Actions

Work Header

The Assistant

Chapter Text

Ann Walker sits on the edge of her bed, staring at the wall in a daze. Her printer is noisily running in the background as she fidgets with the ring on her pointer finger. She’s preparing in her head for what may be the most important day of her life. Having been on countless interviews since she graduated, she just can’t seem to land a promising job in her profession, or at least one that feels somewhat meaningful.

There’s a light knock on the door, startling her out of her trance. “Ann? Ah, sorry to scare you! Are you alright?” Her best friend and roommate, Catherine asks as she enters the room.

She puts a hand over her chest and sighs, “Yes, yes I’m fine. Sorry, I’m just trying to mentally prepare for this interview.” She rubs her forehead, trying to ease her anxiety. “I really want this job, Cath. I know it’s only an assistant position but it’s to the Executive Editor at Shibden Publishing. The same company responsible for some of my all-time favorite novels. This is the foot in the door I’ve been waiting for and I just have to do well today.” She takes in a deep breath, attempting to calm her nerves and moves towards the printer.

“Oh, you’re going to do great! You certainly have the credentials and you’re better than you think at making a first impression. I know you hate your current job, but just let that be your fuel to kick ass today!”

Ann smirks back at Catherine, eyebrows still wrinkled with worry. She lets out a heavy sigh as she thinks about her current job. She’s an entry-level proofreader for a medical device company. The job is fine but not at all what she envisioned when she got her degree in journalism. She’s always loved discovering new authors and submerging herself into the worlds they create. But the publishing industry is just so difficult to crack into and opportunities like the one she has today don’t come around very often.

And then there’s the issue of Tom Ainsworth. He’s one of the sales reps in her department who became somewhat obsessed with her when she started. He always tries to find ways to force them alone together and has made several inappropriate comments and advances towards her while at work. Since he’s one of the top sales reps in the company, she feels helpless and a bit scared to ever report him. She cringes at the thought of him and shakes his image from her head.

Ann picks up her resume from the printer and stores it in her bag. She turns and smiles back at her friend, “Thanks Cath. Regardless of what happens, drinks tonight?”

“Obviously!”

_______________

Ann takes the metro to her interview and finds an open seat. She pulls out her phone and looks over her research notes on Shibden Publishing. It’s one of the oldest publishing houses in London and it’s responsible for issuing some of the greatest novels in history. Ann smiles to herself as she sifts through her notes, trying very hard not to get her hopes up. She flips to the LinkedIn profile for the Executive Editor she will be interviewing with, a Miss Anne Lister.

She looks at the woman staring back at her and her stomach flutters, causing her to look away briefly until she can’t help but look back and study the photo. The woman is standing somewhat to the side with her head slightly cocked. She has a look of both sophistication and a bit of smugness. Ann can’t help but think how stunning this woman is as she tries to shake the thought from her head. As if she wasn’t intimidated enough.

She arrives at her stop and begins walking towards her location. The busy London streets whip by as she pulls out her phone to double check the address. She walks past a mirrored building and glances at herself in the reflection.

She’s wearing a mauve pink dress with small white polka dots that ties in the center and a simple pair of nude heels. Her blond hair is loosely curled and her lip color matches her dress. She shrugs her shoulders and smirks at her reflection. No turning back now.

Ann approaches the glass doors to Shibden Publishing and the butterflies set in. She walks to reception and gives her name. The woman manning the desk gives her a kind smile and asks her to take a seat. Ann looks around the lobby and notices a line of posters that showcase the impressive portfolio of books the company has published. She takes in a long, steady breath as the receptionist hangs up her phone and motions for her to follow. “Miss Lister will see you now.”

They walk into the main lift and go up four flights while they exchange pleasant chit chat about the weather. Ann is led down a hallway past many offices until she reaches a lounge area placed directly in front of a large office. The women are both stopped in their tracks as they hear a loud argument coming from inside between a man and woman. The receptionist and Ann exchange glances, not really sure how to react. Until suddenly, a man bursts out of the office door and yells back over his shoulder “…and you know what, you can take that offer and shove it right up...” he notices Ann and the receptionist as he turns to walk away and stops himself. “Sorry ladies.”

Well, he seems like a real charmer, Ann thinks to herself, widening her eyes and shaking her head. Ann slowly approaches the office a little scared of what she’s walking into. She sees the same brunette from the picture she studied sitting across the room at her rather large desk. She’s writing furiously in a black leather-bound journal. Ann is a bit taken back by the size of her office and what feels like an entire living room positioned in front of her desk. She can already tell that this woman is powerful.

She lightly taps at the open door, “Hi, Miss Lister?”

The woman barely looks up from her writing as she waves her in, “Yes, yes please come in and take a seat. Just give me a moment to finish this thought and I’ll be right with you.”

Ann isn’t sure what seat to take as there are so many chairs in this office, but she chooses the one directly in front of the woman’s desk. As she waits for her to finish, she tilts her head down as if she’s looking at her resume that she’s placed in her lap, but her eyes begin to slowly creep up.

The woman is dressed in a crisp black blazer and a loose white blouse that scoops down across her chest. She has her hair parted in a low ponytail with neat, wavy pieces falling forward and one tucked loosely behind her ear. The sleeves of her blazer are folded up and the muscles in her forearm are bulging as she writes feverishly with her right hand and runs the fingers of her left hand smoothly across her bottom lip. She wears a gold necklace with a ruby heart pendant that falls low, swaying gently across her cleavage, almost out of view beneath her shirt. Ann realizes where her eyes are and lets out a small pant.

Miss Lister hears this and finally lifts her head. It’s then that Ann can see the deep brown eyes staring back at her and the full, soft lips that curl into a warm smile. This may be the sexiest woman she’s ever seen. Ann swallows hard and smiles back.

“Miss Walker, is it?” the older woman looks directly in Ann’s eyes as she gently licks her bottom lip and flashes a bright smile before reaching out her hand.

“Y-yes,” she’s able to choke out, “please, call me Ann.” She connects with the woman and their eyes meet. They shake hands as Miss Lister slowly drags her middle finger across Ann’s palm as they separate.

“Ah yes, Ann. It’s nice to meet you. Do you happen to have a copy of your resume for me?”

“Oh yes, sorry. Here you go.” Ann quickly puts her resume on the desk.

“Excellent. And please, call me Anne.” The woman flickers another brilliant smile and begins looking over her resume to begin the interview. She asks her about her prior experience and her strengths and aspirations. Ann answers as professionally as she can, trying not to be distracted as Anne begins swiping her middle finger along her coffee mug in a slow, suggestive motion. Ann’s chest begins to heat up and she can feel herself starting to sweat.

After about twenty minutes of job-related questions, Anne ends the interview by describing the type of assistant she’s looking for. “This can be quite a grueling job at times. Putting in late hours to meet impossible deadlines. Working with difficult authors who are too attached to their work to accept help. Dealing with colleagues trying to poach your talent. It’s easy for work to fall through the cracks and that’s where you come in.” She pauses. “I need you to be on top of me,” she smiles impishly, “that is, if I’m not meeting expectations.”

Ann lets out a breath and responds too quickly, “I would love to be on top of you.”

Anne’s eyebrows raise slightly as she tilts her head to the side and smirks.

“I-I mean to keep you on track to meet the, the impossible deadlines.” Ann shrinks down into her chair, face on fire, in total disbelief of what she just said.

Anne laughed, “I knew what you meant.” She lowers her voice, “Though I’m not known to relinquish power easily.” She looks at Ann and slowly bites along the bottom of her lip.

Ann’s breath hitches. Did she actually just do that? She can only respond with a small smile and nod as her eyebrows twitch upward.

Anne stands and walks over to her filing cabinet. It’s then that Ann can finally take in her figure. She is slender, yet muscular and her blouse is tucked neatly into her tight slacks, showcasing her fit legs. Anne reaches in the top draw and pulls out a business card.

She hands the card to Ann standing directly in front of her. Ann begins to stand while reaching out to join her hand and on the way up her fingers accidentally brush against the woman’s firm torso. She can see Anne’s body jerk at the contact before pulling back into another irresistible grin.

Ann can’t believe the thoughts and reactions her body is having to this woman. She takes the card and puts it in her bag before willing herself to meet the woman’s intense gaze one last time. “Thank you for your time this afternoon, Miss Lis-Anne.” She ducks her head to hide what she expects is a very flushed face.

“Thank you for your interest, Ann.” She reaches to shake her hand one last time, gently squeezing it and flashing her a quick wink. “We’ll get back to you shortly.”

Chapter Text

Anne watches the young girl walk out of her office and laughs to herself. Poor girl. She’s entirely aware of the effect she has on women and is quite proud of her talents in flirting. She usually tries to keep her professional life and her personal endeavors separate, but she just really needed a little harmless fun this morning after what happened last night.

She rubs her forehead as her mind flashes back to the night before...

She’s lying in bed next to Mariana, a woman she’s been involved with on and off again for nearly twenty years. They’ve just finished having sex; the naked woman twitches against her fingers, moaning softly as she slowly comes down from her orgasm. Anne is watching her face, still inside her, pleased with herself yet deep down feeling unfulfilled in the moment. She leans to kiss the woman’s neck when a phone suddenly buzzes on the nightstand. Mariana quickly jerks away from her and reads the message aloud that her husband’s flight was cancelled and he’ll be home in half an hour. The woman frantically claws for her clothes while nearly shouting at Anne that she needs to go home and once again Anne feels that gash of pain in her chest that she’s far too used to when it comes to Mariana.

Anne’s computer chimes and it jars her mind back to the present. She opens her inbox and sees an email from Mariana. Of course, she groans to herself.

My Dearest Freddy,

Here I am again, apologizing to you for yet another unfortunate event. I know we haven’t been able to spend the night together for ages, but I can’t help how erratic his schedule can be. I’m sorry I pushed you out so quickly, I know you didn’t mean what you said when you left. For what it’s worth, I still adored our time together. I needed that and I need you, Freddy. It will all be worth it once my plan moves forward.

Yours truly,
Mariana

Anne shuts her laptop with force.The fucking plan. If she has to hear one more time about this bogus plan to save up enough money to leave Charles, she’s going to lose it. Anne knows there is more to Mariana’s reluctance to leave him than money since she is fully capable of supporting them both. They’ve been having the same argument for years and Anne is tired of feeling like a dirty little secret to a woman who lacks the nerve to live an honest life.  

She picks up Ann’s resume from her desk and thumbs through it again. A smile finally creeps back to her lips as she thinks about those gorgeous blue eyes, the little freckles that pepper her nose and cheeks, the way she nervously bit her plush, pink lips. Having this girl work for her may be dangerous but she’s certainly qualified and she’s already brightened her mood from such a short encounter. Anne nods to herself, surely, she can be professional and mentor this young girl without any ulterior motives. Surely.

_______________

Ann sits in the lobby, blissfully staring at Anne Lister’s business card, reciting each moment from their meeting in her head. She still has two interviews left with some of the other department heads in the company but she is having a hard time focusing on anything else right now.

She has always known that she’s felt an attraction towards women. When she was younger, it was mostly geared towards the actresses she saw on screen in movies and in television. While her friends would all swoon over the male leads, she would secretly be lusting over the females. And then in secondary school things escalated when she met her best friend who she quickly became infatuated with and who was undoubtedly straight. She tried to lie to herself that she just simply looked up to the girl, but she couldn’t deny the sensations she felt when she would see her, or brush up against her, or sleep next to her. She never acted on these feelings out of fear and shame mostly stemming from her conservative family and she lost touch with the girl shortly after graduating.

For many years she was left constantly wondering, never fully satisfied, only submitting to her true thoughts and desires when she would touch herself in bed. Lingering below the surface, building throughout university and now as a young adult, these feelings have matured just as she has and she finds her fears and reservations fading with her past. She’s finally ready to live an authentic life.

A strong desire arises as her mind pulls her back to the entrancing woman who was just sitting across from her- the teasing smile, the perfect soft lips, the long fingers tapping on the desk, brushing against her palm, lifting up the hem of her dress and stroking slowly up her… she shakes her head from the fantasy. Get it together, Ann. There’s no way this woman was flirting with you. She convinces herself that it takes a certain amount of charm to get to a position like Anne’s and this was surely all that was.

_______________

Ann has just finished her third interview. It was to her unpleasant surprise that it was with the same man that came bursting out of Anne’s office, Chris Rawson. He was just as crass and rude as she expected and it pained her to have to smile and put on an agreeable face to make a good impression. But she decided in the lobby that she still wanted this job despite the feelings she may have for her potential boss and she was going to do whatever it took to get it.

She left the office feeling quite exhausted from her day and strolled off to the nearby pub she planned to meet Catherine at to unwind. She found her friend sitting at a corner booth with a plate of nachos and two pints already on the table.

“Oh my gosh, I think you just saved my life. I am starving!” Ann practically yelled as she collapsed into the booth throwing her bag.

“Long day, huh?” Catherine laughed as Ann starting digging in. “Work hard, snack hard. Our words to live by.” They both laugh like two best friends who just get each other. “So, how did it go?!”

Ann describes each detail of the day– how the office looked, the posters on the wall, some of her better and worse interview answers. She conveniently leaves out her intense feelings of lust for a particular interviewer. Just as she finishes describing what the office café looked like, two additional beers are brought over to their table by a waiter.

“These were sent from the woman at the bar.” He smiles and walks off.

The girls look at each other confused for a moment and then Ann hears a distinct voice approaching her, “Long time no see.”

Anne is standing beside the table, smiling confidently, staring directly at Ann.

“H-hi Anne. It’s good to see you again.” Ann exhales sharply at the sight of this captivating woman who’s since removed her blazer, displaying her tan, toned arms. She instinctively puts her hand out, still in interview mode and also for an excuse to touch her.

“Ah.” Anne laughs and takes her hand holding it gently. “You do know the interview is over?” She rubs her thumb against the back of Ann’s hand, adorably blinks her eyelids and flashes another alluring smile.

Ann feels a familiar longing in her chest and knows her face is already red. “Yes, sorry!” she laughs. “Did you um, get these drinks for us?”

“I did.” She smirks slowly letting go of her hand. “I just wanted to say, well done! I know multiple interviews for one job can be grueling, especially with some of our staff.”

“Wow, thank you so much! That’s really kind of you,” Ann blurts out completely enthralled by the woman’s face. It’s as if no one else is in the room when Ann finally comes to. “Oh Lord, where are my manners? This is my friend, Catherine. Catherine, this is Miss Anne Lister.” She gives a knowing look to her roommate as if to say, this is the person who I need to impress the most.

“Yes, Miss Lister,” Catherine is hesitant at first, looking baffled as to why Ann looks like she’s about to melt in this woman’s presence. “Nice to meet you. Won’t you join us?” Catherine puts a hand out towards the booth.

“Oh no, no, I won’t impose on your evening. We’ll be in touch soon, Ann.” She reaches out and softly rubs her thumb against Ann’s shoulder, leaving her breathless once again.

A few minutes go by and Ann can’t stop thinking about how smooth this woman is. Buying them drinks from across the room, the soft touches that linger a bit too long…. No, still not flirting, she convinces herself.

She looks up towards the bar and sees Anne is still there, looking like she’s about to pay her bill. Without thinking, Ann gets up and hastily says she’s going to the loo.

She walks towards the woman and has to squeeze between barstools to get next to her as the bar is quite crowded. She taps the small of her back to get her attention and the woman turns, raising her eyebrows and smiling when she realizes who it is.

“I just wanted to thank you again for those drinks. You really didn’t have to do that.”

“Oh nonsense, it’s my pleasure. Actually, since I have you here, I really shouldn’t say this until they call you but…” Anne notices how loud it is in the bar as she sees Ann craning her neck to try and hear her. She leans forward, delicately putting the tips of her fingers on Ann’s waist and placing her lips inches from her ear. She whispers, “You’re all mine, Miss Walker. You got the job.”

Ann can’t help but close her eyes from the sudden arousal that fills her body. She impulsively dips her head into the woman’s neck, like a magnet pulling her forward. Her cheek lightly presses against her jaw until Anne moves back, a faint chuckle escaping her lips. Ann manages to look up and meet her gaze, eyes on fire, until she can finally get out a shaky, “Thank you.”

Anne’s eyes move down to Ann’s mouth hungrily. She softly runs her tongue against her bottom lip and then looks back up, eyes piercing. Her hand is still on Ann’s waist as she inches out from her spot to squeeze past. Ann gasps as the woman’s body slowly moves across her own, fingers deliberately brushing low against her waistline, chests grazing against the other’s, Ann’s dress slightly riding up from the contact until she’s finally out. 

“See you on Monday.” She winks and almost instantly disappears into the crowd leaving a motionless Ann, mouth agape, staring at the door. 

Fuck, she is flirting.

Chapter Text

Four excruciatingly long days have gone by since her revelatory encounter with her now boss. It’s finally Sunday evening and Ann has done nothing but obsess over Anne Lister. She sits on her bed staring at the outfit she’s chosen for tomorrow as her mind funnels through the reoccurring thoughts she’s been having all weekend. She’s your boss. Acting on this could cost you your job. She’s out of your league. You have no idea what you’re doing. Ann rolls her eyes as the doubts continue to creep in.

Until gradually, they begin to shift into another emotion… Unless, she was willing to teach you. Show you exactly how to please her. Let you explore every inch of her body until she’s practically begging for you to… A loud knock on the front door snaps Ann back to the present as she quickly rises to her feet. She looks in the mirror, shaking her head as she tries to rub the crimson color from her cheeks. She knows that trouble inevitably awaits her on her first day.

Catherine answers the door and immediately starts laughing as a young girl walks in wearing a red beret. She's holding a basket under a checkered towel covered by two French baguettes and a cube of cheese. “Wow Harry, could you look more like a tourist?”

“Bonjour!” Harriett Parkhill glides into the room, ignoring the comment, setting her things down and tipping the front of her beret. She attempts to speak French but quickly switches to English mid-sentence after failing miserably, “Have you missed me?!”

Harriett is another close friend of Ann’s since university. She’s just returned from a holiday in France with her boyfriend which she had been nauseatingly practicing her French accent for months in advance.

Ann walks out and joins the others, giggling at the sight of her friend. “Why am I not surprised?” The girls giddily join together and instantly start catching up on their time apart. 

After a few hours and several servings of wine and cheese, Ann’s just finished explaining her new job to Harriett, trying her best not to blush every time she mentions the woman whose been occupying her mind.

“I’m so happy for you, Annie. Finally getting closer to your dream job. Now, all you need is to find your dream man and you’ll really have made it.” Harriett smiles a bit condescendingly before finishing off her last sip of wine.

Ann lets out a noticeable sigh. She’s far too used to comments like this. Harriet never failing to complement her while actually pitying her behind her words. “Hmm, I think we have a very different definition of ‘making it’, Mademoiselle.” Ann teases, trying to deflect from the subject.

“Oh please. I know you’ve always wanted a boyfriend. Someone worth coming home to and sharing your evening with. No offense, Cath.” She glances at the other girl who’s now rolling her eyes. “Not everyone can be as lucky as I am,” she brags, “but I think if you just open yourself up to the opportunity of meeting someone, you will. Like, that handsome bloke from your last job, what was his name? Tom? Whatever happened to him?”

Ann feels her annoyance build as she sullenly looks down, fidgeting with her ring. She hadn’t ever told her friends what really happened with the man whose name makes her wince with rage. True to fashion, she knew her friends would just be blinded by his good looks and status and would never understand her resistance. And it doesn’t help that Harriett manages to bring him up every chance she gets while pretending she’s forgotten who he is.

“I already told you,” She snaps, voice surprisingly stern, “I’m not interested in him, nor will I ever be.” Ann hastily gets up from her chair and starts collecting the empty glasses and plates as she walks to the kitchen. They land in the sink with a louder thud than she expected and she turns back to the girls to try and break the tension. Harriett is glaring at her, lips pursed with dissapproval, while Catherine tries to give her a reassuring smile, unable to hide the trace of worry in her eyes.

“I’m sorry, it’s just been a stressful few days preparing for tomorrow.” Ann concedes and begins walking towards her room. “Speaking of, I should really get to bed. Good to have you back, Har.” The girls wish each other a good night, Harriett mostly through gritted teeth, and Ann makes her way to what will inevitably be a restless sleep. 

_______________

She arrives at her new office building early Monday morning, determined to make a good impression on her first day. The friendly receptionist recognizes her and helps her get situated at her assigned cubicle.

She’s sat right outside of Anne’s office which she can tell is currently occupied as the lights are on and the door is closed. She sighs to herself, trying to shake her disappointment that Anne wasn’t the first person to greet her. The sound of her laptop turning on chimes loudly as she begins to place her belongings on the bare desk.

Hours pass and she still hasn’t caught a glimpse of the woman she so desperately wants to see. She tries to be productive by completing some of the training courses that were waiting for her in her inbox but she’s finding it impossible not to keep darting her eyes up, continuously checking on the closed door.

She decides to stretch her legs and search for the kitchen in hopes of calming her nerves. Aimlessly walking through the halls, holding her favorite coffee mug, she notices a middle-aged woman staring at her curiously as she exits a conference room. “Are you lost, dear?”

“Oh no, I’m just looking for the kitchen. I wish they included a map with my welcome packet.” Ann smiles at the woman and fidgets with her cup.

“Ah, you must be Miss Lister’s new assistant!” She hurries over and offers her hand. “I’m Eliza Priestley, one of the Managing Editors here. I heard you made quite the impression during your interview. Miss Lister can be rather hard to please but she seems to be quite smitten with you.”

Ann can feel her cheeks blush from the comment as she tilts her head down, hoping to cover it up.

“Actually, since I have you here, I understand you have experience in the medical device field?” Ann nods as the woman continues, “I’m working with a new author who’s writing about his experience and how unregulated the industry can be and I was wondering if you could help me review some of the pages? The language is going a bit over my head and I could use someone who understands the context.”

“Of course, I’d be happy to help!” Ann beams, delighted to feel useful for the first time this morning.

“Excellent. I’ll run it by Anne to make sure she approves of me stealing some of your time. I’ll send some excerpts to your email later today. Oh! And—” she points down the hall, “kitchen’s at the end of the hall to the left. Welcome aboard, dear!” She waves before turning to leave.

Ann finally locates the coffee she now desperately needs after her lack of sleep and early morning. After many wrong turns, she makes her way back to her desk and she’s stopped in her tracks as she sees Anne’s office door is now open. She takes her seat, curiously looking around, anticipating the flutters in her stomach when she’ll finally see her. Picking up where she left off, she continues her training, trying her best to stay focused.

“There you are.” She hears the familiar sultry voice come up behind her as she jumps, nearly spilling her hot drink.

“Ah, I didn’t mean to frighten you,” Anne chuckles. “You’ve been hiding from me this morning, haven’t you?”

Ann turns and finally faces the woman, meeting her gaze. She may have anticipated it, but nothing could have prepared her for the jolt in her stomach once she locked eyes with the person she’s been fantasizing about all weekend. Her eyes wander down as she takes in her gorgeous dark blue suit, noticing the small floral prints etched on the cuffs. She’s wearing another scoop neck blouse layered under her jacket which Ann hopes is also sleeveless. Her eyes meet the brightness of the red heart pendant ceremoniously swaying against the woman’s chest, nearly hypnotizing her until she realizes she’s staring, mouth open, yet to answer her.

“I-I’ve just been working on my training,” she responds, clearing her throat and breaking her burning stare. “Your door was closed and I didn’t want to bother you.”

Anne is smirking at her, eyebrows raised as if she knows where the young girl’s mind wandered off to. “Those trainings can be such a waste of energy. They’re really just utter nonsense most of the time. Hm, let’s see what kind of rubbish they’ve assigned now.”

She can feel Anne’s chest suddenly press up against her back as the woman bends down to get a better look at her computer. Her pulse quickens as Anne’s left hand drapes across the top of her chair and her fingers idly brush beneath the flowing sleeve on her shoulder.

Leaning forward, Anne places her right hand on top of the desk while her body turns, resting gently against Ann’s right shoulder. She reads aloud the title of the training on the screen, her voice tickling the nape of Ann’s neck, “Code of Conduct: Respecting Others in the Workplace.” Anne hesitates, pursing her lips together. "Oh. I suppose this one isn’t nonsense. No, this one’s quite important.”

She holds back a smile after seeing the look on the woman’s face, predicting that she doesn’t particularly enjoy putting her foot in her mouth.

“You know, there’s a trick with these modules. If you just click this button here from the settings—” Anne leans slightly more forward, placing her hand on the mouse directly over Ann’s, “you can change playback to include subtitles. This way you don’t have to wait until the presenter finishes talking before you can move ahead.”

Trying to hide her sudden shaky breathing, Ann remains still despite their proximity. She can feel the woman softly humming against her shoulder as she fiddles with the mouse, sending a tingle throughout her entire body. Her eyes shift to the right, unable to resist temptation as she’s practically face to face with the woman’s chest, her pendant nearly hitting her cheek. The more Anne leans, the further down Ann can see. Past her strong collarbones, down the slight opening of her shirt, just below her cleavage. Until the tops of two soft, full breasts slide into view.

Barely breathing, she darts her eyes back forward, a flush rising in her face, legs crossing beneath her in hopes to suppress her desire.

“There.” Startling her, Anne finally straightens up. “That should help move things along.” She gives her shoulder a tight squeeze and then walks around to face her. She flips her wrist to check the time and her lips curl into a satisfied smile. “I’m taking you to lunch, Miss Walker.”

_______________

Anne stops in her office before they leave. Pausing at her desk, she looks down at her outfit as she fingers the folds of her cuffed sleeves. She smiles to herself, thinking about the heat in Ann’s eyes as they wandered down her body. Mm, this is going to be harder than I thought, Anne considers as she starts twiddling with her watch.

There’s something about this girl. She hasn’t felt this drawn to someone new in a very long time. She takes a deep breath, trying to convince herself that it won’t be a problem and grabs her phone.

She chooses a nearby café that tends to be less crowded on Mondays and has an exquisite outdoor terrace. It’s an unusually warm Autumn day in London and she can feel the sun’s rays attracting to her dark exterior. When they arrive, she removes her blazer to cool down, placing it on the back of her chair. She catches Ann’s eyes flit up, locking in on her bare arms. She smirks as she takes her seat and starts aimlessly running her fingers in small patterns across her forearm, further enticing the girl.

Ann swallows hard before redirecting her gaze. “So, are there any authors you’re currently working with that you’d like me to get more familiar with?” She reaches in her bag and takes out a small flowery notepad and pen.

“Oh, let’s save the work talk for later,” Anne huffs as she waves her hand. “There will be plenty of time for that.” She picks up her water and takes a swig. “I’d much rather take this time to get to know you better. Tell me, who is Ann Walker?” She sits back and settles in, middle finger casually swiping the rim of her glass, eyes locking on the intriguing girl in front of her.

"Um, well, I..." Ann is noticeably blushing, obviously taken aback as she nervously attempts to answer the broad inquiry. After a few probing questions and reassuring looks, Anne finally gets her to relax and she starts to open up.

They go back and forth as time passes, taking turns sharing tidbits about themselves- where they grew up, the universities they attended, their lists of favorite authors and novels. Anne is surprised and impressed with how easy it all feels and she recognizes a familiar spark inside of her that she was beginning to fear had burned out since Mariana.

“And what about your family? Are you close to them?” She presses on, idly picking at the remnants of her salad.

“Most of my family lives in Scotland so I rarely see them besides on holiday.” Anne can hear a hint of sadness in her voice before she continues, “But I do have my friends. You met one of them. My roommate, Catherine? Yes, they can be like family at times.” She rolls her eyes, “Good and bad, I suppose.”

“Hm, you don’t seem so convinced?” Anne proceeds, noticing the shift in her tone.

“No, they’ve definitely been good to me. It’s just that," she starts searching for the words, "I sometimes wonder whether I’m truly being myself with them. Or if I’m just playing the version of who they want me to be. Nervous little Annie, always unsure of her next step.” She pauses. “I find that this version may be beneficial to them and their egos but I feel like it's constantly holding me back. And I’m just so tired of feeling like the world is passing me by as I watch through the eyes of someone I don’t even recognize.”

Anne is staring at her incredulously, a protective feeling waving over her. She is struck by how much she can relate to her words, especially thinking about the restrictions and shame she feels from Mariana. How is it that this girl can stimulate you, having such little life experience? She ponders to herself as she rubs her finger lightly across her lips.

Their eyes lock, both wanting to say more, until Anne jumps from a sudden vibration in her pocket.

“Excuse me.” She gives a remorseful look before seeing a ridiculously long list of outstanding messages. She had been avoiding Mariana's texts all morning, not yet ready to address what happened. She reads the first couple of lines to herself, “You’re not even going to talk to me? After everything we’ve been through?” She flips the phone down on the table and shuts her eyes with frustration.

“Sorry. Bad timing.” She turns the phone over again to turn it off and suddenly notices the time. “Ah, it’s not actually 3:00 pm is it? Where did the time go?” Looking back at Ann, she playfully bites her bottom lip as she melts back into the gorgeous blue eyes that flicker with admiration.

Chapter Text

They return to the office, Anne feeling lighter than she has all morning. She glances at Ann in the lift and grins as she catches her staring.

The girl dips her head, the most adorable smile meeting her lips. “I can’t remember a more lovely afternoon,” she gushes as the elevator doors pull open.

“Well, not to bust up your mood, but we will need to discuss some work today. Just a bit of housekeeping for your first day. Nothing too taxing. Join me in my office?” She signals to her open door.

They sit across from each other separated by her large desk. Anne is suddenly aware of the distance between them and feels a surprising longing in her chest, wishing she could close the gap. She takes a steady breath, determined to be somewhat productive today and takes out her journal. They dive in.

She begins going through her list of objectives, detailing her current priorities and what projects she’s working on. Ann soaks up every word, frantically writing in her notepad.

“There’s a very important author we’re trying to sign before the end of the month,” she begins explaining animatedly, “she wishes to keep her name a secret for now as she’s requested to use a pseudo-name for her next book. You see, she’s an incredibly successful series writer who has made her fortune in a niche genre. She wants to venture out into a totally new, somewhat daring field and she wants an honest reception from readers. If we are lucky enough to sign her—” she crosses her fingers in the air, “then she’s promised to also give us the rights to her next highly-anticipated release.”

“So, for your first assignment,” she continues, “I’d like for you to read the first few chapters she’s sent over and create a summary. It’s quite simple. I’ll share the template we usually use.” She begins searching for the file on her computer. “Also, feel free to provide feedback of your own on the writing. We want to make sure we’re nurturing your talents for the future.” She flashes Ann a quick wink before ducking her head back down. “If you don’t mind,” she adds, still searching distractedly on her computer, “go on over to my bookshelf and you’ll find my copy. It’s called Wintering in Rome.

Ann nods excitedly as she gets up and walks over to the corner of the room. Several minutes pass and Anne looks up, noticing that the poor girl’s been looking in the wrong section this whole time. She sees her crouched down, swiping her finger against the line of books on the bottom shelf. Her blouse slightly raised, exposing the indent in the small of her back. Anne can’t seem to tear her eyes away and ignoring her better judgement, she stands and moves towards her.

Ann must hear her as she suddenly straightens up and looks over her shoulder. “I’m sorry, I’m having a little bit of trouble. You really have an amazing variety here.”

“Thank you. Yes, I forget how extensive my collection has grown.” She comes up behind the girl feeling herself being drawn in. Her eyes fall on the slope of the her neck, her blond hair delicately strung over one shoulder, tiny freckles revealing themselves over her skin. Not able to control the growing urge to touch her, she presses her body against her, instantly feeling the stiffness in Ann’s shoulders at the contact. She reaches her hand up and presses it onto Ann’s, guiding her fingers along the leather until she stops on one particular book. “Here.”

She slides her hand back up the girl’s arm before letting it fall loosely at her side. Completely entranced by the feel of the girl’s curves fitting perfectly into her own, she dips her head slowly into her neck. Savoring the intoxicating scent of lavender and orchids caressing her nose as a warm breath escapes her lips, causing the girl’s hips to buck against her thighs. A wave of pleasure rips between her legs and she shuts her eyes from the sensation. They're so close now. Anne’s mind surprisingly calm. She only needs to lower her lips just a little more to taste her velvet skin...

“And what do we have here?” A loud series of knocks jerks the two women apart as they snap their heads towards the sound. Mariana is standing there, a nasty look on her face as she takes in the young girl standing next to Anne.

“Mary, how did you get in here?!” Nearly shouting, she smooths out her blouse, trying to regain her composure.

“It’s not like I ever needed an appointment before,” the woman scoffs, looking Ann up and down, hot with envy. “It seems I’ve disturbed your little meeting with...”

“Ann. Walker. My new assistant.” Anne responds sharply, the anger starting to build. “We were just...” she pauses, “looking for a book for her next assignment.”

“Yes, and now that I’ve got it, I should probably get started.” Ann finally speaks up, practically sprinting towards the door. “It was nice to...meet you,” she blurts out and Anne can tell from her voice just how uncomfortable she feels and this only adds to her rage.

“Ann, you don’t have to...” She pleas but the young girl has already made her way through the door, awkwardly waving as she goes.

“Well, now I see why you've been avoiding me. Here I am, thinking something terrible has happened to you only to find you cuddled up with some doe-eyed little...child!” Mariana snaps in frustration, raising her hands up as if to gesture, What the fuck are you doing?

Anne glares at her. There are so many things she could say right now, things that would truly hurt the woman. That would make her feel an ounce of the pain she’s felt all of these years. But instead, she opts to rise above it, letting out a deep breath before finally turning and walking back to her desk chair.

“She's my assistant. And even if she wasn’t, that’s none of your concern anymore.” She attempts to soften her voice. “You’ve made your choices, Mary, now please, let me make mine. I can’t keep playing second fiddle to your husband, planning our lives around his schedule, feeling you search the room in fear whenever we’re in public. It just won’t do for me anymore. I need you to respect that, to allow me the space that I need.”

The woman quickly moves to where Anne's seated, falling beside her knees, a look of desperation flooding her face. “But Freddy, what about what I need?” She cradles Anne’s face in her hand. Anne tries to pull away but knows it’s no use. A part of her will always give in. “You know I’m trapped in that house. I just need a little more time. And then, we can live together just like we’ve always said.” She runs her fingers across the outline of Anne’s jaw.

“Mary,” Anne gently grabs her wrist before pulling it away from her. “You know I’ll always adore you.” She links her fingers between her hand. “But now is just not the time. We need to discuss this, I know that, we owe it to each other. But first, I need some distance.” The woman winces at her words. “I’m going to York for a few days for work. Let me clear my head and then we can talk about this when I get back. Okay?”

After a few more reassurances and a tense kiss, Mariana reluctantly agrees and leaves her.

Slumping down in her chair, Anne feels utterly defeated as she tries to rub the tension out of her forehead. She longs to rid herself of these feelings of inadequacy, of just never being enough.

She closes her eyes, taking long, heavy breathes until her mind gradually leads her to two familiar blue eyes, peering up at her, admiring her exactly as she is. A feeling of clarity crashes over her as she opens her eyes. She’s done watching life pass her by as she echoes Ann’s words in her mind.

Sitting up, she opens her laptop and starts composing an email. Smiling widely at the screen, not quite sure what to expect, she hits send.

Ann,

How would you like to join me in York for a few days?

A. Lister

_______________

Ann has thought of nothing else since receiving that unexpected invitation. She’s since learned more background on the purpose of the trip after exchanging a few more emails with Anne. They’ll be meeting with the author of Wintering in Rome in hopes that she’ll sign a contract with Shibden.

She was a little disappointed at first to learn that other members of the team would be tagging along, but it helped to keep her expectations strictly professional.

Ann was scheduled to meet the team later that week, planning to arrive the night before the big pitch. It had been two long days since she’d last seen her boss who was already in York, meeting with other potential authors in the area. She tried to keep busy, distracting herself from thoughts of the brash woman who walked in on them days before. Who was she? Why did she look so jealous over what we were doing?... What actually were we doing? Ann can’t stop thinking about what almost happened up against that bookshelf, questioning whether she imagined the whole thing.

If she closed her eyes, she could still feel the woman’s breath brushing across her neck as her fingers dangled against her leg. If only she turned just slightly, she would have met those generous lips, felt their weight pressed against hers.

Thankfully, her new assignments have helped fill her time. She’s almost finished the first chapters of her assigned book and she’s even managed to review some of the medical excerpts Mrs. Priestley sent, which surprisingly read more like a riveting mystery. She can’t help but feel like she’s finally doing meaningful work.

Thursday evening arrives and after packing an absurd amount for only two days, Ann sets off on her travels. She finds an open seat on the train and settles in for the long ride. Taking advantage of the quiet setting and the calming vibration beneath her, she pulls out her book to finish chapter three.

She was surprised at first when she learned the subject matter of the story, finding it hard to believe how strongly she connected to it, especially at this point in her life. Taking place in the 1800s, the book follows the life of a trailblazing lesbian who was determined to live her life truthfully without conforming to the harsh societal norms of the time. The prevalent themes of courage and perseverance speak to Ann in ways that make her feel limitless.

The more she reads, the more obvious it becomes who this woman reminds her of. The wisdom and experience, the candor, the playful demeanor. All are matching qualities to a certain older woman whose completely bewitched her.

Especially during this particular scene where she had left off. The protagonist is in the middle of seducing a young woman, opening the timid girl’s eyes to possibilities that she once thought were forbidden. Is this why she wanted me to read this? Ann can’t help but imagine her boss reading the dialogue while fantasizing about her as the eager young woman.

She continues to get lost in the pages, particularly connecting with the innate curiosity of the girl and the lack of courage that suppresses her. The train shudders below her, eliciting a loud creak that startles her from her trance. She drops the book on her lap and looks out the window to readjust her eyes, watching as the city lights streak by.

Focusing her attention back down, she goes to grab the book and notices that it's already flipped open, revealing a new page further along in the chapter. There’s a strong crease in the spine at this particular page, giving her the impression that it must have been held open here for a long period of time. In the middle of the page, right next to a long paragraph, a black “X” has been written in pen as if to mark the spot. Intrigued, she reads on, her eyes widening as she begins to realize what’s in front of her…

It was more than the way she kissed, an intense dance of tongue and lips, her mouth latching on to the young woman’s as if it was imperative to her survival. She’s moving them back, searching for the bedroom, tilting the girl’s jaw so she could nibble and suck at her neck. Hands roaming low, grabbing at hips, pressing them urgently against each other. She feels the girl shiver beneath her lips, wincing as the back of her thighs hit the edge of the bed. Crashing onto the duvet, planting kisses on every inch of her she can reach, she finally gets her hand inside her petticoat. Fighting through wool, searching for warmth, her finger finally slips in, rhythmically stroking through soft, wet curls. The girl comes alive beneath her, realizing she will never be the same.  

Ann closes the book, the arousal growing inside her. Feeling her own wetness between her thighs, she lets out a deep sigh and throws her head back against the seat. She closes her eyes, a sudden realization crashing through her mind. She wanted me to read that.



Link to fanart: x

Chapter Text

Ann arrives at her hotel room and settles in for the night, determined to finish her summary before morning. Her mind frequently wavers, still reeling from the marked page. Managing to power through, she sends a final copy off to Anne in an email before shutting down. She lies beneath the comfy hotel sheets and falls asleep to swirling dreams of thick petticoats and steamy neck kisses.

She awakes to a nagging ringing in her ear. Eyes coming into focus, she reaches for her phone and sees Catherine’s picture. “H-hello? Catherine, you alright?”

“Ann! I’m sorry I know it’s so early, but I’ve somehow managed to lock myself out. I spent the night at Harriett’s and was stopping home to get ready before work and realized I don’t have my key. Do you happen to have the number of the landlord? Please tell me you do”

“Yes, I do. Hold on one second. I’ll find it.”

“Ann? You’re breaking up. Did you say you have it?”

“Yes, I do!” she glances at her phone noticing her lack of service. “Hold on.” Pointing her phone up, she moves towards the door, opens it and walks into the hallway. “Is that better?”

“Yes, now I can hear you.”

She finds the number and shares it with Catherine. Just as she hangs up, she hears a bang behind her as she spins around to the closed door in her face. Fuck!

Dressed in only her flimsy, old pajamas, she curses to herself, horrified by the idea of walking through the elegant lobby to get another key. She hesitates, frozen with anxiety, until suddenly the door directly across from hers swings open, a faint beep chiming from the key fob. As if it couldn’t get any worse, out walks the one person who instantly triples her embarrassment.

_______________

Anne lies in bed, mind turning, refusing to shut down and grant her a few more hours of sleep. She finally surrenders, reluctantly deciding to get up and start her day. After throwing on a pair of slacks and a cotton button up, her idea of casual wear, she ties her hair back and ventures out on a quest for coffee, deciding she’ll continue to review her notes down at the café.

She never expected to run into her assistant when she opened the door, standing there, barely dressed, looking disheveled and frankly, really fucking sexy. “Ann?” she blinks a few times, wondering if she’s still dreaming.

The girl attempts to smooth out her bed head before quickly crossing her arms across her chest. “What are the chances?” She lets out a nervous laugh. “Funny story. I was trying to find cell service and I ended up locking myself out.” Her mouth curls to the side as she shrugs and points to her room.

Anne can’t help but grin at her adorable expression. “Come.” She reaches out her hand and gestures the the girl inside her room. “Let’s give reception a call and have them bring up a key for you.”

Ann nods, arms still tightly wound as she slinks through the door behind her.

After calling down to the lobby, Anne takes a seat at the desk, turning her chair to face Ann who is practically crushing her back against the wall as if to try and make herself invisible. She fails, as Anne can now clearly see her slender frame.

She’s wearing tiny yellow shorts with faded blue polka dots scattered across them. They bunch up high around her thighs, permanently wrinkled from sleep. She’s squeezed into a matching tight tank top, flimsy straps falling down her shoulders, bodice leaving very little to the imagination. Anne can feel the heat rise in her chest as she sees the faint outline of two perched nipples staring back at her, pushing against the taut fabric atop surprisingly plump breasts. 

She abruptly clears her throat, crossing her legs as Ann meets her lustful stare. “Why don’t you take a seat? It could be a few minutes.” She motions to the bed and Ann finally moves, freeing herself from the wall.

Unable to look away, Anne watches the girl's chest bounce as she walks. It takes everything in her to resist the sudden urge to pull her onto her lap, yank down her shirt and clamp her mouth around her supple breasts. Anne bites her lip hard as her mind teases her.

Ann stops in front of the nightstand next to the bed, noticing an onyx ring sitting atop a notepad. “Wow, that’s really beautiful,” she motions towards it, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it.” She takes a seat, finally looking more relaxed.

“Ah yes, thank you." Anne straightens up. "That’s been in my family for many years now. One of the Lister family heirlooms that I actually cherish.”

They exchange smiles. Anne's mind slips back, realizing that the girl is now sitting on her bed and how easy it would be to push her back against the headboard, running her hands up her body as she crashed into her. 

“Since I have you here,” she changes the subject, noticing how long she's been staring, “I have a few things I'd like to go over before I forget. My meetings were quite productive these last few days and there are a couple of tasks that I think you can help me with. Do you want to jot this down?”

“Sure!” Ann eagerly jumps up towards the nightstand, bed creaking loudly beneath her. Reaching for the notepad a little too quickly, she accidentally flings Anne's ring sideways, landing noisely behind the bed frame. She gasps, “Oh Lord! I’m so sorry! I can get it! Let me just—“

“Don’t worry, we’ll get it.” Anne jumps to her feet to help until she is completely stopped cold at what flashes in front of her.

Ann, forgetting what she’s wearing, has bent completely over, jamming her arm behind the headboard, brushing her hand across the floor in search of the ring. Her loose shorts provide little cover as they fall totally open around her thighs, revealing a teal lace fabric stretched tight between her center, two smooth pink folds peeking out on either side. Anne has to clutch the bed post at the sight, nearly losing her balance from the wave of pleasure that jolts between her legs.

“Got it!” Ann jumps up with excitement as she brushes dust off the ring. “It really is beautiful.”

“Mm,” Her voice is low and sultry, unable to mask her desire, “It sure is.”

Ann's body goes rigid as if she’s just realized the position she was in. She lets out a long, deep breathe and slowly turns back to face Anne. A deep crimson flushing over her face. 

Knowing she won’t be able to hide the lust in her stare any longer, Anne confidently looks back at her, eyes hooded, running her tongue slowly against her bottom lip. Wishing it was instead buried deep between the girl's thighs, tracing the outline of the lace, teasing her soft pink flesh. The things I would do to this girl...

A knock at the door startles them both followed by the voice of a young man, “Miss Walker, I have your key!”

They exchange one last starved look before parting ways.

_______________

Back in her room, it takes several hours for Ann to shake the wave of embarrassment from their last encounter. Did you really just flash your boss? The nervous thoughts keep finding their way in, no matter how hard she tries to avoid them.

She’s zipping up the back of the light blue A-line dress she’s chosen specifically for this important day, when Anne’s face flashes in her mind. Those hungry eyes that stared back at her as if she was the only sustenance she needed. Ann shutters at the thought, feeling the same throbbing below her waist that started on the train. She gathers her things, determined to focus her mind back on the task ahead, and sets off to meet the team.

Crowded together in a surprisingly lovely conference room at the hotel, the Shibden team is preparing for their guest. Ann shares some idle chit-chat with Eliza, brushing off her many praises for the work she submitted to her, accepting an additional set of excerpts she‘ll send to her later that day. She has to hold back from rolling her eyes at nearly everything that comes out of Chris Rawson’s mouth. But as usual, her main focus is on the striking woman leading the discussion.

There are no words for how fucking good she looks. Dressed in another brilliant black suit jacket, this one a bit longer and perfectly tailored to her sides, clasped together by one modish metal button. Her hair is down to Ann’s surprise, flawlessly draped over one shoulder as she bends down towards her computer, long chestnut pieces brushing against the keys, complimenting her soft, glowing complexion.

Besides a few quick glances, both women exude professionalism, working together diligently to set the stage for the author.

The pitch goes brilliantly. They even used some of Ann’s summary work in the presentation which makes her swell with pride. She of course recognized who the secret author was immediately when she saw her, feeling relieved at how well she hid her excitement.

But Anne was the real standout, effortlessly charming the author while being incredibly detailed and informed about the new genre. As if she could be even more infatuated with this woman, seeing her completely in her element, exuding passion in every word, was almost too much for her to bear.

After a celebratory dinner and several bottles of wine, the group begins to disperse to their rooms, satisfied with a good day’s work. Ann notices her boss leaning against the lobby wall, looking as though she’s hanging back from the crowd.

She slowly approaches, hoping that she’s the one she’s waiting for her. “Today was wonderful, Anne. I already feel like I’ve learned so much.” She’s beaming now, unable to hide her elation.

“Well, we couldn’t have done it without you! Really great work today. Those summaries saved me a lot of extra time.” She places her hand on Ann’s forearm followed by a small squeeze. Staring at each other, two grins growing across their faces, Anne breaks the hold. “You wouldn’t want to join me for a bit of a nightcap, would you?”

Ann can’t control how fast she responds that she’d love to.

_______________

After pouring themselves another glass, they’re both sitting on the couch in Anne’s room facing each other, laughing over how many times Chris Rawson stumbled over his words due to the explicit content in the book. “I thought his head might actually explode when he finally stammered out the word 'lesbian'.” Anne lets out a loud chuckle as she shakes her head. “The men in this office can be quite daft.”

“Just in this office?” Ann teases, loving every second of their effortless banter. They both share another laugh as Anne slings her arm up across the back of the couch, getting more comfortable.

“I must say, everyone has had some really wonderful things to say about you.” Anne starts, flashing her a bright smile. “Eliza couldn’t stop singing your praises over the work you’ve done!”

“Oh, it was nothing, really! I’m just happy to help in any way that I can.” She modestly deflects. “Oh, that reminds me. There was something you wanted me to help you with? You were asking me this morning before we got… interrupted.”

“Ah, yes, that's right.” Anne begins explaining about a few new authors she’s been vetting and how she’d like a second set of eyes on the pages they've submitted. “It’ll be similar to what you did for Wintering in Rome, though I fear you might not find the stories as compelling. Speaking of which, I didn’t actually get a chance to ask what you thought of the first few chapters. I obviously read your summary which was excellent, but I’d love to hear your actual thoughts?” Anne leans in closer and raises one knee up on the couch.

Trying to suppress the sudden butterflies in her stomach after noticing how close they are now, Ann looks down and starts fidgeting with her glass. “Um, well, I actually found it," she swallows, "very relatable.” She wills herself to look up, meeting the woman’s fiery stare.

Anne tilts her head to the side, eyebrows arching, a playful grin spreading across her lips. “How so?”

She looks back down, very aware of the flush that’s spread over her cheeks. “Um, you know, just feeling like you’re waiting for your life to begin. Waiting for someone to liberate you. To give you courage.” She pauses, “To open your eyes to all you’ve been missing.” She flicks her eyes back up and draws in a shaky breath as they meet the deep brown eyes staring back at her. She waves her hand, quickly trying to change the subject, “I don’t know. I’m probably not making any sense. But other than that, I really liked the beautiful imagery and—”

“Have you ever been with a woman before?” Anne cuts in, not letting her off the hook. Her voice is nearly a whisper; eyes heavy with desire.

“What? Um, I'm…” She stops herself, heart nearly pounding out of her chest. Her mind races as the moment she’s been fantasizing about may actually be playing out before her eyes. She takes a long, deep breath, determined not to ruin what’s unfolding between them. “No, I haven’t.”

Anne glances at her lips while slightly puckering her own, parting them slowly. She stretches her arm further across the couch as her fingers rub lightly against the girl’s shoulder. “Well, have you ever wanted to?” Her voice stays low, just above a whisper.

Ann can feel the fire rising in her face, the familiar ache in her chest, the desire pounding between her thighs. Is this happening? Are we doing this?  She leans her head softly to the side, cheek touching Anne’s hand. Finding a courage within, she whispers, “Yes. More than ever before.”

She can see the effect this has on the woman as her breathing becomes more noticeable, eyes thick with passion.

“Have you?” She continues to ask, eager to keep moving forward.

Anne laughs as she moves even closer to her, their faces inches apart. Her eyes wander down again as she lifts her hand to Ann's face, brushing her thumb gently down the line of her jaw, stopping just below her chin before bringing it back up to trace the outline of her bottom lip. She lowers her voice, “I think you already know the answer to that.” She presses down on her lips, slightly pulling them apart before letting go and joining her hand with Ann's.

Ann’s eyes flutter closed, instinctively licking her lip where it was just touched. She can feel her arousal building as she’s nearly dripping between her legs, sensing her wetness more with every twitch against the couch. Having completely lost her wits, she inches her face forward, eyes glued to the woman’s mouth before slowly closing. She lifts her chin, lips searching for the one thing that will change her forever.

Anne’s hand cups her face once more, rubbing her thumb across the soft skin below her ear. She makes her wait just a second longer, gliding past her lips, resting her cheek against her jaw, sliding her mouth up slowly before purring in her ear, “Open your eyes, Ann.”

Echoing the words she just shared with her, Ann knows that the woman is telling her that she is what’s she’s been missing. She opens her eyes, a stuttering breath escaping her lips as Anne slides back to meet her gaze.

Nearly ready to explode, she sees Anne finally lower her eyes as her face inches forward, noses softly touch, lips nearly graze…

Knock, knock. They jump apart as the sound of insistent knocking pulses through the door. Ann moans as her head falls forward, her body surging with energy from the anticipation.

“I’m sorry,” Anne chokes out, placing her forehead to Ann’s, their chests rising and falling rapidly together, before she furiously stands to answer the door. Ann’s body nearly trembling in her wake.

She overhears Anne being told that the author’s agent from earlier has urgent questions regarding the contract and she wants a response first thing in the morning. Anne groans before bluntly telling her colleague to meet her in the lobby.

Stepping back inside, the woman shakes her head as she approaches, a look of longing in her eyes coupled with remorse. Ann rises from the couch, knowing that the moment has passed. 

They hover in the doorway, bodies still charged with desire, both wanting the same thing. Anne peers down the hallway, checking to see if they're alone before grabbing Ann's hand, lifting it to her lips, and pressing a soft kiss against her knuckles. 

Chapter Text

“Ann? Earth to Ann. Are you even listening?” Catherine reaches across the table and waves her hand across a brightly lit phone.

“Sorry?” Barely looking up, feverishly typing away, Ann is totally distracted by her device. She finishes her thought and places the phone down on the bar. “Yes, I heard you,” she lies, “you’re going to the Lake District for your aunt’s wedding in the Spring.”

“It’s my cousin’s wedding in the Summer,” Catherine snaps, undoubtedly annoyed by the lack of attention.

“Right, that’s what I meant.” Her phone illuminates again, vibrating aggressively against the wood. The name “Anne Lister” flashes on the screen and she jumps to grab it, unable to hide the wide smile that covers her face.

“What could you possibly be texting your boss about on a Sunday evening? She’s already had you working day and night through the weekend after dragging you off to York at the last minute. Seriously, what’s she playing at?”

Ann, half listening, giggles at the message on her phone, biting her bottom lip as she searches for a clever response. “Sorry Cath, it’s just work stuff,” she finally responds, dismissing her comments. “Now come on, lighten up and have another.” She nudges her friend’s empty glass towards her, hoping that’s the end of her questioning.

She’d love to be honest with Catherine about what really happened in York. How she’s experiencing feelings deeper than she ever imagined, how she almost kissed the woman of her dreams and is now approaching utter obsession.  She wants to share this revelation to almost convince herself that it’s real but she isn’t ready to be that exposed, fearing the repercussions once she is. Yet, nothing in this moment could tether her from the unequivocal high she’s experiencing.

For the past two days since arriving home, she’s been exchanging countless texts and emails with Anne. Mostly under the ruse of finalizing the proposal for Wintering in Rome, which they somehow managed to complete before the agent’s deadline. The majority of their exchanges have really just been excuses to flirt- swapping stories from their past, throwing in not so subtle questions about what the other’s wearing, even live texting Shakespeare in Love which just happened to be playing on the telly the night before. Every new tidbit of information she learns about this mesmerizing woman feels like a gift, something only she has the privilege of knowing, a stepping stone to completely unraveling her.

Catherine reluctantly accepts her apology as they close their tab and head back to their flat. Itching to check her phone after feeling a vibration in her pocket on the walk home, Ann immediately retreats to her room after wishing her confused friend a good night. They had been texting for hours but her heart still fluttered each time she saw her boss’ name.

Anne Lister: “Yes! An old farm up in Halifax. My family owned it. What’s so hard to believe about that?”

Ann laughs to herself, picturing this sophisticated woman shooing away farm animals while wearing one of her dapper suits. She quickly writes back.

“I just can’t imagine you growing up there! My Aunt used to live nearby and I only remember how filthy we were after we toured one of the local farms.”

There’s a short pause between texts and Ann bites her nail waiting for a response, praying she didn’t offend. Until her phone finally chimes.

Anne Lister: “I can get dirty when I want to be, Miss Walker. Or, have you forgotten?”

Suddenly relieved that they’re miles apart, Ann feels a deep flush color her face. She’s reminded of their last encounter, the touch of Anne’s generous lips skimming her cheek, her sultry voice crooning in her ear, the way her fingers stroked lightly between her thighs as they held her hand in her lap. After typing then deleting on an endless loop, searching for a witty remark to retort, Ann settles with a simple: “I can’t wait to see you.”

She places the phone down, putting it to rest, adjusting herself beneath her bed, terrified that she’ll eventually wake and realize this is all a dream.

_______________

Ann must have sauntered to the bathroom ten times the next morning, anxiously checking her curls in the mirror, adjusting her dress so it laid just right. The butterflies in her stomach wouldn’t allow her to sit still as she eagerly waited for her boss to emerge. Examining her reflection, she shakes her head in amusement as she barely recognizes the vibrant woman smirking back at her. She smooths out her blush floral dress, one of her favorites, sweeping across the chiffon fabric. She feels unusually confident, sexy; a new emotion she attributes to finally feeling comfortable in her own skin.

Back at her desk, her eyes follow the clock as she aimlessly swings her dainty necklace across her chest. Anne had called a meeting with the York team at 11:00 am, providing little detail of its purpose. At a quarter to the hour, unable to stand it any longer, body nearly vibrating with anticipation, she stands and walks over to Anne’s office. Drawing in a soothing breath, she lightly taps her knuckles against the door and slowly exhales as a sharp voice beckons her in from the other side.

She hesitantly enters the room, immediately regretting her decision to disturb her until she sees Anne look up from her writing. What starts as a look of indifference swiftly changes into one of pure delight. Anne hastily pushes out from her chair, screeching the legs across the floor. Her energy is almost tangible as the biggest grin radiates from her entire face.

“Ann,” she breathes out, a yearning in her voice, causing her to suspect that the woman may have longed for this moment just as much as she did.

“I just wanted to pop in before the meeting to say hello,” Ann quickly stammers on, heart jumping in her chest, “I thought we might walk to the boardroom together, if you’d like.” She moves towards the desk, placing her hands on the back of the opposite chair, hearing herself and regretting how desperate she must sound.

Until her thoughts are completely muted as Anne moves towards her, placing her hand next to hers, playfully brushing her pinky across the tops of Ann’s fingers. “Hello,” Anne hums, the word beautifully rolling off her tongue as she pulls back into another delicious smile.

Ann’s eyes automatically fall to the lure of the woman’s lips, the hub of her current obsession. Until Anne breaks her stare, looking rather smug at the pronounced effect she’s having. “So,” she flutters her eyelids back into focus before turning to collect her journal, “I scheduled this meeting because our favorite author will be giving us her decision in—” she glances at her watch, “twenty minutes. Shall we see if our late-night efforts paid off?” She motions towards the door as Ann eagerly follows.

The team gathers in the conference room, sipping their tea and grabbing biscuits from the table. Anne looks too anxious to sit, pacing back and forth next to the phone, unclasping her watch and twirling it around her fingers. Ann stands near her, studying her curiously as she moves. She’s not in her signature blazer today, instead she’s wearing a short-sleeve white blouse with sleek black buttons fastened up to the collar. The material is thin and loose; a black bra slightly visible under the sheer fabric. It would be so easy to run her fingers beneath the flowing material, to cup the black lace against her palms, to yank it down to her waist...

Anne catches her gawking, causing her to quickly avert her eyes to the table. Clearly amused at her apparent thirst, still staring straight at her, Anne smirks before addressing the team, “Right,” she places her hands in her pockets and widens her stance, “I want to thank everyone for their exceptional work in York. We made quite the impression. And regardless of what happens, we further enriched the Shibden name. So, we should all feel very proud of that.” The team nods with enthusiasm, clearly not used to such strong accolades from their superior.

“And a special thank you to Ann,” jumping from the surprise of hearing her name, Ann looks at her incredulously as she continues, “who spent most of her weekend helping me with last minute inquiries. I could not have done it without her.” She feels her face getting red, beaming from the unexpected recognition and the adoration gleaming in Anne’s eyes.

Checking her watch once more before placing it on the table, Anne picks up the conference receiver and punches in the number she has written on a post-it. After what seems like an endless amount of legal jargon, reiterating the agreed upon terms that they’ve already exhausted at length, the agent finally reveals that they’ve accepted their offer.

The team roars with excitement. Anne nearly snaps her hand to shush them until she can hang up the phone. The minute the call ends, the woman looks only at Ann as she swiftly moves towards her while exclaiming, “We did it!” Unable to mask their delight, they crash together in a tight embrace, hands gripping shoulders, bodies releasing pent-up energy from their relentless flirting. Forgetting her surroundings, she feels the woman’s face start to turn, breathing her in, nose tickling the hairs behind her ear...

A woman clears her throat which startles them apart, still clinging to each other’s forearms before separating. Eliza leers at them suspiciously, seeming to be the only person who’s noticed. Ann shifts her eyes away too quickly while Anne remains unstartled, giving the impression that she’s no stranger to keeping secrets.

As they disperse from the room, Anne shoots her a look, nodding her head towards her office, signaling her to come inside. The second the door closes, the woman spins to face her, grabbing both hands, pulling her to the couch as her dress sways up from the force.

Ann, still reeling from the news, starts rambling excitedly, “I can’t believe it, Anne! I mean, I knew your work would impress them, well, not just impress them but also make it almost impossible for them to refuse. But, never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be working with—” she gasps as she suddenly feels the tips of Anne’s fingers trace up and down the sides of her thighs, rendering her speechless.

“I can’t stop thinking about you,” the woman exhales cutting her off, focusing solely on her lips, staring so intensely that she thinks they may actually catch fire. “I’ve been completely absorbed by the thought of seeing you again.”

Have you?” she sighs, her heart beating so fast it’s nearly deafening in her ears.  

Running her hands further along her thighs, dress bunching up between her palms, Anne grips her legs hard and pulls her closer. Ann’s jaw drops, drawing in a ragged breath, watching the woman wet her lips with anticipation.

“Anne?” Chris Rawson barely knocks, bulldozing his way through the door without any hesitation. Luckily, they’re able to pull away in time and the man is too insipid to notice the flush on their faces. “They just called back, they want you to meet with their lawyer today, within the hour, to sign the documents,” he demands.

“What? Yes. Fine.” Anne blurts out, barely registering what he’s saying, eyes still locked on Ann. He goes to say something else but Anne has already waved him away, dismissing him before he even fully entered the room.

“I suppose I’ll email you the address then,” the man sneers before turning to leave with a huff, his questionably thick hair flapping as he goes.

Ann immediately scoots back towards the woman, ignoring the interruption, used to it in fact. “Where were we?” she purrs, remembering the girl she saw in her reflection, embracing the carnal desire pounding inside. She inches her face closer, chin raising as her eyes start to close.

“Ann.” The woman laughs, lifting a hand to her jaw, steadying her in place, rubbing her thumb across the corner of her lips. “We can’t...”

“No!” She pants, surprising herself with the assertion in her voice. Fuck! She can’t take it anymore. Staring into those big brown eyes, pleading with her to continue, teetering on the brink of insanity.   

“I know. Believe me, I know.” Anne joins their hands attempting to calm her, resting them upon Ann's lap. “It’s just too risky, here, in this office, for both of us. You see how people barge in at a moment’s notice, despite my constant reminders. And besides,” she gently rubs small circles across her palm, “once I start with you,” she pauses, lowering her voice, “I won’t be able to stop.” She grasps her hand tighter and pushes it down, teasingly applying pressure to Ann’s now throbbing center.

Ann draws in a sharp breath, her arousal surging from the smallest touch. Is she trying to kill me? She looks up, holding her gaze, “Hmm, and you think you haven't already started with me?” she challenges her, bucking her hips while spreading her legs, capturing Anne’s hand even deeper between her thighs.

The woman’s breath hitches, mouth opening and biting down into a hungry smile, visibly turned on by the bold gesture. Her head falls, a palpable sense of agony floods her face as she slowly frees her hand, pulling Ann’s dress back over her knees before declaring, “You’re coming with me.”

_______________

The tension is excruciating. They’re past the accidental touches and mere suggestive gestures; they both know exactly what the other wants and all bets are off. They hop on the lift and Anne can’t tear her eyes from the girl. She tries to convince herself that she did the right thing holding back in her office but the persistent ache in her chest disagrees. Feeling mad with lust and frankly, twenty years younger, she questions her sanity. What is it about this girl that completely unhinges me?

Ignoring the voice in her head, she weaves their fingers together beneath the other occupants, toying with her, gently tracing along the length of her middle finger. As the doors open, Ann puffs out a noticeably loud breath as if she’d been holding it for the entire ride which startles the others, causing them both to burst into laughter. Eyes locked in amusement; they nearly crash into Eliza as they step out.

“Woah, ladies! What’s going on? What’s so funny?” The nosey woman demands, looking more disturbed than before.

Anne tries to tweak her face to stop from grinning but she fails. “Oh, um,” she searches for words, “Miss Walker was just astutely asking if Chris Rawson has always worn a hairpiece,” she lies.

“What?! I didn’t!—” Ann shoots her a stunned look, eyes wide in disbelief as Anne bites her lip to stop from snickering.

“Oh, well,” Eliza considers this before starting to chuckle herself, “you’re not the first to ask that, dear. The poor sod.” Seeming a bit relieved, she passes around them.

“Did you actually just say that?” Ann exclaims, giggling at the ridiculousness, playfully jabbing her fingers into the woman’s waist.

Unable to suppress her hilarity, Anne snorts and grabs her wrists, “Stop, stop, I’m sorry! It’s too easy!” They’re both absolutely beaming now as they head out towards the underground.

_______________

The tube is packed when they arrive but they manage to squeeze in just as the doors shut behind them. The lawyer requested to meet for a working lunch at a location Anne’s never heard of, quite a few blocks from the office. She’s doubtful that she’ll even be able to concentrate, still giddy from her morning with Ann and now, finding them in yet another compromising position. Crammed together between passengers, she stands directly behind the girl, peering down at the arch of her lower back, only a sliver of space between them. Way too easy. 

They bump and glide into each other as the vehicle rocks beneath them and Anne has to restrain her hands in her pockets to stop from clutching the girl’s waist. She stares at the delicate slope of her neck, counting the freckles that trail her skin. She contemplates taking her right here between the oblivious passengers who are packed too tight to notice. They’re not technically in the office, right?  

But the train halts to a screeching stop before her mind can go any further. They push their way up to the street, inhaling the cool air that their bodies desperately need. The girl catches her staring, watching as she straightens out her frock at the waist.

Until Ann’s eyes shift behind her, taking in their new location. “Oh, I know where we are! This is right by where I used to work,” she explains, squinting her eyes towards the street sign.

“What?” Still in a daze, Anne shakes her head, willing herself to refocus. “Right, we’re meeting him at…” she clicks her phone on, locating an email with the address, “The Table Café? Looks like it’s just around the corner.”

“Get out! I used to go there regularly.” Ann explains as she perks up, “It’s a great little caff.”

“Excellent, I suppose this man isn’t a total wanker then,” Anne quips as they hustle across the street. “Are you still close with any of your mates from your last job?”

She notices a shift in the girl’s demeanor as she slightly tenses and looks down. “No, not particularly.” She pauses for a few seconds before breaking the silence, “At least, not as close as I feel to my current ones.” She shifts her eyes towards her, flashing an endearing smile.

Anne grins from ear to ear, nearly walking into a man in front of her before stopping herself in time. “Pardon me,” she laughs nervously. “Ah, here we are.” Pointing to their destination, she opens the door and offers her hand out to Ann.

The receptionist points them to a table where the lawyer is already sitting, tapping his pen and looking rather impatience. They join him and before they’re even seated, he begins barreling through, pulling out papers, telling her what to read and where to sign. Never fond of being told what to do, Anne grits her teeth before reluctantly pulling out a pen.

She certainly gives as good as she gets- interrogating him with countless questions while pointing out every minute error. She happily puts the man through the mill as Ann intently stares at her, wrinkling her eyebrows and trying to keep up. She flashes her a reassuring smile before giving her leg a quick squeeze under the table. Ann relaxes her face from the gesture and politely excuses herself to the loo, clearly in need of a break.

Anne carries on with the man, moving on to negotiate the terms of their world rights, before her eyes are diverted over his shoulder. She sees Ann waiting in line, leaning against the wall as a young man in a flashy suit approaches her. He says something to grab her attention as his hands move animatedly towards her. Ann jerks her head up and her body noticeably clenches upon seeing him.  The man moves closer, clearly invading her space, towering his hand on the wall behind her while he continues talking. Ann refuses to look up.

She feels a surge of anger pulse through her as she can feel Ann’s discomfort. She slides her chair out, about to storm over there when she sees the bathroom door open. Ann maneuvers away from the man and darts towards it, leaving him looking confused and a bit smug in her wake.

At this point, she’s fully ignoring the now, perplexed lawyer as her mind starts speculating. It was evident that Ann knew this man from the way she reacted to his voice, but whoever he was, she certainly didn’t look pleased to see him. She resists the urge to grab the girl’s hand as she arrives back at the table.

“Is everything alright?” she whispers towards her as she takes her seat. Ann, looking a bit pale, quickly nods before twiddling with her fork.

They leave shortly after. Anne abruptly ends the meeting after sensing how badly the girl wants to escape. When they’re outside, she begins to question her but she’s interrupted by an incoming call from Chris, complaining about budget restrictions and threatening to go way over his allotment for another one of his many unfounded ideas. She hails them a taxi to avoid losing service and nearly shouts at the man the whole ride back to the office, frequently glancing at Ann who remains still, starring at the seat in front of her in a fog.

When they return, Anne finally hangs up as they reach their floor, practically fuming from not being able to comfort her. She’s kidding herself if she thinks this is only about sex. A fear starts to rise in her chest, familiar and inevitable as she realizes she’s starting to truly care for the girl.  She grabs Ann's wrist despite who’s watching and pulls her into her office.

_______________

What are the chances she’d run into him? Pretty high considering they were right near her old office. Ann curses to herself, feeling the familiar self-deprecation from not mustering the courage to tell Tom Ainsworth off, once and for all. She thought this toxic chapter had ended, that she could just cut him and the job from her life when she left. How can he pretend like nothing happened? She cringes as she thinks about how close he got to her face, the smell of his suffocating cologne, how he called her “Annie” like she was his. She’s pulled from her inner turmoil as she feels Anne’s hand pull her into her office and back towards the sofa.

“Ann, what happened? Who was that man?” She feels her eyes start to water as the woman grabs her face, frantically searching for answers. “Did you used to work with him? Is he an ex…” Anne pauses, clearly pained from the thought, “boyfriend?”

“No! God, no.” she feverishly shakes her head against Anne’s hand, “I barely even worked with him.” The disgust in her tone noticeably spurs something in Anne, as her face hardens. 

“Did he do something to you?” Her voice escalates, nose flaring with rage, “Did he hurt you?”

Ann’s eyes fall to her lap, unwilling to look up, afraid she’ll burst into tears if she does. “No, well not exactly, nothing really happened, he just…” She falls silent. The words feeling heavy on her tongue. She’s used to brushing it off, lying to herself that it was nothing. She doesn’t want to go there, not yet anyway. Her mind races until it’s suddenly calmed by the feeling of Anne’s lips pressing a deep kiss to her forehead, rocking her soothingly back and forth.

“It’s alright,” Anne coos rubbing her thumb softly against her jaw, swallowing her suspicions and accepting her silence. “Just know, you can always come to me about anything. When you’re ready. I’ll never let you down.” She kisses her cheek, a soft hum vibrates off her lips. She starts to pull back but Ann stops her, gently pushing the back of her arms to keep their proximity. Anne hesitates before inevitably giving in as she lifts Ann's chin and tenderly kisses her neck, soft and deliberate. 

Her emotions turn as the feeling of the woman consumes her. How can she feel so safe with someone she’s only just met? She closes her eyes, relishing every touch, her worries melting from the heat of Anne's mouth. Her arousal takes over as she places her hand in the brunette's hair, weaving her fingers through the tendrils, holding her in place against her neck, urging her to continue. The woman obliges, opening her mouth, breathing against her, tasting her skin with the tip of her tongue before closing her lips in a lingering kiss.

Ann whimpers against her, electricity coursing through her veins. Her hand grips harder, tugging softly until she realizes and releases with a heavy breath. “I’m sorry,” she mutters as she pulls her face back to look directly at Anne. “You said we shouldn’t do this here.” She averts her eyes down, knowing she won’t be able to stop herself if she looks back up. She can feel the woman’s fiery stare burning on her face as she watches her sternum lift and fall between her breasts. “I should go,” she exhales as she rises from the couch, her body screaming for her to sit back down. Anne looks frozen watching her walk away, though she can tell her mind is churning from the intensity on her face.  

She reaches the door and is about to turn the handle until she hears Anne cry out her name, hasty and desperate. Before she can turn, the woman has already reached her, pressing her body, grabbing her waist and flipping her around with force. They stare steadily into each other’s eyes, no one daring to break hold again, until Ann chokes out, “But you said…it’s too risky.”

Anne cups her face, her fingers scratching up the back of her neck, her touch more powerful than before. “Sometimes we have to take a risk,” voice dripping with passion, eyes falling to her lips, “in order to feel alive.” As she purrs the last word, she pushes her hand around her and twists the lock on the door.

This is it. Her breath hitches as she clutches Anne’s waist, knowing she should brace for impact, knowing that it’s time. The woman leans in, Ann watches her until the very last second, breathing her in, fluttering her eyes closed until finally, finally, she feels their lips touch.

Anne kisses her gently, delicately at first, their lips gliding together slowly, curiously, savoring every sensation. The room spins. She practically levitates. It’s like the lights have suddenly turned on, like every question she’s ever had has now been answered. She never wants to do anything else but this. She melts into her mouth, skin tingling, body awakening, fingers tracing the woman’s strong jaw, pulling her deeper. Anne’s soft lips, my God they are so soft, pull against her bottom lip as they slowly peel apart.

Ann whimpers, following the woman’s mouth, moving forward as if their lips are tethered together. Anne lifts her fingers under her chin, penetrating her eyes with the warmth of her own. “Is this okay?” She shakily breathes against her lips.

Ann nuzzles gently against the woman’s nose, admiring her softness. She nods. Does she even have to ask? She reaches her hands behind the woman’s back and lightly runs her nails beneath her blouse, showing her just how “okay” it is.

This is all Anne needs as her lips crash back into hers, possessing her, her mouth open, parting her lips with urgency. She snakes her hands tightly through Ann’s loose curls and pulls her deeper, sucking against her bottom lip, seizing her in a bruising kiss as if to make up for all of the missed opportunities. Ann groans fervidly into her mouth as a gush of pleasure floods between her legs. Opening herself to the swipe of Anne’s tongue, soft and wet against her lower lip before slipping into her mouth. Her grip hardens against the woman’s waist as their tongues touch, quick and electric, then firmer, more determined. Every nerve in her body tremors as she rolls her hips, imagining her tongue flicking between her thighs.

Anne’s body grinds against her as her hands move frantically, trailing down her neck, brushing the sides of her breasts, running along the slope of her hips until they stop just above the hem of her dress. Ann plunges her mouth forward in encouragement, but the woman teases her, opening her mouth and pulling it back. 

She gasps as Anne slowly drags her fingers under her dress, first gliding them up the front of her thighs, then tracing along the edge of her panty line. The woman watches her writhe with pleasure, a wicked smile dripping from her lips.

“I’ve wanted to do this since the first moment I saw you,” Anne purrs across her mouth, capturing her in another sensual kiss, nipping softly against her swollen lips. “Ever since you walked through this door in that little pink dress. So nervous. So innocent. You have no idea what you do to me.” Ann is too overwhelmed to speak, hearing the words that only ever existed in her fantasies.

“Anne.” She pants into her mouth, pleading, clutching at the woman’s arms, holding them in place, begging for her to finish this.

Anne moves her right hand up to grip the back of Ann’s neck while her left-hand stays, cupped around her thigh. She hastily presses her lips to her cheek, her neck, her collarbone, before muffling against her skin between kisses, “Let me take you out tonight, Miss Walker.”

Before Ann can answer, she feels warm lips surround the soft flesh between her neck and shoulder, until she has to clutch the door handle as the woman clamps down, sucking hard, nipping at her skin. 

“Y-yes. Yes, take me,” she blurts out, grabbing a fistful of Anne's hair, eyes rolling back in ecstasy. The woman lets out a breathy laugh at the avid response before licking her raw skin. 

“Wait. Actually...” Ann’s mind starts to refocus and her boss halts abruptly at her words. “I do have somewhere I have to be,” she lets out a heavy whine as her face crumples with agony.  

Anne smiles adoringly, clearly amused by her level of disappointment. "Oh?" she murmurs as she dives back in, kissing up her jaw, pausing at her ear before swiping her tongue swiftly against her lobe. A primal sound bellows from deep within Ann, a place she doesn’t recognize. Voice choppy and weak, she stutters, “K-karaoke night…for my friend’s… b-birthday”.

“I see,” Anne pulls back to meet her stare, eyes dark and slate with desire, not quite done with her yet. Before Ann can ready herself, the woman suddenly releases her grip from her leg and starts dragging her fingers towards her inner thigh. Mouth falling open, Ann’s eyes flutter close as she lifts her hips, searching for contact, wondering if she can feel her wetness seeping out against her leg until… Fuck! She moans so loud it practically echoes against the walls.

Anne smiles smugly, a look of utter delight creeps across her face as she slowly slides her middle finger along the length of Ann’s center, teasing her over her panties, pushing up against the drenched silk, flicking playfully between her pronounced slit. She smacks her lips together and sighs, “That’s a shame.” 

Ann throws herself back gasping for air, head smacking the door as Anne grips her waist to catch her. It was all too much. Her body is nearly shivering, pleasure coursing through every inch. She slowly opens her eyes, chest heaving, long, shaky breaths secreting from her lips, completely at the mercy of her superior.

Until she notices the woman’s eyes dart to the window facing the office floor. Dazed in her trance, she doesn’t notice the feet scuffling and drawers banging outside, signaling the end of the work day. The windows are blurred in the center, hiding them from view, but the walls do little to muffle out sound, especially the closer people get.

Anne pulls back her hips, releasing Ann from the door as her eyes look down, scanning her red chest, watching her dress slink back over her thighs.

“Come with me tonight?!” Ann begs, nearly out of breath, fearing the end, already knowing the answer.

“Ah, that’s not really my scene,” the woman chuckles as she brings her hand up and tenderly rubs under Ann’s chin. “You go on,” she encourages as she playfully bumps her nose with her finger and tries to reassure her, “I’m not going anywhere.”

Her heart jumps at the thought as she stares at the woman’s perfectly flushed lips, still not entirely believing this is real. Anne happily gives in, closing the gap once more, pressing a warm parting kiss against the corner of her lips.

Ann's world is forever changed; her life affirmed. She radiates with a new hope, a new potential. She’s never felt so alive.

Anne wraps her arms around her, melding their bodies together into one, hovering her lips against her temple. She hears the lock flick open behind her as the woman whispers one word, “Soon.”

 

 


x

 

Chapter Text

Ann stands in front of her dresser, scanning her jewelry box, aimlessly running her finger across her collection of earrings. She has no idea what’s she looking for. She can’t even remember how she got back to her flat. Did she walk? She catches the light from her sequined tank top as it gleams through the mirror. When did she get changed? She looks up at her reflection, eyes glazed, lip clamped between her teeth, barely registering the images before her.

Ever since she left the office, her mind has all but shut down. She’s completely stuck, submerged in uncharted waters, still wedged against that door as her brain spins an endless spool of what just happened. She kissed me.

She can still feel the warmth of Anne’s lips, the intensity of her tongue, the sting of her sharp teeth piercing her skin. She did much more than just kiss her as it’s been nearly an hour, and her wetness still drips relentlessly beneath her as she yanks on her jeans, sticking to the denim while she adjusts her hips. She’s never been so aroused, so feral, so undone.

Her eyes meander to her door and slowly begin to focus on Harriet and Catherine, looking as though they’ve been standing there for a while. Their arms raised in confusion, mouths moving rapidly until the sounds of their voices suddenly snap her from her stupor.

“Ann?! It’s 9:30 pm! We need to leave NOW—” Harriet shrieks before Catherine cuts her off.

“We’ve been calling your name out here for ten minutes, are you alright?” Genuine concern floods Catherine’s face as she steps in front of her dramatic friend.

“Lord! Knock much?” She grasps a hand to her heart. “Yes, yes, I’m fine. I must not have heard you. I’m ready. Let’s go!” She looks at herself again in the mirror, not quite sure if she is actually ready. She’s fully dressed, hair looks decent, make-up wilting a bit but good enough. This will have to do.

They make their way out, quickly grabbing purses and cell phones before hustling to the street. “If I’m late to my own birthday party, we might as well just bugger off when we get there.” Harriet scoffs as she launches herself in front them, oblivious to the typical eye-rolling that ensues behind her.

When they arrive at the pub, Harriett’s mood quickly flips following the rush of attention and free drinks that greet her at the door. The deafening sound of The Spice Girls plays from the stage as a group of obnoxious young girls hover around one microphone. “We’ll have to show these broads how it’s done,” Harriett nods to Catherine and Ann, a stabbing look in her eyes like they’re about to go to war.

Ann knows she’ll need plenty of booze to get through this night. She orders a drink, finishes it way too quickly, and then orders another.

Dancing along with her friends, she feels freer than ever, like a weight has finally been lifted. Her body is present, effortlessly swaying to the music that spills from the speakers, but her mind is dancing to an entirely different song. The sheer euphoria she’s feeling is radiating through her pores and her friends are beginning to notice.

“What’s gotten into you, Annie?” Harriett stares at her inquisitively, smirking. “You’ve been smiling ever since we got here.”

“Have I?” Ann grabs her cheeks and rubs them gently, hoping to extinguish the heat that’s risen there.  

Her friend laughs as if she’s caught her red-handed. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were in love.” A realization juts across her face and her eyes widen, “Wait! Have you actually met someone?! At your new job? Oh, please tell me that’s what this is?”

“What? No! I…” Ann’s grin creeps back to the surface, betraying her. Shit.

“Oh my God, you have! I knew it! Tell me everything! Who is he?”

The word hits her in the chest and she’s reminded of her reality. Will there ever be a right time to tell her friends the truth? She shakes her head, scrambling for the words.

“Babe, come on! We’re up next!” an agitated young man calls towards them as Harriett shoos him off.

“Ugh, arr-right!” she yells back before turning back towards Ann. “This isn’t over.” She waves her finger as she runs off towards the stage.

Ann lets out a deep breath and recognizes even in her drunken haze that she’ll need to plan how to address this eventually. She will not go back to living in the dark.

She begins to push towards the front to secure her spot for the show, when she’s startled by a buzz in her back pocket. She places her glass between her teeth and lifts out her phone, the lurid screen nearly blinding her against the dim backdrop. She frantically blinks to clear her blurred vision when she notices who the message is from.

Anne Lister:  So, have you been discovered yet?

Grinning like a fool, she places her glass down on the closest table and starts tapping away at the screen, double and triple checking that she doesn’t misspell any words and reveal her current state.

“Just finished signing the record deal actually. Would you accept an autograph in lieu of my two weeks notice?”

Feeling rather pleased with her cheeky response, she doesn’t notice how significantly the crowd has grown. She clutches her phone as she’s knocked around and somehow manages to escape towards the far wall.

Flipping her device in her fingers, her eyes bulge at the aftermath as she notices an outgoing call flashing on her screen; the name Anne Lister illuminating across the top in white bolded letters.

No, no, no! She feverishly pounds the end button, praying that the call never went through. So much for being suave.

She rolls her eyes and is about to power off, not willing to taking any more chances, when she feels a long vibration stinging her hand. Anne is calling her back.

She darts into the nearby bathroom, cursing to herself, knowing there’s a slim chance this ends well. She fixes her hair in the mirror as if she’s preparing for Anne to somehow judge her appearance through the phone, then scoffs at her ignorance as she taps the green answer button.

“H-hello?” she smooths out her voice, attempting to sound casual. 

“Ann? Is everything alright? I saw you tried to call me.”

“Oh no, that wasn’t me. My bum called you.” What are you saying?! “I mean I must have butt-dialed you.”

The woman laughs on the other end and Ann feels her chest tighten at the sound of her husky voice so close to her ear.

She waits a couple beats. “So, how is your night going?”

“Good, so far. Besides the number of classic songs that have been shamelessly butchered. I think my friend, Harriett is out there committing the crime as we speak." 

“Ah, which one’s Harriett?” 

“She was one of my flat mates from university. We have this tradition where every year we go to karaoke for her birthday and we dress up in our flashiest of outfits. Donned in sparkles and sequins. It’s quite the sight. It’s too bad you missed it.” She surprises herself with the forwardness.

Anne chuckles softly, “Is that so? Mm, I could use a little sparkle tonight. I’m chained to my bed doing last minute edits before the conference tomorrow.”

Before Ann can respond and wipe the erotic image from her mind, the bathroom door swings open, unveiling a blaring duet of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John from the stage. A group of girls plow into the small space, giggling obnoxiously, bouncing and echoing their voices off the walls. 

“Anne?” she tries to plug her ear to cancel out the noise but she can only manage to make out a few broken words from her boss.

“Sorry…should let you go…enjoy…see you in a few days.” The call ends before she can protest and she’s gutted with disappointment. She stares at herself in the mirror, balancing herself against the sink as something stirs inside of her. Maybe it’s the liquid courage or just the maddening hold that Anne has over her, but before she can pinpoint it, she’s already lifted her phone, angled her camera, and snapped a picture of her upper half.

She gives it a quick glance over; she’s practically glowing from the shimmer of her top. Her hair has delicately fallen over one eye, her lips look red and pouted, and her cleavage is perfectly accentuated by the push of her bicep. This will do.

Without hesitation, she sends off the photo and follows it up with three simple words:

Hope this helps.

She stares at the screen, anxiously waiting, instantly regretting, until she sees the “Read” label appear underneath the image. Nearly holding her breath, she watches three dots appear, indicating that Anne’s typing, and then suddenly disappear as a notification flashes on the screen: Low Battery.

Fuck! Through the poor reception at the bar and the fact that she never charged her phone when she got home, the battery icon flashes red which she’s failed to notice in her drunken haze. She continues to stare, hoping she’ll receive a reply in time, but after a few minutes, the screen fades to black.

She would love nothing more than to leave right then but when she rejoins the group, she notices Harriett is on her second set and Catherine has now joined her on stage. They beckon for her to complete their trio and she grudgingly accepts. 

After what feels like an eternity of pop songs and cheesy dance moves, she finally convinces a stumbling Harriett to call it a night. The anticipation practically sobers her as she scurries them home, nearly dragging her friends along with her.

She heads straight for her room when they return, blaming her haste on her desperate need to lie down and slams the door behind her. Jamming the plug into her phone, she sits on the edge of her bed, tapping her foot and narrowing her eyes. She’s just about to throw the device against the wall in frustration when it finally flickers on. Her stomach does somersaults as she opens her one unread message:

Anne Lister: “My God, Ann. You take my breath away.”

She exhales, falling against her pillow, smiling uncontrollably as a warm, tender feeling blossoms in her chest.

As it’s too late to respond, she’s about to place her phone down and attempt to sleep when she sees an image starting to download below Anne’s message. She realizes the device must be catching up from the time it was off and her eyes bulge as the image comes fully into view.

Anne is lying on her stomach on top of her bed, propped up against her elbows as one arm holds the camera in front of her. Her hair looks damp, like she had just gotten out of the shower, as it’s effortlessly flung to the side, draping over her bare shoulder. She’s wearing a white, thin t-shirt that perfectly bunches around the curves of her pillowy breasts, falling loosely over her collarbones and faintly revealing the dark contour of her pert nipples. Her scanty black boy shorts just make it into view, accentuating the muscles in her trim thighs and firm backside. She looks unbelievably sexy, and the tempting smile on her face suggests that she knows it.

The room is spinning and it’s not just from the booze. Ann’s practically holding her breathe as a message suddenly materializes accompanying the image.

Anne Lister: Not quite as brilliant … but I’ve been shining since I met you.

_______________

The next morning is a struggle. Ann can only blame herself as she grunts and silences her alarm. She had stayed up for hours gawking at Anne’s picture and swooning at her message and the combination of tequila and lack of sleep have caused an incessant pounding in her head.

She’s actually relieved she won’t see her boss today who she remembers will be off speaking at the Woman in Publishing Conference. With a few smacks to the face, she finally rolls out of bed and painfully crawls towards the shower. 

After a large dose of caffeine and a greasy sausage roll, she miraculously manages to make it to work on time. She’s greeted by a stack of papers on her desk with a bright yellow post-it note stuck to the top. Anne has left her a few new assignments before she left that morning, some of which are administrative, like setting up appointments and file management, while others fall more within a junior editor’s wheelhouse. She’s provided her with more chapters from Wintering in Rome along with the two new authors she had mentioned in York and asked her to perform some initial research and even offer suggestions.  Ann feels incredibly flattered to be given such meaningful work and she’s determined not to disappoint, hangover aside. 

She places her bag down and eagerly starts rummaging through the pages and when she opens her desk drawer to retrieve her trusty highlighter, she sees another yellow post-it note strategically placed in the center. It’s stuck to a small packet of ibuprofen with a short note scrawled across it:

“For your pretty little head xx  

Ann giggles realizing she must not have masked how drunk she was on the phone. She can’t stop grinning at the lovely gesture as she rubs her thumb over the grooves of the letters. There is no stopping how hard she’s falling for this woman.

“Hi there!” a young girl suddenly emerges next to her cubicle, causing her to shove the note swiftly in her bag.

“Sorry about that, didn’t mean to startle ya’! Just thought I’d swing by to introduce myself and officially welcome you to the team. Name’s Rachel Hemmingway, I’m Mr. Rawson’s assistant.” The tone in her voice at the mention of her boss’ name makes it clear that she’s not very fond of the man either. 

“Oh, hi! Yes, I’ve been meaning to make my rounds. I’m Ann.” She reaches out her hand and the girl slaps it into her own in an aggressive handshake.

“So formal!” she teases. She glances down at the tower of papers on her desk and raises an eyebrow, “I see she’s got you shackled to your desk already, huh? Can’t say I’m surprised.”

Ann laughs politely, “No, I really don’t mind. I’m just grateful for the chance to learn and you’ve got to start somewhere, right?”

“You sound like me, five years ago when I first started.” The girl huffs with a roll of her eyes. 

Five years as an assistant? Ann can’t help feeling a bit discouraged as she smiles sympathetically. But before she can reply, her desk phone starts ringing loudly and she jumps as she still hasn’t deciphered how to lower the volume. 

“So sorry! Let me just get this…” she erratically starts pushing the buttons on the keypad to silence it before lifting the receiver.  Rachel bobs her head and mouths for her to “go on” as she waits, leaning against her desk. 

“Hello, this is Ann Walker.”

“How do you do, Miss Walker, this is John from Booth Transportation. I’m calling back to confirm Miss Lister’s reservation. We have pick up at 6:00 pm at Storey's Gate, Westminster and drop off at 257 Petershame Rd. in Richmond.” 

That doesn’t sound right. “Sorry? Richmond? But Miss Lister lives in Chelsea.”

“Yes, but you left a message for us this morning that the destination has changed, did you not? I have in my notes that we’ll be dropping her at the residence of a…” she hears ruffling of papers, “Mrs. Mariana Lawton. Oh dear, did I ring back the wrong number?”

Her voice becomes grave, “I didn’t leave that message. It must have been Miss Lister.”

“Oh gosh, I’m sorry! I just dialed the number atop the original reservation. My mistake. I’ll go on and call her directly to confirm. So sorry to have bothered you.”

“Not to worry. If that’s where she said she was traveling, I’d imagine it’s correct. If there’s any other way I can assist, please let me know." 

“Will do, Miss Walker. Cheers.”

She hesitantly hangs up, her eyebrows furrow as she feels something stir in her gut. That was odd.

“Everything alright?” Rachel nods to her, noticing the concern on her face.

“Yes, just a small mishap.” Ann waves it off. “You wouldn’t happen to know a Mariana Lawton, would you? Is that a client of ours or maybe a colleague?”

“Hmm, Lawton?” The girl rubs her chin, thinking. “You mean Mary Lawton? Oh yeah, I know who that is. That’s the big boss’ girlfriend.” She points to Anne’s office.

“S-sorry? Her what?” Ann can’t hide the tremor in her voice.

“Her girlfriend. She’s brought her to every holiday party since I started.”

The hammering in Ann’s head increases and it’s no longer from the hangover. Girlfriend?! She has a girlfriend? Her anxiety rears its ugly head as the image of the cross woman barging in on them in Anne’s office flashes before her eyes, all seeming to make sense now as it crashes in her mind like glass shattering. Of course she has a girlfriend. How could she ever believe that what they’re doing is anything more than a meaningless fling? She has nothing to offer such a worldly, erudite woman. How could she be so naïve?

Rachel clears her throat, trying to break the awkward silence that’s risen between them as Ann stares blankly at her desk. “Well then, I’ll let you get back to the grind. If you ever need any help learning your way around here, just shout.“ She winks before giving a quick salute as she leaves.

Ann slumps low in her chair, completely deflated as she stares at the bright yellow post-it now mocking her from her bag.

_______________

Anne’s totally knackered as she leaves the conference and rests her head in the back of her town car. She was inundated with questions after her presentation from several young, hopeful professionals, eager to make their way in the industry. Usually, she would revel at the attention and justifiable praise but she’s simply exhausted, thanks to a late night selfie from one young professional in particular.

To make matters worse, she now has to go hash things out with Mariana. She had been putting off their inevitable meeting since she returned from York, but she had run out of excuses and she felt obligated to follow through on her promise to talk. 

It’s not that she didn’t want to see Mariana, it’s that she’s tried to have this conversation many, many times before to no avail. Somehow, she always ends up right where she started, accepting broken assurances and convincing herself that things will change when they never do.

But, tonight feels different. Tonight, she has someone else etched in her mind, someone who’s pure and honest and good. Someone who already seems to accept her without conditions. If there was any night that she was going to get off of this twenty-year rollercoaster, it would be tonight.

She arrives at half past and walks through the entrance gate towards a grand wooden door. Mariana lives in a ridiculously expensive five-bedroom home that extends over three stories. Anne’s never quite understood the need for such a spacious house for only two people, but she’s aware that necessity isn’t what typically motivates Mariana.

As she walks up the front steps, she’s reminded of the very first home she ever visited her lover at; a small dinky cottage nearly a fraction of the size with crooked shutters and broken shingles dangling from the roof. She muses over how much times have changed.

“Hello, Fred.” Mariana opens the door, naturally reaching out her hands. “I was beginning to think you wouldn’t show.” There’s a sting in her tone as she leans in and kisses both of Anne’s cheeks, lingering close to her lips before separating.

“Ah, I said we would catch up after York. So, here I am,” Anne says through a thin smile. “Work has been hectic since I returned and also quite exciting. We signed a very big author this week who we’re expecting to catapult our returns in the coming years.”

“Oh? How wonderful.” Mariana responds curtly, clearly not interested in engaging in small talk as she leads them into her sitting room and stops in front of the bar. “Do you want something to eat or drink?” She lifts a stopper from the sea of crystal decanters and pours out a glass of whiskey. 

“I ate something at the conference earlier.” She waves her hand before reluctantly accepting the drink. “I really can’t stay long. I have an early morning.” 

Marianna ignores this, taking a seat in one of her chic velvet armchairs. “Well, get on with it then. I’m not stupid,” she takes the first shot. “From dodging my texts to making half-hearted excuses, I know you haven’t just come here to talk about your work schedule.”

Anne takes a deep breath, determined to remain civil as she sits in the adjoining chair. “Mary…” she affectionately tries to meet her eyes but the woman refuses, staring intensely at the falling leaves through the window. Better crack on with it then.

“I think it would be best, for both of us, if we put an end to this—” she traces an invisible thread between them, “whatever this has been. We knew this day would come eventually and I truly believe that what we both need is just a clean break from all of the nonsense we’ve put each other through.” She tries to be soothing in her tone, accepting her own role in their madness, attempting to make this as harmless as possible.

“Is this about your little assistant?” Mariana snaps as she whips her head towards her with a daggering stare and Anne feels a shiver from the blow. “You’re delusional if you think you’re anything more than just a phase to that girl. A check off her bucket list to fuck her old boss.”

“Excuse me?” The words sting more than she wants to let on. She’s quickly forfeited her calm demeanor as her voice raises. “You have no idea what you’re talking about. Like I said before, this has nothing to do with her. Come on, Mariana, we’ve been trying to have the same ludicrous conversation for decades!”

“Is that so? Then, what’s changed? We always said we would wait until I could leave Charles. How could you act like you understood for all of these years why I couldn’t commit? I made oaths to the man in front of God, in front of my family. I have nothing without him. All of this—” she throws her hands around the room, “is his. Under his name. I lose everything once I leave.”

Anne clamps her eyes shut and draws in a deliberate breath. Hearing these words never gets easier. “Yes, but you could have committed to me before all of this.” Her voice is taut and severe. “Before Charles.”

The woman bangs her drink down on the oak table below them and raises her hands to her forehead, “Must we always go back to that?" 

Anne recalls a memory from the beginning of their relationship. She had just graduated university and Mariana was still living at home, trapped in the confines of her conservative family. They had been sneaking around for months, even then, as Mariana agonized over coming out to her parents and there was one miserable night when it all came to a head. They had just made love in Marianna’s bed and at the time, it was the best she ever had. Mariana’s parents, who were supposed to be out for the night, arrived home early and though they were able to dress and run downstairs in time, the look on their faces gave them away. Anne stood and watched as Mariana screamed her denial of ever loving her, the excruciating look of shame on her face nearly rendering her unrecognizable. Anne was hopelessly in love with her and in that moment when the door was slammed in her face, she was beyond heartbroken.

She rubs her temple to try and alleviate the painful memory which somehow always feels fresh when she conjures it.

“The look on your face…” The words are hushed and broken. “I think I knew; in that moment I knew that you would never truly accept me. And yet, here I am, still waiting for the impossible like a true fool.”

Mariana sighs as she shrinks down across from her atop the coffee table. “Not everyone can be as brave as you, Anne. Not all of us had access to the same opportunities that you did. I did the best I could to make my own way.” Her voice starts to break, “Do you know my mother barely spoke to me after that night? It wasn’t until I met Charles that she finally started looking me in the eyes again.”

Anne reaches up and cups her cheek, catching her tear against her thumb. There are many decisions that have been made that she’ll never agree with or fully understand, but there will always be a vulnerable place in her heart for her first love.

The woman rests her head in Anne’s hand and begins to steady her breathing. “It was a different time back then, twenty odd years ago. Much different than it is today.”

Anne gently releases her hand and places it back into her lap, “Ah, and yet, here we are.”

They stare at each other in silence, the defeat on Mariana’s face growing as Anne rises and finally breaks the strain. “I should go.”

They walk towards the entrance and just before Anne turns to leave, the woman wraps her arms around her, burrowing her head in her neck and whispering for her to stay.

For one small second, Anne succumbs to the familiarity. She tightens her hands around her waist and pulls her deeper, allowing their bodies to meld together in their usual shape. Until she stops herself, abruptly pulling free and breaking through the doorway. The realization crashing over her as she hurdles down the steps; she’s no longer that naïve, young girl, standing on a rickety porch for hours, waiting for the woman she loves to chase after her. No, this is finally over.

She’s practically running her legs are moving so fast as the tears start to well in her eyes. She feels free, boundless, like her world has been reset. After walking further out than she intended, she finds a nearby bench and collapses into it, pulling out her phone to ring her driver. But instead, as if they have a mind of their own, her fingers lead her to the picture of Ann. She grins as she wipes the single tear that’s fallen from her lashes. She’s finally rid of the drama, the uncertainty and she’s ready to start anew.

Might she not be happy?

_______________

The following morning, Anne anxiously stares at the little icon next to Ann Walker’s name on the Shibden instant messenger app. The adrenaline rush from the night before made sleep near impossible, despite how tired she was, and she fears it will all catch up to her soon. But at this moment, her only focus is seeing the one person who’s completely spun her world upside down.

Ann’s name suddenly flashes green, indicating that she’s arrived at her desk and Anne’s stomach flips. She impatiently taps her pen against her journal, staring at the tiny clock in the corner of her screen, forcing herself to wait at least five minutes before leaving her office to see her. But she only makes it to three minutes as she impatiently bursts from her seat and rushes out the door.

She swings around the corner and does a full stop when she sees her. It’s like the rest of the room has gone dark and the only light she can see is radiating from the girl. She watches as she pulls out her notebook from her bag. Her hair falls softly in her face as she flawlessly flips it back, exposing her gorgeous long neck and enticing collarbones. Anne bites her lip to keep from gawking. 

“Ann?” She finally manages speech as she knocks her knuckles against the wall. The girl looks up and Anne’s enthusiasm quickly turns to concern when she sees the cold flicker in her eyes. Something’s not right.

“Can I see you in my office, please?” Ann only nods and begins gathering the papers on her desk.

She walks back into her office and sits at her desk, taking a steady breath to try and relax. Perhaps she misread it? She could have simply startled the girl. But when Ann enters the room, it becomes increasingly clear that her gut suspicions are correct. Her body is tense as she sits stiff across from her, face red and sunken, eyes refusing to look up no matter how intently she stares.

Anne can feel her heart start to pound as her fears take over. “H-how are you?” she hesitantly blurts out, trying to establish some kind of normalcy.

“Fine.” The girl guardedly looks up and Anne can tell there’s so much more that she wants to say. “How was the conference?”

“Oh, you know, it was as expected. Once you’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all.” She waves her fingers and laughs to try and lighten the mood. But Ann just stares back, rigidly raising the corners of her mouth into a thin smile.

Unable to bear the tension, Anne extends her hand across the desk and settles it close to the edge. “Ann, what’s wrong?” her voice is brittle as her insecurities start to lump in her throat. “Is there something you want to say?”

For a second, Ann’s face softens as she looks back at her, a trace of longing flitting in her eyes, until she quickly deflects. “I’ve finished my review on chapters four and five like you asked.” She pulls out a packet and places it next to Anne’s hand. Her tone is short and mechanical, “I completed most of the tasks you left for me but I’m still working on the new authors’ pages.”

Anne slides back her hand and slowly sits back in her chair, gripping the armrest. Her face hardens as the annoyance sets in and her defenses begin to go up. She thought she was done with the games, yet somehow the drama always seems to find her. She narrows her eyes and matches the girl’s tone, “I expect them on my desk by Friday.”

Ann’s eyes shoot up, startled from the change in her voice, looking more conflicted then when she first walked through the door. “Of course.” 

She stands and Anne can see the tears welling in her eyes right before she turns to leave. Instinctively, she rises from her chair, wanting to comfort her, dying to make things right. But Ann has already left, leaving a dense cloud of uncertainty in her wake.

Chapter Text

Anne barely leaves her office for the remainder of the day, spending most of her time sulking, ignoring the many emails that avalanche her inbox. She scratches her neck as she stares pointlessly at the papers Ann left. What could possibly have gone wrong in one day? Was the risk of it all becoming too much for the girl? Maybe Mariana was right. Maybe she was just an empty conquest to her.

A knock at the door shakes her from her trance and she sits up straight, praying it’ll be Ann and that she’ll now get some answers. But it’s Eliza who enters the room and she hardly cares to hide her disappointment as she summons her in.

“Hello! And how’s the fearless leader today?” Eliza’s perky voice feels like an imposter as Anne cringes beneath a polite smile. 

“I emailed you to setup a meeting but you never responded. So, I thought I’d pop in.” She continues to bounce into the room. “I have some exciting news to share. As you know, I’ve been trying to set up our new trade name for medical investigative journalism. After the predicted success of the current author I’m working with—” Anne nods and twirls her finger, pressing her to get on with it.

The woman speeds up her speech, “Yes. Well, I just spoke to Jeremy on the board who informed me that I now have clearance to start building the team. I wanted to come to you first before I approached her, but I’d like to ask Miss Walker to join me. I know she’s only just started, but the work I’ve seen is far beyond her current level. This would be brilliant exposure and an opportunity to pave her more of a future. And we both know the company has a tendency to sleep on talent.” 

Anne’s manner has changed as it’s the first bit of good news she’s heard all day. She wants nothing more than to see Ann succeed, regardless of what happens between them. “Of course. That’s excellent. We can certainly arrange for her to split her time accordingly. Whatever she needs.”

“Splendid! I truly believe there is a bright future for her here. That is…” she pauses and lowers her voice, “if there’s nothing that might get in the way of that.” Eliza gives Anne a knowing look, warning her without words that she’s on to her and her not so platonic relationship with Ann, a look she is all too familiar with. 

Anne glares back, never one to back down from a challenge, but as the doubts start to creep back in, she realizes there might not even be a relationship to fight for anymore. She grits her teeth into a thin smile, “I couldn’t agree more.”

After the woman leaves looking rather pleased with herself, the exhaustion finally sets in. Anne decides it’s time to quit this awful day, but before she signs off, her eyes stop on the bright green icon next to Ann’s name. She sighs to herself, remembering how happy she felt just that morning. She hopes that with a good night’s rest, she’ll be able to sort this out, to fix it.

_______________

But the next few days fared exactly the same. Besides a few quick check-ins on the progress of her assignments, Ann continued to keep her distance. The days felt longer and Anne found it increasingly more difficult to focus on anything besides her assistant. She was skirting the line of insanity, strategically trying to place herself in settings where she might casually run into the girl, asking the most redundant questions during their one on ones to try and stretch their time longer. She felt wretched and a bit pathetic at how much this rocked her.

This wasn’t like her. She didn’t pine after young girls. Okay, maybe she did with Mariana years ago, but never with any of her new relationships. Yet, the growing lump of nerves in her chest said otherwise and once Friday afternoon rolled around, she’d quickly reached her breaking point. 

She had just finished presenting at their weekly team meeting, if you could even call it presenting. Her words kept getting jumbled as she would continuously darts her eyes towards Ann, hoping for even a shred of connection between them. Noticing the baffled expressions on her colleagues’ faces, she decides to cut the meeting short with at least some of her dignity intact.

She watches as Eliza pulls Ann aside before she could exit, presumably to offer her the position on her team. Anne’s heart melts as she sees the genuine shock on Ann’s face, clearly beyond humbled and beaming with gratitude. She feels an ache in her chest at the sight of Ann’s smile, realizing it’s been days since she’s seen the way her eyes shine and her nose adorably wrinkles. The girl peers over at her, catching her as she stares, looking as though she longs to share this moment with only her. But before she can reciprocate, Ann’s already averted her eyes, thanking Eliza again before hurrying out the door.

That’s it. Abandoning her belongings, Anne pushes through the stragglers and into the hallway. She quickly catches up with the girl, spotting her blonde hair bouncing from her haste, and clutches her wrist. She pulls her into the nearest open space which happens to be the stairwell and shuts the door behind them. 

Standing directly in front of her, pinning her to the wall without touching her, Anne stares intensely until the girl finally meets her eyes. “Ann. What’s wrong? What’s happened? I need you to talk to me.” Her voice is frantic and crazy and usually she would feel embarrassed by this display of weakness but she’s past the point of caring. 

Ann’s ears are flushed, her chest is blotchy. She fixates on the spiral spine of her notebook which she flicks nervously with her finger. Anne has had just about enough of only looking at the top of her eyelids for three days as she raises her voice, “Ann! Look at me!”

This finally does it and like a blow to the chest, Anne’s eyes shoot up, red and hollow, exuding their pain as tears start to well in the corners.

She can’t help it. Like a puppet on strings, her hand is pulled to the girl’s face, cupping her jaw and tenderly rubbing her thumb against her soft cheeks. Ann remains tense but doesn’t pull away, her eyebrows slightly crease as if she’s trapped in her own internal battle. Anne tempers her voice, though her tone remains determined, “What happened that day I was at the conference?”

Ann draws in a long, deep breath as if she’s accepted that Anne’s not letting her leave without an answer. She hesitates before recoiling her face away from Anne’s hand.

“I spoke to your driver,” she finally speaks and her voice is low, yet sharp, “and though I have no problem handling your reservations, you might want to give him your direct number for any personal trips…” she narrows her eyes, piercing them into Anne’s, “to avoid confusion.”

“Personal trips? What are you talking—” as if by lightening, it finally strikes her. That’s what this is about? Leave it to Mariana to somehow inveigle herself into another one of her relationships.  She exhales, feeling relief, like there’s hope that she can talk herself out of this. “Oh Ann, it’s not like that. We’re not—”

“If I had known you had a girlfriend,” she’s not done yet, fire still to roaring inside of her, “I would have been more helpful in confirming. But now that I’m aware, I’ll be sure to be better prepared for next time.”

“Girlfriend?! Ann, she is not my girlfriend. Who told you that? She’s just… she’s my...” She waves her hands around trying to find the word but knows it’s useless as her head falls between them.

“Look, Mariana and I have a very long, complicated history. And I should have been honest with you. I know that now. But I didn’t want to do anything that might jeopardize this—” she touches her chest and then touches Ann’s, connecting them, lingering there before sliding her hand to her shoulder. “I went there that night to end things between us, once and for all. Ann, I promise you, it’s all off.”

Ann’s body gradually eases against her touch as she contemplates, looking back up at her, arching her eyebrows tentatively. Every light in the small hallway reflects against her pale blue eyes, intensifying her emotion, nearly taking Anne’s breath away. “R-really?” she whispers, her voice dithers as if she’s afraid to trust her.

“Oh, Ann…” She traces her fingers along the length of her neck, gently tucking a stray hair behind her ear before cradling her face, “I’m crazy about you. Don’t you know that?” She rests her forehead against the girl’s, watching the ragged breaths fleeing from her lips, feeling her pulse quicken against her palm. “I’ve been going absolutely mad thinking that I’ve lost you.”

Ann lets out a slight pant as if she’s been longing to hear these words, to feel Anne’s healing touch. She places her hand over Anne’s, interlocking their fingers and closing her eyes. They stay like this, speaking without words, relishing in their proximity, breaths mingling into one.

There’s nothing she would like to do more than lean in and meet her lips, kiss her with such conviction that she’ll never doubt her again. But Anne is still begrudgingly aware of where they are. The scuffle of footsteps and chatter outside snap her back to her senses as she slowly pulls back, still holding her hand and bringing it down between them, cradling their little secret from the rest of the world.

“I can explain everything. How about I take you to dinner tonight? Would you do that?” she pleas as she rubs the pad of her thumb gently against her palm.

A small smile finally curls the corners of Ann’s lips and it’s so soft and beautiful that it actually hurts to look at. “Yes, I’d like that.”

Before she opens the door, Anne turns to her with a cheeky grin, capitalizing on the fact that she’s finally looking at her like she did before. “So… shall I send my driver to pick you up?”

“Hey!” the girl huffs, playfully hitting Anne’s shoulder, trying to conceal her giggle through pursed lips.

“What? Too soon?” Anne teases as she holds open the door. They both spill back into reality, laughing in unison, hands brushing discretely as they walk, a totally different picture than when they first entered. She feels a rush of relief as she watches the girl float back to her desk, looking lighter, less weighted. And despite her voice of reason, despite their problematic hierarchy, she realizes just how far she’s fallen for Ann Walker.

_______________

I’m crazy about you. The words swirl in Ann’s head over and over as she gets ready for their… date? Is this a date? She can barely fathom how different her day went than what she originally expected.

She’d been living in an inordinately low place since she got that phone call from Booth. Her doubts and anxiety kept weaving dark thoughts in her mind, convincing her that Anne was just playing with her, mocking her first real experience with a woman.  Getting out of bed had felt impossible, going to sleep even harder. She battled with confronting Anne about what she had heard, but her insecurities convinced her that she had no right to.

She remembers the pain on Anne’s face, how it matched her own, how fraught she was to uncover what was wrong, to fix it. And when she did, how sincere she looked assuring her that her past was no longer an issue, that she had broken that tie. Could it have been because of her? Ann smiles at the first confident thought she’s had in days. Maybe she did mean something more to this woman, something worth yanking her desperately into a stairwell for. She wanted to believe her. She did believe her.

She pulls on a new blush dress, snugly fit around the waist, delicate floral prints of purples and blues scatter around the bodice, with a halter neckline falling just between her breasts. This is the dress. The one she’s been saving for years, every occasion never seeming worthy enough or suitable.  But tonight, it will make its debut, propelling her self-esteem, and she can’t wait to see the look on her boss’ face when she sees it.

Gathering her things, she leaves a note for Catherine on the counter, thankful that she’s not there questioning where she was going and what she was wearing. She gives her curls one last tousle before heading into the night.

Anne had texted to meet her on the corner near the office so that they could walk the few blocks to dinner together.  She said she had a few places in mind but wanted to check wait times, after ranting about how she refuses to wait anywhere longer than twenty-five minutes.

Rain begins spitting down on the walk to the tube and she curses herself for choosing her cute, little coat and not her warm, practical coat, but she lets it go thinking it won’t be so bad. But when she arrives at her stop and gets back up to the street, in true London fashion, the light rain has turned to a full torrent, bucketing down, thrashing her from every direction. Shitttttt!

She’s only a few streets from the office so she makes a mad dash for it, trying to shield herself with her absurdly small handbag, water sloshing in and out of her heels, feeling like she’s running towards a hose. She rounds the corner, slipping and flailing, as she sees Anne standing under the overpass of the office, her dry town car pulling away from dropping her off.

Anne spots her and waves her in as if she’s running a marathon. She finally makes it to the covering, huffing and puffing as she puts her hands to her soaked knees. “Holy shit, it’s raining!” she yells over the storm as Anne laughs heartily, grabbing her shoulders.

“You must be freezing!” she rubs her arms, splashing water from her jacket. “Come on, let’s get you inside! We can wait this out in here.” Anne pulls out a cryptic looking key, one that only top executives would have for after hour access, and unlocks the door.

When they get inside, Ann can finally assess the damage. Her dress is completely drenched, almost an entirely different color from the saturation. Water is trickling down her chest, her arms as if she just took a shower and her hair, her perfectly tousled hair, is now dripping wet, flattened and sticking to her neck.

Between the fact that she’s wearing a dress she’s saved for an embarrassingly long time to the hysteria of her sprinting through the streets, she can’t help but start uncontrollably laughing. It feels wonderful, like a healing break from her recent gloom.

Anne looks at her dubiously at first, like she’s considering whether she really thinks this is funny, until she catches on and joins in.

“Shall we go upstairs?” Ann asks between chuckles, catching her breath and tossing her hair from her neck.

Anne grabs her hand and smiles, “Yes.” She brings it to her lips, pressing a soft kiss against her moist skin. “Let’s warm you up.”

When they reach Anne’s office, the woman immediately hurries to the thermostat in the hallway to raise the heat. Ann waits in her office as she removes her drenched coat in a feeble attempt to get dry, instantly regretting it as the chill hits through her. Only the backup lights are powered on and the office has a soft, dim lighting giving the illusion that it’s warm and cozy.

“Okay. I think that should help. I turned it way up to…Oh!” Anne reenters the room, stopping abruptly as she looks up at Ann. Her eyes are wide and her mouth has fallen open as she slowly drops her eyes, taking in her figure.

Ann follows her gaze to see what’s so shocking until she realizes and a flush of red scorches her cheeks. Her dress is completely suctioned to her body, outlining every curve, exposing her beneath the light fabric. The skirt might as well be slacks from the way it sticks between her thighs and she especially regrets her decision not to wear a bra.

“I really did fuss,” she laughs as she tries to wring the water out from the hem. “If only you saw me just minutes ago—”

“My God, you’re beautiful.” Anne stops her, her voice is heavy as her eyes penetrate directly into Ann’s, causing her to stop fidgeting and stand confidently in front of her. That’s the look she was waiting for.

“Here.” Anne walks over and puts her thick coat around Ann’s shoulders, lingering her fingers against the lapel, eyes fixated on the body beneath it before letting go. “Well, this isn’t quite how I imagined this night would go, but hey-ho.” She leans against the edge of the sofa. “I told you I’d give you more of an explanation, so, here goes.” She gestures towards the armchair across from her and Ann squishes into the seat.

She dives right in, explaining her thorny past with her ex, focusing on how much has changed between them, how different she feels towards her today. “We were very young when we met, and like most relationships in our youth, they sometimes don’t grow with you. They stay stagnate and underdeveloped, and they feel toxic to who you become.” She starts pacing the room. “Mariana could never commit to me. She’s driven by fear, burdened by her need for acceptance. And after a while, it becomes impossible not to take that personally.”

Ann can hear the exhaustion in her voice and though it stings to hear her talk about someone who was presumably one of her greatest loves, she’s still craving to learn more, longing to absorb every detail she can about the mysterious woman in front of her.  

“The truth is that I’ve been trying to end things for years,” she continues, flinging her hand and speeding up her speech, trying to downplay the burden, “the last few years have really just been out of habit. Repetitive, familiar, mostly sexual...” she stops herself like she‘s realized what she’s said and tentatively looks up at Ann who’s now ducked her head, twiddling with her bracelet, before quickly pressing on to change the direction, “but like I said before, it’s all off.”

Ann still has trepidations, how could she not? A twenty-year romance suddenly coming to an end, leaving an obviously scarred woman pacing around her office. Anyone would have doubts. But staring into those deep brown eyes, urging her to believe her, asking her to take a chance, she’s incapable of resisting.

She smiles in an attempt to lighten the mood, to ease off the gas and let her slightly off the hook. “I wouldn’t know what that was like. Being with someone for such a large portion of your life.”

“Oh? No great love affairs for Miss Walker?” Anne perks up, delighted to be talking about anything else.

“No, not really. I’ve dated a few people, here and there. But no one that I wanted to commit to long-term and especially no one who was worth calling again to meet my sexual needs...” She rolls her eyes and then her face immediately hardens as she replays what she just said.  

She feels Anne’s eyes on her, studying her, processing the comment. She tries to laugh it off, scolding herself in her head for how inexperienced she must sound. But Anne doesn’t alter her burning stare and even though she’s still damp from the rain, she feels herself starting to sweat.

She abruptly gets up, suddenly feeling strange being the only one seated, trying to physically deflect from where her loose lips got her and walks over to the bookcase. Searching for anything to avoid further questioning.

She luckily notices an older book she hadn’t seen before, dark brown morocco leather bounded over navy cloth boards with a vintage gilt design that stands out from the rest.  “Oh, is that? It can’t be…” Talking to herself, she touches her finger to the spine and reads the faded lettering: The Picture of Dorian Gray, By Oscar Wilde.

Anne eagerly joins her, smiling at her obvious enchantment, motioning for her to take a closer look.

She carefully pulls out the book from its space, running her hand delicately along the cover. “This was my favorite novel growing up. I think I was 14 when I first read it?” Her voice is light and wistful. She turns over the cover and is struck by the publication date. “Is this a first edition?” she asks incredulously, suddenly feeling the weight of it in her hands.

“Yes.” Anne’s beaming, her passion matching her own. “It took me years to find. Go on, flip through it.” She pulls out her large leather desk chair and ushers for her to sit. Ann cautiously listens, feeling disoriented from sitting in the boss’ chair as Anne takes a seat across from her.

“You know, I actually used to bring a copy of this everywhere with me in my bag. A small crutch whenever I needed it.” She laughs as she examines the marbled endpapers and thumbs through the pages. “I was always envious of Dorian, if you could believe it, despite his imminent demise. How he could live without consequence; his triumph of sensation over reason.” She feels a warmth in her chest from the nostalgia before citing the text in her hands, “The only way to resist temptation—”

“Is to yield to it.” Anne finishes the quote and Ann’s eyes flick up. The woman’s glare is thick with desire, observing her as she twists the chain of her pendant across her collar.

Ann likes this new dynamic, sitting above Anne, feeling the expensive leather sticking to her thighs, feeling the power from making her look at her like that.

“Are you sure I shouldn’t sit there?” she asks, pointing towards the opposite chair next to Anne, her politeness overriding her fantasy.

“No, it looks good on you. And you should get used to it. You’ll be in that seat before you know it with the way you’ve been turning heads around here,” Anne answers with a wink. “There’s just one more thing we need to complete the picture.”

She walks over and stoops down beside her, opening her wide bottom drawer and shoving her arm in, searching for something lodged inside. Ann’s mind pulls her back seeing Anne on her knees, her long hair brushing gingerly against her calf as she leans deeper into the drawer.

“How does it feel?” she brazenly asks, turning her chair to face her, compelled by the effects of their current positioning as Anne looks up at her confused. “To be so… powerful?”

“Ah.” The woman smirks, arching her brow in intrigue, taking the bait. “Well, at times it can be daunting just like any job, you’re responsible for many people and the fear of failure can be overwhelming.” She pulls out a small bottle of whiskey and reaches up to place it on the desk. The label looks posh and exclusive, displaying a brand that Ann has never heard of.

“And other times…” Anne suddenly turns towards her, conspiring eyes drop to her legs and Ann’s skin starts to tingle as she senses what’s coming. Anne slowly begins dragging her finger up the inside of Ann’s leg, leisurely starting at her ankle, lighting every spark in her body as she clutches the chair handles, anticipating what’s next.

“When people are hanging on your every word…” She keeps talking, hushed and sultry, sweeping her finger up to her knee, painting on goosebumps as Ann unconsciously starts to spread her legs.

“Anticipating your every move…” She finally reaches the inside of her thigh, lifting herself up as she steadily glides her hand under her dress and Ann’s body bends from the current of pleasure that rushes below her waist. Anne leans, skimming her lips deliberately against her neck, tickling her skin with the heat of her breath before hovering at her ear, finishing her speech with a whisper.

“It feels fucking incredible.”

Before she can react, Anne’s already grasped onto her thighs, hoisting her up and ramming them against her large lavish desk, urgently claiming her lips, trying to convey how strongly she yearned for her through the intensity of her own. This kiss is different than before. Like a relapsed addiction. Hands tangling in hair, fingers clawing at anything they can grab. It’s impatient and messy and they both moan at the feeling.

Ann slides her fingers beneath the hem of Anne’s shirt, needing to touch her, yanking her closer until she can feel the desk’s sharp wooden edge stabbing at her back. Ann knows, as she splays her fingers against her warm skin, as Anne’s tongue slips inside her mouth to caress her own, she knows that no one else will ever make her feel like this.

“I’m sorry,” Anne heaves out, slightly pulling them apart, “about everything.” Her lips meld against Ann’s with every word before seizing her in another kiss, open-mouthed and deep enough for her to feel just how much she means it.

Anne grips her waist and headily runs her hands up her torso. Her thumbs deftly brush against the curve of her breasts, teasing around the edge of her nipples through the still damp fabric, circling them and kneading them meticulously with the pads of her fingers and Ann forgets her own name. Gasping into the woman’s mouth, body revving against her, she’s unraveling in her hands. But Anne doesn’t let up. She’s only getting started.

She moves her mouth to her neck, tasting her skin before capturing her pulse point with the nip of her teeth. “Do you forgive me?” she muffles playfully into her flesh, moving her mouth lower, kissing down her collarbone, her chest, until she stops just above where her fingers are churning.

She steadily looks up at her, eyes nearly scorching into her soul, a fiendish look on her face knowing what she’s about to do. Holding her gaze, she lifts out her tongue and presses the tip to her hard nipple jutting out of her top, licking the fabric before taking it in her mouth, sucking and marveling at the violent shudder it elicits as Ann cries out.

Yessss!” Feeling the heat of her mouth seeping through the cotton, she convulses, scratching her nails through her hair and tugging a fistful of chestnut locks. A guttural sound bellows from Anne’s throat in response as she hastily grasps her hands under Ann’s thighs and lifts her onto the desk, demolishing the stacks of papers and supplies that fall wildly around them.

Their disregard for the noise reminds them that there’s no one else here, no one to barge in, no phone call they can’t ignore. It’s only the two of them now, staring at each other through lidded eyes, daring the other to make the next move. Until Anne yields, parting Ann’s legs with one swift motion, greedily pushing between them and merging their bodies, yanking her dress over the tops of her thighs as her hands scrape at the rough lace underneath.

Ann’s body is roaring, competing with the pounding of water still thrashing outside and her mouth goes dry when Anne hooks her thumbs into her panties, shimmying them down till they fall to her ankles. Her bare flesh slides against the flat wooden surface as she feverishly clutches at Anne’s shoulders, weaving her back into her world, needing relief between her thighs like her life depends on it as the ache tortuously builds.

Anne connects their lips, smiling against her mouth, savoring the beautiful sounds that crescendo with every touch. And Ann practically sobs. Writhing and squirming as her hips frantically arch into her hand. Voice breathless and weak as she begs, she actually begs, “Anne, please.” She’s never asked for anything during sex, routinely staying quiet, but she knows tonight is a night of firsts, and she suddenly stops caring as she realizes it worked.

Slowly, gently, Anne moves her nimble fingers north, in and up under her bunched-up dress, towards her now dripping center. She cups her, holding her hot, heavy flesh in her hand, pressing her with the weight of her palm as Ann’s nails scrape at her skin. She pours a gasp into her mouth as the woman drags two fingers up the line of her slit, teasing her with torturous care, gently spreading her folds and holding them open as she twirls her tongue suggestively in her mouth.

Ann hips cock violently as she melts against her tongue, screaming expletives in her head until she actually hears one slip when their lips part, “Fuck!

When she unclenches her eyes, she sees Anne watching her through heavy lids, grinning broadly, deviously, as she finally gives in, dipping her fingers slick between her folds, feeling her arousal gush in approval, allowing the moisture to pool around them as she expertly strokes her swollen flesh. She rests her temple against Ann’s cheek, losing her senses and groaning into her neck, exploring her sex as if she’s discovered a fucking masterpiece. 

She slides her finger to her now throbbing clit, dangling on the precipice between pain and ecstasy, sending shocks down her spine when it’s finally touched. She traces mindful circles around and around and Ann bites her lip so hard she can taste the rust. The build is almost imperceptible until she feels Anne gradually increase her quivering speed, rotating and vibrating the soft pearl rigorously between her fingers. Ann knows she’s right at the cusp, for what? She can’t even fathom. She’s never approached an orgasm this intensely in her life.

Anne braces her free arm around her waist, knowing that she’ll need it as she slows her erratic pace, slithering her hand down to her opening, until she, oh God, she slips her middle finger inside. She thrust her arm and stretches deep within her core and Ann’s teeth are now scraping at her neck. Gauging the intensity of the shudders flitting down her body and into her hand, Anne adds another finger, easing through her tight walls, stretching her and curling them. Deftly hitting a spot unbeknownst to Ann as she binds her leg around her hips, pulling her deeper.

She feels it. The thunderous wave building on the horizon, mounting and hovering, ready to annihilate her when it comes crashing down. I love you. Three ridiculous words swirl in her head. And she knows it’s too soon; she knows it’s just her body talking, but they still consume her and she hopes to God they don’t also spill out.

But when Anne starts to gyrate her thumb back against her surging clit, resuming her swirling roll while still thrusting and pulsating inside her, the only word that cries from her lips is the name of the woman now bringing her to her pivotal bliss. Her release builds quickly, vigorously, nearly rendering her unconscious as she futilely grasps at the corner of the desk, and with only a few more presses, she comes, hard. Writhing and twitching uncontrollably as her orgasm undulates through every cell in her being, she’s unable to stop the loud, tattered moan that leaves her as her body explodes with pleasure.

Anne holds her, making sure she feels every last tremor, guiding her body back down from the shock. She can feel her chest heaving just as deeply as her own and when she pulls her face back to hers, her eyes are even darker, wild and seized by lust. But Ann knows she must look even more disheveled as Anne tenderly asks her if she’s alright.

She hesitates as her body talks again but this time it makes its way to her lips, “I’ve never had anyone… no one’s ever made me…” the broken words die on her lips and the satiated look on Anne’s face when she realizes what she means, that she was the first person to make Ann Walker come, is one of the most gorgeous things she’s ever seen. And when Anne kisses her, slower than before, making sure she feels it, Ann knows she’s past where she understands, past the point of no return. No one and nothing will ever be this good.

Anne leans back, coolly wiping her fingers against her jeans as she grabs the abandoned book on the chair. She leers at it one last time before placing it in Ann’s lap. “It’s yours.”

“Oh Anne, I couldn’t.” Her voice is still weak as she murmurs between breathes. “It took you years to find this. I can’t take it.”

She tries to push it back but Anne has placed her fingers to her lips, stopping her. “So, you can always remember tonight. The triumph of sensation over reason.”

A final quake pulses through Ann as her heart swells hearing her words mirror her own. She feels like she’s finally beyond reason, tasting a life without boundaries, without consequences. 

The woman runs the back of her fingers against her cheek towards her silken curls, twirling and examining a piece in her hand. “Ivory and gold,” she purrs, letting the tendril spiral off her finger, cupping Ann’s cheek as she brushes along the delicate arch of her lips, she sighs, “the curves of your lips…”

Ann closes her eyes and dissolves into her touch as her mind finishes the quote from the book in her hand.

Rewrite history.

 

Chapter Text

Ann wakes the next morning having had her first restful sleep in days. She stretches out against her sheets with a sigh, letting her tranquility pour into every limb. She feels incredibly relaxed which is a welcomed change to her recent nerves and as she starts to come to, the memory of the night before rouses in her mind and she remembers what’s caused the sensation.  

Her eyes snap open as the images cascade in her head- Anne lifting her onto the desk, groaning down her neck, owning her body and finding places she didn’t even know she needed touched. 

For a moment, her mind lapses, thinking it must have been a dream. But when she climbs out of bed, she feels a sting from the very real scrapes on the back of her knees, and the image of Anne thrusting her against the wood crashes her back to the mind-blowing orgasm that undoubtedly destroyed all her preconceived notions. 

The time on the clock shatters the delicious image from her memory as she realizes she only has a few hours to get ready. Shibden is holding their annual book reading event later that day where some of their newest authors will be marketing their work and reading exclusive excerpts to generate interest. Ann has attended this event before except she was merely a captivated member of the audience. Now, she is on the other side of the ropes, tasked with welcoming the authors and helping them settle in, all while photographing the affair for the company newsletter.

She’s especially excited to see the reaction to the sneak peek of Wintering in Rome. Being that the well-known author wants to remain anonymous, they’ve cunningly hired a stand-in to read the passages so that they can gage unbiased feedback before it’s launched. 

She pulls on a pair of sweatpants and ventures towards her door, knowing she’ll need a jolt of coffee to energize her for the long day ahead. Luckily, she spots the little red present Anne left on her neck as she passes her mirror. She chews her lip as she traces the love-bite, seriously doubting she’ll ever be able to keep her composure in the woman’s presence, especially now knowing exactly what her hands and lips are capable of. She smirks at the thought as she quickly grabs a fleece and throws it over her t-shirt before entering the sitting room.

“Ah, would you look at that. She’s alive!” Catherine calls out, sitting attentively in one of their lounge chairs, looking as though she’d been eagerly waiting for her to emerge. “You got in rather late, huh?” she probes. “What were you doing all night?”

“Did I?” Ann tries to deflect as she creeps towards the kitchen. “I don’t even remember what time it was when I got home. Exhaustion must have gotten the better of me. I was just really swamped with wo—” 

“Work. Right.” Catherine cuts in as if she knew exactly the excuse she would use and isn’t buying it anymore. Ann can sense not only the suspicion in her friend’s face but also the disappointment from not being someone she’s choosing to confide in.

“Yes. Work.” She answers casually as she turns on the coffee pot. “You know I have an important day to prepare for, Cath.” She doesn’t like lying to her best friend, especially Catherine who she normally shares everything with. But what’s happening with Anne feels momentous, unlike anything she’s ever felt before, and she just wants to hold onto it without any interruptions for a little while longer. 

“Well, you must be doing a hell of a job because those came for you this morning,” Catherine quips as she points to the delivery on the dining room table. 

“Hm?” Ann mutters curiously as she pours herself a cup. When she turns towards where Catherine is pointing, she can’t believe she didn’t notice them before. The most extravagant and vibrant bouquet of flowers is sitting in a vase, towering over their little table and looking ridiculously out of place in their modest flat.

“These are for me?!” She asks incredulously as she walks towards them, unable to hide the wide-eyed smile that stretches across her face at the grand gesture. This has Anne written all over it. 

Catherine softens seeing the genuine modesty in her expression. “Yes! The delivery man could barely fit through the door,” she laughs.

Ann hesitantly grabs the card, relieved to see it hadn’t been opened. Immediately thinking of an excuse once Catherine unavoidably asks who they’re from. But when she flips the small rectangle over, it’s not her boss’ handwriting she sees. Her stomach twists as she realizes how wrong she was…

My little Annie,

I thoroughly enjoyed bumping into you at the café. I trust you’ve received my texts and emails, although I haven’t received a reply. Here is a small token of my unwavering affection. I’d love to see you again very soon. 

Yours,
Tom Ainsworth

She drops the card on the table and steps back in disgust. The overwhelming floral scent drifting from the arrangement suddenly feels suffocating as her chest constricts and her skin starts to crawl.  She had a nauseating feeling that their run-in wouldn’t be the last she’d hear from him and blocking his number certainly didn’t seem to stop him. Tom is the type of man that’s used to getting his way. At any cost. 

“Who are they from?” Catherine asks expectantly, seeming to have overlooked her adverse reaction. 

Ann quickly snatches the card again, bending it in her hand. She looks down and has to place her thumb over the first three words to stop herself from cringing at the sight of them. She’s not going to let this ruin the eventful day ahead and she’s certainly not going to delve into this now with her roommate. 

“Oh, they’re just from my sister,” she attempts to respond coolly, “sending her congratulations on the new job, I suppose.” She momentarily feels very heavy, like the weight of her secrets are starting to bear down on her. She’s hardly convinced herself of the truth, let alone her friend when she grabs her cup and tries to retreat to her bedroom. 

“Ann.” Catherine stops her, a genuine look of sympathy flooding her eyes. “I can tell that something’s been going on with you these last few weeks.” She scoots forward in her chair, urging her to let it all out. “You know you can tell me anything, right? Anything at all. With no judgment, I promise.” 

Ann sighs, wanting to release but still feeling the crushing fear in her chest that simply won’t let her. Her body reacts in defense by flashing her friend a reassuring smile. “I know I can, Cath. Look, things are happening in my life that I still haven’t figured out for myself. And I just need you to trust me. I’ll tell you everything when I’m ready. Okay?” She can tell it’s taking everything in her friend not to pry further into the tiny opening she’s given her so she quickly continues, trying to end positively, “Just know. I’m really, really happy.” 

As the words leave her, she feels how true they are. Catherine seems to have conceded in her countenance as she nods encouragingly like she understands. For now, at least. They exchange a few more lines of chit chat about the event and what Ann plans to wear before she excuses herself to start getting ready. It doesn’t take long for her mind to inevitably swing back and for the butterflies to set in when she thinks about seeing the woman responsible for it all. 

_______________


When Anne arrives at the local bookstore, she’s satisfied with the turnout, noting its consistency with the previous years. She does a quick check of the layout of the event, trying not to hover, yet still wanting her presence to be known to her staff. Delegation is a blessing and a curse as a boss, freeing you from the mundane logistics, yet challenging your ability to relinquish control and to trust. Something that has never come naturally to Anne. But as she scans the room, besides a few ridiculous plants that partially obstruct the view of the microphone, which she lifts and hauls out of the way herself, she’s content with the preparation that’s been done and nods in approval to her colleagues.

It helps that she’s in an increasingly good mood. She tries to be nonchalant, flipping through one of the programs as she pretends to lazily look around the room. But inside, her body is still roaring from the night before, demanding to see the girl who's electrified every nerve in her being.  

As people begin to lower themselves and take their seats, she catches a glimpse of those loose golden curls. Standing in the far back of the room, Ann clumsily tinkers with the settings on an unusually large camera, furrowing her brow and looking exceedingly confused. Anne smiles adoringly at the sight, finding it impossible that the girl is somehow more endearing every time she sees her.  

She cranes her neck to get the full sight of her and it’s worth it as she takes in her alluring outfit. A short, rose-pink dress, flawlessly cinched at the waist with small brown buttons that run from the scooped collar down to the hem. She raises her eyebrows in intrigue, spotting the sexy little ankle boots that finish the ensemble.  

Suddenly, she’s undaunted by how obvious she must look and abandons her blasé behavior. The only thought now drumming in her head is how much she needs to get closer to her, to touch her again, to feel her silhouette seared into her skin. Her fingers spark at the thought as she tosses the program aside and charges forward, letting her desires steer her.

“There you are, Anne!” Eliza jumps in front of her, donned in her bright floral weekend wear, temporarily blinding her as she tries to look away. But the woman’s nothing if not annoyingly persistent. 

“Good lord, you’re a hard woman to pin down,” she laughs as she relentlessly blocks her path. “I’d like you to meet my new author, William.” A man timidly appears from behind her shoulder, looking a bit overwhelmed by the event and the company. He reaches out his hand and begins to open his mouth, but Eliza’s already started up again.  

“He’s been dying to meet the infamous Anne Lister of Shibden. Haven’t you, William?”

She shakes his hand and gives him a condoling look as he simply just nods. 

“I’m bringing him as my guest to the meeting tomorrow. This way he can meet Jeremy and the rest of the board,” she explains proudly. “What time will you be arriving?”

Anne’s momentarily forgotten she has to catch a flight first thing in the morning for their annual town hall at the Scotland office. She normally looks forward to these events; a chance to showcase her many wins for the year. But she instead feels an underlying dread as a certain someone has caused her to want to stay in London. 

“Sometime around 9:00 am, I believe?” She responds flippantly as she darts her eyes back to the girl, who’s now animatedly speaking to an attendee, looking as though she’s helping to direct her. Anne stares indulgently at the soft smile that spreads to her eyes, the genuine enthusiasm that permeates across her face and she begins to grow wildly impatient from her overwhelming need to close the distance. 

“Oh! We must be on the same flight! We should coordinate our sched(ules)—”

“Well, it was nice to meet you, William.” Anne quickly interrupts, ignoring whatever words are still coming out of the bouncy woman’s mouth. “Enjoy the event and do make sure to mingle with the other authors.” 

Eliza tries to continue, attempting to sync their travel into some kind of idiotic girl’s trip, but Anne is already off. Barreling past them and weaving through the crowd with her head cocked to the side, eyes steady on her mark. 

“Hello, Madame.” When her head spins forward, she hardly cares to hide the aggravation on her face as she knows there’s only one voice that can sound so effortlessly patronizing. Chris Rawson now steps in her way with his assistant, Rachel standing grudgingly close by. 

“Jeremy’s asked to sit down with me before the meeting tomorrow,” he comes at her fast, sounding a bit erratic in his speech. “He said it’s to discuss some recent complaints about my work ethics,” he spits the last word out, sounding accusatory. “You wouldn’t happen to know where these ridiculous allegations are coming from?” 

“Mm.” She pauses, granting him one more second before she blows him off. She smirks as she knows exactly what they’re about. From his relentless pursuit to steal clients to his brash and at times aggressive behavior, a permanent form of discipline has been inevitable and she’s been sewing the wind daily, waiting for that time to come. 

“I don’t believe now is the time nor the place to discuss this.” She looks him up and down and leans in slightly, smelling the heavy alcohol on his breath and eyeing him in contempt. “Though, if you think long and hard about it, I’m sure you’ll be able to figure it out,” she taps her forehead, sneering at him, “when you’re sober, that is.”

She lets that sink in, never shaking her expression until she exchanges a considerate look to Rachel whose disdain for her boss is now palpable. The man’s face turns white and he grits his teeth, preparing to retort, until the lights suddenly flick on and off, indicating for the attendees to take their seats.

Already irritated by how much time she’s wasted on him, Anne uses the signal to abruptly excuse herself and push forward, ignoring the belligerent expletives he spews under his breath. Scotland should make for an interesting trip, she muses to herself, outwardly unfazed as she returns her focus to the other side of the room. 

As the crowd starts to quiet down and settle in, she sneaks to the far most wall behind a long row of bookshelves. She peers down each one until she finds Ann standing between the columns where she noticed her before. As she walks down the tunnel of books towards her, she notices her head subtly swinging back and forth as if she’s looking for someone. Could she feel just as desperate to see her?

She picks up her pace as she takes in her tantalizing shape and the way her dress impeccably hugs her hips. She’s brought back to the bared image of her from the night before, how her hands got to touch every part of her, feel her writhe and cry in ecstasy around her fingers and when she reaches her, it takes everything in her not to frantically grab her out in the open.

Instead, she stealthily walks up behind her, wanting to check her surroundings but finding her eyes glued to the mesmerizing slope of her neck. Closing the gap between them, she aligns her lips with her ear and lightly places the tips of her fingers in front of her waist.  

“Don’t turn around,” she drones in a whisper, voice low and salacious as Ann’s body jolts and she stops herself mid-head whip. She applies pressure to her hips, gently pulling her back towards the bookshelves and shielding them from view as Ann listens, submissively. 

Just then, the lights dim lower and only an overhead spotlight illuminates the front of the room. They’ve used this bookstore before specifically for its professional flair, set with a large podium atop a raised platform, offering the same benefits as a stage. With the decreased exposure and partial barricade of the shelves, Anne relaxes and spreads her hands across her body, tugging her flush against her torso as Ann responds with a ragged pant.  

“I’ve been looking all over for you,” the girl manages to breath out, a whine of relief in her voice as she eases her head back onto Anne’s shoulder and burrows her face into her neck. 

Anne tenderly kisses her cheek and shuts her eyes, nearly drunk off her scent. “I don’t think one hour passed that I haven’t thought of you,” she sighs, reaching her hands further around her waist, letting her thin dress skate against her skin, savoring how the motion makes Ann start to provocatively sway her hips. “How dare you look so good?” she drawls across her neck, yanking her even firmer against her and earning a gasp from Ann as she starts to finger the line of buttons on the front of her dress. 

They’re momentarily startled as the low chatter of the audience starts to die down and the first speaker takes the stage, both realizing they’ll need to keep quiet to avoid being seen.

Anne feels like a savage teenager. She knows she’s taking a considerable risk. They may be covered and far-off the stage, the lights may be low, but at any moment someone in the back rows could turn in their seat and catch them. But the thrill only adds to her fever and she can tell it’s taken hold of Ann as well as she’s now rolling her hips deeper into her. 

Of course, it’s the moderator for Wintering in Rome who’s up first. Anne is supposed to facilitate a discussion after the reading which will be curious given her current state. But she trusts her ability to improvise and she’s suddenly incapable of focusing on anything but her assistant who’s now running small patterns suggestively against her knuckles, spinning her further and further into her whirlwind. 

She feels her own need throb against Ann’s rocking hips as she slowly drags her hand low across her waistline, mercilessly weaving her fingers through the spaces between the endless buttons as the reading begins…

When the door was closed, time stood still. They held a secret between them, matched by a weightless, seamless desire. 

She closes her eyes as she’s reminded of how impossibly smooth the girl’s skin feels. Nudging her hair back with her nose, she dips her head into the curve of her neck, parted lips skimming across tiny freckles as her finger draws a soft circle around her belly button. Ann leans further back, letting her weight buckle against her, resting her forehead against her cheek. Does she dare go any further?

She grips her flesh harder as she feels Ann’s body now grinding relentlessly into her, pushing her. She nips her earlobe, tugging it gently and letting herself surrender as she threads her fingers lower…

In her most frail gesture are things which consume me. She catches me gazing, marveling her golden, flaxen hair. I turn away with a breath, schooling my features, willing the raw emotion to leave my eyes. Had she seen it?

She traces a stripe beneath the silk lining at her waist, the flimsy material folding under pressure. Time is of the essence as the reading continues, the moderator picking up her pace. She knows she won’t be able to spoil the girl like she desperately yearns to so, without hesitation, she plunges her hand through the soaked fabric, cupping and pawing at her center, feeling her slick folds open around her and letting her surprisingly ample wetness drip onto her fingers as her buttons start to pop open…

The whole thing was only ever a game. A pretty scene; a mere ellipsis in an overarching story. Her fragility encloses me, yet, when we’re alone, her mettle rivals my own and we take on the world. I am owned by my desire to please her.

Lost amid the familiar warmth of her thighs, faintly hearing the words that ring suspiciously true, she allows herself to freefall. Submerging her hand between her velvety lips, she greedily massages her core, fastidiously stroking up and down, drenching her fingers and teasing her silky entrance as Ann unconsciously widens her stance. My God, she wants to slow down, ravish her, hit every mark, feel her flesh devour her. But if she’s going to do this, she wants to take it all the way, a challenging feat in the little time that they have.

She slides her glossy fingers up to her peak and rapidly starts encircling her clit, kneading and memorizing its ridges, almost losing her grip from how incredibly wet she is. She cups at her breast; she can’t help it. Fondling and letting her finger nimbly tease low beneath her collar, playfully brushing across the edge of her firm nipple. The tendons in Ann’s neck tremble against her, strenuously suppressing moans as her eyes roll back and shallow breaths drip from her blush lips.

More buttons pop from the pressure, and Anne increases her speed, vibrating her fingers, pulsing in all directions, clawing at her waist to hold her steady as her tongue swirls insatiably between the dip of her neck. She knows she’s close, evident from the red flush on her chest and the way her teeth are now stabbing at her bottom lip. She knows she’ll have to masterfully time this right to mask her unyielding cries as the reading is coming to an end…

She intertwines our fingers, clinging to me, musing at their skill and precision and my hands start to shake, challenging my bravado and catching me ill-prepared. She’s under my skin now. Imploring that she needs me in a thousand ways. Who holds the cards? Her slightest glance will easily unhinge me.

She slows her pace, softening her rhythm, waiting for the precise moment, wanting the build to last as long as possible, permeating through her and seeping all the way to her toes. The moderator starts slowing her speech, signaling the end, and Anne holds, softly pressing, tortuously rolling her fingers, whispering for her to wait as she places a lazy kiss against her collarbone. It's as if she's tripped a wire from the way Ann lets out a strangled whimper as they finally hear the concluding sentence…

Yet, when the door is closed, I can see only her. 

A moment passes. Their bodies are frozen but their hearts are pounding…

Until the audience erupts in applause and Anne takes her cue. Slightly bending her forward, she shoves her entire hand against her, thrusting at a staggering pace, feeling her pronounced flesh constrict and then buck back into her fingers as she throws her head back and begins to shudder uncontrollably. Anne lifts her free hand to the girl’s mouth, gently stifling her cries as she vigorously climaxes in her arms. Ann catches one of her fingers between her teeth, biting down and sending an unraveling tremor down Anne’s spine as she smothers her own moan into her golden hair. 

The lights turn back on and Anne quickly removes her hand, her fingers still igniting from the sensation. Ann promptly buttons up, still leaning against her as her shoulders rise and fall erratically, and Anne wants more. 

“I need to see you before I leave,” she demands, letting her lips brush idly against her skin, whetting her appetite even further. “Come to dinner at mine tonight?” 

Ann can only nod, her eyes are glassy, indistinct, like someone who’s breathed in smoke. The room is burning around them and Anne knows no amount of time will ever be enough with her. She places a feather kiss against her neck and swiftly moves around her, releasing her and Ann has to catch herself on the bookshelf from the teetering feeling still quivering in her legs. 

Anne walks up to the podium, unable to stop smirking at what they just did in public. Her strut is a bit jolted and her eyes take a minute to come back into focus as she looks upon the room. She takes a deep breath, somehow managing to readjust her equilibrium as she begins to address the crowd, “Thank you for that captivating glimpse into the life of an audacious and truly fascinating woman.” She nods to the moderator in encouragement. 

Before she continues, she looks back at Ann who’s still feebly holding herself up, hair messily framing her face, looking gorgeously sated and equally shocked. A gratified smile spreads across her face at the sight as she locks into her eyes. She lifts her tired finger to her mouth, tasting it deliberately between her lips, running it against her tongue and savoring the stunned expression on Ann’s face when she realizes what she’s doing before turning back to the audience. 

“Now then, are there any questions?”

_______________

The event took longer than expected. Anne had been stuck schmoozing with clients well after the bookstore had cleared out, trying to remain polite but failing miserably as she obsessively checked her watch.

With limited time before Ann comes over, she stops at her favorite bistro on the way home and picks up dinner- two orders of chicken fricassee with a medley of roasted vegetables and fresh piped potatoes along with a bottle of their most delectable paired wine. She wasn’t planning on pretending that she prepared the food, but she also wasn’t going to correct her guest if she happened to believe that she had. 

When she arrives home, she manages to find a Jus-Rol patisserie box in her fridge which she unwraps and places in the oven, creating an illusion of effort. Laughing to herself, she rummages through her cabinets, forgetting where everything is as she rarely cooks for herself anymore.

She knows she has an impressive flat, accented with floor to ceiling windows, hickory-oak finished floors, a romantic dining room that she never uses. She also knows that entertaining guests has never been her forte, never having the time nor the patience to endure it. But as she sets the table and plates the food, she ruminates on how different she feels now, how greatly she wants to impress this girl, to hold onto her worshipping gaze just a little while longer. 

A knock on the door makes her heart jump as she launches herself back to the kitchen to destroy the evidence, elbowing the takeaway containers deep in the trash. Unable to change in her haste, she neatly tucks her shirt into her pants and tries to smooth out the wrinkles that Ann put there earlier. A deep crimson reaches her chest as she thinks about finishing what they started, horizontal, in a bed, with no distractions or time limits. 

She wonders how the girl bypassed the front-door security system but thinks nothing of it as she excitedly unlocks the door, unable to the temper the hungry smile that spreads to her lips. 

But her face quickly drops as it starts to make sense and she realizes who is at the door. Mariana stares back at her, looking disoriented and flushed, huffing like she’s walked for miles as she propels past her into the foyer. 

“I did it! I’ve left him,” she nearly yells, her voice sounding hoarse as she paces manically in front of her. 

“H-huh? Left who?” Anne’s mind is processing a mile a minute. Mariana is here. Ann will be here any second. What the fuck is going on?

Charles! I’ve left him,” she shoots her a sharp glance, clearly aggravated that she’s not giving the desired reaction. “We had another row at the house and I just couldn’t take it anymore! I stormed out! I left everything behind and I came here straight away.”

Anne stares at her, dumbfounded, unable to form words as Mariana gets increasingly pissed off. 

“Well, say something! I didn’t come all this way to just stare at your blank face—" she stops herself, lifting her nose, catching the aroma wafting from the dining room. “Wait…is that…do you have company?" She shoves past her, now bulldozing through her home until she spots the romantic setup. She whips her head around and the sudden jealousy cracks her voice, “Don’t tell me this is for her…”  

“Mary.” Anne places her palms up to calm her before gently taking her arm. Her brain finally focuses and she attempts to gain back control of the situation, though her skin is still scorching through her clothes. “W-why don’t you go down to that café, you know, the one on the corner where you used to meet me? And then I’ll call you in a few hours and we can talk all about it.” She gradually pulls her, managing to get her back into the entranceway until Mariana yanks back.

“You can’t be serious! Did you not hear what I just did?!” she shouts as her eyes grow darker and the pain pierces right through her. Anne goes to open her mouth, willing herself to do damage control when the buzzer on her intercom system slices through the tension, chiming abruptly and startling them both. Ann is here.

She knows this won’t end well. There’s just no way out now. Someone will get hurt. 

She cowers her head, relinquishing what would have been a perfect evening, and reluctantly presses her finger down against the buzzer.

 

 

Chapter Text

Anne always prided herself on her ability to anticipate conflict, to influence any outcome in her favor. She could run rings around anyone, easily persuading them to her side and bending their angle to match her own. She had a knack for diffusing bombs, for artfully skirting her way out of any situation...

Until today.

***

She hesitantly opens the door. Her heart sinks to her stomach when she sees the excitement on Ann’s face. She’s holding a bottle of wine tucked in the crook of her elbow, an exquisite lavender dress gathers neatly beneath her coat and her lips are pinker than usual; an inviting gloss shimmers against the bright lights in the corridor. She fussed and Anne more than notices. She should have just joined her in the hallway, slammed the door behind them, kissed her with such conviction that it shielded them both from the inevitable turbulence inside. But… she didn’t.

“Ann...” her piteous voice gives her away and the girl’s expression quickly shifts, her excitement draining into a puddle of concern. Anne’s words come out fast and jumbled as she grabs her hand, pleading her defense before even letting her in the room, knowing that the glass will shatter in a matter of seconds. “I-It’s not what it looks like. I had no idea she was coming over. She was just so upset. She had a horrible fight with her—"

“Nice to see you again… Miss Walker, is it?” Mariana asks with a hollow smile as she reenters from the kitchen, suddenly emerging from behind Anne’s shoulder. What was once a look of despair is now replaced with something eerily cunning.

The girl’s eyes widen and then dart towards Anne. Her confused expression is stressed by a flicker of betrayal and Anne feels it like a hammer to her chest.

“Y-yes. It’s, It’s Ann,” she hesitantly answers turning towards Mariana, voice frail and guarded.

Mariana smirks, admiring the effect of her presence and looking even more satisfied from the way she’s making Anne squirm beside her. “Sorry to have interrupted your little…” she narrows her eyes, searching for the term as if saying the word, “date” would somehow make her physically ill. She settles with, “meeting.”

“Ah, yes. Well…” Anne knows this is her place to chime in. She’s seen this look on Mariana’s face before and in the past, she would revel in how jealous she would get from her many flings. But this time it’s different. This isn’t some frivolous romp or just a way to pass the time while she waited for her to be ready. This time, it’s real. 

“Mariana was just leav[ing]—” she tries to continue but the smug woman is already one step ahead.

“Unless…” Mariana interjects, only directing her speech to the timid girl in front of her, “you wouldn’t mind if I joined you, would you? I mean, I did come all this way."

“What?!” Anne snaps, her eyes firing towards her. But Mariana is still honed in on the girl, trying to ignore the daggering stare, yet still flinching when she feels it.

“Um, n-no, of course not,” Ann responds too quickly, her kind nature buckling her under pressure. She can barely even look at Anne as she finally takes a step into the room.

“Wonderful!” Mariana exclaims, eagerly pushing at her back to help her forward before stopping and placing what seems like an encouraging hand on her forearm. “Now we can get to know each other better.” She flashes her a phony smile and gestures towards the dining room. 

Once Ann has left the hallway, Anne yanks the woman towards her, blood scalding as she snarls into her face, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?!”

The woman shudders for a moment, failing to hold her glare as her eyes cower, yet the hostility in her voice only amplifies. “I think I should get to know this funny little friend of yours. If she is becoming this important to you.” She shrugs off her hand with a calculating smile. “The more the merrier right?”

She should have kicked her out right then and there, closed the door on her and this complete mess of a relationship for good. Why didn’t she just do that?! Maybe it’s because she presumed that she could somehow salvage this. Or, perhaps it’s because deep down she knew that this conniving game Mariana was playing is sadly rooted from her own miserable and empty life.  She presses on the now throbbing vein in her forehead as she watches the woman strut towards the table.

This was the first mistake she made that night… and it wouldn’t be the last.

She can feel the tension in the room as soon as she enters, collapsing in on her as she sets a plate down in front of their new guest. She tugs at her collar which now feels like it’s strangling her before taking her seat at the head of the table.

Swiveling her neck from side to side, she’s sat between two very different pictures: Mariana’s sat upright, resting her chin to her knuckles with the same haughty smirk that has yet to waver, while Ann looks uncomfortably stiff, back slightly hunched with red blotches starting to spread across her chest, starkly contrasting with the soft lilac hue of her dress.

She quickly reaches for the wine that Ann brought and searches for her leg beneath the table. She gives her knee a small squeeze in a futile attempt to soothe her which only garners the thinnest smile in response. “This is lovely, Ann. Thank you,” she addresses her as affectionately as she can and when their eyes finally meet, she tries to illustrate just how sorry she is in her countenance, how this is never how she wanted the night to progress. But before she can get much further, Mariana clears her throat and she’s dragged back into the thick fog between them.

“So, Ann, tell me, where did you go to university? What did you study?” Mariana asks abruptly, still forging a smile through clenched teeth as she stabs at her vegetables.

“Oh. I went to, to Cardiff for my undergrad,” she tentatively replies, lips pinched into a polite smile, “I got my degree in communications with a focus in journalism.”

Mariana narrows her eyes in response, nodding her head with a curt, “Hm.”

“Oh, Ann is just being modest,” Anne avidly inserts herself, “she also completed her postgrad at Goldsmiths under the University of London. You know, the one that Damien Hirst went to? In fact, most of the alumni there are rather prestigious.” Anne boasts towards the woman before averting her gaze tenderly back to Ann. “It’s an excellent institute.”

Anne lets out the breath she’s been holding for what feels like hours as she finally sees the hint of a familiar, warm smile spread across Ann’s face. But the moment is short-lived as the crafty woman seems to have caught it too.

“Mm. And now your, what? Just an assistant?” Mariana sneers, causing Anne to brusquely break their stare, whipping her head towards the mindless comment.

“Mary!”

“What? It seems a bit beneath her credentials, no? I’m sure it’s not her dream profession after graduating from such an excellent school…”

“No! You’re completely out of line. You have no idea what you’re talking—”

“It’s okay, Anne,” Ann stops her, voice surprisingly calm and understanding as a hushed courage breaks through. “Working at Shibden has been my dream. I would have worked in the lunch café if I had to,” she laughs, rejoining her eyes with Anne’s. “Working under Anne has been a massive opportunity for me and I just feel incredibly lucky to be there.”

Anne returns her smile adoringly, shaking her head in disbelief at her civility. She instinctively reaches her hand across the table, needing to return the sentiment, but quickly pulls back in fear of further evoking the woman to her left.

“I see…” Mariana’s eyes bitterly roll to Anne’s retreating hand and then back to the girl. Just when Anne thinks the worst must be over, that she might actually reclaim the night with Ann, the woman continues the interrogation.

“And where are you from? Where does your family live?” She scrapes her knife across the plate as she cuts through her chicken, painting the pretentious grin back on her lips.

Ann’s shoulders which were finally starting to soften, clench briefly from the harsh noise. “Scotland. My family lives in Edinburgh, near Morningside,” she answers, shifting her weight in her chair.

“Oh, Edinburgh! Wow, does that bring me back. Remember that time, Anne, on the castle tour?” She shifts her tapered eyes to Anne’s for a moment before directing her speech back to the girl, “We were quite bored with the insipid tour guide so we managed to escape from the group and sneak into the barracks…”

Anne nearly chokes on her wine to stop her, knowing where she’s going with this.

“I thought we would surely get arrested by how loud she made me scream against that rickety cot…"

“Mariana.” Her voice is severe, warning her. She shoots her a threatening glance but this seems to only rile the woman more.

“Or, am I getting it confused with the tour in Glasgow?" she rambles on, becoming more animated in her speech.

“Mary, that’s enough…”

“Where you fucked me in the captain quarters on the Glenlee. Not the craziest thing we’ve done, but it was up there. Oh, the stories I could tell you—“

“Dessert! Who wants dessert?” Anne nearly shouts, slamming down her utensils and standing abruptly from her chair. She doesn’t dare look to her right to see Ann’s expression but she can just feel her anxiety seeping from her chair. They’ve barely even finished their meals but Anne is now crawling out of her skin and feels she needs to remove herself to stop the incessant woman.

“I should go check on that,” she announces abruptly, steadying her voice before swiftly excusing herself to the kitchen.

She leans against the counter; the cool marble feels soothing against her scorching skin. Rubbing the pounding ache in her forehead that’s now graduated to her entire skull, she tries to comprehend what’s happening. How could she let it get this far?

Feeling completely out of her wits, she bangs her fist against the island, trying to shake herself back to reality to decipher her next move. The vibration from her force causes Ann’s purse to fall from where it was sitting on the counter, spilling on the floor with a rattle.

Anne hurriedly reaches to retrieve it, cursing herself for now damaging the girl’s belongings, when she stops on one item that’s floated to the floor. A folded yellow post-it note stares back at her and when she opens it, she sees the short message she left in Ann’s desk that morning she went to the conference. She kept it. 

She feels a calmness spread through her as she dotingly runs her thumb across the lettering. Her mind instantly fills with clarity as she begins determinedly walking back to the dining room. She wants to be with Ann. Only Ann.

But as she rounds the corner, she hears sudden shuffling coming from the other side and when she reenters the room, she knows that leaving them alone together was the second mistake she made that night.

Ann has risen from her chair; face beat red as she clumsily grabs at her coat. “I-I should go…” Her voice cracks, tears now bubbling to the surface. Mariana is sat down next to her, a vicious look in her eyes penetrates directly into Anne’s.

“What? No. Ann. What happened?” Anne hastily grabs at her wrist but Ann springs past her, snatching at her purse and hurrying towards the door.

She lunges forward to race after her when she suddenly hears a loud, high-pitched beep break out from the kitchen followed by a thick cloud of smoke.

“Fuck!” she yells out as she pivots towards the sound, realizing that she should have actually checked on the dessert as it’s now setting off the smoke alarm.  She opens the oven door which just makes the alarm chime louder and starts feverishly wafting the smoke away from the device with a dishtowel.

When it finally stops, she rushes back to the door but Ann is already gone.

Anne turns eerily slow on her heels, squaring up with the culprit who is now standing with her arms folded, witnessing the train wreck with a satisfied smile. Her hard-exterior starts to crumble once she hears the stark fury in Anne’s voice.

What did you say to her?”

“Nothing!” the woman shrugs, innocently lifting her palms. “I just gave her some advice. That’s all. She’s a sweet girl, she should really know what she’s getting herself into.”

Anne bares her teeth, feeling the venomous energy that’s been building inside her, ready to release at any moment as she madly paces the room. “I suspect you’re doing this to be hurtful. Which, I have to say, is not very attractive, Mariana. Quite the opposite. It’s small-minded and pathetic,” her voice bites on the last word. “My God, Mary, you had no right!”

In one swift motion she lifts her arms in frustration as she spins back around to face her and in doing so, she smacks her hand against the oversized Galileo thermometer that’s perched high on a shelf in her foyer. It shatters to the ground, water and glass shards scattering aimlessly across the slick wooden floors.

Fuck!” She falls to the ground and frantically tries to recover the glass spheres and calibrated weights that were inside. “Is there anything else you want to destroy tonight?” She hisses as she sloshes the water, searching for the tiny metal tags that were attached to the orbs.

“That I destroyed?!” Mariana scowls impatiently. “That thing was hideous anyway. I never knew why you had that.”

Anne clenches her eyes shut, reaching her breaking point. Using all her will power, she steadies her voice as she stands, ready to ask the question that’s been rattling in her head since she first opened the door. “Why are you really here, Mary?”

“I already told you! We had a fight. It was awful. If you only knew the things that he says to me…”

“No really, why are you here?” She probes, pointing at her waist. “I’ve seen your phone lighting up in your pocket all night. I assume it’s Charles? Worried about you? Seeing where you are?”

The woman falls silent, dropping her eyes down to the square imprint in her jeans.

“You didn’t leave him,” Anne huffs, knowing that she’s hit the woman’s nerve. “He kicked you out again, didn’t he?”

“No, I…” The woman searches for the words, clearly flustered from being found out. “Well, yes, he told me to leave but I’d say it was a mutual decision. I had to make sure you were—”

“What? Still available? Here to pick up the pieces?” Anne slams the weights back onto the table and her voice hits an octave that trembles through the hallway. “I’m always just the back-up plan, huh? The convenient alternative. Only when your irritable husband decides he’s done with you, you come to live in the bottom of the barrel here with me.”

“No! You must know that’s not what I think—”

“I’ve already told you. This has got to end. We cannot live on love alone - there is so much more that is needed; that I need. And there is just nothing good that is left here.” She pauses, letting the words saturate the room, ensuring that the woman grasps it once and for all. “It’s over.”

Mariana winces, her eyes softening for the first time all evening as the tears start to well in the corners. After all that’s transpired, Anne still feels the familiar pull to comfort the woman she’s loved for half of her life.

Instead, she listens to her better judgment, to the stronger pull from the kindhearted girl who now feels like she’s hundreds of miles away.

She treads towards the door and holds it open with a sigh. “Go home, Mary…” she looks down at her pocket which is now vibrating again, flickering through the denim, “…to your husband.”

After what feels like an eternity of silence, Mariana finally yields. As she starts to pass her, she pauses to look up, defeated eyes searching for a shred of hope that’s not there. “I’m sorry, Fred,” the words come out heavy, doused with a much deeper meaning, “for everything.”

There’s nothing left to be said. Both women know there’s no coming back from this, no possible way to restore the jagged pieces into something whole. After Anne closes the door behind her, feeling the finality in the sharp click of the lock, she turns towards the mess which seems jarringly fitting in the aftermath. As she bends to resume the clean-up, she feels the knots in her stomach twists as the fear of what she’s lost becomes overwhelming. She knows that she can’t let it end like this. She needs to fix it. Tonight.

Flinging the debris onto the table, she hastily grabs her coat and hopes to God that it’s not too late.

_______________

Ann collapses across her couch. She couldn’t have gotten home soon enough. She immediately changed her clothes, feeling ridiculous in the new dress she dolled herself up in, desperately wanting to rid herself of the memory and retreat into her comfortable shell. She tries to focus on the program flashing on the telly, anything to distract her mind, to delay her anxieties from taking control.

But it’s no use; her brain keeps replaying the words Mariana spat at her, over and over. She’s thankful that her roommate is out for the night, knowing it would be impossible to hide the turmoil spewing in her mind. The inadequacy she feels which was almost starting to dissipate is now more robust than before. It’s as if all of her doubts and insecurities about Anne had been validated, blatantly served cold right on her plate.

She tries to rub the tension from her temples, the white noise from the speakers helping to drown out her thoughts when she’s jolted forward by a knock at the door.

Confused, she hurries forward, expecting Catherine must have forgotten something when she left. But when she opens the door, she’s met with two deep brown eyes, glistening back at her, laced with remorse and a hint of fear. And even in her disheveled state, Ann’s heart still flutters at the sight of her.

“Anne, y-you’re here…what are you doing here?”

The woman lets out a long sigh as if she’d been holding it the whole way there, “I’m here. I had to see you…” She instinctively moves closer but stops herself midway. A few petals fall from beneath her sleeve as Ann spots the bouquet of roses hidden underneath her arm.

“Mm, it’s silly, I know,” she laughs, hopelessly trying to rearrange some of the stems as she offers them to Ann. “It was the best I could find at this time of night.”

Ann takes them curiously, still bemused that she’s in her doorway. She’s not used to seeing Anne this nervous- fidgeting with her watch, unable to keep still as her body sways with energy. She looks down to hide the small smirk on her face when she’s suddenly reminded that she’s wearing her embarrassingly ratty pajamas.

“Oh! Um, hold on one second…” horrified, she excuses herself to her room, grabbing a jumper from her closet and zipping it over her shirt. She places the flowers on her nightstand and huffs at herself in the mirror before leaving.

When Ann reenters the kitchen, she flips on the electric kettle, inquisitively watching as the woman keeps moving, pacing the room fretfully and examining every knick-knack on the shelves. “So, how did you know where I live?” Ann asks, startling her as she joins her in the sitting room.

“Ah. I am your boss, remember? I do have access to that kind of information,” Anne laughs as she compulsively straightens out a picture frame. She turns towards the dining nook and her shuffling stops when she spots the enormous flower arrangement still sitting there from the morning, now starting to wilt and looking more harrowing over the tiny table. 

“Oh. I guess I wasn’t the only one with the idea,” Anne observes with a light smile. “Who are these from?”

Ann had forgotten all about the godawful delivery from Tom Ainsworth, finding it hard to believe how much had happened since only that morning. “No one. They’re nothing,” she answers bluntly, slumping down on the couch, her voice letting on that there’s something more there.

“Hm.” Anne’s expression is curious but she doesn’t push further, shifting her focus back to the real reason she’s there as the resolve blazes in her eyes and her speech starts to accelerate.

“Look, Ann. Mariana showed up tonight on her own before you arrived. I had no clue she was coming. I should have kicked her out right when she got there but she was just in such pain. She had a brutal fight with her husband,” she stops, peering down at her, acknowledging her surprise. “Yes, she’s married. To a man. That’s a whole different story,” she waves her hands, trying to avoid adding more fuel to the fire. “I wish I could properly convey how sorry I am. I know, it seems I’ve been saying that a lot lately. But it’s true. I should have never let it get as far as it did.”

She saunters towards her, shoulders starting to relax as she sits down next to her, locking their gaze and emphasizing her words to make sure she hears them. “I’m in this, Ann. I knew it since that day you walked into my office. You appeared in my life at a time where I had all but given up. Convinced that I would never find someone who wanted me for reasons other than expediency,” she starts to trail off in her thoughts and Ann can tell the bruises from Mariana are still fresh, assuming she didn’t take her behavior lightly after she left.

The woman jostles her head, freeing herself back to the moment. “But then, there you were.” A vivid smile spreads across her cheeks and Ann can feel the warmth of its glow as she starts to inch closer, “I want to be with you, Ann, to see where this goes. I’ve never felt so sure about anything,” she grasps her hand, squeezing her palm and pulling her closer, “I’m all in.”   

Ann stares at her, dumbfounded, never expecting to hear such a strong declaration. As she loses herself in the woman’s pleading eyes, she realizes that she was never actually angry with Anne. She never once thought she planned what had happened. She trusts her. It was Mariana’s words that cut through her, splitting her confidence and resurrecting her doubts.

“Ann,” the woman interlaces their fingers, sweeping her thumb gently across her knuckles, lowering her guard more with every trace. “What did she say to you?”

She takes in a shaky breath as the words resurface in her mind. “She said, well she implied, that I wasn’t good enough for you. That I would never be able to fully satisfy you.” Her head starts to feel heavy as she recoils her face away from Anne’s hand. “She said she’s seen this before. That I was merely a conquest, a speed bump. Something to distract you before you inevitably find your way back to her.”

“Oh, Ann. You must know that’s not how I feel. She’s only said those things to hurt me—”

“Well, she’s not wrong! I have nothing to offer you. She’s right, I am only an assistant. And you’re so clever and so interesting. All of those things you’ve done together, I’ve never done anything remotely like that. You’ll soon get fed up of me.”

“No…” The woman stops her, cradling her face with both hands, waiting until she finally lifts her eyes. “You’re a lot braver than you think, Ann. You’re clever and you’re interesting,” she coos as she rubs her thumb tenderly across her jaw, “and ambitious and kind. How could you honestly think I’m not satisfied? I literally couldn’t keep my hands off of you this morning…” A smile finally plays on Ann’s lips as she replays what happened in the bookstore and the woman notices, a small chuckle humming from her throat.

“You’ve got to stop having such a poor opinion of yourself, Ann” Her breathing starts to soften as Anne pulls her forehead to her lips, swaying her gently and purring against her skin.

“Mm, I don’t when I’m with you,” she sighs, doubts melting away from the heat of her mouth, her resolve dissolving with every languorous kiss.

With a swift exhale, Anne suddenly grips her thighs and yanks her forward onto her lap, seizing the opportunity and earning a gasp from Ann as their bodies both teeter from the impact. “Well, then,” she breathes against her lips as she grazes her fingers down the bow of her neck, her thumb swiping delicately across the jut of her collarbone.

Ann can hear her heart thump against her chest as Anne’s free hand starts to scrape up her thigh, drifting under the thin edging of her shorts. Wetting her lips, the woman draws her in; Ann’s neck falls slack in her hand, lips parting, drunkenly ready to surrender, to jump in feet first and put the events of the day in the rearview. When a shrill whistle erupts from the tea kettle, matched by a deep groan that bellows from the woman’s throat. Ann’s body unconsciously rises forward in response but Anne digs her nails in.

“Leave it,” she husks impatiently before strengthening her grip, peering into Ann’s startled eyes as she crushes their mouths, kissing her fervidly, teeth scraping over lips, noses sliding against each other; a kiss so unveiling in its hunger. All the tension of the night comes flooding to the surface, catapulting out of her, slamming into Ann as she pants against her lips. Two moans fill the room as they breathe the same breath, as Anne’s silk tongue rolls against her own, teasing her with such skill that her hips start to gyrate in rhythm, like she could actually feel it lapping deep between her thighs.

Anne thrusts her hand further beneath her shorts, ruffling the material with her knuckles as she slots her hand where her waist meets her thigh, pressing her firmly against her knee. I’m all in. The woman’s hefty words drum in her head as she pulls her deeper and it’s not until she feels the quick sting of her teeth nipping at her lower lip that she actually believes this isn’t just a fantasy.   

Ann whimpers desperately into their kiss when the woman starts devilishly raking her fingers towards her center, dipping her thumb in and across the sopping wet spot of her panties, coating her finger and tracing a slick line down the valley of her slit. She peels back her lips as Ann’s mouth lurches forward in dissent, her hips trembling upon her lap.

“Already?” The woman drinks her in, gaping at her with astonishment from how deliciously wet she is. “We haven’t even gotten to the good part yet…” A smirk teases at her lips and Ann can only muster a shaky laugh, meagerly trying to regain her breath.

She glances towards Ann's bedroom, her smirk growing to a wide smile, unable to quell the flame in her eyes. “This is how I wanted the night to go,” she sighs into another sultry kiss and Ann takes the hint, clumsily lifting herself up and pulling her hand towards the bedroom, nearly shivering with anticipation of what the woman has planned next.

As soon as they enter, Anne’s already on her, wrapping her hands greedily around her waist, jerking her against her as they stumble towards the bed. For a flicker of a moment, her mind unlocks every fantasy she’s had of her boss in her bedroom as she watches her sitting readily atop the mattress, confidently staring back at her, finally looking like the Anne that she’s used to.

Ann catches herself, standing feebly between her legs, losing her balance as the woman starts unzipping her jumper tantalizingly slow, finger sliding tight between her cleavage. With their convenient positioning, Anne starts her assault on her neck. Sweeping her jacket off of her shoulders, she yanks at her collar, exposing the hollow of her throat, sucking and nipping there with calculated intent. The pleasure spun and mixed with the intensity of her bite causes Ann to unconsciously buck her chest against the woman’s face.

“Oh god Anne,” she gasps faintly as her head falls back. Flitting her tongue down the flimsy opening of her pajama top, Anne palms at her breasts, groaning insatiably as she squeezes them gently to feel the heft of them, thrusting them up to meet the heat of her mouth while her dexterous tongue grazes mercilessly across her nipple.

She fears she may actually pass out from the rush of blood surging from her head to her now aching core. She’s not used to being worshipped like this- Every string being expertly plucked; every need being met without any bidding.

Before she can beg for more, Anne suddenly flips them. Bouncing her down on the bed, she straddles her, grabbing the hem of her shirt and sliding it over her head like taking a ribbon off a present. She puts her hand on the center of Ann’s chest and pushes her gently back, pinning her there as she admires her breasts. “My God, Ann, you’re perfect,” Anne breathes, her eyes dark and hooded, biting her lip at the offering beneath her. “Every inch of you.”

She starts dragging her hand down the swell of her cleavage, outlining the curves of each buxom mound as Ann’s back arches, wiggling to try and move her soft fingers to one breast or the other. But Anne holds her there, wanton eyes consuming her with a devious smirk.

Laughing at the desperate sobs now rattling from Ann’s throat, she slowly bends her head, nuzzling her nose against the taut pink nubs standing at attention, inhaling the heady scent of lavender and citrus on Ann’s flesh. She circles her tongue around the hard edges of her nipple, tormenting her round and round before taking it into her mouth, laving her tongue against it and sucking harder at each moan that passes Ann’s lips.

The current of pleasure is so intense that Ann thinks she’s gone temporarily blind, the room swirling around her with only flashes of light. Blinking away the blurriness, she looks down at the woman worshipping and devouring her breasts, the wetness from her mouth shining on her pale skin, gleaming on the rosy tips of her buds as they harden further against her tongue.

Her fingers work at the same rate, rolling her pebbled nipple between her thumb and forefinger, pulling and twisting it as her magnificent mouth plucks the other in unison, sending Ann into spirals of nameless pleasure. When her free hand slithers down to the now gushing wet spot of her knickers, Ann’s hips jut violently against her as she curls them up into the cotton, the delirium setting in from the shimmering arousal building inside her.

“Ahh, and you’re a tease…” Ann whines, voice breathless and strained, whirring from a foreign place she doesn’t recognize.

The woman’s smirk only enhances as she cocks her head to the side, clicking her tongue menacingly against her lips. “Am I?” She leans herself towards the dresser and wriggles a rose from the clasp of the bouquet. Ann rises to her elbows concerned before her brain starts firing, realizing what the woman’s doing.

Anne leisurely strokes the velvet tips of the flower down the length of her body, fluttering it ruthlessly at her tender nipples, following each delicious swipe with a languid kiss. “Oh, oh God, that’s…” the words die in her throat as she collapses back down, hopelessly squirming against the feathery touch as her plump lips form into a perfect “O”. A few loose petals fall from the root and onto her waist and Anne bends, tossing the stem and blowing on them excruciatingly slow as they skate across her skin, her sultry breath tickling the cool wetness dripping out to her thighs.

Fuck...me…” the words are almost inaudible as they trickle from her lips, surprising her as she nearly knocks the woman’s nose by how hard she ruts her hips. She can tell Anne heard them by the way her flushed lips pinch up at the sides.

“Ann, we’re finally alone. I’m going to take my time with you…” She hooks her thumbs beneath her waistband, resting her chin low on her abdomen, admiring the flurry of goosebumps that rise to her chest. “I want this to be the best you’ve ever had.”

Her chestnut locks brush delightfully around her thighs and Ann grips two hands into them, lifting herself forward to challenge her stifling gaze. “It already is.”

The wicked smile on Anne’s face stretches further as her restraint snaps at last, sliding her way down her body and dragging her panties down with her. The simmer in her eyes like melted wax, trailing down her skin, leaving no question about her final destination.

Ann opens herself completely, hearing the sharp intake of breath, the quiet “fuck” as the woman lowers her eyes; her own erotic beauty reflecting in the woman’s lustful stare as she settles between her legs.

They both moaned at the first long stroke of Anne’s tongue, a deep and shuddering connection clicking between them. Her breath was hot and teasing as she deftly spread her lips, licking between every satiny fold, flattening her slender tongue against her opening and dragging it slowly up towards her peak. She repeated, fluttering at her entrance and lapping at her wetness, ending each run with an intoxicating flick.

When Anne lifts her lips to take a deeper breath, hovering them over her open and willing sex, Ann instinctively arches into her, nipples perched to the ceiling as she frantically grips at her hair, urging her down as her hips clamored into the sheets.

The woman groans, a deep low growl in her throat as she submits, bowing her head at her temple. She fastens her mouth around the bud of her clit, sucking it between her wet lips as Ann writhed and grinded against her. She graduates into firm, consistent strokes while her fingers trace circles around her slippery edge. With another jolt of her waist, she thrusts in two fingers until they’re as deep as they can go, sliding through her tight walls, knuckles pounding and coiling relentlessly against her swollen lips.

Ann feels her pulse hit the roof of Anne’s mouth as the shock of pleasure urges her eyes open. She admires her sensuous tongue as it slides in and out of her field of vision, noticing one arm pumping erratically while the other suddenly disappears beneath the woman’s waist.

She could tell by the way Anne starts rapidly lifting her hips that she was touching herself, mauling her own sex as she suckled at Ann’s. “Oh god, oh fuck,” she cries out as she tries to watch her through half-open lids but the thought of Anne being so turned on from pleasuring her sends her soaring over the edge. 

Her neck falls limp, slamming back into the headboard, lifting herself up and up to Anne’s mouth as she vigorously approaches her peak. Just as she was so agonizingly close, Anne increases her force, the wet sound of her fingers masterfully fucking her match the rhythm of her tongue lashing against her clit, wringing her arousal tighter and tighter, closer and closer.

“Oh god Anne, I’m, I’m going to…” the final word is slain by a deafening moan as her back curved impossibly high, leaving the earth, shuddering and gasping as she came into her mouth. She twitched open her eyes, waiting until the small explosions stopped erupting behind her lids, peering down at the woman still suctioned against her, shakily drawing out every last tremor of her orgasm. Her eyes were clamped shut, brows raised, face contorted as her hips started rising and falling at a staggering pace. She moaned against Ann’s flesh as she furiously rubbed out her own need, her tongue shuddering against her clit as she came, the vibrations and the pure carnal filthiness of it all sending Ann into another shattering orgasm.

Their hearts pounded, bodies tethered, hands clung vehemently to limbs as the earth spun slowly around them. Ann didn’t know where she ended and the woman began. As Anne gradually slinked up towards her, flicking one parting lick through her center, dropping her panting mouth to rest on her torso, Ann’s blood surged, her veins laced with the woman’s formidable drug as she tangled her hands through her wild tumble of hair. She had found heaven; had floated to impossible heights like she had been touched for the first time.

She breathed into the dense air, smiling in disbelief, tenderly scratching at the woman’s scalp as her body rippled with ecstasy, "All this time… Is that what I’ve been missing?”

A rumble of laughter tickled her chest as the woman found the strength to crawl up beside her. “Oh, Ann. If only I found you sooner.” She wrapped her arms around her and pulled her as tightly as she could, humming against her lips as she caught her breath, “I’m never letting go.”

She knew then, when their bodies stopped trembling and Anne’s beautifully sated eyes bore into her soul, when she brushed her lips and breathed the life back into her, she knew that she was falling hopelessly and thoroughly in love with her.


 


Chapter Text

“Ma’am… Ma’am?”

Ann shakes her head from her haze, turning her attention to the thick Cockney accent ringing above her.

“Your ticket, Miss?” A burly train guard peers down at her, clicking his tally counter as he cranes his neck to count the passengers.

“Oh! Right. Sorry.” She rifles in her purse and pulls out a crinkled one-way ticket to Glasgow.

After a few punches on the corners of the ticket, the man hands it back to her and continues down the row of moquette seats.

Ann returns her gaze outside, watching the sun start to rise into the morning mist, filling the sky with shades of orange and pink. The frozen engine kicks into motion beneath her, pushing the sleek, modern train down the beaten, old track. Ann’s eyes start to narrow, glossing over from the moving imagery as she’s carted back into her thoughts.

It had all happened so fast- purchasing the last-minute ticket on impulse, throwing a few overnight essentials into her purse, racing to the station through the hectic London commute. There was little time to process the impetuous decision she had made.

She was on her way to see Anne, to surprise her on her business trip. And she now had roughly four and a half hours to sit and contemplate her plan. It had all seemed brilliant and exciting the night before in her post-coital bliss but now the nerves were setting in, ticking in her stomach, growing with each sharp click of metal on the track. Resting her forehead against the cool windowpane, she straps in for the ride, her mind flashing back to what led to this spontaneous journey…

***

“I’m never letting go.”

Anne crept up beside her, their lungs filling with the same breath. She takes a second to compose herself, smiling up at the ceiling as her chest heaved in the oxygen it needed.

Ann studied her against her shoulder completely transfixed, taking in every shape, every feature, committing it to memory. She was beautiful in such an interesting way. And as she flung her head towards her, exhaling through a dazzling grin, Ann could feel her heart thumping through her fingertips as the woman cradled them snugly in her hands.

She parts her lips to speak when a high-pitched chime startlingly fills the room, staggering them both back to earth. Anne sighs against her knuckles before twisting over the bed to retrieve her phone from her discarded jacket.

“Uh-oh. My driver will be here in twenty minutes…” She waves her phone with a grin, readying it in her palms to respond.

“Oh! He can wait.” Ann lunges at her hand with a tsk, wrestling her down in a blur of arms and a tangle of sheets until she grips the phone from her fingers. She straddles her, pinning her down as her hand is cocked playfully just out of reach.

“You are insatiable!” The woman laughs as she firmly grasps her hand around the small of her back, pressing her down to her arched torso. She cants her hips to further her reach, eliciting an unexpected gasp from Ann who feels the rough seam of her pants rub deliciously against her still very naked core.

The giggles start to fade and Anne slows her wriggling beneath, searching her eyes, barely masking the hunger in her own. She can tell the woman is restraining herself, giving her space to take the lead as her arm falls limp and the phone is tossed to the side.

Ann takes a page from her playbook, cupping her strong jaw and tracing her thumb against the handsome sharp line. Feeling the power from their positioning, she kisses her, deep and urgent, swallowing the moan that breaks from the woman’s throat as she slips her tongue between her generous lips. Anne presses her foot firmer into the mattress, melding their waists into one, clawing at her skin as Ann’s thigh thrusts between her legs…

Until Ann’s body suddenly freezes. Her mind starts to churn, skin growing hotter, anxiety rearing its ugly head as she feels the weight of the moment beneath her. You’ll never be able to fully satisfy her. Mariana’s words are still fresh in her consciousness, rattling around despite Anne’s many pledges, mocking her serious lack of experience.

“Ann?” The woman must notice the shift as she examines her face inquisitively, her movements now paused completely. She gently taps her finger against the soft jut of her forehead, her voice remaining calm and light. “What’s going on in there?”

Ann slinks down beside her and Anne wraps her in the twisted sheet, intent brown eyes never leaving her own. “I-I just… Ever since…” she stammers, her mouth opening and closing as the words wrestle in her head. “Ever since that night in your office, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.” Anne crinkles her brow, tenderly caressing her fingers to help rouse the words. “About how badly I want to make you feel good.”

The corners of Anne’s mouth tense, trying to hold back her smirk. “Mm, okay. I don’t see the problem..."

“I’ve just never done this before!” The words finally escape her in a nervous jumble, the embarrassment singeing into her cheeks. “W-with a woman. And I’m afraid that I’m probably not very good at it.”

“Hey, hey…” The woman stops her, rocking her closer into her chest. “First of all, I kind of figured you’ve never been with a woman when you said no one had ever made you… well, you know.” She squeezes at her waist, trying to be delicate with her words but still failing to control her smug grin.

“Oh, don’t be glib!” Ann playfully pushes at her shoulders, the faintest smile curving her lips.

“And second...” Anne doesn't budge, holding her tighter, “Not very good at it? Mm, that’s just not possible. You couldn’t tell how good I just felt?” she implores, a small chuckle whirring against her ear. “You don’t need to be frightened, Ann. You don’t have to do anything until you’re ready. Until nature guides you. I already told you, I’m not going anywhere.”

Ann lets out a breath, the words starting to soothe her coursing anxiety, but as usual, something pulls her back down; her own self-sabotaging thoughts.

“I just don’t want to disappoint you,” she murmurs, the concern almost tangible in her voice letting on how genuine a fear this is for her.

“You haven’t. Ann, you haven’t.” Grasping her face, the woman’s voice grows firmer as she holds her gaze, brown eyes piercing blue. She wraps her arm around her torso and swoops her into the slant of her hips; their curves match effortlessly beneath the sheets as she hums into her neck, “These things take time.”

The woman nestles in and Ann feels a warm tingle blossom throughout her entire body, the serenity of her voice penetrating every wall she’s created. She wants to say more, her mind still swirling but the feeling of Anne’s protective hold overcomes her, shielding her vulnerable frame and pacifying her every doubt.

What is she so afraid of? The person she just realized she’s in love with is lying right next to her, reassuring her, completely open and willing to let her set the pace. Her mind starts to settle, her thoughts suddenly replaced by something much stronger, something that’s been yearning to break free all her life.

She slowly trails her hand down Anne’s spine, fingers igniting at the thought of finally unraveling her boss, the only person who’s ever made her feel alive. She feels the woman’s muscles tense into her and hears a ragged breath break from her lips as she finds the waistband of her slacks, slipping her fingers underneath and dragging them surprisingly steady towards her zipper…

Until a second chime rumbles atop the edge of the bed. Anne groans loudly as her head falls forward. “That’ll be John…” she grunts, body deflating in her hands. “I should probably get going. I have to catch a flight in—” she reaches for her phone and clicks it on, eyes widening as she registers the time, “four hours.”

Ann whines as she grudgingly sits up, clutching the sheet to her chest and puckering her best pout against Anne’s shoulder. It seems to work as she can actually feel the woman’s restraint, clenching her closer before biting down into a remorseful smile, settling with a soft peck on her forehead.

“It’ll only be for a few days. And when I get back, I better find you waiting for me. Looking exactly like this.” She hooks her finger into the top of the thin sheet, gently pulling it down to take one last look. She sighs as her lips find her breasts, placing a soft parting kiss as her knuckles roll down the valley of curves amidst a sea of white cotton.

With a sharp exhale, she springs up off the bed to collect her things and after one too many lingering kisses, she leaves. Ann instantly feels the familiar hole in her gut from the loss, the inevitable ache of being apart.

She collapses back on the bed, breathing still tattered as she tries to infer what almost just happened. She laughs to herself, wondering if she’ll ever get used to how quickly her emotions seem to flip to desire around this mesmeric woman. Where there once was fear, her heart now pounds with adrenaline at the thought of touching Anne Lister and she suddenly can’t ignore the overwhelming need to tell her, no, show her exactly how she feels.

Without a second thought, she grabs her phone and eagerly types in the three words now ringing in her head: London to Glasgow.

***

The muffled sound of the intercom startles her awake. She must have dozed off for most of the ride as the display screen indicates they’re approaching their stop. Blinking the sleep from her eyes, she draws in a deep breath, her plan now unfolding before her, becoming more real from the loud shuffle of passengers gathering their possessions.

A coy smile flushes across her cheeks as her awkward positioning reminds her of what she’s wearing, what she shamelessly has planned for her boss. Biting her lip, feeling both nervous and stimulated, she adjusts the black laced corset she’s squeezed into beneath her blouse, twisting it back into place and imagining Anne’s face once she sees it. She slides to the edge of her seat, tapping her leg and gulping down her nerves once and for all as the train screeches to a halt.

_______________

Anne sits in the corner guest office, finding herself habitually peering up, looking for the London view she’s used to but instead being met with harsh red paint and a senseless poster of a large yellow bridge, the word “Collaboration” comically sprawled beneath it.

It’s not that the Scotland office isn’t an acceptable place to work, it’s just that it sadly lacks the sophistication and elegance that Anne diligently aims to maintain at Shibden. She rolls her eyes with a huff before returning to her notes, remembering to be pleasant as she’s merely just a visitor.

A knock on the door echoes across the small room and Anne finishes her thought before calling out that it’s open. She can already tell who it is from the rhythmic tapping and the enthusiastic voice that immediately fills the space.

“Well isn’t this delightful,” Eliza muses as she looks around the office, her elaborate updo of curls bouncing as she perches in the chair across from Anne.

“Ah, that’s one way to describe it,” Anne quips as she checks her watch, curiously watching the woman get comfortable. “What can I do for you, Eliza? I have my year-end review with Jeremy in ten minutes.”

“Oh! Well, I won’t take up too much of your time. I just wanted to share the good news. I’m not sure if you caught it in the board meeting, but they’re allocating more funds to my imprint in the coming months. I was really quite pleased when they told me. I always thought we needed to diversify and expand our audiences. I remember not too long ago; I was having this exact conversation with William. I said—"

“That’s wonderful, Eliza,” Anne catches her before she veers off. “Was there anything else?”

“Right. Well, the point is, I’ll now have a large enough budget to hire a full-time resource and expand our team indefinitely.” Anne’s ears perk up as she can sense where this is going. “And I wanted to ask you whether you thought Ann might be ready for a junior editor role? Now, it would be quite a jump for an assistant which is why we would have to conduct it in the proper manner and post the position externally to make it fair. But with both of our recommendations, I think she would be a shoo-in.”

“Yes! She’s more than ready,” she replies ardently, her voice sweetening like it usually does when she talks about Ann. “She’s basically been conducting that level of work since she started.”

“Brilliant! You know, after getting to know her and her experience a bit more, it seems like what she’s been needing is someone who can guide her on a steady path. Someone slightly older and wiser. And perhaps she’s found one?” She smiles kindly as Anne nods, trying to hide her own grin; her face beaming in delight at the thought.

“Well, I’ll let you get back to it then.” The satisfied woman stands, pushing in her chair before pausing at the door. “Oh, and Anne? I trust you’ll want to be the one who tells her? Once we get final approval for the posting.”

“Yes, I would. Thank you.” Her face splits into a wide smile, unable to hide it any longer as the woman taps on the door contently before leaving. She knows this is what Ann has always wanted and to think she had any influence makes her burst with pride.

She rubs her cheeks in an effort to quell her excitement and forces her eyes back down to her journal, needing the last few minutes to continue preparing when another knock at the door stops her mid-sentence. It wasn’t like Jeremy to be early but the sooner she can get this over with, the sooner she can call Ann back at her hotel room.

This time she pops up to answer the door, recognizing that Jeremy can be a bit hard of hearing. But when she opens it, her heart nearly springs from her chest at who stands in the archway.

“Ann?! What’s happened? Is everything alright?!” She blinks her eyes as her mind catches up. Ann stands across from her somehow looking even more beautiful than when she last saw her. Her hair is perfectly windswept from her travels and her eyes are impossibly blue, shimmering beneath the severe fluorescent glare.

“I…” Ann opens her mouth, the energy practically ricocheting off of her as she steps closer. “I just couldn’t wait.”

The girl dives forward and Anne luckily manages to slam the door while simultaneously catching her crash against her lips. Anne opens her eyes, her brain still processing, cautiously checking to ensure she’s not imagining this. But all logic seems to melt at the taste of Ann’s lips, the urgent sting of her nails clawing at her shoulders, the greedy nip of her teeth pulling at her bottom lip. With very little conviction, she manages to pull her mouth away though her hands can’t stop desperately searching for skin beneath the hem of her blouse.

Ann. We can’t do this here. Jeremy will be knocking on that door any minute,” her voice is frayed as if the girl just sucked the wind from her lungs and she knows she’ll need to find a firmer tone if she’s ever going to convince her. She pulls back even further, slowly releasing her from her searing grip, stumbling backwards and examining her eyes incredulously. “What are you doing here?”

“I just… I didn’t like how things ended so abruptly last night.” Anne’s eyes dart down as the girl starts slowly fingering the line of her shirt buttons, her blue orbs penetrating as she takes a step closer. “I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you since you left and…” she pauses as she delicately pops open one button, then two, then three until Anne nearly loses her balance; her body jolting from the jut of the bookshelf catching in her spine.

“And how badly I want to…” her voice dies out as she saunters forward seductively, two fingers spreading open the top half of her shirt, invitingly framing the sheer bust of the corset as Anne clutches whatever staple object she can find. Her eyes bulge; the black bodice a delicious contrast against her ivory skin, barely concealing the gorgeous cleavage spilling over the lace. A pink flush blossoms on Ann's chest as she modestly looks down at herself, her fingers baiting her, brushing lightly across her overflowing breasts at the most tempting pace. 

Fuck, who is this girl? Anne’s body jerks forward, hands reaching out like she’s in a trance as she begs her to continue, “What do you want, Ann?” Her mind is still irritatingly aware of the time but her eyes are spellbound, clouded by a thick desire exploding in her brain as she roughly grasps hold of her waist.

When she gets closer, she can feel how hard the girl’s breathing; can see the sharp gulp of her throat when she slowly leans in, her parted lips brushing just below Anne’s ear as the stifling words come out in barely a whisper.

“To know... what you taste like.”

It’s like a bomb erupts in Anne’s consciousness; her eyes clamp shut from the shock of pleasure that splits through her core. It’s not often she’s speechless but all senses fail her as this exquisite girl has once again tilted her entire world. Fuck it. The switch flips inside her and all reason is muffled by the carnal growl that tears from her throat as she seizes her creamy skin bruisingly between her lips, flitting her tongue down the hollow of her neck and scraping her nails through tangles of hair.

She wrenches her backwards, steering swiftly towards the desk, savoring the gasp that swallows the room from the crash of skin against wood. She pulls back only for a second; hazy eyes drinking in the indecent offering beneath her, the metal-stiffened edge of the corset pressing Ann's perfect lace-covered tits insistently upwards, taunting her over the sheer trim until her hands lose all control.

Shocking them both, she rips open the remainder of the girl's shirt, buttons fling noisily to the floor from the impact as she chucks it across the room. Ann's head lurches back as Anne madly gropes at her breasts, moaning as she glides her tongue slick between the line of her thick cleavage, finding her taut pink nipple straining out of the netting and pulling it ravenously between her lips until…

“Anne, are you in there?” It takes a few knocks and the sound of an older man’s voice before they’re able to detach. They shouldn’t be so startled as they knew this was coming, but it’s clear from the deep flush of their skin and the wildfire in their eyes that they had both been transported to another universe.

“Oh my god. Anne, my shirt!” Ann’s confident exterior breaks as she clutches her exposed chest, whipping her head to search the room in a panic.

“Just a minute, Jeremy…” Anne cries out, trying and failing to keep her voice at bay. She twists around to grab her coat but nearly jumps out of her skin when she hears the sudden jiggle of the knob.

“Under the desk!” she blurts out towards Ann as loud as her whispered voice will let her; the ridiculous idea the only solution she can conjure as the hinges start to creak. Having no other choice, Ann ducks to the floor, scooting back into the cubbyhole of the desk only seconds before the man enters the room.

Anne stands protectively in front of the opening, clearly disheveled as she’s frantically sorting the collateral damage from their passionate crash.

“Hail to the chief!” Jeremy salutes as he enters. He hesitates, noticing her scramble. “Oh my. I’m sorry. I thought you said to come in?”

“No, no it’s fine! I did say that,” she lies. “However, I actually just received a call from my author that I think would be prudent to address right away. You wouldn’t mind if we rescheduled—”

“Ah, nonsense, this won’t take that long. And I’m leaving tomorrow, as you know. So, let’s just crack on with it, Anne.” The man waves her off, plopping himself in the seat across from her. His foot inelegantly kicks the wood as he sits, eliciting a meek squeal from the girl that Anne awkwardly covers up with a cough.

She slumps down into her chair and draws in a lingering breath, carefully pulling herself forward and positioning her legs around Ann’s crouched form. Flipping through the extensive prep work in her journal, she opts for the short version and starts rapidly summarizing the year- the number of new authors they acquired, the new audience segments they’ve expanded, the successful re-marketing of their legacy brands. She speaks taking little breaths in between and Jeremy’s eyes shift as he tries to follow.

“Wait, wait Anne. Slow down. Back to the beginning. This old man can’t keep up,” he hoots, clearly not used to a rattled Anne Lister as he clicks his pen and opens his notebook.

She sighs, chuckling under her breath, thinking of how absurd this all is as she pictures her half-naked assistant currently perched between her legs. She clears her throat and wills herself to restart, justifying that it will be over soon enough and they’ll share a good laugh about it later.

But Ann has other plans.

She continues on, flipping back to page one and highlighting her first author until she jerks up in her seat from the cool shock of slight hands brushing up the sides of her ankles. She swallows the hard lump that materializes in her throat as Ann’s fingers start to graduate, running leisurely up her calves, her knees, then fuck, the insides of her thighs. 

Writhing in her seat, Anne smiles consolingly to Jeremy from her abrupt loss of words and sips her scalding coffee, burning her tongue. Ann's roaming fingers find the inner crease between her legs, softly stroking and pressing the rough seam ruthlessly against her sex until Anne snaps her legs shut, jolting into the desk. She hurls her hand down to the edge of her seat, waving it in a way to urge the girl to stop while her mind screams for her to keep going. 

But as her words start to form again and she delves into their new year initiatives, she nearly chokes on a gasp from the girl’s wet, velvet tongue now teasingly flicking at her middle finger, her warm mouth seizing her and sucking up to the knuckle with a pop.

Holy shit. This is actually happening. She feels hands clawing at her waistband and she quickly shoves all the way forward, slouching herself under the desk as far as Ann will let her, shielding her waist from view. Jeremy asks her a question, but she can’t hear him; she’s gone deaf. She feebly tries to peel her hands away, but the fact that shy, little Ann Walker is attempting to fuck her under her desk makes the same senseless fire rage inside her from before, and she foolishly relaxes her grip.

Luckily, Jeremy starts to go off on one of his tangents about the ancient lineage of Shibden, buying them some time before Anne needs to speak. Nimble fingers pop open her clasp, jiggle down the zipper and claw at her belt loops, pulling relentlessly. Despite all judgment, all sane reasoning, Anne finally gives in, lifting her hips that are now fully beneath the desk and shivering from the feel of Ann’s fingers provocatively trailing down her legs, pants in hand.

After a suspicious amount of head nods and “Mm-hmms” that repeat from her lips, she knows she needs to throw in a full sentence for good measure though her words come out like meaningless scrabble squares on a board.

“Ah, y-yes. We must always r-reflect…” a curious, meager finger starts slowly rubbing up and down the dripping wet spot of her knickers… “t-the quiet d-dignity…” it cruelly curls back the elastic seam stuck to her thigh... “of our ancient ahh!” a long, slender tongue takes a dangerous stroke deep beneath the drenched silk, grazing just over the line of her throbbing sex, and Anne has to bulge her eyes to keep them from flying back… “Sorry! Lineage!” She bangs her hand on the desk awkwardly, the tiniest of gasps erupts from below, halting all movement.

This ends now.

“Jeremy, I just remembered, my author has a deadline she’s trying to meet by five. So, I really need to connect with her before it’s too late. Can I call you tomorrow to finish this?” She forces her face into a smile though the room is still spinning around her.

Jeremy looks at her oddly before conceding, somehow still innocently in the dark, “Very well. We’re both well aware of the year you’ve had. Just email me with the rest of your notes.”

She nods, fingers tapping impatiently as she watches him leave, not daring to pull herself back until she hears the final click of the latch.

“Are you fucking crazy?!” She rolls her chair out with a sharp blow, releasing the girl as her pants clink noisily around her ankles. Her tone is shaken but her expression is still rampant with desire.

“Well, I had to get you back! Though I think a public bookstore between the stacks is far worse,” Ann laughs, unveiling a satisfied grin as she crawls into the light. Anne can’t stay mad for long as her eyes take in the girl’s perfectly flushed face, the teeth marks fading on her dark pink lips, the beads of sweat trickling between her enclasped breasts.

Ann rests her cheek on the inside of Anne's bare thigh, starved eyes raking her up and down. Anne combs her fingers through her golden hair; the erotic image of her kneeling against her, so close to the pulsing need between her legs, makes her dizzy with pleasure. Without leaving her eyes, she hears the tick of a zipper being pulled, and then another as Ann begins taking off her boots.

Anne grits into a cocky grin, looking towards the door. The logical side of her brain remembers that it’s not locked, that anyone could barge in and catch them or hear them. But it’s the feral side that wins, that swallows her whole, that only sees the impatient girl shimmying off the rest of her pants while sinking her teeth into her bottom lip, unknowingly fulfilling every office fantasy she’s ever had.

The dark flecks of lust contouring her crystal blues make it increasingly clear that she’s come to play and Anne shudders at the fresh feeling of being powerless. Her hands now driving her wild, leisurely scratching up and down the stiff tendons of her thighs.

“Alright, Miss Walker. You have me here. Now, what do you want to do with me?” She challenges her, giving into the game, brushing her thumb against her watering lips, parting them gently with a flick.

Ann exhales, her grin even sexier than her smile as she hooks her fingers into the black seam at her waist, floating her mouth millimeters away from the silk as she deviously combs her eyes back up.

“Everything,” she gasps, her warm breath sending prickles up her abs as she gently runs her tongue along the soft stripe of skin just above her knickers.

"Oh god Ann," the words strangle with her breath. "What's gotten into— oh fuck" Ann scrapes the fabric between her teeth, tugging it down and releasing it back with a hard snap. If she thought the room was spinning before, it’s now a full cyclone. Anne's hips thrash violently from the sting, pleasing the girl as she continues to peel down the rest of the cloth. 

Anne laughs to herself adoringly, musing that there’s no way this young girl knows what “everything” entails. But her thoughts are quickly blurred by the look of pure wonder on Ann’s face when she first gazes at her sex.

Anne’s cheeks unexpectedly burn with embarrassment when she realizes how wet she is, how she’s practically soaking through the coarse cushion. She’s not used to being this vulnerable, this “open”. She’s usually the one on her knees. Though she’s certain that she’s never looked at a woman the way that Ann is looking at her now, like someone who's been liberated from being painfully denied their most carnal of pleasures.

With another stroke of her hair, fingers trembling expectantly, she watches the girl’s eyes widen in awe, leaning forward increment by delicious increment until her lips land on Anne.

She swears she could come right then and there from the first hit of her curious mouth. Her soft plush lips, her slow languid kisses, her pink virgin tongue… Oh god. She has to claw the arms of the chair in a vice grip when she feels Ann start to lick experimentally up and down her pronounced slit; only the tip of her tongue dipping timidly between her swollen lips, ghosting across her sex like she was painting the most delicate canvas.

The pain and the pleasure of her frustratingly slow pace cause her hips to greedily lift to Ann’s mouth, the muscles tightening in her abdomen, desperately searching for friction as she grinds against her creamy lips. She wondered if her teasing was hesitant or deliberate, then sucked in a breath as she swiftly got her answer. With an encouraged smile, Ann slid her hands between her tense thighs, spreading her wider, marveling at the fresh drop of arousal trickling down her center, and with a long, flat tongue she tasted her. Anne wasn’t sure who’s moan rang louder against the walls as they both cried out from the sensation.

With long, broad swipes, she began to stroke her tongue against Anne, all over Anne, exploring the satiny valley of her skin from the base to the tip as sweet moans fluttered from her throat. Anne’s fingers start drawing lazy circles in her scalp; her movements orchestrated by the string of "oh gods" that helplessly gasp from her lips. 

She hadn’t realized how starved her body was for attention, for the feeling of a sensuous fuck. She was usually the one roughly getting off after thoroughly savoring her partner. But when she peeled open her eyes and watched the younger girl, her worshipping gleaming tongue relishing every taste, every messy gasp that dripped from her lips, she realized she was approaching something stronger, something deeper than she had ever felt before. And the fear that nothing else would ever be as good overtook her.

Until her thoughts were silenced by Ann moving north, her glistening mouth hovering just at the brink of her, to the starved pearl now aching at her faintest breath as she slowly leans in. Her tongue starts cautiously playing with her clit in a gentle figure eight, rolling her wetness around and across its ridges, moaning into her with every long curve she drew with her tongue. Her tantalizing pace hits Anne like an electric wave, shooting ripples of endless pleasure up her thighs as her hips unconsciously swirl in tandem. The grasp in Ann's hair tightens, almost pulling at the root as Anne seriously begins to doubt the girl’s lack of experience from the way that she beautifully fucks her.

At this point, she was already desperate to come; it took everything in her not to shove Ann’s pretty little face into her hungry flesh. But she resisted, not daring to do anything to jeopardize this moment; the new submissive feeling both surprising and invigorating. This was Ann’s show and she was just lucky to have a ticket. Frankly, she was afraid of what would happen if she kept going and she was afraid of her stopping.

And then she stopped.

Frantically, Anne’s hips chased her mouth and her head jerked forward until her eyes grew heavy when she realized that Ann had pulled back to watch. She couldn’t tell what turned her on more; her innocent eyes staring longingly at her sex or her manicured fingers now running lines over her dripping lips. Enthralled, she slid them all over, massaging through every satiny fold, spreading her wetness everywhere while playfully rimming the tip of her thumb around her tight silky entrance. Anne’s mind was screaming for her to look up, wanting to feel that lethal gaze all over, her mouth opening and clenching in breathless sobs.

Until Ann’s long eyelashes started to flutter and her face lifted devotedly towards Anne. Her orgasm tickled at the base of her spine when she finally met the dark pools of lust in her eyes; something wild and newly filthy permeating in her smile as she slowly pushed two fingers inside her, taking all the daylight in the room with them.

Anne’s nails shredded into leather as she felt herself gush in approval, her wetness seeping down the ridges of Ann's pulsing knuckles. Her body shook uncontrollably on her elbows, desperately straining her neck to watch. Ann licked her own lips, gaping at her, admiring how her glossy fingers were swallowed whole by her plump, pink flesh as they steadily slid in and then out, stringing the moisture between them with each exhilarating thrust.

Ann's face contorted from her own unbridled arousal, moaning as she fastened her mouth back to her pulsing flesh and Anne felt like she had been licked by thunder.

How the fuck can she be this good?

Her lips pursed and her eyes glued shut as she vigorously suckled at her clit, rolling it against her teeth and her tongue; the feather touch now replaced with something more confident, more final. Anne's back arched to impossible heights as she spread her legs even wider, hooking them over the sides of the chair as Ann pushed deeper, curling and probing her fingers as her relentless tongue continued its dance, drawing endless rings in a flawless rhythm until Anne’s head smacked the back of her chair.

And when Ann mercifully abandoned those circles, now noisily lashing her tongue against her clit, hard and god, so dirty, Anne stuffed her fist in her mouth to stifle her cry; her body wrenching open its pent-up release, convulsing all over in involuntary spasms. Ann’s eyes widened from whatever she saw on Anne’s face and Anne made a gulping moan that, if not for her hand, would have most certainly been a shriek as she finally came, shuddering her spent clit all over her divine tongue, riding every wave of this long, perfect orgasm.

Anne didn’t so much ‘relax’ as collapse back against the chair after the last tremor was drawn, her hand throbbing from her teeth marks as Ann gently lapped away the liquid escaping her thighs.

“Get over here,” she husked, her voice downright shattered and needy. She was instantly plagued with a feeling of guilt, diligently needing to return the favor as she hoisted her roughly unto her lap.

“That was…” she hesitated; there was no word in her arsenal that even came close to justifying what that was. Amazing. Incredible. Sensational. You’re an editor for Christ’s sake, find the word!

But the look on her face must have spoken for her as Ann grinned into her lips and caught her in another crushing kiss, her fingers still leisurely streaking the moisture between Anne's legs like she never wanted it to end.

Anne groaned at the taste of herself hinting all over her studious tongue, her breath sputtering at every after-shock while Ann began to grind down urgently against her knee. She knew if she reached down, she’d find the girl already drenched and willing, her pretty lace ensemble ruined between her thighs. But with great difficulty, she stilled them. They had tried their luck enough for one day and she knew she would need plenty of time and space for how she planned to repay her.

“My turn…” she muttered, her words disappearing on the girl’s panting lips, dragging her finger across the pillowy tops of her breasts while Ann’s eyes followed in thrall.

“Mm, but not here.” Anne caught the girl’s whimper at her words with another open kiss before steadying them both back to their feet.

Amongst a sea of giggles, they planned their stealthy escape. Anne wrapped Ann in her coat as her shirt was beyond compromised and they staggered their departures to avoid being seen. Before she left, Anne took one more look at the office, blinking her eyes as if to take mental pictures, still dumbfounded at how different her day was ending than when it began.

When they both met outside in front of the building, they practically skipped towards Anne’s hotel, brushing at fingers, gleefully grabbing at waists. Besides a few detours, stealing kisses in alleys and even up against a few storefronts, they made it there in just under five minutes.

They floated through the lobby, hand in hand, grinning like two teenagers in love as Ann whispered in her ear to move faster. When they reached the lifts, Anne nabbed another kiss, her body still riding its high until the loud ding of the elevator jarred her back to the ground.

She feels a prickle up the back of her neck, a sixth sense tingling inside her as she realizes what they unconsciously just did. As they walk onto the lift, she whips her head back towards the lobby. An irking feeling rises in her throat as if she already knew who was now staring back at them...

Eliza Priestley.