For disclaimers, see Part 1

Lack of Providence




A warm body pressed against her, soft moans filling the air around her, reckless hands driving away all sensible thought, and all Ariana could think was "Something has gone wrong."

She had been trying to tell herself throughout the evening that it was still just a game, a pleasurable diversion, but she had found herself getting more and more excited at the thought of the editorís touch. As the anger and hurt slipped away from her through the course of the evening, the effect of Marissaís beauty had started taking hold. When Ariana had started relaxing and actually enjoying the banter and flirting instead of planning her next move, she started seeing Marissa as the beautiful and smart woman that she was, not a calculated corporate bitch.

Thatís where things started getting out of control. She would have had no qualms about throwing a corporate bitch out of her apartment after she had had some fun. Now that she had allowed herself to start getting excited about the prospect of spending the night with Marissa, it became increasingly difficult to stay detached from the whole situation.

During their walk towards the T station she could feel Marissaís warmth penetrating her where they touched, the energy of the taller woman permeating through the layers of clothing and biting New England wind. Their gaits matched despite the difference in height and Ariana caught herself leaning into Marissa, savoring the scent and warmth of the editor.

The building of the piercing studio loomed in front of them and she had lead them towards it. It wouldnít be the first time she had someone up there. Those reclining dentistís chairs made for some ... interesting experiences in the past. Images of the tall editorís milky skin exposed to her lips and fingers made her heart beat faster. By the time she had started fumbling with the keys to the building her hands were shaking with need. She hadnít been this excited in a long time, anticipation alone enough to make her ravenous.

When she felt Marissaís touch, the editorís warmth pressing against her back, moist breath caressing her neck, only surprise kept her standing upright. They had stumbled through the entrance of the building that housed the studio and, having kicked the door closed behind them, Ariana had the tall editor pressed between her and the wall, drawing her down roughly for a kiss. Whatever sense of control over the situation she thought she had went out the proverbial window when she pulled Marissa down to her lips.

That first touch was her undoing. It was as if an electrical charge was released against her lips, the heat drawing her in deeper instead of repelling her. Marissaís lips were full and soft and tasted of alcohol, an addictive combination, and when she felt the tall woman drawing her tongue in and gently sucking on it, her knees almost buckled for the second time. Arianaís fingers in the dark hair and the thick wool of the editorís coat were rough and controlling but the movements of her tongue in Marissaís mouth were long and deep, exploring the softness and warmth of the woman pressed against her in an unconscious need to elicit pleasure.

When the kiss started, tongues sliding against each other within Marissaís mouth, Ariana felt an ache grow deep within her. The softness of the touch, the quiet urgency of their movements, the feel of silky strands of black hair against her face all compounded into an experience of such depth and sensuality, it eclipsed all other thought or sensation. The darkness of the hallway they were standing in, the feel of coarse wool of Marissaís coat under her hands, the warmth of hands in the small of her back, her own weakening knees, all outside sensations fell away, giving way to the feel of lips and tongues; softness of a newly discovered emotion.

It was new and it was exhilarating and frightening. All those emotions were coiled in a tight ball in the middle of her stomach. She didnít know what was happening, which part of her would take control of the evening. Sydney thrived on control. For Sydney, satisfaction was extracted from the knowledge that she could make any of the women she fucked scream with prolonged pleasure or she could get up and leave them at the edge, clawing at the bed covers in frustration and need. Sydney fucked for power, not for pleasure. Sydney was always in control.

Ariana, on the other hand, had made love to only one person in her life, and the betrayal and pain of the experience left her numb and scarred and gave birth to Sydney. Ariana was sensual and romantic and easily swayed by beauty. She gave pleasure as a means of ensuring that she was worth the time and affection of the person she was with. Love, when and if it was given to her, had always come at a price and Ariana learned to live without it. Sydney was much better at that game.

At this moment they were both losing the battle.

Eyes closed, enveloped by the darkness and Marissaís scent, the only thing Ariana was aware of were the soft sounds of pleasure floating around her. Her moans were muffled by Marissaís mouth, startling her when she abruptly realized they were her own. Her first instinct was to withdraw.

Ariana broke the kiss suddenly, stale air of the hallway chilling her wet lips. Marissa slumped against the wall, her breathing rapid and her eyes still closed. In the darkness, Ariana could only see the dim outline of the taller womanís face, the editorís chest heaving with short gasps emitted by her bruised lips. The urge to move in again and trace them with her tongue was overwhelming. Arianaís body reacted to this woman, to her touch, in a manner she had never experienced before. The sound of the editorís soft sighs was maddeningly arousing, urging her to draw out more of them with her tongue and lips. Marissaís hands in her hair, tracing her face, slipping down and squeezing her ass and drawing her in, pressing her up her full length.

She stood before Marissa, breathing heavily, her arms still pressing the tall woman against the wall. Ariana had had many lovers in the five years since she lost her virginity, some were good, some were bad and some were excellent. But even with the most skilled of them, she had never been so overpowered by sensations as she was during this simple kiss. A kiss, for Godís sake! Never before had a touch make her body surrender like this, it was as if she just wanted to give in to this womanís ministrations and... This is ridiculous!

Shaking her head with annoyance, she pushed Marissa against the wall again, as if to assure herself she was still in control. She was, damn it! With a growl, she buried her hands in the older womanís hair again, bringing her roughly to her lips. This time the kiss was ferocious, brutal almost, in its need to reaffirm domination. Arianaís teeth slid down Marissaís lips, sucking her tongue gently one moment only to roughly demand entrance into the editorís mouth in the next. She could feel a slight taste of blood on her lips and she smiled into Marissaís mouth. Sheíd show the uptown bitch what it was like to lose control...

The tall woman didnít seem to mind the change in pace, quite on the contrary. Throaty moans and slight gasps interchanged with every new assault of the piercerís lips. She was pressed up against the wall, her legs splayed in a wide stance, partly to help her keep her balance, but mostly to provide better access to the girl positioned between them. Her hands were now busy peeling off Arianaís pea coat in an attempt to make contact with the girlís soft flesh.

Ariana broke away again, pushing away Marissaís hands and grabbing the lapels of the editorís coat, yanking them down and peeling the coat down half way, effectively trapping Marissaís hands. Before the editor could complain, Ariana attacked the tender skin of her throat, biting in at the base and sucking gently. Giving in, Marissa let out a slow breath, lowering her head to one side to allow the girl easier access. When Arianaís hand left the midnight hair to cup a soft breast, the tall woman arched in, pressing herself against Arianaís palm.

The silk of Marissaís blouse was cool to the touch, but the hardening nipple below it ignited Arianaís palm. She could feel the taller woman shutter at the contact, pressing up and trying to increase the pressure. Ariana smiled against the skin of her neck. This is what you have been waiting for the whole night, isnít it, Marissa? To have me take you like this, in the dark, short and sweet and no unpleasant memories in the morning. No problem...

She gently kneaded the womanís breast through the cloth of her blouse, pinching the nipple between her thumb and forefinger, slowly increasing the pressure. Marissa was moaning under her touch, her hips moving in a slow rhythm, trying to draw Arianaís pelvis against her. Ariana complied, pushing her hips in and grinding them against the tall woman before she decided it was time for something more invigorating.

Taking a small step back, she detached her lips from Marissaís throat and let go of her breast. A confused whimper escaped the tall womanís throat at the loss of contact, only to be replaced by a hitched intake of breath as she felt Arianaís hand sneaking under the hem of her skirt. Marissa struggled, finally discarding her coat completely and freeing her arms. One of them latched onto Arianaís hair again and the other slid up the smaller womanís torso, cupping a full breast. As her thumb brushed over an erect nipple she could feel the nipple ring under the layers of the girlís bra and shirt. The smaller womanís intake of breath at the touch was audible and she replied by squeezing the nipple and slightly tugging on the ring through the clothing.

Ariana could feel her control slipping again at the womanís touch. The large hand covering her breast shot sensations from her nipple, searing their way down between her legs. She closed the distance between them again and moved in for another kiss. Marissa cupped the back of her head with her other hand and bent down covering her lips. The contact was gentle this time, directed by the taller woman, unhurried, lips and tongues moving sensuously against each other in a mute promise of sweet caresses and gentle touches in the future.

Ending the kiss with a few gentle nibbles, Ariana rested her heated cheek on Marissaís shoulder, and took a deep breath. Amazing. At one moment she wanted nothing more than to own this woman, feel her contracting around her fingers and make her cry out her name, and at the other the need to feel Marissaís arms around her and let the editorís heat seep into her, overwhelmed every other instinct. The soft scent of expensive perfume and the feel of Marissaís arms on her shoulders drained the last vestiges of anger and bitterness she harbored toward this woman and she closed her eyes in contentment.

The slight shifting of the body under her and the hesitant movement of Marissaís arms around her, closing their embrace, snapped Ariana back to reality. Her lapse didnít last longer than a few seconds, but Ariana knew that the taller woman sensed the change in her. You fucking idiot! She didnít come here to cuddle! Get to work Ariana, get to work!

Moving away again, Ariana flashed a predatory grin. She knew the woman couldnít see it in the darkness, but she had done it more for her own sake than Marissaís. Moving her hands again she slid them down long thighs pulling the black wool skirt up to Marissaís hips on the way back. The editorís hands were still on her shoulders and she didnít seem to be breathing. Have to take care of that... Pressing in between Marissaís legs with her hips again and slowly grinding them against the woman, she leaned in and captured a nipple between her teeth through the white silk of the editorís blouse. The response was immediate - a short gasp and a long exhale escaped the older womanís mouth and Ariana could feel Marissaís strong hands convulsively grip her shoulders

Arianaís hand found its way between the editorís thighs, and only when she ran her palm over Marissaís center did it filter through that the woman was wearing stockings. The warmth and wetness that greeted her, even through the prohibitive layers, made her mouth dry again. God, she wanted this woman! Unable to concentrate enough on finding a way around the barrier, she pressed her hand into the editor, stroking Marissa hard with her palm, her thumb seeking the hard bundle of nerves under the clothing. The woman moaned under her onslaught, her forehead dropping to Arianaís shoulder, soft sounds escaping her lips and brushing Arianaís ears.

"Ooohh... Oh, Go-ooooh. Oh, Sydney..."

The murmured sounds filtered through the membrane of lust and need, halting Arianaís movements. A sudden wave of emptiness enveloped her, draining her energy and desire. This was not real, not any more real than any of the other times she blindly groped in the dark with someone. Did she actually think the editor wanted her? She wanted Sydney, the mouthy piercer who knew how to keep people at a distance with her sweet sarcasm while making them want to come back for more. Ariana had no place in this womanís arms, Marissa wanted to be fucked by Sydney. What happened here? How did this hurried fumbling manage to destroy her equilibrium with a few kisses and whispered moans?

She could feel anxiety nipping at her heels and she took a sudden step away from Marissa, throwing the taller woman off balance. She could feel Marissa reaching toward her, but she took another step back. Her head was swimming, conflicting thoughts and feelings vying for acknowledgment. She was reacting to Marissa like she had to no one before and she did not know why. Despite her misgivings, her instinctual reaction to the editor was surprising - she was drawn to the woman. She had reason to be angry and hurt, but here she was - swooning at an embrace. She was confusedÖ and confusion led to fear.

She didnít realize she was backing up until she bumped into the door behind her. From the overhead windows the light from a street lamp was streaming in and she could see Marissa standing in front of her. The woman looked flushed and disheveled and Ariana felt another jolt of ... desire? Or was it need? Marissaís lips stood out against the paleness of her face and Ariana could see worry etched into the editorís features. I have to get out of here.

"I have to..." She stopped, not sure of what to say. She couldnít think, she just had to get away and calm down. "Iím sorry, I uh,..." What? Am scared shitless? Feel like Iím going to throw up? "I donít know wh... I, uh, I have to... I have to go." She couldnít look into the womanís eyes and she could feel sweat beading on her forehead. What the fuck is wrong with me?! God, calm down! She took a deep breath and when she looked up, Marissa was standing next to her, her arms extended towards Ariana in a calming gesture.

"HeyÖ Itís okay." The editorís voice was warm and soothing and Ariana could detect a hint of worry in it. "I shouldnít have pushed you into this. Itís okay."

If she had been any calmer than she was, Ariana would have found that comment immensely amusing. Marissa pushing her into this? Sometimes she was too good at the game she played. The words, oddly enough, calmed her somewhat; Marissa didnít seem to know what was going on. She took another deep breath, her back still pressed against the door. Play it cool.

"I, I just canít do this, Marissa. Itís... Iím sorry." The editorís wetness covered her hand she could still feel the softness of Marissaís mouth against her tongue. The sudden ache, emptiness that surprised her had dulled, but her reaction to the tall woman still scared her. The urge, the need for Marissa to know her, to acknowledge her, not the facade she put up, was sudden and Ariana didnít know how to react to it. All she wanted to do now was to get away and compose herself.

She could hear Marissa draw a shaky breath and exhale slowly. Well, if her appearances were any indication of how the editor felt, Marissa was overdue for a cold shower. The thought that the editor had a hard time controlling her desire for her almost overrode Arianaís panic. Almost. She wanted to step in again and wipe the confusion and worry off Marissaís face with soft kisses, but her stomach clenched with the remembrance of the emotions that ran rampant through her with every touch of this woman.

"Listen Sydney, I donít want to push you into anything." She could hear Marissa talking but she had a hard time concentrating on what the editor was saying. Her flee instinct was reasserting its hold and making her forehead bead with perspiration. She was nodding her head in tempo with Marissaís voice, but the urge to turn around and bolt onto the street was making it difficult to concentrate. Then the editor moved in, her hands gently squeezing Arianaís shoulders and sliding her away from the door. "Iíll call you, okay?" The editor said as she picked up her coat. After a moment of hesitation, she bent down and placed a soft kiss on her cheek and then she was gone.

The door swung closed leaving Ariana alone, in the dark, and she slid down the wall feeling decidedly stupefied. In the two times she met this woman, Marissa was able to take her emotions and turn them 180 degrees. From elation to anger, and now from being the hunter to finding herself in the place of the prey. The worst thing was that she wasnít sure she didnít like the new position. The thought of Marissa devouring her seemed very appealing right now. God, what happened to the good old "kissínífuck" deal? Why make it simple if it can be complicated, right Ar?

* * * * *

It was thirty two-minutes past four oíclock. Twenty-eight minutes left until she could go home. God, itís been 4:32 for the last ten minutes, I swear! Never having been a very patient woman, Marissa found the wait insufferable. Not that she couldnít leave work early if she so decided, but she really had no excuse to. She was just antsy and nervous and didnít want to admit it. Tonight was the night. Her first official date with Sydney. And she was feeling like a schoolgirl going out with the star football player. Heavens, I had gone out with the popular football player and had never felt this twitchy or excited before! And the date itself wasnít for another three hours. Three hours and twenty-six minutes, to be exact.

She pushed her chair, swiveling and facing the darkening Boston sky, visible from her office windows. She had walked around grinning like an idiot for the last two days. Thirty-one going on fifteen, huh Mar? The last few days had gone in a blur of excitement and now it was almost time for her date. She was starving, but the butterflies in her stomach had made it impossible for her to ingest food today.

The lights of the city twinkled below her and she fancied she could distinguish the building that housed the piercing studio from the hundreds of lights prostrate below her. Unconsciously, her hand rose to touch the spot just below the collar of her shirt where she bore the mark of Sydneyís passion. The girl had intrigued her, much more than she should have. One-night stands were nothing new to her though she hadnít done anything like that in more years than she cared to remember. There was just something about the girl, the kind of subdued emotion, coiled passion that would leash out and leave her breathless before retreating behind the carefully controlled appearance of the young piercer.

Marissa found herself wanting to soothe the painful suspicion that gazed back at her from the green brilliance of the girlís eyes. At the same time she also wanted to unleash the girl, break down her reserve and experience fully everything she knew Sydney was capable of delivering. The girlís skittishness was surprising but it also heightened Marissaís anticipation. Sydney had seemed almost scared when she stopped her most pleasurable ministrations the other night. Though shocked and seriously aroused, Marissa was able to see the confusion and almost a tinge of fear in the girlís eyes as she backed away from her.

She had tried to calm the girl by softly talking to her, but Sydney had seemed intent on fleeing. The change from the aggressive advances of just few moments earlier to this bewildered retreat was unnerving but Marissa reminded herself that this was hardly a normal situation to be in. After all, most people donít decide to have sex in a semi-public space on a first date. Not that I was complainingÖ

So she had backed away and left, but not before making sure the girl knew that this wasnít the last she would hear from her. After leaving Sydney, she had gone to the T station, taking the inbound train home. She was extremely grateful for her long coat since it covered up her disheveled business suit and rumpled shirt. The skin touched by the girlís lips and fingers exuded heat and the bruised skin of her lips pulsed in the rhythm with her heart. Twenty minutes later she was at home, and on the phone with Caroline who couldnít understand why a makeout session, a failed one at that, was worth waking her up for. When she had realized that it was more than just unsatisfied hormones talking, she had told Marissa to take matters into her own hands for the night and come and see her first thing in the morning.

So she had gone to see Lin, Anne and baby Michelle, spending the better part of the day trying to explain what it was about the girl that made her feel giddy and frightened at the same time. The truth was, she didnít know. She didnít know much about Sydney and, even though the girl was intelligent and beautiful and funny, so was every woman she had dated before. What it was about the small piercer that made her blood boil with want when she was around her and her hands tingle with the need to touch her. The memory of her kisses made her swoon. Swoon, for goodnessí sake!

It was all very new and exciting, keeping her distracted in a most delightful manner. She wanted Sydney, plain and simple. She wanted to feel the girlís passion unleashed upon her. But, at the same time, she realized that it was more than simple lust. She was intrigued by the girl, by the clash of innocence and street toughness she could see warring within those amazing green eyes. The softness of the small hands and the full curve of pliant lips able to inflict both tender pleasure and electrifying pain within heartbeats. She simply had to have more of the young piercer.

So she had called Sydney at the studio and asked her if she wanted to meet. She was so nervous that she thought she would lose her lunch as the phone was picked up at the other end.

"Rites of Passage." It was Sydney, her voice sending an involuntary shiver down Marissaís spine. Maybe Iím coming down with a flu.

When her brain finally registered that it was her turn to talk, Marissaís voice was calm and measured and conveyed none of her anxiousness. It sounded strange to her ears.

"Hi, Sydney, itís Marissa." She couldnít believe she was doing this. For all she knew, the girl had been playing with her and now she was making a fool out of herself calling her like this. She griped the phone tighter. "I was just calling because..." Why? Because I canít stop thinking about you? Because I want you so much I canít concentrate on anything else? "...ah, I said I would." Brilliant finish, Mar, brilliant.

The five-second silence that stretched from the other side almost made her hang up. Then she heard Sydney exhale. "Hey." Surprise and relief were evident in the piercerís voice and that one word loosened the knots in Marissaís stomach. "I didnít think youíd call."

She smiled into the phone knowing the girl would be able to hear it in her voice. "Well, of course I would. I am not the type to leave business unfinished." Oh, for godís sake Marissa! No pushing her, remember! She hurried on. "Actually, I wanted to see if youíd be willing to, ah..." Go on, you can say it. Youíve done it plenty of times before. Why be nervous now? "...well, to go out on a date. With me. A real one. Not that the other night wasnít a real date, itís just that..." Great. Babbling again. She took a deep breath. "Iíd just like to see you again. With, you know, no pressure. Just a dinner or something."

The girl sounded almost shy again. "That would be nice."

The smile that overtook Marissaís face made her cheeks hurt. She had little time to bask in her elation because she realized Sydney was done talking. There she goes with her eloquence again. Does she ever put more than three sentences together? "Thatís great! Does dinner sound all right?"

"Yeah, that sounds good. When would you like to meet?"

Marissa didnít want to appear too eager - I have appearances to keep up, after all - but she also didnít want to wait until the weekend either. "Would Wednesday night work for you?"

"Yes. Iíll be out of work by 8. I can meet you after that. Any particular place you had in mind?"

Oohhh, my dining room, you as a main course... Marissa! Down, girl! "Do you know where the Small Planet Bar & Grill is?"

"Itís right at Copley, right? I can be there by 8:30."

Score! "Thatís great Sydney. Iíll meet you in there, Iíll try to have a table for us by the time you get in."

And now she was counting the minutes until they would meet. Having decided that sitting at work and swiveling in her chair was not making the time pass by any faster, she got up and headed home.

* * * * *

Why am I doing this to myself? She was on the train, two stops away from Copley Square. She was ten minutes late and the thought that Marissa would be gone by the time she got there was making her pace furiously in the small space she commanded on the train. Goddamn Green line! If they had changed the trains once since the 1800ís, it wouldnít be so damn slow!

She still couldnít believe she was going on a date with the tall editor. A silly grin appeared on her face. A real date, she said a real date! A part of her was still scared at the thought of exposing herself to the allure of the beautiful woman again, remembering how the editor had made her feel last Friday, but the euphoria she felt at the mere thought that Marissa wanted to see her again overrode all caution.

After the editor had left, Ariana had tried to settle her emotions and rationalize the effect Marissaís touches had on her. It didnít work. Her body was quavering with the after effects of Marissaís touch and smell, the feel of the editorís hair sliding across her face. She had lost herself in the sensations, losing control of situation and simply enjoying the feeling. That hadnít happened since Tracy, her one and only attempt at romance. God, she was young and naïve then.

Eighteen and in love for the first time. She had believed that Tracy loved her. She had trusted her, trusted her with her thoughts, her poems, her heart. She had offered all of herself to the other woman, all of her insecurities, her fears, her hopes, dreams - inexperience not letting her see how vulnerable she was. How unworthy Tracy was. At least she taught you a good lesson. You paid a high price for it, but she taught you a good lesson. Whatís going on now? Why did you let this woman affect you like this?

The only answer she had to offer was that she didnít have a choice. There was something about the beautiful editor that affected her despite all her barriers. That conclusion did nothing to ease her anxiety and frustration. The need to feel under control again, to control her feelings, her body, to control someone elseís body had made her leave the piercing studio after Marissa left and head to the train station.

She was on the train and at the Boston University T stop before she even registered where she was going. The tall structure of the Warren Towers loomed above her and she could feel a calm seeping back into her. One phone call later, she was in Carenís room and between her legs, detached and pumping out incoherent cries from the co-ed. Despite everything, her mind kept replaying every touch, every moan she exchanged with Marissa every time she closed her eyes. She had to see her again.

She spent Saturday and Sunday at work, her moods swinging from excitement to self-loathing. She said sheíd call... Like shit she will! You worked her up and then didnít deliver. Why the hell would she call - to continue your titillating conversation? She knew that a woman like Marissa wouldnít have anything but superficial sexual interest in her, but every time the phone rang during the weekend her heartbeat would pick up. By Monday she was growling at anyone who would dare approach her, getting even angrier with herself for behaving like a child. Get over it, you idiot. You missed your chance to dazzle her with your spectacular sexual prowess, sheís not interested anymore.

And then Marissa called. The relief was so strong it left her breathless for a few long moments. When she did regain her voice, she didnít dare say more than one sentence at a time, afraid that something she would say would make the woman change her mind. After they hung up, she actually squealed with joy. She had waltzed across the room to where Eva was reading a magazine and after she swept her friend up in her arms and started dancing with her, the older woman detached herself and made sure Ariana didnít have a fever. Then she made her sit down and explain her behavior to her.

She didnít know what to tell Eva. How could she explain to her what she herself didnít understand? So, she had told her everything, from the beginning - the poems, the first meeting, subsequent encounter and the effect the tall woman had on her. Her confusion, insecurity, doubt - Eva knew about it all now. And it felt good. It felt good to share her feelings with someone, to ask for advice, to see how glad Eva was when she confided in her. It was that easy - she opened her mouth and out it came, and it felt good. It felt right.

Eva had gotten excited right along with her, her enthusiasm exceeding Arianaís, her questions about Marissa incessant. She didnít let Ariana notice her worry, but that had been the first time since Eva knew her that Ariana expressed excitement about a date. For Ariana dating had been about sex, a necessary distraction, not an emotional involvement and Eva could see that the younger woman hadnít been happy, even if she didnít realize it yet. She didnít want to see Ariana hurt the first time she stepped out of her shell.

Despite her appearance of nonchalance and practiced ease with which she covered up her feelings, Eva knew that the girl was lonely. Ariana had been discarded by her mother and forgotten by her father after their divorce and the fear of rejection that sprang out of those earliest experiences with loved ones was only made worse by her first experience with love. The Tracy fiasco brought the girl to Seattle, away from Boston and the failed relationship. Now, for whatever reason, the editor woman had Ariana all tied up in knots, and Eva could only pray the experience wouldnít be a damaging one.

Stepping off the train, Ariana ran up the station stairs, emerging in front of the Boston Public Library at Copley Square. You will NOT run! Itís less than a block from here; youíll make it in time. With every step she took it was harder to breathe. The fact that she didnít understand why she felt that way made her even more nervous.

She took a quick look at her reflection in one of the windows she was walking by. She had worn her newest pair of snug-fitting blue Leviís, black biker boots and a thick forest green sweater under her pea coat. She knew the sweater would bring about the color of her eyes. She even brushed and braided her hair off her face. It was ridiculous; she hadnít primped up like this since she was fourteen! The urge to put on extra cologne before she went to work that afternoon was overwhelming, but she resisted. Enough is enough.

Small Planet Bar & Grill was a cozy, dim restaurant located right across the John Hancock tower. Big windows overlooking the Square and good, inexpensive food made it popular with the five oíclock office crowd and students alike. Walking in, she quickly scanned the crowd sitting in the small booths along the wall. Before her disappointment could register, a perky waitress approached her.

"Are you Sydney?"

She started, looking at the woman. "Yes?"

The woman gave her a once-over and even through her confusion, Ariana could see the appreciative look in the waitressís eyes. "Marissaís waiting for you. Just go past the bar and take a right and youíll see her. Can I get you anything to drink?"

Yes you may, but Iím off the menu tonight. God, I feel naked now. Though the waitress was anything but unattractive and her frank appraisal would have usually delighted Ariana, tonight she was just not interested. The butterflies in her stomach made it hard to concentrate on anything but the woman waiting for her around the corner.

"Got Bass on tap?" Receiving an affirmative nod she ordered her drink and moved towards the end of the bar.

Marissa was sitting in a secluded booth tucked between the wall and the bar. The lightning was dim, but Ariana was again taken aback by the beauty of the tall woman. She seemed deep in thought, staring at the tall glass in front of her. Her hair was tucked behind her ears and falling loose down her shoulders, dark bangs reaching the top of her eyebrows. A mock turtleneck of deep red was flatteringly hugging her curves and bringing out the natural redness of her full lips against the milky complexion. It was tucked into worn blue jeans. Brown hiking boots completed the outfit. Then Marissa looked up at her and smiled a dazzling smile that lit up the brilliant blue of her eyes and all Ariana could think was: God, I have to get out of here!

* * * * *

But she didnít bolt and the dinner had been perfect. After the first few moments, the piercer calmed down, relaxing and charming the pants off Marissa. Well, not literally, unfortunately. Iím still very much dressed, Marissa couldnít help thinking.

They were out of the bar and leisurely walking towards Marissaís apartment. It was only five blocks away and she was in no hurry to see the beautiful blonde go.

Though still flirtatious, the meeting was a lot more relaxed, laid back almost, as if both of them just wanted to enjoy each otherís company without the impending sexual intercourse looming above their heads. Even though the young woman brought out a brazen, more direct side of her out, Marissa was able to see that Sydney seemed to enjoy the quiet evening with no open advances or obvious suggestions. It was, for all extents and purposes, a normal date.

The woman was captivating, her humor and intelligence catching Marissa off guard more than once during the evening. A new sort of bashfulness appeared, Sydney even blushing once when Marissa brought up their last randevouz. She laughed more, with abandon, and every time she did Marissa could feel warmth spread through her at the sight. Gone was the slightly calculating look with which she realized Sydney was observing her the last time they met, and the girlís face seemed much more open. The transformation was obvious and breathtaking. If she had thought that the piercer was attractive and undeniably sexual before, now that the softer, unguarded side of Sydney appeared - Marissa was absolutely mesmerized by the woman. And her libido was still raging.

They had talked about everything and nothing in particular. The conversation spanned Mexican food, shared frustration with Boston professional sports, the new Pulitzer Prize winner, pets, and family... Although very attentive when Marissa was relating her family story to her, when asked about her family, Sydney had waved it off with a smile, saying: "Not much to talk about."

In the end, Marissa knew that Sydney lived in the attic of Evaís house in Jamaica Plain, considered Eva her best friend, had no pets of her own, but loved Evaís cats, played some guitar but "not well enough for anyone to hear", could do some cooking, was an avid reader, and was able to make Marissaís blood boil with a single look through half-lidded eyes. There was just enough information to make Marissa want to know more, but - though more open - the girl seemed uncomfortable talking about herself.

Now they were walking down Boylston street, and nothing in the course of the evening gave Marissa any indication that the girl would react well to being invited upstairs. She felt bad. Really, she did. There they were, having a relaxing dinner and all Marissa could think about was how those glistening lips would feel against her neck. The problem was, she knew all too well how they had felt and how much she had liked it, and concentrating on what the girl was saying had gotten more and more difficult as the night wore on. A few times that evening Sydney had caught her with a dazed look on her face and no idea as to what they were talking about. The girl just didnít seem comfortable reverting to the openly sexual banter of their previous encounter and Marissa had no idea where they stood right now.

She reached her arm tentatively and hooked it through the crook of the girlís elbow, receiving a brilliant smile in return. That was the first physical contact they made that evening, and though the angle was a bit awkward - Sydney being a half a foot shorter than her - it brought her closer to Marissa. The smell of sunflowers and a menís cologne reached her nostrils again and it occurred to her that the scent fully fit the younger woman - there was both softness and strength to her, vulnerability and inaccessibility all contained within the slender frame. Speaking of which, those jeans are snug in all the right places. Nice! Stopping mid-stride at the thought, she flashed the girl a quick smile before continuing walking. Dear god, how juvenile can you get? You havenít been able to get your mind out of the gutter the whole night. What is it with you and this girl? At one moment you just want to hold her tight and bury your face in her hair, and in the other you just want her to hold you down and bury her face in your...

"What?" She did not hear a single word Sydney just said.

"Youíve been doing that a lot tonight. Is everything all right?"

Marissa couldnít control the blush that ran up her face. The girl must have had an inkling as to what she was thinking about, judging from the impish smile on her face. "Ah, you... yeah, yes, it is. I was just... yeah." Marissa offered weakly. "What were you saying?"

Nodding her head as if to confirm her suspicions, the girl smiled again. "I was just saying that I had a really a good time tonight. On our real date." The last part was said teasingly as she playfully bumped into Marissa.

They were less than a hundred yards from her doorstep now, having made a turn off Boylston Street a while ago, and Marissa did not want the night to end. She had had a good time too.

"So did I. Iím glad you took me up on my offer."

"Well, Iím glad you made an offer." There it was again, that shy, almost insecure side of the piercer which moved Marissa beyond what was reasonable. "I didnít think I was going to see you again... After the way I behaved on Friday..."

Oh, hon, you did everything right Friday, up until you bolted like a scared hare out of a bush. She wanted to chuckle at the thought, but the tone of the girlís voice told her Sydney was being serious.

"You didnít do anything wrong Sydney." She could see the girl wince as she said her name, but she didnít know why. "I didnít mean to push you into anything the other night. I just... kinda lost control." They were approaching her door. "And I would definitely like to see you again. That is, if you ... would like to... also... I mean..."

They stopped and another brilliant smile from the girl prevented a new attack of the babbling Marissa from commencing. "You did not push me into doing anything I didnít want. As a matter of fact, I think I did all the pushing that night." The sly, seductive side of the girl was making a reappearance. "And as far as losing control goes... I think I had you beat there."

Her hair was sparkling under the night-light in the doorway and the green brilliance of her gaze caught Marissaís breath. They stood like that for a few lost moments, mist from their breaths mingling, eyes locked onto each other. When Sydney dropped her gaze, her voice was quiet. "Iíd like to see you again, too."

The huge smile that spread across Marissaís face was reflected by the smaller woman when she looked up at her. Marissa could feel the warmth of this moment spread through her body like a good cognac did. Speaking of which... "Well, here we are. Would you like to come up for a drink?"

She could see a spark of desire in the girlís eyes as she bit down on her lower lip in contemplation. Cocking her head to one side, Sydney took a small step, sliding up to Marissa. "No, I donít think I should... But I would like a good-night kiss."

Marissa willingly obliged, lowering her head down to the expectant lips. She paused just before they touched, Sydneyís eyes closed, her head upturned to meet her. The sight was beautiful and Marissa closed her eyes, giving into the sensations. Instead of claiming the lips before her, she moved her head slightly, brushing her cheek against Sydneyís until she could feel a small ear under her lips. She placed a gentle kiss on it, hearing a soft gasp from the girl. Sydney had moved into her embrace, her hands getting tangled in Marissaís hair. Continuing the contact of soft skin on skin, she moved her cheek over the girlís forehead next, wisps of blonde hair tickling her nostrils, scent of sunflowers overwhelming her. She moved over to the other ear and repeated her ministration, Sydneyís hands tightening her grip in her hair. She let her hands slide lower, resting in the small of the girlís back, supporting her. Pulling back slightly, she opened her eyes again, looking at Sydney.

She met with the most beautiful smile she had ever seen. The girlís eyes were half-lidded and darkened with emotion, their gaze pulling Marissa in like a sirenís song would. Slowly, so slowly, she brushed her lips against Sydneyís, feeling a rush of air of the girlís exhale. Unable to deny herself the taste of the girlís mouth anymore, Marissa ran her tongue against the fuller lower lip, feeling it slightly quiver under her touch. Sydneyís mouth opened, her tongue darting out to meet Marissaís, and she willingly accepted the invitation.

The kiss was full and soft and filled with tender longing and Marissa could feel it melting away her raw desire and selfish need. The girl opened herself up fully to her, soft moans escaping her throat into the editorís mouth. Her small hands were framing Marissaís face, thumbs softly brushing against her cheeks in the rhythm of their kiss. When they reluctantly broke away from each other, lips returning to gently brush against each other again, they stayed there with their foreheads touching, fingers intertwined. Neither of them had expected the intensity of feeling evoked by the kiss.

WowÖ my knees are actually weak. Marissa could feel the girl trembling against her. It was time to let go. "Are you sure you donít want to come upstairs?" She couldnít help but ask. She didnít want her head to stop spinning and Sydney seemed to be the only cure for that.

Marissa could feel the girl shake her head. "No." A long intake of breath. "ButÖ Iím not ready yet. Not for this."

She wasnít sure what Sydney was talking about but she could hear the quiet conviction in her voice. No pushing, remember? "Okay." Marissa straightened up, squeezing the girlís hands. "Whenever youíre ready."

Sydney slowly backed off, going down the three stairs from Marissaís door backwards, her eyes never leaving Marissaís. Her hands buried deep in the pockets of her pea coat, collar pulled up, cheeks reddened by the cold and excitement, she just stood there on the street for a few long moments, looking at Marissa. Then a slow smile spread across her face and she turned on her heel and left with a small wave.


Continued in Part IV

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