Snap Shots: Part 2
Chapter 2


Disclaimer: See Chapter One.


The sun was still high enough in the afternoon sky to hopefully provide enough sunlight for removing everything from respective vehicles and into the farmhouse. Overhead a light aircraft flew past, the sound of its engine, exaggerated by the calmness of the countryside. A distant smell of smoke filtered through the air, present but unknown in its origin. From the only road that led to Riverside farm, Tess's green Blazer was the first to come into view.

Taking a slow turn around the corner, the jeep made it's way towards the bridge and slowly crossed the wooden structure. She pulled the vehicle to a stop by the far corner of the house, leaving enough space for the other three vehicles to park.

The door opened and Nikki stepped out into the cool air. She took in a deep breath, recognising the scent of smoke. She idly wondered whether there was another farm close by and realised that was one question she never thought to ask. Deciding that she would put that on her endless list of things to do, she moved around to the drivers side of the car as she heard Tess step out into the cooling air.

Pulling off her silver rimmed shades, Tess looked around the area. Well this is it, she thought, home. The word reverberated in her head, never did she think that one day she would be living out in the country, but she was. And what was more, she was firmly looking forward to it. Closing the door, the photographer looked towards Nikki who was walking slowly towards her, a small hand guiding her around the car.

“Where is everybody else?” The blonde asked.

Tess looked towards the road that led off to the side with a frown, “Hmm…I think they must have gotten caught behind that tractor a few miles back. You know that is the one thing I may not like about living out here…god damn tractors that travel the roads at one mile per hour.” Smiling Tess took Nikki's hand gently, “Come on I want to show you the sights.”

The blonde frowned, as she was lead to the side of the house. Tess looked out over the lush expanse of emerald fields, as she took her place behind Nikki and placed her chin upon the blonde head. Wrapping arms around the smaller frame, the photographer sighed, “Are you ready?”

Nikki nodded.

“Right…well the whole of the back of the house is surrounded by a large stone courtyard…which houses all the stables etcetera…like you know. But beyond that…well there is a gate that leads into a large field. If you take your shoes off you would be able to feel the soft tickling sensation of spring grass under your feet. Take a deep breath, can you smell it?” Nikki did as requested and nodded, as Tess continued. “Imagine walking across this grass, and walking, and walking…looking out over the land, it feels like you could walk forever, well into the horizon…all the while feeling the grass under your feet and hearing the sound of gentle winds as they rustle through a few singly placed trees scattered sporadically over the land. At the front of the house and across on the other side of the bridge, there are a range of bushes, some of them have berries and I bet that during the hot summer days their scent seeps into the air, both fruitful and sweet.”

Nikki closed her eyes and leaned into the body behind her, her own mind drifting to the sound of Tess's voice. The feelings her words were creating within her left her wanting…for what, she did not know.

Laying the palm of her right hand against Nikki's stomach the brunette closed her eyes, breathing in the scent of her lover. “The narrow stream that separates the front of the house from the main roads, trickles gently over many different sized rocks. Can you hear it?” Tess's voice had deepened in tone.

Nikki placed her hand over the brunettes, “Uh huh.”

“It's a calming sound isn't it?”

Again Nikki nodded, her hand lifting Tess's up and she kissed each finger one by one, a moist tongue moving over each digit.

Tess groaned and pulled Nikki tighter into her body, “One day soon.” She whispered into a sensitive ear, “I am going to make love to you out here.” Taking the lobe into her mouth she sucked gently on the soft flesh.

Nikki's breathing laboured as she felt her body's temperature rise several degrees. Turning in her partners' embrace she wrapped her arms around Tess's neck and pulled the brunette down to her waiting lips. The kiss was deep from the start, Nikki's body responding to the many ways that Tess was able to stir her emotions. Lips parted as tongues hungrily sought out each other, fuelling a fire that had to be extinguish all to soon.

Nikki pulled away as the sound of distant engines caught her somewhat preoccupied attention. “They're coming.”

Tess groaned as her head fell gently to the other woman's shoulder, “I guess we better get started then.” Still hearing nothing she looked up and waited. Half a minute later the sight of the large blue van came into view, closely followed by the Mayors car and her Escort. Moving away from the close contact they shared but still with hands entwined, the women made their way over to greet the oncoming helpers.


It was getting late, the sun had long since sunk out of view rendering the land to darkness. But thankfully due to beaming security lights attached to the front and back of the house the workers were still able to unload the boxes and furnishings with plenty of light.

Tess looked up at the white light and squinted in its blinding ray. Being out in the middle of nowhere, there were no street lamps or car lights to brighten up the eerie darkness, so she was thankful for the artificial light. Letting her mind wander she thought of all the tasks they had ahead of them…the most important was employing some sort of helper during the day. The blonde was the first to admit that there were many things she knew she would need help getting used to, and Tess hoped that employing the services of a domestic helper might be a good idea. The photographer knew that she only had three more days until she had to get back to work and although Hyacinth had already stated that she would come down Friday night until Sunday, they would need help of a more permanent kind. The house was fairly large and she decided that whatever time she did not spend working; she wanted to spend with Nikki.

Tess had been standing still for too long, and suddenly the light extinguished. She was just about to move again so the beam would relight when it unexpectedly came on as Leto bounded up to her master. The brunette looked down at the golden dog, which was stretched up on her hind legs whimpering. Rolling her eyes she bent slightly and braced herself as the dog vaulted into her arms. “Damn it 'tow tow' you are just far too heavy to be held anymore…what's the matter anyway?”

The dog licked her masters' face, and Tess squirmed away after detecting the scent of dog meat. “Huh! I see you are happy because you have just been fed, why am I not surprised by this.”

Leto wriggled again so Tess put her down and the dog scampered off, back into the house. Looking at the security light, Tess watched a swarm of flying insects as they buzzed around its luminosity. A cold breeze swept over the courtyard and she shivered, wrapping her arms around herself. Looking up into the sky the brunette spotted a familiar constellation of stars right ahead and she wondered whether she would be able to capture the sight…Orion was shining brightly in the thickening darkness.


Turning back to the house the photographer spotted Nikki standing at the door, “Yeah I'm here.” She replied.

Smiling, Nikki headed towards the voice, and Tess reached out as she approached. Taking the hand that was not holding the cane, Tess gently pulled the blonde in close and wrapped her arm around Nikki's waist.

“Are you bunking off having to do any work in there?”

The brunette laughed, “No, I just needed some fresh air…wanted to come and look at the night sky, it's such a beautiful night tonight Nik.”

Closing her eyes as a large gust of wind blew over her face Nikki shivered, “But it's a bit on the cold side though.”

“Want to go in?”

The blonde smiled, “Well far be it from me to drag you away from your inspection of the night sky, but I do believe you promised the hungry workers in there some take away food…your treat.”

Tess smirked, “You mean they remembered?”

“Like they would forget especially when it involves trying out that new Chinese restaurant in the village.” She grinned, “Of course I reminded them as well, you should know I would never forget.”

“I should have.” Leaning down Tess kissed the blondes' nose, “Want to go and get some food ordered then?” She asked as they headed back into the house.

“Like I would come for you for any other reason.” Nikki quipped.

Tess stopped, looking down upon the illuminated face, “Hmm, other than my raw sexual magnetism…nope I can't think of a thing.”

Nikki looked surprised, “Sexual magnetism…you…well I've never seen it!”

Arching her brows Tess pushed her tongue around the side of her mouth, “Oh funny…I will have you know that…” Her speech was cut short as Nikki reached up, finding the photographers lips perfectly and silenced her with a soft kiss. All thought left the taller woman's head at first touch and she sunk into the kiss, forgetting everything around her.

It was moments later that a hungry Lisa appeared at the door looking for her sister. Taking one look at the couple in the driveway she rolled her eyes, “Hey! Hungry workers in here you know.”

The women pulled away surprised.

“Nik, I thought you came out here to get Tess.” The teen folded her arms, tapping her left foot.

Nikki snickered, “I did but somebody was trying lead me astray!”

Tess's mouth dropped “Was not…hey you were the one who kissed me.” She protested.

The blonde walked into the house, “Uh huh, like I could be led astray by your magnetism.”

“Ah ha…so you are admitting that I have it after all!” Tess exclaimed with triumph, and a winning smile.

“No.” Nikki replied, a twinkle in her eye, “That was you responding to mine.” She stopped at the entrance to the kitchen waiting for Tess and her sister to follow. Richard, Robert and James looked up from their conversations to see the blonde standing in the doorway.

The brunettes' entered the house and Tess firmly shut the door behind her. Lisa look up at the photographer, “Well are you going to reply to that?”

Tess slapped the teen lightly on her shoulder, “I would Lisa, but the truth is your sister is right.” She sighed dramatically.

Lisa pulled a face, “I never thought I would see the day when the infamous Tess Alexander would be whipped…makes me want to stay single.”

The photographer folded her arms, “HEY! First of all, I am not whipped, and second, why is it that everybody calls me infamous.”

The teen shrugged, “I don't know…I saw it in a paper once, when a new collection of your work was being displayed at the gallery.” She frowned, “Say don't you have another one coming up.”

Nikki walked back towards the two brunettes, “Yeah next week, pretty short notice but it took Andrew Spencer a while to convince her to present some of her latest works.”

“Wow.” The teen beamed, “Is there going to be another one of those party type openings with loads of press and stuff like that.”

Tess shuddered, “I would hope not, but you can count on it I am afraid. Still as long as Nikki is with me, I am sure she will keep me sane.”

The blonde smiled, “Of course I will be there, free food, lots of interesting people…I can't wait.”

Their chatter came to a halt when Richard appeared from the kitchen, “Listen girls, not that us men want to complain, but none of us have eaten since this morning and we want feeding before this take out place shuts for the night!”

Tess rolled her eyes, “Okay, come on…lets go find this menu shall we?”

Lisa took off in front and Nikki held on to the tall woman's arm as they made their way into the kitchen. The photographer shook her head; it is going to be a long night! She thought, and smiled.


Tess awoke as the first shades of morning light lit up the dusky sky. Frowning, she rolled away from the warmth of a still sleeping Nikki's back, a little surprised that she had woken before the blonde, and looked out the window. With no curtains up as yet, the room looked bare, even with the pile of boxes and bedroom furniture all standing by the wall. Sitting up, she took a better look out the window, gazing out across the horizon at the front of the house. She could just see the first rays of the rising sun emerging from behind a distant building. Looking closer, she realised it must have been another farmhouse, and she idly wondered what her new neighbours would be like. Tess smirked to herself at the thought, they may have been her closest neighbours, but they must be about three quarters of a mile away. Perfect.

Lifting the covers she got out of bed and grabbed her discarded shirt from the night before to cover her scantily clad body. The air was cold, and she realised she hadn't remembered to put the heating on the night before. Deciding to do it before Nikki awoke the brunette exited the bedroom and headed for the stairs. The steps were wooden and lead down to a dark timber parquet flooring in the hallway, with a rich natural wood banister.

As Tess reached the ground floor of the house she noticed an increase in heat, and then realised that she had left the fire on from the night before. She walked into the jumbled living room to see Leto, sound asleep in front of the imitation coals. Smirking at the golden hound she turned back and headed for her prior destination.

The kitchen was large with black wooden beams across the wide ceiling. The walls were white, and one held a large rack for holding pots and pans, which Lisa had filled that the night before. The whole kitchen was more or less complete. With only cupboards that needed filling, it was the first room to get done, second only to preparing their bed in the bedroom. Unfortunately for Tess the floor was cold because it was made from old terracotta clay tiles, that although had a remarkable look, held the chill awfully well.

Grumbling at the icy feeling, Tess padded over to the thermostat and turned on the heat, then switched on the kettle as an after thought. She needed some warmth and she needed it quick. Vaulting herself into her usual position, sitting on top of the work surface, she pulled out a cup from the cupboard behind her head and waited…with little patience.

It was then that Leto decided to make her presence known, and the dog scampered into the kitchen when the first sounds of boiling water filtered to her sensitive ears.

Tess shook her head; “Well I might have know it wouldn't take you long.”

Leto lifted to her hind legs and looked at her master desperately.

“Hmm…let me guess, you want a cup of tea?”

The golden dog whined; wagging her tail in a rapid blur of movement as Tess jumped down from the counter and took one of her clean bowls out of Leto's own cupboard. Tess had specifically wanted the storage space to be a wall cabinet to stop the sometime mischievous dog from breaking in. She remembered coming home from work once to find the door to the dog food cupboard open and an empty bag a dried food ripped up around the floor. She had then found a very ill and bloated looking Leto moments later, flaked out by the back door…and looking very sorry for herself.

As the kettle clicked off Tess placed the bowl on the surface, dropped a teabag in each container and fill them both with boiling water. She drummed her fingers as she waited for the beverages to infuse. “So 'tow tow' how do you like you new home?”

The dog woofed lightly and looked desperately between the brunette and her bowl.

“Jeez mutt okay okay, keep ya fur on.” Shaking her head, Tess took the teabag from the bowl, filled it with enough milk to cool the drink and placed it on the floor. She leaned down and looked at Leto who had yet to touch the drink. “Good girl…” Leto moved to take the drink, “Whoa…hold on…no.”
The dog looked up at her master frantically. “First…kiss.” Giving an exasperated doggie huff, the golden mutt lifted forward and bumped her nose with Tess's lips. The tall woman chuckled, “Good girl…go on then.”
With those words the dog swooped down on the tea, and within ten seconds it was gone.

Taking her own tea, Tess exited the kitchen and headed back to the stairs.


Nikki was brought to consciousness by the luxurious feeling of warm lips working their way across her shoulder. Humming in delight she rolled onto her back with a smile, “Please tell me that isn't Leto's slimy tongue.”

Tess stifled a laugh and pulled away, “Well she is here as well…” she looked across to the other side of the room where the dog lay sprawled against a cardboard box, “…but I don't think her tongue can reach from all the way over there.”

The smaller woman grinned, “So how is it that you have woken up before me for a change…this is a first.”

Tess leaned on one elbow as she looked down at the blonde, “Don't know, maybe it was the new room or something, but I just woke up and was wide awake.” Using her other hand she moved a stray lock of honey blonde hair around Nikki's forehead. “I made some tea…do you want some?”

Shaking her head Nikki snuggled deeper into the covers, “Nope I don't want to leave here, I'm too comfortable.” She closed her eyes, “What time is it?”

“Well it was almost eight when I came back up here.”

“Really, wow that is later than I thought.”

“Yeah.” Tess lowered her head, tracing delicate kisses across Nikki's collarbone, “We have both been really tired lately.” She smiled as she heard a sudden gasp resulting from the fact that her tongue had made an unexpected detour and had landed on a rapidly firming, tank top covered nipple. “ We've been too tired at night and too much in a hurry to get up in the morning.”

“Uh huh.” The blonde agreed, nodding her head slowly. “But what about all the work we have to do today?” She asked not in the slightest bit bothered if the place stayed a mess of unpacked boxes for the next month.

Tess pulled away causing the blonde to grumble her displeasure, “You want to stop?” she asked, already knowing the answer.

For her response Nikki reached down, pulling the black top from her body and throwing it into some unseen part of the room. It landed on Leto and the dog looked up suddenly, finding her face covered with the dark material. Shaking her wide head the golden dog managed to remove the object where it fell to the ground and she proceeded to show her displeasure by chewing the soft fabric.

Looking down at the body before her the photographer inhaled deeply, “I'll take that as a no then…huh?”

Moving forward Nikki pushed the taller woman onto her back, “Yeah.” She stated, as her hands started their journey along the taller woman's body. Perceptive fingers traced the soft skin of Tess's face, starting at her forehead and moving down. “Remember the first time I did this?” She asked.

Tess swallowed hard, “Yes…you wanted to know what I looked like.”

Nikki nodded, “Yes, I did.” Bracing herself on one arm she used her other hand to glide across the planes of Tess's features. “I started here…” She moved her fingers over the strong forehead, “…and moved down over here and here.” Her fingers moved to the brunettes' nose and cheeks. “Before they moved here.” Trembling fingers landed on soft lips. “Do you know something?”

With one arm by her side Tess pushed the other over the smaller body, “What?” Her voice was deep, her breathing shallow.

Leaning in quickly Nikki stole a quick kiss from the smooth lips before pulling away, “I could feel the change in you…from the first moment I touched you. Your skin grew warmer, your breathing faster…and when I touched you here…” She cupped Tess's jaw; “I felt the beat of your pulse, rapid and out of control…just like it is now.” Leaning forward again Nikki traced her tongue over the hammering beat, sucking lightly on the salty skin. “It was then that I knew.”

Tess close her eyes, her body responding to Nikki in every possible way, but with the last statement her eyes reopened, “Knew what?” she asked breathlessly.

Nikki pulled away leaving a single kiss on parted lips, “That your feelings for me were more than just that of friendship. That you felt…more.”

The photographer nodded knowing it was true but unable to speak. Instead she cupped her hands around the blondes face and slowly pulled her willingly down to meet waiting lips. The touch was intense as soft lips instantly parted and searching tongues found each other with increasing desire.

Locked in the increasingly passionate kiss, Nikki's hand moved over the body beneath, finding each tiny button on the taller woman's shirt and pulling them apart. When the shirt was fully undone, she pushed her hands past the fabric, connecting with the warm flesh beneath. Tess lifted to a sitting position, and Nikki's legs subconsciously wrapped around her waist. Still holding the blonde close Tess shrugged out her shirt, it too being flung far away from the bed.

Feeling the need for air, both women simultaneously pulled away but left their foreheads touching, breathless. Bringing her knees up Tess secured the blonde close to her body as she looked deeply into sightless eyes, “Is it possible to love somebody this much?” She asked astounded at the strong feeling coursing through her.

Nikki ran her hands down Tess back, loving the feel of the sinewy contours, “Must be.” She said simply as they moved back down to the soft embrace of the bed, “Tess?” Nikki asked as she was rolled over onto her back.

The brunettes' lips started a trail down the blondes' neck, “Hmm?”

“I…” She gasped as a warm mouth came into contact with her aching flesh, “Don't…”

Tess looked up from her task, “Don't what?”

“Stop…” Nikki pleaded, “Don't stop.”

The woman grinned, as she lowered herself back down to her pleasurable task, not sure who was enjoying this more, “Don't worry…” she mumbled, “I wont.”

Leto looked up from the material she was chewing, her head to the side. Decided she could get no peace with the two noisy women in the same room she picked up her new chew toy and headed out the door, dragging the fabric devotedly behind her.


Arms folded, Nikki stood at the foot of the bed surrounded by large cardboard boxes filled with clothes. Tess and her father had carried up the chest of draws and bedside cabinets the day before and all that was left was for her to fill them. Along the wall facing the door was a set of built in wardrobes. They were not as big as the old ones, but Nikki figured she could make do with what space they had…she could always use wardrobe space in one of the other bedrooms, the blonde decided.

Nikki moved to the first box as Tess entered the room, “Why do I feel like this will never get done today!” The blonde complained.

The photographer grinned mischievously, “Probably because we spent the morning doing much more…interesting…things.”

The small woman agreed, “Yeah, but now I have returned to the land of reality, filled with lots of unpacking…and your mother is to arrive later this evening. I bet this place is a right mess…in fact I know it is; so far I have walked into four big boxes and almost tripped over two smaller ones.”

Tess sucked in her bottom lip, “Sorry, I was looking for certain objects and just kept placing things in the way…it was my fault.” She approached the blonde and attempted to wrap her arms around the smaller frame, but Nikki backed away, “Hey what's wrong?”

“Nothing.” The blonde replied, “But it took us three hours to get out of bed this morning and I don't intend on ending up back in there before we have this room fully cleared of boxes…empty boxes.” She stated poignantly.

“Huh.” Tess looked around at the mass of clothes waiting to be put away, “What if I hold off doing my dark room today and help you with this, that way we could be sure to get it done in half the time.”

Nikki nodded, “Great idea, and if it means less unpacking for me, who am I to disagree.” She smiled, “But are you sure you want to put off doing your dark room, I know how important it is for you to get that set up.”

Tess shook her head, “No no, that is the beauty of my job, means I have two…I may just have to use the one at work for a few extra days…no big deal, really.”

“Okay.” Nikki placed her hands on the first box, found the flaps and pulled them open, “Lets get started then.”

An hour and a half into emptying the boxes and with the last container almost done, Tess suddenly had a thought and she looked over to Nikki who was busy kneeling on the floor placing folded shirts into a drawer. Shoving the last of the hanging garments in the wardrobe the brunette closed the doors and headed over to Nikki. “Hey almost done?”

“I think so,” said Nikki.

Tess chewed on her bottom lip, “Nik? I was wondering.”

“What's that?” The blonde finished with the last of the items of clothing and pushed the drawer shut.

“Well we have a lot of things to do here, and I only have two more days off before I am back at work. I was wondering what you thought to the idea of getting some kind of um…domestic help in.” She looked at the blonde nervously.

Nikki pushed to her feet and faced the brunette with a frown, “Why do you seem nervous about asking me that?”

Tess shrugged, “Well I just didn't want you to think I was trying to get somebody in to look after you while I was gone…because that's not it.” She was quick to add, “We do need the help and we will need a cleaner of sorts, this is quite a decent sized place too, I think we should get somebody in.”

“I agree.”

The tall woman looked at her surprised, “You do?”

Nikki smirked, “Yeah…why wouldn't I?”

“Well no reason, I guess I was a little unsure of how you would feel about it is all. I mean…” She was cut off suddenly.

“Tess look; I know I can get by fine doing many day to day routines on my own, but…well even I know when to admit that there are things that are best done with sight…like cleaning for one. Getting some sort of domestic help, live in or otherwise is a good idea.”

The tall woman breathed a sigh of relief, “Good I am glad you agree.”

Blonde walked towards brunette, “Tess, I am not going to get upset by thinking you thought I would need help…I might be more upset if you didn't care either way!” She smiled, “With you working and me getting my stables off the ground, we will need somebody to look after the place a little. And now that I think about it…cook edible meals.” Tess chuckled, “You can't cook and I will admit that even though I love to have a go, it just isn't my forte I'm afraid…occasionally we may need nutritional sustenance.” She joked.

Nodding the photographer agreed, “Okay, so we look for a housekeeper?”

“Yep.” Nikki scratched her chin in thought, “Hmm…do you think we will find somebody as cool as James?”

“We can but try,” replied Tess. “Does he have a sister or brother we can try and lure away?”

Nikki shook her head, “No, he was an only child. Oh well, we will find the right person I'm sure.”

“Yep.” Tess look around at the mass of empty boxes as Leto entered the bedroom, tattered black rag still between her teeth. Tess noticed her for the first time and realised what that piece of material was, her eyes turned to saucers. “Shit!” she whispered.

Nikki turned, “What is it?”

Looming over the golden dog Tess looked down at a guilty Leto who saw fit to drop her new chewing toy on the floor. “I don't believe it, 'tow tow' you are a bad girl.”

“What has she done?”

Tess bent down and picked up the material, “Um Nik…you know that top you were wearing this morning?”

“Yeah.” Nikki frowned not sure she knew where this was going, but knowing Leto it wasn't going to be good. “The one I was wearing in bed.”

“Well err…Leto here seems to have used it as her new chew toy.”

Nikki blinked, “No…hold on, is it the one with the raised emblem thingy in the corner?”

Tess looked down at the now rag and searched out what she thought was a corner, “Um…yeah.”

Nikki gulped audibly, “Whoops.”


“Because I borrowed that from Lisa when she stayed over Christmas. I was going to give it back to her, but kept forgetting.” She scrunched her nose, “I guess I won't be able to now.”

The photographer looked down at the tattered garment, “Whoops.”

“Uh huh!”

Tess stared down at the sheepish dog, “Damn it Leto…does this even look like a bone to you, what is it with Nikki's clothes that makes you want to eat them anyway?”

“Eat them?” The small woman asked.

Tess pulled a face when she realised they had been caught, “Ah yeah…them. Well it seems that Leto has a thing for certain items of your clothing.”

“What items?” asked Nikki intrigued.

“Well.” Tess stared down accusingly at the golden hound, “It seems that she has a thing for your socks.” She shuffled from one foot to another, and continued looking at the dog that seemed to be doing the same.

“A thing for my socks?”

“Yeah, I came home once and caught her chewing one of your socks. A few days later I found her with another, and when I just happened to look in her bed I found a couple more in there.” She shook her head, “I think the damn mutt has a sock fetish.”

Blonde eyebrows disappeared under Nikki's hair, “A sock fetish; my socks!” Grinning she pushed off her shoe and lifted her sock covered foot, “Leto do you have a thing for my socks?” She waved the small appendage in the air.

Leto looked at the object that was liken to waving a red flag in front of a bull. She trotted over to the moving foot, and suddenly grabbed the tip with her teeth and pulled the colourful item from Nikki's foot. With a sudden turn she scampered out the bedroom.

Nikki stumbled back surprised, feeling the cold air across her naked foot. Tess stood back astounded; passing looks between the blonde and the door. With a sudden jolt she took off out the bedroom hot on the trail of the thieving mutt, “Damn it Leto you get back here now right NOW.”

Nikki dissolved into laughter.


The kettle clicked off as practiced hands had just placed a heaped spoon full of coffee into a large mug. Leaving the spoon in the cup, the same hands reached out for the kettle, finding the handle and lifting it from its base. Once securing that the cup and spout were in place, the boiling water was poured into the mug slowly until Nikki knew the water had reached the containers rim. She placed the kettle back down and took the spoon, stirring together the granules and water before placing the spoon in the sink.

Turning she leaned against the work top as she lifted the cup to her mouth and took a quick drink…it was still a little hot and Nikki grimaced as it slightly burnt her tongue. Pulling the cup away and placing it down until it had cooled, she grabbed her cane and made her way to her future office. Even though she wanted to get used to moving around the house without her cane, with all the objects about, she thought it better to wait until things were a little more settled. She walked out the back door of the kitchen that led to another smaller hallway, which in turn lead to the large room.

It empty, due mainly to the fact that all the items that were to be placed there had been stored in the dining room until she could get a feel of the place Nikki placed her cane against the wall and walked into the large spacious area. Taking slow movements she felt her way around, getting used to its size and shape. Nikki found the door leading to the side of the house and stables; it was wooden with two long thin panes of glass going vertically down the top half of the barrier. Walking further on she found a set of two light switches, and along the bottom of the wall three plug sockets and a phone jack…the room she decided would be perfect.

Walking back towards the door, she found her cane and exited, headed back to the kitchen. A smile crossed her face as the thought back to the commotion earlier when Tess had chased the dog around the house, trying to retrieve the sock. Unfortunately Leto had thought it was a game and scuttled through the house mindful of the woman keeping up pace behind her. Nikki had hobbled on her one shoed one bare foot to the stairs as she listened to the dog and master give chase around the lower part of the house. She could hear Tess's voice cursing the dog every time she came close to catching the golden blur and the dog would veer off in another direction. She remembered Tess's cheer of triumph when she cornered the mutt in the laundry room and was able to retrieve the soggy sock from Leto's jaws.

Tess had returned to her breathlessly but informed the blonde she would need a clean pair of socks, she then decided to take Leto out for her first walk around their new home. Tess had asked Nikki whether she wanted to go with them, but the blonde had declined, wanting instead to concentrate on getting familiar with the layout of their home.

Dog and owner had been gone twenty minutes when Nikki re-entered the kitchen and retrieved her coffee. She wondered how much longer Tess would be; knowing Hyacinth was to arrive very soon.


Wearing jeans, two sweat shirts and boots, Tess was actually quite warm as she stood in the centre of one of their fields, watching Leto do a mad dash around the front walled boundary. She had walked half a mile up their own land reaching the borders and was able to see the neighbours' house not far away.

Hearing Leto to her side, she turned to find the dog leaning over a ditch. Frowning she moved towards the inquisitive hound and discovered what she was looking at. There, down a short bank was the stream; only it was getting wider and she realised it must branch off into the local river at some point.


Looking up suddenly Tess saw a middle aged woman with medium brown long hair, flecked with wisps of grey, walking towards her. She wore a traditional khaki green country jacket and held a white paper bag in her left hand. Smiling she walked towards the woman. “Hi there,” she said as she reached the visitor. Leto trotted towards her and fell at the woman's feet desperate for attention as usual.

“Well hello there little one…my aren't you a little lump of muscle.” The woman looked up to Tess “What's her name?” She asked.

“Leto,” replied Tess.

“That is an unusual name.” She told the dog and she leaned forward and rubbed the hounds' stomach. After a couple of seconds she looked back to Tess, “Sorry, let me introduce myself, I'm Kate…your new neighbour.” She held out her hand.

Tess took it with a smile, “Tess.”

Kathy looked at the tall woman, “You know you do have an awfully familiar face, have we ever met before?”

The photographer shrugged, “Don't think so…I must have one of those faces I guess.” Tess knew it was possible that the woman may have heard of her or seen her in a paper, but she said nothing.

“Hmm.” She shook her head, “Anyway, I just happened to see you out here so thought I would come and welcome you to the area, and give you this.” She handed over the paper bag, “As a sort of moving in gift if you will.”

Tess took the bag with a bemused smile and looked inside, “Wow, a cake…that is very thoughtful of you thanks. You made it yourself?” She asked pulling away from Leto who could smell the treat and was desperately trying for a taste.

The woman laughed, “God no…I am awful, no that would be my other half…Sam is the cook of the house.”

Tess nodded, “Well tell him thank you very much…and I am sure Nik will love it too.”

The woman stepped forward, “Ah so you don't live alone, I did wonder with such a big house over there.”

Nodding Tess looked quickly back at the house, “Yes Nik's back at the house getting familiar with the place…” A sudden thought came to her and Tess looked down at her watch, “Oh hell, listen Kate, I am sorry but I must be getting back, my mother is due up for the weekend and she is supposed to arrive very soon.”

Kate smiled, “Well it was nice to meet you...and if you ever need anything, you know where we are.”

Tess looked towards the dog who had her muzzle stuck down some creature made hole, “Leto get your nose out of there before the inhabitant bites the damned thing off.” She said with a chuckle. The dog pulled away and headed for her master, “Actually Kate there is something I need, do you know where I can place an advert for a house keeper…I figure you would know all the places around here; a local news paper or something of that sort?”

The woman smiled, “Of course I think I have just what you are looking for.”

“Great.” Tess beamed.

“How about I get back to you tomorrow, being as though your mother is due to arrive very soon.”

“That would be wonderful Kate thank you.” Tess smiled and waved as she turned around and headed back down the field. She looked back, “Bye.”

The woman waved and headed back to her house.


Holding her lukewarm cup of coffee, Nikki flicked through the channels on the TV. At this time of day, and until their satellite was re-installed, they were stuck with the usual five channels with meant she had a choice of early evening game shows or Australian soap operas. Her flicking stopped when the doorbell sounded.

Getting up, she walked the known path to the front door. “Who is it?” She asked reaching the door; she knew Tess would have her key.

“One rather chilly old woman who has come to visit her daughter and daughter in law in their new home.” Replied the voice.

Grinning Nikki pulled the door open and was taken in a swift hug, “Nikki dear, it is wonderful to see you.” Hyacinth pulled away holding the blonde at arms length, “How are you?”


“Excellent, oh I love this house it is so beautiful around here…” She looked around, “So where is that daughter of mine.”

“Right behind ya.”

Hyacinth turned to see Tess and a fast approaching Leto bounding towards her, “Tessa honey.” The old woman walked towards her daughter and pulled the brunette into a motherly hug.

From below Leto barked repeatedly for attention, scampering around the woman's legs. Hyacinth rolled her eyes, “Okay, 'tow tow' I hear you.” She pulled away from Tess and bent down to fuss the over excited dog. “Ewe…Tess she's all wet.”

Tess pulled a sympathetic face, “Yeah, seems she got a little excited when she found the stream.”

Hyacinth pulled away, much to Leto's protests, “Sorry 'tow tow' but you will get more fussing when you are adequately warm and dry, and a little more pleasing to my nostrils.”

Nikki stood by the door way, “Tess what do you have, I can hear paper and smell something…” she sniffed the air, “Oh very nice.”

Stepping forward Tess held out the bag, “Here,” and Nikki reached out, her hand making contact with the cool paper. “I've just met our neighbour, and she gave us this. Can you believe it?”

Nikki's voice twinkled in delight, “Oh chocolate cake, damn I know what I'm having for tea tonight.”

“More than just cake I hope!” Hyacinth stated, “I was planning on doing your favourite if that was alright…spaghetti.”

Tess rolled her eyes as Nikki sighed in delight.

“Oh yeah that would be great…wow what an evening huh, all I would need would be a repeat of this morning and I would die happy.”

Hyacinth looked at her inquisitively, “Why what happened this morning?”

Nikki opened her mouth to speak but stopped…she couldn't tell Tess's mum that! A blush colouring her face, she turned her face towards the brunette, “Um…oh you know just a nice morning.”

The older woman arched her brows as she looked at her daughter who was examining the stone pathway with sudden interest, “Uh huh, say no more.” She shook her head, “Right, shall we get inside so I can put my things up stairs and have a look around this lovely new house of yours?”

Thankful for the reprieve, Nikki went back into the house followed by Leto, Hyacinth and Tess…the brunette grinning as she shut the door behind her.


It was a beautiful clear night once again. Tess stood in the centre of the driveway staring up at the sparkling sky, gazing at the mass of blinking stars. The air was cool but calm, peaceful and still. Green eyes scanned the constellations until she found the one she was looking for…Orion; it was a favourite of hers. She didn't know why, maybe it was the fact that it was the first one she had ever known the name of, whatever the case, she decided that she wanted to capture the image in the perfect shot.

Fingering the camera that hung lightly around her neck, she turned slightly as the sound of light footsteps and a slow tapping headed towards her. Looking behind she watched as Nikki walked towards her. “Mum gone to bed?” She asked.

“Yeah, she said she was tired from her journey up…oh and that next time we had to go down to see her.”

Tess laughed, “Yeah that sounds about right.”

Nikki reached her lover and stopped in the embrace of her right arm, taking a deep breath she let her head fell to a strong shoulder. “Tess?”


“In the darkness, are people as blind as they say?”

Tess looked down at the blonde with a frown, “Why do you ask?”

“Just wondering.” Nikki took a deep shuddering breath, the same disconcerting feeling of being watched invading her senses. She had felt it from the first moment she had approached the front door, and although she wanted to move away, the knowledge of Tess being out there increased the need to go to her lover.

“The answer is yes.” Tess said quietly, “In the darkness I am as blind as you are…worse in fact.”


“Worse because you have adapted yourself…you had to, not knowing any different. For those of us who can see, darkness is temporary, where you spend most of the time searching for light. It's sometimes a little scary, like the unknown…when you know you can see you desperately search for that spark that gives you back the vision you require.” She paused “No…need.”

“So you would agree that being blind, one is able to adapt other senses?”

“I would think so.” Tess replied, “Why?”

Nikki shrugged unsure and unable to express the feeling that was once again overwhelming her senses. It was just like the feeling she got only two days before outside their old home, but this time is wasn't as strong. “Tess is the light on out here?”

“Yeah, Leto is trotting around…she is keeping the sensor working.”


Turning to face Nikki, Tess chewed on her bottom lip. “Okay Nik what's wrong, you seem a little distant.”

Placing her head on the taller woman's chest Nikki sighed, “Nothing, I just have that weird feeling again…what is it, that 'walking over your grave type feeling?'

Tess looked across the bridge and beyond, “Well I can't really see that far ahead, but there can't be anybody around if that is what you are thinking… or feeling.”

“Just weird I guess,” said the blond as she frowned, not understanding the feeling that refused to leave her…but one thing was certain, she didn't like it. “Tess are you ready to go in now?”

The photographer looked up at the stars then to her unused camera hidden under Nikki's chin, “Yeah I guess, it is starting to get a little chilly out here isn't it?”


Come on then.” Tess placed her arm around the smaller shoulders and headed towards the house. “Leto…come on, bed time.” From nowhere the golden dog sprinted into the house way ahead of the two women.

Tess closed the door with a frown, twice now Nikki had spoken of being watched and twice she had been unable to see or feel anything herself. She didn't know what to think of that, was the blonde being overly cautious or was it something more. However much Tess didn't believe there was any cause for concern she also didn't want to make light of Nikki's feelings, she was definitely disturbed by something.

Watching as the small woman disappeared into the living room with Leto, she leaned back against the door in thought. Maybe it was the sudden disruption in her normal life and routine, or maybe it was all the commotion of moving house, whatever it was Tess hoped that as they settled into their lives, Nikki's sudden nervousness would settle too.

Pushing away from the door, Tess entered the living room in time to see Nikki sprawled out on the floor, taunt her socked feet playfully with the dog. She smiled at the gentle way Leto was with her; still amazed in the way she seemed aware of Nikki's sightlessness, and mindful of her actions around the woman.

Aware of her lovers' presence, Nikki reached out her hand in Tess's direction and wasn't disappointed when it was taken readily by one large warm appendage. Tess moved to sit on the floor beside Nikki as she kissed the entwined fingers, “So how about we end this perfect evening of yours?”

With a shy smile Nikki nodded and moved to straddle Tess's lap, “As long as you are around it will always be a perfect evening.”

“Awwe.” Tess chuckled, “Flattery will get you everywhere.”

Nikki waggled her brows, “I hope so.”


Standing in the shrouded darkness and at a safe, unseen distance from the house, a long figure studied the dark building. He spotted two security lights, and a small dog, but a breed well known for their sometimes vicious temperament. Other than that, there didn't appear to be any other form of security, and definitely no sign of an alarm. It was just too good.

Turning away he headed back to his car, parked some way in the distance. With a snarl he fingered his crooked nose, glad that he was finally going to get the chance to get back the bitch who got a lucky shot at him in the shopping centre. He had never failed on a job before, and wasn't going to rest until this one was complete either…only this time, he was calling the shots.

Chapter 3

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