“To the end of term!” Mother Rawson said warmly, tipping her wine glass against Ann’s and then Anne’s. Ann giggled as she watched the matriarch take a hearty sip from her glass, despite it being barely noon. “I’m sure you two are happy to have a few months free.”
“We are,” Anne said warmly, digging into the salad in front of her. “We’re going to do a bit of traveling, which is long overdue.”
The bright early-June sun combined with Anne’s words to fill Ann’s chest with warmth. This fancy little restaurant was a favorite of Mother Rawson’s, but it was the first time Ann had ever brought her wife to one of her summons. Mother Rawson had been overjoyed at the addition, of course, thoughAnn vacillated between excitement and terror. She was trapped between two lionesses: one greying and loud and settled in her power, the other lean and strong and quick. Ann couldn’t tell if they were going to team up or tear each other apart.
“And where are you going?” Mother Rawson pressed.
“Rome,” Ann gushed, “then Venice.” She looked to Anne for confirmation, bolstered by her encouraging nod. “Then we’re going to London for about a week - Anne’s book is coming out.”
“A book! And what’s it about?”
Ann turned to her wife, brimming with pride as Anne explained the thesis of her work, the one she’d been writing during their quarantine. Being away from Shibden would be hard, Ann knew, but she was looking forward to it. Going to Italy ! Ann Walker. Of all people. She almost couldn’t believe it was real.
“Surely, then, you have a plan, Dr. Lister, to take the department back from my feckless son?”
“Oh, I -” Anne shook her head, “uh, I don’t know about that.”
“Oh, but you must .” Mother Rawson leaned in, her eyes gleaming with mischief. “Christopher can’t handle the pressure. He’s about to crack any day now.”
Anne sounded noncommittal, but Ann could see through her. She knew her wife still wanted the top spot, hoped to become a dean someday, smarted over the blatant favoritism that had denied her the promotion she deserved. Ann also knew the way Anne tapped her index finger against her knife meant she was trying to figure out how to work the situation in her favor. Mother Rawson swung her head around to address Ann.
“What do you think of it, Annie? Don’t you want your wife to have the big job?”
“Well, I - uh, I do,” Ann said carefully, “and I think, maybe, the hiring process was not entirely fair to Anne. The dean’s decision. If you don’t mind me saying so.”
“What do you mean?” Mother Rawon leaned forward, her eyes narrowing; Ann knew the old bird loved a bit of gossip.
“Um, I - I know Anne doesn’t want me to say this, but - but I worry - and I won’t speak for Anne,” she shot a quick look to her wife, “but I worry that the Dean chose Cousin Christopher more because of, uh, his personal connection rather than, um, his professional credentials.”
For a moment, no one spoke. Ann bit her bottom lip, worried she’d overstepped. It was the truth, wasn’t it? Anne was always encouraging her to be brave, wasn’t she? Telling Mother Rawson her suspicion didn’t seem so much brave as foolhardy, but it did seem worth the risk. Perhaps she could do something about it and knock some sense into Christopher, especially if he was struggling to keep up with the demands of the job. Covertly, she put her hand on Anne’s knee, stilling its restless bouncing.
“Very interesting,” Mother Rawson finally pronounced. “Now, tell me more about your work at this little school, Annie.”
The rest of the meal crept past uncomfortably, in Ann’s mind at least. Had she done something wrong? Was Anne embarrassed? Would Mother Rawson carry this back to the tribe to ridicule her? Did that mean Anne was now guilty by association? Anne was so proud of her image and her reputation - had Ann just ruined it with a few sentences?
“I’m sorry, Pony,” she said as Anne drove them back to Shibden. “I shouldn’t have said that about Christopher.”
“It’s alright.” Anne took her hand. “Better for you to say it than me. I’m sure she’s already forgotten.”
Ann nodded, but she couldn’t escape the niggling feeling of guilt for the rest of the afternoon. She and Marian watched television and chatted, one of those lazy summer afternoons that felt endless. Living at Shibden had changed her life so fundamentally that she couldn’t believe she’d ever lived alone. How had she passed the hours? Why had she ever thought she could survive without company for so long? Anne had gone upstairs to settle something in her office, and Ann found she didn’t even mind. Marriage did that to her, she realized. She was no longer jealous of the estate, perpetually vying for Anne’s attention against her duties around Shibden and at the university.
When Tiny begged for a walk about three o’clock, Ann decided the fresh air would do her a bit of good. Staring at the television was fun for a few hours, but by now, she was itching to do something. Perhaps Anne’s restless energy was starting to wear off on her. She knocked on the door to her wife’s office, the slimmer-but-still-chubby pup dancing at her feet.
“Come in,” Anne called gruffly.
“Tiny and I are going for a walk, do you want to join us?”
Anne grinned and stood, taking Ann’s hand as they trotted out into the warm afternoon. It was a perfect summer day, in Ann’s opinion - hot and sunny with a clear blue sky above. Her dashing wife by her side, in her faded shorts and loose, short-sleeved button-down shirt. Tiny investigating each blade of grass and crawling insect in their path. The expanse of their estate stretching around them.
“I’m looking forward to getting away,” Anne said with a sigh. “I’ve got the itch.”
”I think so. I look around and only see projects moving too slowly and every little shortcoming. I don’t - I’m not enjoying Shibden right now. I’d like to be off.”
“That makes sense,” Ann told her softly. “It’s been about six months since we went anywhere.”
”Entirely too long, Mrs. Lister, I - oh,” Anne fished her vibrating cell phone from her pocket; Ann looked up at her as she answered it. “Hello? Yes, I - oh. No, I - okay. Okay. Right, I - thank you.”
Anne grinned broadly as she stowed the phone in her pocket then wrapped an arm around her wife, steering her toward the greenhouse.
“What was that?”
”You, my love,” Anne said proudly, “are looking at the newest Head of the Classics Department.”
”Anne!” She cried, stopping them in their tracks and putting her hands on her wife’s narrow hips. “Are you serious?”
”Absolutely,” Anne beamed, cupping Ann’s face in her strong, tanned hands. “Abso-fucking-lately.”
Anne crashed their lips together, her urgency and joy palpable as she snogged Ann soundly in the summer sun. Ann’s head was still spinning when her wife pulled away with a grin. They continued their walk toward the greenhouse
“Oh, Adney, I - I have never been so happy.”
“No?” Ann chuckled. “We got married about two months ago.”
“Oh,” Anne scoffed, “yes, then too. Of course, yes. This is different entirely. This is that man finally, finally , coming to his senses. This is years of hard work coming to fruition.”
“You deserve it, Pony. You really do.”
Anne paused at the entrance to the greenhouse, Tiny panting at their feet.
“Fancy a quick shag?”
“Pony!” Ann laughed.
“We don’t have to,” Anne ushered them inside and went about drawing Tiny a bowl of water, “but I am,” she exhaled sharply, “I do want you very much right now.”
“Do you?” Ann asked softly, crossing the humid room to drape her arms around her wife’s neck.
Anne bit her bottom lip, her eyes flicking between Ann’s eyes and her lips; her strong hands settled on Ann’s hips. It was warm in the greenhouse, but Ann didn’t mind. The heat passing between herself and Anne was all that mattered to her. She could feel a trickle of sweat along her back as arousal pooled between her legs; there was something primal about the look on Anne’s face, the natural surroundings, the excitement practically shooting from her fingertips. Ann tilted her chin, her body molding into her wife’s as their kiss grew deeper, hungrier.
Clumsily, they shuffled back to the bare work table in the far corner; strong hands curled around her thighs, lifting her up and digging into her skin. Their tongues slid together as Anne flicked open the button on her shorts; Ann ran her hands down her wife’s strong shoulders, along her firm stomach, across her broad back. Anne’s kisses turned teasing, her teeth nipping playfully as she gripped Ann’s knees and pulled her forward.
“You,” Anne husked, “are so sexy.”
Ann closed her eyes, arching her back into her wife’s chest. Soft lips pressed to her neck, near the collar of her t-shirt. Again, over her collar bones, then her breasts, then her stomach. Strong hands pulled her to the edge of the table; Ann leaned back, planting her hands behind her and lifting her hips as Anne tugged her shorts and panties down. She shivered at the rush of cooler air against her exposed core.
“Adney.” Anne kissed the inside of one thigh. “I love you.” She kissed the other. “Thank you.”
“I didn’t -”
“Thank you,” Anne interrupted her, kissing the soft skin just below her belly button. “I love you.”
With that, Anne descended on her aching core, running her tongue along her wet folds. Ann sighed in relief, pleasure streaming gently through her body as Anne moved gently between her legs. With her eyes closed, she could only focus on sensation. The warmth of her skin, the tenderness of Anne’s tongue, the tailored strength of her hands, the filthy sounds echoing in the glass room. She hummed softly, slipping one hand under her shirt to palm her own breast; she wanted to live and die like this, with her wife between her legs sending her toward oblivion.
And then Anne pulled away.
Ann’s eyes shot open, her jaw hanging as she watched Anne fish out her cell phone once again.
“Hello?” She was out of breath, her chest heaving and her face still glistening with Ann’s arousal. “Oh, yes, I - no, I was just out for a walk, I - sure, yes, he called me, and - I really do appreciate you - no, no, of course. Yes, I understand. Ann?” Brow furrowed, she licked her lips as she looked up at Ann. “She’s right here with me. Sure. Yes. Thank you. I - yes, nice talking to you.”
Looking sheepish, she handed the phone to Ann and mouthed “Mother Rawson.” Was she really meant to speak to the dragon lady of the tribe without pants on? Anne pressed the phone urgently into her hand, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.
“Annie,” the dragon herself roared, “be honest: is she pleased?”
“What?” Ann breathed, certain that Mother Rawson must, somehow, know what they were doing.
“Is that tall drink of water you’re married to pleased? With the promotion?”
“Oh, yes. I - uh.” Anne was nuzzling against her inner thigh; Ann reached down to tug at her hair. Her infuriating wife just nipped her tender skin. “I think she’s very pleased. She’s - uh - did you - was that -”
“Yes, it was. I called up that dean, and I told him what I know and what I think of him. You know the family provides a substantial endowment.”
Ann did not, in fact, know this, but all she could think of now was the slow, maddening path Anne was making up down her left calf. She tried to wiggle away, but Anne held her fast by the ankle, her tongue dragging along the smooth plane, followed by a series of sweet, soft kisses.
“I simply told him,” was Mother Rawson still talking? Ann could barely hear her over the steady thump of her heart as Anne turned her attention to her right calf, “that I would be more than happy to pull that funding, and - well, you see where we are.”
“Yes,” Ann managed.
“I told Anne this, and I want you to hear it as well. This is in no way nepotism, favoritism, anything like that. This is not me orchestrating the job for her, because, you know as well as I, she’s earned it. Christopher had his shot for a few years, and I’m tired of seeing him struggle to keep up. Your Anne seems to have mountains of energy, and I think she can handle it. For that man to run the school like this - it’s unconscionable. Alright?”
“Yes,” Ann squeaked, roughly pulling Anne’s head away from her inner thigh. Anne looked up at her rakishly, licking her lips and dragging her eyes slowly up Ann’s overheated bodily. “Yes, I - thank you, Mother Rawson. I - we appreciate it.”
“Good, good, good. Let me go now. You have a good walk, you hear? Bye now.”
Ann barely managed to finish that single word before Anne pulled the phone from her hand, ended the call, and tossed it to the other side of the table. Ann leaned down, kissing her wife hungrily, mad with desire and frustration and need. Anne caught her shirt-covered breast between lips before descending back between Ann’s legs. Her hands curled around Ann’s hips, pulling her forward as she unraveled her. Ann cried out, high and thin and desperate, as she shot over the edge into her climax. She shuddered, slumping forward and trembling as Anne coaxed every ounce of pleasure from her. At last, she stilled and pulled Anne’s head back, leaning down to catch her lips in a messy kiss.
“You’re bad,” she panted when they parted, the taste of her own arousal lingering on her lips and tongue. “You shouldn’t do that.”
“I think you liked it,” Anne purred, sliding Ann’s panties and shorts back up her legs; Ann shifted to pull them over her hips, leaning back against the work table with a groan. Anne kissed each of her knees. “Dirty little Ann Walker, my head between your legs, while you - Tiny! Damn it!”
Ann straightened, laughing as she saw that their little dog had finally finished her inspection of the greenhouse and was now ready to leave. Anne scoffed, scratching between the pup’s ears as she rose to her feet. Ann hopped off the table and kissed her quickly.
“Let’s go back,” she said softly, slipping her hand into the back pocket of Anne’s shorts.
“And I have to wait?” Anne pouted. “No fair.”
“You know what’s not fair? All that business while I was on the phone,” Ann giggled. “This is payback.”
Anne groaned, but she acquiesced. They crossed the estate, back toward the main house, with Ann nearly breaking into a run to keep up with her long-legged wife. The clutch of Anne’s hand and the demanding pace of her gait betrayed exactly how desperate she was for Ann. That thought alone sent a thrill up Ann’s spine. To be wanted so much by the woman of her dreams? It never ceased to amaze.
By the time Anne slammed the door shut to their bedroom, they were both out of breath. Ann pressed her wife against the door, crashing their lips together and wrenching open her shorts. Thrusting her hand into Anne’s boxer-briefs, she was greeted by a pool of arousal and her wife’s low moan.
“Quiet, Pony,” she whispered in her ear, pressing her chest into Anne’s and slowly circling her clit. “It’s the middle of the afternoon.” Anne buried her face in the crook of Ann’s neck, her needy groans muffled and vibrating against Ann’s skin. “You’re so hot.” She moved faster, grinning as Anne’s hips jerked; how was she already so close? “You feel so good, Pony. I’m so proud of you. Fuck, I’m so proud you’re mine.”
“Adney,” her wife gasped.
“You’re going to come, aren’t you?”
Anne nodded against her shoulder as Ann sped up between her thighs.
“Dr. Anne Walker Lister,” Ann purred, “Department Head. My wife.”
Anne’s teeth sank into Ann’s neck as she trembled against the door. Ann moved slowly, easing her down gently and pressing a series of tender kisses along her wife’s neck and jaw. With a final sigh, Anne leaned back against the door; a slack smile played across her handsome face. Their lips met in a slow, emotional kiss, Anne’s hands running along her back and up to her face. When Ann pulled away, she could see her wife’s dark eyes were watery.
“Are you pleased?” Ann said softly. “Mother Rawson wanted to know.”
“Yes,” her wife whispered. “I’m really, really pleased.” Ann grinned and kissed her again. “So pleased, in fact, I won’t even make a dirty joke right now.”
Ann laughed and pulled her wife back to their bed. They fell onto the soft duvet together, cuddling together and catching their breath. For a few long moments, neither of them spoke. This was love, Ann thought - to be just as excited for another person’s achievements as your own. She was brimming with pride, marveling at the extraordinary woman who shared her name, her bed, her life.
There was a knock at the door.
“What?” Anne called gruffly, holding Ann in place and preventing her from getting up.
“No manners,” Marian scolded; “why are you two up here in the middle of the afternoon anyway?”
“None of your bloody business!” Anne called back, squeezing Ann’s hip as she giggled into her chest.
“Well answer me this: why’ve I just seen on Facebook that you got a promotion?”