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Christmas on Raven's Island

Chapter Text

The first tentative snow had begun to fall an hour ago and now it was coming down in large snowflakes, like huge white mittens falling from the dark evening sky.

Annika Hansen, known to her friends as Seven, rose from the couch and walked up to the large panoramic window carrying a mug of tea in her hands.

She loved the winter season. She had ever since she was a child. There was something magical, breathtaking even, with the white untouched snow covering the field behind the house she grew up in.

She sighed.

They had talked several times about going out to Raven’s Island during the fall, Kathryn and herself, but they had been so busy with their jobs. Kathryn had travelled to all corners of the world to meet with stockholders while Seven had worked mostly out of the company’s headquarters’ at home.

Seven had joined her twice in her capacity as head translator. They had worked around the clock and when Kathryn had asked her to come along on another business trip just for company, the blonde had declined. Kathryn’s work consumed her when she was on the road. She hardly took the time to eat or sleep and Seven had known that they would not have any time together. Then there was the fact that Seven’s own work did not allow her to just take off like that.

She had instead focused on making the CEO’s homecoming as pleasant as possible. She had fetched Kathryn at the airport and catered to her every need when they returned home to the penthouse.

Kathryn had appreciated the ‘royal treatment’, as she called it, so much that it had become a pattern for how Seven greeted her after the following three business trips as well.

With this brutal schedule, no matter how challenging and rewarding in a professional sense, there had been no time to visit her island. She had brought the subject up twice but when Kathryn had to cancel their plans both times, Seven began to form plans for the holidays instead.

She walked closer to the window, her own reflection blurring as she regarded the masses of snow coming down.

They had thrown a large Thanksgiving party for the staff. When Seven had asked Kathryn if they also should invite the CEO’s mother and sister, whom Seven had never met as they lived out in the mid west, the older woman had declined.

"Mom has her busiest season right now and so does Phoebe," she had said casually and resumed her reading.

Kathryn’s mother owned a successful catering business and her sister was an artist with a growing reputation.

Kathryn owned three paintings by Phoebe Janeway, the largest one hanging over the fireplace. The motif was a large chessboard surrounded by flames and floating glass orbs. Its suggestive mood was evident even to someone who did not know much about fine art.

"But do you not miss them, Kathryn?" she had asked her partner. "You have not seen them since last spring when you were in your hometown at that conference."

"We don’t socialise much, darling, we never have. Phoebe was a terrible tease when we were little girls and then we spent our adolescence moving in very different circles. Nowadays ... Well, she’s a brilliant artist and thinks that my chosen profession is the perfect example of how you dedicate your life to Mammon."

"I understand that she is very successful and has earned a lot of money and prestige from her work. Why is it different how you do it?"

"She just thinks it is. This is the way it’s always been between us and I guess we’re both to old to change now."

Putting her free hand against the cold window, Seven sighed again. Kathryn could be so stubborn and when it came to things that had to do with feelings, she could clam up and dig her heels in. If Phoebe was anything like her sister, no wonder these two did not communicate well about emotional issues.

Seven had spent too many holidays alone while her parents were travelling. She was not about to let this opportunity of getting to know Kathryn’s mother and sister slip away. In her opinion, the holidays were all about being with your family and your loved ones.

This was the reason Seven had decided to take matters into her own hands. She just hoped that Kathryn would forgive her.

*****

The phone rang, making the dark haired woman in the bed stir and fumble for it.

"McDunn. This better be important."

"Oh, did I wake you, Marion? I’m so sorry. I know it’s late but I had no way of calling you until now."

Marion McDunn sat up, a drowsy smile gracing her lips.

"Julia!"

"Yes, who else would dare to call you like this?"

The soft voice of the woman she loved made Marion’s heart skip a beat. They spent long hours on the phone as their respective life kept them apart most of the time. The two women had assembled more frequent flyer miles this last autumn than in their entire adult life.

"What’s up, honey?" Marion asked.

Even if they spoke on the phone almost every day, it was not often that Julia would call her this late.

"Seven called me yesterday."

"She did? That’s funny. I met her for lunch today and she didn’t mention it."

Marion headed the sales department at the Stellar Corporation, the jewel in Janeway’s crown among her empire of companies. The elegant businesswoman had met Julia Williams on a cruise last summer and the attraction between them had been tentative but immediate.

Julia was an enticing mix between a free spirit and a women moulded by her upbringing by rigid parents. She had a voice as soft as her touch and her dark brown short-cropped hair framed a triangular face with almond shaped blue eyes. Her work as an interior designer reflected her persona. The talented young woman worked at a famous award winning architectural firm.

"No, I know. She told me she wanted me to talk to you."

Marion grinned.

"Ah, I see. She’s up to something. What has Janeway done now?"

Both Julia and Marion were fiercely protective of the young woman whom they amicably considered way too good for Janeway. Kathryn Janeway was of course painfully aware of their views on the matter and usually took their teasing in stride.

Marion owed Janeway a lot since her boss had not only given her a second chance professionally but also because the charismatic woman had intervened when it looked like the sales manager’s personal life would become the talk of the town.

Marion had quickly realised that Seven had been most instrumental in the way Janeway had rescued her twice.

"Oh, the usual. She is working too much, being too stubborn and, according to Seven, she doesn’t realise what’s best for her."

Marion snorted with laughter and snuggled down in her bed, pressing the phone tight against her ear. She loved the soft tone of Julia’s voice, could never get enough of it.

"This sounds like a ticking time bomb to me. What does Seven want us to do?"

"Actually so far her suggestion sounds terrific. She wants us to spend Christmas together."

She delivered the last piece of information in a hesitant tone of voice. The sales manager smiled tenderly.

"How do you feel about that?"

Julia’s voice deepened.

"Oh, dearest Marion, I would love to spend Christmas with you."

Marion’s heart overflowed with emotions, all of them for the precious woman at the other end.

"I’d like that too," she replied quietly and then considered what Julia had said earlier. "Wait. Do you mean that Seven wants the two of us to spend Christmas with her and Janeway?"

"Yes."

Marion groaned.

"Janeway is of course in the dark regarding this whole thing?"

"Yes."

"Still, it doesn’t sound so bad … there has to be a catch. What else?"

Julia cleared her throat.

"She wants us to all to go to Raven’s Island."

"Still sounds pretty okay but there’s more, right?"

"She has invited a couple of other people."

Marion knew this was the reason Seven needed reinforcement.

"Who?" she asked.

"Oh, Marion, this can become really awkward. It’s Janeway’s mother and sister. Seven has never met them."

Twisting the cord around her finger, Marion began to figure out how many ways there was for this kind of scenario to backfire.

"Does Janeway’s family know that she and Seven are living together? I mean, as a couple?"

"Seven wasn’t entirely clear on that point. I doubt it and I don’t think even Seven knows for sure. Janeway’s not the explaining kind. She has that larger-than-life-and-to-hell-with-the-rest way, you know."

Marion agreed. Janeway had an extraordinary commanding presence that allowed the petite woman to head the conglomerate with a unique sense for business. She was a strange mix between a corporate shark and a true professional. Marion who had seen her warm, private side understood the toll having to become such a chameleon took on the CEO. She herself faced the same dilemma on a daily basis.

She began to laugh.

"What’s so funny?" Julia asked.

"Just that it’s so typical of Seven to think that two same gender couples would make things easier for Janeway’s mother and sister than one."

"Oh, you’re so bad," Julia scolded her but Marion could detect the smile in the other woman’s voice. "You know that she’s inviting us because we’re their friends. Perhaps it’s Janeway she’s thinking of. Having us there will take some of the focus away from them. I got the feeling that there are a lot of unresolved issues between Janeway and her family."

"Oh, they have issues," Marion nodded. "Well, I’m sure after the holidays, all their issues will have either been solved or … become bigger."

"Marion!"

"I’m sorry, Julia. The cynicism in me is alive and kicking, I’m afraid. Tell you what … this whole idea is liable to blow up in Seven’s face but one thing about it is brilliant."

"What’s that?"

"You coming here. You are coming, aren’t you?"

Julia’s voice softened.

"Yes. Yes, of course I am."

"You sure? You know the situation is bound to become interesting, to say the least."

"I’m sure, Marion. I can’t wait."

Marion pulled the blankets up around her and cradled the phone even closer to her ear with both hands.

"Me either. I’ve missed you so much these last weeks. Work has been crazy."

"Yes, I know. Same here. One good thing about working like a dog is that I can take almost two weeks off."

The sales manager smiled broadly.

"That sounds wonderful, Julia. I will enjoy spending the holidays with you, regardless of what the other four will be up to. We can always hide."

Julia laughed softly.

"On that tiny island? I don’t think so."

"How about in our room, preferably in our bed, under the sheets? Surely nobody will be rude enough to look for us there."

"Marion …" Julia said weakly.

"I would love to hide with you and keep you all to myself," Marion insisted, a smile forming on her lips as she heard Julia inhale her breath.

Julia was a bright, vibrant, and independent woman but Marion knew that, even a thousand miles away, she could seduce her with just her voice.

The two had met six months earlier and had become lovers. They had slept together, making passionate love. Marion had taken Julia to highs that had both startled and surprised the other woman. Yet, no one was more surprised than she when Julia returned the caresses that first night. Julia had touched her, both physically and emotionally, in a way no one had ever touched her before.

Marion had ended up crying in Julia’s arms, sobbing her heart out as Julia had pushed her over the edge again and again.

Now Marion felt herself starting to squirm beneath the blankets. Julia’s voice, the little telltale breathless sounds she made, caused the older woman to tremble.

"I know just how you look right now," the sales manager whispered into the phone. "I know how your eyes become narrow little slits and how you blush."

"Marion …"

"I know how it feels when you slowly, slowly wrap your arms around my neck and pull me closer, looking so incredibly shy but also very determined to close the distance between us."

"Oh, Marion … what are you doing to me?" Julia whimpered at the other end. "How can you make me feel like this and not even be here?"

Marion smiled.

"Because I love you. You bring out the best in me, Julia. You are more than I ever could have hoped for."

"Darling, I love you too."

Julia’s voice was softer than Marion had ever heard it. There was a special timbre to it that made her toes curl. She crossed her legs under the blankets and could not prevent a soft moan from escaping her lips.

"Marion?"

"Oh, god, Julia," the older woman sighed. "You drive me crazy."

There was a brief silence.

"Stay with me, Marion," Julia murmured. "Talk to me."

"Your voice drives me insane."

"I can picture you when I close my eyes."

"I’m burning. Oh, god, your touch …"

"I can taste you …"

They kept exchanging the tantalising words, made love verbally as they rushed towards the pleasure together. Marion was breathless, flushed and so turned on; it did not take her long to surrender to the magical feeling. She hugged the phone close to her ear, panting as she came alone in her bed, but not feeling the least bit lonely.

Julia seemed to stop breathing for a long time and then she followed her lover over the edge.

"That’s it, honey," Marion cooed, trying to catch her breath. "Good girl."

They snuggled down together, although so many miles apart, their voices growing sleepy as the night descended upon them.

"When will you arrive?" Marion asked sleepily.

"Two days before Christmas if that’s okay with you?" Julia suggested. "Seven said that she would arrange for a friend of hers to take us to Raven’s Island on his boat on the evening of the twenty-second. Apparently Janeway will be joining us. Knowing Kathryn, she’s working right up to the last minute."

"Does Janeway know anything about these arrangements?"

"My guess? No."

Marion snickered.

"Hm. This will be a Christmas to write home about."

"Seven’s counting on us. She’ll be crushed if this backfires," Julia sighed. "I’m just getting bad vibes about this whole thing. Perhaps I’m overreacting because of the situation with my parents."

Julia’s parents, the Williams’, had more or less disowned their daughter since Julia had settled the score with them after meeting Marion last summer. She had told her parents that it was her life, they could either accept her choices and her way of life, or not. Her mother had hardly spoken to her since then and her father only talked to her after making sure that his wife would not find out.

Marion had consoled her lover on several occasions when the Williams’ actions had become too much for her to cope with.

"We’ll be there for her," Marion assured her. "We owe her that. We owe Janeway too."

"I hope Janeway’s relatives are not like mine," Julia sighed.

"If they are, we’ll still be there for them."

Julia’s smile was almost audible.

"Yes, we will. Perhaps if Mrs Janeway and her daughter realise that Kathryn and Seven are an established couple, they’ll be more understanding."

"Perhaps."

Their voices sank into the softest of murmurs as they exchanged terms of endearment just before sleep claimed them both.

*****

Kathryn Janeway drove her little red sports car through the curves at a neck breaking speed. Entering the small village by the coast, she slammed the breaks and skidded into the small parking lot next to the marina.

"Damn it, I’m so late," she muttered and grabbed her briefcase from the passenger seat, slamming the car door she quickly walked to the trunk, opened it and pulled out the overnight bag. Jacob would have her head.

Jacob, the same man that had taken her to Raven’s island almost a year ago when Seven had run away. He was extremely fond of Seven, and was very protective of her. The CEO and the huge fisherman had come to an understanding - they were great friends so long as Janeway made Seven happy.

Closing the trunk shut, she locked the car. Grimacing at the cold wind she began to walk briskly towards where Jacob moored his boat.

She could see him standing on the pier, talking to a couple of people. The CEO squinted. There was something familiar about them, even at this distance.

Jacob raised his head and saw her approaching. He waved and Janeway felt ridiculously relieved that he seemed to be in a good mood.

When she came closer, she could make out the face of the dark haired woman standing to his left. She was stunned to see her sales manager, Marion McDunn. A sudden gust of wind blew the hood of the other woman’s jacket off her head. Taken aback, Janeway recognised Julia Williams whom she, Seven and Marion had got to know last summer.

 

"Marion! Julia! What a surprise," she said when she reached them and put down her bags. "Are you the Christmas surprise that Seven has tried so hard to keep from me?"

Marion glanced at Julia.

"I think we’re part of it," she said casually and smiled. "You just made it. Jacob here said that if you weren’t here five minutes … you ‘d have to swim."

Janeway rolled her eyes at the man who did not lower his gaze. He looked right at her and then at her briefcase, a frown appearing on his forehead.

"It’s lovely to see you again, Kathryn," Julia said and extended a hand. "I look forward to finally visiting Raven’s Island. I’ve heard so much about it."

"It is a wonderful place," Janeway said and shook hands with Julia. "Very serene."

"Don’t let her fool you," Marion smirked. "I think it can get a little too serene for my boss."

Janeway glared at the taller woman. Marion had a point but she would be damned if she was going to admit to it.

Seven’s island was a great refuge but after a couple of days Janeway’s skin began to crawl and she wanted to return to civilisation and her corporation. She felt a pang of guilt over this as usual. She knew Seven was aware of how she felt. This was not something she was proud over, she wanted more than anything to make Seven happy and accepting her heritage was a big part in doing so.

They all boarded the boat and took their seats around the table behind Jacob as he took the wheel. One of his sons unmoored the boat and they were on their way, out of the marina.

"When did you get here?" Janeway asked Julia.

"This morning," the slender woman replied, glancing at the CEO’s minimal packing. "I flew in early to do some last minute shopping. Has Seven brought your presents out with her?"

Janeway shook her head.

"No, I have hers with me," she said, feeling pleased and nervous about her choice of gifts at the same time. "It doesn’t fill much."

"Don’t tell me. A calculator," Marion teased, causing Janeway to glare at her. "Or a pocket translator? Or a pager? I know, a Palm Pilot!"

"Funny. Don’t bother, I won’t tell."

Marion gave Julia a ‘what did I tell you’ look and then grinned when her lover kicked her under the table.

Janeway sighed inwardly. She was in a way delighted that they would have company over the holidays but she also wondered why Seven had invited their friends. She had thought that Seven wanted her to herself and now she was puzzled. Seven was not the secretive type otherwise, on the contrary. The young woman was painfully honest most of the time. Perhaps she read too much into this. Her partner probably just wanted to surprise her.

"What have you been up to lately?" Marion asked Kathryn. "I’ve noticed that you’ve been putting in a lot of overtime. Anything exciting going on?"

Janeway could not resist a smug grin but could not share any details. They had just entered the final planning phase of the operation. The project’s successful execution depended on the element of surprise.

"Perhaps," she said mysteriously.

"Oh-oh, she’s on the warpath," Marion winked at Julia who shook her head.

"I am not," Janeway objected but there was more truth to that than she was comfortable admitting.

Marion knew better than to push her boss. It was obvious that Janeway didn’t want to discuss the matter further. Instead, she focused her attention on Julia and all three fell into a comfortable silence only interrupted by a humming Jacob who steered the boat through the archipelago.

Janeway leaned against the backrest, briefly closing her eyes. The muscles in her neck were tense. She had worked long hours to put together this latest business venture. She didn’t believe in leaving anything to chance. She wanted all bases covered before going in for the kill. The auburn haired woman was now paying the price for neglecting her body. She was sleep deprived and had just realised that she had forgotten to eat lunch.

Glancing at her watch she frowned. It would be a while yet.

Seven had simply announced to her partner that they would be celebrating Christmas on Raven’s Island and that she had arranged everything. The blonde had left two days earlier to make final preparations. All the CEO had to do was to show up on the pier the day before Christmas Eve.

Janeway wondered how much of the pain in her stomach was hunger and how much was because she was missing Seven.

*****

Seven lit the three large candles on the dining room table.

She had a fire going in the fireplace in the next room where Gretchen Janeway and her daughter Phoebe just enjoyed a glass of warm cider. They had arrived the same morning and Seven had met them down on the small pier.

"So, you’re the mysterious friend my daughter talks about," Mrs Janeway had greeted her warmly.

Phoebe Janeway, a tall woman who looked very little like her older sister, had let her eyes wander over the scenic view of the small island.

"I’m not sure if it’s such a good idea to surprise Kathryn like this," she had blurted out without even saying hello first. "But just to see this wonderful place makes it all worth while even if coming here ends us in the doghouse with Kathryn."

"Phoebe," Gretchen Janeway had sighed. "You really should think before you speak sometimes. I apologise for my daughter, Annika."

Seven had shaken her head.

"Call me Seven, Mrs Janeway," she had managed and grabbed Gretchen’s large suitcase, feeling a strange lump in her throat. She had lost her parents not long ago and to finally meet Kathryn’s mother and sister made her feel vulnerable.

Mrs Janeway looked mildly surprised.

"Only if you call me Gretchen," she smiled.

"You’re nothing like I expected," Phoebe had stated as they walked the path to the house. "First you’re much younger and then …"

"That’s enough, Phoebe," Gretchen said, not even raising her voice. "You’re scaring the girl."

"You can ask me anything you want, Phoebe," Seven had offered. "I have no secrets from Kathryn’s family."

The blunt comment made an obvious impact on the other two. They regarded her curiously but Phoebe refrained from any more questions for the time being.

Seven had shown the two women to the largest guest room. It boasted two beds, an antique dresser and desk as well as a large walk in closet. Phoebe had smiled approvingly, commenting on the light flowing from the window.

"I hope you do not mind sharing? I have also invited two of our best friends," Seven explained, "and they will need the other guest room. There is my old room but it is very small and cluttered with …"

"This is perfect," Phoebe interrupted. "I don’t mind sharing a room with Mom."

"It’s a beautiful room, Seven," Gretchen agreed. "Thank you for inviting us. I have missed Kathryn these last Christmases."

"So have I," Phoebe stated casually while putting her suitcase on the bed. "Now you have to turn around, Seven, I haven’t wrapped your Christmas present yet. No peeking."

Seven began to feel as if everything might turn out all right after all.

The moment she had hung up the phone after introducing herself to Mrs Janeway and inviting her and her youngest daughter to Raven’s Island, she had regretted her initiative. All she wanted was for them all to get to know each other, to be a family.

She hoped Kathryn would see it her way.

She now hurried to finish the table. She put red napkins next to each plate, using her mother’s ivory napkin holders. She lovingly caressed them and did not notice that Gretchen had joined her until the woman spoke softly.

"You miss your parents very much, don’t you?"

"I do," the blonde agreed. She glanced over her shoulder. "I was used to being alone when they were alive and travelling all the time. Now when they are gone … well, Kathryn is my family now."

"I guess she is," Gretchen said, leaning against the doorframe. She was a tall woman, much taller than Kathryn and almost as tall as Phoebe. Her hair was still mostly chestnut brown with a few elegant grey streaks but without the auburn highlights that adorned both Kathryn’s and Phoebe’s rich hair. "How did you two become friends?"

"Stellar Ltd needed an interpreter and Kathryn took a chance and hired me."

"Why wouldn’t she hire you?"

"I have very little formal schooling. My parents provided me with a wonderful education here on this island but until their death I never wandered far from this place. It was always my home, and I loved it, very much. After they died … after they died I was alone and I decided that I needed something more, that I needed to work. Stellar Limited is where I ended up. At the time I had no references, not even a social security number.

Gretchen shook her head.

"And Kathryn hired you anyway? Amazing."

Seven smiled.

"She overwhelmed me. She showed me that I still had much to learn but also that I had great potential."

"She can be quite overwhelming, my oldest daughter, in her own special way. As you probably have noticed, Phoebe is overpowering up front. Kathryn’s way is more indirect."

Seven remembered how the CEO had accidentally kissed her in the elevator that second day. They had both become startled but the apparent attraction and the passion it had evoked had overcome any trepidation.

"She can also be very direct."

"True," Kathryn’s mother agreed. "Now tell me more about Marion McDunn and this Ms Williams that are joining us. I understand that Marion works at Stellar Ltd as well?"

Seven walked slowly around the table, checking that she had everything in place.

"Yes. Marion is the head of the sales department. She travelled with Kathryn and I on the QE2 last summer. She met Julia on that cruise and they became friends. Julia lives in the mid-west and I knew they would love to spend Christmas together. I also thought that if they were here …"

Afraid that Gretchen would take offence at her candour, Seven’s voice trailed off.

"That they would take the focus off the fact that Kathryn might be upset, embarrassed or even annoyed that Phoebe and I are here?" Gretchen completed her sentence.

The blonde blushed.

"Yes," she murmured.

"I know my daughter, Seven," the older woman said softly. "I know her better than she thinks. Don’t worry. I won’t confront Kathryn about anything she isn’t ready to talk about. I just want to spend the holidays with her for once. So does Phoebe even if she pretends otherwise."

"Did I hear someone say my name?" Phoebe showed up, holding the now empty glass in her hands, looking a little sleepy. "I dozed off in front of the fire."

"I was just telling Seven how wonderful it is to get the opportunity to spend the holidays with Kathryn."

"Yes, she’s been dodging us for the last three," Phoebe agreed.

Seven regarded Kathryn’s younger sister, trying to see beyond the sarcastic words. She was not sure if Gretchen was right about Phoebe. The tall artist had a way about her, a sort of cynical wit that Seven did not understand.

The sound of steps on the porch interrupted her musings.

"They are here," the blonde announced with a calm she did not feel.

She walked into the hallway and opened the door. To her surprise it had begun to snow. Small snowflakes glittered in Kathryn’s hair as she stepped over the threshold stomping the snow off her boots.

"You little brat," she smiled at Seven. "Your secret sure threw me for a loop."

"It did?" Seven asked.

"I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Julia and Marion on the pier. What a wonderful surprise!"

She hugged Seven and buried her face against the blonde’s neck, inhaling her scent. Seven wrapped her arms around her partner, hugging her back. Over the smaller woman’s shoulder she saw Marion and Julia enter the hallway with their luggage.

"Welcome home," she murmured against the auburn hair.

"Thank you, darling. You know, I’m actually starting to look forward to Christmas," the CEO said and took a step back.

Then something caught her eyes and the smile began to fade on the older woman’s narrow lips. Seven could see the muscles tensing around her jaws.

"Merry Christmas, Kathryn. It’s wonderful to see you," she heard Gretchen Janeway say.

"Mother." The CEO’s voice was devoid of feelings. "Another surprise I see. You’ve certainly been quite busy, haven’t you, Seven?"

Seven swallowed hard.

This was not how she had pictured it at all.

****

Janeway concentrated on her food, avoiding looking at any of the others around the dining room table. She hoped they would think the attention she paid her dinner was due to mere hunger. Chastising herself she smirked inwardly; it was pretty apparent how ill at ease she was.

Despite her better judgement, she was still furious with Seven. The CEO realised that her partner had wanted this to be a happy surprise for her. All the blonde had managed to accomplish was turning the holidays into a fiasco.

The fact that Marion and Julia were present to witness it all did nothing to improve the situation.

Janeway devoured the food, not really noticing if it was tasty or not, just methodically gulping it down as if it would take away the pain in her stomach.

She knew that her mother was observing her discreetly.

Gretchen was a true lady, very well mannered and elegant as well as intelligent and perceptive. Janeway shuddered. It was quite a lot to live up to. She admired her mother very much, always had. When she was growing up she frequently voiced her wish to walk in her father’s footsteps. She secretly desired to become as accomplished and gracious as her mother but knowing deep down that it was an impossible task. She had never told her mother how her amazing persona had deterred her oldest daughter from expressing her appreciation.

Phoebe also focused on the food. Her younger sister seemed as detached from the world as usual. She always withdrew whenever it became awkward or embarrassing. Gretchen was polite and talked with Marion and Julia.

Janeway lifted her gaze to Seven at the other end of the table. Her partner had hardly touched her food. She was sipping her water but that was it. The older woman felt a pang of guilt but then the outrage over the unwanted surprise overshadowed her sense of remorse.

Seven knew better than to override her decisions. They had had the same discussion at Thanksgiving and the blonde should have realised that family gatherings were not Janeway’s forte.

Suddenly she was four years back in time; another Christmas, another dining room but with her mother and sister present. They had also entertained some close friends to the family and everyone had been set on enjoying the holidays.

Janeway bit down hard around the warm garlic bread that Seven had prepared. She had not thought about that day in years.

They had spent Christmas at her mother’s house and Phoebe had just received wonderful reviews on her last exhibition. Janeway had congratulated her, feeling both proud and touched that her younger sister’s talent received such appreciation. Phoebe had sold six paintings on opening night.

To her amazement, Phoebe had just shrugged at her praise and made an acerbic comment about money not being relevant. It was the artistic side, the creativity itself that was important. Janeway had felt taken aback, not sure how to interpret Phoebe’s indifferent tone of voice. She had also been stunned to recognise the embarrassment that her own sister told her off in front of friends of the family.

This alone did not disturb her all that much. She was used to her sister’s needling and counted it as sibling rivalry although thinking it was pretty silly for women of their age.

It was the events unfolding later that evening that threw her for a loop and made her avoid family and friends the following three years.

Janeway paused and looked up. She hated when someone cornered like this.

She caught Seven’s eyes. The younger woman looked like a deer caught in the headlights. If it had not been for her own almost panicky reaction, Janeway would have submitted to the remorse that flowed through her.

Now she just lowered her head and kept eating.

*****

Seven could hardly swallow the casserole she had prepared with such care. The mashed potatoes seemed to get stuck in the back of her throat and she grabbed her glass of water and sipped it again.

Marion and Julia had come to her rescue by filling the void of silence with polite conversation. They had engaged Gretchen in discussions about her home and her work. Gretchen seemed to do her best not to let the strange atmosphere affect her. She talked with Marion and Julia but her gaze kept wandering back to Kathryn.

Phoebe ate in silence, her eyes darting between their faces. She looked intrigued but oddly untouched, by the drama slowly unfolding.

Like her sister, Kathryn ate in silence. Seven knew the CEO was in pain, she could see the tension in her shoulders and the wrinkle between her eyebrows that always deepened when she was in agony or distress.

Seven wished she had not meddled with family affairs she knew nothing about. She did not know why Kathryn had not spent more time with her mother and sister. This had been a huge mistake and she was not sure if Kathryn would ever forgive her for it.

She glanced at the woman she loved more than anything. The CEO looked up just then and caught her gaze. Kathryn’s eyes were a dull grey. Seven’s heart sank.

This was more than she could bear. She had invested such hope in this; their first Christmas together, and now she had ruined it, perhaps beyond repair.

Kathryn had politely greeted her mother and sister, even embraced Gretchen. Then, she had excused herself after only exchanging a few words and carried her bags upstairs. Seven had not followed her; she had stood in the hallway, feeling utterly devastated and numb at the same time, not knowing what to say.

Marion had glared at Janeway’s back as she disappeared up the stairs. Julia in turn had taken a step closer to Seven, giving her a quick hug, wordlessly showing her support.

Now, sitting on Seven’s left, Julia sent Marion a somewhat desperate look across the table. The other woman nodded and they began to rise from their chairs.

"We’ll take care of the dishes, Seven," Marion said, "since you went through such trouble to make dinner for us all. It truly was delicious."

"Yes, thank you so much, Seven," Julia filled in. "You just relax, sweetie, you must be exhausted after decorating the house, trimming the tree and then preparing all this food."

The two women began to clear the table and looked pleasantly surprised when Phoebe rose to assist them.

When the three women had removed all the used plates and gone into the kitchen, Seven rose from her chair.

"I …" she began but her voice betrayed her. "I should let you two …"

"Sit down, Seven," Gretchen said softly. "You shouldn’t let my daughter’s bad manners upset you so much."

This made Kathryn flinch and look at her mother.

Gretchen turned and met her daughter’s gaze head on.

"Seven went through a great deal of trouble to make this a special holiday for you, Kathryn. She called Phoebe and I, invited us to join you, since she assumed you had forfeited spending Christmas with us to be with her, and made us feel welcomed," she stated softly

"Mother, I …"

"And how do you show your appreciation? You give her the silent treatment all evening. I don’t know how or why she tolerates your sulking, Kathryn. It’s obvious that you would have preferred not having Phoebe and myself here for the holidays, but none of this is Seven’s fault. She’s a very special young woman who did all of this to please you. You owe her an apology."

The CEO bit her lower lip and then cleared her throat.

"Please," Seven interrupted, "It is not necessary."

Kathryn winced at the pain in Seven’s voice. Pressing her lips together the auburn haired woman rose, walked over to Seven and knelt beside the chair.

"No, Seven," she murmured, "My mother is right. I’m acting like an insolent child and none of this is your fault. You are never anything but good to me."

Seven exhaled, realising that she had been holding her breath for quite a while when this made her slightly dizzy. Kathryn’s eyes were a whirlpool of stormy grey.

"I must be insane," the older woman said. "You’ve worked so hard to make this Christmas something special. Everything’s so beautiful, the tree, the dinner … you. But have I taken the time to tell you that? No. I just sat at the other end of this table sulking, eating the wonderful meal you prepared without so much as a word. I’m sorry, darling. I really am."

Seven looked into Kathryn’s dark eyes.

"Do not cry, Kathryn," she whispered when she noticed the tears forming there. With that, Seven leaned forward and hugged her partner.

Gretchen Janeway had sat quietly watching all of this unfold. It was obvious that Seven loved her daughter very much and that Kathryn had found someone that could break through those invisible barriers she loved to isolate herself behind.

"You are obviously very good for my daughter," Gretchen said, sounding pleased as she rose from her chair. "Well, I said my peace. I’ll leave you two alone."

"No, Mom," Kathryn said and cleared her throat again. "Seven and I will talk this through but not now. Take it from me; we’ve been through worse and survived. I need to talk to you if we’re to get through this holiday together in peace without me making a fool of myself.

"Yes," Seven said, a small warm flame appearing in the pit of her stomach as she realised that Kathryn had begun to accept the fact that her mother and sister were there. She could tell that the CEO was still upset, but she was not as angry with Seven anymore. "Excuse me, I …"

"No, you misunderstand, Seven. I don’t want you to leave either. Anything I say to Mom I can say in front of you," Janeway stated firmly and briefly touched Seven’s cheek. "Please stay."

She turned to her mother with a crooked smile.

"I owe you an apology too, Mom," she confessed as she stood to face her mother.

"Then can I get a real hug now?" Gretchen asked a slow, radiant smile, so similar to Kathryn’s own, forming on her lips.

"Yes, of course." The CEO rounded the table and embraced her mother, this time with her arms around her neck and holding on much longer. "I’m really glad to see you, Mom," she continued. "It’s just …"

"It’s just that you didn’t expect this and you don’t like surprises?"

Kathryn flinched and took a step back but Gretchen still held on to her daughter.

"I didn’t realise that you know me so well, Mom. I do dislike not knowing what’s going on. I have missed you. I’ve even missed that bratty sister of mine. I know I call too seldom. I have thought of spending the holidays with you but I wasn’t sure you’d want to … and I was too proud and I guess too ambivalent, to ask." Kathryn’s voice was calm but her stormy eyes betrayed her emotions.

"You never have to think twice before asking anything of me, darling," the older woman stated. "I know how busy you are, how hard you have to work for your success. I have missed spending time with you but I understand that your duties are very demanding."

"This is different, Mom. It’s not just work. I would like to explain it to you. I have put it off way too long. Still, I’m too tired tonight. My head is spinning and I guess I’m still upset, mostly at myself for being so rotten to Seven." Kathryn gazed at her partner. "All I want to do is go to bed."

"You know, I have to take some responsibility here as well. I knew better than Seven how you feel about surprises. I should have warned her but I was so thrilled at the prospect of being with you all for Christmas. This situation is just as much my fault," Gretchen said thoughtfully.

Kathryn took a step back but kept her mother’s hand in hers.

"I owe Seven so much," she said, motioning towards the young woman still sitting in her chair at the end of the table. "She may not know all the little quirks about me yet, but she’s always trying to make me feel good and look out for me."

Seven’s eyes grew wide. The sincerity in Kathryn’s voice was completely without challenge or defiance; the older woman was simply making her feelings clear.

"I can understand that. She’s a wonderful girl," Gretchen answered. "You must have some redeeming qualities that she finds equally charming since she’s still around."

A hesitant smiled began to play at the corners of Kathryn’s mouth.

"She tolerates my moods."

"Brave too!"

"She even inspired me to get a tattoo."

"What?"

"Only a temporary one," Seven quickly informed the older Janeway. "It wore off in three months."

Kathryn laughed and hugged her mother again.

"I bet you’re quite relieved to hear that, aren’t you, Mom?"

Gretchen shook her head and returned the hug.

Seven watched the two women and hope stirred within her. Kathryn was still apprehensive, she could tell but the laughter had relaxed the other woman. To witness the embrace made her relax some and she could not help yawning. She was so tired.

*****

Gretchen met Seven’s gaze over Kathryn’s shoulder.

"The poor girl," the older woman smiled. "She looks like she’s ready to fall asleep standing up."

Janeway turned her head and regarded her partner tenderly.

"You look exhausted," she said and took a step towards Seven. "Bedtime?"

"I guess so," Seven nodded. "I have a lot to do tomorrow."

"Now, now," Gretchen smiled. "Don’t forget that there’s five other people here you can put to work. We don’t expect you to wait on us. It ‘s your Christmas too."

Seven smiled shyly, almost breaking Janeway’s heart. She had come so close to damaging this young woman’s tender soul again. When would she learn to trust the purity of Seven’s love? She never had a hidden agenda, not even when she was being secretive. She did everything with the best of intentions, never as a demonstration of power or in malice.

"I’ll go up and run a bath for you, darling," she said softly. "You go undress in the meantime."

"That sounds wonderful, Kathryn," Seven agreed. She turned to the others. "I am so pleased that you are all here. Thank you for coming. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow morning."

"I just can’t believe how much you’ve managed to decorate on your own in just two days," Janeway said.

Seven had decorated the large tree in the corner with old-fashioned ornaments and white shimmering lights. The tree rendered the room an indisputable ambience. The CEO had regarded the small stack of presents already piled under the tree with surprise. She wondered what Seven would think of the one she brought.

Janeway said goodnight to her mother and poked her head through the kitchen door. To her amazement Phoebe, Marion and Julia were amicably chatting while taking care of the dishes. Janeway kept her voice light and bid them goodnight.

She walked up the stairs and into the bathroom. She began running the bath for Seven while glancing into the mirror. There was softness in her eyes that she had not seen in quite a while.

The water produced steam that soon blurred her image and she opened the wooden cabinet and pulled out some sandalwood bath bubbles. She poured a few drops into the hot water. Kneeling next to the tub she eagerly inhaled the scent.

A sound from the door behind her made her turn around, expecting to see Seven. It was Marion.

"Seven’s on her way. She just walked into your room to change," the other woman said calmly. "You all right?"

"I’m fine."

"I’m just asking because I … well, I feel a little guilty. Julia and I knew about this whole deal. Seven called Julia and asked if we’d help."

Janeway bit back an irritated retort.

"Really?"

"Look, I’m sorry. We didn’t quite know how to handle it. We wanted to help Seven but I suspected that we were putting you on the spot. Are we forgiven?"

Janeway could not stay annoyed with such an honest declaration. She felt a lopsided grin form on her lips.

"Only because you had Seven’s best interest at heart. She loves the two of you, you know."

"She’s the kid sister I never had, Kathryn. I don’t know what it is about her that evokes such protective feelings in me. I feel protective about Julia too, but it is different with Seven."

Janeway nodded.

"I know. She is extremely intelligent, self-sufficient and yet so … vulnerable. She knows hardly anything about deception. What she does know about it, she’s learned since she hooked up with me." Janeway grimaced. "I’m not always sure I’m good for her. In fact I frequently doubt it."

"She adores you. You don’t have to be perfect; you just have to be you. She loves you the way you are, Kathryn."

The seriousness in the other woman’s voice made Janeway’s heart skip a beat. She recognised the truth in Marion’s statement. That was one of the magical things about Seven’s love. The younger woman never tried to change her. She sometimes questioned Janeway’s way of thinking and acting, but never set ultimatums or demanded anything. Still, the CEO knew she had changed a lot since falling in love with the blonde. The change had come from within, from learning things about herself that made her re-evaluate her life, her priorities.

"You’re a good friend, Marion," Janeway now said. "You’re a pain in the ass sometimes, but I admire the person you turned out to be once I got to know you. I just wanted to tell you that."

Marion looked stunned.

"Thank you, that means a lot to me," she managed. "I owe you a lot. If there ever is anything I can do for you or Seven … well, you know …"

Janeway rose and touched the other woman’s cheek briefly.

"I know."

Marion turned to leave and practically ran into Seven as the blonde entered the bathroom. The young woman looked mildly surprised.

"Have a nice bath, Seven," Marion grinned. "You’ve earned it."

When they were alone, Janeway locked the door and smiled towards Seven.

"At last," she said. "You look lovely in that robe, sweetheart, but it has to go."

She proceeded to tug at the belt, opening the peach bathrobe with eager fingers. Seven did nothing to help, just watched Janeway’s every move through her eyelashes.

"Will you take the bath with me?" she asked.

"No, darling," Janeway said. "You’re exhausted and the bath is meant to relax you. I will take a quick shower when you’re done and then I’ll take you to bed. To sleep."

The blonde looked slightly disappointed but Janeway knew that Seven was way too tired for any amorous suggestions. She did however have quite an elaborate plan for the next morning.

Seven got into the tub and lowered her slender body with a sigh of pure pleasure. Janeway sat down next to the tub and regarded the woman she loved as she closed her eyes and leaned back in the old bathtub.

"There, you see?" Janeway said with a tender smile. "Doesn’t that feel good? Soon you’ll be relaxed. You’ll sleep like a baby tonight."

"Only because you are here," the blonde murmured. "I have missed you."

"I’ve missed you as well," Janeway said, realising that this was only true in part, a pang of guilt struck again. She had been so busy with her plans for the company that she had not realised until this moment just how empty it all was without Seven.

She failed to understand herself sometimes. As long as she was in the midst of the business deals, one following another in an endless circle, work kept her so occupied that she hardly thought of the young woman. Then, when everything quieted around her, the CEO would almost double over with pain for missing her partner.

The guilt of it was always with her. She did not know how to deal with it.

"I want you to listen to me, darling," Janeway said quietly. "I have no excuses for my behaviour tonight. I do however have an explanation."

"You do not have to …"

"Oh, I do. I owe you that and more, Seven. You acted out of love. Your intentions were good and the only blame should fall on me for not explaining the circumstances to you beforehand. I know you’ve been curious about my mother and Phoebe."

"I did not understand why you did not spend more time with them. I thought perhaps you were ashamed of me, of our relationship but when you were so open about after our vacation and even suggested I would function as your hostess at the Thanksgiving party …"

"I am not ashamed of you or our relationship, not in front of our employees or anyone else. However, my relationship with my mother and sister is more complicated than that." Janeway sighed and brushed over her face with a trembling hand. "One thing that your little Christmas surprise has done is forced me to talk to my mother. There has been so much tension these last few years; it can’t go on any longer. I miss her. I even miss my bratty sister."

"Phoebe is not easy to fathom," Seven stated in a mild tone of voice. "You two are very different."

"Yes, darling. As different as two members from the same gene pool can become."

"Will you talk to your mother tomorrow?"

"Yes. I promise. Have you forgiven me, darling?"

"There is nothing to forgive. I only want your happiness, Kathryn," the blonde said, her blue eyes huge in the misty bathroom. "I still feel I was presumptuous to think I knew better than you what was in your best interest."

Janeway gave Seven a tender look. The young woman was sitting slumped back in the old fashioned tub, her hair damp and tousled around her narrow features. She looked so young and innocent, almost fragile; still she was one of the strongest and bravest people Janeway had ever encountered.

"I think it’s entirely possible that you do know what’s best for me, darling," Janeway smiled.

Silence fell and the CEO pulled a knee up, embraced it and leaned her cheek against it, studying the beautiful tableau before her.

The minutes went by and then Seven yawned and stretched.

"I think I better go to bed before I fall asleep in here," she said and rose.

Water ran down her full breasts and followed the curves of her slender body. Janeway stared at the sheer beauty before her and then grabbed a large towel.

"Here, let me dry you off," she said throatily. "You’ll get cold."

She towelled her partner, willing herself not to caress the tempting body between her hands.

"There, all done. Here’s your robe."

Seven insisted on waiting for Janeway as she took a quick shower and then they walked to the room that had once belonged to Seven’s parents. Janeway loved the old antique four-poster bed. She had once asked Seven if she minded sleeping in her parent’s bed but the younger woman had not even understood the reason for the question. She seemed very comfortable in this bed with Janeway.

Seven put on an old cotton shirt and crawled into bed. Janeway knew that Seven was a veritable furnace in bed and opted for sleeping in the nude.

The CEO climbed into bed and Seven promptly hauled her into a soft embrace. The young woman tucked herself in behind her partner, pulling Janeway close under her chin.

"Goodnight, Kathryn," she murmured against the auburn hair.

"Goodnight darling," Janeway replied, basking in the warmth of the embrace. "Thank you."

There was no reply.

Seven was already asleep.

*****

Julia pulled the long sleeveless nightgown over her head, enjoying the sensual feeling it stirred as it fell in silky waves along her body.

She sighed and folded Marion’s clothes, putting them on a chair next to the window. Outside the snow kept falling in large flakes, rending the island a virginal look as it covered the cliffs.

The evening had not turned out quite as disastrous as it had begun.

Julia had understood from Gretchen that Janeway had made an effort to communicate with her mother. When the CEO had poked her head through the kitchen door to say goodnight, the interior designer had noticed that some of the tension that had permeated Janeway had disappeared.

Even Phoebe Janeway had amicably said goodnight and then looked a little more accessible.

Julia knew she should not feel guilty for participating in Seven’s little scheme but she did. She had sensed from the beginning that the blonde’s plan would backfire.

She also wondered about Phoebe Janeway. The talented artist and Julia had a lot in common; they had both chosen creative professions. Julia had tried to discuss Phoebe’s work and the other woman had answered politely but her eyes had wandered constantly back to Janeway and Seven.

She did not hear the door open and when Marion placed a soft kiss at the back of her neck she gasped softly in surprise.

"Hi, beautiful," her lover whispered, raising her hands to Julia’s waist. "Is this pretty thing for me?"

"What?" Julia managed.

"The nightgown. Is it for me?"

"Oh. Yes, I guess so. It’s new. Do you like it?"

Marion came closer; Julia could feel the sales manager’s robe brush against her back.

"Very much. I think you look amazing in that blue colour. There’s only one thing that you look even better in."

Julia blushed and tried to turn around. Marion’s warm hands stopped her.

"What would that be?" Julia asked.

"Nothing. You look best wearing absolutely … nothing."

Marion did not move, forcing Julia to remain at the window with her back towards the room. The older woman held the narrow shoulders in front of her, slowly caressing them and fiddling with the spaghetti straps holding the nightgown up.

"You smell divine," she murmured.

"So do you," Julia said, swallowing hard.

She grew weak at the knees when Marion pressed her lips to the base of her neck and kissed her way along her shoulder.

"Mm," Marion purred. "So soft. So … tasty."

She nibbled the skin and let her tongue caress the little bites.

Julia tipped her head back.

"Oh, Marion," she sighed. "Let me turn around. Let me hold you."

"No, sweetheart. You’re fine just where you are. I can see your reflection in the window while I’m touching you. Stay as you are."

Julia trembled.

"If I can," she murmured. "My knees are giving in."

"Don’t worry. I’ve got you."

Marion slid her hands down Julia’s arms, causing goose bumps to appear and the younger woman to gasp out loud. Not missing a beat Marion pulled at Julia’s wrists, making it clear that she wanted her to use them for support against the window frame.

"There, hold on," she said huskily.

Julia nodded and held on to the frame on both sides of the small window. She saw her own reflection in the window. Her eyes were wide and her ragged breath produced a steamy little circle on the glass just in front of her.

"Now where was I," she heard Marion say quietly behind her.

Determined hands pulled at the soft fabric and began to slide the nightgown up her legs.

"Oh yes, you know how I like you," Marion conversed. "Naked, especially this part of you."

Julia could only nod weakly. She knew that Marion liked to watch her, observe her in the most intimate of ways.

The older woman pulled the silky garment up over Julia’s hips and held it there with one hand and put the other one on the younger woman’s hip.

"Mm, you feel so soft. I have wanted to do this ever since you came, you know. I’ve been such a model of restraint."

"Yes, you have," Julia had to agree. "But please let me turn around. I’m half naked in front of a window, for heaven’s sake."

"Nobody’s out there. Janeway and Seven have retired to their room. Mrs Janeway has also turned in for the night. Phoebe is reading by the fire and I have waited long enough."

She put her arm around Julia’s waist and pulled her closer, holding the nightgown in place. She let her hand slide down and began to caress the other woman’s hot centre. Julia shivered, not able to take her eyes off the alluring image reflecting in the mirror.

Marion ruffled the soft strands of hair between Julia’s legs.

"That’s it. Spread your legs, sweetheart."

Julia inhaled audibly at the no-nonsense tone of voice and complied. When Marion talked to her like this, she knew she had no choice but to surrender. The sales manager seemed to have a sixth sense regarding when to take command. It had scared Julia the first time and she felt a little apprehensive even now, her breath coming in excited gushes.

Slowly she spread her legs, giving Marion access to the swollen heat between her legs.

"Good girl," Marion cooed. "You know just what I want."

She plunged her fingertips into the wetness between Julia’s folds, spreading the moisture all over. This immediate assault on the sensitive area made Julia groan and cling harder to the window frame. She could see it all in the reflection in the glass and it added to her internal fire.

"Oh, Marion," she moaned. "What are you doing to me?"

"Taking you," the other woman stated breathlessly. "Making you mine. Making you never doubt that you’re mine."

Marion’s fingers did a tantalising drum roll on the ridge of nerves between Julia’s folds. This sent shivers through the younger woman, made her gasp out loud and throw her head back.

"You’re mine, aren’t you?" Marion asked with a growl. "You’re all mine."

"Yes, yes," Julia sobbed quietly. "All yours."

It was as if tiny scorching flames licked her from inside.

"You see all of this in your reflection, don’t you?" Marion urged her on. "You see my hand and what it does to you?"

"Yes. I see everything … oh, god, I do …"

"It’s driving you crazy but you can’t stop looking, can you, darling?"

"No, no …"

The probing fingers found her entrance and soon the eager tips began to enter her.

Julia let her hands slide down the window frame. Her upper body leaned forward and she ended up bent at the hips in an almost ninety-degree angle, supporting herself on her elbows against the window ledge.

Marion removed her hand.

Julia was dizzy and knew that she needed the support, not realising how her position would affect her lover. She suddenly felt the strong grip of an arm around her waist as the eager hand returned to her folds, this time from behind.

"Ah!" Julia groaned.

"So this is what you want?" Marion hissed in her ear, placing and endless line of open mouth kisses on her lover’s neck. "You want me to ravage you from behind like this, hm?"

Julia had not known that this was what she wanted but the thought of Marion pushing her insistent hand against her in this manner made her head spin.

"I … I … yes!"

Not the least bit apprehensive, Marion plunged two fingers into Julia’s shivering body. Inside she picked up a slow but forceful rhythm, pressing her fingers down against a spot that drove the younger woman crazy.

"Mine!" Marion murmured as she pressed her body against Julia’s, the older woman’s robe now open, allowing her naked skin to slide against her lover’s.

"Yes … oh, yes," Julia replied with a sob.

She shivered against the shattering feelings inside. The erotic sensations succeeded each other and built up the desire for release. Just when she thought she could not take any more, Marion added a finger, filling her, stretching her beyond what she thought possible. The relentless hand and the husky, whispering voice in her ear finally became too much.

With a whimper, Julia gripped the window ledge and began to convulse. She felt light-headed and was glad that Marion held her in such a firm grip. The orgasm swept through her, flooded her and delivered her into a spectacular state of pleasure that was over only too soon.

Feeling her knees give in she began to slump back against Marion. The older woman removed her hand and pulled Julia into a soft embrace.

"Hi, you," she murmured. "Are you okay, sweetheart?"

"Mm," Julia managed. "Very … okay."

"Let me help you to bed."

Marion guided her trembling lover to the bed. It was a little smaller than queen size but Julia knew she would enjoy the closeness with Marion. She lay down and Marion joined her, pulling the covers up around them both.

Pulling Julia onto her shoulder she sighed and stroked the younger woman’s back.

"Oh, Marion," Julia sighed. "That was incredible."

"I know," Marion replied, sounding somewhat smug.

Julia smiled indulgently. After catching her breath she got up on an elbow, regarding her lover. Marion’s eyes gleamed in the softly lit room. Julia knew the other woman was very turned on but also prepared to wait until she had caught her breath.

Stealthily she pushed the sheet back a little.

"What are you up to?" Marion asked as Julia began to scoot down.

"Oh, nothing much," Julia replied, disappearing down underneath the covers.

"Really? Oh!"

The younger woman bit back a giggle when Marion’s body jerked at the sensation of a kiss right at the apex of her thighs.

"Mm," Julia purred. "You like this, hm?"

"Julia …" Marion said, her voice suddenly just as weak and submissive as Julia’s had been earlier.

"You like this too?" Julia asked casually from under the covers as she nudged the older woman’s legs apart and moved in between them. She did not give Marion any chance to respond before parting the slick folds of her lover and pressing her eager mouth there.

The husky murmur when Marion experienced a hot, dancing tongue playing against her most sensitive spot was just the beginning. Julia’s hungry mouth feasted endlessly on her lover. Her tongue caressed the delicate inner lips and the aching nubbin between them without mercy until the elegant woman began to tremble.

Julia took the little ridge of nerves between her lips and let her tongue flutter over it, feeling the copious amount of wetness emerging from her lover. She greedily tasted it and revelled in the effect her insatiability had on the woman she loved.

Marion arched almost violently beneath her.

"Julia!"

Engulfed in what she was doing to her lover, Julia found it amazing that a single name could express so much love and wonder.

*****
Continued in part 2 of Christmas on Raven's Island