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Cindy regarded the red 8x10 box with some suspicion. There was a silk ribbon tied around it, and the delivery guy from the private service had given her a smirk while she'd signed. She examined all sides, touching the smooth material of the ribbon thoughtfully.
"Hey. Don't call the bomb squad. It's from Jill." Lindsay had stepped out on the porch. Turning to her, Cindy smiled. Lindsay looked very comfortable wearing a purple flannel shirt over a white tee, jeans and sneakers. She had her hair tied back in a low ponytail. This relaxed and carefree version of Lindsay Boxer would be all hers for the next four days, on the occasion of their first anniversary. To say that Cindy was happy would have been the understatement of the century. They had worked hard to get here. They had earned it.
"How do you know?"
"She told me to expect a delivery," Lindsay explained. "I figured it wouldn't be pizza."
Cindy directed her attention back at the box, wondering what was inside. They'd made good use of Claire's gift already, a candlelight dinner at the most expensive restaurant in the village they were currently hiding from the world. "Do you think it's a Jack-in-the-box?" she joked.
"Knowing Jill... you never know."
Lindsay felt like she hadn't taken a breath as deep as this in years. The scent of pine needles and the fire inside mixed pleasantly, the evening just barely starting to get a little chilly. She held Cindy closer to her, reveling in the warmth of the embrace.
"I love you," she whispered.
"I love you so much it hurts," Cindy answered without hesitation. "Can you top that?"
"Easily." Lindsay chuckled. They stayed silent for a moment while they shadows grew longer, chasing the last rays of the sun.
Cindy took a sip of her wine, placing it on the wooden step, entwining her hand with Lindsay's. They were lazy, and happy, and they had been together for an entire year now. Turns out I'm not that bad in a relationship after all.
"How about we open Jill's present now?" Cindy asked.
They went inside, settling on the couch in front of the fireplace with another glass of wine. "Okay, Bernhardt, let's see if you can top the dinner at a four-star-restaurant," Lindsay mumbled as she loosened the ribbon. Cindy laughed. "I didn't know that this town had a restaurant, let alone four stars. That was awesome."
Finally. Lindsay lifted the lid, nearly dropping the box altogether at the first look at its contents. "Damn it, Jill!"
Cindy's eyes widened, her mouth forming a surprised 'o'. This was utterly adorable and Lindsay loved looking at her, period, but she couldn't look at her now. Her hands were somewhat unsteady with a mix of irritation, self-consciousness and something undefined as she opened the card to read
"A friend of mine owed me a favor, and this was a good opportunity to collect. Don't you worry, I don't know what's in here except for one item where the right size was needed. Have fun, girls. Happy Anniversary. Jill-"
"Damn," she said again for the lack of a better word. "That is not funny."
Especially coming from Jill who had tried everything and everyone, but knew very well that Lindsay didn't have her sexual self-confidence, that she still considered what was between her and Cindy something precious and fragile. Something that could still be broken. In her marriage, Lindsay had made the mistake of feeling too safe. She'd promised herself to never get that blindsided again, so she stayed on alert.
"Come on," Cindy said softly. "I don't think it was meant to be funny. She just wanted to"
"Spice up our sex life? I thought it was pretty good the way it is."
What made this situation even worse was that she knew Cindy was aware of every insecurity of hers mirrored in her spontaneous reaction. Considering the unexpected gift might have been the better alternative. Lindsay had never wanted to give another person the power to hurt her this much, ever again, but only a year of dating Cindy Thomas later, it was much too late.
"It is." Cindy didn't miss a beat. "In fact, it's been pretty damn awesome. Could you relax a little now?" There was not a trace of irony in her voice. "You've known Jill longer than I have. You don't really think she's making fun of us on our anniversary?"
"Probably not," Lindsay admitted reluctantly, but her face was still burning. Her fingers tickled with the sensation of touching soft silk. That had been the item Jill had needed to give a size for. "Wait, Jill does know what size of lingerie you're wearing?"
Cindy laughed heartily. "You're impossible, Lindsay Boxer. Also, I know about your gift for Claire. You want to tell me there's a reason for me to worry?"
"Just... stop it." Lindsay was just starting to see a bit of humor in this, too, though she still wondered about Jill being friends with someone who owned that kind of store.
She leaned forward to kiss Cindy, hard. Maybe she had something to prove after all. Cindy immediately melted into the cushions underneath, pulling Lindsay on top of her. When they came up for air eventually, it was with a lot less clothes on.
"Wow," Cindy said breathlessly. "I take it you're trying to spice up our sex life by ravishing me on this couch?"
"That would be one way to put it," Lindsay confirmed, pleased with herself again.
The flickering flames in the fireplace were the only source of light as the last hints of daylight disappeared. Lindsay thought she had been mistaken in her earlier thoughts, no one she'd ever met had had this much power over her. Listening to Cindy's strained breathing, touching her, tasting her, over and over again, she knew this was it. She'd never love anyone like this, ever. And if Cindy should ever leave her, she would never get over it. It was as simple as that.
But while she had the chance, she'd do her best to make sure that it would never happen. Cindy drew a sharp breath that sounded more like a sob, the sound sending a shiver skittering down Lindsay's spine. She hadn't known that one could be connected to another person this much, and the realization was as wonderful as it was terrifying.
Reaching out, she touched the back of her hand against Cindy's cheek, then Lindsay laid beside her and pulled her close, smiling at Cindy's contented sigh.
Tenderness had its sharp edges when you were feeling so much of it for someone, but then again, it hurt so good.
"Are we at it again?"
A quick trip to the bathroom and putting on a robe had been enough for Cindy to get hold of Lindsay's discarded shirt and the box. She was sitting in the middle of the bed, wearing her reading glasses, examining the contents again, unaware that she looked sexy as hell. Or maybe not completely unaware.
Lindsay was indeed a little more relaxed about it now that she'd gotten proof that indeed nothing she loved doing to Cindy needed any spicing up. With some amusement, she watched Cindy taking out small tubes, a piece of clothing made from silk and lace, and
"Whoa. I'd feel very silly taking something to bed that requires batteries," Lindsay remarked.
Cindy gave her a look that was decidedly too speculative. "Even if it was me handling"
"Don't even go there."
"I'm kidding, Linds. But, you know, this is all quite expensive. It's not from a cheap store around the corner. Oh, but how about those?" She let the cuffs, padded with a soft pink fabric, dangle from her right hand. "Hm."
"Oh my God," Lindsay said. "So that other time it really turned you on?"
Cindy frowned. "What other no!" she protested. "In my murdered colleague's apartment? Of course not. Besides, who says it would be me wearing them?"
For long moments, Lindsay felt like she couldn't get enough air into her lungs for a smart retort. She was somewhat stunned at the effect of this simple suggestion. "Jesus, Thomas, you sure have some hidden depths." The tone of her voice, tinged with arousal, belied the irony she'd been aiming at.
Cindy got up from the bed to come to stand in front of her. "There's nothing hidden from you," she said sincerely, walking into Lindsay's embrace. There was silence for a moment before she asked, "Can I?"
For a moment, Cindy stood, indecisive, not entirely sure how to interpret Lindsay's hesitation. "Would you tell me if there were some bad memories?" she asked softly, because about this, she had to be sure. She wasn't fooling herself thinking she'd know all of Lindsay's ghosts, and it was a subject where she prefered to tread carefully. The one with the shrine in the attic had only been one of the monsters.
"Sure I would," Lindsay promised. "It's just... never mind." There was a hint of frustration to her voice.
"But I do mind." Cindy actually did understand more than Lindsay could voice at the moment. It wasn't really something tangible, but Cindy had noticed some things when they had arrived and taken their first look around the cabin. Lindsay would unobtrusively check the locks, the exits. Sometimes Cindy wondered if it was a cop thing, taking the responsibility for everyone's safety. "I don't want you to be uncomfortable."
"I'm not," Lindsay claimed, obviously more uncomfortable with the conversation than what it would actually lead to. Cindy waited. "Really. I can be adventurous."
Actually given permission, Cindy needed a moment to clear her thoughts enough to proceed. They'd come home intending to just let the evening fade into night with some good wine, cuddling and maybe more by the fireplace which they'd mostly did so far, but this was different. Part of her was just the tiniest bit self-conscious as well, but she'd done her best to overcome it as Jill's well-meant suggestion had made Lindsay freak.
Lindsay who seemed pretty relaxed all of a sudden, sitting back against the pillows, wearing a smirk and not much else. "I let you tie me up, the least you can do for me is wear that pretty flimsy thing while doing it."
Cindy swallowed, looking down at her hands, the cuffs in one of them, the piece of black silky fabric in the other. For a moment, she was overtaxed with the choices. Dressing here or in the bathroom? Doing it before or after... her gaze trailed over to Lindsay again, resting on her wrists. A fantasy was one thing. The reality of it...
"I'm coming all the way out of my comfort zone and you have second thoughts?"
Cindy smiled. This particlular tone of Lindsay's voice, teasing and very much turned on, never failed to have an effect. Lindsay might have her inhibitions, but she knew damn well what she could do to Cindy.
"I don't. I'll be back in a few. Don't go anywhere."
"I wouldn't dream of it."
In the dark, Lindsay smiled, Cindy warm and relaxed, fast asleep in her arms. Her body was ready to rest, but in her mind, she once more replayed the images, memories of a kaleidoscope of sensations. When Cindy had returned from the bathroom, she'd worn the black baby doll over the bra and panties that had come with it, her hair shiny and crackling with many brush strokes.
She hadn't given Lindsay a lot of opportunity to touch though. Cindy had been really eager to try out those pink cuffs, and Lindsay had to admit it didn't seem all so silly anymore in hindsight. After that, it was all just feeling, black silk against her naked skin, Cindy's hands on her body, warm and slick with something peach-scented.
Just remembering made her shiver pleasantly. Cindy's hands were safe, and she'd come to realize that nothing between them could ever make her feel silly. Maybe Jill knew her better than she'd thought anyway.
"Happy Anniversary," she whispered to her sleeping lover.
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