DISCLAIMER: Bad Girls and all its characters are the property of Shed Productions. The author implies no ownership of these characters. They are used in the stories without permission solely for entertainment and not for profit. The story may contain some bad language and some 18 rated action between consenting adults of the same sex, so if you are offended by that, then stop reading. Otherwise feel free to enjoy the story.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Stormy Beginnings
By ScottishFi


Chapter 1

The sun, way low in the sky, poured in through the Volvo X-Country's windscreen. Emerging from the darkness Helen blinked furiously and grabbed for her sunglasses. In the back of the estate car her two black Labradors - Rowan and Archie began to get excited, they knew instinctively they were back on dry land!

"Not long now guys," Helen absently told them as she concentrated on disembarking from the ferry – The Isle of Lewis. It was a surprisingly sunny autumn morning but the wind blew incessantly – no wonder it had been such a rough but, on reflection, a surprisingly enjoyable crossing.

The Minch, one of the most treacherous bodies of water around Scotland, was not great in the best of conditions but the strong north westerly had meant the last 3 hours had been wild – to say the least. Not enjoying the stuffy heat of the various lounges and restaurants Helen (well wrapped up) and her dogs had spent most of the trip on the top deck enjoying the unfolding scenery in the early morning light. The trip out of Ullapool was breathtaking. Helen could never fail to be moved by the natural beauty of Loch Broom and the islands, mostly abandoned, dotted along the coast. It was a cold, clear morning without a cloud in the sky. In the distance she could see snow dusted Suilven and the rest of the peaks in the North West Highlands. The rugged, bare beauty of it all grabbed at Helen's heart and calmed her soul. It had been too long. She felt like she had come home – she had come home! As she sat on deck, the dogs curled around her feet - human contact, or rather, Helen contact their goal - she reflected on the chaos that had been her life for the last six months. She was moving from London to the diagonally opposite side of the UK - The Western Isles – Lewis to be precise. She had left behind friends and a fiancé – Sean. It was only when she asked him to follow her, for once, did she realise how self-centred he was. It took some soul searching on her part to recognise she had gone along with him and his plans for an easy life it was what was expected of her – marriage, 2.4 kids. Actually she did want kids at some point in her life – not just yet. She was not driven by passion – a scientist and a pragmatist Helen prided herself in her logical approach to life. No, passion rarely entered into things. As she sat she thought back to that fateful discussion:

"Hels, why would we move from London? All our friends are here, my business is thriving and yours is doing ok too. And Mummy and Daddy are just an hour away." Sean whined.

Helen bit her tongue she needed to control her fiery temper. The "Mummy and Daddy" comment, his minimalisation of her business and to top it all he knew she hated being called "Hels" this would normally have set her off but she needed to have an adult conversation with him. He was weak but totally sure of himself. But, she did want him to come with her …… didn't she?

"Well I'm not happy, I feel very unsettled and have done for some time, I want some adventure in my/our lives. What an opportunity. It's risk free. If it doesn't work out we can come back to London. You don't even need to sell your business. You have such a good team they could run it for you."

"Oh Hels, I'm sure it's all just wedding jitters. You'll feel better once you're Mrs Parr!"

Helen nearly exploded, insensitive, arrogant, smug, supercilious bastard. The conversation had only deteriorated from there.

Now, in the middle of the Minch, no land to be seen anywhere, a huge wave crashed against the bow of the ferry, Helen and the dogs were soaked. Helen was immediately, rather abruptly, aroused from her daydreaming. As she came too she heard a woman's voice from behind.

"You should dry your dogs off. It maybe sunny but it's bitterly cold out here."

Momentarily annoyed by someone having the audacity, not only to interrupt her, but also, to tell her how to look after her dogs. Helen snapped.

"I know how to look after my animals ….thank you." Her Scottish accent most pronounced.

"Hey," the voice responded sharply. "I was only trying to be helpful. Sorry I interfered."

Helen looked up to see a tall dark haired women turning to leave.

"I'm so sorry, I momentarily forgot my manners. I was lost in thought. Thanks for your suggestion. I'm Helen, Helen Stewart," proffering her hand.

As she did the other woman turned back and smiled,

"I'm Nikki Wade."

Helen could not help but notice what a striking woman she was. Tall, slim, her head topped with an unruly crop of shortish, dark hair. She looked in her mid thirties. Her smile lit up her face and her enormous deep, dark brown eyes were almost hypnotic. Stunning was the only word for her. Momentarily transfixed Helen almost stumbled over her words.

"Hi Nikki – can I buy you a cup of coffee to make up for my bad manners?"

"I'm not sure the brown sludgy stuff that Cal Mac* serve as coffee will do - but it's at least a start," smiled Nikki cheekily in return.

Nikki and Helen took their coffee, with dogs in tow, out to the stern deck which was much more sheltered. Nikki informed Helen, having travelled on this ferry more times than she would like to remember, she knew all the sheltered spots. She assured Helen they would enjoy the crossing in relative calm. Helen was intrigued. Clearly this woman was not a local but had chosen to live in one of the most remote, to some, inhospitable parts of the UK. Why? As they drank their coffee in companionable silence Helen thought back to the reaction of her friends and family to the news that she was returning to Scotland - but not just Scotland the Outer Hebrides. Claire her best friend, someone she had known from University, seemed the least shocked by her decision to move from her thriving small animals' Veterinary practise in London to Lewis.

"Your Aunt Seonag."

"Great Auntie" corrected Helen.

"Oh Great Auntie Seonag then – why do you always have to be so precise – knew what she was dong when she left you her Farmhouse and croft in Drumbeg."

"What do you mean?" queried Helen.

"She knew that you were not happy here in London – unfulfilled."

"How could she know that, I haven't seen her in about 20 years?"

"She just knew," Claire nodded mysteriously.

"You don't really believe in all that hocus pocus do you Claire – you're a lawyer –for god's sake."

"Just because I am a lawyer doesn't mean that I don't believe in sixth sense or other powers…."

"Tut" responded Helen, "just get another round in. Mine's a pint."

Secretly, although she would never admit it to Claire, she was a scientist after all; she also thought it was all too coincidental. They proceeded to get blasted with Claire ultimately, rather drunkenly, toasting the fact that Helen had finally seen through Sean, and dumped him.

"So what brings you to the Islands Helen?" Nikki asked in her somewhat refined southern English accent.

Helen once again brought back to the present with a start answered monosyllabically,


Nikki could not believe how rude this woman was - one minute she was laughing, smiling and completely engaging the next she was dour, introverted and unfriendly.

But before she could respond Helen was apologising again.

"I'm so sorry Nikki you must think I'm terribly rude but we drove overnight from London to catch the Ferry this morning and I'm a bit out of it. I still can't quite believe I am here. Actually I'm a Vet and I am going to cover the West side for the Stornoway practise."

Helen smiled warmly and as she did her tongue slid up behind her teeth in a very endearing manner. Nikki's knees went weak. This beautiful petite Scot with her sun bleached hair, almond shaped eyes, wide smile and questionable temper already had her captivated, and they had only just met. She was always a sucker for beautiful women with attitude.

"London, that's a good twelve hour trip - without any stops. You must be exhausted. How much further do you have to go once you get on the Island?"

"Och, it's only about half an hour from Stornoway. So I will be at my Aunt's - I mean my house in no time."

They reverted to friendly chat. Nikki explained that she had come to the Island, with her partner, a writer, five years ago. They had taken a short holiday and had promptly fallen in love with the place. She herself was a Ceramic artist. Although in order to make money she made mugs and crockery which she sold to locals and tourists alike and had a booming Internet business – 'Crocks on line'. She had hired two local girls Marie and Eilidh to 'apprentice'. Marie was particularly good at the creative side, throwing and painting the pots. Eilidh was much better at the retail side of the business and did a great job of managing the shop and on-line sales. Nikki didn't share everything with Helen – she didn't know her well enough yet. She wasn't sure but her gaydar was set off when she met the two young women and thought the youngsters might be queer, although in their shy Island style neither had breathed a word of it. Perhaps, Nikki had surmised, one of the reasons they had applied for jobs with her in the first place. Nikki and Trisha were not overt about their sexuality but did not deny it. Reckoning if it was an issue people would stay away and therefore they would only meet those who didn't care – which suited them just fine. Nikki reckoned Eilidh had a bit of a crush on Trisha as, on the rare occasions Trisha ventured into the pottery and shop, Eilidh went puce and was less than eloquent when she saw her. Nikki teased Trisha endlessly about this calling her a 'wicked old lech'. Trisha, being somewhat egotistical in nature, actually quite enjoyed the attention.

The studio and pottery were built onto their small, but well stocked, shop in Port of Bac at the Northern tip of the Island – or the Butt of Lewis as it was known locally. Nikki and her partner lived five minutes walk away in a traditional croft house overlooking Bac harbour and beach and on to the wild open Atlantic Ocean.

"Bac?" Helen's ears pricked up, "that's a coincidence we're going to be neighbours, my house is in Drumbeg. How are you getting home? Do you have your car with you on the ferry?"

"No, I did the train and bus thing. It's longer but gives me lots of time to read, relax or just think. My partner is supposedly picking me up if the car is ready, it's been in the garage for repair," said Nikki deliberately avoiding the pronoun. She did not want to out herself to this stranger, nice as she was, just yet. People with local ties may well be connected to the Free Church – a religious institution that was not too supportive of the homosexual lifestyle to say the least!

"Well if he's not there I would be happy to give you a lift as I just live down the road. I can easily take you up to Port of Bac it's not really out of my way."

It was agreed, as soon as they got off the ferry and Nikki got a signal on her mobile (Helen was to discover her mobile service provider, like many, had very intermittent coverage across the Highlands and Islands) she would find out if the car had been fixed and what arrangements had been made to pick her up.

As Helen drove along the quayside adjacent to the ferry she spotted Nikki talking very animatedly on the phone. She waved, flashed her lights and pulled along side the pavement were Nikki was clearly involved in what sounded like a pretty heated conversation. Not wanting to appear nosey Helen pumped up her CD and blasted out Shooglenifty's 'Venus in tweeds'. A few minutes later a rather harried looking Nikki opened the car door and leaned in.

"Hi Helen, sorry to keep you but I need to go to the Co-op to pick up a few things before I go home – I can get the 4.00 o'clock bus."

"But that's hours away and I need to pick up some stuff too so hop in. I could do with the company. I don't want to fall asleep at the wheel crossing the Barvas moor, do I?"

"Are you sure?"

Helen nodded her head enthusiastically.

"It's a deal then," said Nikki jumping in, her mood improving exponentially at the prospect of spending more time with this enchanting and delightful woman.

Helen drove through the town past the brand new arts Centre - An Lanntair.

"Unfortunately I missed the grand opening on Friday. It's great to have a purpose built facility for the arts - it's a beautiful exhibition space and the auditorium is much bigger than the Town Hall- just what the town needed," Nikki enthused.

"That looks like a place I'll take advantage of. I may take in some of the Mod** Competitions this year, I particularly love hearing the kids sing," said Helen.

"You speak gaelic?" asked Nikki ready to be impressed – she was attempting to learn, but languages were not her strong point.

"My mother's family are from the Island and I used to visit frequently when I was a kid. All my cousins and aunties and uncles are bi-lingual and they encouraged me to speak it. I came here virtually every holiday when I was wee. I hope to refresh my skills now I will be living here permanently."

At that they turned the corner and across the harbour Lews Castle came into view.

"It's such a pity that Lews Castle's rotting up there. The gardens alone are exquisite."

"Yeah I know it's virtually the only place on the island that's sheltered enough to allow trees to grow normally. Elsewhere the wind and salt stunt the growth of anything you plant," Nikki added passionately.

"Sounds like you are talking from experience?" said Helen.

"Yes I'm a keen gardener, and it is a huge challenge getting anything to grow up here. But my polytunnel has made a great difference. We just put it in last year. It's amazing what I can grow now, delicate plants are protected from the winds – it's not frost that gets things up here it's the wind," said Nikki emphatically.

Helen couldn't help but smile she loved this woman's enthusiasm for life. Sean had been a gardener but he could never muster enough enthusiasm to fully engage her although she had always loved the outdoors and gardening too.

"How on earth do you protect a polytunnel from the winds?"

Being on the extreme North West side of the island with nothing but the Atlantic Ocean between them and North America they were often bombarded by horrendous gales.

"We had to build a wind break to protect the polytunnel. It takes the brunt of the wind. It works pretty well but even it couldn't cope with the hurricane we had last spring. But it saved the polytunnel."

"The winds can be crazy up here," agreed Helen as they pulled into the Co-op (the local supermarket) car park.

Nikki was about to ask Helen more about her connection with the island as Helen jumped out of the car.

"How much time do you need to shop?" asked Helen.

She knew that Effie (her great-aunt's god-daughter, and some distant cousin) had done a shop in preparation for her arrival but she, for some reason, wanted to spend more time with this intriguing woman. She had known it would be difficult socially moving to such a remote, rural, location and hoped Nikki and her partner would be a good source of social contact for her. Not only was Nikki interesting and seemed fun she was under 40 and not many of the people she knew on the island were under 60! Most of her cousins and friends her age had left the island for university and jobs in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and further a field.

"I just need to pick up a few things. Fifteen minutes should do it for me," said Nikki.

Helen nodded and they agreed to meet back at the car at the appointed time. What could she buy – she wondered. Then she remembered Effie was fairly religious and would not have thought to buy any alcohol – she could stock up on beer and wine. She was pleasantly surprised by the wide range of wine and beers on sale – but was reminded that alcohol and its abuse was a huge issue across the Highlands and Islands. After 20 minutes they met back at the car and managed to stuff their groceries and supplies into what was an already over stuffed car.

As they left Stornoway Helen noticed the temporary billboards plastered with 'No to the Wind Factory' signs and asked Nikki about the current status of the proposed wind farm development. She had heard about it during the summer and was anxious to get an update. While, like many who lived locally, Helen (and it turned out Nikki too) was a real proponent of renewable energy projects but the plans to place one of the largest wind farms in Europe on the Barvas moor (which is one of the few areas of genuine Peat lands in the world) were really worrying. Around 250 turbines a couple of hundred metres high were planned with the resultant infrastructure roads, pylons etc. etc. There was a real danger these Peat lands, an area of Special Scientific Interest (SSI), and protected by European Law would be irreparably damaged. Not only was the peat land itself in danger but also the varied and rare birds including the Golden Eagle, Red throated diver and Merlins who nested there.

"Interestingly both the RSPB, and Scottish National Heritage have come out against the proposed development." Nikki said, going on. "We build wind farms in order to reduce carbon emissions, then these idiots plan to build a wind farm on peat lands. There are real concerns about this because by doing so we release this carbon store in the peat as carbon emissions to the atmosphere. The developers - WindPowerScotland have completely under estimated the potential damage they will do. "

"You seem to know a lot about this Nikki."

"Yeah, I am part of the local community group working on it. We, in the community, were pretty supportive of the whole idea early on. But the company and Sir James have done nothing to engage or communicate with the community to keep us informed. And you know what it's like when there is a void people fill it - all kinds of rumours have been flying around."

"Sir James?"

"Oh sorry Helen, Sir James Fenner is our rather negligent and corrupt (but nobody had been able to prove anything) absentee landlord who spends most of his time down south and only comes north to the big house around the 'Glorious twelfth' for the shoot and in December for Christmas and the Annual New Years Ball. His dogsbody the local Factor Simon Stubberfield has been handling things on his behalf. He is completely ineffective and a real pain in the neck! Anyway there is another community meeting planned in a few weeks, I'll keep you posted if you'd like."

"I'd love to get involved – please do keep me informed. Thanks."

The rest of the journey across the moor was fairly uneventful with both women lost in their own wee worlds as the dulcet tones of Alyth McCormack filled the car. Helen re-engaging with this wonderfully bleak and isolated island - her new home and Nikki reflecting on the row she had earlier with Trisha – rows that were occurring all too often these days. Nine years was a long time for any relationship! Trisha had told her, that she was leaving in the morning – flying to Inverness and then on to London to meet with her publishers. Nikki was pissed off, she had been away for 10 days at a ceramics show in Manchester and just as she was getting home Trisha was buggering off to London for a few weeks. And Trisha hadn't mentioned a word of it on their daily phone chats – she had just dumped it on her this morning when she arrived home. She should have known that something was up as soon as Trisha mentioned that she didn't think she could pick her up. They were always there to meet each other off the plane or the boat it was part of their personal ritual. It was very significant, to Nikki that Trisha was not there at the quayside waiting. As they reached the village of Barvas and took the road north the dogs started getting agitated again.

"I promise you a long W_A_ L _K on the beach when we get home," said Helen.

Nikki laughed. "Do you think spelling out walk will confuse them?"

At the mention of the word 'walk' both dogs stood up and wagged their tails ferociously.

"Good job they are not barkers. Why on earth did you say the 'W' word?" Hissed Helen.

Nikki just laughed more.

"Having caused this uproar you should be forced to join us on our W_A_L_K," Helen retorted.

"I would love to, but I really need to get home having been away for 10 days. But thanks for the offer. Maybe we can have a rain check, now that I know where you live…" Nikki couldn't believe herself she was actually flirting with this woman, what was she thinking.

Helen dropped Nikki at her front door and as she watched her disappear in the rear view mirror smiled to herself at the thought of having made a new friend so quickly. She would prove the naysayer's like Sean wrong. She was going to like it here just fine. She wouldn't be returning to London in a hurry.

She sighed with satisfaction as she pulled up to her great-aunt's - no her farmhouse and parked the car. Home at last. It had been a very long journey. But now she was home.

** Mod – Gaelic festival of music song and drama - occurs annually.


Chapter 2

Helen yawned and turned in her bed. Sensing another's presence she opened her eyes slowly, one at a time, only to be greeted by not one but two pairs of chocolate brown eyes. Helen's two black labs standing stock still, apart from two very waggy tails, stared back at her.

"Two minutes you pair, it's Sunday, and it's only 8.00 o'clock. I deserve a lie in after the week I've had."

Helen got up and pulled the heavy curtains open, it was pouring it down – she had hoped to have a long walk across the moor today - och well, she'd just have a short walk on the shore and curl up with a book in front of the fire. Helen padded down the thickly carpeted stairs, in her pyjamas, went into the kitchen filled the kettle and put it on the Aga. She opened the stove door and threw in a few peats***. God she loved the smell of peats. She called the dogs, let them out the back door for a quick pee, and made her way back into the kitchen to make her tea. Cup in hand she called the dogs in – it didn't take much encouragement as it really was a foul day. It was still throwing it down. It was one of these late November days when, due to the cloud cover, it never really got light and it felt like the sky was touching the ground. She switched on the stereo, which was piped around the house, including to her bedroom, and went back to bed to enjoy her early morning cuppa.

Just 10 minutes down the road Nikki was slamming the phone down again. It was only 8.30 and she still couldn't get hold of Trisha. They had missed each other all weekend and to make matters worse every time she tried Trisha her mobile was either switched off or she was just not answering. So she couldn't even leave a message. Nikki knew where Trisha was staying – their London home. She tried that number too - but no one was answering the landline either. They had kept their, 3 bed-roomed, terraced house in Crouch End, not wanting to get out of the London property market, and let it out to friends. Keeping one room for their personal use, they had their own space when they visited town. Trisha used it more often than Nikki as, with her publishers in town; she was a much more frequent visitor. Nikki had tried to persuade Trisha to sell it, reinforcing their commitment to their new life, but she would have none of it, she didn't want to lose that connection. Nikki on the other hand had totally embraced Island living and, while she loved visiting the city enjoying all it had to offer, her heart was firmly with the windswept moor and dramatic seascapes of North Lewis.

Nikki picked up the phone again. She hadn't seen Helen in a few weeks and even then it had just been a quick 'hi' in passing. She was anxious to see the beautiful woman and find out how she was settling in. She wanted to be neighbourly, who was she kidding, she had thought about the fiery Scot quite a bit and was hoping to spend time with her. She needed to find out more. There had been no mention of a boyfriend or a girlfriend for that matter and for some reason she was very keen to find out!

The phone rang and stirred Helen from her dozing. Picking up the phone, wondering who would be calling her at 8.30 on the Sabbath – now that was ungodly! Helen huskily answered in a rather sleepy voice,


"Hallo Helen, it's Nikki, I haven't got you at a bad time have I?"

"Oh Hi, Nikki – considering it's Sunday and it's before 10.00 yes, it's a bad time!" She joked surprised but pleased to hear her new friend's smooth tones.

"Oh I'm so sorry to disturb you, maybe you can call me back when you are free," Nikki responded mortified that she had disturbed Helen.

"Nikki, hold on, I was joking, please continue."

"Oh, ok Helen, I'm not quite on your wavelength, didn't get the humour. I was wondering if you wanted to catch up today. I know it's a bit wet but I could show you around the pottery, maybe you could throw a pot or two…."

Before she could continue Helen had interrupted enthusiastically.

"I would love to. Have you had breakfast yet? If not do you want to come down here for breakfast? I do a mean fry-up."

It was agreed that Nikki would be down at 10.00, fresh rolls in hand - fresh from her freezer that is. There was only one shop on the Westside and that wasn't open on a Sunday. As Nikki was digging about the freezer in the shed she felt something nuzzling her knees – it was her dog Cu (coo) she was a rescued sheepdog. A working animal no longer required, although still young, that had been kept tied up outside a local crofters barn until Nikki offered to take her. Cu, since her rescue, was, without doubt, Nikki's dog – she was like her shadow followed her everywhere. Nikki leaned down and clapped her.

"Want to come for a walk Cu?"

She felt sure that Helen would welcome Cu with open arms - who wouldn't thought the equally infatuated Nikki. She loved Cu from the moment she set eyes on her.

Nikki jumped into her dilapidated old Land rover, feeling more upbeat than she had in days and, with Cu hanging out the back, set off for Helen's.

She knew the house. It was bigger that most of the other traditional homes as it had been the original farmhouse for the Estate - Lewis Estate. The crofters owned their homes and had lifetime leases on their land, or crofts - smallholdings of around 15 – 20 acres. Because of Crofting Law they, unlike their ancestors, had some rights and were protected. They could not be evicted from the land their families had been working for years. (The Highland Clearances had been a particularly bleak period of Scottish Highland history at the end of the Eighteenth beginning of the Nineteenth when the people were cleared off the land to make way for more profitable sheep. Thousands of Scots were evicted from the hills and glens of Scotland. Many left for the new world Canada, Australia and New Zealand. A lot of the classic Gaelic laments (songs and tunes) were based on tragic experiences, with families being separated by oceans and scattered over the globe).

The current landowner Sir James was a bit of a fool in Nikki's opinion. She and Trisha had met him a few years ago at the Annual New Years Ball, he was drunk and incredibly homophobic when he realised Nikki and Trisha were 'together'. After a rather heated exchange, when he suggested Trisha just needed a 'real man to show her a thing or two' and he of course would happily be that man Nikki told him to "Piss Off" and dragged Trisha home to a much more enjoyable private celebration. As she drove into the courtyard of Helen's steading she noticed the new bright shiny brass plate on the wall by the door of what had been, at one time, the byre –

Helen Stewart

Veterinary Surgeon

Drumbeg Farmhouse

She would wait for the official tour but Helen obviously had done a lot of work to transform the old U-shaped steading into a surgery.

"Hi you made it," said Helen coming around the corner of the house. "Welcome."

"Hi," said Nikki a bit shyly, handing over the rolls. "Is it ok if I bring Cu?" indicating to the dog hanging out the back of the land rover.

"Cu?" smiled Helen (Cu was gaelic for dog).

"Not my fault it's the name she came with," replied Nikki a tad defensively.

"Of course she's welcome," said Helen "she can go with the others, they're out back in the walled garden."

"Walled garden, I didn't know this place had a walled garden!"

"Yes, and I think I have found the perfect spot for a polytunnel but I will need your expert advice. My ex-fiancé Sean was a landscape gardener you'd think I'd have picked some things up in three years."

So thought Nikki, she had a boyfriend, had being the operative word, better check this out.

"Maybe you should ask Sean for some advice - given he's the professional."

"I wouldn't ask Sean for help if my life depended on it." Helen replied angrily and in her heaviest Scottish accent.

That's good to know thought Nikki smiling to herself.

"Then I am happy to help," responded Nikki "but lets get out of this rain, I'm hungry and I need to be fed. I'm not good at hungry!"

Helen smiled and showed Nikki into her home. Nikki loved the large kitchen, although traditional in style, it all looked very new, very expensive, very tasteful and very much a cook's kitchen. The units were solid oak but a light shade of oak; they were topped by the most beautiful granite which was an amazing swirling mix of red, purple and brown – just the colours of the moor. A huge, deep red, Aga dominated the space and virtually threw out heat. A deep Belfast sink was situated on the other wall and an enormous American style fridge freezer was fully integrated, as was the dishwashing machine. At the other end of the kitchen was an antique dresser and in front of that a huge oval pine table with 4 Orkney chairs (with their straw backs and canopies) situated around it. But this was a family table it could seat 10 easily.

"What a fantastic table," said Nikki rubbing her hand over the smooth wooden table.

"Yes isn't it. It's been in the family for generations. Or so the story goes."

The floor was tiled with huge old traditional flagstones and on the wall was a huge canvas of a dramatic seascape.

"That looks familiar," said Nikki.

"Yes it's the shore at Dailbeg. I bought it from the Moarer Gallery on one of my trips here this summer. They had a JoLoMo**** exhibition and I fell in love with this piece. We always went to Dailbeg beach with my Granny when I was a kid."

"You were here this summer?" asked Nikki surprised she hadn't seen or at least heard about the new Vet – in rural communities, like these, news like that travelled fast.

"Yes I had a couple of flying visits – weekends mostly – to see how the work was progressing on the house and the surgery. I flew from London to Inverness, then Inverness to Stornoway. I was still working in London so could not afford any more time than a couple of weekends. Effie and her husband John-Angus have been great, they supervised work on a daily basis and only called me when a specific decision was needed."

"Did you have to do much work to the place?"

"Well the byre had to be gutted as I wanted to create an office, surgery and small operating theatre in there. The builders did a great job, although it's fairly compact with all the velux windows it's bright, airy and functional. My great-aunt hadn't actually lived here in a few years so the house, although sound, needed a bit of work. I redid the kitchen and bathroom and added an en-suite to the master bedroom but apart from that it was just paint, new curtains and carpets. More of my furniture should arrive when my London flat is finally sold," said Helen taking the turkey bacon, veggie sausage, tattie scones, tomatoes and mushrooms out of the oven as she spoke. "How do you like your eggs?"

"Sunnyside up is fine by me. What can I do to help?

"Set the table if you would, please. The cutlery is in the drawer in the old dresser and the plates and stuff are inside it. Tea or coffee?" said Helen pointing toward an espresso machine in the corner.

"An espresso machine what a treat – I would love a cappuccino, please. That's one of the few things I miss from down south."

Helen nodded "Yes, coffee is one of my weaknesses. I'll get beans shipped up from Edinburgh. I had to get my own espresso machine I could never cope without my morning fix. It was secreted away in the back of the X-Country – I brought it with me - have coffee machine will travel," she added laughingly.

As they sat down to breakfast and shared the events that had filled their lives over the last few weeks Nikki couldn't help but think how comfortable this was, so different from her meals with Trisha which, these days, were rather taciturn affairs. There had been a time when they shared everything. Trisha – shit she needed to explain to Helen that her partner was a she not a he. She did not think Helen would have a problem having already voiced some fairly liberal political views. Nevertheless for some reason she felt a bit nervous. It had been a while since she had had to 'come out' to someone. Most people she knew had met her with Trisha and, unless you were completely insensitive, it became apparent very quickly that they were a couple. Something to do with Trisha's tactile nature…Trisha had always been a very physical person, but even that had changed in recent months, their sex life had really cooled down – she was lucky if they made love once a week. Trisha never seemed to be up for it. Nothing like a few years ago - when she was insatiable Nikki mused.

"Hey Nikki, where are you?" Helen nudged her as she took away her plate.

"Oh sorry Helen I was miles away. Actually there is something I need to tell you."

"That sounds serious," smiled Helen nursing her coffee cup.

"Actually it's about my partner."

"Yes – I hope everything is ok?" Helen had wondered about Nikki's partner as she rarely spoke about him and she appeared so passionate about everything else in her life.

"Oh yes everything is fine. It's just…."

"It's just what?"

"Helen will you please stop interrupting. I am trying to tell you," Nikki snapped.

"Sorry," said Helen rather huffily "But there is no need to snap."

"I wasn't snapping Helen. Will you please let me continue?"

"Go ahead I am not stopping you," retorted Helen her temper rising at what was fast becoming a most ridiculous conversation.

"Well it's my partner he's not a he, he's a she."

"He's a she. How can that be?" said Helen thinking aloud. Although very open minded sometimes she was naively simplistic. She thought in terms of animals - there are male sheep and female sheep, male cows and female cows. What was Nikki talking about?

"Helen listen to yourself, do you know what you are saying?"

Nikki was getting more heated and angry, already stressed, for some reason, at having to have this conversation with Helen.

"Trisha is my partner she is a woman and we live together."

Nikki could not believe she was having to spell this out for Helen – maybe she had completely misjudged her.

Helen slowly realised what Nikki was saying to her. "Oh, she's your partner."

"Yes she's my partner of nine years – but I don't suppose that makes sense to you either. Women in a long term committed relationship. I'd better go. I thought we could be friends but clearly …"

With that she stood up and dashed out the room leaving a rather shell shocked Helen, floundering for words, in the kitchen. As Nikki slammed the back door she called for Cu who was at her feet in seconds. Well you handled that well. Helen rebuked herself. The truth was she wasn't so shocked to learn that Nikki had a partner and was a lesbian but it was her reaction to that news that surprised her. She had found Nikki attractive right from the start it was not just her physical appearance, she exuded confidence, strength and power and came across as fiercely independent. Helen liked powerful people. But there was something Helen couldn't put her finger on but now it all made sense, it hit her right between the eyes - she found Nikki very sexually intriguing too. Helen went to the back door, considered something for a moment, shook her head, and then locked it. She had to speak to Nikki but she probably needed to give her some time to cool off, she would wait until after lunch and try and make peace then. She finished clearing up the kitchen, then went into the lounge, the open fire blazing, and picked up her book. It was still pouring outside and she liked nothing better than curling up with a good book – the only way to spend a grey wet Sunday afternoon unless you were in bed with a lover!

It was mid afternoon when Helen lifted her eyes from her book. It was pretty racey –must have been one that Claire recommended. She was feeling decidedly randy – that bloody book and its graphic sex had really got her going. She needed to release the sexual frustration. She lay down on the sheepskin rug in front of the blazing fire. Helen was very matter of fact about her own physical needs she attributed it to her pragmatic nature. Claire just teased and called her an oversexed boffin who surrounded by shagging sheep adopted their behaviour – Helen loved a good shag. She needed to release some of this pent up sexual tension. She masturbated regularly but rarely in the middle of the day, but needs must and it was Sunday after all. Is that not what Sunday 'long lies' were all about – making love/having sex with your partner.

She lay on her front needing to feel pressure on her whole body, opened her trousers then pulled them down onto her hips and slid her hand down into her pants. She liked to slide her trousers only so far down her legs so they trapped them in place and just allowed her limited access, it somehow felt more elicit, more exciting. She slid her fingers over her clit. She needed direct stimulation now. God she was wet. As she slowly started to stimulate her already wet and swollen clit she began to fantasise her favourite fantasy - except this time it wasn't an anonymous, tall dark handsome man who followed her into the chic hotel bathroom it was Nikki. The tall, dark, broodily sexy woman. Nikki pushed at the cubicle door and Helen let her in without protest. Rubbing her clit in a circular movement with one hand and stimulating her left breast in the same manner with the other Helen pushed into the sheepskin rug. Her hips rubbing against the hard surface of the floor through the softness of the rug she continued to fantasise –Nikki pushed her against the cubicle wall and kissed her roughly, opening her mouth and pushing her tongue deep inside. The kiss was fierce, her hands roving over her breasts. She pushed up her t-shirt to find her braless. Helen groaned with pleasure. Her hands continued to rove all over Helen's body. Setting Helen alight wherever she touched. Nikki was focussed, and on a mission. Her hands slowly, excruciatingly slowly, travelled up Helen's outer thighs, pushing up her short skirt as they went. Helen groaned into the kiss as she felt Nikki's hands reach her panties. God how she wanted this woman inside her now. In order to give Nikki better access Helen lifted her leg and draped it around her waist. Nikki held it in place with her left hand. This act of partial submission fuelled Nikki's passion even further. She trailed her fingers along the soft fabric between Helen's legs, wanting nothing more than to shove it aside and plunge in. It was damp, very damp and Nikki could feel the outline of Helen's swollen sex.

"Fuck me now," pleaded Helen.

Nikki needed no further instruction she slide the panties aside and shoved two fingers deep inside Helen. Nikki, groaning loudly with pleasure was lost in the warm, wet, softness that was Helen.

Helen continued to masturbate. Rubbing her clit harder and faster as she became wetter and even more exited.

Nikki was thrusting into her hard and fast but then abruptly withdrew. Helen opened her eyes in surprise she was on the verge of coming and did not take too kindly to this sudden interruption.

"Don't worry I've only just started! I've got something I know you'll like.

She took Helen's hand and rubbed it over her crotch. How had Helen failed to notice this earlier? Nikki was wearing a strap-on, a sizeable one at that. Without hesitating Helen pulled down the zip on Nikki's jeans and, without the heavy material holding it in place, the dildo sprang free.

"We'll need to get rid of these," said Nikki pulling Helen's panties to the floor.

Helen stepped out of them as Nikki stepped back and sat down on the loo.

"I need you here. Now!"

Helen quickly straddled Nikki. Nikki used her fingers to part Helen's labia and placed the dildo under Helen's already swollen wet and needy opening.

"Nikki I need you to fuck me," Helen pleaded again.

With that Nikki pushed up as Helen sank down, and watched the dildo disappear deep into Helen. Helen gasped as the dildo filled her up. It felt so good she felt completely full of Nikki. Helen quickly took control rising and falling at the speed and pressure she wanted. She knew exactly what she wanted, this was the only way she could come with Sean – by being on top and dictating the pace!

Helen groaned in orgasm as in her fantasy Nikki had had enough of Helen being in charge so she lifted her, rammed her hard up against the loo wall, the dildo still deep inside her, mouth sucking hard on her left nipple. As Helen came she ejaculated all over her hand. Never had her fantasies been as graphic or as efficacious. She had never ejaculated before! Helen quickly did up her trousers and rolled over to face the fire. That had been interesting, whatever next – she a straight woman was now fantasising about women, well one woman in particular.

Hell, there must be something in the water!!


Chapter 3

Later that afternoon Helen decided she needed to see Nikki. She wanted to reassure Nikki - she had no problem with her sexuality. She had simply been surprised by her revelation - that was all. But after her fantasy she wasn't sure that she would be able to look Nikki in the eye!

When she drove by the pottery she saw the studio lights were on. The shop did not open on a Sunday – very little opened here on Sunday in deference to the church. Actually Helen quite liked it as it meant Sunday truly was a day of rest and after a hard week it was nice to relax completely. Nikki's probably working off her temper she thought as she quietly entered the studio. Nikki did not look up; she was clearly engrossed in her work. She was working on what looked like a female form in clay. Helen stood transfixed as she watched Nikki working and kneading the clay. She swallowed hard why did everything this woman do have sexual overtones – or maybe it was her hormones, she hadn't had sex with anyone in months maybe she was just frustrated. She should go to the Rugby club dance next Friday with her cousin Lachlan (nickname Lachie) maybe she would meet someone who could 'help her out'. As if she sensed a presence Nikki turned round and caught sight of Helen. She turned back to her work.

"What do you want?"

"Nikki I came to apologise, I didn't react well to your news. You just took me by surprise. I needed time to process the information."

"Oh so now you've thought about it and it's ok. So it should be ok with me. Well you can just piss off Helen I don't need friends like you."

Helen could not believe this woman, she had come to apologise, wave the truce flag, and she was being told to 'piss off'.

"I don't believe you. I made a mistake. I apologised. I thought we could be friends. I am not sure that I want to be friends with an unforgiving, inflexible, arrogant…dyke."

And with that she turned and left slamming the door behind her.

"Wow, someone's got a temper," Nikki whispered under her breath afraid Helen might overhear her. Deciding she had perhaps been a bit unreasonable, just because she was pissed off with Trisha didn't mean she had to take it out on Helen, so she went after her. She grabbed some fresh herbs from the polytunnel and a dozen eggs – the hens had been laying like crazy the last few weeks - and with Cu in the back set off up the road to Helen's.

When they got there Helen's car was parked in the garage. Nikki popped her head in the back kitchen and called for Helen.

"Helen are you here?" but there was no reply, she couldn't possibly have gone out in this weather could she?

Helen had driven home, got the dogs and decided to go for a walk on the shore. The wind had really got up and now it was not just torrential rain it was torrential horizontal rain! But she needed to clear her head. That woman was so infuriating. How she managed to push her buttons so effectively was beyond Helen. It was only 5 minutes walk down the track to the shore. She was bent double trying to stand up in the wind and soaked through before she got to the end of the track. Och well it would help her calm down. Archie and Rowan loved the rain and walks of any sort but even they were a little reticent about being out in what was bordering on a hurricane. Helen was glad she made the effort to get to the shore it was breathtaking, the sea, a swirling angry mass of grey, with huge white breakers, was unrecognisable. As the waves crashed on the rocky shingle they washed all the way up to the grassy bank of the foreshore. It must be a high tide thought Helen, that combined with the gale had created an amazing natural spectacle. The noise was overwhelming as the waves crashed on the shore and rushed towards them. The dogs clearly disturbed by the wildness of it all stood, tails between their legs, at Helen's side. She stood enthralled loving the wildness of it – nature in the raw. The air was full of sea spray, a fine mist, and Helen could taste the salt on her lips.

Nikki drove down to the shore with Cu huddled in the back. The wind was easily 60-80 miles an hour and it was getting dark. It got dark really early this far North in the winter. When she got there she saw Helen's form in the distance. She knew she would never hear her in this wind so she turned her headlights on full beam and flashed them hoping to get her attention that way – there was no point in them both getting soaked through. Almost immediately Helen turned around, with the dogs still at her feet, and started toward the Land rover. She put the dogs in the back and then with some difficulty opened the passenger door and got inside.

"Wow, that is unbelievable," forgetting she was angry with Nikki. Nikki just nodded not wanting to break the connection.

"We better get you home and into some dry clothes."

Nikki put the car heater on full but even although it just took minutes to get back up to the house Helen had begun to shiver uncontrollably.

"I hate to state the obvious but you know you can get hypothermia in this type of weather in virtually no time," said Nikki.

"Shut up will you and let's get in the house."

With some difficulty, because of the powerful wind, they managed to get out of the Land rover and into the house.

"You better get out of these wet things and take a hot bath. I'll look after the dogs. Where are their towels?"

"In the utility room, on the shelf," Helen said as she took off her outdoor coat. She was soaked through and shivering.

"I'll make supper if you like, I brought some eggs – a 'please forgive' me gift," Nikki added sheepishly.

Helen smiled warmly "I guess you're forgiven then. Why don't you open a bottle of wine too? They're stored in the big cupboard in the utility room."

"Yes ma am," Nikki smiled saluting her.

"Watch it cheeky!" shouted Helen as she went up the stairs smiling. Glad that she and Nikki had started talking again.

As Helen lay back in the deep bath with suds up to her chin she heard a gentle knock on the door.

"Come in," said Helen comfortable in the knowledge that the water and the suds were strategically placed and kept her modesty intact!

"I brought you a glass of wine, thought you might need it."

"Thanks, that sounds like a great idea."

"Supper will be ready in ten minutes if that works for you?"

"Sounds great. I'll be right down."

Nikki was setting the coffee table in the lounge, the fire blazing in the grate. She had lit the candles placed around the room. Just in case the power went out – nothing more!!! On review of Helen's extensive CD collection she noted that they had, surprisingly, similar taste. She put on Sarah McLachlan's new album – full of angst, but nice background music nevertheless. Helen came in dressed in thick flannel pj's and her slippers.

"Madam," Nikki indicated the seat closest to the fire and opened a linen napkin onto Helen's lap. Helen looked up with a questioning expression of surprise.

"I was a waitress at a very fine restaurant in a previous life."

"Impressive," said Helen as Nikki brought in a tray of food and laid it on her lap.

"I thought you might want to eat in here it's a bit cosier."

"Great" said Helen "this looks fantastic" With that she raised her wine glass in toast,

"To new friends."

"To friends," echoed Nikki.

"I hope you don't mind but I fed the dogs too. They were looking for it. They're all curled up in front of the Aga now. Looks like they are settled in for the night."

"This is delicious Nikki what's in it?" Helen asked as she scoffed her meal. She hadn't had anything to eat since their breakfast that morning. She could have eaten anything, but this was particularly good.

"There's some fresh spinach, some kalamata olives, a bit of feta and some fresh oregano. All the fresh stuff is from my polytunnel," she added proudly.

"Well it's delicious just what I needed. Thanks."

"No problem. Have you warmed up yet?"

"No, I'm still a bit shivery."

Nikki got up and went through to the kitchen and returned a few minutes later with a steaming cup of tea.

"Here drink this."

"Thanks Nikki. You are looking after me well."

"I used to be a girl guide I'll have you know!" Nikki joked.

They sat for a moment; the only sounds the gentle crackling of the fire, the soft tones of Sarah McLachan in the background and the rain lashing against the window.

Helen was about to say something.


A particularly strong gust of wind shook the house. The windows rattled noisily, the fire roared up the chimney, the lights flickered and went out and the stereo shut off mid song.


Chapter 4

"Thank god you lit the candles. The Aga should keep the house warm. I don't think you should go out in that. The wind has got worse if anything. Why don't you stay here for the night? You've got the dog with you; do you really need to go home? I have a spare bedroom. And to be honest I could do with the company, I'm a bit nervous, haven't experienced weather like this in years," Helen rushed, without taking a breath. A bit frightened by the strength of the storm, her Scottish accent much more pronounced. She was doing the tongue and teeth thing again Nicki noticed - a very endearing trait.

The storm was pretty incredible without the distraction of the music you could really focus on it. Even with all the windows closed the sound of the wind and the waves crashing against the shore was insanely loud. Nikki was glad to be invited to stay she did not fancy venturing out into that storm. It could do a lot of damage.

"Since you asked so nicely Helen I would be delighted to stay and hold your hand through this storm."

"Nikki." Helen was not in the mood to be teased.

"Ok, ok, just a joke. I don't fancy going out in that so I'd be happy to stay," at that she got up, picked Helens tray up, and took it back to the kitchen. "You stay here and warm yourself by the fire I'll clear up."

"But that's not fair you cooked."

"Don't worry about it, you can cook and clean next time," said Nikki, hoping there would be a next time.

About 20 minutes later Nikki came back to the lounge to find Helen curled up in the armchair, she had fallen fast asleep.

Probably the best thing for her thought Nikki as she draped a blanket over the comatose Helen. If anything Helen looked even more beautiful as she slept. The tension and stress having gone from her face, leaving a serene beauty which left Nikki completely entranced. As Nikki sat down opposite she gave herself a good talking to - I am a happily involved woman. This woman is as straight as they come, just enjoy the friendship.

After a few minutes of coaching herself Nikki decided to peruse Helen's bookshelves. She was an avid reader and found it interesting to see what titles adorned the bookshelves of others. Not surprisingly there were a lot of non-fiction texts books about natural history, birds, animals, flora and fauna and like many exiled Scots loads of books about Scotland! As she moved along the crowded shelves she got to the fiction section (when did Helen find time to organise her books?) Helen had loads of the Classics too, what a library. For some reason Nikki felt in a Shakespeare mood and picked up Romeo and Juliet – she went to the drinks cabinet and poured herself an Islay malt –Bruichladdich one of her favourites – went to the kitchen to get a little water for the whisky and settled down with her book. It was not the easiest thing reading by candlelight but she persevered.

It was still early, only about 7.30 and she wondered if she should wake Helen – she would not sleep that night if she left her for much longer. Almost as if she heard her thoughts Helen began to stretch as she slowly came too.

"Hiya Nikki," she said in a very sexy, deep, sleepy, voice.

So much for my decision to remain impartial thought Nikki.

"I hope you don't mind I helped myself to a dram" She said lifting her glass "Can I get you one?"

"Don't worry I'll get one, when I'm ready." With that Helen looked down at the blanket. "Where did this come from?"

"I thought you might need it so I covered you with it."

"Thanks Nikki, that was thoughtful," Helen replied getting up and going for a drink.

On her way back she peered over Nikki's shoulder at what she was reading.

"Romeo and Juliet I'm impressed."

"Juliet and Juliet would be more my cup of tea."

"Have you never been interested in men?" asked Helen seizing the opportunity to talk about Nikki's sexuality, hoping to make amends for her behaviour earlier in the day.

"Not my flavour, no."

"But I thought……."

"What, I had just not met the right one. No they do nothing for me."

"How can you be so sure?" the scientist in Helen intrigued (or so she told herself.)

"Same way as you are, if you are?"

Helen laughed " I'm not interested in women, not in that way."

"You should give it a go sometime, you don't know what you're missing." Nikki added flirtatiously – what was she doing?

Helen just laughed and sat down.

They sat in relative silence. Nikki engrossed in her book – or so she pretended – she furtively examined the woman who, like it or not, was fast monopolising her thoughts.

Helen, gazing into the fire, deep in thought, silently caressed her glass. The wind continued to roar and the rain crashed against the windows.

"Have you got a battery operated radio Helen?" Nikki asked trying to take her mind off her somewhat salacious thoughts regarding a certain sexy vet.

"What?" said Helen, her reverie interrupted.

She was thinking of her life in London, her life with Sean. It all seemed so far away. Thank god! How comfortable and relaxed she felt sitting her in front of her fire, nursing a dram, and all in good company.

"Do you have a portable radio we need to check the weather report?"

"Yes I do have one somewhere – in the kitchen cupboard maybe."

"…..that completes the BBC shipping news at 20.00 hrs on Sunday, November …."

"Wow, that sounds bad," exclaimed Helen "Sounds like this depression will be hanging around for the next couple of days."

"I wouldn't worry too much this house has been here for over two hundred years it's dealt with worse than this storm," she said trying to reassure a clearly anxious Helen.

Helen looked questioningly at Nikki.

"The good news, is you have not opened your practise yet and being self employed I get to play hooky. Fancy some fun tomorrow?" Nikki added trying to change the subject.

"What do you mean, what can you do for fun in this kind of weather?"

Nikki nearly choked on her drink as her mind degenerated to what she would really like to do with Helen on a windy, grey, day - partake of pastimes of an erotic nature!!!

"You ok Nikki?" Helen asked slightly concerned as she half-choked.

"Yeah fine, just went down the wrong way. I was thinking with this wind and the high tide the surf will be up."

"We know the 'surf is up' we saw what it was like down on the shore earlier this evening," said Helen sarcastically – "We're on Lewis not bloody Hawaii."

"Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit."

"But often the most effective!"

"You didn't know that we have some of the best surfing beaches in the UK just down the road 'Miss know it all'.

"Who would want to surf in British waters, it's bloody freezing. If the water was 30 degrees warmer I might consider it."

"You big whimp, I've been surfing since I was a kid. The South coast is a bit warmer though I'll give you that. I couldn't believe it when we moved here 2 minutes from Eoropie and Habost two of the best surfing beaches around. People come here from all over to surf these waves."

"Good for them," said Helen clearly unimpressed.

"Come on Helen, I thought you were looking for adventure," goaded Nikki.

"I don't think I have time tomorrow. I'm still trying to get the surgery organised and I need to hire a receptionist."


"Chicken!" Helen arched her beautifully shaped eyebrow. "Ok," rising to meet the challenge "You're on Miss Smarty Pants."

"I'm going to show you a good time – Dr Stewart!" Nikki joked.

"Talking of good times, are you and Trisha going to the Rugby Club do on Friday night? I'm going with my 2nd cousin Lachie."

"Actually we're not – I'm not so sure how the rugby club would take to a couple of lesbos turning up at their St Andrews Night Ceilidh – and Trisha just gets back on Friday so.."

"So you probably want a romantic night in," teased Helen trying to prove, yet again, to Nikki that she was ok with her sexuality.

"Right," Nikki responded a bit embarrassed at Helens teasing.

They chatted until about 10.00, when Helen yawned loudly.

"I'm so sorry Nikki, that was really rude. I don't what it is about living here but by this time of night I am ready to crash out."

"I know what you mean I think it's something about the sea air. When we first got here I was always falling asleep in the chair of an evening. I'll make you a hot water bottle to take to bed."

"Thanks Nikki that's really good of you – you make a good wife!"

You could have cut the atmosphere with a knife. What was, on the face of it, a fairly innocuous comment had rendered them both speechless. Nikki blustered out and put the kettle on asking Helen where she kept her hot water bottles as she went.

By the time she had returned Helen had blown out all the candles and banked up the fire. "I'll show you the spare room."

"Thanks, and do you have something I can borrow – to sleep in?"

"Oh yes, sure."

Helen returned with a grey Law and Order SVU t-shirt and flowery boxers.

"Nice," commented Nikki –"Didn't peg you for a Law and Order fan ….and the flowery boxers!!!"

"I think Olivia Benson is a woman of great sensitivity, empathy, integrity and drive. I admire her greatly. Did I not tell you I considered Law Enforcement as a career before I opted for veterinary medicine – I really love that programme."

"A lot of dykes love it too – Olivia and Alex you know!"

"What are you talking about Olivia and Alex they're not lesbians."

"Not overtly so, but think about it."

Helen looked perplexed, clearly there was a lot more to this lesbian thing than she had considered. She was going to learn a lot from Nikki!

"Here's the bedroom and the bathroom is through there as you know. There are candles and matches on the fireplace here and on the window ledge in there."

"Thanks a lot. I'll see you in the morning Helen."

"Yeah goodnight Nikki – sleep tight."

"Good Night Helen."

"And thanks Nikki, I really appreciated your company this evening."

"Good night then."


It seemed like neither of them wanted to leave.

It turned out to be a very frustrating night for both of them. The wind battered the rain against the windows and the gale howled. Nikki could not sleep – she was in turmoil. She loved Trisha and would never do anything to hurt her but she was fast becoming infatuated with the fiery Scot, sleeping only a few metres away, in the next room. She got up and looked out the window. The wind was still blowing up a storm but there was an amazing full moon, huge and bright – the whole landscape seemed floodlit. In the distance she could see the white form of the waves crashing against the fore shore. God it was beautiful. She needed to get some sleep or she would never cope in the surf tomorrow. She needed her wits about her if the swell was a good as predicted.

Helen tossed and turned too. She could not stop thinking. Her mind was full of things – her to do list, what she had left behind in London, her father – he never approved of anything she did and finally Nikki. Nikki had proved to be a breath of fresh air, her energy and enthusiasm for life a revelation. It was nice to find someone she clicked with so easily, even if they had their misunderstandings!


Chapter 5

"Come in," Helen groggily answered the gentle knock on the door.

Nikki, followed by three animated dogs, came in with two cups of tea in hand.

"Electricity is still out, but it's a fantastic morning clear blue sky."

She handed Helen a cup and went to sit on the seat in the corner.

"Hey, jump in here, it's cold across there."

Helen offered pulling back her duvet and sliding over, leaving space for Nikki in her large sleigh bed. Nikki hesitated but convinced herself that it was all completely innocent and climbed in beside Helen. It was warm and smelt of Helen - a subtle smell of citrus and ginger – an aroma she could already readily recognise!

"So is it surfing weather then?" Helen asked tentatively hoping the answer would be no.

"Absolutely. You ready then?"

"I guess so!" Never one to shirk away from a challenge – a trait that had got her into innumerable scrapes!

Another wave crashed against the beach. Helen pulled herself and the board up out of the water. She took a few steps and collapsed in a heap on the beach above the waterline. Rowan came up to her and started licking her furiously.

"It's fantastic," shouted Nikki above the noise of the waves. "You're doing great."

"Tell my body that – I feel that I have been through the wringer"

Helen collapsed back onto the sand. Trisha was just a little taller than Helen so the wetsuit Nikki had loaned her was only slightly too long. It turned out that Nikki was a natural teacher, patient and good at explaining things simply and well. Helen had great balance, she had studied ballet until she'd gone to University, and was doing very well, managing to kneel on the board easily. Standing up was always the challenging part. But she had even managed to surf a couple of good waves in a partially standing position.

They must have been surfing for about an hour and a half when Nikki suggested lunch. Helen hoped they would be going to Nikki's house – she needed a break – but no such luck Nikki had a picnic basket in the back of the Land rover. They pulled the surfboards on to the grassy machair and sat among the dunes out of the wind. Nikki had prepared a wonderful feast. Huge, homemade wholemeal, sandwiches with havarti cheese, rocket, avocado, tomatoes and bean sprouts washed down with Piping hot homemade mushroom soup from a huge stainless flask. Helen was ravenous after all the exercise and wolfed down her sandwich.

"Nice bread."

"Yeah the bread making machine Trisha got me last year is a godsend. It's great

Having fresh bread when you want it and it's really easy to use."

"You're really into the good life eh? Miss self-sufficiency," Helen teased.

"To a degree, it's needs must. It's 45 minutes into Stornoway for us. We only do a big shop every two weeks or so. But I also enjoy it. Everything I grow, I grow organically."

For dessert Nikki had brought some chocolate éclairs which were divine. Helen lay on her back stuffed.

"I can't possibly go back in the water after that amount of food – I'll sink."

"You'll get cramps," Nikki warned.

"Och well, we'll have to relax for a bit." It was surprisingly warm in the midday sun in the shelter of the dunes. "I must look a right sight," Helen stated looking down at the wetsuit, and booties. "And this balaclava wetsuit hat thing just finishes it all off."

"You look just fine, your cheeks are full of colour and you are literally glowing after all the exercise."

"Yeah right!"

Nikki, not wanting to embarrass herself by commenting any further on how Helen looked, changed the subject.

"You mentioned last night that you are looking for a receptionist for the practise."

"Yes, I probably only need someone on a part-time basis. Do you have someone in mind?"

"Actually I do, a woman who we met when we first came to the Island. She has been a bit like a mother to me. For some reason she and Trisha didn't hit it off in the same way. Her son died recently and, as they did everything together, she is looking for something to fill the void."

"Do you know if she has any experience?"

"I know she has done a lot of different things. I think she was a PA in her last job. She is incredibly honest and I would trust her with my life."

"That's quite a recommendation. What's her name and how can I get in touch with her?"

"Her name is Monica Lindsay, I'll give you her phone number and contact details when we get back to the house."

Helen decided that probably one morning was enough for her first attempt at surfing and did not go back into the sea. Nikki was ready to stop for the day too but Helen could tell she was keen to go back out.

"Why don't you go and have another couple of runs. I'll tidy up the picnic and pack up the car."

"If you're sure?" said Nikki hesitating.

"I'm sure – go for it."

Without any further encouragement Nikki picked up her board and ran off down the beach.

Helen had packed everything away and was settling down in her wee suntrap when Nikki returned cold, saltwater dripping off her.

"I'm ready to go home too. The current is really strong now the tide has turned. I don't want to take any risks and over do it."

"Fine by me," said Helen as she called the dogs and they all clambered up the dunes back to the car.

When they pulled up at Nikki's house still in their wetsuits Nikki pointed out what looked a bit like a small roofless shed.

"That's our outside shower saves getting sand and salt water all over the house."

"Are you telling me you want me to shower out here in 10 degree temperatures?" Helen asked in disbelief.

"Exactly, but the water is really hot – it's really refreshing, honest, and you get the added benefit of watching the clouds roll by," said Nikki with a broad grin on her face.

She showed Helen into the communal showers. There were three giant showerheads on one wall and pegs with large bath towels on the other. Nikki must have put them in before they left. Helen hesitated momentarily. Did Nikki expect them to shower together? She had to do it. If not, she was sure she would offend her again and upset the delicate balance of their developing friendship – she did not want to do anything to endanger that. So Helen followed Nikki's lead but had some difficulty getting out of the wetsuit.

"Nikki, I could do with some help getting out of this bloody thing!"

Nikki was more than happy to oblige. She tried hard not to stare when Helen took off her swimsuit and dived under the water. She had the most beautiful breasts, with the cold her nipples were all puckered and erect and her olive skin looked so soft and caress able. Nikki breathed deeply and deliberately turned her shower to cold. Nothing better than a cold shower to numb the senses. Wrapped in their towels they dashed from the shower to the house – as quick as you can dash in flip flops!

Having dressed in the relative warmth of the spare bedroom Helen returned to the kitchen. Although much smaller than her house Nikki and Trisha's house was all that Helen expected from Nikki and more – contemporary in style but comfortable. The cool neutral colours accented by some amazingly vibrant artwork - paintings and ceramics. And the views, from nearly every window, across the sea, were breathtaking. She was particularly drawn to a small but beautiful clay statue of a naked woman about 25 centimetres high. It was incredible. The woman was slim but sensuous, very alluring. Helen had never seen a piece that exuded sensuality in such a way.


"Yeah, one of my early efforts. I did it when I was still at Art School. And still up my own ass," Nikki replied.

"Oh no, it's beautiful. Raw and sensual. I love it."


Helen knew Nikki was not good with compliments.

"No I mean it. I really love it. Do you have any pieces for sale?"

"Actually I've only just started doing my own stuff again. April to October Marie and I are working full on doing mugs and pots and things for the shop. I do my 'real' work through the winter. So in a longwinded way no I don't have a lot. I can show you what I have. Most of the stuff I haven't sold ends up in the house. Once it's here I can't bring myself to sell it."

"I'd love to see what you have."

"Sure but lets have a cuppa first."

Helen was blown away by Nikki's work. It was most elemental in nature. It was raw and basic, remote and distant yet somehow intimate all at the same time. Some of the pieces seemed tortuous and full of pain. God knows where Nikki got the inspiration for some of this thought Helen. As if she could read her mind Nikki interrupted Helens thoughts.

"I didn't have the most enjoyable upbringing. My father was in the Navy and often away on duty. My mother was pretentious – a real snob. We never really got on I was always much closer to my father but he was rarely at home. For my mother my being gay was the last straw. They threw me out at sixteen."

"Oh Nikki I'm so sorry."

Never one really to show her true feelings Nikki simply shrugged.

"I survived, life goes on. My friends are my family now. Trisha means everything to me."

Helen simply nodded. She knew what it felt like to be brought up in a loveless family. Her mother had died when she was really young and her father a Free Church minister had never really shown her love. He was a true Calvinist - hard working and serious but judgemental and dour with it. Once her mother died, he didn't know how to handle the bright spark that was Helen. Helen's fondest childhood memories were of Lewis. Spending time with her Aunties, Uncles and cousins on Lewis. Even her great Auntie Seonag, a spinster was more open minded and loving than her father. Yes, she knew all about tortured upbringings. She told Nikki her story and Nikki raised her head and smiled.

"Well Miss Stewart I guess we do have something in common – a fucked up childhood!"

Helen laughed. "Like everyone else I know!"

Later on that evening, safely back in her own home, Helen felt surprisingly alone. She could tell she had found a good friend in Nikki, but Nikki was queer – hell she was picking up the vernacular already! And Nikki was with Trisha. Well she had the rugby club do on Friday night maybe she would meet some eligible young stud there. 'Young stud' thought Helen horrified. Well that's what she needed to keep her right wasn't it, a good shag!


Chapter 6

"So Monica tell me a little about your office experience?"

Monica spent the next 20 minutes impressing Helen with her extensive work experience. She had done it all.

"What about animals, what do you think about working with them?"

"I've loved animals ever since I was a kid. I used to help my father when he let me. I would enjoy working in an animal environment again."

Monica had grown up and lived on small farm down south before she married the Stornoway, Bank Manager – Alasdair Lindsay. They had met when Alasdair had been visiting the bank's London office. Monica was a PA there.

They communicated extensively by letter and phone and not long after Alasdair asked Monica to marry him. Neither of them was getting any younger. So they married and Monica relocated to Lewis. Soon after they married Monica had a baby boy – Spencer. Tragically Alasdair died when Spencer was only a baby. Spencer a Down syndrome baby and his mother were in separable until his unexpected death. Only in his late thirties Monica was still trying to deal with the huge loss.

"So Monica, it seems you have everything I need. Do you have any questions for me and when can you start?" asked Helen smiling.

"When do you need me?"

"How about next week?"

"Sounds good to me."

"Oh, but we haven't discussed salary."

"Don't worry about that just now you can outline the terms and conditions in my offer letter."

Not sure where she would get this offer letter Helen just smiled nicely as she showed Monica out. She would do a tour and full induction next week. Monica's first job would be her own offer letter and employment contract!

The rest of the week flew by as Helen readied herself for the official opening of the practise on Monday. She spent one day in Stornoway with her new partners. Although physically remote, and pretty much independent, Helen liked the idea of being part of a partnership. The other three vets took Helen out to lunch just to get to know each other better. They had already met but that was in more formal circumstances. There was Karen a competent and no nonsense kinda gal from Yorkshire, Neil a Glaswegian with a great line in jokes, and Dominic a sweet understated man who came from the island. Helen got a vibe from Dominic – he fancied her, she was sure of it. But he was only a lad, too young for her. They had a very enjoyable lunch – everybody was talking about the Rugby Club Ceilidh on Friday – clearly one of the highlights on the social calendar. Helen herself was getting excited about the prospect.

On Thursday evening just after she got in, having given the dogs their evening walk, the phone rang loudly. The phone – she did not get the same volume of calls here, so she was pleased to hear it ring.


"Yeah, Hi Nikki it's nice to hear from you," she responded warmly glad to hear from her friend.

"How are you?"

"Good, hey I thought you'd be please to know I hired Monica she's just perfect thanks for the referral. We are all ready for next week."

"Good, I am glad I am sure it will work out well for you both. Well I was ringing to ask if you would like to come to dinner at the weekend. How about Saturday? I know you have the Rugby club thingy on Friday. Trisha gets home Friday and I would like you two to meet."

"I'd love to Nikki what should I bring?"


"Be serious."

"No, I mean it, we have everything, but if you'd like to bring some wine that would be great. And bring your overnight things I'm sure you'll want to drink and there is no point in taking any risks. We have a spare room you can crash out in."

"Oh, ok."

Helen hesitated not sure if she wanted to stay over with Nikki and Trisha. What was that about she wondered questioning her own motivation.

"Nikki that would be great. I am looking forward to meeting Trisha and experiencing more of your delicious cooking. What time?"

"How does 7.00 o'clock sound?"

"Fine, I look forward to it. Bye just now Nikki."

"Bye Helen, see you Saturday."

As Helen put down the phone she questioned herself. Why was she feeling odd about staying over with Nikki and Trisha was it the fact that they were lesbians or was it something completely different…??

By Friday night, the evening of the Rugby Club Ceilidh, Helen was feeling slightly nervous about the whole affair. She had not been out to an event like this in eons, and she was feeling slightly apprehensive. Well, she knew 4 people – Lachie and her three business partners Karen, Neil and Dominic – but she hardly new them. She couldn't expect them to hold her hand all evening. No, some Dutch courage would be in order – a few pints would do just the trick.

Coincidentally Claire phoned earlier that evening to check in with Helen. She was most impressed to hear that Helen was going out to a Ceilidh and that she already had a new friend who'd taken her surfing.

"Helen, I knew you'd love it up there. It's just you. You sound so happy and relaxed."

"When are you coming up Claire?"

She knew Claire had never been to the Islands and really wanted her friend to come and experience it for herself.

"Good question Helen. I do have some vacation due. I was thinking I might come up for Christmas and New Year."

"Oh, please do Claire, it would be great to have you and we could go to The New Years Ceilidh – apparently the thing to do here at New Year."

"But what about you're Dad. Is he not coming to visit? And what's a Ceilidh anyway?"

"Surprise, surprise he can't leave his parishioners. And a Ceilidh is just a Scottish dance- it's all country-dances, Eightsome Reels, Strip the Willows and the like. All the stuff you learn, at least we learned, in gym class at school. "

"Sounds fun."

"It is, exhausting but fun."

Claire rang off shortly after promising to get her flights north organised.

Helen drove into Lachie's - he lived in Stornoway. She was going to stay there overnight so she could drink at the Ceilidh. The dogs settled in front of Lachie's wood burning stove.

"You look great." Said Lachie giving his cousin the once over.

Helen was casually dressed in low hung tight black velvet bootleg trousers, on her feet she wore black ankle boots with a medium height heel and on top a plunging red v necked t-shirt. Over it she wore a short tailored black leather jacket. She wore make-up but in a very natural style so it was hardly noticeable. And she smelled almost edible. Lachie could not put his finger on the perfume but it was subtle and exotic.

"Absolutely fabulous," he added somewhat tongue in check.

"Your no so bad yourself," Helen added nudging him his she admired his kilt, t-shirt and boots.

"Very urbane interpretation of highland dress," she teased.

He ignored her cheeky comment.

"Shall we go?" asked Lachie offering Helen his arm.

Helen felt a bit nervous as they entered the hotel function suite. Looking around she saw Karen frantically waving.

"Helen, come join us."

"Is that ok Lachie?"

"Fine," said Lachie ever the laid back soul.

When they go to the table it was clear that the inhabitants had been drinking for a while. Karen somewhat drunkenly hugged Helen.

"Glad you made it. Let me do some introductions. You know Neil and Dominic. Well this is Dominic's partner Zandra" Zandra waved across the table. "And this is Neil's partner Iain." God thought Helen everybody here is queer. Iain stood up and formally shook hands with Helen.

"Hi Helen nice to meet you."

"And this is my friend Fraser."

Fraser in full highland dress, a bit more formal than Lachie, simply bowed his head,


"Hi Fraser," said Helen completing the introductions, "Everyone this is my cousin Lachie."

There was a rather drunken chorus of "Hi Lachie."

"Can I get anyone a drink?"

"Don't worry Helen we have a kitty – we just started with £20, feel free to join in."

Helen got into her bag and got out £20 for the kitty, as did Lachie.

"Next time a waitress passes we'll get a round in," said Karen.

"Mine's a pint," added Helen.

"Me too," piped up Lachie smiling at Karen. He's smitten already thought Helen.

Across on the other side of the Island things were not going so well. Trisha had arrived home on the evening flight. Nikki had met her and they had got back to Bac at dinnertime. Nikki had made a big effort. She had prepared a candlelit dinner for Trisha. But something was not right she could sense it. As they ate dinner Nikki raised the issue of her inability to get hold of Trisha during her recent trip.

Her insecurities about their relationship surprising ………

"It drives me crazy when I ring and your not there. I expect you were busy with your publishers. I know you still love me…. You do still love me don't you? Trisha?

"I'll always love you Nik, you know I will!"

"That's all right then……" Trisha looked away. "What's her name?"

"Please don't be angry with me Nik." Trisha was could not believe how calm Nikki was.

"I knew it."

"Look we always said we'd be honest with each other. What's the point in pretending everything is ok when we both know it isn't."

"So that's it, just like that?"

"I'm sorry Nik."

"Free's us both up – I suppose that's one way of looking at it."

"Why, have you met someone?"

"Well as they say, there's plenty more fish in the ocean."

"You never said."

"No well, as long as we were together I hadn't done much about it."

"We're still friends?"

"Course we are – you could never not be part of my life."

"I'd better go."


"I'll go and stay with Mary in town."

"I suppose she knows all about this."

"No, no of course not. I spoke to you first."

"So that's it you're just leaving?"

"Probably for the best Nik."

Trisha quickly grabbed some things in a bag and left. Nikki sat alone. So this is it she thought nine years gone in a matter of seconds!!! Cu nudged her nose into Nikki's hands. Clapping Cu she whispered,

"Hi, sweetie thanks for being here for me."

The dog just sat there as Nikki shared her woes. She could not believe Trisha had been so matter of fact about everything nor could she believe her own response – or rather lack of response. She had no energy left to fight. In her heart of hearts she had known it was over for months. Trisha's betrayal hurt but was not unexpected.

Nikki wondered when she would grasp the enormity of the situation - after nine years she and Trisha had split up. She was all on her own. She just felt numb – glad she knew the truth but so unclear and uncertain about her future. What would she do? Where would she go? She could do anything she wanted, no one else to consider now. She locked up, doused the candles and slowly climbed the stairs to their, no it was her bedroom now. God all the money stuff would have to be worked out too. What a mess she thought. Nikki was heart broken, she did love Trisha but she was not in love with her. This split hurt her, damaged her pride but she would survive.

Helen sat down, breathing heavily, after a very energetic Strip the willow.

"God I haven't danced like this since High School – I'm wrecked."

"You did pretty well given your lack of practise," joked Iain who had just survived the last dance with Helen.

"I love it and you're a great dancer Iain. You're a lucky man Neil."

Neil somewhat the worse for wear smiled drunkenly, raised his glass and simply nodded in agreement. God thought Helen these guys are drunker than I thought.

Lachie had disappeared and Helen spied him up at the bar with a group of his friends. One of them a tall handsome guy with dark curly hair stood out. As Helen surveyed the group he caught her eye. Helen hurriedly looked away. She was here to have fun not to find a replacement for Sean. As much as she bragged about anonymous sex she was a bit of a prude. All talk and no action some would say. The guy with the dark hair and her cousin were making their way across to the table with a couple of trays of drinks.

"About time," said Karen as Lachie and friend dropped off the drinks.

The guy with the dark hair picked up a pint and handed it to Helen.

"Yours I think, Helen."

"How do you know my name?" Helen bristled.

"I always make it my business to know the name of the most beautiful woman in the room. I am Thomas, Thomas Waugh."

"Pleased to meet you Mr Waugh," Helen responded shaking his hand.

"Now you'll have to excuse me I need to find the loo."

With that Helen went in search of the bathroom. As she sat on the loo she thought about how much she was enjoying the evening on one level but how uncomfortable she felt on another. She never felt part of these types of evenings. She always felt like an outsider looking in and she never really understood why. She was a sociable animal at heart, but sometimes she felt like she didn't quite fit in. She hated the cattle market feel of it all. The guys hanging out at the bar eyeing up the women, and the women sitting in groups joking and talking about the guys. It always seemed so inane to Helen. She had met most of her boyfriends through mutual friends at dinner parties and the like. She'd never done the 'club thing'. Maybe, she contemplated, contrary to Claire's teasing she was a prude after all.

On her return to the table Thomas appeared at her shoulder almost immediately.

"Would you like to dance Helen?"

Helen agreed. Unfortunately for her it was the first slow dance of the evening – a waltz. As they circled the dance floor Thomas tried to engage her in conversation but her mind was elsewhere. Nikki. She was not sure why but all of a sudden she could not get rid of her image. She had to talk to her. She had to check in with her.

"So Helen, how are you settling in?"

Helen prayed for the dance to end. She had had enough of his mindless questions and all of a sudden she had to talk to Nikki. Helen thanked Thomas for the dance and excused herself. She left the function suite and went out to the front of the hotel. Taking her mobile out of her bag she went to call Nikki.

"Damn it," she swore out loud when she realised she had no signal.

Going back into the Ceilidh where everything was in full swing she searched out her cousin.

"I need to go home. Can you look after my dogs for the night? I'll pick them up tomorrow."

"Sure no problem. But the party is just warming up why leave now? By the way I think Thomas is really interested."

Helen just looked at her cousin with one of her patented looks. Lachie knew not to say anymore. She took her leave without saying anything to the rest of the group, she did not want to cause a fuss, and went outside and got a taxi. It would cost a bit to take a taxi home but it was worth it. She had to check on Nikki. She could sense that something was not right. It occurred to her that all that stuff about sixth

sense that she had pooh poohed might in fact be true. She herself may have inherited the "power" or maybe she was just a bit drunker that she thought. When she drank and her inhibitions minimised Helen became much more tactile, much more sensitive and tuned into others – not like her scientific, pragmatic, driven, sober self.

As they drove across the moor at nearly 2.00 in the morning she worried about what might face her…. But Nikki was not alone. In fact Nikki was not even at home. Having gone upstairs to bed she decided she was too upset and too alert to try and sleep. She had grabbed a bottle of wine and put Cu in the back of her truck and driven down to Monica's. She and Monica had a special connection and Monica was one of the few people who Nikki listened to. She valued her counsel.

"How was she?" Asked Monica.

"Nervous as hell. I even told her I meet somebody else, to make it easy for her. Crazy isn't it they kick you in the face and ..."

"It's called love, I believe."

"Nine years is a long time. I really thought she was the one."

"Nikki you seem really low – how are you really handling this?"

"I'm fine Monica, honest."

Monica knew Nikki was struggling with this. She never was one to share her true feelings but Monica knew her well enough to know she was devastated. She would never force Nikki to talk. She had learned that Nikki would share what she wanted to in her own good time.

"How about a nice cup of tea?"

Monica returned to the living room two cups of tea in hand.

"I've got something stronger once you've finished that. And your staying here tonight – no arguments."

Nikki simply nodded in acknowledgement. Her head was all over the place. The plans she and Trisha had made all gone in a flash - kids, their future, everything. Sometimes only when you lose something do you realise how much it means to you. Trisha had completed her. And then there was Helen – she didn't even understand what she felt for Helen, if anything. Helen was an attractive woman physically, emotionally, and intellectually – no doubt about it they had connected - but she was straight and, consequently, unavailable.

The Taxi drove by the pottery – Helen saw it was in darkness – then onto the house. Nikki's Land rover was gone – but that didn't mean anything. She asked the taxi driver to wait as she knocked on the door and walked in. Nobody locked their doors up here. Silence. She felt a bit strange about going into Nikki and Trisha's house uninvited, but she needed to find Nikki.

"Nikki are you here?"

She wobbled slightly as she stood by the back door. God, I am drunk she thought. I hope I don't regret this in the morning. How would she explain her behaviour in the cold clear light of day? After a moment of lucidity Helen fixed on her goal - seeing if Nikki was ok. Silence. She noticed Cu was not around either. Nikki must be out – how odd she thought. And where was Trisha??? Getting back into the taxi she asked the driver to take her home. She was not sure where Nikki was. Maybe she and Trisha had gone on a romantic midnight picnic somewhere. They could be anywhere. It was freezing, but she wouldn't put it past Nikki, she would not be put off by a little bit of cold. For some reason she didn't want to dwell on the thought of Nikki and Trisha having a romantic evening together.

The red lights of the taxi disappeared off up the road back towards Stornoway and Helen went into her house. She had sobered up a bit but was still very concerned about Nikki. Monica Lindsay, I should check in with her she thought. But it was 2.30am – the sensible voice in her head told her she could not call Monica at this time in the morning (especially as Monica was her employee) what kind of ridiculous behaviour was that? She would have to wait and call her in the morning. She decided to go to bed and set the alarm for 8.30am - she would call Monica then. She did not think she would sleep. But after all the energetic dancing and the drinking she was exhausted and quickly crashed out.


Chapter 7

The alarm went off with an annoying, strident buzz. Helen groaned it couldn't be 8.30 already, she lifted her head looked at the time and buried her head back into the pillow.

"Oh god, my head."

Then she remembered her rather crazy search for Nikki. She wracked her brain. She hadn't done anything inappropriate had she???? She had taken a taxi home and she had burst into Nikki and Trisha's home unannounced. Thank god no one was in. But why was no one in her sober self asked, I do hope everything is ok. She picked up the phone and called Monica.


"Hello Monica, it's Helen here. I know this sounds strange but I am looking for Nikki. She doesn't seem to be at home. I'm really worried about her."

"Oh don't worry Helen she and Cu crashed out in my spare room, she had rather a lot to drink last night."

"Is everything ok?"

Monica was not sure if she should tell Helen about Nikki and Trisha, after all Nikki was very protective of her private life. She didn't know how close Helen and Nikki were – Nikki had referred her to Helen over the job so she must have some regard for her but…. So she decided not to say anything to Helen, Nikki could do that in her own good time.

"Yes, do you want me to ask Nikki to call you when she gets up?"

"That would be great thanks Monica."

Helen went into her en-suite and had her morning shower. Her morning routine was somewhat different – no dogs and a ferocious hangover. She'd have to get across to pick them up from Lachie sometime today. Just as she was finishing her breakfast dishes the phone rang out.

Helen answered, "Hiya," hoping it was Nikki.

"Hello Helen, it's Lachie. I was calling about your car and the dogs."

"Yeah, I was hoping to get a lift across this morning to pick everything up."

Helen had hoped to persuade Nikki to take her back into town to pick up her car and the dogs but she still hadn't heard from her. She could be a real pain.

"No, it's ok, Thomas is here and he's offered to follow me across to your house and to give me a lift home. If that's ok with you."

"Sounds great."

Helen did not feel like driving across to Stornoway she had little sleep last night and she was invited to dinner at Nikki and Trisha's tonight. She hoped to sneak in a nap in the afternoon. These arrangements would be great.

Lachie whispered into the phone

"Thomas has just nipped to the loo – if you ask me cuz he's more than a little interested."

"Stop teasing Lachie, he is not, end of story! If you guys time it right there will be a big plate of chicken soup on the table for lunch."

"Fine, we'll see you about noon then."

"She you later Lachie."

Helen thoughtfully put the phone down. Thomas seemed like a really nice guy but she didn't feel that she wanted to get involved so soon after her break up with Sean – after all it had been only 6 months – who was she trying to kid!

Nikki put the phone down – Helen's line was still engaged. Maybe she would go around and speak to her – tell her that dinner was cancelled and that she and Trisha had broken up. She still couldn't believe it - no more Trisha. She felt like she was in shock. Nothing seemed real everything was happening in slow motion it was almost like she was watching herself go through the motions. If truth be told she had realised months ago that something was wrong. All those trips to London. Trisha's lack of interest in lovemaking. Their constant bickering. No, things had not been right for a long time. She would pop around and see Helen, tell her what was going on she needed to see a friendly face. Experience had proved that Helen wasn't always the most sensitive of souls but Nikki knew she would be there for her.

Lachie pulled up in Helen's X-Country. Closely followed by Thomas who drove a fully loaded black Range Rover. That's a wee bit ostentatious thought Helen as she came out to greet them.

"Ciamar a tha thu? Latha math ann an diugh." Helen often spoke to her cousin in Gaelic – asking after his health.

"Tha ma ceann goirt!"

"I have no sympathy Lachie. I am not surprised you have a hangover you were fairly knocking back the pints last night."

Helen reverted to English, as she was not sure if Thomas had any Gaelic. It would be rude to continue to speak in Gaelic if he could not understand it.

"Hi Thomas" Helen was not sure but she thought she detected a faint blush when she addressed him.

"Hi Helen. You left the Ceilidh early last night it was just warming up"

"Early!" Helen exclaimed "It was about 2.00am when I left."

"Well it went on until about 4.00, I think," added Lachie laughing.

"Och, I shouldn't laugh makes my head hurt more."

"Come on in I've got a pot of homemade chicken soup on the go and some fresh bread - great cure for a hangover."

When they finished up there soup Lachie decided he needed to go and visit the neighbours – he hadn't visited Drumbeg since his Auntie Seonag had died and it would be rude not to pop in and see them.

"Helen, I am just going in to see Donald Charlie and Mary. No doubt I'll be forced to have a cup of tea etc. etc. Do you want to come Thomas?"

"No, I'll stay here, if that's ok with you Helen?" He added shyly.

"Sure, of course. I was just going to make a cup of tea myself and Mary dropped off a gingerbread the other day," unusually, a bit flustered as she was not used to this kind of attention and she was not sure how she felt about it.

"I'll be back in about an hour," shouted Lachie as he left.

"So "said Helen trying to fill the awkward silence left by Lachie. "Tea it is."

As she busied with the tea things Thomas sat at the table.

As she pulled up Nikki wondered why Thomas Waugh's car was parked at Helen's house. Everyone knew it was his car; no one else on the Island had a black Range Rover. Nikki was not a great fan of Thomas's, he was the Public Relations Manager for WindPower Scotland and their paths had crossed at one of the early public meetings about the wind farm project. Nikki thought Thomas a bit smarmy – too good to be true. She did not think he could be trusted.

As Nikki knocked on the back door Thomas was helping Helen reach some plates stored on the top shelf of the dresser. In situations like these Helen's height was a positive disadvantage. Thomas was standing behind Helen. But close – closer than he needed to be leaning over her.

"Here let me get those for you."

As Helen turned into his arms the door opened and Nikki walked in.


She stopped in her tracks. There was Helen in the arms of a man and not any man that slimy, git, Waugh. Nikki could not deal with Helen's love life, being quit so blatantly played out before her, not today – so she simply turned on the spot and left. Helen shouted after her but could not disentangle from Thomas quickly enough to catch up. By the time she got outside Nikki had disappeared in a cloud of dust and exhaust. Damn, why did she go off like that thought Helen.

"Damn" Shouted Nikki, out loud to no one, thumping the steering wheel as she went.

There were tears in her eyes – first Trisha, now Helen flirting with some man and right in front of her – 'Bloody slut'. Nikki was not in the mood to really process and think about her response to Helen and Thomas. She was too raw, too emotional. She needed a friend right now and Helen was otherwise engaged - 'Selfish bitch'.

"She seemed a bit upset," remarked Thomas churlishly.

"Yes she did didn't she" replied Helen thoughtfully not wanting to engage in a conversation with him about Nikki. "Let's get that tea," she added brusquely wanting to change the subject.

When Lachie returned he found a rather subdued Helen and Thomas sitting at opposite ends of Helen's huge kitchen table. Helen looked far away and Thomas just looked awkward. Concerned he had read things all wrong he tried to catch Helen's eye but before he could say anything Helen made it clear that she wanted them to go.

"Thanks so much for bringing the dogs and my car back. It was nice to see you again Thomas. I don't mean to rush you but I have an important errand to run."

That wasn't a word of a lie – she needed to go and find Nikki.

"Oh ok well see you soon. Cheerie," Lachie said leaning over to kiss her cheek.

"Cheerie," Helen responded walking out with them.

Thomas smiled, thanked her for the tea, and waved goodbye.

As soon as they had disappeared up the road Helen got her car keys and her coat, whistled on the dogs and set off for Nikki's. She had a distinct feeling of deja vu as she went in through Nikki and Trisha's back door.

"Nikki, Nikki are you here?" No answer.

Helen decided to take the dogs down to the beach for a walk perhaps clear her head too. She left her car outside Nikki's so she would know she was around and walked on down to the harbour. The beach was at the other side of the harbour. The tide was full in and lapping up against the harbour walls. There were a few yachts still moored there. Most of the pleasure craft had been taken out of the water and were stored along the quayside. Helen had been a keen sailor at University, but hadn't sailed in years. One of the things on moving here, she had planned to take it up again, maybe even buy a boat next summer. One of the boats in the water caught her eye. It was a 26 footer. Old, but very well maintained – she looked beautiful – all natural wood, varnish and brass rather than fibreglass and plastic. A labour of love for somebody thought Helen. Then she noticed the name Boudicea, Southampton. Nikki had talked about coming from the South coast and living in and on the water. This boat had to be hers, no one from Bac would think of calling his or her boat Boudicea! Helen smiled as she thought of Nikki, a warrior herself, in her own way, skimming over the seas, hair blowing in the in the wind. She clambered over the rocks to the beach. Deep in thought she wondered about the enigma that was Nikki - the public persona confident, arrogant aloof in contrast to the private one compassionate, vulnerable, sensitive and caring. She could think of a lot of adjectives to describe Nikki Wade not all positive – stubborn, impetuous, daring, infuriating, but underneath it all a person of depth and integrity, loyal and true. Nikki had clearly made an impression on her, on reflection she could find very little negative to say about her. She smiled. For some reason she started comparing Nikki to her past boyfriends but Nikki was nothing like her past boyfriends – for a start she was a woman. They were much more compatible – probably because she's a woman too thought Helen, nothing more. Thomas's image flitted across her consciousness. He was gorgeous everything you want in a man. A man, she hesitated, somewhat uncomfortable with where her thoughts were taking her. Did she really want a man? She quickly put that thought away. Of course she did, she was going to get married, have at least 2.4 children and live happily every after. She just hadn't met the right person – she meant man – she hadn't met the right man. A loud bark brought her to her senses, Archie and Rowan rarely barked. She looked up and noticed a third dog had joined them – Cu. If Cu was here Nikki couldn't be far away. Port of Bac beach was long and curved with the white sands that were peculiar to this part of Scotland, when the sun shone, as it did today the sea, was crystal clear, so blue, so Hebridean. Overhead a few lonely gulls, gliding in the thermals, called out noisily disturbed by the presence of the humans and dogs. Intruders on their beach! The waves crashed against the shore and rolled a good 30 metres up the beach. Helen scanned the shore looking for Nikki and there in the distance looking lost and forlorn was Nikki. Helen's heart went out to her. Nikki's slumped shoulders and downward gaze spoke fathoms. Nikki had her back to them and with the sound of the breakers she'd probably hadn't heard or seen them yet. Eventually Helen caught up with her and instinctively put her arm through hers. Nikki caught unaware, reacted somewhat violently, pulled her arm away. As she looked up she saw it was Helen.

"Sorry Helen, you surprised me."

Helen noticed Nikki did not offer her arm back.

"Nikki what's wrong you look like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders?"

"Nothing you need bother yourself with. Why don't you go back to your new boyfriend?"

"Nikki he's not my boyfriend. I only just meet him. I wouldn't even call him a friend yet – he's a new acquaintance"

"You two looked really close at lunchtime!" Nikki said in a very accusatory manner.

"Not that it's any of your business actually" Helens quick temper was beginning to raise its ugly head – who was Nikki to question her?

"Why you telling me then?"

"I really don't know. But I certainly don't have to explain myself to you."


"You know for some odd reason it seems to upset you that Thomas was visiting."

"Odd reason. That's a good one."

"Nikki, what the hell is this about?"

"You really don't know?"

"If I knew I wouldn't be asking you would I?"

"You want to know what this is about, it's about this…" she grabbed Helen's hand and put it on her breast.

"Jesus Christ."

Helen pulled back from Nikki shocked. What was that all about? She didn't wait for an explanation – she stormed off, embarrassed, hurt and confused.

"Fuck," Nikki said aloud. What was she doing? She headed off along the beach after Helen. Not sure why she had done that – Christ that was verging on harassment. If a man had done something like that to Helen she would be calling the police and reporting an assault!

"Fuck, Fuck, Fuck."

Helen had disappeared up the hill to the village before Nikki could catch up.

Nikki decided Helen might need some time. Hell she needed time. Last night she had broken up with the love of her life today she was assaulting a straight woman – and not just any straight woman she had physically abused 'Helen bloody Stewart'. She wasn't sure what had come over her. No doubt she had been attracted to Helen from their very first meeting. But, her break up, compounded by seeing Helen and Thomas together had made something inside her snap. Who was she trying to kid, Nikki always tried to be honest with herself, she had been hurt but not devastated by Trisha's admission and that made her feel vulnerable and insecure but she was so angry when she saw Thomas with Helen. Jealousy and envy, not two traits Nikki was proud of. But jealous rage was probably the most apt description of her feelings. Nikki slowly (she did not want to bang into Helen) plodded up the hill, Cu at her heel.

"Oh god, what have I done?" she verbalised her anxiety.

She went straight for the whisky bottle as soon as she got indoors and poured herself a very large dram. I guess dinner is off for this evening - she tortured herself with the thought.

By the time she got home Helen had calmed down a bit. How could Nikki do something like that? It seemed completely out of character. Until now she had nothing but been impressed by Nikki. She was a caring, thoughtful friend if a bit, hot tempered and stubborn at times. But she couldn't talk about temper or being stubborn for that matter. She was very confused. She enjoyed Nikki's company and apart from the initial confusion over her "partner" their friendship had been developing into something that was meaningful and positive in Helen's life. Nikki was a wonderful companion attentive but not fawning. She would never have expected her to touch her so inappropriately. What came over her, I'm a bloody straight woman.

She sat at the table nursing a cup of tea when the phone rang. I don't know if I should answer that she thought – she did not want to talk to Nikki right now. She heard Monica's voice on the other end and picked up the phone.


"Yes Hi Monica. How can I help you?" Helen appeared distant and distracted.

"I'm not interrupting am I?"

"No, sorry I'm miles away. What can I do for you?"

"Well actually I was wondering if you'd seen Nikki. I've been trying to track her down. She said she was going to see Yvonne (Yvonne ran the local petrol station and store and was one of Nikki's closest friends) but Yvonne hasn't seen her."

"Yes I've seen her….," with that Helen broke down in tears.

"Helen are you ok?" asked a worried Monica wondering what on earth had happened now. Helen answered trying to bring her tears under control.

"You should check her house. She is probably there."

"Are you sure you are ok Helen?" Monica interrupted. Feeling very sorry for the young woman who was soon to be her boss. Clearly something was troubling her. She would pop in and check on her on the way up to Nikki's.

Helen was sitting staring into space when Monica knocked at the door and let herself in.

"Hi Helen I just popped by to see how you are. You sounded terrible on the phone."

"It's Nikki," Helens tears began to flow she felt strangely like a victim.

"What happened?" Monica was wondering what had happened to upset the very controlled and resilient vet.

Helen just shook her head and looked away.

"I am sure you know Nikki's been through a lot in the last 24 hours. She's all over the place. I am sure she didn't mean to upset you like this."

"I don't want to see her or talk about her right now," Helen stated resolutely.

"But with Trisha leaving she needs all her friends right now."

"Trisha leaving?" Helen didn't miss a thing.

"Oh God, she didn't tell you. I should keep my big mouth shut – please forget you heard that."

"Well I did, and I wont, so tell me more."

"There's nothing to tell. After all this time Trisha has left her. Apparently she met someone in London and has decided she no longer needs Nikki."

"Poor Nikki," Helens compassionate nature overcoming the anger she felt towards Nikki. But his helped put things in perspective Nikki didn't know what she was doing. Clearly in some kind of shock she was not behaving rationally. Helen was as good at denial as Nikki was.

"I'm coming with you to see her?"

"Are you sure? I don't think she could handle any more emotional turmoil today."

"It'll be fine I only want to support her. She must be going through hell and it may take two of us to persuade her she needs our company," she added with a laugh.

Nikki's house was in darkness as Helen and Monica drove up. Monica tentatively knocked at the back door quietly calling Nikki's name as she opened the door.

"What do you want," slurred Nikki.

"Where are you? It's so dark in here."

"Don't turn the light on" Nikki growled.

"Nikki we're only here because we care," Helen added.

"Helen, why are you here? Go home," Nikki stated in a very aggressive tone.

"Oh shut up Nikki, just shut up. I'm here with Monica to support you."

"I don't need anybodies help, you both should just turn around and go home."

"That's not going to happen Nikki. When did you last eat?" Asked Monica.

"I don't know and I don't care." They heard the sound of a glass being filled and a bottle thumped on the table. Helen let Monica take the lead she wasn't sure that Nikki wanted her there.

"Nikki let us turn on the light and make you some food. Whisky is not going to get you through this."

"Don't care. Whish…whish I was dead."

Nikki was drunk and Monica knew from past experience she did not have a great capacity for alcohol, as she rarely drank, so eventually she would crash out. It just might take some time, but for the moment the key was to keep her calm and in the house. Nikki slammed down the empty glass on the table.

"Where are your manners Nikki? You haven't asked Helen or I if we wanted a drink,"

Monica reckoned if she could persuade Nikki to give them a drink that would mean less alcohol for Nikki.

"Don't care, help yourselves."

"But we'll need to put on the lights."

"No, No lights. You can put on a candle but no lights."

It was clear, even by candlelight that Nikki had been crying for a while. Helen's heart went out to her. She had decided to keep quiet as she did not want to unnecessarily wind Nikki up – it seemed to be working. Monica got out two more glasses and poured two large drinks for her and Helen. The bottle was already ¾ empty and she just left a dribble in the bottle.

"Better get another one." Nikki staggered as she tried to get up from the table.

"Don't worry Nikki I'll get one when we're ready," Monica sat down beside Nikki.

"Ok Monica. You do know me luv you don't you?" Nikki asked uncertainly.

"Of course I do, and I love you too."

"Monicaaa, what would I do wiffout you gal" Nikki put her arm around Monica's shoulder and squeezed it tight.

"Just get through this my friend"

"Monica you do know that I love you don't you" in her drunken state Nikki was repeating herself.

"Yes Nikki I know."

"Please tell Helen I am sooooo sorry, I didn't mean to upset her"

This time Helen answered "Don't worry Nikki I'm ok we'll talk about it in the morning. It will all look and feel very different in the cold, clear, light of day."

"Helen you're here. I am soooooo sorry….."

"I know Nikki don't worry about it we will talk tomorrow."

"OK Helen, luv you too," Nikki slurred. She was very drunk.

"Nikki I think you should lie down."

"No Monica I'm fine, there's whisky to be drunk and I am not lying down until it's finished."

Monica looked across the table and raised her eyebrows at Helen. It was going to be a long night. Suddenly, unexpectedly Nikki got up from the table,

"Need to go to the bathroom."

She lurched forward and completely lost her balance, falling face first to the floor.

"Oh god Nikki, you're going to hurt yourself," Monica tried to grab her.

"Get up Nikki."

It took both Monica and Helen ages to get Nikki to her feet again. She was tall and while she had no excess fat she was a dead weight. All three made their way slowly and hesitantly to the downstairs bathroom. Only when they turned on the light did they see the state Nikki was in. She had been crying and her mascara, clearly not waterproof, now streaked down her face in black rivulets. The red lipstick she wore was smeared across her lips and chin. And now on her forehead was a huge egg. She must have cracked her head on the ground when she fell.

"Turn that light off," she yelled – she did not want anyone to see her in this state. "I can take myself to the bathroom."

She insisted on privacy. But as soon as she finished she toppled over – too drunk to keep her balance on the low pedestal. Monica and Helen rushed in to find her flat out on the floor pants and trousers at her feet. God thought Helen this is real alcohol abuse. Nikki must be really hurting to get this drunk. Just as they got Nikki upright again and fastened up her trousers she turned and made a dash for the loo.

"I feel si...ck" Nikki proceeded to violently throw up.

Monica sat by Nikki rubbing her back for over an hour as Nikki heaved and got rid of all the alcohol that was still in her stomach. Eventually there was noting left to throw up and still she heaved.

"Monica, You know I love you don't you?"

"Course I do Nikki. Are you feeling better? You need to drink some water."

"Why did she leave me Monica? Why does everyone leave me?"

Helen's heart went out to the tall, slim woman.

"Nikki have some water," Monica with Helen's help turned Nikki around and sat her resting against the loo.

"Here drink this."

Monica put a cup of water to Nikki's lips and she drank thirstily.

"Not too quick" said Helen knowing that if she drank too much too fast she would throw-up again.

"Helen, you're here, I'm so sorry about this afternoon. You know Trisha's left me after nine years she has decided she no longer loves me. What do you think about that?" Nikki burst into tears again. "She's left me. How can I live without her?" tears flowing down her cheeks.

"I'm really sorry Nikki, I know you're upset. But lets try and get you onto the couch it will be more comfortable than the floor."

Helen and Monica manoeuvred Nikki into the lounge and lay her on the sofa.

"There's no way we can safely navigate the stairs when she is so drunk, she might pull us all down."

"She'll be fine in here why don't you go home Helen I can look after her from here."

Helen wanted to stay. She hated seeing Nikki so dejected – she like most–was clearly no good with rejection. Helen decided to go home, it was probably better for Nikki. If she woke up and found Helen there in the morning she would be mortified.

Helen took Monica's car and drove it home. Feeling tired and emotional she got into bed it had been a long and crazy day. It was only 10.00pm but she fell asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.

Not far away Nikki was crashed out in a drunken stupor on the living room couch towel by her head and pail on the floor beside her.


Chapter 8

When Nikki woke it was still dark. She was slightly confused. Where the hell was she? Then she realised, she was on her own couch. She still felt a bit drunk, light headed, had a horrible taste in her mouth and god did her head hurt. She tentatively touched her forehead which was ultra sensitive – it throbbed. Oh no, she thought I got blasted last night and there had been someone here. "Oh fu…" She wracked her brains, what had she said and more importantly what had she done? As she turned she felt the rough texture of the towel on her face. Why am I sleeping on my couch, on a towel? Sick – oh shit, I was sick. Nikki desperately wanted to get back to sleep but her head would not let her. Who was here? Then she vaguely remembered Monica comforting her as she threw–up. But what the hell did I say – what did I tell her. Nikki knew from experience how repetitive and maudlin drunks could be. She was never going to drink whisky again. She tried to calm herself down by reminding herself that Monica was a good and loyal friend she would not hold anything against her - but there was someone else here….

"Oh no," Nikki moaned aloud.

Ever a light sleeper Monica, dozing in the chair, woke with a start.

"You Ok Nikki?"

"Fine, I think Monica. But I have a huge case of the oh no's."

"Nikki you've had a lot to be stressed over, so you had a little too much to drink. It's not like it's a common occurrence. I've never seen you drunk like that before. But I have never seen you after the break up of a nine year relationship."

"But Monica."

"No buts, you were with friends, nobody is going to judge you."

"Friends? Who else was here?" Nikki questioned fearing the worst.


"What the hell was Helen doing here?"

"She was concerned, as I was."

"Does she know?"

"She does now."

Nikki groaned and hide in face in her arm. "What did I say?"

"Nikki you were fine. Very sweet, in fact until you started throwing up, you just told us both how much you loved us. You also apologised to Helen."

"How did she take that?"

"She was fine Nikki, just fine," Monica reassured her, wondering what had upset her friend so.

"Try and get some more sleep it's only 5.00am."

Somewhat reassured that she had not done anything else too outrageous Nikki fell back into a fitful sleep. Monica, an early riser, decided to go home and have a shower, change clothes and come back refreshed to make Nikki breakfast.

As she quietly shut the kitchen door she remembered Helen had taken her car – she would have to take Nikki's. Nikki always left the keys in the ignition, no one would want to steal the clapped out old Land Rover and even if they did everybody knew who it belonged to. Monica hated it. It was noisy, draughty and cold – the material canopy provided little protection from the elements.

Not long after Helen was getting up to a cool grey Sunday. The last month, it seemed like a lifetime, had been surreal. Was it only a few weeks ago that Nikki stormed out because Helen got confused about the nature of her relationship with Trisha, then the storm, surfing and a picnic – that had been a fun stress free day, then this weekend the Ceilidh, Thomas and then Nikki's weird and inappropriate behaviour. You'd think I was living in a soap Helen mused! Helen decided she wanted to make the day as stress free as possible. She did have work tomorrow after all and she wanted nothing to impact that.

When Monica got back to Nikki's a couple of hours later Nikki was just getting out of the shower.

"Hi Nikki I've come to make you breakfast."

"I'll be down in a minute," Nikki shouted "makes yourself at home."

Monica set about making Nikki a very healthy breakfast, fresh squeezed orange juice, Organic porridge, and cheese omelette. Having been so sick Nikki would be dehydrated and low in energy, and her blood sugar level would be low. Shortly after Nikki wandered, bare foot, into the kitchen, drying her hair. She looked suitably humbled when she eventually looked up at Monica.

"Look Monica I'm really sorry. You should not have had to experience my madness last night. I hope I didn't offend you in any way. I would hate for my behaviour to impact our friendship. I would hate to lose you too."

"Nikki you are not going to lose me. What are friends for? You where there for me when Spencer died it's the least I could do. Be there for you when you needed it."

She gave Nikki a big bear hug. Nikki hung on tightly tears springing to her eyes. As she pulled back she asked.

"How's that head of yours? You gave it an almighty crack when you fell last night."

"It's ok a bit sensitive to the touch but it's fine!" Nikki responded trying to minimise the fuss.

"I'm glad I thought we may have to take a trip across to A&E in Stornoway. Come have some breakfast."

"Monica, I am sorry, I know you've gone to all this trouble but I don't think I can manage anything."

"Nikki you need to eat, I know it sounds clichéd but you will feel much better if you get something in your stomach."

Shortly after Nikki pushed back her plate – replete.

"You were right Monica I do feel much better having got some food down. But I think I need to have a low-key day today – just slobbing in front of a DVD or something. Care to join me?"

"I'd love to Nikki. Why don't you light the fire in the lounge and I will clear up. I should also call Helen about my car."

"I don't really want to see Helen today but I can drive you up to collect your car later."

"Good idea, I'll let Helen know," Monica wondered what on earth had happened between them now. It wasn't good whatever it was.

Helen was quite relieved Monica and Nikki were not coming across until later she just wanted to chill out, take a walk with the dogs, maybe watch some mindless TV.

Later that afternoon Nikki drove Monica across to Helen's to pick up her car. They went into the kitchen – but no Helen – the car keys were lying on the table. Monica decided to write a note letting Helen know she'd got the car but Nikki didn't want to hang about so she left Monica to write her note. As Monica was completing it Helen walked in.

"Hiya Monica, I guess you've come for your car. Where's Nikki?"

"She needed to get back to the house."

Helen knew Monica was making excuses for her and that Nikki was avoiding her. They would have to clear the air soon or their fledging friendship would founder and come to nothing.

"Well Monica would you like a coffee? I was about to make one for myself."

"I'd love one thanks Helen."

Monica and Helen took their coffee to the lounge – the tortured strains of Jacqueline du Pre's cello blasting out of the stereo.

"Oh Elgars concerto in E minor, I love that piece."

"Me too," nodded Helen "so beautifully tragic, made all the more so when you know du Pre's story. How is Nikki today?" Helen asked.

"She's much better, a bit depressed, and embarrassed but she's tough she'll survive."

"Mmm," Helen nodded deep in thought "has Trisha actually left."

"Yes I'm afraid so. She left on Friday night and will stay with friends until they work things out."

"Work things out? I thought they'd broken up," Helen quizzed.

"Yes they have but there is the business, the house, the boat. They own the lot jointly. Although maybe Nikki owns the boat outright, sailing was not Trisha's passion. Nikki's the sailor."

"What did they have in common? Seems like they had very different interests."

Helen wondered what made a relationship last for so long. Her longest, to date, had been about three years.

"You never saw them together did you? They're very different but very compatible. I was much closer to Nikki from the start. Nikki is straightforward, principled, honest, true, and, once you have her on your side, loyal to a fault. What you see is what you get with Nikki – she wears her heart on her sleeve. Trisha is nice, funny bright and sociable but I never knew who the real Trisha was. I'm not sure I really know her now and that's after five years. They did compliment each other – Nikki dark brooding and bookish – Trisha blond, fun loving and light hearted. Their relationship, when I first met them, was based on mutual love and affection. You knew they were together immediately."

For some reason…..Helen was intrigued and wanted to know more, but finishing her coffee Monica had to go.

"I start a new job tomorrow and I want to get in early to impress the boss!"

Helen laughed she knew she was going to enjoy working with the older woman.

"Yeah, you don't want to get on the wrong side of her, I heard she's quite the ogre when she wants to be," they both laughed.

As Helen walked out with Monica to her car it was only 4.00pm but it was dark already. Dinner and an early night she thought.

Nikki sat contemplating her empty cup. She knew she needed to speak to Helen today before it all went pear shaped. This was not something you could do on the phone she needed to go down in person and ask for forgiveness. Her behaviour, on the beach, had been completely inappropriate and way out of order. By the time she had garnered up the courage it was early evening.

Helen was surprised to hear a car draw up – but not any car, that sounded like Nikki's diesel Land Rover. In her pyjama's, robe and slippers Helen went through to the kitchen just as Nikki knocked. Nikki was going to open it when Helen pulled it open from the inside startling Nikki.

"Hiya Nikki. I didn't mean to scare you."

"Hi Helen," Nikki said staring at the floor. She was a bit too nervous for direct eye contact.

"Can I come in? I won't be long as I know you've got work tomorrow."

"Yeah of course. How are you feeling?"

"Terrible, no, better. Well I'm sure you know what I mean."

Helen simply smiled and nodded.

"Can I get you a cup of tea or something?"

"Tea would be great thanks."

Helen busied herself with the tea as Nikki sat at the table.

"How about a comfy seat I was watching a rerun of a BBC production, Tipping the Velvet."

Nikki knew Tipping the Velvet well; she loved the book and thought the TV production was pretty well done – quite true to the original.

"Oh yeah that's pretty good. A bit graphic at times though, No?"

"Apparently, but I just started watching the first episode."

They went into the lounge and Helen turned off the TV.

"Helen I'm sorry to interrupt your evening but I needed to talk to you about yesterday."

Helen nodded.

"I honestly don't know what came over me. I was totally out of order. My behaviour was completely inappropriate. Will you please forgive me?" Nikki looked at the floor; the carpet had developed this peculiar magnetism for her.

"Nikki you know I'm straight, right?"

"Of course I do. I'm not sure what was going on with me. I was completely fucked up. Trisha had just announced she was leaving and..."

"And what?"

"Oh nothing."

She didn't have the guts to tell Helen she was jealous of Thomas. She was unsure of how to communicate her feelings to Helen. Grabbing Helen's hand and putting it on her breast had been a Neanderthal way of behaving. She didn't know how to handle her feelings appropriately. She had not been attracted to, or involved with, a "straight" woman in years and she was completely out of her depth. Helen could tell Nikki was mulling things over. Nikki was a deep thinker. She worried about things. In order to support Nikki and their friendship Helen thought it best to move forward.

"Nikki, you know, what is done is done. I'm not happy with what you did, your not happy about what you did. I'm willing to put it behind us and move on. But if you try anything like that on again that will be it. Understood?"

"Oh Thanks Helen – I really do appreciate your understanding. I promise I will never do anything like that again."

Helen got up from the chair and kneeled down beside Nikki and gave her a big hug.

"I hope you feel better. That was some amount of whisky you consumed last night! And how is your head?"

Still in the hug Nikki whispered, "God I need to apologise for that too. I hope I didn't offend you. And my heads fine, a bit sore but I'll survive."

"Don't worry you were quite a cute drunk, loving and tactile – you didn't offend me at all."

Nikki was enjoying the comfort of Helen's hug, she smelt of ginger and citrus. There was something comforting and at the same time alluring about that smell. Nikki had to check herself. You have just told this woman you are going to be good and now you are having salacious thoughts about her. Slowly and unwillingly Nikki withdrew from Helen's warm body.

"I better get going. Good luck with the opening tomorrow."

"Goodnight Nikki, and thanks for making the effort to come and talk to me about yesterday I appreciate it must have been difficult for you."

"Thanks Helen, talk to you soon"

The door slammed and she was gone

Helen stood at the back door for ages, hugging herself. She missed Nikki already.

She needed to take her mind off Nikki so she sat down to watch the rest of Tipping the Velvet.

/Someone was banging loudly at her back door. Only in her nightgown, Helen asked through the door, "Who's there?"

"It's me Nikki"

"Nikki what the fu…?"

Nikki pushed in. "Helen I needed to see you, urgently"

"But I thought we resolved things earlier?"

"Not entirely," said Nikki as she moved into Helen's personal space. Helen swallowed loudly (a reaction that Nikki noted with pleasure) and stepped back into the back door. Nikki stepped forward knowing there was no escape for Helen. Nikki was mesmerised by the pulse, ever stronger, in Helens neck.

"I haven't been completely honest with you Helen."

Helen swallowed again, not sure what do.

"I have been wanting to do this all day" with that she moved in and placed the lightest and tenderest of kisses on Helens soft lips and then slowly withdrew. Helen felt the cold of the night on Nikki's clothes. She groaned softly as Nikki moved in again this time exerting a little more pressure and this time Helen kissed her back gently and uncertainly but she kissed her back. Nikki withdrew smiling.

"I kissed you," she whispered, close enough so that she knew Helen could feel her breath on her cheek, "but you kissed me back."

Helen could not contain herself any longer. Without saying anything she started tugging at Nikki's clothes and quickly had her heavy wool coat, velvet waistcoat, and shirt off – leaving her only in her jodhpurs and knee length, leather, riding boots boots. At the same time they were kissing deeply, tongues dancing, probing, erotically. There was a direct line between Helens breasts and her core so when Nikki lifted her nightgown and started sucking on her breasts her legs went weak. Nikki lifted Helen and looking around the candlelight kitchen – the maid's domain - headed straight for the huge oval farmhouse table.

"Miss Nikki, the Mistress might hear us. She will sack me if she catches us."

"How many time do I have to tell you Helen it's just Nikki, ok? And fear not I gave Mother an extra large measure of whisky in her night cap she will not stir till morn," Nikki reassured her.

With that Nikki laid Helen on the kitchen table, her bottom perched on the edge, her leg dangling over. Helen looked up and smiled sensuously at Nikki.

"Open your legs for me, my love."

Helen obliged and slowly and deliberately spread her legs. As she did Nikki grabbed the candlestick from the sideboard and used it to examine Helen in detail. She kneeled down between Helens legs her lips only inches from Helens labia using the candle to illuminate her sex.

"You are glistening my sweet; I can smell you and see you. You want me don't you?"

Helen gulped she did indeed want Nikki. She had wanted her as soon as she pushed her way in the kitchen door but she could not admit that to the Mistresses daughter. She nodded her head slightly and Nikki knew. Nikki knew she had all the power and she loved it.

"My hands are a bit cold I will need to warm them up," she said rubbing them together leisurely and sensuously knowingly teasing Helen, who's eyes were transfixed by them, by Nikki keeping her waiting.

She kneeled down between Helens legs and slowly and deliberately picked up Helen's left leg. She took the foot in her hands and started caressing and massaging it, unhurriedly.

"You have been on your feet all day, my love, they must ache"

She took Helen's big toe into her mouth and started sucking and caressing with her tongue, gently, softly and rhythmically. Helen gasped she had never felt anything like this. The fumbling at the back of the byre with the groom had never been like this. She arched her back, she wanted more. Nikki noted how Helen was reacting to her touch – she was right this young woman had potential! As Nikki finished her ministrations on Helen's toes she placed the leg on her shoulder. She gently scratched/tickled Helen's ankle with her right hand and slowly traced a line down Helen's leg stopping briefly to give special attention to the sensitive spot behind her knee. As Nikki's hand climbed closer Helen started to moan almost imperceptibly her back arching in an attempt to maximise the contact. She stopped abruptly when she reached Helen's pubic hair. Lifted her hand slightly so it gently trailed over Helen's labia and began the journey down the other leg this time kissing as she went eventually lifting it onto her other shoulder. So here she had Helen prone on the kitchen table with her nightgown hiked up to her neck, legs wide open. What a wanton sight. Nikki herself was very aroused, wet and throbbing. She slid forward on her knees Helen's legs now balanced over her shoulders. She could not only see but she could smell Helen's arousal. She could hardly control herself. She wanted Helen now. But she also wanted to prolong the agony and enhance the ecstasy for this young woman who had so readily stolen her heart. Nikki, using her tongue, started sucking gently on Helen's clit at the same time she stretched her arms up over Helens stomach and started gently kneading Helen's voluptuous breasts – breasts that were normally hidden behind a maids uniform - but which now lay uncovered in all their glory. The nipples puckered and went erect almost immediately. Nikki took her tongue from the bottom of Helen's sex and licked languidly all the way back up to her clit. She did this a number of times until Helen –inexperienced, shy and too uncertain what to ask for grabbed her head and pulled her mouth hard against her. So she wants more thought Nikki, a bit more teasing and that will take her to the edge. Nikki changed her tack and started to suck and caress Helen's clit. Her tongue circling it slowly and deliberately with added pressure. Nikki could feel the orgasm rise in Helen as she started to tremble. But that was too easy and too quick – Helen would thank her later – so she pulled back. She pushed Helen further back on the giant oval farmhouse table, so her legs were now supported completely, and unceremoniously got on top of her. She kissed her deeply and passionately.

"You are beautiful little one and I shall make you wait no longer."

Helen writhed under her, wanting, needing to feel the full weight of Nikki's body on top of her. Nikki took her middle finger and with no warning started to push into Helen's core. As her finger started to enter Helen she felt a slight obstruction – she pulled back abruptly.

"Oh!" she exclaimed.

She was surprised Helen was in her late twenties, early thirties, she never dreamed!

Helen, whose eyes had been closed, opened them with a start.

"Don't stop!" she just managed to get it out.

"But I didn't realise that you've never been with anyone before" Nikki said softly and tenderly.

Helen blushed and falteringly added "But I want to… with you. I want to, please…"

Nikki humbled and quite emotional, "If you're really sure you want this."

"I am."

"Sweetie, words can't express how I feel, I would be honoured, but if you'd just like me to hold you I can do that too"

Helen hesitated but only momentarily, "I want to, and I want it to be you."

"Helen, I will be as gentle as I can but it may hurt slightly and you may bleed a bit."

Helen simply nodded. Nikki grabbed a towel from the dresser, and gently lifted Helens legs and placed it under her. Their passions somewhat diminished. She started to slowly and deliberately caress Helen. Given the attraction between them their passion couldn't fail to quickly ignite again. It was clear that they both wanted this. Nikki lay in between Helens legs, quietly explaining everything she was doing. Helen couldn't have asked for a kinder more considerate lover. Nikki could tell that Helen was ready she was so wet and swollen.

"Helen, I'm going to come inside you now."

She could feel Helen tense as she pushed in with one finger.

"It's ok Honey you'll be fine, stop me at any time if it doesn't feel right for you."

Helen wanted it too much to ask Nikki to stop - pain or not.

"Just don't stop," she panted aroused like she had never been aroused in her life.

She arched her back, opening her legs even wider – she needed this, she desperately wanted Nikki without really understanding how or why her body craved her touch so. Nikki felt how warm and soft Helen was. She loved being inside her. Helen tensed her muscles holding on momentarily before Nikki drew back. She plunged in again this time with two fingers. Helen let out a quiet groan as she accommodated Nikki. Nikki slowly pulled out and without really thinking, passion overtaking any logical thought, added a third finger. This time Helen groaned loudly – that felt so good, she liked feeling so full of Nikki. Not truly knowing what to do but knowing she wanted to feel Nikki as close as she could Helen slid her hands down the back of Nikki's breeches pulling her close, kneading and rubbing her toned bottom at the same time. Nikki used her other hand to stimulate Helen's nipple and breast, manipulating in concert with the pace she was slowly and gently sliding in and out of her vagina. As Helen had responded so positively to being entered Nikki soon established an unrelenting pace. Helen seemed to revel in it and very quickly Nikki could feel her orgasm rise as she began to tremble. Given how silent Helen had been so far she couldn't imagine that she was a screamer but she moved her hand from her nipple and put it over her mouth as she came. Wouldn't want to disturb the rest of the house! They lay there on the table Nikki on top of Helen fingers still inside her. Sated. She moved to pull out but Helen put her hand over hers and stopped her.

"Not just yet," she pleaded.

Nikki nodded in agreement thinking with looks like that she would do anything for her.

"You ok?" she asked gently, thoughtfully.

"Yes I'm fine. Thank you." Helen said tears in her eyes.

"Oh baby!"

Nikki just lay holding her tight, her own emotions all over the place. Eventually Nikki had to move, it was getting cold, and the fire had died down, as it was late. If she was cold, Helen must be feeling cold too. She stood up and helped a somewhat embarrassed Helen reorganise her nightgown before helping her off the table. They stood close, Nikki with her hands round Helens waist, staring into each other's eyes. Nikki searched and saw uncertainty but there was more, so much more to glean from these beautiful grey green eyes. This time Helen took the initiative and reached up on her tiptoes and gently kissed Nikki. Nikki mesmerised by this beautiful petite woman simply watched.

"Don't go. Spend the night with me. I'm always up at first light, before everybody else, you can go back to your room then," her strong Lewis accent very noticeable.

Nikki couldn't say no to this woman. She, temporarily rendered speechless, simply nodded in agreement. Nikki had had quite a few lovers in her time but she was always the one in control, dictating the pace, deciding who did what, when, and where. She could not refuse this beautiful woman who had, quite simply, captured her heart.

Helen's very basic bed was in an alcove in the kitchen. A box bed, it was a bit like a cheap version of a four-poster with walls on three sides and a tweed canopy on the fourth for access and to keep out the highland draughts. Helen pulled back the covers got in and invited Nikki to join her. Nikki took off her breeches, pants, and boots then naked, got in beside her.



"Nikki," Helen hesitated, a bit shy, "I'm not sure what to do. I have only been with men before and then I only let them touch my breasts."

"You don't have to do anything," Nikki said touched by Helen's candour.

"Oh But I do, I want to make you feel like how I felt. I have never felt like that before. I won't get pregnant will I?" she finished in more of a worried tone.

"No, my love you won't get pregnant. And if you sure you want to do something you can start by taking that gown off.

Helen pulled the gown off and rolled over on top of Nikki. Nikki took Helens hand and pulled it down to her sex, whispering, "Look what you did to me."

"I did that," Helen's eyes opened wide in surprise as she felt how wet Nikki was.

Without any further coaching Helen started caressing Nikki. And Nikki, closing her eyes in pleasure, groaned loudly.

"If I make noises like that, you know you're doing the right thing."

Having just made Helen come Nikki was very aroused and soon after Helen entered her for the first time she came - loudly, stuffing her own hand in her mouth to muffle the sound - as she knew she was a screamer!

"But you kept me going for ages, that was too quick. I'm not very good at this. I've failed you," Helen said a bit huffily.

"Helen my sweet you didn't fail, that was just what I needed. We've got all night to practise."

"Well I get to try again… first," demanded Helen.

What a delightfully erotic monster I have created smiled Nikki as Helen rolled her over and straddled her back./

Helen shook as she awoke from her slumbers. She was completely disorientated as she slowly came to. Oh, but that was nice. She rarely had orgasms in her dreams but it sometimes happened – a very pleasurable experience. She'd have to tell Claire. Claire couldn't believe Helen had orgasms in her sleep and was mighty jealous when she heard about it. Where was she? She opened her eyes. The TV whined in the corner. She must have fallen asleep watching Nan and her first love Kitty. What a dream, it was based in the Victorian period, and she had had the most amazing sex. Yes, she had amazing sex, but then she remembered who she had amazing sex with!

Bloody hell what is going on with me! She thought. I'm going to phone Thomas in the morning.

Part 9

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