It was a day of disasters. Looking back, Ruby would still find it to have been one of the most miserable days of her life, even though it, for a while at least, led to good things. But on that very day, she was ready to scream.
It had started upon waking. She’d had a dream, a nice dream really, about a picnic in the woods by a stream, with Belle. It was a dream so the conversation had ranged from the optical apparatus of lizards to attractive female underpants on men. And there might have been a brief interlude involving a jazz band and a farmers market. But it was just nice to be with Belle again, to see her shy but utterly complete smile, the duck of her eyes, the way she always looked like she hoped Ruby was going to just give in and kiss her. But Ruby never had.
When Ruby woke up, she realized she was crying. It was a shitty morning all around.
The crying headache didn’t let up, and Ruby was snappish, and Granny, of course, snapped right back. And then the breakfast rush hit, and of course they ran out of hash browns, and of course the delivery had been short, and of course Ruby had to apologize sweetly to about twenty people. And then the coffee machine broke, and the new dishwasher dropped a plastic timer in the frying oil and they had to turn off the deep fryer. This caused a riot.
Essentially, it was the worst morning ever. Then, of course, Lacey walked in.
Ruby wanted to die.
In her fuck-me heels and tight, short, sheer black dress, it didn’t look like she’d made it home from the bar the night before. But it was no walk of shame, because Lacey French didn’t have shame. She strolled into the diner from the direction of the pawnshop, as cool as you please, and leaned on the bar. “OJ, all right? And make it snappy.” She snapped her fingers.
Ruby felt a wash of rage take over her. It was close enough to wolfstime that she could feel the wolf, and she felt it now, bristling, hackles up, enemy. She turned slowly, leaning on the bar, dishtowel in one hand, button down overshirt hanging open. “Now what do we say, little girl?”
Lacey narrowed her eyes. It was at these moments that Lacey’s poise and deadly calm pulled at Ruby’s gut. She missed Belle, missed the way she’d always wanted to gather her up in her arms and protect her. But with Lacey she wanted to shove her up against the wall and kiss her until her mouth bled.
“We say, get me my juice, server, and maybe I’ll tip you.” Lacey’s eyes flashed.
The new dishwasher, taking out the now cool plastic-infused cooking oil, was going out the front.
“Hey!” yelled Ruby. “Garbage out the back!”
The new waiter squeaked and dropped the cooking oil.
“What did you call me?” Lacey hissed.
Oil sloshed in a wave across the diner floor, full of horrible black crispy bits. “Oh, fuck this,” Ruby swore.
“If this is how you treat customers—”
Ruby, understandably, had had enough. “God, Lacey! Just get the fuck out of my diner! I don’t need you making my life harder right now!”
Lacey, also understandably, slapped her. Then she spun, stepped right into the puddle of cooking oil, and went ass over teakettle. Her heels, having been some of the least practical footwear ever invented, were not a stable base on which to fall. Her foot came down on the side of the shoe, skidded, and with and unpleasant snapping sound, she fell.
There was something about how her face went white and her lips parted in a silent gasp of pain that made her look far too much like Belle for Ruby to be at all pleased about the situation. She dove out from behind the bar.
“Hey, hey. Are you all right?”
Lacey made one small sound, and Ruby thought it might have been tears before she realized that it was the sound of repressed fury. “I,” Lacey said between gritted teeth, “am going to sue the fucking pants off this shithole of a diner. You are going to be fucking streetwalking by Michaelmas.”
Ruby didn’t know when Michaelmas was, but she decided not to ask.
* * *
When Lacey French woke up after the operation to get a fucking bolt stuck in her leg, (She’s heard the doctor was secretly Doctor Frankenstein and his obsession with bolts was suddenly far too up close and personal.) she found, to her surprise, that she wasn’t in the hospital. She wasn’t even in a familiar room. It was a nice room, reasonably spacious with vaguely Victorian décor, but it was not anywhere she expected to be.
“Oh, hey,” said a voice, “you’re awake.”
Lacey turned her gaze to spy her arch nemesis sitting on the windowseat with her knees tucked up, eyeing her nervously.
“Ruby.” Lacey glared. “Where the fuck am I? And I want my lawyer.”
“Ah,” Ruby made a face. “So you don’t remember. It was between surgeries, so that always was a possibility. But, um, you signed a contract saying that you wouldn’t sue the diner, or me, or Granny, for this.”
“Why the fuck would I do that? If I did, I was impaired. It is not binding.”
“Well, Rumplestiltskin wrote it, and he has your power of attorney, or something. And it was witnessed by him and Abigail, so, apparently it is binding.”
“Gold would never sign away my right to sue.”
“He thought you’d be happy about the bargain.” Ruby was looking very nervous now and a little angry, and Lacey was deeply suspicious. “Because while you heal up, I’m, well, I’m your personal slave.”
Lacey started to object, and then the words registered. She stared at Ruby, hot, stubborn Ruby, who had said she was her friend and then fucked off the moment she realized Lacey wasn’t Belle. Gold had been right. She was happy about the bargain. This was the best vengeance ever.
“My… slave,” Lacey said, rolling the word around on her tongue. “Now that’s interesting.”
Ruby’s shoulders slumped and she sighed. “God, I probably would have preferred the streetwalking to this.”
* * *
“This is the worst,” Ruby said, pressing her face into her arms. “The absolute fucking worst.”
“Ruby,” Snow scolded. “Don’t swear.”
“You try dealing with her pouting and threats when I won’t get her liquor or drugs. They’ll interact with her painkillers, and I have a feeling if she winds up dead, Rumple will have my ass even more than he already does.”
“She’s drying out,” said Emma. “It’s rough.”
Ruby glared at her. “She’s got morphine tablets. What does she need tequila for? If this is dry, I don’t want to be in the country when I can’t drug her with morphine.”
Snow frowned. “That’s actually kind of worrisome. Does she have enough entertainment?”
“She has 900 channels of cable! And yet she still whines about being bored. She says she can’t watch more than 2 hours of TV without getting a headache.” Ruby sighed. “Neither can I. But her other type of fun seems to be ordering me to bring her stuff and then throwing it at me when she doesn’t like it.”
“You could try board games,” Snow suggested.
Ruby gave her a look of death.
Emma shrugged. “Find her a book.”
Ruby scowled. “I tried that, a long time ago. Lacey doesn’t do books.”
“You gave her a book Belle would have liked. We all know Lacey a lot better now. Find Lacey a book. Or, you know, just get her Cosmo.”
* * *
Lacey didn’t like Cosmo. It was too middle class, she said. And she liked fucking, but she didn’t give a shit about ‘what men are thinking.’ It was the same response with the romance novels Ashley recommended – and Ruby had to dodge them being thrown at her head. But Lacey did actually read them, which gave Ruby about three hours of quiet. (For three books and two issues of Cosmo she took three hours. Lacey read really fast.) When Ruby brought the YA novels recommended by Kathryn, they actually got a slight nod. But on the sixth, Lacey was three chapters in, when she dropped it on her lap.
“Don’t any of these not revolve around a mysterious loner dude with daddy issues who thinks he’s ‘too beastly to be loved.’” Lacey rolled her eyes. “Can’t the girls just go out and do things for themselves?”
Ruby, a little stunned, nodded and took the book back. “Uh,” she said. “I’ll try and find some.”
Finding a YA novel that was actually not just a weird retelling of Beauty and the Beast was kind of difficult. Snow recommended she skew younger. Ruby decided she’d try them for herself first.
This was a success. But after sobbing her eyes out over the sixth volume of the Redwall series, Lacey looked at her and said, “I think I need something else.”
It was unsettling, talking books with Lacey. It was strange not having things thrown at her head. And though it was still demeaning, having her entire life revolve around the needs and desires of someone she hated, there were moments where it wasn’t actually so bad.
Mostly, those moments were when Lacey was asleep.
On other days, the worst moments were when Lacey was asleep. Sometimes Ruby would sit there, tangled up on the windowsill, book abandoned in her lap, watching her, her face still and washed clean of make up, her sharp tongue and sultry gaze turned off, she looked just like Belle.
“I would have done this willingly for her,” Ruby mumbled to herself. She would have been happy to. But losing herself in fantasies of Belle’s grateful smile after carrying her to and from the bathroom, of her darling embarrassment if she needed a hand out of the tub, was not doing anyone any good.
* * *
Ruby had gotten the text when she was halfway across town. The blank screen meant ‘get here now,’ but though she had started back immediately, she hadn’t rushed. If Lacey needed her, she needed to give her a minute or so to get there.
That cry had come from the hall. Ruby bolted up the last few stairs, letting her wolfspeed kick in and dove, catching Lacey just before she toppled over. She got a good whack with the crutch for her pains.
“Ow,” Lacey muttered.
“I got’cha,” Ruby said, carefully catching her up under the knees and shoulders. Lacey’s face was red and her eyes were wet and scratchy. “You okay?”
“Where were you?”
Suddenly guilty, Ruby shifted slightly, trying to make sure Lacey was comfortable in the bridal carry. “Farmers Market. Sorry. Where were you heading?”
“I made it there,” Lacey said, petulantly. “I just didn’t get back.”
That meant bathroom. This girl was going to be the death of her. “That is not a walking cast,” Ruby scolded, carrying her back to her room. She was such a tiny girl, Ruby thought she could carry her wolf-strength or no. “And you were only using one crutch.”
“Hate crutches.” Lacey had her arms looped around Ruby’s neck. “Hate you carrying me like this too.”
Ruby laughed and put her down carefully on her bed. “What? Don’t want to be carried over the threshold?”
“By you?” Lacey’s narrow glare was paired with a slight smirk. She was back to her usual self, and Ruby, strangely, found that comforting.
* * *
“The thing I don’t get,” Lacey said, “Is why my memories of you and you as you are now don’t match up.”
Ruby wasn’t actually in the mood to talk, especially because Lacey had that tone that said she was going to be a bitch about something, so she kept tidying up while she was listening. “What do you mean?”
“I remember you. And maybe you don’t know me, but I’ve checked things out, and apparently most of my memories where I wasn’t directly involved are accurate. And what I remember most about you, is that you were beating me out in the skanky ho stakes.”
Ruby rolled her eyes and tied off the garbage bag. “No one could beat you at the skanky ho stakes, Lacey.”
Lacey laughed slightly. “Thank you,” she said. “But come on. You had the shortest fucking skirts. And your midriff was like an old friend. You also had legs, well, still have legs, which I will always be jealous of.”
“Thank you.” Ruby flashed an ironic dirty smile.
“See! There, look at that. That’s a Ruby smile. Like, I’m going to bang whoever the fuck I want, and you’re going to like me even if I reject you because I’m nice. But you’re not that girl anymore. I mean, look at you.”
Ruby looked down at herself. She liked this shirt.
“I mean, it’s not like you’re not still hot in that kind of clothing. It’s just kind of screaming, well, ‘dyke’.”
Ruby pressed her lips together. “So?”
Lacey pushed up on her hands to sit up straighter. “’So?’” She was staring at Ruby like she’d grown another head. “You want your clothes to scream ‘dyke’?” She tilted her head so much to the side that she was starting to look like an owl. “Whoa. I heard that this crazy curse could fuck you up, but that must have been a rude awakening, with how much dick you’ve had.”
Oh god. Ruby kind of wanted to choke her. “It was an adjustment,” she said. “But more because of the different attitudes towards casual sex. I was always bi.”
Lacey smiled. “Woot. Bi pride!” She held up two fingers in a salute, and waited, as if wanting some acknowledgement.
Ruby eyed her fingers, and then bopped them with two of her own. “That’s totally not a thing.”
Lacey shrugged. “Don’t care.”
Ruby frowned at her. “I’ve never seen you hook up with a woman.”
“Didn’t say I was bi. Ladies be bitches.”
Ruby wrinkled her nose. “Are you high?”
“Took a double dose of morphine. It’s great.”
* * *
The morphine being replaced by Tylenol was another lovely session of having things thrown at her. Usually she could dodge them all, but this time Ruby got beaned in the face by an empty pill bottle.
“You are such a little whiny bitch!”
“Fuck you too! I just want drugs!”
“Well, you’re not getting any! Illegal substances are not on the contract!”
That was when Ruby started getting the three AM text messages. She would drag herself out of bed and head down the hall to Lacey’s room.
Lacey shrugged. “I’m awake, I wanted you to be awake too.”
On the third night, Ruby wanted to kill her. But when she strode in, she noticed there was more strain on Lacey’s face than usual. Her jaw was clenched tight.
Lacey gave her a look of death. “No.”
Ruby sank down on the side of the bed. “You know, I’m already up, and I’m your personal slave. You don’t have to act tough in front of me.”
Lacey was stiff for a few moments. “My leg really fucking hurts,” she said. “Cramping, I think.”
Carefully, Ruby pulled down the blankets. There was a bit of swelling above the walking cast – a new addition, and it looked a little tender. “You’ve been using this without crutches, haven’t you.”
“Shut up, slave girl. Do something about it.”
Ruby reached out and laid her hand on it. Lacey flinched. “Sorry, is that okay?”
Lacey scowled at her. “Yeah, I guess.”
Gently, Ruby started to rub it, working her way slowly up and down the leg to loosen up the muscles. She could feel Lacey start to relax.
“Other one now.”
Ruby laughed. “Getting used to having a slave girl?” She moved in, digging her fingers into the calf muscle.
“Well, you know, gotta use her while I got her.”
Ruby couldn’t say she didn’t enjoy the taut flesh under her hand, the smooth skin. Intent on her work, she slid up the insides of her soft thighs, barely infringed upon by the short nightdress, her fingers pressing deep into the muscles. Something smelt deliciously sweet to her wolf nose. And then she heard a small sound. She looked up. Lacey was staring at her, eyes wide and intent, cheeks flushed, lips slightly parted. Her dark hair was mussed and half in her face, and she was so obviously turned on that Ruby let her go like she’d started to spark.
“That– that’s good,” Lacey choked out. “I’m fine now. Go to bed.”
Shit. Ruby scooted off the mattress and fled to the doorway. There, she paused. Why was she running away? Hot girl, clearly into it. “You know, your legs are pretty awesome too.”
“Oh my god,” Lacey spat at her. “Go the fuck away.”
Ruby laughed and sashayed down the hall. It looked like she’d still got it, if only with frustrated little straight girls.
* * *
“Are illegal substances allows on Gold’s contract?” Ruby asked her Granny, absently.
Granny gave her a sharp look. “What is that girl up to now?”
“I wasn’t going to get her any! I just wanted to know if Gold would get pissed if she reported back that she had to stay sober the entire time.”
“You haven’t read the contract?”
Ruby frowned at her Grandmother. “It’s three pages of legal jargon. I get the gist. I get to be her butler until she can walk properly again, and this bullshit goes away.”
“I don’t think ‘butler’ was quite the term they used.”
Ruby chuckled darkly. “No.” She looked away. “Wolftime’s soon.”
“I’m going to cover for you.”
Ruby rolled her eyes. “Good luck with the three AM texts that are just to spite you.”
Granny watched her, a suspicious expression on her face. “You know, you really should read the contract.”
Ruby grabbed her novel and buzzing phone. “Yeah sure, right when I get a minute.” She charged up the stairs. “What is it now!” she yelled. “You better not be trying to take a shower!”
* * *
It had been a little more awkward after the massage incident. Ruby was careful to keep her eyes averted at sensitive moments, but she could smell Lacey’s tension around her, and to her wolf, at least, it was very intriguing.
The next text she got at three AM woke her out of a nice dream, and she was super pissed. Not bothering to pull on pajama bottoms – the night had been too hot for them – she strode down the hall to Lacey’s room.
“What is it?”
Lacey was sitting up quite straight, her hair in a twist, looking as regal as one could in bed. She glared at Ruby. “That’s no way to speak to your mistress.”
Ruby put a hand on her hip and stared incredulously at the girl. “We’re role playing this now, are we?”
“I’ve been considering the terms of your duties.”
“And I’ve decided… that you should service me.”
“Isn’t that what I’m doing?”
“Not serve me. Service me. Sexually.”
Ruby stared at her. “You can’t just jerk off?”
“You’re my slave girl!”
“I’m pretty sure that isn’t in the contract!”
Lacey narrowed her eyes. “You really think so?”
Ruby grimaced. A bargain involving Gold and Lacey… it could include anything. “But you’re… straight.”
“I didn’t say I’d touch you.”
“So, really…” Ruby considered this. “Getting touched by someone who doesn’t turn you on is better than doing it for yourself?”
Lacey looked away, scowling slightly. “It hurts my foot when I try.”
Ruby arched an eyebrow and slid onto the bed. “Or maybe I turn you on a little.” She let her fingers run down Lacey’s shin.
Lacey looked at her, eyes wide. She swallowed. “Maybe a little.”
This was absurd, but she couldn’t say getting a chance to touch this girl wasn’t something she’d thought about, and she’d thought hard about it ever since the massage incident. Lacey seemed to have been thinking about it too.
Slowly, carefully, Ruby leaned in. Her hand rested on Lacey’s thigh. Lacey breathed in sharply. And then Ruby pressed a kiss to the soft place on her neck, right under her jaw.
“Fuck it.” Lacey’s hands came up to clasp her shoulders, and she sank back into the pillows. “I’m so turned on right now.”
Ruby slid her hand up Lacey’s nightdress, following the curve of her hip and the smooth skin of her side. She cupped her breast, still kissing and tonguing at her neck. Lacey thrashed, her hips bucking up.
Ruby couldn’t keep her hands off of her. She was so responsive, the sounds she made, the way she moved. And it had been a long time. She tugged the nightdress open, kissing a path down her chest. She licked a long wet streak across her breast and then sucked it into her mouth.
“Oh my god!” Lacey reared up and caught the back of her head, tangling her fingers in her hair.
Ruby let a growl go in the back of her throat, and as Lacey arched, she shifted her body weight onto her injured leg so that she would stop banging it into the mattress. She moved her attentions to the other breast, and Lacey was panting under her. She could smell her arousal, her sweat. She just wanted to bury her face between her legs, but that might be going too far. You didn’t give head to someone who wouldn’t get you off in return. That was one of old Ruby’s rules, and it was a good one. Instead she traced her fingertips up between Lacey’s thigs. Lacey gave a little sigh and her knees splayed, opening up for her. Ruby tugged down her underwear and stroked up her lips, then parting her, finding her clit, circling, watching the tension build. Lacey came, easy and wet and undignified, and she moaned, wordlessly.
“Want another?” Ruby asked.
Lacey blinked at her, mouth half open, sultry gaze overcome by surprise. She nodded hard, and Ruby moved to slide two long fingers inside her. Lacey gave a rough gasp and raked her nails down Ruby’s back. Ruby pulled out, and then fucked back into her, grinding down on her knee in time with her thrusts.
Ruby was an inch away from getting off when Lacey came again, wet and lush around her fingers, and Ruby groaned, rolling onto her back. She wiped her hand on her shirt and then stuck it down her underwear.
“Hold on,” she said. “I just need to get off here.”
A few seconds of masturbation was all it took to come, and Lacey’s utterly stunned expression was only icing.
* * *
Ruby strode in the next morning with breakfast, easy as anything.
Lacey, hunched under her covers, eyed her with trepidation.
“Well, this is awkward,” Ruby said jovially, grinning the whole time. “And those hickies, those are some serious hickies I left there.”
“Oh my god, are you actually just going to chat about this?” Lacey looked horrified.
“It’s all part of my job, isn’t it?” Ruby grinned. “Maybe text me before three this time if you want another go round?”
“Go away!” Lacey looked around for something to throw, but there was nothing. She scowled and wouldn’t make eye contact with Ruby for the rest of the day.
But she texted at midnight.
* * *
“I want to see you naked,” Lacey said, firmly.
Ruby raised an eyebrow. It was still daylight. Lacey usually didn’t admit to liking gay sex while the sun was up. “You changing your mind about that bisexual thing?”
Lacey scowled. “Get naked, slave girl.”
Ruby smirked, feeling the old Ruby’s confidence returning. She unbuttoned her shirt and gave Lacey a dirty glance over her shoulder, then turned away and let it slip languidly down her back. She dropped her jeans and stepped out of them slowly before crawling onto the bed in her underwear and bra.
“Is this enough for you?”
Lacey’s eyes were flicking all over her. Her lips were pressed tightly together, and she was breathing through her nose, very very steadily. “Bra off,” she said, sharply.
Ruby tried not to make a face. Presentation was important here. “Not like I’ve got a lot—”
“I’m not a dude,” Lacey said, her voice oddly rough. “I’m not going to be disappointed or surprised that you aren’t a double D. I just want to see your boobs.”
Ruby couldn’t really argue with that. She tipped her head. “You want to take it off? It’s a front closure.”
Lacey’s cheeks went hot pink. She coughed and clearly was trying to get a hold of herself. “Uh, sure,” she said, and reached out. She fumbled awkwardly for a moment, going even redder, and then caught the hook and let it out. Ruby’s bra fell open. Lacey froze. “Fuck,” she said, and her hands, still poised for the opening, moved forward cupping Ruby’s breasts. “Yeah, kind of reconsidering that bi thing.”
Ruby, surprised by the touch, flinched back, but Lacey was not the sort to care.
“This is so weird.” Lacey was grinning, kneading lightly at her tits. “Never done this to anyone else. They feel… really good.”
Ruby squirmed slightly, fighting her natural reaction. This wasn’t for her pleasure, not by a long stretch. Getting turned on was a wasted effort. But there was only so much you could resist.
“Oh.” Lacey’s eyes widened. “That’s cool.”
Ruby grimaced. Her nipples were tight and a little achy and Lacey was just teasing her. And then Lacey, like the frustratingly terrible little bitch that she was, grinned, leaned in, and licked one.
“Oh my god, Lacey, if you don’t seal the deal—”
Lacey gave her the cruelest smirk she’d ever seen. “You’ll do what, slave girl? I own your ass.”
Ruby’s eyes stung. “God, fuck you.”
In one sharp move, Lacey’s hands were at her breasts, roughly groping them and working her hardened nipples between her fingers. “Say please, bitch.”
Lacey’s nails clawed into her, and Ruby caught her around her waist and pulled, flipping them over so that Lacey was pinned under her. Lacey, flushed and panting, looking some unholy combination of aroused and angry, raked her fingernails down Ruby’s sides.
“Don’t manhandle me,” she hissed, and bent, biting down hard on Ruby’s shoulder. Ruby choked on her gasp and arched. “Now stay put, slave girl, I want to fuck you.”
* * *
She wasn’t actually bisexual, Lacey told herself. Sexuality was bullshit. It was dumb to build an identity out of what you liked stuck in your pussy, or even the types of people you wanted up close and personal with you while you were naked. There was a difference between liking banging both girls and boys and seeing yourself as potentially shacking up with girls as well as boys. And there was no fucking way Lacey would tie herself to someone who couldn’t treat her like she deserved. Men had the money in this world, and were stupid enough to pay for sex. So men were the target. Hot girls like Ruby were simply a pleasant way to spend a little time. She needed to remember that. Lacey had been fucking her slave girl enough as it was.
She hadn’t planned on touching her. The point was for Lacey to get off, but Ruby was just… she was always there. Just all long legs up on the windowseat, or carting Lacey around like it was a wedding, touching her, bringing her things, looking rumpled and sexy and annoyed when Lacey got her out of bed at three in the morning. It was almost like she cared.
And when she’d left Lacey sweaty and sated that first night and then rolled over and fucked herself, Lacey had given up denial. She wanted to have her hands all over her.
Lacey rolled over and found her phone. It only took three presses to text Ruby now. She wanted oral. Ruby’s tongue worked miracles on her tits and she wanted it in her cunt, immediately.
The door banged open. “Ruby said you’d do this. What is it?”
Lacey froze. Ruby’s grandmother was glowering in the doorway. “Um, what?”
“I’m subbing for Red tonight.”
That was like a cold shower, followed by a hot wave of jealousy. “What? Where is she? She’s supposed to be here.” If she was on a date, if she was with someone else—
Lacey blinked. She’d been told that these people were werewolves, but somehow she hadn’t quite believed it. “Oh,” she said. “So she’s like… out there. Howling?”
Granny huffed out a breath. “As it is.”
Lacey hmmmed and lay back down.
“Did you… want something?”
“Mm?” Lacey looked at the woman, and considered just saying ‘I wanted Ruby to fuck me,’ and letting the chips fall where they may, but Granny was kind of terrifying. “No. Just to piss Ruby off.”
Granny snorted. “Glad to see you’re getting along.”
* * *
“You didn’t tell me you were going to be gone,” Lacey snapped.
Ruby looked at her, scenting something besides annoyance. She smiled. “Miss me?”
“Your grandmother lacks your charming beside manner.”
Ruby laughed. “Yeah, pretty much.”
Lacey was looking at her. Her crystal eyes seemed to hold an unexpected emotion. “I did miss you,” she said. “I was really horny the whole time.”
Ruby wagged her finger. “If that’s a request, rain check. It’s time for PT. You’re walking the length of the hall.”
Lacey made a face. PT used to hurt, but now the most unsettling part was how much it didn’t hurt. If she could walk without help she didn’t have an excuse to stay here anymore.
“It’s all right,” Ruby said, slipping an arm around her waist and helping her to her feet. “I’ve got you.”
* * *
“Ruby,” Granny said, an oddly suspicious look on her face. “Are you sleeping with Lacey?”
Ruby froze. “What? No. No! Of course not.”
Granny narrowed her eyed. “Good,” she said.
Ruby quietly started to freak out.
And yet, that afternoon, Lacey was sultry and dark eyed and clearly had managed to make it to the bathroom and back alone to do her make up. And… it was for her. It was pretty hot. She appreciated the effort. Her wolf, not yet quiet after the nights in the woods, wanted.
“Little girl, all alone with me,” she growled.
Lacey’s face flushed. “I, uh, oh. You’re in a mood.”
“And you’re not?” Ruby settled on the bed and stroked a finger along under her eye, marking the overstated black eyeliner. “You don’t look human like this. You look like a fae child – ethereal and heartless.”
“That’s the first sexy thing I’ve heard about your shit old world.”
“It was the humans that weren’t sexy. You don’t know anything about the wolves.” Ruby leaned in, dragging her wolf-sharp teeth along Lacey’s neck, tugging and making short work of getting her out of her shirt. She moved over her. Lacey’s fingers tangled in her hair. Ruby scented her neck, a low rumble emerging from her chest. Her hand worked its way down to Lacey’s waist.
“Ruby Lucas! Get your paws off that girl!”
Ruby fell off the bed.
Lacey scrambled for blankets to pull over her half naked body.
Granny’s hands were on her hips and she looked furious.
“What?” Ruby sat up. “Granny, why…”
“You never read the contract, did you?”
Ruby swallowed. “Um, no.”
“She has to do what I ask,” Lacey snapped. “And I asked her for sex.”
Granny smiled tightly. “Mr. Gold expected that you would. And he was not in favor of it.”
“I need to see this.”
The contract was worse than Ruby had thought.
Any sexual contact between the caretaker and patient, up to and including kissing, will result in this contract becoming null and void, and the Lucases will become subject to lawsuit.
Granny gave her a narrow look. “I told you to read it.”
* * *
“What’s wrong with you?” Lacey glared at Ruby, who was acting all weird and distant. “You’re really feeling that bad about fucking me when you didn’t have to? Christ. What’s done is done.”
Ruby looked at her and rubbed her temple. “No,” she said. “That’s not… it. I’m just, I feel like an idiot, right? I did all this to make sure you wouldn’t have any reason to sue us, and then, when it’s something that, well, that I wanted, even just a little bit, I didn’t even check. I just did it.”
The rush of bitterness made Lacey feel sick inside. She’d only done it to avoid being sued, of course, she knew that. And yet it didn’t help the disappointment she felt. But there was a second part of that comment. Lacey looked at her, eyes sharp. “Wanted?”
Ruby gave her a dark bat of her lashes. “You really doubt I wanted to make you scream?”
Lacey laughed and glanced away. “Would you have done me if you knew it wasn’t allowed?”
“I… don’t know if I can say I wouldn’t have.”
“Ruining your family’s livelihood for a shag.” Lacey shook her head, smirking. “You really are more of a ho than me.”
Ruby looked away, lips pursed. “And that’s what’s bothering me.”
“Fuck me tonight.”
Ruby blinked, looking surprised. But if the sex was over, Lacey was leaving as soon as possible. Like… yesterday. “You’re walking pretty well,” she said.
“I can’t wear heels yet,” said Lacey. “But yeah. One last gasp before I hit the road?”
Ruby looked torn.
Lacey was starting to get pissed. “What? Do you want me to tell him that you’ve been shagging me? Because I can! He wrote the contract, but I own your ass.”
“You… won’t tell him?”
“Not if I can have you all night.”
Ruby started to smile. She licked her lips. “I’d ask you for that in writing, little girl, but only if you write it on my skin.”
Lacey’s mouth went wet, and she had a sudden image of Ruby straddling her head and grinding off on her face as she wrote desperate promises with her tongue. It was a humiliating thought, but hot enough that she started planning strategies to get it without losing any more of her dignity than she had already.
* * *
Mr. Gold, sprightly as ever, sauntered into the room, swinging his cane. Ruby’s fists clenched and her nails lengthened, digging into her palms. Gold’s eyes fell on Lacey and a proprietorial smile spread across his mouth. “Lacey my darling, how have these wolves been treating you.”
“Well enough,” Lacey drawled. She curled her lip. “They wouldn’t get me drugs.”
“Now, now, we wouldn’t have wanted anything to interfere with your medication.”
Ruby breathed out silently. That was one hurdle cleared. They just had to get Lacey home without letting on about the sex, and this would be over, finally. (She wanted to slap herself for feeling a little sad about it.)
Ruby was worried for herself, but also a little for Lacey. For the past month, she’d been Ruby’s problem, in Ruby’s custody, and Gold hadn’t been able to get his hands on her. If he found out that Ruby’d had her hands on Lacey, she didn’t doubt that Gold would punish her as well, in subtle ugly ways, for having sex that he didn’t approve of.
“Are you ready to go?”
Lacey gave a nod and slid off the bed. She could still only manage flats, but she’d made it all the way up and downstairs the other day without complaining once. And yet, Ruby, watching intently, saw her miss her footing. Before she could think, Ruby reacted. At wolf-speed she was there, under her arm, holding her up. “Got’cha.”
Lacey looked up at her, crystal eyes a little surprised. Then she offered a tight, restrained smile. “You always do.” She let go of Ruby’s arm, pushing her gently away. “But I’m fine.”
She was so independent. And yet, Ruby’s eyes slipped over to Mr. Gold. Why did she need him? Did she not feel like a woman unless she was owned by a man?
And then Ruby noticed it Gold’s eyes were on them, intense. His face had gone still and pale. “You little wolf whore,” he said, his voice like the croak of a frog and the electric death of black magic. “You got on your knees for her, didn’t you? You couldn’t help yourself from putting your dirty paws over what’s mine.”
Ruby jerked back from Lacey, face paling, balling her fists. “No,” she said.
Gold pointed his cane and Lacey’s shirt fell open, revealing the half healed love bites still marring her chest. Lacey grabbed it, holding the two parts back together. Gold spun and with a stroke of his cane, the back of Ruby’s shirts parted, revealing the welts and nail gouges Lacey had given her in return for a deep, rough fucking.
He turned on Lacey. “You thought you could hide this from me?”
“Hide what?” Lacey snapped back. “That I used my slave girl for sex? Why should I bother to hide that?”
“It was forbidden in the contract!”
“Oh, seriously. You’d expect me to go a month without sex? You’d really think I‘d be happy with you for writing me into celibacy? There was one rule. The wolf girl obeyed me. If she hadn’t, I would have made sure she broke the contract some other way. But I am not interested in punishing her for doing what I asked.” Lacey narrowed her eyes. “And doing it well.”
Ruby flushed, and then wished she hadn’t.
Gold looked like he was about to explode. “I forbade it!”
Lacey curled her lip. “What’s your problem? You think she was going to turn me? It’s not like I’m suddenly going to become a lesbian just because I got some sweet werewolf ass.”
Gold gave Ruby a narrow glare. Ruby looked away, her jaw set. She understood what Lacey was saying. She’d known that Lacey’s bisexuality was more situational than anything else. But it was still unpleasant to hear.
Lacey frowned, glancing between them. “What? Did she turn Belle or something?” Lacey sneered. “God, of course that simpering wreck would have been tempted by sweet puppydog eyes and the occasional free pancakes. But guess what, idiots. I’m not her.”
Ruby started, looking over at her. She thought this was about Belle? What did it have to— and then Ruby felt sick. When had it happened, she wondered, when had she started looking at Lacey and seeing only her? When had she let herself forget that the body was second hand?
Gold’s face had gotten even more hollow and enraged, but Lacey was staring at her, brow furrowed, as if there was something about her expression that didn’t make sense. Ruby met her eyes.
“She broke the contract,” Gold said. “And you care for her.”
“What?” Lacey’s breath was more like a gasp. She looked caught, but only for a moment. What are you talking about?” The words came out harsh and rough.
But Mr. Gold had a light in his eyes, a killing one. Ruby swallowed hard. This had gone all wrong. Lacey hadn’t been able to hide the sex from him, and now he was going to destroy the diner, destroy Ruby and her family. And the way he looked at Lacey too – if she admitted any weakness, any affection for her, she was as good as dead.
Lacey seemed to see it too. She sat up, fierce and intent. “You’re an idiot, Gold,” she snapped. “You think I’m going to choose her over you? I’m not gay. She just was convenient. Honestly, what possible reason would I have to want her? She’s a waitress. I am not interested in wasting my time with a slutty working-class dyke.”
Ruby froze, going hollow, lips parting in surprise and distress. Every word was perfect, too perfect to be a lie to get Gold off her back. She wanted it to be a lie, so badly. But unless she responded as if it were true, they were sunk. She turned and walked out of the room.
From outside, her wolf hearing picked up Gold’s next words. His voice wasn’t angry anymore, but dark and amused.
“Very good, Lacey. I’m impressed. Most people require magic to rip out someone’s heart, and you did it simply with words.”
Lacey’s response was flat and feelingless. “I learned from the best,” she said.
Ruby walked away.
* * *
“Hey slave girl.”
Ruby glanced around, and then quickly looked away. Lacey strolled closer, enjoying the extra height the four inch heels gave her. She’d hated the flats she’d had to wear while she was healing, because she felt so short with Ruby towering nearly six inches over her, but now she was almost at eye level. Ruby’s hair was wolf-loose and she was back in one of those ugly flannel overshirts, that she nonetheless wore with an unfortunate amount of androgynous sexiness. It was… nice to see her.
“I don’t have to talk to you anymore.”
If that was how she treated someone who’d saved her life, good riddance to the bitch. Lacey narrowed her eyes. “No? I thought you might want to thank me.”
Ruby turned. “Thank you?”
“I didn’t have to save you. I got a fucking or twelve, from you, that’s all. I wasn’t ‘in love’ with you, and I didn’t have to save your fucking life from a rampaging Gold. But look at you, still working at your own diner, not selling sex for money. Don’t I deserve gratitude?”
Ruby shot her a bitter look. “Didn’t I give you enough sex to be paid up?”
Lacey scowled, suddenly hating her. “I wasn’t the one who fucked up in front of Gold. I didn’t grab your ass and give you pathetic looks. Did you want to end up on the street?”
Ruby stiffened but gave a short nod. “Fine,” she said. “Thank you.”
That wasn’t good enough. “God! What’s got up your cunt? You were a slut for me, but I figured you’d gotten over angsting about it.”
Ruby just shook her head, turning back to throw the bags of garbage into the dumpster. “You didn’t tell him anything that wasn’t true, did you?”
Lacey looked at her, really looked. She was hurt. Lacey was more annoyed about that than she thought she ought to be. “What? It was a surprise? I’m not gay. You were convenient. I’d never leave him for you, because you are a slutty working-class dyke. And the slutty isn’t the problem.”
“You know,” Ruby said, her words coming out sharp and unpleasant. “You’re one of the most independent people I know. You had a broken ankle, and you still didn’t want help in walking to the bathroom or getting out of the tub. You wanted to do it on your own. But when it comes to Gold you just roll over and let him own you. You say you’re not his possession, but that isn’t true, is it? You let him take care of you and make sure you have all the luxury you desire, and in return you get down on your hands and knees and let him fuck you like a dog.”
The words felt like a slap and Lacey went white with anger. “What gives you the right to say any of that? I want three things out of my life. I want respect, which being with Gold gets me, I want money, which he has in spades, and I want someone who wants me, who doesn’t care that I’m bad, because he’s worse, who isn’t trying to change me.”
Ruby’s face was cold. “I’m not the one who still wishes you were Belle.”
Lacey flinched. But it had to be a lie, it had to. Everyone knew that Belle had been perfect, sweet and kind and pliable. And Ruby had been all over that. And now she was saying, what? That Lacey was better? It was pathetic, that’s what it was. A little wolf bitch begging for a date. “You think I should choose you? Why? Because you love me? Don’t give me that bullshit. You’re a whore, same as me, and you like a good fucking. Because you’ll let me be independent? All that means is you have nothing to offer me. And what else would you get me? Respect? People would laugh their asses off – look at Lacey French. People wanted her once and now she’s shacking up with a fucking werewolf. I didn’t know she was a dyke. But she must be, because why else would she be settling for a waitress, the other stupid bitch who spread her legs for every man in town. Maybe she’s got a death wish, because we all know what happened to that wolf’s last boyfriend. Or maybe she’s just into bestiality.”
Ruby looked broken. She glanced away. “I just thought… I thought we could have been good together.”
Lacey paused. She hadn’t… expected this, not this quiet honesty, this request to be taken seriously. And would it be so bad? Gold would kill them, of course. But if he wasn’t in the picture, if the town wasn’t full of assholes, if she had any means of support— But that was too many ifs. “In another life, maybe,” Lacey said, feeling the bitterness of her words. “But here and now, you’re poison to everything I want. And I’m not going to just drink it down.”
Ruby nodded. “You’re right,” she said. “You’re right.”
She walked away, and Lacey felt her insides tighten up into a bundle, feelings building up and making her want to scream. She bound down the feelings so tight that every lash was a stab of pain. But she was good at this. In a moment, Ruby disappeared around the corner, and Lacey didn’t feel anything anymore.
* * *
When Gold finally found a way to kill Lacey, by kicking her out of the body and replacing her with some rebuilt replica of Belle, obsessed with him, and hardly recalling anything from her brief post-fairytale life, Ruby didn’t feel anything either.
But sometimes she wished she’d kissed her, properly, full on the mouth, feeling something besides lust, just to see. Just to see if it would have changed anything at all.