"What am I doing?”
They’d agreed that Kalinda would enter the hotel first, take care of the booking, then text her the room number. Alicia was to subsequently make her way up to the elevator as discreetly as she possibly could.
It looks like she’s been fairly successful so far but she still tamps down the urge to look over her shoulder every few steps, as she walks down under the amber lighting of the hotel’s fifth-floor corridor. She knows she’s being paranoid, that this is still early on Sunday morning, that this part of town is far from her apartment, far from the places where she usually hangs out or works. Coming across anybody she knows is unlikely. And yet her heart pounds in her chest, her palms tingle with both fear and elation, her shoulders drawn tense with nervous energy.
Her head is swimming with flashes of what went on in Graceland cemetery. Kalinda’s fierce kisses, Kalinda’s shallow breaths in her ear, Kalinda’s fingers... she can still feel the ghost of their touch between her legs as she walks, feel the wetness that lingers there because of them.
She stops in front of room 508. There is still time to put an end to all this, still time to head back for her car and drive home. She shuts her eyes for a moment, remembering a similar situation, back when Will had first kissed her in his office, one quiet evening after work. She’d left, then come back, then left again. Her indecision had cost them time, time they would never get back.
But this is different. This is Kalinda, her former best friend, the woman who lied to her, betrayed her. The woman she was adamant she would cut out of her life for good. And yet, as determined as she has been to move on, there’s always been a part of her that never was able to let go entirely. She did have moments of weakness during which she tried to make things better between them. But the burning intensity in Kalinda’s eyes had disturbed her, thrown her off-kilter, so she’d stepped back again, convinced herself this was a wound that could not heal. She’d clung to her ‘she-slept-with-my-husband’ mantra as long as she possibly could, ignoring how brittle as damp chalk this excuse had gotten as the months, the years, went by.
Until the day Kalinda announced she was leaving. Forever.
Ever since it happened -- had it really only been less than 24 hours? -- Alicia’s mind had been stuck in a loop, watching Kalinda walk away in that crowded bar, over and over again, taking with her a broken sentence: “I... goodbye.”
Alicia had gone to the cemetery because she’d felt lost. As an atheist she knew there no longer was any Will under that tombstone. Just a pile of decaying bones and tissue. Everything he once was, gone into nothingness. But her less-rational side had hoped that standing over his resting place would calm her, would help her put some order in her thoughts, help her control the confusion roiling inside her. She never expected to find Kalinda there.
When it came right down to it, Kalinda had always been the most intriguing person she’d ever come across. Alicia envied her freedom, her tetherlessness, her effortless beauty, her unapologetic sexual appetites. She’d seen the way men and women were attracted to her like moths to a very seductive flame. And the Florricks were no different. Peter, of course, but also Zach, whose unsubtle staring, during that Carter Wright appeal, had made her realize her son wasn’t a little boy anymore. Even Grace had gone through a phase during which she kept asking questions about her peculiar colleague. (How’s Kalinda? Did you work with Kalinda today? Don’t your bosses say anything when she comes to work dressed like this? Can I get leather boots for Christmas? How about a jacket then?) Kalinda must have been a much more thrilling role model for a teenage girl than she ever could be.
Kalinda who didn’t talk, who didn’t confide, who always said as few words as she could possibly get away with. Alicia had come to treasure the rare occasions when her friend let her guard slip just a little, when after too many tequila shots, she would allow Alicia to glimpse her softness, her emotional depth. Kalinda who, when she smiled at her, laughed with her, made her feel more alive, more than the sum of her frayed parts. Kalinda, who always had her back, even after things turned ugly between them. Alicia had stopped being her friend, but Kalinda never really had, her loyalty unwavering. It had taken Alicia quite a while to acknowledge this, and even longer to question why.
And the answer had been given to her earlier this morning, above Will Gardner’s grave. Kalinda had told her once she liked her. Alicia had been too hurt back then to do anything but scoff at this unwanted piece of information. But in that cemetery, Kalinda had shown her just how much. And Alicia had welcomed it, liked it -- God, she’d liked it an awful lot.
She had no idea how to deal with that.
Alicia had meant what she said. Losing the election had given her a new perspective on what her priorities should be. Her anger, her jealousy, her resentment had crumbled like sandcastles at high tide. It became easier to accept Peter for who he was, flaws and all, rather than wishing he were a better man, a better husband. Why wouldn’t she grant Kalinda the same leniency? Kalinda whose only mistake had been to open her legs to an unfaithful man, drunk on his own power, one night, back in the days when they didn’t even know each other?
She couldn’t forget, but maybe, just maybe, she could finally forgive.
Alicia takes a deep breath and knocks.
The door opens. Kalinda greets her, her gaze inscrutable, and steps aside to let her in. She’s shed her jacket and is wearing a black top that hugs her curves like a second skin.
Alicia walks inside the room. It’s quite big, looks clean, bright with muted off-white walls, a king-size bed, and tastefully subdued yet elegant modern furniture. She remembers this is a four-star hotel.
She leaves her bag on a pebble-gray armchair, unbuttons her coat.
“Everything all right?” Kalinda asks.
Alicia laughs. “I have no idea what I’m doing.”
Kalinda smiles tightly but doesn’t comment. She walks to the mini-bar, opens it, retrieves a couple of tiny bottles, offers one of them to Alicia.
Alicia lifts an eyebrow. “Isn’t it a little early to start drinking?”
Kalinda shrugs, leaves the bottles on the bedside table. “I was waiting for you to order room service. What do you want?”
Alicia takes her coat off, drops it on the bed next to Kalinda’s red leather jacket. “Actually, I didn’t have breakfast, some food would be nice.”
Kalinda nods, picks up the phone and orders them a continental breakfast. She puts the phone down. “I didn’t think you’d come,” she says softly, her back to Alicia.
“Neither did I.”
Kalinda looks at her over her shoulder. That tight smile again. Alicia had expected awkward, just not this awkward. She picks her bag up. “I’m gonna go freshen up,” she says, heading for the bathroom.
She hears the knock on their door as she washes her face, listens to the muffled sounds of a short exchange between Kalinda and the waiter. Alicia reapplies a little make-up, gingerly touches the mark Kalinda left above her collarbone, a shiver flaring up her spine.
When she comes out a few minutes later, Kalinda is sitting on the cream couch by the window, a breakfast tray in front of her on the glass coffee table, helping herself to a glass of milk. Alicia goes to sit down next to her. “Don’t you ever drink coffee, or tea?”
Kalinda takes a sip from her glass, shrugs. “I like milk.”
Alicia pours herself some coffee, picks up a piece of toast, realizes she’s too wound up to eat, puts it back on the plate.
“Have you picked a city?” Alicia asks, bringing the white china cup to her lips.
“To move to. How far do you need to go to be safe?”
“Far, as in outside the U.S? Europe?”
Alicia frowns. “But you have a plan, right?”
“Are there people helping you with this?”
“What about that FBI friend of yours, Agent Delaney?”
“What about her?” Kalinda takes another sip of milk.
“Well, can’t she help you?”
“I don’t know.”
“Didn’t you ask?”
Alicia sets her cup down abruptly, stands up and starts pacing. “I can’t do this,” she says, needles of frustration in her voice.
Kalinda looks up at her, resignation plain on her face. “I understand.”
Alicia wants to shake her. “And what exactly do you understand, huh?”
“Just what you said, you can’t do this. I get it, Alicia.”
“No, Kalinda, you don’t get it. I’m here. I’m right here, damn it! But you have to talk to me. I can’t do this unless you talk to me. Everything on the table, we’d agreed on this, remember?”
Kalinda dips her head. “I don’t --”
Alicia waves her arms. “Well, just try!” She runs a hand over her face, releases a tremulous breath.
Silence wraps itself around them, the only sounds the passing traffic far below, the hum of ventilation somewhere above their heads.
“What do you want to know?” Kalinda finally breathes out.
“You. I want to know you.”
A hint of a smile tugs at Kalinda’s lips. “You know me.”
Alicia goes to sit on the edge of the bed. “Nice try. Let’s start with something easy. Where were you born?”
Kalinda schools her features into an impassive mask. “India.”
“Did you grow up there?”
“No. My parents moved to Britain when I was three.”
“Where in Britain?”
“London.” A pause, then: “Southall.”
Alicia kicks her heels off, moves to sit cross-legged on the bed. “How old were you when you got married?”
Kalinda’s gaze drifts to the side. “Sixteen.”
“Sixteen? Wow, that’s young. And that was with Nick?”
“And your parents agreed to this?”
Like a cloud over water, the light in Kalinda’s eyes fades. “No. We eloped, went to Scotland.” She notices Alicia’s knitted brow. “There’s this place where you can get married younger without parental consent,” she explains.
Alicia taps her knees. “Oh, I’ve heard of this, what’s it called? Greta... something?”
“Gretna Green. That’s the one.”
“How old was Nick?”
Alicia nods. “I see.” There are a thousand other questions she wants to ask, but there is a tension in Kalinda’s posture, a rigidity, that prevents her from going through with it. So she stands up instead, walks to the window, shifts a curtain to peer outside. “Well, will you look at that?”
Kalinda turns her head. “What?”
Alicia grins. “The world. It didn’t end.”
“I am.” Alicia returns to sit on the couch. “Thank you, Kalinda,” she says gently.
“Why do you need to know all these things about me? Why does it matter?”
Alicia frowns. “Isn’t it normal to want to know more about the people you... care about?”
“But you do know. You know so much more about me than I do about you. And it’s not just what I’ve told you. My life, both public and private, has been exposed for the whole world to see, available a ChumHum search away. I guess... I guess I need things to be more balanced between us.”
Kalinda digests this. “Okay.”
“Good.” Alicia takes a sip of her now-lukewarm coffee, makes a face, then picks up her toast again. She spreads butter and a little jam on it, takes a bite. Next to her, Kalinda finishes her milk. Silence stretches between them once more. When Alicia is done chewing, she drops what’s left of her toast on the plate. “Kalinda, what happened in the cemetery...”
“Stays in the cemetery,” Kalinda finishes for her.
Kalinda tilts her head. “No?”
Alicia wipes her fingers on a white napkin. She shifts on the couch to face her friend. “Does that shock you?” She leans forward slightly. “And there I was, thinking I was so terribly predictable to you,” she teases.
Kalinda’s glare is not even remotely convincing. “You’re enjoying this way too much.”
“Hey, I’ve managed to surprise Kalinda Sharma P.I. Let me have my moment.”
Kalinda laughs and Alicia joins her. She rubs her nose, still chuckling before meeting Kalinda’s eyes. Alicia’s face turns more serious. “What happened back there was... I was...” she rubs her hands over her thighs self-consciously, “I was so sure I was straight.”
Kalinda just smiles. Alicia guesses that in her world, sexual orientations are never set in stone.
Alicia hesitates, but curiosity gets the better of her. The latest events have given her a boldness she’s just getting acquainted with. “Kalinda, how you feel... about me -- this isn’t recent, right?”
Kalinda’s smile vanishes. She stands up all of a sudden, walks to the bed to grab her jacket.
“What are you doing?” Alicia asks, knowing full well she just moved the wrong piece on their complicated board.
“I’m sorry, Alicia.”
Alicia jumps to her feet. “Oh come on, don’t be ridiculous. If this makes you uncomfortable -- look, forget I asked, okay?”
Kalinda swivels on her heels, the red jacket that’s dangling from her fingers brushing the side of her boots. “Everything about this is making me uncomfortable,” she snaps.
“Why? You sleep with women. I’m a woman. And you seemed more than fine with it less than an hour ago. If anybody should have hang-ups about this, it should be me, not you.”
Kalinda slips her jacket back on. “Alicia, I slept with your husband.”
Alicia’s eyes narrow. “What, do you have a quota on how many Florricks you fuck?”
Hurt flickers in Kalinda’s eyes. She opens her mouth, closes it, shakes her head before starting towards the door.
Alicia rushes around the coffee table. “Kalinda, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.”
Kalinda stops in front of the door, doesn’t turn round. “Go home, Alicia. You’re married. You have a family. And I’m leaving. Nothing good will come from this.”
Alicia catches up with her in a few strides, places her hand on the door above her head. “Kalinda, look at me.”
Kalinda’s eyes remain firmly fixed on the door handle.
Alicia reaches out, trails her fingers in Kalinda’s hair, over her ear and down the side of her neck. “My marriage has been over for a long time,” she whispers.
Kalinda still doesn’t say anything or look up, but Alicia sees her throat work as she swallows. “I’m sorry,” Alicia repeats, her hand continuing its course down the length of her arm. “I’m just... very, very nervous.” She finds Kalinda’s small brown hand, links their fingers together. “Stay.”
Kalinda sighs, leans her forehead against the door. “What do you want from me, Alicia?”
Alicia pulls on her hand, slips an arm around her waist as Kalinda turns and leans down to bring their lips together with excruciating gentleness, their height difference not so noticeable now that she doesn’t have her heels on. Kalinda’s lips part under the soft pressure, letting Alicia explore her mouth with slow brushes of her tongue. Kalinda’s fingers curl against the nape of Alicia’s neck, a small surrendering whimper escaping from her throat. Alicia’s pelvis twitches. She doesn’t think the sounds her male lovers made ever turned her on this much.
Alicia peppers soft kisses along Kalinda’s cheekbone, her temple. “If you can’t tell me, show me,” she whispers, her lips wetly tracing the intricate whorls of Kalinda’s ear.
Kalinda pulls back, shoots her an odd look, then presses the flat of her hand against Alicia’s chest just below her clavicle and pushes her towards the middle of the room, by the foot of the bed.
“Take your clothes off,” Kalinda says, dropping her hand to her side.
Alicia reaches for the top button of her shirt, hesitates.
“Isn’t that what you said we were going to do here?” Kalinda reminds her.
“Right.” Alicia replies, flint sparking in her eyes. She unbuttons her pale blue silk shirt slowly, shrugs it off her shoulders, unzips her slacks next and let them pool at her feet.
Kalinda watches her, still as a statue.
Alicia rolls down her nylons, kicks the discarded pile of clothing behind her when she’s done. She stands in front of Kalinda in her midnight blue bra and boy-shorts panties.
Kalinda lifts an appraising eyebrow and Alicia follows her gaze down to the sculpted muscles of her stomach. “I’ve been going to the gym a lot,” she explains.
“Does it help?” Kalinda asks. They both know what it is they’re talking about, and Alicia wonders what it is Kalinda does to rage against the dying of Will’s light.
“Some.” She holds Kalinda’s eyes, but they are one-way mirrors and Alicia is on the wrong side of the glass. “It was that or unreasonable amounts of tequila,” she jokes.
Kalinda takes a couple of steps forward to wrap her arms around Alicia, her embrace tight and, considering the circumstances and her state of undress, incredibly non-sexual. Alicia lets Kalinda hold her, the young woman’s cheek warm against her shoulder. Kalinda exhales a long, drawn-out sigh that courses like a summer breeze over the skin of her neck, and Alicia feels the sting of all the tears the couldn’t shed then burning her eyes. Her arms come up to circle Kalinda’s back, holding her as tightly. This moment isn’t about whatever attraction exists between them, this is about their loss, their shared grief over the untimely death of a man they both loved, as well as a mutual apology for not having been there for one another during those tragic days.
How long they stay like this, just holding each other, Alicia couldn’t say, but eventually Kalinda lifts her head, brings a hand up to cup her cheek, thumb tracing the thin skin underneath her eye.
And suddenly it’s all there in her wide, dark eyes, like a cracked Pandora’s box. The sadness, the fear, the raw need, as well as something else Alicia doesn’t have the guts to name.
Alicia feels dizzy, the room spinning around her like a merry-go-round off its axis, so she does the only thing she can think of, the only thing that makes sense amidst this madness. She tangles her fingers in Kalinda’s hair, pressing her palms against the delicate bones of her skull, and kisses her hard.
Kalinda responds like a coiled spring, opening her lips and seeking Alicia’s tongue, sucking on it with a moan that reverberates against the roof of Alicia’s mouth. Kalinda’s hands move up to cover her breasts, nails dragging across her nipples over the lace of her bra, teasing them into a hard point.
Alicia gasps, feels a surge of wetness between her legs. She pushes Kalinda’s jacket off her shoulders, fumbles at her waist until she finds the zipper of her black skirt, slides her hands down under the layers of fabric until she encounters soft skin, following the rounded curve of her backside right along the crease until her fingertips find evidence, if any had been needed, that Kalinda wants this as much as she does.
Kalinda inhales sharply, stares up at her, eyes gone black with arousal. Day-to-day Kalinda Sharma is a gorgeous woman, Alicia’s always been aware of this in a matter-of-fact way, but the Kalinda looking up at her now, with loose wisps of hair clinging to her cheeks, parted lips stung by their kisses, is... something else entirely.
Alicia leans down to catch Kalinda’s bottom lip between her teeth, tongue tracing its delicious curve. She nips at the point of her chin. “I want you,” she whispers, her voice husky, fingers flexing at the juncture of her thighs for emphasis.
Kalinda moves her hands behind her back to catch Alicia’s wrists. “Get into bed.” Kalinda says, her voice like smoke over shadows.
Alicia nods and pulls her hands away. She moves to the side of the bed, pushes the comforter aside while watching from the corner of her eye as Kalinda removes her boots and most of her clothing. Alicia slips under the white starched sheets and props herself up against one of the hotel’s giant pillows, taking in Kalinda’s exquisitely proportioned body in her black lacy bra and matching high-cut panties. She admires Kalinda’s graceful gestures, wondering if she ever took ballet lessons as a child, as she leaves her things on the armchair then picks up Alicia’s clothes while she’s at it, to drop them on top of hers. Alicia’s heart skips a beat at this small gesture of kindness, even though this is probably just Kalinda stalling.
Kalinda walks to the other side of the bed and slides between the sheets next to Alicia, shifting onto her side to look at her with solemn eyes.
Alicia moves to mirror her position. “Hey.”
“Hey,” Kalinda replies, but doesn’t stir.
Alicia lifts a hand to run it up Kalinda’s arm, mesmerized by the difference in their skin tones. She strokes the soft curve of Kalinda’s shoulder. “I never thought...” she begins.
She never finishes. Kalinda moves like lightning, is on top of her, kissing her with the same wild abandon she displayed in the cemetery, kissing her like she’s drowning and needs every bit of oxygen in Alicia’s lungs to live. Alicia responds in kind, her own moans loud in her head. She kicks the sheets away from them as Kalinda’s lips trail down her neck, and somehow the rest of their underwear is gone and it’s just them, skin against skin, and Alicia’s whole body jerks when Kalinda’s lips latch onto her breast, tongue molding itself around the shape of her nipple. Alicia feels Kalinda’s hands tremble against her hips and she’s moved by the fact that she’s not the only one nervous about this, that she’s not just another notch on Kalinda’s busy bedpost. Then Kalinda moves lower, dips her tongue in Alicia’s navel, making Alicia’s stomach jump and her legs suddenly clench.
Kalinda stops and lifts her head.
“I... I’m...” Alicia stutters.
Kalinda moves back up, pushes some of Alicia’s hair away from her face. “Not ready for this. That’s okay, Alicia,” she says, planting a soft, almost chaste kiss on her lips.
Alicia’s buries the side of her face in the pillow. “I’m sorry. I...” She wants to explain that she wants this, so much, but this is all too new to her, too foreign, having a woman between her legs, doing... this.
Kalinda keeps on peppering soft kisses on her cheek, her forehead, her eyelid. “Look at me, Alicia.”
Alicia reluctantly obeys, and all she sees in Kalinda’s dark, beautiful eyes is understanding, compassion and that other thing she still won’t put a name on.
“It’s okay.” Kalinda repeats, kissing the ridge of Alicia’s nose, hand drawing soothing circle over her stomach, the dusky tips of her breasts brushing against her own.
“Just say yes or no,” Kalinda whispers against her ear.
Kalinda’s fingertips trace a line down from her navel.
“Yes,” Alicia breathes.
Kalinda’s hand moves lower and one index finger brushes the hood of Alicia’s clit, featherlight.
Alicia’s legs fall open. “Yes.”
Kalinda catches Alicia’s lips, teases the tip of her tongue, trails her finger down and pushes it in.
Alicia’s hips lift off the bed. “Oh God, yes.”
Kalinda pushes a second finger, leans her forehead against Alicia’s, fingers moving back and forth, nice and slow. Too slow.
Alicia’s tosses her head against the pillow, parts her legs even wider. “Kalinda... just... fuck me,” she chokes out between breaths.
Kalinda’s pupils dilate, burning like coals. She licks the sweat at the corner of Alicia’s eyelid, and thrusts a third finger in, quickening her pace, moving against Alicia like a new moon tide, the little silver horseshoe at her neck swaying like a pendulum. Then Alicia feels Kalinda’s other hand, which had been gripping her hip, slide across her stomach and rake through the short trimmed hair over her pubic bone.
“Yessss.” Alicia hopes she doesn’t have to say anything else because she’s beyond words, beyond anything anybody, any man, has ever made her feel and she thrashes her legs against the mattress as Kalinda fingertips seek out her clit and circle hard, all finesse gone. Alicia’s back cambers like an electric arc as Kalinda’s fingers seesaw inside her, the hotel room dissolving as she comes with a sharp wail, her nails scraping at the headboard with Kalinda’s weight so light, yet so significant on top of her, and she sees the skies and constellations and the world narrowing into the eye of a needle to their hotel, their room, their bed and Kalinda, oh God... Kalinda, this is Kalinda doing this to her, and she collapses back on the bed, sweaty and shaking and she can’t tell which way is up or down, but this is now and if she’d known, if she’d known it would be like this... but her thoughts curl inwards on themselves and she can’t process anything else.
When she comes back to, she’s tucked under the sheets with Kalinda’s body soft against her back, one hand stroking between her shoulder blades. “Kalinda...” Alicia murmurs.
A soft kiss on the nape of her neck. “Hmm?”
Alicia’s limbs feel heavy as lead, but she still manages to turn herself around. Kalinda smiles at her. “You all right?” Her slender hand drifts to settle on the curve of Alicia’s hip.
“Am I...” Alicia blinks. “Is it always like this?” she asks.
“What do you mean?”
“Like...” She shakes her head. “Never mind.”
“You mean between women?”
Alicia tucks a hand underneath her head to support it. “It was so... different,” she tries to explain. “Good different... I mean.” Mind-blowing, actually, but she won’t say that.
Kalinda chuckles. “Well, it would be. Different equipment.”
Alicia rolls her eyes. “Well, yes, obviously, but...” It dawns on her that she should just shut up and enjoy the afterglow, but her brain simply isn’t wired that way. “Is it like this for you?”
Kalinda’s lips curve. “Alicia, you’re going to have to be more specific.”
Alicia drops her gaze. “This intense?”
Kalinda shrugs. “It depends.”
“Depends on what?”
“Depends on who I’m with, my mood, the weather, lots of things.”
Alicia holds her eyes and slips a hand underneath the sheet. “Who you’re with?” Her fingers follow the sharp edge of her collarbone down to her sternum. Alicia cups one of Kalinda’s breasts, awed by its plump fullness, her thumb drawing curious circles around the areola.
“You don’t have to... there’s no rush.”
Alicia leans over to plant a lingering kiss on the edge of Kalinda’s lips. “Who said anything about rushing?” Her fingers gently pull on Kalinda’s nipple, listens to her breath catch, Kalinda’s legs restless like cricket’s wings against her thighs.
Kalinda lets her head fall back against the pillow. “You’re so straight.”
Alicia flings a leg over Kalinda’s hip and moves to lie on top of her, bracing her arms against the mattress to take most of her weight. “Oh, am I? And why is that?”
Kalinda looks up at her. “Because you’re keeping score,” she replies, her quiet words betrayed by the foxfires dancing in her eyes.
Alicia moves a knee up between her legs, leans down to nuzzle her ear. “Shouldn’t I be?” Kalinda gasps, arches her back underneath her and Alicia can feel how wet Kalinda is against the skin of her thigh, making her blood fizzle in her veins like warm champagne. She catches Kalinda’s wrists to bring them up over her head, bringing her head down to press her teeth against the place where Kalinda’s neck meets her shoulder.
Kalinda goes rigid underneath her. Alicia lifts her head, lets go of her wrists. “What’s wrong?”
Kalinda shakes her head, makes an obvious effort to relax, running her hands over Alicia’s stretched arms. “Nothing.”
But it isn’t nothing. Alicia knows enough about Kalinda’s defense mechanisms by now to read past the smooth veneer glazing her eyes. She slides a hand behind the young woman’s back and rolls them over, settling back against the pillows with Kalinda on top of her.
“Better?” Alicia asks.
“You didn’t have to --”
“Yeah, I did,” Alicia says, tracing the length of Kalinda’s spine.
Kalinda shoots her a wary look.
“I won’t ask,” Alicia says gently.
“You...” Kalinda mutters, but Alicia slides her fingers in Kalinda’s hair and interrupts her with a deep kiss, moving her other hand to grip the swell of her ass and driving her thigh up between Kalinda’s legs again.
Kalinda makes one of those pained little sounds that drives Alicia to distraction, grinding down against her leg, her kisses liquid heat inside Alicia’s mouth.
Alicia drags her nails down the length of Kalinda’s thighs, slips her hands to cup the back of her knees and pulls sharply to increase the friction.
Kalinda cries out, her rhythm faltering, hands flying up to grip Alicia’s shoulders.
“Do you need me to --” Alicia asks, one hand coming up to touch the quivering muscles of Kalinda’s stomach.
“No. Just... like this. Stay like this.” Kalinda gasps, fumbling until she finds Alicia’s hands, intertwining their fingers as she ebbs and flows along the length of Alicia’s thigh, eyes clouded by her impending climax. Alicia presses her lips over the small dip at the base of Kalinda’s graceful throat, licking the salt of her skin.
“Alicia!” Kalinda bucks, throws her head back, her thighs squeezing Alicia’s leg with surprising strength.
Kalinda collapses against Alicia, suddenly boneless, random tremors coursing along the golden planes of her back.
Alicia strokes the furled wings of her shoulderblades as Kalinda recovers, overwhelmed by the sudden knowledge that it is like this for them, that this was the unspoken promise she refused to read in Kalinda’s eyes during all those years.
None of her tall men had ever prepared her for this. Not even Will. She plants a soft kiss on the black glossy crown of Kalinda’s head.
Kalinda’s body suddenly tenses against hers and before Alicia has the time to analyze this abrupt groundswell shift, Kalinda is out of her arms, out of the bed, and the bathroom door slams shuts behind her.
Alicia’s jaw drops. What the hell just happened?
Alicia slips out of the bed, grabs a sheet to wrap it around her and follows Kalinda’s path. She raps her knuckles against the door gently. “Kalinda? Are you okay?”
There is no answer for the longest time. Alicia is about to give up, figuring up that Kalinda needs time to process whatever it is that made her bolt, when she hears her voice, not her normal voice, Alicia can tell, even through the layers of wood separating them. “I’m fine. Go back to bed.”
“You don’t sound fine. Did I do something wrong?”
Behind the door, Alicia hears a sound that could be a laugh or a sob or both. “No. Alicia... no, you didn't. Just... give me a minute, okay?”
Alicia sighs, then turns around and walks back toward the bed. She spots the miniature bottles on the bedside table that Kalinda left there earlier. She sits on the edge of the mattress, running a shaky hand through her tangled hair -- she must be quite a sight. She picks the bottle nearest to her. Whisky, that’ll do. She twists the cap open and takes a sip, the liquid burning down her throat. She lowers her head, staring at her bare feet on the cream carpet, struggling to process what happened in this room between Kalinda and her, wondering if their odd relationship had always been steering them towards this, like a compass set on true north. She wonders if Kalinda regrets it, wonders if she herself should.
She drinks from the tiny bottle again, aware she would need a much bigger model to soothe her anxiety.
Just as she’s about to reach for the other bottle, the bathroom door opens and Kalinda emerges, wrapped in one of the white hotel bathrobes. She’s tidied up her hair in its usual tight bun, but this isn’t what matters to Alicia. Her eyes are red.
Kalinda comes to sit on the bed next to her, and Alicia silently offers her the remaining bottle. Kalinda accepts it, unscrews the cap and brings the bottle to her lips.
“I wonder what time it is.” Alicia says.
“Mid-afternoon, I guess,” Kalinda replies her voice carefully neutral.
Somewhere in the room a phone rings. Alicia recognizes her ringtone, looks up towards the armchair where the edge of her bag is visible under their discarded clothes. She then finishes her bottle and leaves it on the small table.
“Aren’t you going to answer that?” Kalinda asks.
“No.” Alicia tucks the sheet tighter around her chest and stands up to go and inspect the content of their minibar fridge. She retrieves another two miniature whisky bottles. “We’ll have to make do with vodka after these.”
“You can always order something up,” Kalinda says.
Alicia returns to the bed, stops in front of Kalinda to hand her the small phial. “I don’t usually make people cry after sex,” Alicia says, as Kalinda takes the bottle.
Kalinda’s head jerks up and Alicia just has time to glimpse her distress, her rising panic before her walls come up. “Alicia...”
And Alicia knows where this is going, knows Kalinda is going to try to wriggle out of this conversation with a lie. “Is this the part where you tell me you have allergies? My, they certainly did a number on your eyes.”
Kalinda pulls the lapels of her robe tighter against her. “This isn’t what you think.”
“I think you’re as overwhelmed with this as I am but because you’re private you won’t let me see it.”
Kalinda’s eyes widen, surprise giving way to defensiveness. “You can’t know that.”
Alicia smirks. “Yes, Kalinda, I can. Believe it or not I get you a little better now than I did then. I have been paying attention -- even during those years I wish I didn’t.” Alicia sits back down. She opens her bottle, flings the red cap on the bedside table, watches it bounce and roll onto the floor. “And this is why being away from you was necessary. Because I could not not pay attention,” she says almost bitterly, staring right in front of her.
Seconds, minutes, centuries later, Alicia feels Kalinda lean her peach-soft cheek against her bare shoulder, her hand circling around Alicia’s back. She doesn’t say anything. Of course. But Alicia realizes, as Kalinda’s fingers tighten at her waist, that she doesn’t really need her to.
Alicia wraps an arm around Kalinda’s shoulders, bringing her closer, and keeps drinking.