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The Autoignition Point

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Charlie’s talked about books in bed before, but never with someone as intriguing as Tamara. They’ve only been doing this for a few days—sleeping in the same bed, making love on Tamara’s couch when they get back to her place after a day of training—but she’s already learning the landscape of Tamara’s body, has memorized the way her skin feels, soft and warm to the touch, belying her veneer of toughness. Maybe even reinforcing it in some strange way, as she gives Charlie a part of herself that she clearly hasn’t given to anyone in a long time.

‘I know a book isn’t an event, not really,’ Charlie says. ‘But they’ve been events in my life. Books.’ They’re naked on top of the sheets, too warm and lazy to get under the blankets just yet.

Tamara smiles. ‘A guy gave me a book once. We’d hooked up when I was in Bristol for a weekend. As I was getting on my train, he gave me a copy of a John Le Carré. It still had the bookstore receipt in it. He’d been in such a hurry to get it to me that he’d forgotten to take it out.’

‘Which one was it?’

A Murder of Quality. I think. Something like that, anyway. I thought I was too posh to read thrillers, and I made myself get bored with it before I could finish it.’

Charlie laughs helplessly, her face buried in her pillow. Tamara’s face is pressed into her shoulder, and Charlie can feel her grin. She crosses her arms over Charlie’s back. ‘Tell me about one of your events.’

Fahrenheit 451. I fell in love with Clarisse the first time I read the book. I identified with her, you know? Like you do with characters in books, only more. I was her age when I read the book. And then I saw the film, in which she doesn’t get hit by a car, and survives to be a teacher. Bradbury said he liked the change so much that he wrote it into the play version. I loved him for that, for being open to the idea that a story could be rewritten. That she could have another chance.’

‘That doesn’t happen in real life.’ Tamara doesn’t move away, remains lax and languid around Charlie.

‘I had to believe it does. For a long time, it was all I had. The idea that stories could be real. Not literally, you know? But the things that people said in books.’

‘Such as?’ Tamara props her head up on an elbow, looking down at Charlie’s face. She’s teasing a little, good humor punctuating her words.

Onen i-Estel Edain, ú-chebin estel anim,’ Charlie says, grinning.

Tamara doesn’t laugh. Her hand slides up Charlie’s back, tangling in her hair. ‘What language is that? Sounds, I don’t know.’


‘Musical,’ Tamara finishes, her fingers following a lock of Charlie’s hair to the base of her throat, her thumb pressing lightly against the hollow there.

‘It’s Elvish. ‘I gave Hope to the Dunedain; I kept none for myself.’’

‘Is that what you believe? What you try to do?’ Tamara’s lips replace her thumb on Charlie’s skin. ‘Is that why you’re... you know.’

‘A little ray of sunshine?’

‘I was going to say so infuriatingly cheerful all the bloody time, but that works too.’ Tamara kisses her lightly, smiling against her mouth.

‘You’re such a bitch,’ Charlie says, fond, and tugs Tamara’s head down for a proper kiss. It’s a while before they surface. ‘Maybe,’ she says then, half-distracted by the way Tamara’s fingers have started tracing little circles on her thigh.

‘Maybe?’ Tamara’s breath is warm on Charlie’s ear, her tongue flicking against the small diamond in her lobe. ‘That’s the first time I’ve heard you sound indecisive.’

‘Really?’ Charlie lets her legs fall open as Tamara’s fingers move up along the inside of her thigh, maddeningly slow. ‘I thought I was the definition of indecisiveness.’

Tamara laughs, soft and mischievous. ‘The first day you walked into the compound and demanded to be shown how hunters work? I wanted to fuck you over my desk right then.’

‘Is that why you had me doing research for a week before you let me hold a gun?’ Charlie knows she’s probably not going to be talking in full sentences for much longer, not with the way Tamara’s touching her now, barely-there strokes with the pads of her fingertips that have Charlie arching her hips off the bed, dying for more.

‘I was just helping you play to your strengths.’ Tamara’s thumb presses lightly against Charlie’s clit, slipping a little against the wetness there.

Charlie bites back a gasp. ‘I thought you were just being a bitch.’

‘That too.’

‘Fuck, do that again.’

‘What, this?’ Tamara grips Charlie’s head tightly by the hair and kisses her deeply before she can reply. Her other hand continues driving Charlie mad, moving faster now, pressing harder, until Charlie’s gasping for breath under her. She comes soundlessly, Tamara’s tongue in her mouth.

‘Good?’ Tamara whispers against her cheek. Her fingers are still stroking Charlie lightly, teasing out every last bit of her orgasm.

‘You’re a fucking genius,’ Charlie manages. She’s pretty sure she won’t be able to move for hours. Years, maybe. A lifetime, even.

She wonders if she’s said the words aloud when Tamara chuckles, pulling a sheet up around them. ‘You can snooze for a while, but after that there’s a case I want to tell you about.’

Charlie turns her head on the pillow, her nose brushing against Tamara’s. ‘Tell me now,’ she suggests, her hand sliding under the sheet. She wants to hear about the case, and she’s also desperate to make Tamara come. No reason she can’t get started on both, really.

Tamara inhales sharply, trapping Charlie’s hand between her thighs. ‘It’s like that, is it?’

‘It’s however you want it to be,’ Charlie says with a grin, tracing the outline of Tamara’s smile with a fingertip.