El smiled at June when the other woman opened the door to her house. “Thank you for taking the time to meet me on such short notice. I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”
June took her hand and smiled. “I was surprised when you called, but I’m happy to have you join me for my afternoon tea. Would you like to take it on the rooftop?”
“That would be nice. It’s such a lovely view up there.” El glanced around. “Is anyone else here?”
June shook her head. “Neal is with your husband, and Mozzie rarely shows up when Neal isn’t here. My niece is at work, so it’s just us.”
“Good,” El muttered under her breath. A bit louder, she said, “I hope you don’t mind. I, I wanted to talk to you alone.”
The other woman turned to face her then took El’s hands in her own. “Is everything okay, El? You’re not in trouble are you?”
El shook her head, offered her a half smile. “No, nothing’s wrong. Everything’s fine. I just needed to talk to someone I thought might understand.”
June tilted her head. “You have me intrigued.” She led El to the kitchen then started preparing the tea.
El took a seat and watched June move about the kitchen. She envied the older woman her elegance and confidence. A confident woman herself, El still envied the other woman’s heightened ease with herself. She flashed a smile at June when she set a burnished silver tray and tea set out.
“Cream and sugar?”
El nodded. “Yes, thank you.”
June poured cream into a small carafe and dropped several sugar cubes in a bowl. “I am old fashioned and still enjoy the plop of a cube into a cup of tea. I hope you don’t mind.”
A laugh escaped El and she shook her head. “Not at all. I recall how much I enjoyed that sound as a little girl. My mother used to invite her friends over every Sunday for tea. Once I turned six, she allowed me to join them. Dressed in my Sunday best, I would sit there with my favorite doll.”
“And you enjoyed hearing the splash of the cubes into the tea cups and seeing the cream swirl in the tea?”
June nodded toward the steps. “Shall we?”
In silence the women ascended to the fourth floor, to the roof. They stepped out and El paused to gaze out at the view. “This view is breathtaking, June.” She walked to the railing, leaned her arms on the cool marble and scanned the panoramic view. The blue sky with fluffy white clouds; the cityscape with its skyline; everything she loved about this city on a beautiful sunny day.
She turned and wandered back over to the other woman. El settled in a chair then watched silently as June poured the tea for them.
“How much sugar?”
“Two cubes, please.”
June smiled, dropped two lumps of sugar in the tea cup, stirred the tea for several seconds then added the cream. She handed the cup to El. She added a single lump of sugar to her own cup then dribbled in a slight amount of cream. After taking a test sip of her tea, June sat back and gazed at El. “So, tell me what brings you here in the middle of the afternoon on what I assume is a work day for you.”
El sipped her tea then set the cup in the saucer. She let out a resigned sigh. “I, I really am not sure what to say or how to say it. It’s, well, it’s rather personal and…”
“Whatever you tell me will be kept in the strictest of confidence, El.” June smiled at her.
Letting out another sigh, El took a sip of tea to brace herself before speaking. She started to speak, paused for a second then blew out a breath. Her words tumbled out in a rush. “I didn’t know who else I could talk to. I mean, Diana and Jones would not like to hear that their boss seems to be attracted to his charge, and Mozzie? Well, he would find it hard to comprehend that Neal and The Suit seem to want to bed each other. Most of my friends can’t understand why I am so accepting of how much time Peter spends with Neal. Many of them thought I was crazy for being a sweet, understanding wife when Peter was chasing Neal, so you can just imagine the distinct lack of comprehension they would have now.”
June sipped her tea and nodded. “They would not understand why your husband is attracted to another man, but they especially would not understand why you are not furious over that fact.”
“Yes.” El nodded. “That’s it exactly.” She set her tea cup down. “I, I would never have come here but the pictures we saw that night Ford came to town. There was something, that photo album…”
June chuckled wryly. “And we thought we kept it hidden so well.”
“I think I only noticed because I recognize it in Neal and Peter. That unrequited sexual tension that hangs in the air between them.” She sighed. “There are times when I want to tell them to march their butts up to the bedroom and lock the door until they work out all that tension.”
“I remember those days,” June said. “I remember them very well. Almost as if they were yesterday.” Her mouth curved in a half smile. “I miss it. It was bad enough when Ford went to prison, but when I lost Byron, I felt so empty. I have to admit that seeing Neal and Peter together brings me a bit of comfort along with some pangs of sorrow. They do remind me of Byron and Ford.” She chuckled. “I guess that explains why you thought I might understand.”
El gazed intently at the other woman. “And the feeling of wanting to insert myself between them in a wild, passionate tangle of arms, legs and bodies pressed close? Is that familiar, too?”
“Oh yes, very much so. The first time we indulged ourselves was intense, but the passion and heat grew with each encounter.” June sipped her tea then let out a soft sigh.
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” El whispered. “I’m afraid that if I have a taste, I’ll never want to stop.”
“Who says you have to stop? You love Peter. It’s obvious you care for Neal as well. You know there is something, some emotional tie between the two of them. It is a logical next step.” June set her tea cup and saucer on the table and leaned over to place a hand on El’s.
El stared at her hand then turned her own hand before sliding her fingers through June’s. “But weren’t there times when you wanted something else, something with less testosterone?” She lifted her gaze to meet June’s.
“Her name was Coral, and she loved to dress in tailored men’s clothing. Ford introduced us, and it started over tea one afternoon, much like this.” June smiled at El and squeezed her hand. “She invited me to dance. Her scent was intoxicating and I drank it in as we swayed to the music. A few days later, we met for tea again. This time we danced three dances. Slow, seductive dances leading to our first kiss. It was the simplest brush of lips.”
El licked her lips then leaned closer to June. She gently grasped June’s chin and moved in to kiss her. Nothing more than light brush of mouth against mouth, but enough pressure to elicit a sigh from both of them.
“Yes, almost exactly like that.” June nodded. She slid closer to El, rested a hand on her knee.
El laid her cheek on June’s shoulder, stared at their joined hands and rubbed her thumb back and forth over the back of June’s hand. “Tell me more about Coral.”
June reached up to cup El’s cheek with her free hand, caressing it before resting her hand on their joined hands. “She was exquisite. High cheek bones and lush, full lips. Honey-colored eyes that seemed to stare right into my soul. She told me her hopes and dreams, her desire to become a world-class jazz musician. It was hard for her, a woman in a man’s world. You should have heard her, pouring out her soul through her trumpet.”
“She sounds beautiful.”
“She was. A beautiful soul in a beautiful body. I couldn’t help but be drawn to her.”
“What else do you remember?”
“One night she came to me. Told me she wanted to take me to some place special. I remember Ford and Byron were off on one of their, ahem, escapades.” June chuckled softly then continued. “She took me to an underground club, complete with a required password. When we walked in, I was stunned to see women dancing with other women.” She shook her head. “Not just those dances of two friends sharing a dance because their husbands or boyfriends couldn’t make it. These women pressed their bodies close and danced like lovers. I’d never seen such a thing and it left me feeling an unfamiliar feeling. At least unfamiliar until I met Coral.
“That night we swayed and danced together, with no regard or concern for who saw us. We kissed while dancing, passionate deep kisses while our bodies moved to the rhythm of the smoky jazz. It was heady, intoxicating, and I wanted more, so much more. After that night, she came to me in the night, on those nights when Byron and Ford disappeared to do whatever it was that they did.” June tilted her head to look at El. “Things that I should never tell you, lest your husband think I am trying to corrupt you.”
El laughed and turned her head toward June. She lowered her gaze to the other woman’s mouth for a few seconds before looking into her eyes again. Unable to resist the temptation, El pressed her mouth to June’s for a lingering kiss. “Corrupt away.”
“Oh, El,” June whispered. “It has been a long time.”
“We don’t have to move fast. Just indulge when we need a woman’s touch.” El cupped June’s cheek. “I enjoy the testosterone-laden moments as much as anyone else, but days like today…I know I want something else, someone else.” She smiled at the other woman, a wry smile. “I’m sorry. I am jumping to conclusions, making assumptions.”
June chuckled. “El, I am flattered that you selected me.” She tilted her head. “Perhaps I might not be your first choice, but…”
El pressed another kiss to her lips. She didn’t want June to feel like she was an afterthought or that El was settling. She pulled back just enough to look into June’s eyes. “You are a beautiful, confident, elegant woman. You embody so many things I aspire to, but it’s also that you understand. You understand Peter and Neal, you know the desires I have for both of them, and you comprehend my desires for more, for something they can’t give me.”
“Sometimes that more is something as simple as a slow dance, swaying to the music while pressed close together. Or maybe it’s holding her hand while you sit and watch a sunset or maybe a sunrise. Or perhaps stealing a kiss when she least expects it.” June smiled.
“Yes,” El sighed. “That’s it exactly. Her softness, so similar to your own.”
June released El’s hand and smiled at her. She lifted her hands to cup El’s cheeks and leaned in for a kiss. It started with the gentle brush of mouth against mouth then became something more urgent and needy as their mouths opened. June deepened the kiss further, sliding her tongue along El’s.
El reached up to cling to June’s shoulders, savoring the sensations of the softness of the kiss. Along with a hint of arousal, a sense of calm filled her. She felt at ease with June and knew this was the right decision.
When June pulled back from the kiss, El let out a moan of disappointment. June smiled at her. “El, any time you need that something different, that slow dance or gentle kiss, or even something more, my door is open to you.”
El nodded then took a deep breath. “And your bedroom?”
June lifted a hand, tangled a lock of El’s hair around a finger. “That door is also open to you.”
El shivered. “Thank you,” she whispered. June embodied everything she needed and wanted. El smiled as that sense of calm settled in deeper.