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Wicked Game

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Saturday, September 14th, 2019

SoHo

A soft groan echoed in the back of Carmilla’s throat as she finally let her eyes flutter open, the smooth beige ceiling of her dimly lit bedroom slowly coming into focus.

Damn, somehow it just gets better every fucking time.

She shifted ever so slightly to her left, reaching for one of the nearby down pillows, the deep red sheets rustling softly with her languid movements as she cushioned her head atop it. Every inch of her ached in the absolute best way possible and she really didn’t want this high to end.

And why should it? It was so amazing. So incredible. There was no reason to ruin this perfect moment.

“This has to be the last time!” Laura frantically cried, hopping around near the foot of the bed as she attempted to pull her jeans up her legs.

Well fuck, that’s nice and sobering.

“This again, cupcake?” she rasped, running a hand down her bare torso. “Really?”

“Yes, really!”

Carmilla closed her eyes for a long moment and sighed heavily, wanting to avoid this long, worn out road, if at all possible. After all, it was never anything but a bumpy and miserable ride.

“I mean it. We… we can’t keep doing this, Carmilla.”

“Yes, the mind-blowing orgasms are just terrible and must be stopped immediately,” Carmilla mumbled, turning her head as she watched the tiny brunette look around the floor for the rest of her clothes, the subtle muscles of her abdomen visibly flexing as she frantically twisted and turned. She smirked once more at the sight, Laura’s perfect skin still slightly flushed and so tempting. Smiling a little harder, she bit back a soft chuckle as she caught a glimpse of a faint bite mark peeking out beneath the waist of Laura’s jeans along her right hip. Not that Carmilla felt bad about causing that little blemish. It was only fair since she was pretty sure she was going to be bruised herself for a week thanks to Laura’s strong grip around her thighs.

So fucking worth it though.

She once again closed her eyes, as the visual of just how worth it the night had been rolled through her mind, and rested back against the messy bedding, the top sheet lying low across her waist.

“That’s not… I’m not saying… yes, the orgasms are incredible. And the sex is amazing, Carm, we both know that but… ugh, I know why we started this. And I appreciate what you did for me. I really do. You gave me something that no one else could. Something that I would only trust you with. But this was never… I mean… we shouldn’t still be doing it!”

And yet here we are, all these months later and still meeting three to four times a week to rip each other’s clothes off.

That had been the agreement though. It had been simple enough when they’d both nervously acquiesced to the proposition that chilly spring morning over their steaming mugs in the back room of Ground Central. She would offer up her services and distract Laura any time the smaller girl needed to shut down and, in turn, she got to have unbelievably amazing sex with a beautiful woman who understood that it would never be anything more than that.

How could such a great plan ever go wrong?

“I’m serious, Carmilla! This has been going on for far too long. And I know tonight was my fault.”

With a muffled ‘a ha!’, Laura finally located her lacy red push-up bra near the foot of the leather chair in the corner.

She totally wore that on purpose.

Slipping it onto incredibly soft skin, Laura clasped the hooks behind her over the slowly fading marks Carmilla’s blunt nails had left behind just the night before as Laura had fucked her into oblivion atop the blue linen sofa in the tiny brunette’s new, albeit temporary, apartment.

“You think? I don’t recall inviting you over,” Carmilla taunted, narrowing her eyes as she pretended to remember.

“I know, I know. I shouldn’t have just shown up here, unannounced. I know I’ve gotten into the habit of doing that, like all the time, and I’m sorry.”

“Honestly not complaining, cupcake,” she said as she stretched again, her overused muscles protesting ever so slightly.

“But it doesn’t matter! We… we can’t keep this up,” Laura continued undeterred, turning back towards the bed and running a shaky hand through messy brunette locks. She paused for a long moment, her voice coming out heavy and defeated when she finally continued. “What we’re doing… it’s… it’s just not right.”

Eyes narrowing as she gazed upward, ignoring Laura’s desperate stare, Carmilla swallowed hard at the words, feeling something pull uncomfortably in her chest.

‘It’s not right.’ Which is why it’s a secret.

‘It’s not right.’ It’s far too embarrassing for you to actually admit that you’ve been sleeping with me this whole time unless forced to.

‘It’s not right.’ Since apparently fucking you is all I’m really good for.

‘It’s not right.’ Because… because you’re in love with someone else and just biding your time with me.

It was the last thought that really smacked her in the face, the pain it brought palpable.

“Carm?” Laura pleaded before pausing for a long moment. “You understand that, don’t you? Like you know it too… right?”

But Carmilla just continued to stare up at the ceiling, focusing on the small dent left from a wayward cork on a popped bottle of champagne just a week ago.

Champagne wasn’t Laura’s normal drink of choice and Carmilla knew that. But as it was the younger girl’s birthday, Carmilla didn’t see any flaws in them toasting just once. Plus she’d also iced down a couple bottles of grape soda just in case. They had made a mess, but champagne and Laura in her bed was a combination she’d never be able to turn down. That night had been fun and playful, the picture of what this arrangement was supposed to be.

And very different from where she currently found herself, unsure of what she should say in this leaden moment. Unsure of what she could say! Her tongue suddenly felt heavy and sluggish in her mouth, completely uncooperative.

“I mean, we’re friends!” Laura finally blurted out, and from the corner of her eye Carmilla saw the smaller girl rocking side to side on the balls of her feet, hands nervously wringing in front of her.

Friends. Right.

She quirked an eyebrow, slowly turning her head, her eyes finding those of the younger girl and once again realizing just how absolutely beautiful they were. Realizing how easily she could get lost in their soft amber depths. And knowing damn well that she shouldn’t be thinking like that.

“You’re… you’re…” Laura trailed off, her voice so timid and soft that Carmilla barely heard her. “You’re my best friend, Carm.”

Best friend. Right. Not her lover. Not her girlfriend. Not the woman that she’s- Don’t! Don’t grab onto that. Don’t go stretching for something that’s never going to happen.

Clenching her jaw once, her eyes never leaving Laura’s, she watched as the tiny brunette repeatedly pulled at her left ring finger, the anxious gesture so familiar but uneasy. Worried.

Scared.

Carmilla had picked up on the habit fairly early into their relationship, using it to her advantage to offer Laura comfort any time she started, knowing the distress would only continue to grow otherwise. But was it really Carmilla’s job to alleviate the younger girl’s worry here, at this moment?

You still want to. You hate seeing her like this.

“You’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel if that’s true,” she quipped instead, her defenses rising, locking into place with a solid thud.

“Carmilla!” Laura huffed.

Rolling her eyes with a heavy sigh, she turned onto her side, propping her head up on her hand, not even bothering to pull the sheet up to cover her chest. She stared at Laura, eyes hard for a long moment, the tiny brunette refusing to look away from her scrutinizing gaze even as she started to fidget more and more near the foot of the mattress.

And Carmilla wanted to stop herself from saying something she shouldn’t. She didn’t want to turn this into something that it didn’t need to be. She didn’t want to drag it out. But like many times before, she just couldn’t seem to help it.

“So is this what you do with your other best friend?” she asked, hating the acidic taste of jealousy that leaked into her mouth.

Are you fucking Lawrence on the regular too? Does she get the days while I get the nights?

“What?!”

“Well, I’m just trying to understand what this really is, cutie,” she said, the nickname dripping with scorn. “I mean, if you do everything that we do together with Xena, then you really do have some… close friends.”

“Hey!”

“No, really,” she continued, brow furrowing as her frown deepened. “I mean, why not? She’s single now, right? You can have her all to yourself and you know she wouldn’t turn you down. I’ve seen the way she looks at you. And you’ve got the whole gang waiting for you to get together and live happily ever after. Honestly, I’m surprised that I’m even still in the rotation.”

“Screw you, Carmilla!”

“You already did that tonight, sweetheart,” she countered with a mocking smirk. “Twice.”

“Ugh, stop it!” Laura growled, tight fists forming at her sides. “Why are you being like this? Why do you push this crap? You know damn well that you are the only one that I’m… that you’re the only one I’m sleeping with. And you know that you’re my best friend! So knock it off!”

She held the tiny brunette’s fiery gaze for another long moment, challenging her to back down, and knowing damn well that Laura was far too stubborn to do so. Still, that didn’t mean she was just going to roll over and concede.

“Honestly wasn’t aware that’d I’d finally beat Lawrence out for the title after all these months,” she finally said with an over exaggerated sigh. “You should’ve brought me a celebratory present. A nice bottle of scotch. That new Saint Laurent leather jacket I’ve been meaning to buy. Or, hell, a blonde. A brunette. A redhead. Not sure who’s going to take up the load in your absence but if you have suggestions, that’ll save me a lot of time and energy. Finding a new unattached fuck buddy can be so tedious.”

“You can be such an unbelievable ass sometimes!” Laura ground out through clenched teeth.

“That’s not news. You’ve known that since day one,” Carmilla countered. “Hell, it was the reason you picked me to begin with. Because I would never actually care! Isn’t that right?”

She watched Laura flinch hard at the words, teeth grinding tight as she shook her head, clearly holding something back.

“Remember, this wasn’t my doing. I wasn’t the one who started this,” Carmilla growled. “You picked me. And you did it because it was easy. Because it was convenient.”

She paused for a moment, her own hard gaze holding Laura’s angry one, attempting to brace herself for the words that were about to come out of her mouth.

“Because you could always walk away without it ever mattering. Without it ever meaning anything.”

“Seriously?” Laura started, stepping to the edge of the bed, hands now on her hips, eyes narrowed in disbelief. “Are you just being an incredible jerk face right now because you feel like it or because you’re already bored? Because either way, it’s not fucking cute, Carmilla!”

And she saw the anger tipping into the red, nearly ready to boil over, the immense frustration sitting just beneath the surface, barely contained. It was in those soft brown eyes, just like always, simply waiting for one more misstep.

That and the swearing. Ugh, goddamnit.

She had two choices here, neither of which were appealing in the slightest. She could keep pushing and pushing until Laura got so pissed off that the smaller girl would just end up leaving in a huff and ignoring her for the next few days. Or she could relent and have to listen to that goddamn ‘F’ word be used over and over, each utterance more hurtful than the last.

Both horrible choices, but the only options she was being given. And honestly, she really didn’t want to watch Laura leave.

Not again.

I can’t.

“I’m sorry,” she finally mumbled, frown softening as she looked down at the rumpled sheets, pulling at one of the deep red satin wrinkles. “Yes. We’re… we’re best friends. I know.”

Goddamn fucking friends. It stung so bad, but she saw Laura sag a little at the admission out of the corner of her eye, the younger girl’s hands falling away from her hips. And while a small part of her felt relieved to see the tiny brunette relax, the idea that Laura was more comfortable with a friendship than anything else left Carmilla’s stomach rolling.

“We are. And I know we both agreed that the ‘with benefits’ part was fine. We both agreed that we could keep… doing this and still be okay, but… we have to stop,” Laura said, her tone holding not a single ounce of conviction by the end of her speech.

“So… you’re saying that, while you want to keep the friend part, the incredible sex has to end?”

She glanced up from the fabric pinched between her fingers and watched Laura’s eyes crinkle at the edges, the sadness creeping in just enough for her to spot it. But it wasn’t like she had to look that hard. She knew Laura. Better than she’d ever known anyone else.

All in the eyes. Always is.

“I… I care about you,” Laura said, gaze pleading. “I really do. And you know…”

Carmilla watched and waited once Laura trailed off, swallowing hard as the tiny brunette continued to fidget, her soft brown eyes never looking away.

“You know what you mean to me, Carm.”

Carmilla knew that the words weren’t meant to be hurtful, but they pierced through her just the same, hard and heavy, and somehow, without warning.

Because she didn’t mean enough. Not really.

But how was she to know that this was where they’d end up. It was never supposed to happen this way. She was never supposed to develop actual feelings for the younger girl. She was never supposed to want more. It was as simple as that.

Except, somewhere along the line, it stopped being simple. It stopped being easy. At some point, it wasn’t just about spending an hour or two together with the rest of the world blocked out and none the wiser. No, it had become something very different. And that was something that Carmilla had not expected, and therefore, never prepared for.

And it’s your fault. You’re the one who ruined it. You’re the one who went and- no. I fucking said don’t. You’re just in a post-sex haze. That’s all. You just need some space or… a distraction.

Pushing the confusing and terrifying feelings back down where they belonged and locking the door behind them, she looked back up and allowed her gaze to roam over the smaller girl, standing there in just her bra, jeans unbuttoned, hair still slightly mussed, looking thoroughly…

Fucked.

Yeah. A distraction.

Eyes growing heavy, she carefully sat up, moving to her knees and letting the sheet fall completely. She watched Laura’s gaze darken, eyes tracing the contours the younger girl had learned so thoroughly over the last few months, her own stare now charged and wanting. Needing.

Like it takes much.

Biting softly at her bottom lip as she slowly crawled to the edge of the bed, Carmilla reached for Laura’s belt loops, gently pulling their bodies together, warm skin meeting warm skin.

“Carm…” she sighed, the wantonness in her voice not lost on the dark-haired girl.

“Yeah?”

“I thought… I mean, I want to but…”

“Shh. If this is really the last time, we may as well enjoy it,” she said, her voice already an octave lower than her normal register. She leaned in, lips brushing against the tiny brunette’s, tongue teasing, tasting herself there, lingering, which only drove her on further.

“But… but we…” Laura trailed off, fingers already sliding into black tresses and gripping tightly as Carmilla’s mouth descended down her neck, right hand teasing at the waist of her lacy red bikinis as the left quickly unclasped her bra with practiced ease.

“We what, cupcake?” Carmilla teased, teeth now at that gorgeous collarbone. “Let me help you… just one more time.”

“O-Okay,” Laura sighed, pushing her bra off before pulling harder at the roots of Carmilla’s hair. She leaned forward, letting her weight fall into the dark-haired girl, the pair tumbling back onto the mattress, eyes never leaving each other. “But seriously, this is the last time.”

With Laura straddling her, weight welcome, hair curtaining around their faces, and overtaking all of her senses, Carmilla swallowed hard, realizing she may not have locked the door in her heart as tightly as she thought.

But it didn’t matter. It never would. Because this was all they’d ever have.

This is all we can ever be. She doesn’t want you like…

“Sure, Laura,” she whispered, leaning up, her lips tickling against the smaller girl’s, “last time.”

Thursday, September 19th, 2019

Los Angeles

Shoving her hands into the pockets of her fitted black Max Mara trousers, Carmilla looked out over the city from the forty-second story window on Wilshire Blvd as she waited, irritated and far moodier than normal. Though both of those emotions were easily explainable.

She really fucking hated Los Angeles. And every damn time Mattie sent her out here to deal with one of their more problematic clients, she spent every second counting down until she could get back on the plane and fly home.

And though she didn’t want to think about just how much she missed her apartment in Manhattan, this particular trip was no different.

It had been five days.

Five days of being truly pissed off.

Five days of feeling that stupid unfamiliar ache in her chest that she so despised.

And five days since she’d last seen Laura.

Carmilla had left New York the day after their last rendezvous, her early afternoon flight initially not able to get into the air quick enough for her taste despite her reluctance to even take the trip. She just had to get away though. She needed some time. She needed some space. And she needed to get as far away from Laura Hollis as she could. With close to three thousand miles between them, there would be no chance of the beautiful brunette showing up at her door. No chance of her getting lost in those soft brown eyes or that incredible smile or that adorable giggle. No chance of Laura standing in the middle of her apartment, looking gorgeous and amazing and like she was Carmilla’s last meal.

Fucking delicious meal at that, she thought before shaking her head to rid herself of the thought and hating that five days with no contact beyond one text to the smaller girl had only made her feel worse. No contact was supposed to get Laura out of her mind, right? It was supposed to make this easier. It was supposed to give her some time to think and figure out just what in the hell was she was going to do.

Really not fucking working.

Of course, it probably didn’t help that Laura hadn’t been as silent. No, the smaller girl had texted her no less than forty times in the first seventy-two hours she was gone about the most mundane things as if absolutely nothing was different between them.

Laura had seen that Carmilla’s favorite movie was on, and though the old black and white pictures weren’t her cup of tea, she’d watched it anyway because she couldn’t not. She’d met Mel for a quick cocoa while Sherman was at physical therapy, and they’d talked about the latest ad Opaque had put together, and how it was constantly playing during every commercial break on television and donning every other billboard in Manhattan. She’d had dinner with LaF and Perry at Carmilla’s favorite sushi place but it wasn’t as fun because the ginger duo weren’t nearly as adventurous when it came to their food.

The messages had only stopped after it became abundantly clear that Carmilla was not going to respond with a flirtatious quip or a sarcastic remark.

Every time she saw Laura’s name flash across her phone, she felt that sting grow, the pain pushing itself further into the center of her chest, unwilling to let go. And it was all because she’d gone and developed actual feelings for the smaller girl.

That’s what this was, right? That was why she couldn’t get Laura out of her mind, wasn’t it? That was why she missed her terribly every time the door closed behind her. That was why Carmilla was…

So fucked up!

She savored being with Laura, whether they were out for dinner, talking and teasing with ease or wrapped around each other, alone behind a locked door, taking advantage of whatever surface was closest.

She adored watching Laura, regardless of if the smaller girl was across the room at a crowded bar, laughing with their friends or sitting next to her on her leather couch, binging Netflix beneath a shared blanket.

She delighted in listening to the tiny brunette rant on and on about some obscure fact or reference, her passion never diminishing, regardless of the topic. And she relished those silent moments between them when Laura’s breath would even out to match hers, neither one needing to fill the quiet comfort around them as they simply laid together, lest they ruin the fantasy.

But what was really going on between them? And what in the hell was the horrible pain in her chest anyway? She’d never felt it before. But then again, she’d never felt about anyone the way she felt about Laura, a fact that she had adamantly denied for far longer than she wanted to admit to. No one had ever turned her world upside down the way Laura Hollis had. No one else had ever made her feel as safe and comfortable and… loved.

Not even Elle.

Staring out at the Los Angeles skyline, she thought about the last night she had with Laura. How after their minor disagreement, the night had changed. It became something so different than the frantic, hard pace they’d set earlier in the evening. It had been soft and slow and so damn… perfect. And afterward, Laura had curled into her, holding tight, her fingertips dancing along Carmilla’s side until she’d finally drifted off to sleep, so peaceful and quiet. Carmilla had watched her for far longer than she should’ve, taking in every inch of Laura’s beautiful features, memorizing every mark, every bump, every slight blemish that she could find.

Sleepovers weren’t part of the deal really. And even after all these months, they still weren’t that common. In fact, once a week was about the maximum. Anything beyond that, Laura would brush her off with a throwaway remark about having to ‘get back’ and a sweet smile, occasionally leaning in to leave a quick, bashful kiss against her cheek before practically running out the door like she couldn’t get away fast enough.

And then Carmilla would be left on her own once again, trying not to let the lonely silence crush her.

She had no intention of it ever getting to this point. She honestly never anticipated having any sort of relationship with Laura beyond the interactions she was forced into by Mel and the others. Sure, she’d heard the name a handful of times over the last decade or so, when she actually bothered to pay attention. But she’d never given the girl a thought beyond the fact that the incredibly annoying ginger-giant squad obviously missed having her around.

The first time they were properly introduced by their friends hadn’t quite gone as planned. Nor had the second. The third meeting, while initially seemed to go much smoother, turned into a complete disaster. But the fourth meeting, when Laura had unexpectedly been standing outside her apartment just seven months earlier, waiting for Carmilla to come home, had been the turning point. And while that evening still ended a tad messy, there was no turning back. There was no denying that they were supposed to be a part of each other’s lives. And a big part at that.

But that didn’t mean they would ever be more than friends.

Or friends who fuck.

So when had this happened? How had this happened? How had she gotten to this point?

She’d finally drifted off their last night together, Laura’s head cushioned on her shoulder, the scent of her vanilla almond shampoo surrounding Carmilla in a comforting bubble, unwilling to burst. And it had felt so amazing. So incredible. So…

Fucking perfect.

So short lived.

She woke up late that next morning, the sun already high in the sky, the beams just barely drifting through the black and gray curtains she’d hung in her bedroom as soon as she’d moved into the extremely expensive apartment just two years before.

Rubbing a hand across her face, she stretched, feeling her muscles complain as she did, and rolled to her left, instantly feeling the dread settle into the pit of her stomach.

The bed next to her was empty, the blankets neatly pulled back in place as if Laura had never been there. Propping herself up on her elbow, she looked around the empty room, her clothes from the night before neatly folded and sitting on the gray tufted chaise along the interior wall. Swallowing hard as she fully sat up, she strained to find any sound beyond the closed bedroom door. Laura wasn’t a quiet person after all. But there was only silence.

Slowly pushing herself from the bed, she padded across the chilled hardwood floor and grabbed the red silk robe that hung from the back of the bedroom door. Carefully pulling it on, she quietly left the room and made her way down the staircase and onto the main floor of the apartment. And standing at the foot of the stairs, she paused and swallowed hard, the silence around her almost deafening. The tiny brunette was gone. She knew.

You are such an idiot. This is a girl you can never have. A girl who is only using you because you help her forget all of her bullshit for a little while. A girl who will never want you for more than that. What do you expect?

Hearing her phone chime from its spot on the long heavy mahogany table in the middle of the Los Angeles conference room, Carmilla shook the memory from her head and made her way towards it, hoping it was Mattie telling her the meeting was canceled. Or Will checking in with another brilliant idea.  Or anyone really, except…

Her.

But of course, she wasn’t that lucky.

Laura (10:56 AM): Hey. Just checking in. Making sure you’re alright. You’ve been so quiet and it’s really starting to freak me out. I’m worried about you.

Worried. Sure. Wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to the goods.

With a sigh, she wrapped a frustrated fist against the table twice, the knock echoing louder than she’d anticipated.

“Ah, bored already, Ms. Karnstein?”

She looked up, quickly shoving the now silenced device into her leather attaché. Smoothly buttoning her suit jacket, she put on her most charming smile for the three older men that entered the room, the dull thud from the double doors shutting behind them sounding louder in her ears.

Ugh, Jesus.

“Not at all, Mr. Roberts,” she laughed, the sound fake and forced as she turned on her tried and true charm. “Just incredibly eager to hear what you thought of the latest mock-up Mr. Luce sent your way yesterday afternoon. Ms. Belmonde told me that you expect this to be your ‘it’ product for this year’s holiday season and we really want to push that as much as possible.”

“We do expect that. And, as such, we’re going to need a far better campaign than what you’ve already shown us,” he said, walking around the room and taking a seat at the head of the mahogany table, his partners following. “Frankly, Ms. Karnstein, if Opaque wants to keep our business, you and Mr. Luce may want to start from scratch.”

Fucking goddamn pain in my ass.

Her strained smile pushed up even further at the corners of her mouth as she took her own seat, preparing for hours of back and forth horseshit ideas from these men who had no idea how to sell their product and hadn’t for years.

This is going to be a long fucking day.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her phone light up once more from the inside of her attaché and she purposely folded her hands together atop the table to keep herself from reaching for it. She knew who it was. She knew that with every minute that passed without a response she was only making the situation more complicated. She knew she was only making it harder, and not just on herself, but on Laura too.

Trapped between a rock and a hard place, she was at a loss. If she kept up with this whole charade in silence, it would only lead to getting her heart broken. But if she spoke up… if you actually admitted how you feel about her… well, that would just lead to heartbreak as well. It was a no-win situation, but what else could she do?

You know what you have to do. And she’d known it for a while now. Admitting it was just so completely and utterly terrifying that it made her heart beat faster, the resounding thuds climbing through her chest and quickly scattering across her skin, tight and painful.

But Laura was right.

You know she is, she thought, swallowing hard. This has to stop.

Friday, September 20th, 2019

Weehawken, NJ

She’d screwed up. Big time. She knew that. She’d known it for months. And now, not only did she have to face her own colossal mistake, but she had to deal with complete radio silence from Carmilla over the last five days, only making everything that much harder.

Well, it hasn’t been complete radio silence, Laura thought. She’d gotten a brusque ‘I landed’ late Sunday night that had left her wondering, but she chalked it up to the long flight. Plus Carmilla had been irritated about having to take the trip to begin with. She’d been complaining about it every day for the last week.

But then, there’d been nothing. Nothing the rest of Sunday night. No ‘hey, cutie’ for her to wake up to on Monday morning. No teasing or flirting on Tuesday. No incredible grouchiness on Wednesday.

She’d tried reaching out. She longed for any sort of response. A call, a text, a damn carrier pigeon.

But by Thursday, her desperation became something else entirely and she’d broken down, asking with very little hope of a response, if Carmilla was okay. Sure, she’d gone days before without hearing from the other girl. But something else was going on. There was something here that she couldn’t see. And she couldn’t help the worry that settled in her gut.

The worry still sat there now, more than twenty-four hours later, growing and changing. Pushing up into her chest and then her throat, screaming, unwilling to be ignored.

Had she done something wrong? Had she made the older girl angry or upset?

Did I screw up something else? Again? she internally huffed, tucking a wayward strand of hair behind her ear, the gentle breeze immediately unsettling it once more.

Carmilla Karnstein. The girl was a complete enigma. The most beautiful and incredible mystery that Laura had ever found. But dammit, would it be so hard for things to be just a little bit easier? Would it be so terrible for the dark-haired girl to…

Be an adult and stop sulking like a five-year-old? Even if she is super cute when she pouts.

The pout had been out in full force their last night together, Carmilla once again using those gorgeous dark eyes and enticing full lips against her, leaving Laura nothing more than a melted puddle of want and need and…

No. Knock it off!

The next morning, the first thing her eyes had found when they opened was the stunning sight of Carmilla, lying on her stomach, ebony hair cascading against the deep red of her pillow, a few rebellious strands creeping along her shoulder, the contrast to her ivory skin somehow making her even more gorgeous. And she was sleeping so peacefully. A peaceful Carmilla wasn’t exactly a normal sight, but it was one that Laura cherished on the rare occasion she’d been privileged enough to witness it. This was the only time she got to see Carmilla like this. No walls. No defenses. The older girl completely and utterly exposed.

Vulnerable.

Laura had smiled softly when she felt the weight from Carmilla’s arm across her waist, her hand wrapped around Laura’s hip securely keeping the tiny brunette in place. God, how wonderful it would be to have the luxury of waking up like that every day. To be able to fall asleep next to Carmilla. To have it be alright to rouse her with a long, slow kiss and watch those gorgeous dark eyes slowly flutter open.

To be able to sit with her afterward, sipping from steaming mugs as Laura read The Times and Carmilla went through her schedule for the day, their fingers brushing against arms and legs and anywhere there was skin.

A car horn in the distance caught her attention, pulling her back to her spot on her dad’s front porch where she’d parked herself with a book and a glass of lemonade earlier, hoping to take advantage of the downtime she’d been presented with.

Right. Relaxing. Sure, totally feasible when I can’t stop thinking about her.

Why had she left? Again? Why did she keep leaving Carmilla’s warm embrace in the wee hours of the morning when the light was still soft and purple on the horizon?

Why have you continued to sleep with her this whole time? she thought, running a frustrated hand through her hair.

But that was one question she already knew the answer to.

Because this is the only way you can actually have her. Because you are so completely and totally in lo- No! Stop.

Sure, they were friends and she knew that Carmilla cared about her. She knew she mattered to the older girl. She knew she was an important part of Carmilla’s life. But for Laura, to know that she had been in love with the other girl for months now and that beyond their late night rendezvous, they’d never have anything else that fell in the intimate or romantic category… it nearly broke her.

I never knew it could hurt this much.

Probably because it never had. No one else had ever made it feel this amazing and terrifying and heartbreaking all at the same time.

But… she’s different.

Laura kept telling herself that she had to stop. That she had quit. The longer she let it go on for, the more she was going to end up getting hurt. But no matter how many times she told herself that, like a good junkie, every second or third night, she’d find herself knocking on Carmilla’s door and spending the next few hours completely lost in the woman she was crazy about, pretending like it was more. Pretending like Carmilla actually loved her back.

You have to stop this. You… you have to get over her. She’s never going to see you as anything more than a friend she occasionally sleeps with. She’s doesn’t do relationships, you know this. And… you know she doesn’t want you, Hollis! Get it together.

But that was easier said than done, obviously, as she’d been telling herself this for months now. She needed to get out. She needed an escape. But where could she look? How could she make it happen?

Turning as her phone chirped beside her, her eyes went wide and, with a slight fumble, she grabbed the device up, her heart pounding painfully against her ribs.

Carmilla (1:06 PM): How’s your dad?

Okay, so it wasn’t a message answering any of her previous texts over the last few days, but it was something. And asking after Sherman wasn’t something new. She knew how much Carmilla actually liked the older Hollis and that Sherman absolutely adored the dark-haired girl. And, try as she might, she couldn’t hold back the smile knowing that Carmilla cared enough to ask about him, even after all these months.

Not exactly what I was hoping to hear from her but… I’ll take it.

Laura (1:07 PM): He’s okay. Had a rough day with the doctors poking and prodding so he’s asleep on the couch right now.

She waited, tapping at the edge of her phone, ignoring the sound of the neighborhood children laughing loudly as they chased each other around the front yard across the street.

Come on, Carm.

Carmilla (1:10 PM): Did everything go alright? With the doctors?

Breathing a sigh of relief, she quickly typed out an answer.

Laura (1:11 PM): Yeah. He’s still having those headaches but no other dizzy spells or anything else. Still on the right track.

And again, she waited, nervously biting at her bottom lip, the ring finger on left hand twitching with worry. She didn’t want to push but she so desperately didn’t want the dark-haired girl to vanish again.

It wouldn’t be the first time she’s pushed me away though.

Carmilla (1:16 PM): And how are you? Are you okay?

With a heavy sigh, Laura released the breath that she didn’t even realize she’d been holding in relief. Maybe it was alright. Maybe they were okay. Maybe she’d been worried for nothing.

Laura (1:17 PM): Yeah, I’m good.

Yes, Carmilla did care. That she knew.

I just wish she cared more.

Carmilla (1:18 PM): I just wanted to make sure. Sorry I haven’t really responded to your texts. Just had a busy week.

Laura (1:18 PM): That’s totally fair. I’m just glad you’re okay.

Still gnawing at her bottom lip, she’d paused for a long moment after typing another message, her thumb hovering over the send button, unsure if she should actually press it or not. The ‘I miss you’ she’d typed out glared back at her, loud and bold. And so completely terrifying.

But it was true. She did miss Carmilla.

So much.

Carmilla (1:20 PM): I’m fine. But there is something I’d like to talk to you about. Something we need to discuss.

Carmilla (1:20 PM): When I get back next week.

Oh god. Crap.

Laura knew it was coming. She’d been preparing herself for it for months now. Ever since she’d realized…

Don’t!

Quickly deleting the ‘I miss you’ , she struggled for a moment longer, her stomach rolling, breath quick, feeling like she was going to be sick.

Laura (1:26 PM): Of course. We’ll talk when you get back.

And then there had been nothing more.

They were done. Over. She knew it. There was no point in kidding herself anymore. They’d always had an expiration date and it seemed that they’d finally reached it.

Closing her eyes in the hope of alleviating the sudden burning sensation behind her lids, she sighed softly.

She knew better than this. She’d known all along.

Hell, you know her past! You know what happened with Elle. You know about all the other girls. You knew right from the start! You knew! And you are so incredibly stupid!

But it didn’t matter. She’d done it anyway. She’d fallen in love with Carmilla Karnstein and had carried those feelings, heavy and burdensome in her chest for months, quietly suffering, the older girl none the wiser.

Dammit. What am I going to do? I can’t… I don’t want to lose her. I can’t lose her. She means everything to me and… and even if that’s not what I mean to her, I need her.

“Hey, Laur? P-Pumpkin? You still here?”

Opening her eyes with a quiet gasp, she furiously wiped at her cheeks as she stood from the old wicker rocking chair, hating that a few tears had leaked out.

Beside her, her phone pinged once again and she quickly grabbed for it, hoping…

Dammit, she thought when she saw a different name than the one she wanted, the words ‘Hey, you busy tonight?’ flashing across her screen followed by 'I’d love to buy you dinner. I miss you.’ before it went black once again.

But she couldn’t focus on that now. On any of it. She never should have let the situation with Carmilla be front and center in her line of vision, never mind this new development outside of the dark-haired girl-

No.

She wasn’t here for that. She was here for her dad. And she needed to help him so that she could go back home, get back to her life, and not have to worry about any of this from her modest west coast apartment twenty-nine hundred miles away.

And she was so close.

Any day now.

“Yeah! Coming, dad!”