "I think I can just . . . " She parted her lover, exploring every soft warm inch, hearing Kim's mewls of pleasure.  Kim wrapped her arms around her, pulling her close, and Seana slipped inside, stroking her slowly and deeply, matching the rhythm Kim set, rising up to meet her.

She studied Kim's face, her eyes closed, her lips parted as tiny pants escaped.  She wanted to make Kim forget everything - all the ugliness of the past.  "I want you to always feel this good," she whispered into Kim's ear."  She licked the baby soft skin just below it, and nibbled her way down Kim's neck.  "I could touch you like this forever."

Mewls turned to moans, blunt nails dug into her back, and Seana growled, her own desire rising up.  "Squeeze me, baby.  Scratch me.  Do whatever you need to do.  Just be with me please, Kim.  Feel me.  Just me.  I love you so much."  She pulled completely back and added a finger, slipping back in, feeling Kim tighten around her.

"Oh, god," Kim opened her eyes partway, letting Seana in, in a way she never had before.  With one last gasp, she arched up, then imploded, her hips and stomach rolling as her climax washed over her.  "Stay with me."  She grasped Seana's wrist, holding her inside until the last wave floated away.

"Always."  Seana kissed her hungrily, still feeling Kim's muscles contracting from deep within.  The emotional connection between them was overwhelming, and Seana collapsed against her, burying her face into Kim's neck.  Kim ran her fingers back through soft blonde hair, making little shushing noises.  They were both out of breath and shaking, simply holding on until they could move.  Finally, Seana eased her fingers out and Kim's breath caught as one last spasm worked its way through her.  Seana wrapped both arms around her, gathering her close, still burrowed against Kim, her breath warming Kim's cleavage.

"Hey." Kim rolled to her side and captured Seana's face in her hands.  Her lover's eyelashes sparkled with moisture and Seana sniffled, laughing through her tears.  "Usually the one coming is the one who cries."  Kim raked her fingers through Seana's hair.

"Then make me come," Seana whispered, her body craving Kim's touch.  The intensity of emotion between them continued to build and a part of her felt as if they were making love - truly making love and not merely satisfying lust - for the very first time. 

"Take this off."  She pulled Kim's dress over her head, and decided that Kim in just thigh - high boots was even sexier than Kim with her dress pushed up around her waist.  Kim leaned over and started to remove them.  "No, leave them on."  Seana reached across and pulled Kim's hair aside, draping it down her back as she leaned in and caught a bit of skin on her shoulder between her teeth, knowing she was leaving a mark.  "Might be nice to have six feet of silver leather wrapped around me."

Kim's eyes sparkled, her passion rising all over again.  She laughed, and they wrestled, rolling around on the seat until they fell onto the limo floor.  Kim landed on her back against the soft carpet and laughed again, doing exactly as Seana had asked, pulling the younger woman against her with her legs. 

The gris - gris bag dangled in front of her eyes and she reached up, grasping it between her fingers and pulling it down, giving it a kiss.  "I don't know what to think about this thing, but one thing's for certain.  There is something magical going on between us. Can you feel it?"

"Yeah," Seana breathed against her. "Maybe it's our own special Voodoo.  It belongs just to us." Their eyes met and a surfeit of new understanding passed between them. 

"Well, then."  Kim laughed, lightening the mood.  "Let's see if I can cast a spell on you, devil girl.  I think this needs to go." She reached around and unhooked Seana's leather bra, tossing it aside and hitching her up until one breast was conveniently close enough to sample.

Seana's eyes slammed shut as first tongue and then teeth played against her sensitive skin.  Using her forearms, she rose up and freed her pleasantly aching nipple, then shifted, offering the other one over.  With a grunt of pleasure, she began to rock against Kim, frustrated by strong long legs that held her own legs like a vise.  Kim released her breast with a smack of her lips, and flipped Seana onto her back.

Her demeanor softened, and she straddled Seana on all fours, leaning over and planting soft, butterfly kisses all over her face, neck, and chest.  "I need you, Seana."  Kim placed more light kisses across the curves of her breasts.  Seana groaned at the maddeningly light contact, and reached up, pulling Kim against her.  Both women sighed as their skin slid together, and it was Kim's turn to rock, gliding against Seana's solid body, pressing her hips against her lover over and over in a steady, seductive motion.

She crawled down Seana's body and removed her black boots and socks, her eyes in constant contact with Seana's, dark green with passion.  Crawling back up, she leaned over and nibbled all around her lover's navel, while she worked open the button on the leather pants, then unzipped them.  Slowly, she pulled the pants and a pair of black satin panties down to Seana's knees, and one more quick tug removed them completely.

"You're so damned beautiful," Kim whispered, her eyes feasting almost reverently on Seana's body.  She trailed one fingertip around Seana's navel, watching her stomach muscles ripple at her touch.  "Just looking at you is getting me all wet again."

Seana looked up, her chest rising and falling in short expectant breaths, her face glowing with desire.  Kim ran both hands up from Seana's knees, in a teasing path that led to her breasts. Cupping both of them, she palmed Seana's nipples and leaned over, kissing her slowly and deeply.  She chuckled as Seana's body betrayed her, her hips rising up, leaving a trail of wetness along Kim's belly.

"I need to taste you." She suckled a most delectable earlobe, then continued downward, licking and kissing her way in a meandering path along Seana's body.  She paused, hovering over a soft patch of blonde hair and blew on her lover, then nudged her legs apart and blew on her again. 

Seana's entire body quivered with desire and Kim paused, inhaling her lover's musky sweet scent, her mouth watering in anticipation.  Waiting no longer, she ran the flat of her tongue slowly between Seana's legs, smiling as Seana cried out at her touch.  "Easy, baby.  Let me drive.  I promise it'll be a great ride."

She lowered herself some more, settling between Seana' legs, maneuvering until they were draped around Kim's shoulders.  She intended to take her time, exploring Seana as if for the first time, tasting and teasing each new spot, using lips and tongue to drive the younger woman mad.

"Baby, please," Seana panted, not above begging.  Kim was making her crazy, in the best of ways, her body so on fire she thought surely she would self - combust.  At the same time, Kim held her release at bay, lightening her pressure each time Seana thought she was finally going over the edge.  "Oh, sweet Jesus."  She felt Kim's tongue inside her, a soft stroking that made her feel as if she were floating on a cloud of pleasure. When Kim reached down with one hand and applied her fingertips to her most sensitive spot, that was all it took, and Seana's hips bucked against her, her body almost levitating off the limo floor.

Kim kissed her deeply, the most intimate of kisses, prolonging the sensations, then turned her head and kissed each silky soft inner thigh, before lifting up and resting her cheek against Seana's belly, feeling it rise and fall as she caught her breath, and hearing her heart pounding inside her chest.  Finally she eased upward, her body covering Seana's, and looked into her eyes.   "I love you."  She smiled, and Seana smiled back at her.

"Love you, too." Seana squeezed Kim, wrapping her arms and legs around her, Kim's weight pleasantly delicious on top of her.

Kim leaned down, repeating her earlier ritual of butterfly kisses, ending with a kiss to Seana's forehead. "What do you say we get dressed and tell the driver it's time to go back to the hotel. We can pick up where we leave off, in that nice soft bed."

Green eyes fluttered open.  "Babe, we've been parked behind the hotel since I took your dress off.  I'm guessing the poor guy was about to run out of gas but new damned better than to open that window."

"Oh my god.  We were rocking so much, I never noticed the car quit moving."  Kim sat back on her heels and looked out the darkened windows.  Which weren't quite as dark as they should have been.  She glanced over at the digital stereo clock.  "Good lord, it's 6:00 A.M.  Much longer and we'll be walking back inside in broad daylight.

She punched an intercom button.  "Ma'am?" A patient voice answered.

The window stayed closed, however.  Smart man.  Kim chuckled.  "Can you please go inside and get us a couple of hotel robes?"

"Yes, ma'am."  They heard the driver's door of the limo open and close, and in a short time, a light tapping on the moon roof.  They could see the driver outside, looking politely away, his arm suspended over the top of the car.  As Kim pressed the button and the roof opened, two robes dropped neatly to the floor between them.  Two pairs of complimentary hotel slippers followed.   The man never so much as turned their way in the process.  Both women giggled and wrapped up in the robes, then gathered their clothing in a bundle and exited the vehicle.

Donning her most casually cool expression, Kim slipped another two hundred dollars into the driver's hand.  "Thank you sir, for a most pleasant ride."

Without missing a beat, he met her gaze and held it.  "Thank you, ma'am, and I assure you, the pleasure was all mine."

They exchanged one knowing smile and then Kim turned, taking Seana's hand and leading her to the hotel's back entrance.

"What did he mean by that?"  Seana whispered, her face red with embarrassment.

Kim simply turned and lifted one coy eyebrow and kept walking.

"Kim?"  She persisted.  "What did he mean by that?"

No answer, other than a grin like a Cheshire cat.

"He was listening?"  Seana squeaked.

"Bored man, driving around the city with two hot women getting it on in back."  Kim laughed lightly.  "What do you think?"

"Tell me he was not listening."  Seana squawked in outrage.

"Aw."  Kim draped a arm around her shoulders, steering her toward the glass elevators.  "Cute little noises you make - "  They entered the elevator and the doors closed.  "Probably made that man's week, if not his year."

"Kim!"  Seana leaned back against the gold - plated railing that wrapped around the glass walls.

"Careful there, hot stuff."  Kim grinned, looking down at the floor as they slowly rose above it.  "Way you're standing, the hotel lobby staff is gonna get a peek at your hidden treasure."

"Kim!" Seana whined, mortified, and bolted away from the wall, right into Kim's arms.  "Seriously."  She looked up.  "I am just a kid from the backwoods, I am not an exhibitionmmpphhh."  A solid kiss silenced her, and Kim pulled her close, sliding her hands down Seana's back, grabbing handfuls of her terry - covered behind and kneading it.  She continued with her attentions until Seana had quite forgotten where they were, her own hands wandering freely over Kim's body as she eagerly returned the kiss.  One hand slipped inside Kim's robe, cupping a breast and squeezing it.

"Uh - huh." Kim broke off the kiss, looking smugly down at Seana's hand, still buried inside her robe. "What were you saying, sweetheart?  About not being an exhibitionist?"

Seana looked down and then up.  She smiled sheepishly, removed her hand, and buried her face into Kim's chest.  "Baby," she looked up again, clutching the front of Kim's robe in both hands, as the elevator doors opened.  "Take me to bed."

"Um.  Whatever you say, sweetheart.  You're the boss."  Kim smiled and grasped Seana's shoulders, helping her turn until she was facing an older couple, who were waiting patiently for them to exit the elevator so they could get on.

"Don't mind us."  The man smiled and stepped aside, as Kim and a very red - faced Seana passed him.  "We're just going down for the hotel's early brunch."

"Try the Bloody Marys with the raw oyster chasers."  Kim winked at him.

"That good, eh?"  With a contemplative expression gracing his face, he ushered his wife into the elevator.

"Best I've ever had."  Kim cocked one eyebrow, just a hint of a smile tugging at her lips.  "Make sure your wife tries them too."

The elevator doors closed.

"Kim!"  Seana roared in indignation and grabbed her, pounding her chest with her fists.  "So help me god, Kim, I'm gonna - Kim!"  The world spun, as Kim grabbed her up and tossed her over her shoulder, carrying her down to the end of the hallway and their penthouse.

Keying the door open, and closing it with a shove of her foot, Kim didn't stop until she reached the bedroom, tossing Seana in the middle of the bed. "Trick or treat!"  She pounced on Seana, wrestling her out of her robe.  Her own came off in the process, and they warred playfully, finally ending up in the middle of the large mattress in a tangle, kissing each other senseless.

"Now, where were we?"  Kim slipped a thigh between Seana's legs, gasping as she felt Seana's thigh press up against her at the same time. Passion re - charged, and soon they were rocking against each other, sweat - dampened skin gliding against sweat - dampened skin, as they fervently sought one last release.  Seana cried out first, holding Kim close as Kim quickly followed, throwing her head back while their bodies trembled together.  As they came down, they exchanged a round of short sweet kisses, ending in one long final lip - lock, confirming their desire for one another all over again

"Mmmm." Seana broke off, as they ended up lying on their sides, facing each other.  She reached over, running her fingers through Kim's hair, then stroked a downy cheek.  "That was a treat, for sure."

Kim's eyes sparkled, her face glowing with obvious love.  "You're a treat.  One I don't want to ever take for granted again."  She smiled and rolled to her back, pulling Seana against her, then drew the covers up over them.  "Let's get some sleep."  She kissed Seana's head.  "When we wake up, I'll be ready for a visit to Café du Monde.  You know, it'll also be time to celebrate our first day of taking things one day at a time."

"Together?"  Seana kissed the upper curve of a breast.

"Always."  Kim wrapped her arms firmly around Seana and closed her eyes.  The sober light of dawn filtered through the curtains, and for once it made her smile.  Having Seana in her arms, and in her life - it was the best high of all.


* Chant author unknown.

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