DISCLAIMER: Bad Girls and its characters are the property of Shed Productions. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Huge great thanks to Stealthgirl and Colbalt Librarian for going above & beyond on the beta side, and for suggested improvements. Youíre both awesome! (Any remaining errors are purely my fault) This is not a brand new piece, but a reworking of an old fic of mine (originally posted approx 9 years ago) and rewritten for the 2009 Holiday Challenge on the Bad Girls Riot board site. This carries a health warning: Itís so over the top sugar coated, it could cause severe tooth decay! As always, many thanks to Ralst for posting and to anybody taking the time to read it; I much appreciate it.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Celebration
By Kate

 

Chapter 1

Helen hurried through the doors of the club and stopped just inside, stamping her feet to shake the snow from her coat. She shivered and bit the fingers of her leather glove to pull it off, then removed the other one and placed them in her bag. She moved further inside, pulled the coat hood off her head and started to unbutton it as she headed towards the bar.

For once, she thought, the weatherman had been correct. Snow had been falling in the late afternoon. And in London, of all places. Just about an inch of the stuff so far, but enough to bring the capital to chaos.

She looked around the dimly lit room. Not too crowded yet, she thought. But she knew it would be later, especially for this time of year. It was still quite early in the evening for a Friday night. The place would soon fill up as people spilled out of work, eager for their first drink to start off the weekend and get into the Christmas spirit.

Helen found an empty stool at the bar and put her bag on the floor, covering it with her coat. She caught the barman's eye.

"Merry Christmas!" he said.

Helen smiled at his reindeer antlers and false red nose.

"And to you," she said.

He turned to get her drink and she looked at the decorations. Tinsel hung from the optic dispensers and more of it was draped along the bar. All around the club were Christmas lights.

The barman placed her drink in front of her and Helen smiled before she took a sip from the glass. The straight vodka was a welcome relief and it went down smoothly. She felt herself finally start to relax. Work had been stressful this last week. People had been taking their holiday time, which she'd thought odd. She'd wondered why they hadn't saved it to take over the Christmas period. She still had two weeks to take herself, but every time she had gone to book it off, her boss had found another project for her to do.

The club's DJ was playing Elton John's 'Step Into Christmas' and Helen realised she wasn't organised at all for the coming celebrations and kicked herself for volunteering. She'd been adamant that she'd do it all herself this time and had been surprised that the idea had been eagerly accepted. She knew she would be rushing around at the last minute, trying to find a store that still had a turkey. If she was lucky, Marks and Sparks might still have some, although she wondered if goose would make a nice change. Every store she had passed on her way to the club had reminded her of how much she needed to do. At this rate, the battered, old, fake Christmas tree would be dragged down from the loft once again for its yearly appearance and ancient decorations would adorn it. The window displays had mocked her. "Look at me, what a pretty real tree I am. See my lovely decorations?" And then of course, presents. She only had this weekend to find that perfect gift. She made a mental note that part of her New Year's resolution should be to buy next year's gifts in the coming January sales.

Helen sighed, then turned and noticed a couple of women at the bar, two stools up from where she was sitting. One of the women was sitting while the other stood at her side and they held each other's hands. The woman standing leant towards her partner and said something. Helen couldn't hear what she'd said because of the music that was playing in the background, but the other woman laughed and threw her head back. Helen watched her reach up with her hand and pull the standing woman to her so she could kiss her softly on the lips. Helen thought they looked happy and realised she was smiling at their intimacy. The woman sitting noticed her and smiled back.

"Merry Christmas," the woman called out.

"Merry Christmas," Helen said and took a sip of her drink.

As the time passed, Helen glanced down at her watch and saw it was nearly 7pm. It's not like her to be late, she thought. There was a reason for them meeting up tonight, not just the usual few drinks after work before going home. She'd already had two offers to buy her drinks in the short time she'd been waiting, but had politely refused. She thought she should check the message that she had received earlier. She reached down to her bag, took out her mobile phone and read the text message.

"C U 6.30 USUAL. LUV U LOTS. ME XX"

Helen smiled to herself as a man and woman approached the two women. She watched them all hug and greet each other before moving off to find a table. The door opened and more people came in, laughing as they shook snowflakes from their hair. Just then, Helen's phone bleeped in her hand and she looked down. A text message flashed.

"SORRY BABE. STUCK IN TRAFFIC. MAY B V.LATE!…FANCY…" Helen scrolled down to the next page and smiled as she contemplated the implications of the rest of the message. Then she put the phone back in her bag.

As Helen looked up, she noticed the long legs first, clad in black trousers, low-heeled boots on the feet, standing at the vacated stool where the couple had been. Her gaze traveled up and she watched the woman as she sat. She had on a black jacket and a dark shirt. And it all matched her short, dark hair. A vision in black, Helen concluded and an involuntary shiver ran down her spine.

Helen watched the 'vision' lean across the bar to speak to the barman, who nodded as he took her order. Then she sat back. Helen observed her take out a packet of cigarettes and a lighter from her bag. The dark haired woman flicked the lighter and placed the flame to the cigarette, then inhaled deeply as her head tilted back.

The barman placed a bottle of Bud in front of her and Helen saw her say thank you and smile. The woman lifted the bottle to her lips and gently swallowed.

Helen took another sip of her drink, watching her over the rim of the glass.

Then Helen watched as another woman approached the bar. Tall, with long dark hair. She stood next to the 'vision' and said something and the 'vision' turned to look at her. Helen couldn't see her face or what she was saying. The new arrival pointed at her drink and Helen realised she was offering to buy another. The 'vision' shook her head.

"Are you sure?" Helen thought that's what the tall woman had said, and watched as the 'vision' nodded her head. The tall woman took the drink the barman gave her and paid him. Smiling, she left.

Helen continued to observe. The 'vision' inhaled on her cigarette, a long deep drag again. Then, she took another sip from the bottle. She turned her head in Helen's direction and looked up and exhaled the smoke. It swirled away above her head. The lighting over the bar highlighted dark brown eyes and they twinkled. Then she looked down at her leg and brushed something away from her trousers. Helen imagined the feel of the same hand brushing against her own leg and took a hurried sip from her glass.

Another woman, blonde this time, came up to the bar. She ordered her drink, then turned and stood with her back to the bar and leant against it provocatively. The 'vision' had rested her arms on the bar and the blonde leant towards her and said something. Helen could see she had the most dazzling blue eyes. They wandered over the vision's body as she spoke. The 'vision' laughed, but shook her head. The blonde pointed to her drink. Helen realised she wanted to buy her another as well. Again, the 'vision' spoke and shook her head. Helen watched the blonde place her hand over the vision's and Helen held her breath. Very gently and politely, the hand beneath was removed and Helen smiled. The blonde shrugged her shoulders in defeat and left.

Look at me, Helen said to herself and with that, the object of her observations finally turned her way. She saw the dark, soft, brown eyes and noticed the captivating smile. Helen felt her stomach flutter. She felt like a schoolgirl and pushed some hair behind her ear. She chastised herself for being so silly. The 'vision' raised her bottle in a friendly "cheers!" kind of way and Helen smiled and saluted her back with her glass.

As Helen considered that it was time she said something, the woman got off the stool and walked over to her. Helen felt her heart beating faster as she sat on the empty stool next to her.

"Hello." It was said with a deep, velvety voice and stunning smile, and Helen's stomach fluttered again. She couldn't believe the effect this was having on her. The excitement she was feeling.

"Hello," Helen replied.

"Fancy another drink?" Helen laughed as they said it at the same time.

"Nikki."

Helen took the proffered hand and felt the grasp of slender fingers around her own. She shivered slightly as a thumb was rolled lightly over the back of her hand before it was let go.

"Helen," Helen said.

"Same again, Helen?" Nikki asked her.

"Yes, please."

Nikki caught the barman's eye. "Same again here, please," she called out to him.

"Thank you," Helen said politely.

"My pleasure."

Helen observed Nikki finish what was left of her drink. She tilted her head back as she swallowed the beer down her throat. Helen noticed her neck muscles, a tendon raised. A sudden urge to kiss and gently bite it burst into Helen's mind. Stop it! she told herself and picked up her glass and quickly downed the last of the vodka.

The barman arrived with their refills and Helen took another quick swig.

"Do you come here often?" She cringed as the words left her mouth. As she looked at Nikki, she saw her trying not to laugh at the clichéd remark, but smiled politely at the effort.

"Sometimes. I'm staying in the city for a couple of days," Nikki said.

"Oh, really?" Helen exclaimed, her mind racing at the news. "Business or pleasure?" she enquired.

"Pleasure. Hopefully." Nikki looked at Helen and half closed her eyes as she inhaled seductively on her cigarette.

Helen stared at Nikki's mouth as her lips pulled at the cigarette, and had an idea of where she'd like those lips to be. She realised Nikki had said something, but she hadn't been listening.

"Sorry?" Helen managed to say.

"Are you waiting for someone?" Nikki asked again, exhaling the smoke away from Helen's face.

"I was, but they couldn't make it…apparently." Helen smiled at her.

Nikki smiled back. "You have a fantastic smile. That thing with your tongue is very endearing."

Nikki's voice seemed even deeper and she stared straight back at Helen as she spoke. It threw Helen off guard. She felt herself blush and could see Nikki smiling at her reddening face.

"Thank you. I've been told that before." Helen pulled herself together and smiled her 'endearing' smile again.

"I don't doubt it. It's very…effective." Nikki emphasised the last word, then inhaled again. "Do you like to smoke?" she asked, and offered up her packet of cigarettes to Helen.

"It depends on what I'm doing at the time." Helen's endearing smile had gone, replaced by a teasing look that she knew Nikki could see in her eyes.

Nikki raised her eyebrows and looked pleased.

As Helen looked at her, she became aware that Nikki's eyes were appreciatively engaged in looking up and down her body. A grin started to spread across Nikki's mouth. Oh, her mouth! Helen resisted the need to lean forward and kiss her. Not yet!

"Have you come here from work?" Nikki said as her eyes traveled back up to Helen's face.

Helen looked down at Nikki's open-neck shirt. She watched as Nikki's chest moved as she breathed. Helen felt herself smiling as broadly as Nikki, as she imagined her face buried…

"Yes, yes, I've come from work," Helen said hastily.

"What do you do?"

Helen hesitated before answering. She wasn't sure how Nikki would react, but she couldn't resist it. As Nikki inhaled on her cigarette again, Helen leant forward and told her.

Nikki coughed and spluttered as her eyes widened. "Really?" she exclaimed. Helen just nodded at her. "Does that kind of thing pay well?" Nikki couldn't stop smiling.

"Not bad. But I make it up in tips mostly," Helen said nonchalantly.

"Yeah, I bet you do!" Nikki remarked lasciviously, and gazed up and down Helen's body again.

"What do you do?" Helen enquired.

Nikki stared at her chest. "Vice squad."

Helen tried to suppress a laugh. "Oh, dear! I suppose I'd better be careful or I might be arrested?" she asked hopefully. Saying it playfully. With her smile.

"That depends if you're planning on doing something bad." Nikki inhaled seductively again. "Are you?"

Helen's drink was on the bar and her fingers absently stroked up and down the glass. She saw Nikki watching the action.

"Would you restrain me if I did?" Helen's pulse awaited Nikki's answer.

Nikki exhaled slowly again. "I would consider it a great pleasure to restrain you…and read you your rights."

Nikki's voice was low and deep and Helen clenched her thighs together. She pictured Nikki restraining her. Her mouth went dry and she took another gulp of her drink.

Feeling calmer, Helen continued with the questions.

"Do you live…nearby?" She tried not to sound too eager.

"I'm staying at the Savoy for a couple of nights." Nikki slowly raised the bottle to her mouth, watching Helen's reaction at this information.

"The Savoy? What for?…I mean…I didn't realise the vice squad paid that well," Helen recovered her surprise.

"It pays that well when I'm on special ops." Nikki smiled at her.

"Are you on one now?" Helen asked excitedly.

"Most definitely." Nikki winked.

"Is that undercover stuff?" Helen's mouth dried up again.

"Huh- huh," was all Nikki said to confirm.

"Do you do much undercover work then?" Helen licked her lips, trying to moisten them.

"As much as possible. Especially over this last year." Nikki leant forward and whispered in Helen's ear. "I love it."

Helen smelled Nikki's perfume and felt her breath on her neck. Her heart was racing and she closed her eyes and clenched her fists again. Thank God the bar is full of people. It was the only thought that stopped Helen from grabbing Nikki and pushing her up against the bar.

"Do you work undercover with a partner?"

"I always find that's best. After all, it's not so much fun on your own is it?" Nikki said.

Helen noticed the wicked twinkle in Nikki's eyes. The music became louder and as Helen looked around, she saw people dancing.

"Do you want to dance?" Nikki leant forward to say it, so Helen would hear above the increased volume.

As Helen turned, she found herself staring into pools of soft, dark brown, long dark lashes surrounding them.

"Yes," Helen replied helplessly.

Nikki stamped out her cigarette in the ashtray. She stepped off the stool and took Helen's hand and they stared at each other for a moment. Helen tightened her grip and felt Nikki do the same.

Nikki led Helen out to the even more dimly lit dance floor. The current dance song finished playing and the next started up.

Helen recognised the tune from the first note and knew it would be her undoing. The song's lyrics held a profound place in her heart, and she silently cursed the DJ for playing it now. She found herself held tightly against Nikki's body. She placed one hand on Nikki's shoulder and her other was clasped with Nikki's as it was held to Nikki's chest. Nikki kissed her fingers and smiled, and Helen felt Nikki's other hand on her back as it supported her and gently caressed against her blouse.

Tilting her head, Helen rested her cheek against Nikki's chin and knew that what would follow would be her surrender.

"The first time, ever I saw your face…"

Helen closed her eyes at hearing Nikki's voice whisper the words of the song against her ear. She found herself involuntarily holding her breath, as though Nikki had taken it from her.

"I thought the sun rose in your eyes. And the moon and stars were the gifts you gave…"

As they moved slowly to the ballad, Helen pressed her cheek harder against Nikki. She knew if she was to survive this, she couldn't allow herself to look at her.

"To the dark and the endless skies, my love."

She felt Nikki move her head, rubbing softly against her face before she nuzzled into Helen's hair and placed a kiss at her temple.

Helen drew back, her eyes still closed, as Nikki's lips brushed against her cheek.

"The first time, ever I kissed your mouth…"

Helen waited for her lips, already knowing Nikki wouldn't kiss her. Instead, she teased Helen, moving her mouth closer, kissing the corner of her mouth, then used her thumb to roll over Helen's lower lip.

"I felt the earth move in my hand. Like the trembling heart of a captive bird…"

Helen opened her eyes and her moan was lost amidst the music, but Nikki had heard it and smiled.

"That was there at my command, my love."

As Nikki continued to softly sing the lyrics, Helen began to tremble. She knew the first line of the last verse and almost dreaded to hear it.

"And the first time, ever I lay with you…"

Helen choked as dark brown eyes gazed at her with deep love and adoration. She gripped Nikki's shoulder, clinging on for dear life. Her emotions surged, unbidden, to the surface. They were so strong, they left her feeling weak and vulnerable. Feelings so intense that she loved and hated them equally. Loved them for the abandonment they gave her. To love another so fiercely that nothing else mattered and Helen had given up trying to comprehend it. Hated them for the same reason. The sheer intensity scared her so witless at times that she wanted to run from them, convinced they would consume her. Tear her to pieces. And she hated them most in moments like this because she didn't want to share them with anyone else, especially a room full of strangers. They belonged solely to her and one other only, and she guarded them jealously.

"I felt your heart so close to mine. And I knew our joy would fill the earth. And last'til the end of time, my love."

Even with just the slightest of touches, the barest of contact between them, Helen felt as though every part of her body had been loved, and she knew without even looking that everyone on the dance floor was watching them. Could feel eyes gazing in admiration and envy, spellbound by their display. And Helen knew she had to break the intensity before she crumbled from it.

"You know, you asked me earlier if I liked to smoke?" she managed to say.

"Yes. You said it depended on what you were doing at the time." Nikki smiled.

"Well, right now… I'm on fucking fire!" Helen said breathlessly.

Nikki burst into laughter. "What do you want to do about it?" she asked softly.

"I think we both know exactly what I want to do about it." Helen pulled back from Nikki's embrace. "Take me home," she whispered.

"Yeah, sod this little game of ours…let's go, darling." Nikki grabbed Helen's hand and led her off the dance floor.

They walked back to the bar and hurriedly finished their drinks.

"Night, Joe," Nikki said to the barman.

"Night, boss. Night, Helen." He smiled at them both.

Helen watched Nikki give a thumbs up to the DJ at his vantage point on the balcony. He held headphones to his ear and waved at them with his other hand.

Nikki took Helen's hand and, smiling, they headed towards the door.

 

Chapter 2

Helen felt the cool night air temper her excitement a little as they walked outside. They weaved their way through the throng of people out on the street, trying not to slip from the snow.

Groups of revelers added to the happy atmosphere, cheerily wishing passersby a "Merry Christmas". Their enthusiasm managed to break through and bring smiles to the more sour-faced Scrooges.

Helen thought to herself how amazing it was that at this time of year, people embraced this warm kinship, the excitement of being with family and friends, enjoying the closeness. She'd been excited by it, too. Then she felt a sudden pang for those that would spend it alone. Away from their loved ones.

Helen turned, and so did Nikki, as they heard a group of young guys serenading the young women with them. The young women laughed at their out of tune effort to sing "Good King Wenceslas".

"Don't give up the day job!" an unknown voice shouted out and everybody nearby laughed, but the guys carried on valiantly.

Nikki steered Helen to the edge of the pavement and raised her arm to hail a taxi that was approaching, but it went past. Helen noticed one that had just delivered its occupants on the other side of the street and pointed it out to Nikki. The taxi driver had his window down and Helen laughed as Nikki stuck her fingers in her mouth and whistled.

"You're so butch at times," Helen joked. "I love it." She wiggled her eyebrows.

"Yeah, well, as I don't wear short skirts, it's the only way I can get a bloody taxi in London!" Nikki said.

"I can't believe a cabbie wouldn't find you cute."

The taxi driver looked over and signalled that he had seen them and, without bothering to look, he swung his cab across the lanes of traffic and pulled up at their feet.

Nikki opened the back door and Helen stepped in first.

"Savoy Hotel, please," Nikki said to the driver and climbed in, closing the door.

Helen stared at her. "You weren't joking, were you?"

"Nope." Nikki grinned, pleased at the surprised look on Helen's face.

Helen snuggled against Nikki's side and took her hand. Nikki's arm around her shoulder squeezed her closer and Nikki planted a kiss on top of her head.

Helen examined Nikki's hand as she held it. The long, slender, fingers; their delicate, yet strong bone structure. The well manicured fingernails. The ring on her small finger. Helen turned it between her fingers. She smiled at how small her own hand looked compared to Nikki's, how gentle it felt to have it held this way. How crazy it was to be in love with someone's hands. But not surprised by that fact. How could she not love a small part when she loved the whole? She gazed up at Nikki and saw her smiling. They sat and gazed at each other and not a word was spoken.

Eventually, to Helen's delight, the taxi stopped. Helen stepped out first and waited as Nikki paid the driver.

"Do you want to go up to the room? Now?" Nikki asked Helen as she stood in front of her.

"Yes, please." Helen smiled eagerly. She took Nikki's hand as they headed towards the entrance. The doorman opened the door for them and they entered the plush foyer.

Helen marveled at the Christmas tree that was the focal point of the lobby. From floor to ceiling, its elegance matched that of the hotel. This wasn't an obnoxious tree that believed it deserved to be looked at. It was far too sophisticated. This tree knew that it was stunning and didn't need to brag about it. Its decorations looked and probably were as expensive Helen thought, and had been so tastefully arranged that she was convinced this was a work of art and could be considered a marvel of the modern age. All around the reception area were wreaths and other assorted decorations. No expense had been spared in its welcoming atmosphere.

Helen saw the desk clerk look up as they approached the reception desk and he smiled politely. He was immaculately dressed and Helen couldn't imagine he'd stoop to wear reindeer antlers or a false red nose. Not quite the Savoy's style.

"Good evening, madam. May I help you?" he addressed Nikki.

"Yes, can I have the key for room 152 please?" Nikki said to him.

"Certainly, madam." The clerk retrieved the key and handed it to her. "Would you like anything else, madam? Morning papers? Breakfast in your room?" he inquired.

Nikki looked at Helen and smiled, then turned back to the clerk.

"Yes, we'll have breakfast in the room in the morning. And could you have some champagne and strawberries sent up to the room as soon as possible please?" She squeezed Helen's hand again, and Helen felt her mouth fall open.

"Of course, madam. That will be done straight away. Have a pleasant evening and Merry Christmas." He smiled. Helen knew whatever he may have been thinking, you could never tell from his face. He was far too discreet to show it.

They set off toward the lift. As the doors opened, a group of people exited and they parted, standing back to let them pass. The season's greetings were exchanged between all of them. As they stepped inside, more people arrived and got in with them. Nikki proceeded to push the button for the floor they needed, and moved back as one of the other people leant over to push the button for the floor they required.

Helen stood at the back and Nikki joined her. Nikki reached out her fingers and found Helen's hand, her thumb gently rubbing the palm. Helen looked up at her. The lift stopped and the group got out. The doors closed again and they were alone. Helen considered pushing the button to stop the lift. She needed to touch Nikki desperately, but she knew she wouldn't have to wait long.

The lift doors opened and they walked silently to the room. Nikki opened the door and stood back, inviting Helen to enter first. As she stepped inside, Helen noticed some lamps already lighting the room. She heard the door close behind her and turned and looked at Nikki, who moved forward. Helen sidestepped her and leant against the door. Helen could see Nikki's soft smile, but her eyes were on fire. Nikki raised her hands and placed them against the door on either side of Helen's shoulders.

Helen watched as Nikki's lips parted slightly and her own did the same in anticipation. Nikki leant towards her and her lips barely touched Helen's. One of them moaned, but Helen couldn't tell who it was. Almost hesitantly, she felt their lips touch again. Nikki softly bit Helen's bottom lip and pulled at it gently between her teeth before letting it go. Helen suppressed her growl and kissed her back, forcing Nikki's mouth to open. As her tongue gently nudged Nikki's, Helen heard her moan.

Helen pushed herself back harder against the door; it was all that was holding her up as the kiss became deeper. With no other contact between them, the sensation was almost unbearable to Helen and she thought she heard someone banging on the door. Then she realised it was her own heart she could hear, thumping in her chest.

Suddenly there was a knock on the door. "Room service!" a voice called on the other side.

Helen heard them both groan in frustration at the interruption. Reluctantly, Nikki slowly pulled back and Helen peeled herself off the door and walked shakily away and waited as it opened.

A young man stood there, smiling enthusiastically, smartly dressed in the hotel livery.

"Your champagne and strawberries, madam," he announced and entered the room, carrying a tray with a bottle chilling in an ice bucket. There were two glasses and a silver dish full of strawberries.

He walked over and started to place the items on a coffee table that Helen finally noticed was in the room. She watched Nikki remove her jacket and sit on a chair and start removing her boots. The lighting in the room was very soft and warm and Helen looked around the room and noticed that it was quite large. A mini suite.

The furnishings matched the art deco style of the room. There was a large dressing table. A small sofa. A TV and mini bar incorporated in a decorative cabinet. Mirrored wardrobes. A large desk with a big bouquet of flowers on it. A door leading to a bathroom. A fireplace with the faux logs alight. A small Christmas tree with decorations that Helen thought was a nice touch by the hotel. Three large suitcases and a holdall.

And a huge bed.

Helen kicked off her shoes and removed her jacket.

"Would you like me to open the champagne for you, madam?" He was still smiling enthusiastically.

"Yes, please," Nikki replied. She stood up and walked over to the coffee table and took one of the strawberries.

Helen watched her from the other side of the table. The young man was grappling gallantly with the wire wrapping around the top of the bottle and was too engrossed to see what Nikki was doing.

Nikki looked directly at Helen and slowly raised the strawberry to her mouth. She stopped just before it reached her lips, her mouth opened a little and her tongue slid out and licked it slowly, all around the skin of the fruit. Then she withdrew her tongue a little and flicked it quickly, all over it again. She half closed her eyes in satisfaction, her mouth forming into a wicked smile of pleasure.

Then she gently placed the strawberry between her teeth, closing her lips around it and sucked on it slowly before drawing it into her mouth completely, chewing slowly and deliberately.

Helen's jaw hit the floor. Her stomach trembled. She clenched her thighs, backside, fists, everything.

"Hmmm, lovely," Nikki said in a deep-throated tone and smiled at Helen, licking her lips.

Helen was totally captivated by the display. Nikki could do with her what she will. Rip the clothes from her body. Throw her on the floor on her back and ravish her senseless. She really didn't care. She had just watched Nikki make love to a strawberry. And she has just been shown what to expect. This evening was going to be very long, very slow and very deliberate.

Suddenly, there was a loud bang and Helen jumped so hard from her hypnotic state, she needed to be scraped off the ceiling. The champagne cork had finally been wrestled free by the now breathless young man who smiled again in relief that he had managed to open the bottle at last.

Helen felt relieved, too. It meant he would be leaving soon. He performed his duties by the book and poured some of the champagne into the glasses.

"Have a very pleasant evening," he said and headed towards the door. Nikki went with him and as he opened the door, she held out her hand.

"Thank you," she said to him as he took her hand. Helen saw Nikki palm him a tip.

He smiled broadly. "Fanks very much, madam. 'Appy Christmas." Politeness personified, his cockney accent slipped out, but he showed no sign of his reward other than his gracious reply.

After Nikki closed the door, she walked back over to Helen, picked out another strawberry and dipped it into one of the glasses. Then she offered it up to her, holding it in her fingers.

Helen smiled. Now it was Nikki's turn. She opened her mouth and let her lips surround the end nearest to her. Drawing back, she held Nikki's hand in position and let her tongue trail delicately all over the strawberry, tasting the fruit and the champagne. Then she started to push a little harder against it. She saw Nikki purse her lips and raise her eyebrows a little. Then Helen bit off the tip and looked at her.

"Hmmm…lovely," Helen said, smiling, then returned to it, taking the rest of it into her mouth along with Nikki's fingers, sucking on them before slowly drawing back. Nikki sucked her breath in between her teeth, and Helen knew she had her complete attention. She kissed the palm of Nikki's hand.

Nikki proceeded to place her other hand at the back of Helen's head and pulled her to her. Suddenly, her open mouth crushed on Helen's, and they devoured the strawberry together. With their bodies pressed into each other, Helen felt Nikki's hands in the small of her back and she reached up and placed her arms around Nikki's neck. The kissing was hungry and urgent now as arms and hands pressed them tighter to each other. Helen's fingers threaded through Nikki's hair and the need to feel her bare skin against her own was getting stronger.

Separating from the kiss, unable to breathe any longer, Helen stood holding Nikki for a moment, seeing the unbridled desire in Nikki's eyes.

Nikki smiled softly and gently released Helen. She turned and picked up the ice bucket and the strawberry dish and walked over to the bed and placed them on the bedside table. She came back, picked up the glasses and took them over as well. Then she came back for Helen. Taking her hands, Nikki led Helen slowly towards the bed.


Helen's breathing was ragged as she sat back against Nikki's knees. She rested her head against Nikki's shoulder, aware of the stilled hand between her legs. Nikki looked at Helen, leant to her mouth and kissed her softly. Removing her hand, Helen watched as Nikki raised it to her mouth and licked her fingers slowly.

"Hmmm…lovely," Nikki said softly, looking directly at her. Helen moaned. Her body ached and her limbs felt weak from the sensation that had just flooded through her.

Nikki wrapped her arm around Helen's waist and leant forward. Helen watched as Nikki reached for the glass of champagne. Releasing Helen, she dipped her fingers into the drink and rubbed them gently across Helen's dry lips. Helen was grateful for the moisture, but she needed more. Holding Nikki's hand, she pulled the glass to her mouth and drank.

Wrapping her arm around Helen's waist again, Nikki placed the glass back. Then she put her hand into the ice bucket. Helen heard the chinking of ice cubes and watched as Nikki's hand came back to her, water dripping from her fingers.

Helen didn't have the energy to protest.

Nikki circled the ice cube around Helen's nipple and her shriek echoed round the room. Her back arched away from Nikki, who held her tighter around the waist to stop her falling. Nikki proceeded to run the ice cube all over Helen's breasts, chest and neck. Helen felt the cold water fall onto her belly and disappear down between her legs. Nikki kissed Helen's neck, licking up the trickle from the ice cube on her skin.

Nikki then pushed the cube down between Helen's breasts onto her stomach, stopping just below it. Biting gently into Helen's neck, she continued its journey further down.

Helen couldn't scream. Her body was suddenly so rigid, every muscle in her body constricted, including her throat, that she was unable to make a sound. The sensation of the ice cube against her still-aroused flesh was torture. Her eyes rolled so far back into her head, she thought she would faint.

Sometime later, Helen wasn't about to let the ice cubes be forgotten before they could melt away. Helen's intention to inflict the same sensation on Nikki was merciless. Their desire to give each other pleasure proved limitless.

Her insistence that Nikki surrender to her and the sensation was nothing Nikki could stop and nor did she want to. Nikki found herself staring into eyes of pure lust and desire as she saw the determined look on Helen's face, gritting her teeth as she furiously made love to Nikki, while rubbing ice cubes over her skin. As the pleasure began to overtake her body, Nikki's hands clawed wildly at Helen's back. Helen watched as Nikki's beautiful face began to contort as though she were in pain

.

Helen abandoned the ices cubes and clamped her hand over Nikki's mouth in an effort to stop her screams being heard throughout the hotel, bringing uninvited people to investigate the noise.

 

Chapter 3

Helen smiled as they lay together, wrapped in each other's arms, legs entwined amidst a tangled mess of bedclothes half on the floor. She realised she would never be able to buy strawberries again in the fruit section at Tesco's without a manic grin on her face.

The fruit had been devoured after they had spent time using each other's bodies as a canvas, brushing the fruit over their skin, painting with the crimson colour around breasts and lips and stomachs, leaving a trail that was ravenously eaten and licked as the taste of the fruit, champagne and each other's skin paraded across their tongues.

Nikki's head rested on Helen's shoulder and Helen stroked her fingers through the damp hair, brushing it back from Nikki's face as it stuck to her forehead. She noticed their bodies shining as a dewy sheen of perspiration covered their skin, and she languished in the warmth of their two bodies.

Nikki lifted her head from Helen's shoulder. "Happy birthday, darling." Smiling, she kissed Helen softly on the lips.

"Thank you, sweetheart." Helen kissed her back. "This was a lovely surprise."

"I know it's not officially until tomorrow, but I couldn't wait. I thought we should celebrate in style. We can have breakfast, lunch and dinner, all in bed if you like for the next couple of days. Tomorrow night, I've got us tickets for a show and we can go out for dinner afterwards…if you want?" Nikki looked at her, wanting to know if the arrangements were okay.

"Oh, sweetheart, you're wonderful. Thank you." Helen kissed her again. "Oh, and the flowers look lovely by the way, the little I've seen of them!" she added.

Nikki chuckled softly and rolled herself gently on top of Helen. "There's some other pressies, too, but you can open them later."

For Helen, to simply feel the weight of Nikki's body on top of hers was like nothing else on earth. She had never felt safer than she did when she was encased in Nikki's arms. Or more loved. She knew no one had ever or could ever love her the way Nikki did

.

Helen rang her fingers lightly down Nikki's back, feeling the muscles ripple slightly under her touch.

She knew Nikki loved it when she did that. It soothed her. When they made love, it was unbearable. Her long slender back was extremely sensitive, and when Helen dragged her nails down the length of it, the sensation drove her crazy. Helen knew that that, combined with whispering "Nikki" softly in her ear, was enough at times to tip Nikki over the edge into an abyss of pure pleasure.

"Hey…you were late. I was getting worried; I nearly rang you to see where you were," Helen said, narrowing her eyes as she looked at her.

"I got caught in traffic. I sent the text message and saw you reading it as I walked in." Nikki grinned back.

"Yes, when I saw FANCY A SHAG SEXY? I knew you couldn't be far away!" Helen let her fingers run up to the nape of Nikki's neck.

"I thought that's what you were reading. I could tell by the look on your face that your mind was already in the gutter. I knew we wouldn't be staying long."

Helen glared at her playfully.

"Don't deny it, darling," Nikki added.

Helen started to smile. She couldn't.

"Darling?" Nikki twirled Helen's hair round her fingers.

"Yes?"

"Do you come here often?" Nikki looked at Helen, questioning her choice of chat up lines.

Helen giggled. "I'm sorry, sweetheart. I don't know what came over me. It's all I could think of. It was either that or," Helen continued in a deep, manly, rakish voice, "Here's 20p, darlin'. Go and phone yer mum and tell her you've pulled some wee Scots' lassie and won't be home tonight!"

Nikki laughed and kissed her quickly. "You really are wicked. I almost choked when you said you were a lap dancer. That wasn't fair!"

"Good! I wanted to get my own back! Last time we played this little game, you said you were an Olympic gymnast. I remember standing there, picturing you in a bloody leotard doing all sorts of contortions on a gym mat! I almost ravaged you up against the bar. I thought lap dancer would give you something to think about." Helen poked her tongue out.

"Well, it bloody worked, darling. You can't begin to imagine what I was picturing you doing!" Nikki exclaimed.

"Oh, I think I have a pretty good notion."

Helen felt their laughter vibrate between their bodies. She let her hands wander down Nikki's back again and squeezed her bum. Nikki jumped at the sensation and a wicked smile appeared on her face.

"So, how much longer do I have to put up with other women trying to buy my woman drinks?" Helen asked, and squeezed again.

She'd never had a tendency for jealousy in her past relationships, but with Nikki, that had rapidly changed. She discovered a possessiveness that bordered on a predatory need to see others who encroached on her territory and her mate off. Helen could now easily extinguish Nikki's petulant fits of jealousy, but her own seethed to the point of virtual insanity.

"Oh, and nobody tried to buy you any I suppose?" Nikki raised an eyebrow. Helen shyly lowered her eyes. "They'll soon figure out who I am, and that you're my woman, as well. Once the new club gets established, the clientele will realise we're both off limits. The only other option at the moment is to rub myself furiously on your leg to stop others sniffing around!"

Helen sniggered. "I may have gotten a few more drinks out of you tonight if it hadn't been for that bloody song. I take it, that at both clubs now, every time we step onto the dance floor, the DJ is required to play it?" She continued to caress Nikki's back.

"Yes. Or they'll get fired." Nikki chuckled wickedly. "You're putty in my hands every time. There may be some champagne left, darling; do you want some?" Nikki went to move, but Helen grabbed her.

"Oh, no! No more champagne! I think we've had quite enough already!" Helen exhaled deeply.

Helen could still feel the past sensation of chilled champagne as Nikki had tilted her glass, letting drops of it spill over Helen's breasts, her hardened nipples, her belly and thighs. An eager mouth had lapped up the alcohol and Helen had found herself writhing and begging Nikki to stop.

The champagne had also been put to good use as a lubricant for massage. Nikki had been adamant that Helen relax as she doused her in more Bollinger, and had carried out a thorough treatment. With the warm palm of her hands mixing with the cold liquid, she had kneaded deeply into the flesh and muscles on the back of Helen's legs, moving up to her buttocks, then onto her back up either side of her spine and out across her shoulders, using her thumbs in a circular motion around the shoulder blades.

Finding it almost impossible to relax, her breasts aching as they were pushed into the bed and her already sexually tensed muscles, Helen hadn't been able make up her mind if it was agony or ecstasy, but had decided it was a mixture of both. Her rising state of arousal had meant she found she had wanted to grind her hips into the bed for any kind of relief, but the feeling of trying to hump the mattress had only made her frustration worse and the relief she sought less attainable.

Helen had become aware that Nikki's touch had become more sensual than therapeutic, and her option had been to lift her stomach away from the bed knowing what the implications would be. As soon as she did it, Nikki's reaction had been immediate. Sliding her arm around Helen's waist, she had been able to hold her in position. Helen had rested on her forearms, gripping the bed covers tightly, her forehead pushing into the pillow as she had rocked herself against Nikki's slender fingers as they, too, had built up a steady rhythm from within her.

"Do you remember the first time we pretended we didn't know each other?" Helen smiled her endearing smile again.

"Yes. I think I just managed to say hello before you grabbed me and insisted we go home straight away! You shagged me silly that night." Nikki continued twirling hair around her fingers.

"I didn't!" Helen protested. She felt herself blushing.

Nikki looked at her knowingly. "Yes, you did. I couldn't walk the next morning and was incapable of coherent speech for two days. I went round with a stupid grin on my face for a fortnight!"

Helen remembered that it was partly true. They had arranged to meet each other after work for a drink before going on for something to eat. Nikki had walked into the pub looking like sex on legs and Helen's eyes had almost popped out of her head. For some silly reason that she couldn't remember now, they had started toying with each other, making out they were complete strangers. They had found it quite funny making up stories, but Helen's growing state of arousal had got the better of her and Nikki at the time, and they had ended up having to leave, the idea of a meal quickly forgotten.

"Oh, God! Do you remember the taxi?" Helen said. Her eyes widened as the memory came back and she blushed even more and felt embarrassed at her lack of control at the time.

"Do I? How could I ever forget? I doubt the driver has either. I remember seeing his face briefly before you grabbed my head and buried my face down your shirt," Nikki said, sounding like the innocent party.

"Och! You exaggerator! I didn't hear you complaining at the time!" Helen retorted.

"I had no intention of complaining, darling, believe me!"

Helen laughed and kissed Nikki at the same time, then allowed her to carry on with her version of the event.

"Besides, I think he got the gist of what was happening. There was a lot of furious groping and rolling around on the back seat of his cab as I recall, until we finally disappeared from his view onto the floor. I remember him politely coughing as he pulled up at the house. I think he was trying not to laugh as our heads popped up. If I remember rightly, my bra was round my neck at the time. That was quite a feat, considering I still had my jacket on!"

"Did you pay him?" Helen knew she hadn't. Her thoughts had been otherwise occupied.

"Yes, as you were dragging me out the door. I just threw all the notes I had in my pockets at him. I didn't have time to wait for change. I don't think he would have cared if we hadn't paid him. I'm pretty sure he was more than happy with the floorshow we had provided! I think that taxi ride cost me fifty quid in the end. But it was worth every penny!"

"Well it's your fault. It's what you do to me; it's how you make me feel sometimes. And you looked very sexy again tonight. I take it you went home and changed? You weren't wearing those clothes when we left this morning."

Helen knew they both had a deep admiration of each other's bodies, and not just when they were naked, although she was always mesmerised by Nikki's body when she was. Its beauty left Helen in awe as she gazed at it. She'd find herself dreaming about it at work sometimes. The softness of her partner's skin, the natural scent of Nikki's body, its taste. The slim frame, toned muscles and curves that Helen never grew tired of exploring. She also knew Nikki felt the same about her own body. Nikki had shown and told her enough times how beautiful she was.

"Well, I have a confession," Nikki said. "I actually sneaked back to the house after you left, so I could pack us some stuff and bring it to the hotel."

Helen remembered the suitcases. But there were three large ones. She wondered why Nikki would pack so much for just a couple of nights in a hotel.

"Ahh, the suitcases!" Helen remarked.

"Yes. That's another part of your birthday present." Nikki kissed Helen.

Helen frowned deeply. A set of suitcases was the rest of her present? She realised Nikki knew what she was thinking.

"They aren't the present, darling. They're just packed with the clothes that we'll need." She kissed Helen's neck.

"For what?" Helen asked her.

"Well, our passports and the tickets for the holiday we're going on are in the hold-all."

"Holiday? When?" Helen looked at her, surprised.

"Monday."

"What? But..." Again, Helen realised Nikki knew what she was wondering as she was interrupted.

"It's okay. They know about it at work. I arranged your time off with them ages ago. I'm glad they kept it quiet."

"That explains a lot! How long are we going for?" Helen was getting very curious.

"Two weeks."

"Where!?"

"Well, last time I mentioned about us going there, you weren't too keen. But the circumstances and the reason for your lack of interest were understandable at the time." Nikki slowly started to smile.

Helen looked at her, puzzled. Then as she started to think…No, it couldn't be! Could it?

"You mean, we're going to…" Helen couldn't bring herself to say it.

"Yes. I'm whisking you off to San Francisco, darling!" Nikki's smile spread across her face.

"We're spending Christmas and New Year's Day there."

Helen rolled Nikki on to her back. "Nikki! Oh, sweetheart, I…I don't know what to say. You're spoiling me. I don't deserve you!" She kissed Nikki's face over and over.

"Oh, shut up, darling. Besides, you're worth it. You're bloody good value!" Nikki rolled Helen back over.

"You cheeky sod!" Helen exclaimed and pinched Nikki's bum.

"Oww!" Nikki yelped.

"Serves you right! Anyway, you're an adorable, cheeky sod and I could eat you." Helen smiled and then before Nikki could say anything, she put her fingers to Nikki's lips to silence her from commenting on the remark she had just made.

"Later!" Helen promised and Nikki grinned. "Well, my romantic long weekend away in Scotland a few months back seems insignificant against San Francisco. I feel quite mean now."

"Don't be daft. It was…different," Nikki said, her tongue in her cheek.

"Different?…hmmm…I just thought you would enjoy the brisk outdoor weather of the Scottish Highlands," Helen sighed.

"I did. It would just have been better if it hadn't rained all the time, that's all." Nikki's mouth drooped.

"That wasn't rain, sweetheart! That was just good ole Scottish drizzle," Helen said.

"Drizzle?!" Nikki exclaimed. "Darling, it was pissing down! Every time we set off for a bloody walk, we got soaked. I was permanently wet. It rained so hard, it was running down my neck all the way to the crack of my arse! The highlight of our evenings was spent wringing out our underwear! Thank God the tent was dry!"

"Hey, you were just being a big wimp over a little bit of rain. What a stroppy git you were! Stomping around, moaning and puffing away madly on your cigarettes. I don't think I've heard the Scot's air so blue with some of the language you were coming out with!" Helen laughed as she teased Nikki. But Nikki's expression showed no sign of humour.

"Was it really that bad? Didn't you enjoy it at all?" Helen asked, concerned.

She saw a smile spread across Nikki's face. "Of course I enjoyed it. It was fabulous. So quiet and peaceful and tranquil. The scenery was spectacular. Both inside and outside the tent." Nikki kissed Helen softly.

Helen playfully slapped Nikki across the bum for teasing her. "What did you enjoy most?" she asked, already knowing what Nikki's answer was likely to be.

"Waking up every morning next to you. And the single sleeping bag. I would never have believed making love could be so athletic in such a confined space!" Nikki looked pleased with herself.

"Och! I might have known. You're insatiable!" Helen tutted, but silently agreed.

"It must have been the Scot's air. Does wonders for one's libido. You're a rampant little minx when you get going!"

Helen ignored her. "What about the bloody walks?" She poked Nikki in the ribs.

"Well, I didn't mind the trudging through the heather. It was coming face to face with the wildlife that was a bit off putting!"

"Oh, no!" Helen started to laugh as she remembered the highlight of the holiday for her.

"You're thinking about that sheep, aren't you?" Nikki looked at her and rolled her eyes.

Helen nodded and continued trying to speak as she laughed. "It was so funny…like some scene out of a movie!…I nearly wet myself…you were such a wuss!"

"Look, I nearly died of fright!" Nikki tried to sound indignant at Helen's lack of concern at her plight at the time. "I only wanted a pee. You'd think miles from anywhere, halfway up a bloody mountain and behind a rock would be pretty secluded. A woman could have some bloody privacy! All I know is that just as I got my kaks down, I heard this grunting, munching sound. When I turned round, there was this bloody sheep, staring straight at me!"

Helen laughed harder.

"You didn't see its eyes, Helen. That bloody thing was crazy. I saw its face. It had a manic grin. It bared its teeth and growled at me!"

"Sheep don't bloody growl, you daft bugger!" Helen said and let Nikki continue with her exaggerated tale.

"It did, I tell you! It was frightening. My life flashed before my eyes as I stared death in the face. What a way to go, I thought. Half way up a mountain, my drawers round my ankles, being eaten alive by a psychotic sheep. Do you know, it was like looking at Bodybag on acid. That's how bloody scary it was!"

Nikki's face was so deadpan, Helen could hardly speak from laughing.

"All I saw is you appearing from behind the rock…running and screaming in one direction…trying to pull your jeans back up…and a very distressed looking sheep…legging it in the other direction. I couldn't figure out who was more scared!"

Helen laughed even harder at the memory, tears streaming down her face and Nikki was no longer able to keep a straight face. As their laughter subsided, they lay silently for a while. Nikki rested her head against Helen's shoulder again and Helen stroked her fingers through her hair while Nikki's hand idly wandered over her breast.

Nikki eventually broke the silence, a soft seriousness to her voice. "I can't believe it's been well over a year, darling."

"I know. It seems like only yesterday you were released, sweetheart. I remember that day so well. Thank God I came to my senses, eh?"

Helen smiled to herself as she remembered Nikki saying 'We'll take things slowly' at the time. It hadn't turned out that way. Helen had taken Nikki back home with her that night and they had been together ever since. Why take things slowly, Helen had decided. They already knew it was right. It was what they both wanted more than anything. Nikki had paid the price for what had happened and it had taken three years out of her life. So, Helen had thought, who was she to waste any more of it?

"Any regrets?" Nikki lifted her head and looked seriously at Helen.

"No. Never." Helen smiled and stroked her cheek. How can I have any regrets when I feel so lucky to have you in my life, she thought.

Nikki smiled and her words stopped Helen in her tracks.

"I feel so lucky to have you in my life," Nikki said softly, kissing Helen lightly on the lips.

Helen was stunned once again at the fact that when either of them was thinking something, the other said it. She'd given up trying to work out why that was and just accepted that it was as Nikki had told her, 'It's what soul mates do, Helen.'

Just as Helen knew what Nikki's next words would be right now, she said them first. It had scared her a long time ago to say them, to admit to it. But she was no longer afraid. The words came so easily to her now.

"I love you, too." Helen watched as tears filled Nikki's eyes.

"Thank you," Nikki managed to say.

"For what?" Helen asked softly.

"For the best year of my life. You make me feel so happy. I love you." Nikki's eyes brimmed with tears that trickled down her face.

Helen wiped away the tears from Nikki's cheek. She looked so vulnerable. Helen could see it in her face and her eyes. Her emotion was open and raw. Helen was aware of the multitude of emotions and little insecurities that Nikki had. The fiery, passionate, impulsive nature that Helen had come to love, that had also helped her to be more open with her own feelings. She knew Nikki's happiness at being able to share her life with her meant Nikki couldn't stand the thought of losing her. She would rather die. She also knew Nikki would gladly give her life to save hers, or do anything to protect it. Anything. Even if it meant paying the same price again.

Nikki laid her head back in the crook of Helen's neck.

Helen looked back, and it had been the best year of her life as well. When she thought of how she had tried to walk away, she couldn't believe how blind she had been back then. She knew this would only get better. That the best was yet to come.

She knew they both knew that. It was only the start. It wasn't perfect, but it was as near as, damn it. They had their moments; they got fractious with each other at times, a little warring took place, but it was nothing like it used to be. They had settled into each other. They were calmer. They had come through the worst at the start.

"Do I make you happy?" Nikki lifted her head again. She looked at Helen, her face imploring her.

Oh, God, Nikki! Her words cut through Helen, tearing into her heart. Sometimes Nikki's insecurity was so touchingly unbearable, it almost killed Helen. It broke her heart every time to hear Nikki speak this way. She wanted to wrap Nikki up in cotton wool and keep her in a safe place. She had come to understand Nikki's actions all those years ago. Helen was under no illusion that if anyone ever tried to hurt Nikki emotionally or physically, she would have no hesitation about retaliation. She loved her and would do anything to protect her.

Helen cupped her hands round Nikki's face. Her tears were forming again.

"Hey…you know you do. I've never been so happy, Nikki. And it's because of you that I am."

Helen saw Nikki smile and it was tears of joy that now fell down her cheeks from Helen's reassurance. Helen kissed each one away.

How could I not be happy? Helen thought.

She knew they gave each other energy. They made each other calm. They comforted each other. Helen could talk to Nikki and feel strength from her support just as Nikki felt hope from Helen's. They gave each other peace and happiness.

She knew they loved how they talked. Their discussions on any topic. How they communicated with each other. The humour and the wit they shared; the way they made each other laugh. How an innocent shopping list could suddenly become hysterically bawdy. How their love of literature could give rise to an intense debate on its merits. How sometimes when they said nothing, they told each other so much.

She knew they loved their quiet moments, when they would just sit together, maybe reading, or watching TV, or listening to music. Curled up on the sofa, heads resting in laps, hands stroking hair. They loved the playful moments, too. Pillow fights and chases round the house.

She knew they loved to watch each other sleep. Helen didn't think anything looked more angelic and peaceful than seeing Nikki asleep. She could look at her for hours like that. Sometimes, Helen would reach out and touch Nikki's face and a lazy arm would reach for her and pull her to cuddle into her body. Helen knew when Nikki was watching her sleeping as well. She didn't have to open her eyes. She could feel Nikki looking at her and she would reach for her also, knowing Nikki was smiling. Nikki would snuggle into Helen's body and they would sleep wrapped around each other.

She knew they loved the way they felt each other, even when there was no actual contact. How they were aware of the physical and mental bond they shared. Sometimes they would move together, just stand and hold each other, not speaking, then part and continue with whatever they were doing before.

She knew they loved how they made love. Each time was like a journey of re-discovery between them as they explored the intricate nuances of each other's body. For endless hours. She knew they loved how they touched each other, how they knew instinctively how to please. Sometimes they would just lie there, gently caressing and stroking and kissing, just holding each other and that would be enough. She knew they loved the slowness, the tenderness, and the gentleness of it at times. Loved the playful times, too. And the hungry, hurried, furious moments. How a look or simple touch could suddenly erupt into such a ferocious passion that it left them overwhelmed, dazed and bewildered at its intensity afterwards.

Helen looked at Nikki and could see her anxiety had gone.

"Will Trish be okay? Running the two clubs while you're gone?" Helen asked her, pushing some hair behind Nikki's ear.

"Yeah. We've got a good crew at both places. I know the last few months have been a bit hectic, organising the new one. More so for Trish. It hasn't been easy for me; there's not the buzz anymore."

"I know, sweetheart, but you've a great partnership with Trish."

Helen had been impressed by Trisha's business acumen and her friendship towards them both had meant a great deal. Trish had ensured that Nikki retained her half of the business for financial security and the purchase of a second club had seen to it even more.

"There's plenty of time for you to decide about the future. In fact, we have all the time in the world."

"I take it you intend to put up with me for quite a while then?" Nikki said, twirling her fingers through Helen's hair again.

"Yes. You caused me enough bloody trouble in the past, so I'm going to ensure I get my own back! I'm going to grow old and grey and grumpy and drag you along with me!" Helen explained.

"What, more grumpy than you are now?" Nikki looked shocked. "Oww!" she shrieked.

"Bloody watch it! In years to come, I might belt you with my walking stick!" Helen glared at Nikki playfully.

"Oooh, I do love it when you're bossy. Will you lock me up if I'm very naughty and shout at me like you used to?" Nikki winked at Helen. "Get back from this door now! Move it!" she said with a strong Scottish accent.

"I never sounded like that!" Helen protested.

"Yes, you did. It was lovely. You were incredibly sexy when you got angry with me." Nikki grinned.

"Incorrigible!" Helen sighed.

"But you loved it really," Nikki quipped back and Helen laughed. She pulled Nikki's head back to her chest and sighed contentedly.

"What are you thinking about?" Nikki said.

"Us. Growing old together," Helen replied softly.

"And ending up being put in some old folks home when our kids have had enough of us?" Nikki asked.

"Yes. Probably." Helen smiled at the thought of kids.

"Tell me how you feel," Nikki said.

"Alive, Nikki. I feel alive." She softly kissed Nikki on the lips.

Helen looked at Nikki's face and her eyes were filling up with tears, making them look so soulful.

"I want to spend the rest of my days with you, sweetheart, I mean it. I love you. The day you were released was the day my life finally began and I know it will end with you." Helen's voice broke slightly and she felt a tear trickle from her eye.

Nikki's lip trembled and she screwed her eyes shut. "I love you so much, it hurts sometimes." She buried her face in Helen's neck and Helen heard a strangled sob and felt the wetness of her tears against her skin. She held Nikki tightly to her.

"Hey, it's now officially my birthday," Helen said, wiping her own tears away quickly, trying to lighten the mood. "I believe I have some more presents!" She smiled like an excited child as Nikki raised her head to look at her.

Nikki sniffed and laughed. "Come on then." She slowly moved off the bed and held out her hand to Helen. Helen grinned and allowed herself to be led over to the sofa. Nikki left her there for a moment and headed to the bathroom. She returned with two hotel bathrobes and handed one to Helen.

Helen shivered slightly as she put it on. Nikki went to the fireplace and turned up the heat.

"Come over here," Nikki said. Helen got up and made her way over. "Sit," Nikki instructed and Helen held Nikki's hand as she lowered herself down onto the thick rug in front of the fire.

She watched Nikki make her way over to the desk and from behind it begin to gather up packages. With her arms full, she knelt down by Helen and placed them on the rug.

"All this, for me?" Helen shook her head in disbelief. "I guess some are for Christmas, too, as we won't be here." She smiled at Nikki and then picked one up.

"I always think it's a bit rough, having a birthday so near to Christmas."

"Yes. I either got loads for my birthday and not much for Christmas, or the other way round." Helen tore gently at the wrapping.

"That's why we have a third suitcase."

Helen frowned; the comment puzzled her at first until she realised what it probably meant. She stopped what she was doing and looked at Nikki.

"What's in the third suitcase?" Helen asked weakly.

"Your Christmas presents." Nikki smiled.

Helen looked over at the three foot high Christmas tree and the all gold decorations on it. Wisps of tinsel and tiny little baubles dangled from it. She gingerly pointed at it.

"The hotel didn't put that there did they?....you did," she mumbled.

Nikki nodded. "I knew it wouldn't be worth having one at home as we'll be away, so I thought we should have one here."

Helen put her hand to her mouth and swallowed down the rising lump. She cleared her throat.

"Oh, Nicola," she murmured and closed her eyes briefly. She felt Nikki take her trembling hands.

"What's the matter?"

Helen saw the worried look on her face. "You spoil me so much. I don't have anything for you. I haven't been Christmas shopping yet…now I don't have time before we'll leave." She felt saddened and guilt-ridden.

"I don't care, darling. I have the best presents I could ever be given. You. Your love. My freedom. All I need is right here."

Helen flung her arms around her neck and kissed her.

"Besides, you know what you're like. You leave everything to the last minute. If I was lucky, I might have ended up with underwear that actually fitted this time."

"That was your birthday. And it won't happen again!" Helen pouted.

She saw Nikki's shoulders shaking as she tried not to laugh. Helen had been so excited in the lingerie shop, fondling the red lace bra and thong and picturing herself removing them swiftly off Nikki, she'd hastily paid for them without checking the size. Nikki had tried on the set and had squeezed herself into the bra, and her bulging cleavage had made Helen whimper. She hadn't allowed Nikki to wear it long enough to know of any discomfort, and had managed to skillfully remove the thong with her teeth.

Helen smiled at the memory.

"Pervert," Nikki said.

Helen saw the knowing look on her face and blushed at being caught. "What are you, a bloody mind reader?" Helen accused and laughed.

"No. I just know how yours works!"

Helen playfully shoved her and went back to opening her presents. By the time she'd finished, she was surrounded by audio books that Nikki informed her she could upload to her MP3 player, so when Helen went running, she'd be able to listen to her literary favourites. There were perfumes. Correctly sized underwear. Fluffy slippers. Other assorted clothes. Cds. Make-up.

Helen leant towards Nikki and kissed her. She noticed Nikki's hand reach behind her back and grab at something.

Helen looked at the long, slim box Nikki held in front of her and her breath quickened. Nikki slowly opened the lid and Helen gasped.

Inside, nestled against a red velvet lining was the most stunning necklace Helen had ever seen. The chain was a delicate gold and the diamond encrusted setting sparkled as the lamp light reflected off it.

Helen shook her head again in disbelief. Nikki picked it out, knelt in front of Helen and placed it around her neck. Helen felt its coolness against her skin and gently touched the diamond pendant.

"It's beautiful. I don't know what to say." For the second time, Helen swallowed hard.

Nikki shifted uneasily, still on her knees, and took Helen's hands quickly. "Say you'll marry me," she blurted nervously.

Helen's heart was in her mouth. She saw the nervous look on Nikki's face, her awkward smile, and realised it had taken Nikki as much by surprise as it had shocked her. This hadn't been planned. Now Helen couldn't swallow or speak. She froze. With utter joy.

Suddenly, she felt all girly, giddy, excited. She remembered being a teenager again with her girlfriends. Fourteen year olds, all bubbly and giggling stupidly. Talking about growing up and planning their weddings. So much thought went into every detail. But back then, Helen had found it odd, how so much energy and thought could be spent on the actual wedding, when none of her friends ever mentioned an obvious factor. The man they intended to marry. He was a non-factor in their plans. All that mattered was the day, the flowers and what they would wear.

She now realised why she had basically left all the wedding plans with Sean. She had been ignoring the fact that she had no excitement about their big day because she didn't love him. But with Nikki, it was oh, so different. How could you consider a wedding, a marriage without the most important element? Love.

Now she imagined an exotic beach, the sun setting for the ceremony. Or maybe a small, quaint Norman church in some tiny picturesque village somewhere. Or better still, their back garden. May would be the time of year she'd want the ceremony to take place, she decided. The bulbs Nikki would have planted in early spring would mean the flowers would be blooming in all their glory. They could hang fairy lights from the trees and bushes. She'd wear her hair up, a few wisps hanging down past her ears. Her cream, off the shoulder dress would be three quarter length and the bodice would have gold braiding. Nikki's dark trouser suit and the gold braided waistcoat would match it perfectly. Ebony and ivory. It was obvious Trish would be Nikki's best man. And sod her dad. She'd ask Claire to give her away. The guests would be the most important. Actually, just the four of them probably. No one else mattered. She could see Nikki standing there, under the gazebo, its frame decorated with garlands of peach and white flowers. Her face would light up as she turned to see Helen slowly making her way towards her as the strains of 'The First Time Ever I saw Your Face' accompanied her. Helen would smile and her heart would leap at the smile she would receive back. Brown eyes would watch her every move and be so full of love, Helen would feel she was about to burst. And the first words they would say to each other as they stood side by side would be: 'I love you.'

Helen could see the ring Nikki would slip on her finger and when she said, 'I do' it would be said with such conviction that Nikki would be left in no doubt that she meant it.

Helen came back to her senses from her girlish fantasy and tried to speak. She really wanted to shout and scream with happiness, but still couldn't utter a word. As she looked at Nikki, she realised Nikki was taking her prolonged silence as a bad sign. She'd seen that crushed look on her face before, had been the cause of it in the past.

"Okay, not the right thing to have asked you then." Nikki blinked painfully and went to move away, but Helen grabbed her and finally squeaked an answer.

"Yes!"

Nikki looked at her, unsure, and Helen panicked as she realised Nikki hadn't heard it. She nodded frantically and willed movement to loosen her paralyzed tongue.

"Yes!"

Nikki exhaled with relief. "Christ!" she mumbled. "I thought for a minute…are you sure?" She lifted Helen's chin, not convinced she was compos mentis from the dumbstruck expression on her face.

"Yes!" Helen still nodded.

"Positive?"

"Yes!"

"Is that all you can say right now?"

"Yes!"

Nikki smiled at her.

"Yes!"

"Okay, so definitely a yes then?"

"Yes!"

"Good. 'Cos, if you'd said no, I wouldn't have given you the matching earrings for Christmas!"

Helen desperately wanted to laugh. But, typically, she did the sensible thing. She caved in and burst into tears.

A full five minutes of sobbing later and Helen was aware of dampness against her face. She realised her tears had made a sodden patch on Nikki's bathrobe. She felt herself wrapped in strong arms and hands gently rubbing her back through the toweling material as Nikki patiently waited for her to calm down.

Helen drew back and looked at Nikki's smiling face.

"Okay?" Nikki asked.

"Yes."

"Is that still the only word you can say?"

This time Helen laughed and her common sense swiftly returned. "Sweetheart? You do know we can't really get married."

"I know. But we can have a blessing. Not quite the same, but we can make it feel like it is. Plus, there's underground talk that there'll be a civil partnership act. I think it's going to happen. Might not be for a few years yet. We could wait if you like…"

"No!" Helen said it so resolutely, it startled Nikki. "I want a blessing. I want everybody to know you're mine!"

Nikki raised her eyebrows. "Mine?" she questioned.

"Oh yes! You are so mine, Wade! Don't you forget it. You are so mine!"

"Am I going to be allowed to forget it?"

"No. I intend to remind you every day for the rest of my life."

"Promise?"

"Have no doubt about it."

Helen seductively crawled the few inches between them and kissed Nikki's neck, sucking her skin. She tugged the belt loose from Nikki's robe, parted it and slid her hands inside. She let her fingers scrape against Nikki's stomach muscles, feeling them twitch at her touch. She felt Nikki shiver before moving her mouth to Nikki's lips.

Helen felt their passion quickly ignite again, but she wanted it to be slow.

"There is something else I'd like for my birthday," she whispered between kisses.

"What?" Nikki's eyes fluttered open and she moaned as Helen removed her mouth from hers. "Name it. I'll run out and get it tomorrow. Just don't stop now, please," she begged.

"That's easy. Everything I want is right here. A roaring fire…. a big soft rug," Helen said as she brushed her hand over it. "You….covered in champagne. Think you can manage that?" Helen's endearing smile made its appearance again. "Have we ever made love in front of a fire?"

"No. But that's all about to change. Don't go anywhere!" Nikki scrambled to her feet and skipped over to the bedside table to retrieve the bottle.

Helen chuckled to herself as she watched her. She stretched out on her side, making herself comfortable, resting her head in her hand. She watched Nikki make her way back and stop at the large thick curtains that covered the windows.

Nikki peered between them. "Wow, it's really snowing heavily now, darling. You should see it."

"I'll take a look later. Now come here," Helen commanded softly and started to untie the belt on her robe. Nikki was lying beside her in a fraction of a second, and before long, the robes had been discarded and Helen felt the heat from the fire stoke the heat of their passion.

Helen knew they probably wouldn't be leaving this room much over the next two days. And how much they would actually get to see of San Francisco remained to be seen. But she knew they didn't have to worry about it at the moment.

All that mattered to each of them was the woman in whose arms they now lay. And to celebrate that fact.

The End

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