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The cool hand on her arm startles Liesl more than the sly insinuations of the men around her, their leers and oiled hair in a tight semi-circle pressing her closer to the wall. "My dear girl," she hears, "I hope you'll be so kind as to let me pull you away from these irresistible gentlemen -- I need somebody fresh and charming to keep me company for some fresh air."

Liesl nods, smiles, and lets the Baroness extract her seamlessly from the men (their eyes turning hard and angry so quickly it puts her teeth on edge) to tow her out of the château, into the cool misty Baroque garden. The Baroness looks silvery in the moonlight, her icy hair and shimmery grey gown, the white of her teeth through her parted lips.

"There, now," she says in the same mannered tones Liesl remembers, "you can catch your breath a little." The Baroness doesn't ask what Liesl's doing here, at this party, in Salzburg, and the girl is pathetically grateful; it sounds so foolish in her own mind now, the idea of sneaking away for a glamorous night while her father and Maria are away on their honeymoon. The Baroness is watching her from beneath heavily blackened lashes, and her carmined lips curve a little over those sharp gleaming teeth.

"I see you've patterned your fashion sense on that of your dear governess's," she murmurs, gesturing at Liesl's girlish dress of bugloss blue, embroidered with white at the neckline and girdling the hips. "Oh, she's not my governess any more," Liesl says recklessly, and feels her jaw tighten as the Baroness's fine, pointed chin trembles just the tiniest bit.

The tremor is gone as soon as it happens, but it leaves Liesl even more aware of her own trembling body, the strange terrified and coiling-pink-hot hunger inside her that started when those men surrounded her and is only uncoiling and lashing more insistently out here in the rapidly-sharpening night air. "I suppose it's not entirely unexpected," the Baroness is saying, and Liesl lifts her dizzy, heavy head to stare at her and the line of pearl-silver pink inside her mouth, "--that you'd have a mother by now."

"You're not my mother," Liesl says, and reaches her scorching-hot fingertips to press into the deep, soft, smooth of the Baroness's chin. Her skin is slightly oily and Liesl is first surprised, then flaringly ravenous as her hard fingertips sink into that unctuous flesh.

The Baroness holds still for a moment and then gives the smallest of shudders, a flower shaking on a mountain path. "I never wanted to be," she says, finally, and when Liesl presses her thumb against one corner of that carmine mouth she moans.

The hectic desire mounting through the centre of her is driving her, now, and Liesl steps close to the Baroness in one long, strong stride. She waits one beat of a moment, a night bird crying in the trees beyond the walled garden, before leaning in so close her nose brushes against the woman's cheek. The Baroness's eyes close as Liesl slowly, slowly closes her panting-hot mouth over her own thumb, the thumb pressing so hard into the Baroness's plush bottom lip. The scent and taste of the woman, faint and floral, makes her mouth water.

With her other hand Liesl sweeps upward, managing to manoeuvre past heavy skirts and perilously scanty underthings until she touches skin, oh, so much sweet warm skin. The Baroness puts one hand at Liesl's hip and her fingernails, so oval and glossy, scratch slightly against the white embroidery there. That sound, tiny and secret, makes Liesl's back teeth ache in wild want, and the Baroness bites Liesl's thumb as its sister begins to stroke and slick and swirl and Liesl knows her own blue eyes are sparkling with triumph as she finally, wetly, cavernously kisses that oh my silver carmine mouth with all its gleaming teeth,

and nothing no nothing ever nothing is quite the same.