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I frutti proibiti

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“Only stir in one direction,” Morgana scolds, placing her hand over Gwen’s on the spoon, their fingers interlocking with easy familiarity. “You’ll confuse the food.”

“Confuse it?” Gwen asks, raising an eyebrow, but she leans back into Morgana and lets Morgana take over stirring. The sauce is more fragrant than anything Gwen cooks back home; try as she might, nothing ever matches cooking with Morgana here, in the warm kitchen of Morgana’s apartment, tucked away in the corner of a converted castle in Siena. Sometimes Gwen thinks it might be the tomatoes they buy, or perhaps the herbs they use -- she’s seen whole hedgerows of rosemary here. Hedgerows.

“Pay attention,” Morgana says, and gooses her gently. “You’ll never learn anything at all this way.”

“I know enough,” Gwen protests. She knows the way olive oil should look as it’s poured into a pan, and she knows the sharp green scent of it when it’s fresh from the pressing. She knows the taste of wine from Morgana’s vineyards and the way it weighs heavy and soft on her tongue -- the way it tastes from Morgana’s lips, when she can’t help but pull Morgana close with the crook of a finger. She knows how sweet Morgana’s fingers are, when they make panna cotta; she’s learnt exactly how the muscles in Morgana’s arms flex as she kneads the dough for pici.

Morgana huffs, a warm puff of air on the back of Gwen’s neck, and Gwen shrugs her shoulders, rolling her head back carefully against the tickle. “Incorrigible,” Morgana murmurs, but she puts her free hand on Gwen’s waist and sets the spoon aside, covering the sauce to thicken. “We’ll have to boil the pasta in a minute,” she warns, but Gwen doesn’t spare so much as a glance at the tiny ravioli she’d spent an hour filling.

“In a minute,” Gwen agrees, turning around in Morgana’s arms and pushing her out of the kitchen, with its walls of strange paintings and copper pans, until she can bully Morgana onto the sofa they’d abandoned earlier.

“Wine?” Morgana asks, though her eyes are bright and fixed on Gwen’s mouth.

“Later,” Gwen says, and pushes the last few inches to Morgana’s lips.

Morgana sighs into the kiss, easy for it; easy for Gwen. She’s a queen in the kitchen, a tragically -- and suspiciously -- widowed countess in the papers, but here, like this, she’s only Gwen’s.

They’re nothing but fleeting moments, these long summer days when Gwen gets to take Morgana into her arms and lick splatters of tomato sauce and chickpea soup from Morgana’s skin, eat bruschetta and pecorino straight from Morgana’s fingers. The sun hangs low as it sets over the cypress and the caper vines; the oleander and dianthus Gwen picked for the table caught in the last light of one more day they’ve lost. By the time the figs are ripe, Gwen will be gone again, leaving Morgana to supervise her harvest and test new recipes all winter.

Gwen doesn’t like to think on that. She slips her hands along Morgana’s thighs instead, sliding up inside her skirt easily. Morgana spreads her legs and lets her, reaches back greedily to push the straps of Gwen’s dress down and run her fingers over Gwen’s breasts. They don’t break the kiss; Gwen thinks sometimes she’d be happy never moving from Morgana’s lips, lost chasing the taste of Morgana’s gasps. It’s the work of a moment to slip one finger inside Morgana -- two -- letting Morgana squirm around them before she starts to thrust, gently, barely rocking her fingers deeper while Morgana makes pleased, desperate noises and shoves Gwen’s dress down to her waist.

They’ve long since laid the table for a meal fit for a queen, and the smells wafting from the kitchen to wrap around their bare shoulders are more than heavenly, but this, here, -- Morgana under Gwen, inches from breaking -- this is the only feast Gwen’s ever wanted.