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Far From Raven's Island

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Two ivory combs held the blonde hair back. The young woman sat deep in concentration at her desk, working at her laptop. Absentmindedly she rubbed her neck, sore after working for far too long in the same position.

Janeway regarded her from the doorway. Annika Hansen was by far the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. The glow from the laptop screen accentuated her narrow features and made her hair look almost white. The younger woman parted her lips as she focused on her work.

"Working overtime, darling?" the executive asked huskily.

The blonde turned around on her chair.

"I have to finish this, Kathryn," she said with a tired smile. "I want to be able to present the complete translation to Marion as soon as possible."

"Is she pressuring you too hard?" Kathryn asked sharply. "Seven, I can …"

"No," Seven replied softly. "Marion actually expressed that it could wait until after the weekend. She is not aware of how much time I will need to prepare for the conference next week. I will not have time to work on this after today."

Janeway approached her lover and looked at the screen over her shoulder.

"The conference is important," she agreed, "and so is this report. You look exhausted, Seven. I didn’t realise that you had so much on your plate right now. I need Personnel to hire at least two more interpreters. You will be a hard act to follow, though."

Seven looked concerned, her brow furrowing as she resumed rubbing her neck.

"Are you not pleased with my performance, Kathryn?" she asked worriedly. "I know I have had to work late a lot but I …"

Janeway interrupted her and took over the massage. The fine lines under the blonde’s eyes were new and so was the tired expression around her mouth.

"You’re doing more than your share," she said. "It’s not fair on you."

"But I …"

"No. Listen to me, darling. You finish this report tonight and then go down to McDunn’s department and hand it in personally. I can see you’re almost done and I know that Marion is working late too. I’ll do some brainstorming about next week. This can’t go on."

Seven looked at Janeway with hesitation.

"Very well, Kathryn," she said quietly. "I will join you in the apartment as soon as I am done."

"Good. I’ll have dinner ready for you."

Seven made a face.

"I do not want anything," she said, swallowing. "I think I only want to go to sleep."

Janeway frowned. There was something very wrong.

"You have to eat something," she insisted softly. "I’ll fix you something light. Don’t be long."

Seven sighed.

"Half an hour, not more," she allowed and pulled the chair closer to the desk.

Janeway leaned against Seven’s desk and regarded the woman she loved with growing concern.

She knew she had to do something.

*****

Marion McDunn rubbed her forehead with one hand as she searched her cluttered desk for an important file with the other.

"Damn," she hissed to herself. "It was here just a moment ago!"

The phone rang and Marion grabbed it impatiently.

"McDunn."

"Hello Marion," said a low voice.

The sales manager rose quickly from her chair, flinging it into the wall behind her.

She recognised the voice at the other end only to well. It sent shivers down her spine and the bile rose in her throat as anger and fear grabbed her.

"I feel that you had enough time to think this over," the smooth voice continued. "It’s time for another down payment."

"No! Damn it, this has got to stop! You’re bleeding my dry."

"I know exactly how much to ask for, my dear. You want me too stay away, don’t you? Isn’t that why you work all these long hours? To avoid me?"

"I’ve told you never to call me at work," Marion hissed.

 

"I’ll contact you when and where I choose, Marion. You forget you don’t call the shots here. I do."

"Go to hell!"

Marion slammed the phone down and leaned over the desk on her hands, lowering her head for a couple of seconds. She deliberately paced her breathing, trying to stay in control but she was terrified.

"Marion?"

The dark haired woman flinched and looked up.

Annika Hansen stood in the doorway with a quizzical look on her face and a floppy disk in her hand.

The blonde studied Marion’s face and then regarded the indescribable mess on the desk.

"Hello, Seven," Marion said wearily, realising that the other woman must have overheard the phone call or part of it. "What can I do for you?"

"Nothing," Seven replied sounding tired. "I have finished the translation of the documents."

She handed over the disk. Marion took it and eyed the blonde carefully.

"Already? I thought I told you that it would be all right to hand it in after the weekend."

"You did. I need the weekend to prepare for the conference next week."

"Oh, damn … it’s next week, isn’t it?" Marion gushed and leaned back in her chair. "I will no doubt have to work through the weekend for that one as well."

Marion looked at the woman she once had tried very hard to discredit. Seven had been gracious enough to give her a second chance. Marion had come to appreciate the younger woman a great deal. Still, she felt a bit awkward sometimes when the blonde directed her honest and open gaze at her; it was as if Seven could see right through her.

"It was not my intention to eavesdrop, Marion," Seven said bluntly. "I overheard you talking on the phone. Are you in some kind of trouble?"

"I’m sorry you had to hear that," Marion said quietly. She was trembling and tried to make her voice sound as together and slightly cynical as usual. "It’s nothing I can’t handle."

Seven didn’t look convinced.

"You look as tired as I feel," the interpreter now said with some trepidation. "Kathryn is making something to eat upstairs. Please join us. I am sure she would not mind."

"No, Seven, that’s all right. I have so much work to do and …"

Seven shook her head.

"Are you certain that you are all right?" she asked cautiously. "You are very pale."

"Yes. No. Oh, I don’t know. It’s just been too much lately," the dark haired woman confessed, dragging an elegant hand over her forehead.

Seven frowned.

"Please come with me and have something to eat," she repeated gently.

Marion wanted to decline but then she squared her shoulders and grabbed her purse. The blonde woman possessed a disarming honesty and complete lack of deception that the sales manager found refreshing.

"Okay," she smiled crookedly, motioning at the mess on her desk. "I bet Janeway won’t be thrilled but I’ve had enough of this for a while."

Seven only nodded and led the way towards the elevator. Inside she punched in the code that would take them to the penthouse. It took only seconds to reach it. The elevator came to a stop and as the door opened the two women stepped off it and walked directly into the large flat.

Marion looked around. She had been there on several occasions but not since Seven had moved in with Janeway. The CEO of the company had always guarded her privacy and after meeting the tall blonde she had chosen not to participate much in her old social circles.

The two women did not explain their relationship to anyone. Everyone in the building was under the impression that they were lovers. Marion realised that it was Janeway’s commanding and intimidating persona that kept the rumours at bay. Then there was the fact that Seven was well liked and admired for her skills. Nobody wanted to cross Janeway and Marion knew for certain that the fastest way of doing that was offending the woman Janeway lived with and so did the rest of the office staff.

The fireplace was lit and casting a homey glow over the large living room. There were magazines on the coffee table and soft slippers underneath it. There were colourful large cushions arranged on the couch together with a couple of wool blankets.

Janeway came out into the hallway, carrying a glass of brandy in her hand.

"Marion?" she said questioningly. "Is something wrong?"

"I invited Marion to share a late meal with us," Seven explained. "She is as tired as I am. She also had what sounded like a threatening phone call."

Marion groaned and closed her eyes. Trust Seven to not beat around the bush. She should have known that it was a mistake to come up here. There was no fooling Janeway. The CEO was shrewd as well as determined.

Janeway stared at the two women in front of her.

"Marion? Is this correct?" she asked incredulously.

"It’s not they way it may have seemed to Seven," Marion said. "I confess that these last two weeks have been brutal, but …"

"No, I mean the call. You were threatened?" Janeway asked and stepped closer, eyeing the other woman.

"Not threatened exactly," Marion tried to explain. "It’s nothing I can’t handle, Kathryn. I appreciate Seven’s concern but …"

Seven looked at them.

"I do not agree," she stated. "I think that something is very wrong. Marion’s voice betrayed both anger and fear."

"Let’s go into the kitchen and sit down," Janeway decided. "I want to hear about this, Marion. If Seven says you were threatened and scared … Well, I trust her judgement."

Marion bit her lip but nodded. She realised that neither woman was going to let this go without an explanation.

The three women walked into the kitchen where Janeway rescued a large omelette from the stove at the last minute. She filled three plates and placed them on the kitchen table.

"Mineral water for you two I think," she muttered and pulled out a bottle from the refrigerator. "I however think I need something else." She poured herself a glass of white wine.

They ate during silence for a while and then Janeway leaned back in her chair and looked at McDunn.

"So, tell me Marion," she said. "What’s going on?"

"It’s personal, Kathryn," McDunn said carefully. "This is not why I’ve fallen behind in my work."

"I consider you a friend," Seven said quietly. "I would like to help you if I can and I know Kathryn does too. Please, Marion."

The older woman flinched and then closed her eyes again. To her dismay, a single tear appeared and rolled down her tanned cheek.

Not bothering to consider if the gesture would be appreciated by the sales manager or not, Seven put an arm around her shoulders.

"Tell us about it," she urged softly. "Something is wrong."

Marion shook her head.

"It’s been going on for far too long. I should have done something about it months ago," she whispered.

"You’re an appreciated colleague and you’ve become a friend to both of us. We want to help if we can," Janeway said.

The dark haired woman inhaled audibly. She knew that she could expect nothing but humiliation but she had struggled so long trying to solve this problem, she didn’t care anymore. Still it was hard to let her guard down and trust anybody.

"I’m not sure how to put this," she began. "It’s been going on for months. I don’t know how much Seven overheard …"

"I heard you tell someone that they were bleeding you dry and to never call you at work again. Then you told the person to go to hell."

Marion sighed and put a hand over her mouth. Slowly lowering it she took an uncharacteristic leap of faith. Lacing her hands together in her lap, she inhaled deeply.

"I’m being blackmailed," she stated quietly.

"By whom? Regarding what?" Janeway asked sounding appalled and suspicious.

Marion rose from her chair. Panic had begun to set in.

"It doesn’t matter. It has gone on long enough. I’m not going to go along with his demands anymore," she said dismissingly.

"Whose demands?"

The sales manager began to walk towards the elevator.

"I’ll take care of it … I can’t … Oh damn …" She halted and wiped her face. Tears were running again and she felt as if she were at the end of her rope. A cold sensation in the pit of her stomach made her almost double over. So much was at stake and she could lose it all.

Seven caught up with her and put her arm around her again. Dragging the older woman back into the flat she nudged her to sit down on the couch. Marion sank down with Seven on her right.

Janeway joined them on Marion’s other side. Glancing at Seven she nodded approvingly.

"You can’t go home in this condition," she stated firmly. "Spend the night here. Besides we need to talk. I have to know if this is regarding the company and what is at stake."

The sales manager regarded the other two women through the tears.

"Oh, no, don’t worry," she said with a hallow laughter. "It has nothing to do with the company. It’s all nauseatingly personal. I could quit tomorrow and his reasons would be as valid and disgusting as today."

"He?" Janeway queried.

Marion leaned back on the couch, Seven’s arm holding her firmly as if the blonde was afraid that she would bolt out of there.

"Who is doing this to you?" Seven asked gently.

"Avery," Marion whispered, surrendering to the need to unburden the pain, to share it with someone. "Eric Avery."

"That lowlife?" Janeway exclaimed.

Eric Avery had resigned from Janeway’s company almost a year earlier. Several women had brought accusations of harassment against him, including Annika Hansen. Janeway had wanted to fire him without any benefits what so ever. The company’s lawyers had disagreed.

The lawyers had counselled Janeway that a harassment suit would take considerable amount of time to bring before a court of law. Even then there were no guarantees that a jury would find the man guilty. The fact that Avery had been an employee for a number of years and held stock options in the company further complicated matters. If Janeway wanted him gone quickly, then the best way to expedite his departure was to force him to resign.

Janeway, another senior executive and the firms lead council had called Avery to a meeting. They had presented him with the facts, the affidavits from the women who he had allegedly victimised and a written statement from Marion McDunn about his involvement in a plot to destroy Hansen’s career.

They placed a deal on the table that Janeway explained would be a one-time offer. He would be allowed to resign, be given six months severance pay and the company would not press charges against him. Janeway made it clear that if he failed to act upon the offer immediately then she would happily to turn the entire matter over to her lawyers and that they would destroy him with her full backing.

Avery had tried to deny everything. When that failed he attempted to shift the blame on to McDunn. Janeway was not impressed. Finally, she handed the pen to Avery and told him to sign the documents that the lawyers had prepared. If not, she would use the pen with great satisfaction to press charges.

Avery had taken the deal, cleared out his office, and left the same day.

"And you ask me to trust that this has nothing to do with the company?" Janeway asked. "I find that very hard to believe."

Marion understood Janeway’s doubts. The only reason her career had survived the incident with Avery was the fact that Seven had intervened on her behalf.

"I swear Kathryn, it has nothing to do with the company."

"What does he have on you - or thinks he has on you?" Janeway asked. "I want to help, Marion, but you have to be up front with me. I need details."

"He’s gathered a lot of information about me during the years we worked together," Marion managed, swallowing hard.

"What type of information?" the executive asked tersely.

"Personal." The dark haired woman’s voice was hardly audible. She kicked her pumps off and pulled her knees up, hugging them close to her body, cold to the bone. She could hear Avery’s low voice on the phone, stating demands, taunting her with what he knew. The dark haired woman shivered.

"He is an awful man," Seven said quietly as she reached out and pulled a tissue from the box on the coffee table and silently handed it over to the distressed woman next to her. "I did not know him well but I definitely disliked him."

"No, he’s not very likeable," Marion smiled wryly through the tears, gratefully accepting the tissue.

"Marion," Janeway said quietly, "we both know you haven’t been the most forth coming individual I have ever known. If you want my assistance you are going to have to tell me everything and I’m going to need proof of what Avery is doing."

Marion swallowed hard.

"I … I guess I deserved that," she mumbled, wiping her eyes. "I have taped some of his calls, Kathryn. I’m keeping the tapes in my office safe. Should I get them now?"

"No, it is late and we are all tired," Seven said firmly, glaring at Janeway. "There will be time enough to do that tomorrow."

"Honestly, I’ve tried everything I could think of," Marion whispered. "He is shrewd and … he’s ruthless."

"So is Kathryn," the blonde stated readily, making her lover choke and glare back at her.

"Seven!"

"I am sorry, Kathryn, that did not come out right. I mean you can be shrewd and ruthless when it is required."

Janeway rolled her eyes, making Marion smile through the tears.

"I think we all need a good night’s sleep," Janeway relented. "Why don’t you take the guest room, Marion? You’ll find everything you need there. Seven, why don’t you show her where it is?"

Marion nodded gratefully. She was surprised to recognise the overwhelming feeling of relief. Not having to go home to her apartment alone, not having to fear the phone … She closed her eyes briefly.

"Thank you," she managed. "I really am exhausted."

"We’re all tired," Janeway agreed and rose from the couch. "Well, goodnight then, we’ll talk more tomorrow."

Seven cocked her head and regarded Marion carefully.

"Have faith in Kathryn," she suggested seriously. "She always finds a way."

Janeway smiled crookedly. "You’re slightly partial, Seven," she suggested.

"Yes, but it is still true."

*****

It was still dark outside when Seven stirred. A warm weight sprawled across her body pinned her down. She looked down while yawning.

Kathryn was laying half on top of her, her arm firmly secured around her waist.

The blonde wrapped her arms around the CEO and pulled her even closer. This was what she liked the most; the mornings when she woke up first and Kathryn was tucked up against her, soft and yielding.

Seven buried her face in the auburn hair. They had been lovers and lived together for almost a year now and still there were moments when she was amazed that this extraordinary woman loved her. Seven adored the older woman.

She had fallen asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow after saying goodnight to Kathryn and Marion, she had not even heard Kathryn come out of the bathroom and climb into bed. Now she nuzzled the soft hair under her chin.

Kathryn shifted and turned her face up as if searching for Seven in her sleep. The blonde lovingly pressed her full lips against Kathryn’s. The executive moaned softly and opened her mouth but was still asleep.

Seven gasped softly, Kathryn’s unconscious display of desire taking her breath away. Slowly rolling the smaller woman on her back, she began to place open mouth kisses all the way from her mouth down Kathryn’s neck.

Slowly opening her eyes and registering the tender onslaught Kathryn moaned again and arched her neck.

"Seven?" she mumbled.

"Yes, Kathryn," the blonde mumbled against the soft skin under her lips. "Just let me take care of you."

Kathryn whimpered when Seven let a hand move under the silk tank top she was wearing. Knowing fingers found her left nipple and rolled it over and over, pinching it gently.

"Oh, darling," the executive sighed.

Seven regarded her beloved closely as she relentlessly played with first one breast and then the other. The nipples pebbled and after keeping up her ministrations for a couple of minutes longer she couldn’t resist. She roughly pushed the tank top up above the breasts she wanted. Leaning over Kathryn she devoured the breast closest to her. Sucking the nipple deep into her mouth she let her tongue work it, circle it and her teeth grace the hard peak.

Kathryn moaned and began to shiver. Slender arms held on to Seven and pulled her closer.

The blonde reached down and began drawing patterns on the soft stomach of her lover. Lower and lower, the hand moved towards its goal, making the woman underneath her gasp out loud.

"Oh, yes … yes, Seven, touch me …"

Seven then plunged her fingers between the slick, swollen folds. Kathryn thrust her hips up, groaning and spreading her legs to allow for a deeper touch.

Seven knew what her lover needed. Without delaying, without any intention to teasing, she let two fingers slide inside Kathryn. The velvety walls clenched her digits as the executive let out a husky sigh that turned into a whimper.

"There, my love," the blonde whispered against the hard nipples. "You need me to love you like this. It has been too long."

"Yes, yes," Kathryn gasped. "Too long, darling."

The executive let her hands hold Seven’s head tight to her chest and parted her legs more under her lover’s ministrations.

Moving her hand in and out steadily, not quickening the pace even as Kathryn began to moan her name over and over, Seven pushed her closer and closer to the edge.

"Your touch … it’s like fire within me, darling," the auburn haired woman whispered. "I can’t get enough of you … of this … ever …"

"I know," Seven answered, almost choking up with tenderness as she watched the older woman surrender to the passion. "I always want you."

"You promise?" Kathryn asked passionately.

"I promise."

The blonde placed her thumb on the aching ridge of nerves that held Kathryn’s pleasure without warning. Tiny beads of sweat trickled down the other woman’s temples, dampening her hair.

With a soft cry Kathryn came in long shudders, clinging to her lover. Seven folded her up in her strong arms. Cradling her she comforted the smaller woman, as sobs tore from the executive’s throat.

"There, there," the blonde hushed.

Mumbling Seven’s name over and over as her body relaxed, Kathryn eventually went back to sleep, exhausted from the overwhelming emotions.

Seven held her close, pulling the warm, lithe body onto her shoulder. She also needed to rest more; sleep had been a rare commodity lately.

*****

"What is keeping Kathryn so long?" Marion asked over her second cup of coffee.

Seven had found it amusing that the sales manager had the same taste for coffee as Kathryn. She preferred tea and found it fun to watch her lover’s nose wrinkle in distaste at the mere smell of the beverage.

"She wanted to make some phone calls in private," Seven explained.

"She insisted she’d listen to the tapes and then let me know what she thought. What phone calls?"

Marion frowned worriedly and sipped her coffee again, tapping her long nails on the mug.

The blonde put a reassuring hand on her arm.

"I know you are nervous. Kathryn can be very stubborn but she is resourceful and will do what she think is best."

"But you have no idea what Avery is up to. I’m not even sure Kathryn does, even after listening to the tapes. They will show that it has nothing to do with the company, but …"

Marion covered her face with her hands.

"Marion, I’ve listened to the tapes," Janeway’s throaty voice was heard from the doorway.

The women in the kitchen looked up.

"Yes?" Marion asked, holding her breath.

Seven regarded the woman she loved, noticing the sparkle in her eyes.

"You found a solution," she guessed.

"Not entirely, Seven, but thank you for the vote of confidence," Janeway smiled. "Marion, you just proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Eric Avery personifies the meaning of a scum bag. I don’t know exactly what he has on you, but I can guess. That is not important here, though."

"It isn’t?" the sales manager asked incredulously.

"No. What matters is that we put a stop to him for good. Don’t you agree?"

"What do you mean, Kathryn?" Seven asked cautiously, not sure she liked the triumphant gleam in Janeway’s eyes.

Janeway laughed.

"Don’t worry, darling," she said, apparently not noticing the term of endearment slipping over her lips. "I don’t mean to have Avery assassinated."

Seven unsuccessfully fought the urge to roll her eyes.

"I woke up this morning feeling very relaxed and refreshed," Janeway continued, smiling warmly at the blonde. "I also had an epiphany which I began to develop as I tried to wake you up, sleepyhead."

Seven’s eyes grew wide. Kathryn was being very obvious about their relationship in front of Marion and that was not like her. She never did anything to hide the fact that they lived together but she was a very private woman.

"Can you elaborate regarding this epiphany of yours?" Seven now asked.

"Certainly! It’s simple really. We need to keep Marion out of Avery’s reach for a bit. I’ve hired a private investigation firm to look into his activities and they need some time to do their work. Mr Leighton, the head of the firm suggested that you disappear for a while. I don’t think Avery will do anything rash if Marion is incommunicado so to speak," Janeway said with a grin. "I also think that you two ladies have been working way too hard these past few months and it’s time to whip you back into shape."

Both Seven and Marion were totally baffled by Janeway’s comments.

"Oh come on ladies, isn’t the solution quite obvious?"

Seven and Marion continued to look dumbfounded at the CEO.

Janeway put her hands on her hips.

"I guess I’m going to have to spell it out. I’m letting Susan Rowe and Marcus Walters handle the conference. It’s time that they learned anyway."

"What are we going to do?" Marion asked, looking decidedly dazed.

Janeway grinned.

"We - are going on a vacation!"

*****

Marion stood at the railing of the large cruise ship.

The moon was out, casting a glittering pattern across the Atlantic Ocean. They had sailed for three days and her frayed nerves had begun to settle a little.

She pulled the silk shawl around her shoulders, shivering a little in the cool breeze but at the same time relishing the sensation. She could hardly believe that Janeway had taken over everything, relieved her of the burden of dealing with Avery and invited her on this trip.

The sales manager had to smile as she remembered the look on the tall blonde’s face when Janeway had told them her plan. She had literally lost cohesion in her jaw and looked stunned, to say the least. Then she had risen from her chair and hugged the executive hard.

Janeway had looked a little flustered but reciprocated, smiling crookedly at Marion.

Now the other two women were still in the casino, Janeway watching in amused horror as Seven kept winning everything she tried.

Marion turned around and began to walk the promenade deck. She didn’t want to go back inside just yet. Everything was still very fresh in her mind and she needed time to herself.

When she reached the staircase leading up to the next deck a voice forestalled her just as she was going to enter it.

"I wouldn’t go up there if I were you."

Marion pivoted and would have stumbled if a woman appearing at her side had not grabbed her arm, steadying her.

"I’m sorry," the woman said. "Someone just managed to drop a bottle of champagne from up there. Someone is coming to clean up the mess but the stairs are full of broken glass."

"Thank you for letting me know," Marion gasped and stepped back, regarding the helpful woman.

She was in her late twenties perhaps early thirties. She had short, dark hair and was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt.

"No, I don’t work here. I’m a passenger just like you," the other woman grinned. "My name is Julia. Julia Williams."

"I’m Marion McDunn."

The sales manager extended a hand and Julia took it in a firm grip.

"You’ve been dancing, or perhaps visited the casino?" she asked.

"The casino. It’s not very large and I found it too crowded," Marion confessed. "My friends are still there, cleaning out the bank, I think."

Julia laughed.

"Good for them. I was there yesterday. Perhaps they could win back what I lost."

"Did you lose a lot?" Marion asked, not knowing why she suddenly felt concerned.

"Heavens no! Twenty dollars or less, I think. I only went in there because you’re supposed to try everything on the ship at least once. Do you want to walk a little back over there?" the other woman asked, pointing in the direction Marion just came from.

Marion only hesitated for a second. Then she nodded and the two women began to walk.

"Is this your first time on the QE2?" Julia asked.

"Yes. I’ve never taken the time to go on a cruise before. It’s slow, but it’s … soothing."

Marion wanted to kick herself for her choice of words but Julia didn’t comment on them. She just smiled and nodded.

"I agree. Once you come aboard and the ship sails, all you can do is … go with the flow and accept its slower pace. You’re on your own and I find that soothing too."

Amazed at the way Julia described how she felt; Marion began to relax a little.

"Yes, that’s exactly it," she agreed.

"Have you ever seen such a moon?" Julia asked after a brief silence. "I don’t think I’ve ever seen it quite as large and white."

Marion walked over to the railing and looked at the moon again.

"Neither have I," she said quietly. "It’s as if it was going to fall into the ocean, isn’t it?"

Julia came up next to her.

"Yes," she said softly. "That’s exactly it."

*****

The tall blonde was dressed in a sparkling blue dress that ended just above her knees. She seemed unaware of the fact that she had attracted the appreciative glances from both men and women during the evening.

She now looked down at the three large piles of markers in front of her and then up at Kathryn who stood next to her.

"I find it hard to believe that such a business as this can be profitable," Seven said. "Winning seems fairly easy, Kathryn."

Janeway smiled crookedly.

"I swear I haven’t seen anyone rampage through a casino like you before," she admitted.

She had suggested to Marion and Seven that they try their fortune at the roulette and the black jack table. Seven had agreed, explaining that she regarded it as a learning experience. She had quickly learned the basic rules of the game. Marion had watched for a while and then left, claiming that she needed fresh air.

The executive had not had much luck. She had casually lost the two hundred dollars she had set aside to play for. Then she had turned to Seven to see if she was done too.

She had regarded the other woman with widening eyes. Her lover had a huge stack of markers in front of her and the croupier was just pushing an almost as big stack towards her.

"You’re on a lucky streak, Seven," Kathryn mumbled. "Do you want to cash in your markers or play some more?"

Seven cocked her head.

"This is interesting," she said with a faint smile. "I find this experience to contradict my parents views on gambling."

"Oh, but you can’t expect to keep winning, darling," Janeway said. "Sooner or later your luck runs out and the trick is to know when to quit."

"How does one determine that?" Seven asked.

"When you start losing; cash in your markers right away. Don’t wait for the next lucky break. Most likely it doesn’t come."

Seven considered this.

"Perhaps I should try the dice?" she asked, motioning at a table across from them where a loud game was going on.

"I wouldn’t recommend it," Janeway said, shaking her head. "But if you really want to … It is your money, your choice."

The blonde rose from her chair and looked down at her markers and then down herself, looking a bit bemused.

"What’s wrong?" Janeway asked.

"How do I carry all of these?" Seven asked. "This dress did not come with pockets."

Janeway laughed.

They had been shopping in one of the stores on the ship earlier in the day and when she had spotted the dress, Janeway had known it would look gorgeous on Seven. The store was of the Harrods branch and held every luxurious item imaginable.

The blonde had tried on the dress and the sight of the tall curvaceous woman in the blue dream had taken Janeway’s breath away. The executive then had found a dark green sleeveless dress that spelled her name and they had both been very pleased with their purchases.

"No, I don’t think such dresses ever comes with pockets," the CEO grinned. "Here. Use my purse."

She opened her purse and together they shoved the markers into it.

"Where did Marion go?" Seven asked, looking around for the other woman.

"She’s out on the promenade deck, I think," Janeway replied. "I think she needed a little time on her own. She’s still tense and upset over Avery."

"I know it is not polite to pry but I can not help wondering what that despicable man is using to blackmail her."

"I know. I think I have an idea but it was obvious from the tapes that it was deeply personal. Can you understand how important it is to Marion that I don’t disclose what I’m guessing?" the executive asked.

"Of course, Kathryn. If she wants to tell us, she will."

"Thank you. I agree."

They moved between the tables, Janeway leading the way towards the disk where you cashed in your markers. After handing Seven her thick roll of dollar bills, only to have the younger woman frown and put them in the older woman’s purse, they started walking towards the door leading to the promenade deck.

Outside a cool breeze played with Janeway’s auburn tresses, obstructing her vision for a while before she managed to stroke it behind her ears.

"Ah," she sighed contentedly. "This is nice. The air was getting a bit stuffy in there."

"It was loud as well," Seven agreed. "Look, there is Marion. She is talking to someone."

They began to walk towards the sales manager and the woman standing next to her. Marion glanced up and saw them approach. A smile graced her lips as she motioned toward the approaching women.

"Here comes my friends," she said. "Julia, this is Kathryn Janeway and Annika Hansen. Kathryn, Annika, this is Julia Williams. She helped me avoid some broken glass over at the stairs that could have become a painful experience."

Janeway regarded the casually dressed woman next to her employee. She wore no make up and was dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt and still there was a definite aura of style and elegance about her.

"Nice to meet you," Janeway said politely and shook the proffered hand.

Seven repeated the greeting.

"Nice to meet both of you," Julia said with a smile. "I hear one of you got quite lucky in the casino."

Janeway rolled her eyes.

"Well if I ever hoped to show Seven what a futile endeavour it is to gamble for your livelihood, I was sorely mistaken. She kept winning until the croupier was about to call his boss on us. We left while the going was good."

Seven shook her head.

"This is an exaggeration," she stated with a smile. "I was winning some but the noisy crowd in there made me lose count. When Kathryn suggested … What?" she broke off her explanation as all three women stared openly at her.

"You were counting the cards?" Janeway blurted out, keeping her voice down.

"Yes, of course. How else could I have estimated and betted accordingly?" the blonde asked incredulously.

The CEO groaned.

"Let’s not tell anyone else," she mumbled, "and let’s not play there anymore. I think I’ve had enough excitement for one evening."

Marion threw her head back and laughed. This caused the other woman, Julia, to smile and then join in.

"You’re called Seven?" Julia asked the blonde curiously.

"Yes. You are welcome to use the nickname too, if you like. I am not quite comfortable being called Annika."

Julia nodded, apparently appreciating the familiarity.

"Thank you, Seven."

"Are you travelling on the QE2 alone, Julia?" Janeway asked their new acquaintance.

"Yes, I am," she answered. "I’m on my first vacation in years and I’ve looked forward to it for a very long time. You know how it is, all work and no play …"

The CEO smiled.

"Oh, I think we all know what that’s like," she replied. "What do you do for a living?"

Seven gave her partner a look that said she knew what Janeway was up to. The older woman kept her interested gaze locked on Julia.

"I’m an interior designer and I’m employed at Bennett & La Cour. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? They have branches in several states."

"I have," Janeway nodded, reluctantly impressed. The slightly tousled woman had to be excellent to hold a position at this company. Bennett & La Cour was a famous, award winning architectural firm.

"Enough of the third degree," Marion said impatiently. "We’re here to enjoy ourselves, not think about work, all right?"

"You’re right of course," Janeway said amicably. "Besides, it’s late. I don’t know about the rest of you but I’m bushed. I think I need to take a long bath and then go to bed. Will you join me, Seven or do you want to explore some more?"

Seven shook her head.

"No, I am still trying to catch up with my sleep. I think I will order some tea to our cabin. Goodnight, Marion, Julia," she nodded to the other two.

"Yes, goodnight," Janeway chimed in. "Perhaps you would like to join us for breakfast in the morning?" she asked Julia, noticing Marion catch her breath.

"Thank you, it’s nice of you to ask. I would love to."

Janeway smiled and began to walk towards hers and Seven’s cabin. It was right next to Marion’s, linked together by a connecting door.

Inside she put her purse down on the dresser and began to kick off her shoes. Looking over her shoulder, she watched Seven follow her example and rid herself of her high-heeled sandals.

"You look so tired, all of a sudden," Janeway said softly, walking up to the tall blonde. "Can I interest you in taking the bath with me?"

"I am very tired," Seven said quietly. "I think I better just go to bed after a quick shower."

Janeway frowned. Something was amiss and she couldn’t put her finger on what it was. They had been sailing with the QE2 for three days and during that time they had not made love once. The executive had rationalised the reason to be the fact that Seven was worn out and overworked, that the blonde needed time to adjust to the leisurely pace.

Still, she had a nagging feeling that there was more to it. She had caught her lover looking at her with a certain longing in her eyes on more than one occasion. She wanted to ask Seven, knowing that the younger woman preferred the direct approach. Janeway was unsure of how to address her concerns, though, sensing that the woman she loved was mulling something over that she had to think through.

"Let me order the tea for you," Janeway now said, cupping Seven’s cheek in her hand.

She walked over to the phone and ordered tea and decaffeinated coffee from room service. Unzipping her dress she let it fall to the floor and headed for the bathroom. Running a hot bubble bath she watched the foam form and the vanilla scent fill the beautiful room.

A moment later she heard Seven let the waiter in. She poked her head out the bathroom door and saw two thermoses and china on a tray sitting on the dresser. It would hold until after they cleaned up. Janeway returned to check on the bath and found the tub filled to the rim.

Seven entered, dressed in only her underwear. She leaned into the shower stall and turned on the water.

Janeway let her eyes wander over the younger woman. For the first time she noticed that Seven’s shoulders were slouching a little and that she looked a bit frail. Knowing that she might annoy her lover she reached around her and turned off the shower.

Seven pivoted and looked surprised, her eyebrows rising quizzically.

"Kathryn?" she asked. "Is something wrong?"

"I don’t know, darling. Is there? I worry about you, Seven. It’s like you’re withdrawing from me. Of course I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am."

The blonde looked apprehensively at her and then frowned.

"I am not sure what you are referring to, Kathryn," she began. "I am enjoying our cruise and I look forward to our stay in Europe."

"I know you do and that is just it. As long as we are participating in something, when we are among other people, you are focusing on that and you seem fine. It’s moments like these, when we’re alone … It’s like you can’t even look at me sometimes. Are you sorry you came, Seven? Would you rather we flew home once we’re in England?"

Seven paled and bit her lip.

"No! No, of course not, Kathryn," she whispered. "I am sorry if I have made you feel uncomfortable, it was not my intention. I am not sure … I …"

Her voice broke and she swallowed hard.

Carefully reaching for the younger woman, Janeway pulled her towards the large bathtub. Wordlessly she undressed Seven and ridded herself of her own underwear. Both of them naked, she nudged the younger woman to take place in the tub and then sank down behind her, cradling Seven between her legs and in her arms.

"Lie down," she encouraged the blonde. "There you go, darling."

Seven tentatively slid down and rested her head on Janeway’s shoulder. The executive grabbed a washcloth and the vanilla scented bath soap, working up lather. Slowly moving the washcloth over the tense shoulders, she felt Seven relax against her. Over and over she dragged the soapy cloth over the alabaster skin of her lover, making small circles down over her chest.

"There you go," she repeated in a low purring voice. "Don’t worry. I’ve got you. You don’t have to do anything. Just lie here and let me take care of you, sweetheart. Close your eyes and relax. That’s it."

"This is making me very drowsy," Seven mumbled and turned her head to nuzzle Janeway’s cheek. "Is this your intention?"

"One of them," Janeway smiled. She relished in the feeling of Seven’s warm skin on hers, the precious weight of the tall slender body resting half on top of hers.

"There are more than one?" the blonde whispered.

Janeway let the washcloth move over Seven’s hardening nipples just above the surface. The younger woman gasped softly and arched, moving towards the alluring touch.

"You could say, I have an ulterior motive, darling," the executive said tenderly. "We haven’t made love in a while and last time you were so wonderful to me and I fell asleep without reciprocating properly."

"I wanted to take care of you," Seven objected, trying to shift on her side to look at Janeway.

Janeway held her in place, lacing her legs around the blonde’s and by doing so spreading them.

"Hush, darling," she said quietly. "That is exactly what I mean. I have missed taking care of you. Just lean back and let me do that for you. Let me take care of the person I love more than anything."

Seven gave a sound that appeared to be something between a sob and a moan.

"That’s it darling," Janeway encouraged. "Spread your legs for me. Let me in. I think it’s time I made you aware of just how you affect me, of how much I adore you."

The younger woman whimpered quietly, trembling against her lover but obeyed.

Janeway let go of the washcloth and slid a hand down Seven’s flat stomach. Nestling in between the long thighs, she let her nails gently scratch the smooth skin before finding the aching, swollen nubbin.

Pinching it carefully, the executive made the blonde stir and moan huskily. Seven involuntarily pulled her knees up.

"That’s it," Janeway approved. "Open up to me, let me in."

She let her other hand join the first, pressing an eager finger inside Seven while adding pressure to her caresses.

"You need to relax. You need me," the older woman said throatily, her lips only a breath away from Seven’s ear. "You need me to make you feel good, don’t you sweetheart?"

"Mm … yes," the blonde moaned. "Need … you … us …"

Completely incoherent while approaching the precipice Seven began to shiver.

"Oh, it’s driving you crazy, isn’t it?" Janeway mumbled against the damp cheek next to her mouth. "You’re so close and you want to come so bad. I can give it to you. It’s what you want, isn’t it? I know it’s what I want. I love when I make you burn and surrender."

"Kathryn … Kathryn …" Seven whimpered. "Please …"

The pleading tone of voice almost broke Janeway’s heart.

"You don’t have to beg, darling," the executive assured her. "Just let it go … give in to it, my love. Give in. Now."

As if the last encouraging word together with the intrusive, probing finger became too much, Seven’s body became rigid and a wave was formed in the bathtub from the sudden motion when she clasped her legs around her lover’s hands.

Jerking over and over, the blonde bit her lip and breathed heavily, trying to get her bearings as the tumultuous orgasm hit her in wave after wave.

Janeway wrapped her legs around the woman she loved and held on to her, her hands still buried between Seven’s quivering thighs.

"Oh, Kathryn," the younger woman sighed, hiding her face against Janeway’s neck.

"There. I have you. You’re safe. I’m here."

Seven shifted, turning on her side and embracing her lover.

"I am so tired, Kathryn."

"I know, darling. It’s time to get you out of here and into bed. Let me go up first, all right?"

Janeway climbed out of the tub and then swiftly wrapped a large towel around her. Reaching for another bath towel she held it up and steadied Seven. Wrapping the blonde up in the towel as well, the executive smiled tenderly at the wobbly young woman.

"You’re exhausted," she stated. "Come on. I’ll help you to bed."

She led the other woman into their cabin and helped her get into a large tee shirt. Seven gratefully slid between the sheets and closed her eyes.

"Do not leave, Kathryn," she mumbled drowsily.

"Of course not," Janeway said softly and sank down next to her, caressing the alabaster forehead. "I’m right here."

"Sometimes I fear that you will not be here," Seven whispered, rolling onto her side, facing Janeway. "Some days I fear this … arrangement, is only temporary."

The executive’s heart skipped a beat. She had had no idea that Seven harboured such thoughts.

"Oh, sweetheart," she said quietly. "You belong with me. Don’t you know that?"

Seven opened her eyes, sleepily watching Janeway through her eyelashes.

"Yes, I do," she mumbled. "However, I am not sure you do. Not all the time. Not lately."

Janeway went cold. She could hear the distress in the younger woman’s voice. Did Seven have moments when she expected Janeway to leave her?

The older woman leaned down, putting her lips just above Seven’s ear.

"Listen to me, Seven," she implored her. "You are mine. This also means that I am yours. Never doubt that. Nothing will change it."

Janeway held her breath. There was no reply.

She leaned back and regarded the beautiful face on the pillow.

Seven was fast asleep.

Several instinctive alarm bells had gone off within Janeway’s heart. There was a lot going on with the younger woman that she didn’t understand but one thing was clear.

It was long overdue to start romancing Seven.

*****

Marion studied her reflection in the full view mirror. The long, ruby red evening dress made her look so different, she hardly recognised herself.

She usually wore black, grey or blue power suits at the office and casual slacks and sweaters on her spare time. This glamorous look was alien to her.

The dress was extravagant, she had taken Janeway’s advice regarding the dress code for the Captain’s Ball their last evening onboard the QE2 at face value.

"A classy long dress that spells luxury," the CEO had stated firmly. "You can’t go overboard, pardon the pun, except in taste, I suppose. It’s the last big, no huge, event on the QE2 before we sail into Southampton. Let’s make the most of it."

Marion had bought the dress just before they sailed. Even if she had felt slightly silly then about investing a small fortune in a dress she would probably never wear again, she was pleased about it now. It clung to her upper body, leaving her shoulders naked and then flooded out into a long, wide skirt. There were small rhinestones attached around her waist and then sprinkled like a waterfall down her left side. A small purse and matching long gloves came with it and the shoes with rhinestone buckles were also part of the ensemble.

She wore a simple gold necklace with a large ruby that caught your eye. It had been her mother’s and this was the first time she had had the opportunity to wear it in style. She had forgone rings or bracelets and opted for small plain gold earrings as none of her jewellery could compete with the necklace.

Marion had had her hair done at one of the beauty salons on the ship and it was pulled back from her face and piled in soft curls on the top of her head with a couple of tresses framing her face. The make up was discreet and she knew she had never looked better.

She wondered what Julia would wear. Her new acquaintance that was quickly becoming a friend, mostly wore casual clothes, not unlike the outfits Marion usually wore at home.

Julia had not intended to attend the Captain’s Ball but Janeway had not taken no for an answer. She had simply used her usual commanding attitude on the other woman, leaving her with little choice but to agree.

Marion considered Julia to be something of a mystery. She was an interior designer from Michigan and a successful one at that. She was travelling alone to Europe to spend a week in London. Marion found the unobtrusive woman fascinating. Julia was not shy but withdrawn in a way that made Marion very curious. She had noticed that both Seven and Janeway liked her a lot. Julia was a very … likeable person.

There was a knock at the door.

"It’s open."

Janeway opened it and poked her head through.

"Are you ready, Marion … Oh, my … you look wonderful!"

Marion felt her cheeks redden a little.

"Yes, this is as good as it gets," she allowed. "How about you and Seven?"

"Well, what do you think? Will I do?" Janeway smiled crookedly and opened the door completely.

She was dressed in a narrow dark blue gown with a soft pattern of black roses. It was deceptively simple but Marion realised that this was a very expensive garment. The executive wore long black gloves and a small black purse. A quick glance down her feet revealed black high heel pumps.

She wore her hair in large curls, fastened in a chignon at the back of her head.

"What a gorgeous dress," Marion said, smiling warmly at her boss. "It’s very becoming."

"You think so? Well, wait until you see Seven. That dress is to die for. In fact, the whole girl is."

Marion made sure she had her key and followed Janeway into her cabin. There was soft music playing and several candles burned on the small dresser.

She halted and could only stare.

In the middle of the floor stood Seven and although Marion had always recognised the younger woman’s beauty, she was now staring in disbelief. The blonde was simply exquisite.

A narrow ice white dress, leaving one shoulder naked and attached to the other one with merely a spaghetti strap, hugged the tall slender body like a glove. White beads covered the upper part of the dress, their soft glance reflecting the candlelight. The same glow came from a pearl collier around her neck.

The skirt was long and as narrow as Kathryn’s and Marion’s were wide, hugging her hips without being tight. A strict hairdo held her blonde hair, leaving every single feature of the beautiful alabaster face revealed. Very light make up, just mascara and a lipstick, was all it took to accentuate her natural beauty.

Marion all of a sudden knew why this woman had swept Kathryn Janeway off her feet. It wasn’t just her appearance, even though the blonde was breathtaking, it was her whole person. She radiated honesty, kindness and youthfulness in an intoxicating mix that must have stabbed the somewhat cynical and blasé executive right in the heart.

"My god, Seven," Marion said and walked over to her friend. "You are so beautiful."

"Thank you," Seven smiled. "You look wonderful yourself, Marion. That is a very elegant dress."

Marion reached out and did something she never thought she would do. She hugged the younger woman close to her for a moment and then pulled back.

"Thank you, Seven. Don’t think I don’t know how much I owe you, for everything."

Seven looked mystified.

"This trip was Kathryn’s idea," she pointed out.

"I know and it is a great vacation. Still, it’s because of your forgiveness and kindness that I’m here at all. I appreciate it more than I can say."

Looking a bit uncomfortable, Seven only nodded.

Janeway cleared her throat, apparently trying to get the festive mood back.

"Well, let’s blow out the candles and go find that new friend of yours, Marion," she said. "Seven, may I take your arm?"

Marion watched the blonde get a wondrous expression in her eyes. She smiled softly at the other woman.

"I’d be honoured, Kathryn," she said gently and held out her elbow to the smaller woman. Janeway tucked her hand under Seven’s arm and grabbed her small purse.

"Well, ladies, let’s find Julia," she smiled broadly. "I think we have a date with a captain!"

*****

Julia was waiting for her new friends in the ballroom.

She nervously checked the clasp of her gold necklace. It had come undone twice earlier and she was afraid she would lose it.

She wore a champagne coloured dress that looked deceptively demure from the front. From behind the dress gave a different impression, leaving her back naked down to her waist. The fabric was shiny and made the skirt fall in heavy folds that accentuated her hips and long legs. She had had fun choosing it and a rebellious voice within her had rejoiced at the fact that she had not automatically chosen the most appropriate dress, but the one she liked the best.

She studied the crowd that slowly moved through the doors to the ballroom, hoping to spot Marion and her friends. She had come to like them all and was intrigued how three such different individuals could get along so well. They apparently worked together at the same company. They had kept from discussing anything related to their respective workplaces but this much she had found out.

Seven was something of a mystery. Her unusual way of speaking, her childlike beauty and open friendliness was disarming. She did nothing to conceal that she and Janeway were a couple. The older woman wasn’t as obvious about it but Julia suspected that she really didn’t care what people knew or thought they knew.

Marion was by far the most attractive woman she had ever seen. Julia knew from the day before that Marion had recently turned forty. She herself was thirty-two but knew she gave a much younger impression sometimes. Would Marion think she was too young? Kicking herself mentally for allowing such thoughts, she focused on the music. Like everything else on the QE2 it was first class.

This cruise had by far exceeded her expectations. Although her work was her life, it was a relief to leave it behind for a brief hiatus. Julia was aware that it wasn’t just a matter of escaping her work even though it was incredibly demanding; it was the constant demands made by her family that really exhausted her.

Julia looked up. She noticed that lots of people were looking towards the door. She curiously directed her attention there. People gave way and Julia found herself staring at a woman entering the room, looking vaguely familiar.

It took her a moment to realise that the goddess in white was Seven. The blonde seemed oblivious to the fact that everyone in the ballroom was staring at her. Janeway was at her side; her arm tucked under Seven’s and looking quite possessive.

Then someone moved out from behind the two women and Julia forgot about Seven.

Marion McDunn was stunning in her red dress. The dark haired woman looked around the room and spotted Julia.

"Julia, you look great," Marion stated as she walked up to her. "What a lovely dress!"

Julia smiled.

"You look fantastic," she returned the compliment, noticing the sparkle in Marion’s eyes. "So do Kathryn and Seven. Goodness, you three caused quite a commotion when you walked in."

"Oh, that was purely Seven," Marion grinned. "Doesn’t she look incredible?"

"She’s very beautiful," Julia agreed. "Kathryn looks like she’s up to the task of protecting her, though."

"She might need to," Marion said. "I’m sure a line of people will form wanting the opportunity to dance with her. I wonder if Seven knows how to dance, come to think of it?"

The other woman’s concern puzzled Julia.

"Why shouldn’t she?"

"Seven grew up in a remote part of the country under very different circumstances. She’s very intelligent and capable but her parents didn’t exactly make a point of teaching her the social skills."

"Well, we’ll find out I guess," Julia said.

"I wonder if it has entered Kathryn’s mind that she’ll be asked to dance," Marion mumbled. "This could get interesting."

She moved next to Julia and accidentally brushed against her arm. Julia bit her lip at the shiver the soft touch sent down her spine. Trying to remain composed she turned to greet Janeway and Seven.

A barely audible gasp from Marion betrayed that she had not realised just how revealing Julia’s dress were. Taking it as a sign that the sales manager was not indifferent to her, Julia greeted the approaching women warmly, complimenting them on their dresses.

"You look very nice yourself, Julia," Seven replied with a smile.

There was a live big band playing and the floor had begun to fill with dancing couples. Julia regarded them and wished that she possessed the courage to ask the person she wanted to dance with the most.

A tall man in uniform approached them.

"My compliments, ladies," he smiled admiringly, "you all look absolutely breathtaking tonight. I’m Captain Johnson."

They introduced themselves and chatted with the handsome man for a while. Several other men circled them but before any of them homed in on Seven, the captain reached out his hand towards the blonde.

"May I have this dance, Ms Hansen?" he asked politely.

Seven gave Janeway a look but then nodded and took his arm. A waltz was playing and the captain put his arm around Seven before whirling her across the dance floor. Seven moved effortlessly, looking wonderful although somewhat detached as her eyes continuously found Janeway when they passed the executive.

Julia watched the executive carefully keep an eye on Seven. Janeway couldn’t take her eyes off the blonde.

Soon, all four women were dancing. Julia smiled up at her partner, a tall blonde man boasting a neatly trimmed beard. He had asked her to dance twice and she knew from the way he looked at her that he found her attractive.

One hour later they gathered at a table by the far wall, ordering drinks to quench their thirst. Julia gratefully sipped her orange juice.

"Isn’t the orchestra great?" Marion asked smilingly.

"Yes, they are. I don’t know when I danced non stop like this before," Janeway agreed. "Are you having fun, Seven?"

The younger woman nodded.

"Yes, Kathryn, I am. I enjoy dancing. My father taught me and we used to dance on the porch on Raven’s Island."

"I didn’t know you could dance," Janeway confessed. "I didn’t even think to ask before we came here."

"I think Seven dances better than any of us," Marion said. "I think her partners are a little disappointed though."

"Why?" the blonde asked worriedly. "Am I doing something wrong?"

The sales manager grinned.

"No, you’re not. It’s just that you are so beautiful and they probably wonder who you are concentrating on while you’re dancing because it certainly aren’t them."

Janeway shot her employee a look.

"Marion," she said warningly.

"No, go on, Marion," Seven said, squaring her shoulders.

Marion glanced at Julia who was very interested to see where the conversation was going.

"You dance with your partners but you focus on Kathryn all the time. Am I not correct, Seven?" the sales manager asked gently.

Seven considered this. Julia wondered if the girl was offended but the young blonde simply smiled and took Janeway’s hand in hers.

"You are correct," she admitted readily. "I find dancing most rewarding but I confess that I would have preferred to dance with you, Kathryn."

Janeway seemed breathless for a moment. Julia watched the older woman gaze at the blonde with narrowing eyes and for a while she thought Janeway would back off.

Then she surprised everybody by standing up, still holding Seven’s hand.

Seven looked uncertainly at the auburn haired woman in front of her.

"May I have this dance, Seven?" Janeway asked softly.

Marion gasped quietly, looking from her boss to Julia with widening eyes.

"Kathryn, you do not have to …" Seven began.

"But I want to. Shall we dance?" the CEO asked again, a little devilish gleam in her eyes.

Seven swallowed hard but then got up.

"I would be delighted," she mumbled.

The two women entered the dance floor. The orchestra now played a very slow version of Night And Day. Janeway put her left arm around Seven’s waist and took her hand with her right.

Of course the CEO would opt to lead, Julia thought, watching in awe as the two women began to move to the music. People watched them curiously and several turned their heads when they noticed that people next to them were staring at something.

Feeling humble witnessing such a brave declaration of love, Julia glanced at Marion, seeing her new friend was just as taken by the sight of Janeway and Seven.

"What do you say," Julia said quietly, not knowing where she found the courage. "Should we join them?"

Marion slowly turned her head and looked at Julia.

"You want to dance with me?"

"Yes, why not? Let’s give the good people at the Captain’s Ball something to write home about."

She rose and extended a hand to Marion, half expecting the other woman to reject her. Then Marion glanced at Janeway and Seven on the dance floor and shook her head with a smile.

"Why not, indeed?" she said and took the proffered hand.

When they reached the dance floor, Julia leaned against her friend.

"You can lead if you want," she murmured.

"Thanks, that’s nice of you," Marion hissed back.

She reached around Julia’s waist and pulled her into a slow dance to the suggestive rhythm.

"Like this?" Marion asked.

Julia felt flushed but nodded. The slender arm around her, the hand on her naked back and the other hand holding her own firmly as they danced, were making her a little dizzy.

They danced closer to the other women, Marion apparently wanting to show her support and take some of the attention off her boss.

Janeway looked up. Her eyes widened as she spotted the other two women dancing not far from her and Seven. She leaned into the blonde and whispered something in her ear. Seven glanced over her shoulder and smiled towards them before focusing on her partner again.

"People are not staring as much anymore," Marion stated, carefully eyeing the couples dancing closest to them.

"Does that mean you want to go back and sit the rest of the dance out?" Julia asked hesitatingly, not sure how to interpret the comment.

Marion was a bit intimidating at times. The dark haired woman possessed a sarcastic wit and a keen intelligence that made her and Janeway equals when they discussed things. Julia was more of an introvert. Although she found their verbal repartee to be riveting she was reluctant to join in. She much preferred to watch and listen. Even Seven, who was bright and clever in her own special way, would settle for being a spectator.

"No, I want to dance," Marion now answered and pulled the other woman closer. "Unless you want to sit down?"

"No, no, I’m fine. I’m having fun," Julia said, feeling a soft glow of happiness in the pit of her stomach. She wondered briefly if it was the dress that gave her the courage to act so boldly or perhaps the appreciative gleam in the other woman’s eyes. She was enjoying herself and felt freer and happier than in a long time.

"Good."

Marion hummed to the music and her hand kept moving in a circle on Julia’s lower back, like an unconscious little caress. A smile played at the corners of her mouth.

All Julia could do was bite her lip and lower her head to not let the other woman see the desire in her eyes.

*****

Seven was dancing on clouds.

She was in the arms of the woman she loved and they were moving as one to the music. Their dresses whispered against each other as the fabrics met and parted in the dance.

Kathryn held her close but not tight. Seven enjoyed the soft touch but it was the fact that the executive had asked her to dance without hesitation that made her heart pound.

"Are you happy, darling?" Kathryn asked softly.

"Very happy," Seven replied. "This was a wonderful surprise. Did you plan this or was it a spur of the moment decision, Kathryn?"

Her lover gazed up at her.

"I can honestly say that I didn’t plan on dancing with you at the Captain’s Ball, simply because it just didn’t occur to me. But when I saw the people dancing and watched you dancing with all those men … I knew that this evening wouldn’t be perfect if I didn’t get the chance to dance with you myself. I mean I love you with all my heart. I didn’t think much … I just acted."

The blonde looked tenderly at the CEO.

"I am enjoying this very much," she said. "This is something I will never forget, Kathryn. That you went against what is conventional and danced with me, looking so beautiful in that wonderful dress."

"Oh, my god, Seven," Kathryn moaned. "You are the one who is absolutely gorgeous. You look so amazing; there are no words to describe it. Sometimes I can’t believe you’re mine."

Seven blinked.

"But I am yours," she stated uncertainly. "Have I ever given you reason …"

"No, darling," Kathryn reassured her. "It’s not you. Sometimes I have little moments of stupid insecurities that quickly pass, I promise. You’re always so good to me. You’re smart, you’re amazingly beautiful, and so loving." Kathryn pulled the blonde closer and they kept dancing. "Sometimes I just don’t feel that I’m … deserving."

Seven leaned her cheek against Kathryn’s temple. She had never heard Kathryn speak like this before. She never knew that the executive felt insecure; Kathryn always seemed so competent and composed.

Was it possible that Kathryn was as afraid of losing her as she was of losing Kathryn? She had always assumed that the most important thing in the executive’s life was her work and her company and Seven had tried to let Kathryn know that she understood this and tried to be as supportive as possible. Had she been wrong? Had she become what mattered most in her lover’s life? The thought made her gasp a little.

"I love you, Kathryn," she murmured. "I love you more than anything."

Kathryn tipped her head back and a slow radiant smile formed on her lips.

"I know, sweetheart," she said tenderly, apparently oblivious to those dancing around them. "I love you too."

*****

Marion was looking at the woman in the champagne coloured dress with new eyes.

She and Julia were standing outside Julia’s cabin, saying goodnight after the Captain’s Ball. They had danced all evening, three of those dances together.

Janeway and Seven had retired for the evening over an hour ago and Marion had obviously surprised Julia by asking her to dance the last dance before they left.

"But Seven and Kathryn have left …" the other woman had objected, looking confused.

"Yes?" Marion replied, quirking an eyebrow.

"I thought we only danced to out of solidarity with them?"

"You did?"

"Yes. No. What I mean …" Julia had bit her lip and gone quiet.

"Do you want to dance again or not?" Marion had asked with exaggerated patience.

Julia had nodded and the sales manager had pulled her to the dance floor and into her arms, taking the lead without asking. The orchestra had played Unforgettableand they had danced in silence. Marion had been utterly aware of the other woman’s soft skin as her hand caressed the naked back.

Now the interior designer was looking just as flushed.

"Thank you for a lovely evening," Marion said, remaining calm on the surface. "I had a great time."

"So did I, Marion," Julia replied in a low voice.

"Tomorrow we sail into Southampton," Marion began. "We’re taking the train to London."

"So am I."

Marion smiled broadly which made the other woman’s eyes widen.

"So this doesn’t have to mean goodbye just yet?"

"I guess not," Julia mumbled, moving her small purse from one hand to the other.

Marion looked up and down the empty corridor. She took a step closer to Julia.

"Am I making you nervous?" she asked smilingly.

Julia hesitated.

"Yes, I guess so," she admitted, leaning back against the door. "Do you enjoy making me nervous?"

"That depends," the sales manager said.

She looked at the woman in front of her. The short hair framed an elf like face with huge grey eyes and high cheekbones. The soft pink mouth was half open and the tip of her tongue darted out to lick them, also a sign of nervousness.

"On what?" the other woman asked.

"On why you’re so nervous, I suppose. If it’s because I make you ill at ease … or if it’s because you’re wondering …"

Marion became quiet. She admitted to herself that if Julia was nervous, she herself was terrified and when she became terrified, she became assertive, bordering on aggressive.

Julia regarded her carefully for a moment, almost making the sales manager squirm under her unyielding gaze.

"I wonder," she admitted with a soft smile. "I wonder if you’re aware of the effect you have on me, Marion. How you make me feel."

Marion cleared her throat.

"How do I make you feel?" she asked.

"Do you really want to know?"

"Yes."

"I’m attracted to you."

The open and honest declaration made Marion inhale audibly and take one step closer.

"Are you aware what such a statement does to me?" she growled softly.

"No. You’re like a chameleon. I never quite know what you’re thinking and half the time I don’t know whether you’re joking or not."

Marion checked the corridor again then pushed Julia against her door and put her hands on either side of the other woman’s head. Her lips were just a whisper away from the pink mouth she had been studying.

"Here, let me explain myself," she murmured against the softness.

Without touching any other part of Julia she captured the other woman’s mouth. Not realising just how intense the feeling would be Marion increased the pressure to savour the intoxicating taste of Julia.

Julia whimpered and opened her mouth, clutching her purse between them.

The sales manager responded to the involuntary invitation and let her tongue slip into the other woman’s mouth, forcing herself to be gentle when all she wanted was to ravish that sweet mouth and discover all its secrets.

Voices down the corridor reached her and she pulled back with a moan of disappointment.

Julia’s stared at Marion with all her desire on display in her eyes.

"Marion," she whispered.

Quickly and with some remorse for her assault on the other woman’s mouth in such a public place, Marion caressed Julia’s blushing cheek.

"I’m sorry," she said quietly.

"No, you’re not. Not really. Neither am I," Julia replied with a shy smile.

This was unexpected. The strength the other woman showed when she least expected it amazed Marion. Julia’s idea of the two of them dancing to support Janeway and Seven had come as a delightful surprise. Embracing this wonderful woman all evening had stirred emotions in her that she had kept dormant out of sheer will for years. Julia’s strange mix of boldness and shyness intrigued Marion and made her want to get to know this multifaceted individual even more.

"You’re not angry?" Marion asked carefully.

"No, but I think it’s time we went to bed. To sleep, I mean," the other woman smiled and blushed.

Marion laughed.

"I know what you mean," she said. "Sleep well, Julia. I look forward to seeing you in the morning."

"Sleep well," Julia replied. She then made a huge production of checking the corridor before kissing Marion’s cheek. "Goodnight, Marion."

She opened her purse and pulled out her key. Unlocking her door she turned her head.

"This has been a wonderful evening, one of the best I have experienced in a very long time," she said gently.

"Same here," Marion said.

"See you tomorrow," Julia smiled and closed her door behind her.

Marion began to walk towards her cabin feeling strangely happy about not having to say goodbye to Julia when they debarked from the QE2.

*****

"I thought the QE2 was the most luxurious place imaginable but now I see that I was wrong," Seven stated as she looked around their room at the Ritz.

They had arrived in London a couple of hours earlier and checked into the famous hotel.

Marion was staying three rooms down the same corridor.

"Do you like it?" Janeway asked.

"It is a wonderful room. Look, there is even a fireplace."

Seven walked up to the restored fireplace and studied the ornaments sitting on the mantelpiece. Carefully she touched a figurine of a ballerina in a frail pink skirt.

"I like it too," Janeway smiled and approached her. "I stayed here once before about five years ago and I wanted to share the experience with you.

She wrapped her arms around Seven’s waist and pulled her close. Tipping her head back she smiled invitingly.

Seven smiled back and leaned down for a kiss.

They embraced for a moment, enjoying the pleasure of being together in this amazing setting.

Janeway felt Seven’s hands in her hair as the blonde deepened the kiss.

"Mm … " the executive moaned appreciatively. "We can’t get carried away just yet, darling. Marion is waiting for us to go to lunch. I think she misses Julia. Do you remember at what hotel she’s staying?"

"I was not paying attention," Seven said. "Marion knows."

"They seem to get along really well."

"I agree. I have never seen Marion this relaxed. She has been smiling a lot lately."

"She has indeed."

Janeway reluctantly let go of Seven and picked up the phone. She dialled Marion’s room. After listening for a moment she hung up.

"The line’s busy," she said. "Why don’t we take a quick shower and then go out for lunch and do some sightseeing?"

Seven walked over to her lover and hugged her again.

"I would love to take a shower with you," she said.

"Hm … Just a shower, darling," Janeway said warningly. "There will be plenty of time for romance later."

The blonde smiled innocently.

"Of course, Kathryn."

Janeway eyed her suspiciously.

"You’re being way too compliant," she said.

"I am?" Seven asked mildly.

"Yes you are. You only use that meek tone of voice when you’re up to something."

"Meek?"

"Stop repeating everything I say and get into that shower," Janeway laughed. "I have to take care of something first."

"Anything I can assist you with Kathryn?" Seven asked while pulling off her sweater.

Janeway swallowed hard at the sight of a half undressed Seven.

"No, it’s a surprise and it won’t be one if you assist me, now will it?"

"Correct. I will leave you to arrange this surprise of yours then. I will be in the shower. Do not make we wait." Seven turned and continued to undress as she made her exit.

Janeway moaned. She knew that her self-control would be put to a serious test if she and Seven were to get out of the shower in a timely manner. "Self-control be damned!" she muttered, as she made sure Seven was out of earshot and she dialled the front desk.

"Good afternoon," she said politely, "my name is Kathryn Janeway and I’m staying in room 410. I know this might be difficult to arrange on such short notice but I thought there’d be no harm in asking."

"Of course, madam," the woman at the other end said politely. "How may I be of assistance?"

Janeway smiled. She had a good feeling about this. Nothing seemed impossible on such a marvellous day as today.

*****

Marion picked up the phone. It had rung on her way into the shower and she was dressed in only a robe.

"McDunn," she answered shortly.

"Marion? It’s Julia."

She could hear that the other woman was upset and felt her stomach twitch.

"Julia? What’s wrong?" she asked.

"I should have known better than let my mother book my room," the other woman laughed, sounding more strained than amused. "I’m in a bit of a mess here. Honestly, it’s nothing I can’t handle but … the thought of going through the whole song and dance is making me nauseous."

"Tell me."

"To make an extremely dreary and long story short, my parents want me to marry a particular man. I don’t. He’s here in my room, which is apparently is his room as well. It seems that my family has decided to force the issue."

"What kind of Victorian drama is this? Has anyone bothered to inform your parents that this is the twenty first century? Do they just expect you to fall into his arms and say ‘take me I’m yours’?"

She heard something that sounded like a mix between laughter and a whimper from the other end.

"I’ve told them that it’s not going to happen. Not with him. My parents think that if they are persistent eventually I will see their wisdom in this and do ‘the right thing’. This is just a small battle in an ongoing war between us. I have two younger sisters who are both married and procreating like there’s no tomorrow. You would think that would be enough for them, right?"

Marion shook her head at the other woman’s obvious distress.

"Get yourself and your luggage into a taxi and get over here to the Ritz," she said without hesitating for a moment. "I have a gorgeous room with an enormous bed and a large couch. You don’t have to spend one single second with Prince Charming if you don’t want to."

"What will Kathryn and Seven think?" Julia asked in a low voice. "It’s your vacation and …"

"They’ll say the same thing. Now, get over here."

There was a brief silence and then a sigh.

"I’m on my way. Thank you Marion. I won’t forget this."

"I know. I’ll remind you if you do," Marion answered, making Julia laugh shakily.

"I’m not always this indecisive," the other woman stated.

"Of course not."

"See you soon then," Julia said.

"I’m in room 416."

They hung up and Marion dialled Janeway and Seven’s room. Janeway picked up the phone after the first signal.

"Kathryn, there’s been a change of plans of sorts but I’m handling it," Marion explained, wondering briefly why her boss sounded so out of breath.

"What’s up? Janeway asked immediately concerned.

"It’s Julia. She ran into some unexpected personal problem at her hotel and she can’t stay there."

"I hope you told her to join us here instead," the executive replied.

Marion’s heart flooded with gratitude over the question.

"I did," she grinned sheepishly. "I didn’t think you’d mind if I shared my room with her."

"Of course not. She’s delightful and is quickly becoming a friend and you don’t leave your friends hanging."

The sales manager shook her head.

"No, you don’t. Thank you, Kathryn. What are our plans for today?"

"When we have showered and Julia has had the chance to do the same, I think we should go out and have a bite to eat. Seven read about the open top buses and has her heart set on sightseeing from one of them." Janeway sighed in mock despair. "Then I thought we’d make an early night of it, at least Seven and I will."

"Sounds good to me," Marion agreed. "Open top buses, you say? That sounds very tourist like. Seven will enjoy it and don’t pretend you won’t."

"I know. Don’t tell her I told you that."

Marion laughed out loud.

"I won’t."

"You sound very happy, Marion," Janeway suddenly said. "Am I assuming too much when I say I think you and Julia are becoming close?"

The dark haired woman wrapped the phone cord around her finger, suddenly feeling shy.

"No, you’re not," she replied quietly. "I like her. She’s so different from anyone I’ve ever known. I find her … fascinating."

Janeway laughed gently.

"You know what, Marion? That is exactly how I felt the first time I met Seven."

*****

Julia pulled her cardigan close around her. There was a definite chill in the air, a typical cloudy British day. but at At least it wasn’t raining, which was good since they were riding upstairs in an open top bus through London.

Seven and Janeway were sitting in the seat in front of Marion and herself.

Julia glanced at the dark haired woman at her side. She had felt utterly vulnerable and a bit silly about her panicky phone call earlier but Marion had greeted her warmly when she had arrived at the Ritz.

As soon as she had put her bags down in the luxurious room, Marion had held her shoulders and examined her face thoroughly.

"Are you all right?" the sales manager had asked.

Julia had nodded but a stupid lump in her throat had prevented her from saying anything. There were so much more to her reaction than just being taken aback by her mothers so called surprise. As if the other woman had sensed it, she had pulled her into a warm hug.

"We can talk about it later," Marion had promised. "Right now I think Janeway needs us to help her survive sightseeing with Seven."

This had made Julia smile and now she was looking at the CEO in the seat in front of her. She quietly chuckled to herself.

"What’ so funny?" Marion asked.

"Oh, just the look on Kathryn’s face as she endures this for Seven’s sake," Julia whispered into Marion’s ear.

Marion laughed.

"It’s almost worth freezing to death just to witness it."

"Oh come on, the tours not that bad. I find it fascinating. The guide is very good," Julia objected.

"He is," Marion agreed, "but it’s too damn cold for me. What can I say? I’m allergic to the great outdoors. I’m a creature of comfort." Her eyes widened. "Oh my god… there’s Trafalgar Square again. I’m starting to know those pigeons on a first name basis."

Julia laughed. Without thinking she took Marion’s hand between hers and warmed it.

The other woman gave her a surprised look but then smiled and moved closer on the seat.

"Thanks," she said quietly. "As you can tell, I’m freezing."

"Well, the tour is almost over. I think we’ll be able to persuade the others to go for a cup of tea somewhere."

"Tea? I want a large Café Latte," Marion shuddered. "Do you prefer tea?" She eyed Julia as if she had a serious character flaw.

"I like both," Julia grinned. "Will you hold that against me?"

"No, as long as you never make me drink that terrible stuff."

"I promise I’ll never do any such thing."

They rode the bus for another fifteen minutes finally reaching the end of the tour. Gratefully the shivering women stepped off the bus. Seven purchased a pamphlet from the driver with pictures and details from the tour.

"I could have bought you that in the first place and spared us from freezing to death," Janeway muttered and pulled her coat tighter around her.

"That would not have been the same and you know it," Seven stated calmly putting an arm around Janeway’s shoulders. "You are cold. We should go somewhere and get something warm to drink,"

"Good idea," the executive allowed. "Dinner is a while yet. Oh, look, there’s a Starbucks."

Seven rolled her eyes and looked to her companions for support.

"Starbucks sounds fine to me," Marion beamed.

"It would," Julia said. "However, I think Seven wants to go to a more British establishment."

"Precisely," the blonde nodded. "There are several shops along this street," she pointed out.

Janeway regarded her partner tenderly.

"Pick one, Seven," she offered. "I’m sure they serve both beverages."

They walked to the corner and into an old restored restaurant, now a picturesque coffee shop. You could choose between sitting at small tables in the centre of it or in booths along two walls. Seven opted for one of the booths.

Julia gratefully sank down, rubbing her hands. A waitress approached them with menus. Seven and Julia ordered tea and scones, Marion chose Café Latte and Janeway a large mug of black Colombian coffee.

Julia clasped the mug between her hands, relishing the warmth it radiated. In the corner of her eyes she saw the other three do the same.

"I found the tour to be fascinating Seven," Julia said.

"I think we passed Trafalgar Square four times." Marion mumbled.

Janeway almost choked on her coffee.

"That is correct," Seven confirmed. "That happened because we went on the extended tour."

"We did what?" Janeway exclaimed. "I thought we agreed to just go on their standard tour, the Green one on the map. I should have known better!"

"They had a discount," Seven said calmly. "We could go on the Purple extended tour for the same price as their standard tour because there were four of us."

"Brilliant," Janeway smiled crookedly.

"Did you not enjoy yourself, Kathryn?" Seven asked in a small voice. "I found it very interesting. I have never been on such a vehicle before."

Julia’s heart ached for her new friend and Marion gave Janeway a dark look.

The CEO immediately reached out and took Seven’s hand.

"Darling," she said seriously. "You know me better than that. What I did enjoy more than anything was seeing how intrigued you were by everything we passed. I couldn’t take my eyes off you when you looked at all the sights and all the people. To see things through your eyes really made the whole trip fantastic. Even if it was a bit cold."

Julia had never seen such a radiant smile on Seven’s lips. The blonde beamed at Janeway.

"I am glad, Kathryn," she said. "However, even I found it curious that they passed Trafalgar Square four times. Do the British hold this place and the monument in such high regard?"

"I don’t think that’s why," Marion laughed. "I think it’s like Rome - all roads lead there."

Julia and leaned back against the backrest regarding her friends. She considered herself very lucky to have met these generous women, especially since things had become a bit complicated.

"Are you all right?" Marion asked quietly. "You look worried."

"No, I’m fine," Julia replied quickly. "It just feels great to be warm again."

"We’ll go back to the hotel soon. I think I’ll take a nap before it’s time to go out for dinner. How about you?"

Julia held her breath.

"I … A nap sounds appropriate," she said, the words tumbling over her lips.

"Must be all that fresh air," Marion grinned.

"Excuse me?"

"I may be allergic to it but you seem to thrive in it. That would explain the colour in your cheeks."

*****

Continued in part 2 of Far From Raven's Island

Chapter Text

Janeway listened to Seven turning the shower off in the bathroom.

Smiling she turned the champagne bottle in the ice bucket and then lit the candles on the dresser next to the four-poster bed. The warm fire in the fireplace gave the room a lovely glow. She pulled back the covers and folded down the sheets, making the bed look more inviting.

The CEO had showered first while Seven was writing a postcard to Martha at the office. Now she pulled off her silk robe and sat on the bed in her short silk nightgown, while filling two glasses with champagne.

Seven came out of the bathroom, her hair in damp curls around her face. She was dressed only in a white towel, her body still glistening with drops of water.

"Oh, Kathryn," she breathed when she saw the romantic scene.

"Here, darling, I think a toast would be appropriate," Janeway smiled and handed the blonde a tall glass.

"Appropriate?" Seven asked, cocking her head as she accepted the glass.

"Here, sit next to me," the executive said and patted the spot next to her on the bed.

Seven sank down and looked expectantly at the woman she loved.

"I propose a toast," Janeway began, her voice husky with emotion, "to us. I love you more than I can ever say and being here with you … well, there’s no other place I’d rather be."

The younger woman smiled as they toasted each other and sipped their champagne.

Seven wrinkled her nose at the bubbles.

"Do you like it?" Janeway asked.

"Yes, I do."

Janeway leaned in for a quick kiss. Seven moved her glass to her left hand and put her right arm around her lover, pulling her close. Deepening the kiss she let her tongue explore Janeway’s mouth, making the older woman moan.

The executive carefully put her glass down and then reached out for Seven’s. She accidentally nudged it and some of its contents splashed over the blonde’s naked shoulders.

Gasping from the cold liquid Seven put her glass down. Before she could wipe off the champagne with a corner of her towel, Janeway bent down and licked the drops from the alabaster skin.

Seven tipped her head to the other side, giving room for Janeway to lick off all the errant champagne. Stealthily the executive unfolded the towel, baring more and more of the desired skin.

"Come here, my love," she whispered hoarsely. "Let me help you to lie down."

She pulled Seven up and guided her onto her back in the middle of the soft bed. She tossed the towel on the floor. Standing next to the bed she looked at the blonde through narrowing eyes.

"You are so beautiful," she mumbled. "I never grow tired of looking at you."

Seven smiled and then did something that took Janeway’s breath away. Slowly reaching out for the still half full glass of champagne she brought it to her lips and took a tiny sip. Then she lowered the glass and let it drip on her breasts and her stomach, pooling in her navel.

"Seven!"

Janeway moved towards the other woman as if hypnotised, not able to take her eyes of the golden drops of champagne beading on Seven’s soft skin. She leaned down and captured some with her tongue just above Seven’s collarbone.

"Mm …" she mumbled happily. "This tastes so good and it’s not just the champagne."

Licking across to the other side, Janeway managed to gather most of the champagne there. Kissing down a full breast she made a detour to a quickly hardening nipple, letting her teeth tease it over and over until the blonde was shivering underneath her. The nipple, raw from the attention, was hard and wonderful in her mouth when she greedily sucked it in.

She licked it lavishly, soothing where her teeth had nipped the sensitive bud earlier.

Seven whimpered almost inaudibly, arching into her lover’s mouth.

Janeway moved further down kissing, careful not to miss any of the delicious champagne drops in her way. Dipping her tongue into Seven’s navel over and over she lapped the liquid into her mouth before continuing her journey downwards.

"Kathryn," the blonde gasped. "Please, Kathryn …"

The executive breathlessly raised her head.

"What, Seven? What do you want?"

"You make me burn for you, Kathryn."

"Yes? Then tell me how to put out the fire, darling," Janeway coaxed her.

She looked at Seven. The other woman was lying with her hands clutching at the pillows, trembling all over. Her hair was a cloud of silver around her blushing face and the full lips were half open, teeth glistening white between them.

"Go on, tell me," Janeway continued, tracing a quivering thigh with her fingertips.

Seven hesitated briefly.

"I need your touch," she whispered huskily. "I ache for your touch."

"Like this, you mean?" the older woman said in a low voice, combing her fingers through the blonde curls between Seven’s thighs.

Moaning, the other woman parted her legs, pulling her knees up in surrender and in a wordless demonstration of complete trust.

"Yes … please …"

Regarding the glistening folds, Janeway smiled tenderly as she let a very careful finger run along them.

"I can see all of you like this," she said. "I can touch everything and watch just how it affects you."

Seven gave a quiet whimper.

"I think it’s time to tame that fire within you, sweetheart."

Janeway reached under Seven’s thighs and pushed them up and further apart. She got between them and leaned over the woman she loved and adored with every part of her being. Kissing the full lips under hers she knew that nobody could ever take this woman’s place in her heart.

She probed the slick folds and found the hard nubbin that made Seven go rigid at the slightest touch. Rolling it between her fingers, she could taste the moans that broke free from Seven’s throat.

"I’ve got you," she mumbled against her lover’s mouth. "Just let go of everything and give yourself to me."

Pushing inside Seven with two fingers, stretching the younger woman and making her cry out softly, Janeway knew that neither the blonde’s or her own release were far away. With her free hand she ripped her nightgown over her head and tossed it to join the towel on the floor.

Straddling Seven’s thigh, she let her own heated centre slide along it, all the time moving her fingers in and out of the other woman.

Seven’s hands found Janeway’s narrow hips and pulled her tighter onto her thigh.

"Yes!" the executive growled softly between clenched teeth as she felt the orgasm build. She let herself go just prior to Seven’s soft sobs, taking the blonde tenderly and relentlessly at the same time.

"Kathryn … Kathryn …" Seven gasped, beads of sweat running down her temples and into her damp hair. "Hold me …"

Janeway collapsed on the curvaceous body beneath hers, slowly removing her fingers. Strong arms folded around her as she held Seven close and buried her face into her neck.

The older woman tried to catch her breath.

"Seven, you are incredible. I love you so much."

"I love you too, Kathryn," the blonde replied drowsily, her arms still firm around her lover.

Janeway gently removed herself from her lovers embrace as she reached out for the candles and blew them out one by one.

The room went dark except for the glow from the fireplace that warmly reflected off her beloved features.

"You are so beautiful," she whispered as she pulled the covers up around them both. Tenderly she took Seven into her arms. Smiling she cradled Seven as the blonde nuzzled her cheek and snuggled closer.

"Kathryn?" the younger woman murmured softly barely awake.

"Yes, darling?"

"I never realised that you could be this romantic."

"Oh, Seven … before this vacation with you, neither did I."

*****

Marion rolled over in her bed, not sure what woke her up. She sat up and listened. At first there was only silence but then she heard a muffled sound from the couch.

Julia had insisted on taking the couch and something unspoken in the other woman’s eyes had prevented Marion from objecting more than once.

"Julia," she whispered. "Are you awake?"

A soft gasp from the couch revealed that she was.

"I’m sorry, Marion," the other woman said quietly. "I didn’t mean to wake you up."

"Don’t worry about it," the sales manager said.

She rose from the bed and padded over to the couch. Without asking permission she sank down next to Julia’s feet.

"Did you have a bad dream?"

Julia stirred in the darkness, barely visible in the shadows.

"Not really," she mumbled. "I fell asleep without a problem but then I just woke up wide awake and couldn’t go back to sleep. I guess I’ve have too much on my mind."

"Want to talk about it?"

"I’d hate to bore you with the mundane details of my life," Julia warned.

"I don’t mind. You might bore us both to sleep and that would be a good thing. Don’t you agree?" Marion joked.

The other woman shook her head.

"Don’t say I didn’t warn you," she said as she pulled her knees up, leaving more room for Marion who sat next to her and assumed a similar position.

"I’ve worked hard to achieve my goals and to succeed in my line of business," Julia began. "I’ve put in fourteen hour days, sometimes longer, for as long as I can remember. These past five years it’s really paid off. I love my job. I’ve received plenty of accolades and recognition but …"

Taking a deep breath she glanced at Marion and hesitated.

"This is harder than I thought it would be. I feel like such an idiot."

Marion met Julia’s eyes and held her gazed.

"You are not an idiot. Take your time. There’s no rush. We have all night."

Julia nodded and with Marion’s encouragement she continued.

"I’ve always wanted my parents approval. I wanted them be proud of me, of what I’ve accomplished, at what I have achieved. But it never seems to be enough. They view my job as some kind of hobby, some kind of temporary existence. My god, you should hear them go on and on about my two sisters. They did what was expected of them. They performed their duty. They produced children and are leading meaningful lives."

"Are you the oldest sister?" Marion asked gently.

"Yes. Oh, they think that it’s great that I make a lot of money but to them it is the ultimate failure that I haven’t married. They have introduced me to at least a dozen men over the years and when I’ve politely turned them down, they take it like a personal affront. They think that I’m cold and inconsiderate and that I have no feelings. That’s not true. I have feelings. I have needs. All I want is to be allowed to live my own life but this seems to be beyond their comprehension."

"Julia, you are one of the warmest and kindest people I have ever met. Your parents have truly missed the marks if they believe those things about you."

Julia sighed and leaned her forehead against her knees.

"I just want them to accept me for who I am, appreciate my achievements … just love me, really," she whispered. "Isn’t it amazing how much you still want your parents approval and validation even as an adult?"

Marion shuddered.

"Oh, I know exactly what you mean," she murmured, "much better than you realise. My parents have been dead for several years but my grandmother and I are very close and I know how much her love and approval means to me. You’re never too old to want those things from your family, approval, unconditional love."

She moved without thinking, pulling the other woman into a comforting embrace. Julia hid her face against the sales manager’s shoulder, trembling a little.

"When they told me at the front desk that my fiancé had already arrived and was waiting for me in our room, I was mortified. I had really looked forward to this vacation," Julia said as tears of frustration and hurt ran down her face.

Running her hand comfortingly over Julia’s back, Marion began to rock the other woman.

"It’s hard, isn’t it?" she murmured.

"Very," Julia admitted. "I had just finished a difficult assignment. It even won the firm an award can you believe that? I gave myself this trip as sort of my personal reward and things were going so great. The cruise, meeting you … and then what do my parents do? Pull one of their stunts!"

"Just let me hold you, honey," Marion said, not noticing the term of endearment until it left her lips. "You’re okay."

Inhaling unsteadily, Julia nodded against the shoulder under her cheek. Marion pulled the blanket up and wrapped it around them both.

"This is silly, really," Julia said wiping away the tears that had fallen down her cheek.

"What is?"

"Here we are, two successful women who don’t have to prove anything to anyone, hiding under a blanket. But it feels good, doesn’t it?"

"Yes, it does."

Marion hugged Julia close and kissed the top of her head.

"You’re quickly becoming a friend," Julia murmured uncertainly.

"You too."

"Thank you."

"You’re welcome."

Silently the two women found comfort in one another as Julia’s tears slowly subsided.

"I have a confession to make." Julia said in a quiet voice.

"You do? "

"Yes. I’ve been thinking about our kiss," Julia said almost inaudibly.

Marion sighed and tipped Julia’s head back.

"Then I have one too. I have thought of little else," she admitted.

Soft, moist lips descended on equally yielding ones. A faint gasp and hesitant, tentative tongues met, touched, explored. There was no need for pressure, no rush. Only the softest of touches, both comforting and erotic but without any need to escalate further.

Marion cupped a gentle hand around Julia’s cheek, held her in place as she probed her mouth. The other woman let her in, let her do what she needed to do in order to seek and find the pleasure of each other’s taste.

Ending the kiss with endless tiny kisses, Marion pulled back.

"Do you trust me, Julia?" she asked seriously.

"Yes."

"Will you come to bed with me? To sleep?"

Julia wrapped her arms around Marion’s neck and nodded, kissing her cheek.

"I’d like that very much, to sleep with you," she whispered. "I really would."

Marion rose from the couch and pulled the other woman with her to bed. As they settled in, not in each other’s arms but hand in hand, the two fell asleep comforted by the other, feeling safe and content.

*****

The transformation was unbelievable.

Seven looked at the other three women. All of them dressed in different pastel coloured dresses with little matching jackets. White gloves and hats went with each outfit together with purses that matched the pumps.

Kathryn had surprised them all by being able to book a table for them to have tea at the Ritz. Apparently you had to make reservations at least six weeks ahead but the executive had pulled some strings and here they were.

A waitress showed them to a table at the far wall.

"Thank you," Kathryn said as she sat down in the chair next to Seven. "I must say I don’t feel as silly in this outfit as I thought I would."

Marion looked a bit uncomfortable but Seven thought it might be the fact that the sales manager was expected to have tea and not coffee. The blonde regarded her friends, feeling utterly content in sharing yet another meal in their company.

They had spent the day shopping and having lunch on Oxford Street. Kathryn had coaxed them into a boutique where she had insisted that they all buy the correct outfits to wear when having what the British called high tea.

Seven smiled at the thought of them trying on the clothes, laughing and giggling, being completely carefree.

She looked at Julia, noticed how the other woman’s warm gaze constantly rested on Marion. Careful to not be too obvious, the blonde regarded the sales manager, wanting to reassure herself that her friend was not in danger of being hurt.

"I guess tea is mandatory," Kathryn sighed in mock despair looking at the menu. "Cucumber sandwiches too, I suppose."

"If we’re going to do it, we might as well go about it the right way," Marion agreed stoically. "I can be brave when required."

"I’m impressed," Julia grinned and nudged Marion with her elbow. "That kind of statement from a coffee addict such as yourself."

"I should say so," Marion smiled.

Janeway nodded to the waiter who arrived at the table. The young man enquired which beverages the ladies desired. The group deferred to Seven who promptly made a selection from the Ritz collection of teas. Soon tiered trays of delectable delights appeared at the table, small finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones and an array of pastries.

The aroma of the tea filled the air as it was served and all four women began sampling the delicious treats.

Seven looked at Kathryn, her gaze met her lover’s.

"Happy?" Kathryn mouthed over the rim of her cup.

The blonde nodded and smiled.

"I can’t believe that we have to go home soon," Marion sighed and put her cup down, frowning a bit at the hot beverage. "The days go by so quickly when you’re having fun."

"I have three days left before I have to go back to work," Julia sighed. "I wish you all could stay a little longer."

Kathryn leaned back in her chair, discreetly wiping her mouth on her napkin.

"Seven, do you want to go home?" she asked casually. "Are you ready to leave Europe?"

The younger woman considered the question.

"In a way," she admitted. "It is wonderful to be away from the duties that demand so much of our attention. However, I realise that it is time to go home and deal with all the work that is bound to have gathered while we have been gone."

Kathryn smiled enigmatically.

"Well, I have arranged for us to depart tomorrow morning," she said while reaching for her second cucumber sandwich. "However, I’ve taken a few liberties with our itinerary. Julia, I’ve also made arrangement for the remainder of your stay."

The interior designer blinked.

"You did? That’s … very nice of you," she added hesitatingly.

"Yes, I thought you’d appreciate not having to return to your original hotel," the CEO said, eyeing the tea before sipping it cautiously.

"Your right. I do."

"So you won’t mind accompanying Marion, Seven and myself to Copenhagen in Denmark?"

You could hear a pin drop.

Seven looked at her partner in complete and overwhelming surprise. Slowly a radiant smile formed on Kathryn’s lips and she broke out laughing.

"Oh, ladies," she gasped. "You should see your faces!"

Seven felt a smile form on her own lips and she turned to Marion and Julia who both looked decidedly dazed.

"You did it again," Marion managed. "Copenhagen?"

"It’s a beautiful ancient city!" Julia blurted out.

"What about you, darling?" Kathryn asked.

"You are amazing, Kathryn," Seven beamed, reaching over to the other woman, taking her hand. "You had this planned all along."

"Not all along," the executive confessed. "When I realised that Julia was joining us and that we all needed some more time to just kick back, I checked the flights. We take a plane to Copenhagen tomorrow morning and fly back to Heathrow in three days then jump on a direct flight home. Julia will have to take a plane from there to Michigan though."

Julia smiled through tears.

"Thank you very much for including me, Kathryn," she whispered.

The CEO smiled warmly.

"You deserve a break, my friend," she stated firmly.

Marion nodded approvingly and then reached out and swiftly touched Kathryn’s arm.

"Thank you," she said in a low voice. "I second Seven’s opinion. You’re an amazing woman."

The auburn haired woman shook her head.

"Oh, I don’t know about that," she said. "I’m dressed for the part. I’m in the right environment with the right assortments of trappings. It should have made it easier but still I failed."

She sighed dramatically but winked at Seven.

The other three looked curiously at her.

"At what?" Seven asked although she was on to her lover.

Kathryn made a face.

"After going through all this effort; I still hate tea!"

*****

If London had offered cloudy and a bit cold fare, Copenhagen provided a sunny and warm summer’s day. They had arrived at Kastrup Airport the day before and taken a taxi to Hotel D’Angleterre, one of the oldest hotels in Europe.

Its luxury was different from the Ritz, the Danish spirit making it less posh but with a great deal of ambience.

A stroll from the hotel located at Kongens Nytorv, a large square at the centre of Copenhagen, took them to all the famous stores, including the Magasin, a large department store with a proud tradition.

They walked along the main shopping street and after buying ice cream they sank down on a bench at another picturesque cobblestone square.

Janeway turned her head to the sun, closing her eyes and enjoying the taste of the melting ice cream in her mouth. She listened to the other women laugh and chat but mostly the sound, not so much the words.

The executive was pleased with her idea to take the other three to the Danish capital. They would most likely never forget this trip. She knew she wouldn’t. The look on Seven’s face when she made new acquaintances and experiences was priceless. So was the expression when she realised that Janeway would do anything to romance her, to woo her. The CEO wanted there to be absolutely no doubt in the blonde’s mind that she meant everything to her.

Just as Janeway knew for a fact that she would give up everything for Seven, she knew just as surely that Seven would never ask that of her. She felt utterly safe in the glow of the younger woman’s love.

She opened her eyes and realised that Julia and Seven had wandered off to window-shop a bit down the street next to the canal. The area was called Nyhavn, an area famous for its shops, bars and restaurants.

"What are they looking at?" Janeway asked Marion drowsily.

"I don’t know but what ever it is, it has Seven very intrigued."

Slightly concerned, the auburn haired woman sat up and put on her sunglasses. Seven and Julia were pointing into the store and the interior designer was shaking her head.

Marion suddenly gasped and then laughed.

"Oh, god, Kathryn," Marion said between fits of laughter. "I think you better go over there."

Not understanding, Janeway squinted through the bright sunlight to read the sign over the door.

Her eyes widened.

"Over my dead body!" she exclaimed and got up from the bench in a hurry.

*****

Seven looked in the window and knew this was what she really wanted. The design to the right was compelling, it called out to her. She had to have it.

Somehow she knew that Kathryn would not be as thrilled.

"Have you thought this through, Seven?" Julia asked, genuinely concerned. "It seems a very impulsive thing to do and it’s not like you can change your mind."

"I know it is permanent," the blonde agreed. "I have always found the tradition fascinating but never had the opportunity to pursue it myself. I think Kathryn bringing me to this fascinating city is a sign that I should go through with it. That one," she pointed. "That is the one I want."

"No, you don’t," a decisive throaty voice said behind her.

Seven turned around.

Kathryn was standing behind her, hands on her hips and shaking her head. Marion had also joined them, apparently having a hard time keeping a straight face.

"This is a bad idea, Seven," Kathryn said seriously.

"No, it is not," the younger woman stated calmly. "This is not as rash as it may seem. I grant you that I have never mentioned it to you before but when I looked in this window and saw the design, I just knew."

"Seven, it isn’t safe. There are diseases …"

"The note here says that this establishment is under the supervision of the Danish Health Department."

"You don’t read Danish," Janeway objected.

"No, but it’s similar enough to German which I do read," the blonde said, turning around to look at the design again. "I want this one."

Kathryn glanced over her shoulder while grabbing the blonde by the waist as if holding her back physically.

"Which one?" she muttered.

"The right one. The design with the spaceship in front of an asteroid belt."

Kathryn sighed.

"Why do you want that one so bad?" she asked. "There are so many colours, it will hurt like hell, darling."

"I want it."

Seven couldn’t quite explain why she was so adamant about the tattoo. It wasn’t a very large one, but it was intriguing and she had made up her mind.

"I’m not asking you to have one, Kathryn," she said, pivoting in the older woman’s arms. "I’m going in to make an appointment now."

She waited patiently for Kathryn to let go of her. Slowly the executive lowered her hands. She looked at Seven with trepidation but then took her by the hand.

"All right, darling," she muttered, "I know that look."

She opened the door to the tattoo workshop and they all entered. A tall bald man looked up from the behind the counter.

"Velkommen," he said warmly.

"I would like a tattoo done as soon as possible," Seven stated politely.

The man grinned.

"There is no time like the present. If it’s not too big I can do it right away."

Janeway groaned.

"How about the rest of you ladies?" he asked. "Are you also browsing for a life time decoration?"

Marion and Julia shook their heads while smiling. Then they stared at Kathryn who didn’t reply right away.

"My friend is concerned with the potential health risks," Seven said bluntly. "Can you explain the procedure so she does not worry about me, please?"

"First of all, I’m Jens. I’ve worked with tattoos for more than twenty years. This is a famous tattoo workshop. We even have members of the Danish Royal Family among our customers. We sterilise everything and only use hypoallergenic colours and well-tried equipment. The procedure isn’t actually painful but it can be perceived as a burning sensation that some find unpleasant."

Kathryn cringed at Jens’ eloquent explanation.

"Have you picked out a design and where you want it done?" Jens now asked Seven.

"Yes."

Seven had located the design on the wall and pointed at it.

"I want this one on my lower back," she stated firmly. "How long will it take? My friends can go on shopping and then come back for me."

"Oh, I’m not going anywhere, I’m waiting right here," Kathryn muttered. "If you are submitting yourself to that kind of torture, I sure won’t let you go through it alone."

"We have a waiting area," Jens said. "You are welcome to complimentary coffee and a chocolate Danish. This design takes about ninety minutes."

Marion and Julia opted to continue their stroll and do some more shopping and promised to be back in time.

Kathryn went up to Seven and pulled her close. The blonde regarded her seriously.

"This is important to me, Kathryn," she said quietly.

"You can’t regret it later."

"I will not regret it."

The CEO regarded the design on the wall. Taking one step back she smiled.

"I’ll wait here," she said.

Seven smiled back.

"Thank you," she said.

*****

Julia was in awe of her surroundings. The attention given to detail at the D’Angleterre Hotel amazed her. From the imposing New Georgian facade as they entered this palatial setting to their guest rooms, the architectural and interior designs and decor were wonderful.

They had dined in that evening at the Restaurant Wiinblad where the well-known Danish artist Bjørn Wiinblad had designed the decor. The tiles, the statuettes, even the plates were exquisitely designed. Bjørn certainly had the touch she mused.

The use of pastel colours, the mix of antique as well as modern furniture appealed to her on many levels. She was closely examining the craftsmanship of a ceramic piece when Marion entered the room.

"That must have been the biggest meal I’ve ever had in my entire life," Marion huffed behind her, making Julia jump. "Sorry, did I startle you?"

"No, I’m fine, I just didn’t hear you come out of the bathroom," Julia smiled, turning around.

"I’m tired," Marion said. "It’s been a long day."

"I agree. Do you … or should I …"

She wanted to kick herself for being so awkward but the situation was so new. She looked uncertainly at the other woman.

"What?" Marion asked sounding mystified. "Oh, you mean, the bed or the couch or both?"

"I sound like a nervous kid, don’t I?" the interior designer blushed.

Marion walked up to her. The dark haired woman was dressed in a short silk robe that left her tanned legs naked up to her mid thighs. Raising her hands to Julia’s shoulders she looked at her seriously.

"Are you afraid of me Julia?" she asked softly. "There’s no need to be."

Julia shook her head.

"No," she answered quietly "I’m not afraid of you, Marion. We’ve become very good friends over the past weeks and I’ve come to trust you. It’s just me."

"What’s wrong?"

"Nothing is wrong, not really. I guess I’m just … scared?"

The other woman pulled her closer and hugged her.

"I’d never ask anything of you that you don’t want to give freely," Marion promised. "If you think I’m very experienced … you’re wrong, I’m not. I know I can sound like a sarcastic bitch … hell; I am a sarcastic bitch sometimes but I would never hurt you, not intentionally."

Julia raised her hands and cupped Marion’s cheeks.

"I know that," she agreed. "I also know that your sarcasm is a front. Something you hide behind to cover up the pain. It may not be obvious to most, but I see it."

"You do?"

"Am I wrong?" Julia challenged quietly.

Marion gazed into Julia’s eyes meeting the challenge.

"No, not at all," she answered quietly. "Julia, we’re both a bit scared, both a bit burned and both … attracted to each other."

Julia felt her heart take a leap. She let her hand fall to Marion’s waist and wrapped her arms around the other woman. Looking at the tanned face she smiled shyly.

"You’re so beautiful," Julia said. "You’re eyes are incredible. They can be so piercing and so … searching. You’re an observer."

"I am?"

"You are."

"I like observing you."

"You do?"

"Mm."

Marion leaned down and captured Julia’s lips. They kissed tenderly at first but then with growing passion. Involuntarily opening her mouth to taste the other woman, Julia moaned into the hot mouth against hers.

Whimpering into the kiss, she knew she needed more this time. She was scared but the intoxicating scent of Marion was getting to her, making her tremble all over.

"Are you cold?" Marion mumbled against her lips, nibbling them, her words reverberating against them.

"No. No, I’m hot. I’m burning up," Julia whispered, swaying where she stood in Marion’s embrace.

"You are? You’re hot? I turn you on?" the other woman asked in a hoarse, feverish voice.

"Oh, yes … yes, you do," Julia moaned. She slipped her hands down, massaging Marion’s hips through the thin robe. Feeling nothing but skin through the fabric she let her hands move around to cup the other woman’s bottom.

Marion pressed against Julia, making her take a step back, ending up with her back against the wall next to the bed.

Julia, wearing a sleeveless nightgown, pulled the other woman with her, not intending to let go.

"I’m not scaring you, am I Julia?" Marion hissed in her ear before nipping at the earlobe with her teeth. "You’re holding me so close I can feel your heartbeat. Surely you can’t be afraid … when you hold me so close?"

"No, I’m not afraid," Julia whispered.

She turned her head and caught Marion’s half open mouth. Slipping her tongue inside the wet softness she examined the woman that haunted her dreams, not being able to slow down, not being able to let go.

Marion let one hand follow Julia’s rib cage and then reach her hip. From there it moved slowly to her stomach where it hesitated.

"May I?" Marion breathed.

Julia inhaled audibly. She knew what Marion asked, what the other woman wanted. She had never felt such fire inside before. Moisture was gathering between her legs, she was so embarrassingly ready.

"Marion …" she tried to speak. "I … I want to … it’s just …"

"It’s too fast for you," the other woman said, taking a step back, removing her hand.

The withdrawal tore at Julia.

"No, that’s … that’s not it," she whispered.

At a loss for further words she lost cohesion in her knees and slid down the wall. Marion immediately knelt before her, looking worried.

"Julia what is it?" she asked.

"I guess … I’m just … you have a strong effect on me, Marion," she blushed.

The other woman frowned and then smiled gently.

"I do? How … interesting. Would you care to elaborate on how this effect manifests itself?"

Julia stared at her. Marion was joking now?

"Don’t tease me?" she asked quietly.

"I’m not teasing you Julia," Marion said with a soft smile. She rose and pulled Julia up from the floor. "Come here. Listen to me," she said as she guided Julia to the bed.

They sank down on the bed sitting next to each other.

"I would never tease you. I would never make fun of you or your feelings. To tell the truth, I’m so aroused, I’m amazed I can still see straight."

Julia didn’t know what to say. She followed her instinct and wrapped her arms around Marion’s neck and hugged her hard.

"You want me?" she breathed against the softness of the other woman’s neck.

"Desperately," Marion admitted huskily. "That doesn’t mean I can’t wait for you."

Julia murmured something inaudible.

"I can’t hear you," the other woman said.

"I’m so wet," Julia whispered.

Marion gasped out loud.

"Oh, god, you take my breath away," she moaned. "Was that why you were embarrassed?"

"Yes."

There was a brief silence.

"Julia … may I feel it?" Marion then asked tentatively, sending a jolt of desire through the woman in her arms.

Julia couldn’t find her voice to answer so she nodded as the other woman slid a finger across her lips, down her chin, tracing along her neck down between her breasts. Julia’s nipples ached but received no attention. The finger slid along the soft roundness of her stomach and further down along her thigh. It reached the rim of her nightgown and began to move up, taking the silky fabric with it.

"There … spread your legs, honey, just a little," the dark haired woman whispered, holding Julia close with one arm and slowly, slowly nudging the fabric up with her finger.

"Oh …"

Julia let her legs fall apart a little, focusing on the finger barely touching her.

"Good girl," Marion said, kissing her cheek.

She was so close now, Julia was sure Marion must sense the moisture and heat from her hot centre. She whimpered and hid her face against the other woman.

"That’s it," Marion hushed.

She reached the damp silk panties and surprised Julia by lowering her to the bed and pressing two fingers against her, still on the outside.

"You’re right, honey," the sales manager purred. "You are very wet. Very ready."

"Mm …" Julia sobbed quietly.

"May I?"

This time she managed to answer.

"Yes."

Then several eager fingers were there, removing her panties and parting her folds. The same hot digits found her aching nubbin and began a slow but intense manipulation that caused Julia to whimper incoherently.

The feeling was so intense, so erotic that she knew she would come any minute, any second.

"You’re such a good girl," Marion said tenderly and she leaned over and kissed her lips.

Her fingers didn’t penetrate Julia, didn’t force anything on her, just circled that throbbing ridge of nerves that drove her crazy.

"Give it to me," Marion then said, suddenly sounding very uncertain, almost needy. "Please, Julia, don’t hold back. Give it to me."

That was all it took.

Spirals of pleasure began in the pit of her stomach, radiated out through her limbs and sent her flying. For a wonderful, magical moment she hung in mid air before descending into Marion’s arms.

Marion pulled Julia close, close into an embrace meant to show that she was safe.

"Thank you," Marion said huskily, "thank you so much."

She didn’t quite understand why Marion was thanking her but grateful to hold on to something solid in a world that still was spinning.

Slowly she stopped trembling and found that Marion had managed to shift them in bed and get them both under the covers.

"What about you?" Julia asked drowsily.

"Oh, honey, don’t worry. The gift you gave me tonight … it’s enough, more than enough for now. Hush, go to sleep, I’ll be here when you wake up."

Julia wanted to object but all the rampaging feelings had exhausted her.

She trusted Marion.

She would be there in the morning.

*****

Seven was in bed already. Janeway had helped her change the dressing on her tattoo in the bathroom. It was all right to shower as long as no soap lingered on the tattoo since that would cause the colours to fade.

Now the blonde was studying the older woman, as she got ready for bed.

When Janeway turned to switch off the light the blonde spotted something that made her gasp out loud.

"Kathryn!"

The executive turned around.

"Yes?"

"On your shoulder … you had a tattoo done! You did not tell me!"

Janeway smiled brightly.

"I did, sort of," she admitted.

"What do you mean, sort of?" Seven asked, climbing across the bed to examine the design on Janeway’s shoulder blade.

"It is not swollen, like mine?" the blonde said, confused.

The CEO grinned, knowing how surprised Seven must be.

"I cheated," she confessed readily. "It won’t last a lifetime, only a couple of months."

She peeked up at Seven who flung her arms around her lover’s neck.

"I would not want you to get a real tattoo if it was not your choice," she said gravely. "This was a delightful surprise, though."

"Do you like it?" Janeway asked.

She had spotted a small design on the wall in the tattoo workshop that had appealed to her. After enquiring about the special paint she had decided to surprise the woman she loved. Now she boasted a fake tattoo of a raven on her shoulder and from the look in Seven’s eyes she knew that the blonde had understood.

"We go home the day after tomorrow," Janeway said and pulled the blonde down under the covers and onto her shoulder.

"I know. This has been a wonderful vacation."

"Your best so far?" Janeway joked.

"Indeed. It will be hard to surpass."

"I know of a place that might," the executive claimed while yawning.

"Where?"

Janeway closed her eyes and held Seven close.

"If you won’t nag about it not being so luxurious … there’s always Raven’s Island."

*****

Marion set her bag down and walked up to the window.

It seemed only reasonable that it should be raining. The flight home had been uneventful on the surface. They had travelled comfortably in business class. She had been sitting next to Julia, her mind trying to come to terms with the fact that they would have to part soon. Julia would fly home to Michigan on a connecting flight.

The goodbye at the airport had been bittersweet no matter how they both tried to keep it light.

"I’ll call you when I get home," Julia had said, smiling with trembling lips.

"You promise?" Marion had asked brusquely.

Her eyes very soft, Julia had squeezed Marion’s hand.

"Of course I do," she whispered. "Nothing could prevent me."

The sales manager had sighed and closed her eyes briefly.

"I’m sorry, honey," she had apologised.

They had hugged just before Julia had to board her plane and then Marion had returned to Janeway and Seven who were waiting for her.

Now Marion leaned her aching forehead against the cool glass of the window, her breath creating mist on its surface.

She missed Julia more than she had ever expected.

The sudden ringing sound from her bag made her flinch.

She reached for her cell phone and pressed a button.

"McDunn."

"I knew you couldn’t stay away forever. You should’ve known that I don’t give up that easily."

Marion sank down on the bed, covering her eyes.

Avery.

She squared her shoulders, knowing what she had to do.

"Hello, Eric," she said emotionlessly.

"Where have you been?" the man at the other end asked. "This disappearing act is going to cost you."

"You won’t get any more money."

A moment’s silence revealed that Avery was surprised by the calmness in her voice.

"You sound awfully sure of that, Marion," he then said smoothly. "However, I think I will. There are things I know that you don’t want … certain people to find out. Nothing has changed."

"That where you’re wrong. I’ve changed," Marion said. "What you fail to realise is that the only person you will hurt by pursuing this matter is yourself."

A sound from the door made her pivot. On the threshold to the guest room stood Janeway and Seven, regarding her seriously. She nodded at them to let them know that she was handling it.

"What do you mean? I have nothing to lose," Avery hissed. "You saw to that when you signed and handed in that statement to Janeway."

"No, you did Eric," the sales manager said calmly. "What happened was brought on by you, your actions, your arrogance, no one else. My only mistake was using your questionable talents for my own misguided purposes."

"You seem to be forgetting the kind of damage I’m more than capable of inflicting on you and your family," Avery snarled. "And it won’t be just be my say so; I have documents and photos to back up everything. What will your old granny think of that?"

She had waited for the threat to appear. She had known he would mention the most precious person in her life, her grandmother, and use it against her. Still it hurt and she went pale, blindly searching for the bed to sit down.

Somebody removed the cell phone from her sweaty palm.

"Marion? Don’t you dare hang up on me, you bitch …" Marion heard Avery shout before a lethal, throaty voice interrupted him.

"Eric Avery. I think it’s safe to say that this last phone call of yours was a huge mistake," Janeway said slowly.

*****

Avery inhaled audibly.

"Janeway," he huffed. "So Marion went running to you to bail her out of trouble."

"You are way off as usual," the CEO said coolly.

"I take it she’s been hiding at your place all this time."

Janeway shook her head. The voice on the other end made her angry as hell.

"You know how I deal with employees, don’t you, Avery?" the executive asked casually, sitting down next to Marion on the bed.

There was a prolonged silence.

"You didn’t think that sooner or later you would run across someone who would have you investigated?" Janeway continued.

"I don’t know what you mean," Avery tried.

"Oh, I think you do. Ever have that strange, paranoid feeling that someone is watching your every move, Avery?"

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"Ah, you see, when I heard of your latest despicable little endeavour I hired a private investigation firm to gather enough damaging evidence against you to put you away for a long time."

"You’re bluffing," Avery stated but with a revealing tone of uncertainty in his voice.

Janeway put a reassuring hand on Marion’s knee, as Seven sat down on the sales manager’s other side.

"Have you ever known me to bluff?" the CEO asked lethally. "In all your years at this firm, have you ever known me to make an empty threat?"

Avery was quiet.

"I think not," Janeway said shortly. "We have you right where we want you, Avery. You’re out of choices."

"Can the McDunns afford to have all their little dirty secrets exposed?" Avery hissed. "Have you asked Marion? She has a lot to lose."

"She stands to lose much more if you’re allowed to continue this. Get it through your thick skull, she’s had enough."

"Her family is well known and the press will have a field day."

"Oh, I’m sure they will. However the focus of their reporting will be writing about you, about how you blackmailed a defenceless woman who was only trying to correct a wrong, about the real reasons you no longer work at my firm.

There was only silence at the end of the connection.

"You don’t get it do you, Avery? You can’t win. Your extra source of income is terminated."

"You bitch!"

"I see that you are finally grasping the reality of the situation."

Janeway glanced over at her employee and smiled.

"I don’t care. You’re right I have nothing to lose," Eric Avery growled. "I plan to go to the press as soon as possible and there is nothing you can do about it."

The CEO sighed.

"Then you’re a bigger fool than I thought," she said and hung up.

She quickly dialled a number.

"Mr Leighton? Kathryn Janeway here. I just finished talking to Mr Avery. Our man is not being very co-operative. Did you obtain the documents in question?"

"Yes, Ms Janeway. I personally supervised the sweep of his apartment. It’s my opinion that we have recovered all the documentation and photos he had pertaining to the McDunn family. There’s still the threat of him going to the press even without the evidence to back up his story."

"I know. Did you complete that other project I requested?"

"Oh yes. You were right about that one ma’am, a target rich environment."

Janeway smiled. "How nice. Can you bring what you’ve recovered from Mr Avery’s apartment as well as that other project to my office as soon as possible?"

"Consider it done. I’ll deliverer it myself."

"Excellent."

Leighton paused for a moment.

"What about Avery? Would you like me to deal with him?" he then asked.

"No, Mr Leighton, I’ll be handling that situation myself. I assume Avery wasn’t calling from home just now. Do you know where he is?"

"It will only take me a second to find out."

There were talking in the background and then Leighton returned.

"Avery appears to be headed home. He should be at his address within an hour if he doesn’t make any stops."

"Good. Keep a tail on him. I’ll be waiting for you in my office."

"I’m on my way."

"Thanks. See you soon."

Janeway hung up the phone and turned towards the two women.

"I think it’s time that we paid Avery a little visit," she smiled. "I’m sure he’ll be pleased to see us. Don’t you?

*****

The nerve of that woman, he raged.

Eric Avery turned the key to open his front door.

Janeway’s words had infuriated him.

"That bitch!" he hissed between clenched teeth.

Slamming the door he quickly made his way to the bar.

Picking up the decanter, he grabbed a glass. Pouring the contents of the decanter into it he brought the glass to his lips and swiftly slammed its content to the back of his throat then swallowed. Quickly he poured himself a second drink.

Thinking of Marion McDunn made him frown as the alcohol burned its way down.

The assertive woman had dismissed him with an insulting remark when he had tried to make a move on her years ago. Her indifferent tone of voice had incensed him.

It was shortly after that he stumbled upon some damaging information regarding the sales manager’s family. He had been sitting on the documents for years knowing that they would come in handy some day.

When Marion had turned on him after the fiasco with Annika Hansen, shortly followed by the humiliation in Janeway’s office, he had already begun to plan his revenge. The fact that the endeavour could bring him sorely needed extra cash was a bonus.

McDunn was a callous bitch and when he had confronted her with the lucrative information it had been a true pleasure to watch her pale and stutter.

He had called her at all hours, day and night, that first week when she still thought she could avoid paying. She had changed her phone number twice but it had not proved difficult to obtain the new unlisted numbers from the phone company. Eventually she had given up and begun to pay him off. He now had the company bitch right where he wanted her. She had sounded increasingly desperate every time he called her and that alone had brought his damaged ego satisfaction.

Avery gulped down the second drink.

Everything had seemed to work out well. McDunn had paid him a handsome amount on five different occasions up till now. It would render him great pleasure to submit the sordid story to the tabloid press.

Still, something in Janeway’s cold voice made him uneasy. The thought of his former boss caused an quickly growing headache to form behind his eyes.

Janeway was continually interfering with his life. The bitch had ruined him. Oh yes, she had let him go without pressing charges, but she had let it be known that he was not to be trusted. She had poisoned the opinion of any would be employer in this city and now here she was meddling again in things that were none of her business. Well, he would show her.

"We’ll see who’s the fool is then you ... "

Just then the doorbell rang.

Slamming the empty glass on the counter he walked down the hallway towards the door.

Looking through the eyehole Avery couldn’t believe what he saw. Unlocking the door he swung it open.

"Hello, Avery," Janeway said, locking her even blue-grey eyes on him. Behind her stood Marion McDunn and Annika Hansen.

"What the hell do you want?" Avery demanded, his hatred for the woman visible to all present.

"I want to talk. Obviously there was a breakdown in communication and I’m here to clear up any misunderstandings that might exist. May we come in?" She nudged the man out of her way and they all passed him. Stunned by their audacity he stared after them as the three women went into his living room and calmly stood in the middle of it.

"You have some nerve. Coming here, barging into my place like this. Let me tell you something, you’re the fool if you think you can manipulate me. I have every intention of going to the press with this story," Avery hissed and then turned on McDunn. "So you really thought that this bitch was going to be able to stop me?"

"That’s enough!" Janeway ordered. "Listen to me you arrogant ass," she continued in a threatening tone. "If you check where ever you might have kept documents on Marion and her family you will discover them missing."

Avery walked straight over to his desk and started searching through the drawers.

"Yes, that’s right," Janeway said. "Search all you want. They’re gone"

"How do you know I didn’t make copies or did you forget about that?"

"No, I didn’t overlook anything. What I find amazing is that there are things you have so conveniently disregarded."

"Like what? The meaningless affidavits those women wrote accusing me of harassment? They’re nothing but lies and innuendoes. They have no hold on me and neither do you."

"Really," said Janeway "That’s pretty confident for a man with your track record. What about the rest of your life? I’m sure there’s nothing in your past that has any sort of hold on you, is there?"

"You have nothing on me Janeway."

"Really? Tell me, when was blackmail legalized?"

Janeway walked over to the desk and laid a leather briefcase on top of it. With just a few moves the case opened. Reaching inside she pulled out a thick folder and began to flip through it.

"What’s that?" he demanded.

"Why it’s your life, Mr Avery, an open book of sorts, or so you claim. I find it fascinating how much information is available on an individual, thanks to technology," she said as she scanned the document. "Besides your reprehensible behaviour towards women I see that you have many other traits to be proud of: blackmail, extortion, oh yes … tax evasion and the list just keeps going on and on …"

"Let me see that!" Avery said as he grabbed the folder from her hands.

He went pale as he read the dossier that Janeway had commissioned on him.

"Please, take your time. I don’t want there to be any more misunderstandings, so to speak."

After several minutes Avery laid the document down.

"What do you intend to do with this?"

"That completely depends upon you."

The executive circled him predatorily with slow steps, never taking her eyes off him.

"It’s time for you to take a trip, Avery, a very long trip. I find your presence in this city rather a nuisance. I want you to leave; I want you to leave for good.

"You can’t be serious?"

"Oh, but I am," said Janeway as she closed in on him. "If you fail to leave this city or reside anywhere within a two hundred mile radius of this place, I will destroy you. If you ever come near any employee of mine, any family member, any friend, the results will be the same. If I find that you have interfered or disrupted my company in any way, even remotely, I will come after you. I will turn this file and all of the other evidence I have collected on you over to the authorities. As you can see from the dossier the evidence and information on you is quite extensive. My guess is that, at a minimum, you’d be looking at twenty-five years behind bars and I don’t think you would thrive in that kind of environment now would you? Oh, and I too have made copies, many copies of this report so don’t get any more bright ideas."

Janeway had not raised her voice but Avery knew she would not hesitate to carry out her threat.

"You bitch," he snarled at Janeway.

"For an educated man your vocabulary is somewhat limited," the CEO said ironically.

Fear and fury battled within him.

"Get the hell out of my house!" he yelled, hating the fact that his voice trembled.

"Oh, we’ll go," Janeway, said gently. "I can see that out presence makes you uncomfortable but before I do, I want to ensure that there are no misunderstandings between us. Have I made myself clear?"

"Yes."

"Good. You have two weeks to evict this place. I wouldn’t waste any time if I were you. There will be no extensions on this offer. This is not a threat; this is a promise." She paused, smiling maliciously. "Oh, and Avery? I’ll be watching."

Janeway turned and nodded to both women signalling them that it was time to depart.

Not even glancing at him the two women followed Janeway out the door without uttering a single word.

When the door closed behind them, for the second time in his life Avery felt as if he had been hit by an eighteen-wheeler.

Janeway could have that effect on people.

*****

 

Her cell phone rang for the second time that evening. Cautiously she picked it up and answered. Would ever the sound of a ringing phone not cause her to shiver?

"McDunn."

"Hi," a soft female voice said.

"Hello, Julia."

"You sound tired."

Marion rubbed the back of her neck.

"Let’s just say that it has been a long and interesting evening."

"Want to talk about it?" Julia asked gently.

"Yes, but not tonight. You must be tired too. How was your flight?"

"Uneventful."

"You sound strange. Ah, don’t tell me. Your parents either called or met you at the airport."

"They called. Mother was furious."

The sales manager held the phone closer.

"What did she say?"

"The usual stuff. I was the one with the new vocabulary."

There was new energy in Julia’s voice.

"Yes? What did you say?"

"I told them that if they couldn’t respect my choice of work, my way of life or my friends, I would have to minimise our quality time together. Mom was absolutely appalled but I think my Dad might come around eventually."

"Good for you, honey," Marion said, a smile forming on her lips.

"We should both be in bed by now but I have to ask you something," Julia said.

"Shoot."

Marion began to undress, heading for the shower.

"I went through my email just before I called. I have an invitation to a conference in your neck of the woods …"

"Come stay at my place," Marion forestalled her.

"Really?" There was a smile in Julia’s voice.

"I can’t wait to see you again," Marion said, her voice husky. "I miss you."

"You do?"

The doorbell rang.

"Hang on," Marion said. "Someone’s at the door."

Marion placed the phone down on her bed. Wondering who could be calling at this late hour she pulled on a robe and went out into the hallway. Cautiously she tuned on the security monitor to see who was buzzing her at this late hour.

She gasped.

Pushing the button to open the door she let her visitor in as she rushed out into the hallway to meet her guest at the elevator.

"Julia!" she exclaimed and stared at the smiling woman standing the elevator. "How …"

"Well, you said you missed me," the other woman said.

Marion reached out and pulled Julia into her arms, hugging her close.

"How did you get here so quickly?" she asked burying her face into the short dark hair.

"When I had finished talking to my parents … I just knew."

Marion leaned back, wanting to see the look on Julia’s face.

"What?" she asked.

"I knew where and with whom I wanted to be. I knew it was too soon to leave you. Guess I took a chance for the first time in my life," Julia admitted.

Marion framed the beloved face in her hands and kissed the soft, pink lips.

"I can’t believe you’re here," she said hoarsely, "but I’m so very glad you are."

"Are you sure?" Julia asked, gazing into Marion’s eyes as if searching for the truth.

"I’m sure. I have never been more sure."

Suddenly delirious with happiness from having Julia so unexpectedly back into her arms, she hugged the other woman fiercely.

"I love the fact that you’re here," she smiled. "Where are your bags?"

"Here."

Marion laughed, reaching down to pull the two bags into hallway. "Come inside."

The two women picked up Julia’s luggage and entered the apartment.

"I was just going to bed," she said. "I was feeling a bit lost and tired … it has been a long evening and I will tell you all about it but not until tomorrow. I just want to take a shower and crawl into bed with you. Or are you hungry?"

Realising that she was babbling, Marion smiled sheepishly.

"No," Julia replied. "I ate on the plane. A shower and then to bed sounds fine to me."

That was all Marion needed to hear. She pulled the other woman towards her bedroom, casually undressing her as they approached the bathroom.

Julia shrugged out of her blouse and let her slacks fall to the floor, forgotten, as the sales manager held her close.

"Shower with me?" Marion asked breathlessly.

Julia nodded.

Naked they stepped into the shower stall. Marion looked at the woman she had come to care about, to love … She inhaled audibly.

"Marion?" Julia said wonderingly.

"Julia … oh, god, honey … you are so beautiful." The older woman caressed her shoulders, down her slender arms down to her hands. She then lifted one hand to her mouth, kissing Julia’s palm. Looking into the bright, grey eyes of the woman in her arms she smiled. "I’m so in love with you."

Julia’s eyes widened. She freed the hand Marion had just kissed and traced the sales manager’s trembling lips.

"You’re everything I could ever want," Julia whispered. "I can’t think of anything but you. I’m very much in love too."

Happiness stirring in the pit of her stomach, a broad smile forming on her lips.

Marion hugged Julia hard.

"You make me happy," she said.

Julia clung to her, burying her face at Marion’s neck.

"You make me courageous," she replied.

"Courageous?"

"Yes. You make me dare to be me."

Tipping Julia’s head back to possess her sweet mouth, Marion let the hot water flow over them.

There would be time enough to face the world tomorrow. Right now all she knew was that she was where she needed to be with the person who had come to mean everything to her.

*****

The bedroom was dark, only the soft glow from the moon lit up the two forms snuggled together.

"Marion looked so relieved," Seven mumbled sleepily against her lover’s neck.

"She did," Kathryn agreed.

"She told me why Avery was blackmailing her."

"I didn’t know that," the CEO said. "She’s very protective of her grandmother."

"She could not help what her father did but she has still opted to right his wrong," the blonde said thoughtfully. "She did not want her grandmother to ever find out."

"He was a weak man. Marion is strong and has almost paid off his debt. Her grandmother need never know how her only son embezzled from his employer to feed his gambling addiction. Marion’s sacrifice to have struggled with payments all these years is not for nothing."

Seven rose on her elbow and regarded her lover closely.

"You were incredible how you handled Avery," she said.

Kathryn pulled her close and wrapped her arms around the blonde.

"I’m glad we pulled this off, darling," she said. "I’ve resented Avery ever since he tormented you and those other women."

Seven tipped her head back and kissed Kathryn tenderly.

"I know," she said. "But…"

"What darling? What is it?"

"He frightens me, Kathryn. You have made an enemy, perhaps a dangerous one."

"I’m aware of that sweetheart but I don’t want you to worry about it," Kathryn replied, hugging Seven. "I have taken steps to ensure that Avery is not a threat to anyone. He’ll be under surveillance for a very very long time my dear. If he makes one false move we’ll know about it immediately and appropriate actions will be taken. Marion’s grandmother is very old and I will honour Marion’s wishes to protect her grandmother from knowing the truth about her son. But once she has passed away then there’s nothing to prevent me from dealing properly with Avery."

 

They lay in silence for a while.

"What else is on that lovely mind of yours?" Kathryn asked softly.

"You."

"Me?"

"Do you have any idea how much I admire you? Your strength, your courage, even your ruthlessness?"

"Seven!"

"No, it is true and sometimes it scares me."

Kathryn held her love closer. "Would you like to know a secret?"

"What?"

"Sometimes it scares me too but something inside me wants to take on the world when the people I know and love are threatened. I would take on anything, anything at all for you my love. You are the most important thing in my world. Yes, Marion is a friend, but the real reason I intervened is because you wanted me too. Of course the whole thing became much easier when I discovered that Avery was behind the problem. I have never forgiven or forgotten what he did to you."

"Kathryn." Seven said as she reached out to capture the lips of the woman she loved.

"Do you realize how much I love you Annika Hansen?" the older woman asked hoarsely. "Do you realise that my life is meaningless without your presence in it?"

A tear rolled down Seven’s cheek as she stared in amazement.

Janeway kissed the damp cheek.

"Why the tears darling?"

"Because I …" The blonde’s voice betrayed her, the lump in her throat growing.

"What?"

"I always knew that I needed you but until this moment I never really understood how much you needed me."

"Oh Seven, you’re my heart, you’re my life."

Kathryn captured Seven’s lips and kissed her deeply. Slowly, lovingly, she began to make love to this amazing young woman who had captured her heart and given meaning to her existence.

"Do you know I can’t see or hear anything without thinking about how you react to it?" the executive said as she kissed the younger woman’s neck. "You are my first thought when I awake and my last as I fall asleep."

Seven inhaled audibly and pulled the older woman closer. Her heart overflowing with emotions and her head spinning at the Kathryn’s incredible words, she kissed the wine coloured lips of the woman she loved.

"Kathryn, let me make love to you," she whispered.

"Let’s make love together," Kathryn answered softly into Seven’s mouth. "Let’s share the pleasure … the touches … the love …"

The executive shifted in bed, slowly taking Seven’s hand in hers and letting it slide around her own neck. The blonde smiled tremulously and laced her fingers through Kathryn’s hair, tousling it, making the older woman look deliciously dishevelled.

They looked at each other, searching each other’s faces for nameless truths only to focus their attention on moist lips, desiring the touch, the taste.

Kathryn lowered her head and caught Seven’s lower lip between hers. Nibbling it gently with her teeth, she elicited a soft moan from her lover. She let her tongue enter Seven’s mouth and was met by its counterpart in a long and lustful dance.

"Mm …" Seven whispered into the kiss. Kathryn’s taste was intoxicating, she could never get enough of this intimate touch, the playful, passionate way of making love with ones mouth.

Recalling that first, almost clumsy kiss outside the elevator in the apartment drove her to roll them over in bed. It was that kiss that had started it all, ignited the passion between them that had quickly turned to love.

Releasing Kathryn’s mouth she looked at her, her eyes shining.

"I love your kisses," she exhaled. "I only have to close my eyes … and I can taste you …"

Kathryn moaned quietly and tried to pull Seven down for another kiss. The blonde smiled again and avoided the searching lips. Instead she lowered her hungry mouth to her lover’s neck and let her tongue slide along it up to follow Kathryn’s jaw line.

The executive arched against Seven.

"Oh sweetheart," she breathed. "You’re like fire … you burn me …"

"Love can burn," Seven murmured against the damp skin. "It is a fire that warms us, Kathryn … do not be afraid."

Her words sent a jolt through the older woman who suddenly reached up to frame Seven’s face with trembling hands.

"How did you know?" she whispered feverishly. "Sometimes I am … afraid."

The blonde turned her head and kissed Kathryn’s left palm.

"I know because I have experienced the same fear on occasion," she said reassuringly.

Kathryn closed her eyes and Seven could not resist leaning down to kiss the half open mouth beneath hers. The executive whimpered and wrapped her arms around the younger woman in abandon, deepening the kiss until their passion was almost unbearable in its intensity.

"I need you so much," Kathryn said huskily. "Please … love me … make love to me, darling."

Seven shifted and began a journey of kisses down Kathryn’s body. She reached the other woman’s small breasts, carefully blowing at their hardening peaks, not teasing, just heightening Kathryn’s expectations. When the executive began to move restlessly beneath her, she relented and tenderly locked her full lips around the left nipple, circling it with her tongue.

Kathryn arched again, reached around her lover and pulled her closer and at the same time she parted her legs, wrapping them firmly around Seven’s hips.

Seven could feel the damp curls between Kathryn’s legs against hers. She involuntarily began to rock her body against her lover’s, pressing against her, mixing their wetness.

Moving her mouth to the other soft orb, she gave that nipple the same loving attention. Humming gently she licked it in long, languid strokes, enjoying the taste, needing it as much as she needed to breath right then.

The executive pulled her legs up more, locking her feet around Sevens waist. This spread her hot centre wide open and allowed Seven to rub deeper, closer against her. The loving friction of her swollen folds against Kathryn’s completely exposed wetness made them both gasp out loud.

Feeling utterly safe in the cradle of Kathryn’s arms and legs, the blonde rocked against her, the passion and tension building inside them.

She reached up and pulled Kathryn’s right arm from her neck. Starting at the wrist she planted open mouth kisses all the way up to the other woman’s shoulder. She licked her way along the collarbones and then freed the other arm to kiss her way down to its wrist.

"Do you realise how beautiful you are?" Kathryn said, her voice hardly audible. "All I have to do is think of you, look at you … and I want all of you … your love … your mind … you body. I need it all."

Seven stopped moving and looked at her beloved.

Tears were running from Kathryn’s blue eyes, down her temples to hide in her auburn hair. Her lips trembled, swollen from their kisses and her cheeks were flushed from their passion. She had never looked more beautiful, more accessible.

Seven smiled and kissed Kathryn’s lips.

"You have my love. You will never lose it."

She rolled them onto their sides, careful not to crush Kathryn’s leg under her hip. Holding Kathryn’s other leg firmly around her waist, Seven let her hand slide along a quivering thigh. Slowly she reached the moist area between the executive’s legs.

Not taking her eyes off Kathryn’s face, Seven examined the wetness, let her fingers play with the slick folds and the hard, aching nubbin.

Kathryn trembled and could not hold back a whimper.

"Seven … take me … make me yours …"

Pressing effortlessly into Kathryn, the blonde took what was hers. She let two fingers slide inside and press up against the spot she knew would sooner or later drive her lover over the edge.

"Ah …" the older woman gasped and let her head fall onto Seven’s shoulder, burying her face against the other woman’s neck. "Fill me, darling … I need you."

Adding a third finger, understanding her lover’s need to be fully taken, she plunged into the wetness with equal amounts of force and care.

This was all it took. Seven held the other woman close, whispering terms of endearment as passion rode Kathryn’s body, making her convulse in the blonde’s arms.

Slowly the smaller body next to hers grew limp and Kathryn could catch her breath while being cradled and soothed by Seven.

"There, my Kathryn," the blonde said quietly. "I am keeping you safe."

Kathryn shifted and looked at her.

"You made me yours," she said hoarsely and kissed Seven’s cheek. "You knew what I needed and you gave it to me."

"Yes."

The executive smiled and reached down between them, cupping Seven’s sex gently.

This sent a shiver through the blonde. She pressed herself against the tender touch.

"I think my sweetheart needs to be well loved too," Kathryn whispered and moved her leg down in order to push Seven on her back. "I think I have to show you just how much I adore you, darling. Pull your legs up … that’s it … let me see all of your beauty … just like that …"

Seven regarded her lover as she parted her legs, giving Kathryn full access. The executive let her hand move in small circles over Seven’s stomach, making the blonde shiver.

Getting between the blonde’s legs, Kathryn sat down, her hands on Seven’s knees, lovingly holding them apart.

"You are exquisite," she murmured, her eyes darting back and forth over the curvaceous body on the bed. "Almost like a marble statue … but oh, so alive, so warm, so loving."

Spreading the drenched folds, Kathryn lowered her head to lap at the blonde. She licked the juices from her beloved with great care, not leaving any area that held Seven’s pleasure untouched by her hungry mouth.

The blonde reached for the pillows that she was leaning against and held on as an almost unbearable pleasure surged through her. Soft whimpers and moans forced their way past her vocal cords, ending up as the name of the person that embodied all her love.

"Kathryn!"

She arched under the skilled mouth, the loving lips that devoured her with such abandon. There was so much tenderness in the way Kathryn took her. No penetration was needed; the executive left no crevice or fold unexplored.

When Kathryn eventually flicked her hot tongue over the raw, aching nubbin, Seven went rigid, arching against the arrows of pleasure that drilled into her and spread through her body like rays of fire.

"Oh!"

She blindly searched for Kathryn who must have known what her young lover needed because she was right there. Tender arms pulled the blonde close and held her through the storm of her passion.

The beloved throaty voice floated over Seven as she sobbed quietly.

"Seven … Annika … What passion you give me. It’s such wonderful gift. It brings me such joy to see you give yourself to me like that. I can never get enough of it. I adore you."

Seven hugged her lover close and could only nod. Her voice had betrayed her again but she knew that Kathryn didn’t need words right then. Her reaction to their lovemaking and the way she was clinging to the executive said it all.

Eventually the lump on her throat gave way and she could speak.

"You make me so happy, Kathryn," she whispered.

"I want you to be happy with me. That’s all I desire. Your happiness."

Seven smiled and snuggled closer.

She realised she was exhausted. The tumultuous evening was taking its toll on her. When Kathryn yawned and rubbed her cheek against Sevens, she understood that her beloved was just as tired.

"I am so comfortable," the blonde said.

"Me too," Kathryn said. "I want to hold you like this all night."

"I love you," Seven murmured.

"I know. I love you too."

There was a brief silence as the two women settled down for the night, content in knowing that they were safe and happy in each other’s arms.

Seven reached up to cup Kathryn’s cheek.

"Thank you for the lovely vacation," she said.

"You had a great time, didn’t you?" Kathryn asked and kissed the top of her head.

"How could I not since you were there with me?" the blonde asked gently.

She pulled Kathryn even closer, needing the closeness.

The moon was the only witness as the tall blonde tenderly kissed the woman she loved goodnight.

*****