No one expected an ambush any more than a smith doesn’t expect their shoddy shoes to fall off the horse.
— Chinóra Fugamichyo
Lily hummed cheerfully to herself as she circled around her work table. Parts of Nirih’s dress were spread out across the surface, pinned by stone weights. She had a few of them sewn together with brightly colored threads.
She had other parts of the dress already hanging off a customized wicker form that matched many of Nirih’s measurements. Like her repair of Kendrick’s suit, each of the different fabric pieces were different colors but matched in texture.
As she lined up the next two pieces together, she glanced up at the other forms. She had three other dresses blocked out and hanging from the wicker shells. They were all the proper shapes but she still hadn’t finished coloring them.
It felt good to have some progress toward her obligations. After nights of dreams and mental blocks, everything eased up. It had been two days since Kendrick walked her home. She enjoyed a little guilty pleasure, teasing herself to an orgasm to images of both him and Hasan to ease her into sleep; it seemed to quiet the nightmares and give her a chance to focus once again.
Drawing out a thread, she fed it through a needle and began to lay down a neat line of stitches. She could afford to lose herself in her work, she had at least an hour before business started.
She was about half the way through the line when someone began to pound on the door. She missed a stitch, punching the needle through the wrong bit of fabric. She hissed and started to aim the needle to reverse the stitch.
“I know you’re in there! Open up!” It was Djulian.
Lily held herself still, her good mood evaporating almost instantly. She straightened and then frowned, she didn’t think she was late for Nirih’s presentation. Glancing at the open door between her work area and the front, she could see a bit of the front window from her vantage point. There was no point in hiding herself from Djulian.
She continued to look around until she spotted her schedule book. It would bring her across the door and reveal herself fully to Djulian. She knew it would infuriate the powerful woman but she had to be sure.
With a sigh, she dropped her work and crossed over to her desk. She cringed as she did.
“I see you, cow!” screamed Djulian. The older woman continued to pound on the glass, rattling the glass with every impact.
Lily ignored her for the few precious seconds it took to find the page on her schedule. She ran her finger along the calendar line. She still had four days before Nirih’s first scheduled fitting.
Her heart sank. She was more than behind on her work. She would have to work night and day to meet the date but it was possible. With a groan, she closed her book with a snap.
“Come on! Open the door!”
Lily turned and headed to the front door. She knew it would be bad news but she still lifted her chin and prepared for the onslaught.
Djulian didn’t stop pounding on the glass. She was dressed in a white-trimmed gold dress. The corset was slightly off, giving her a lop-sided appearance that only a seamstress or gossiper would notice. She looked furious, more than even Lily would suspect for the time left until the first fitting.
A ripple of concern filled Lily but she unbolted the door and held it open.
Djulian shoved her way in.
The door smacked against Lily’s foot. She stepped back with a wince. “Tadame Djulian de Kasin na Maifir, how may I—”
“I just heard that you haven’t even started my daughter’s dress!”
Stunned, Lily just stared at the enraged woman.
“Well, what have you been doing? Other dresses? Someone more important than me?”
Lily started to explain her struggles but then realized there was nothing she could say to interrupt Djulian’s fury. “T-There is no one else more important.”
“Exactly! Which is why I demand to know why you haven’t started on my daughter’s dress!”
“I-I have,” said Lily with a flush. “I was working on it just now.”
“I don’t believe you.” Djulian spun on her heels and stormed toward the back of the store.
Lily stared in shock for a moment, a righteous fury rising up. She had been working on the dress, struggling for days on it actually. She wanted it to be perfect. “Look, I’ve been—”
Djulian was already at the entrance to the work area. She stood in the entrance, hands at her hips as she glared at the tables. “What is this? Horse shit?”
“It is not—”
The older woman spun on her. “Is that shit what you are thinking for my daughter? You will ruin her!” She pointed to the dress on the table. It was one of the lower panels with one side colored a dark brown and the other a deep indigo. The chalk marks were clearly visible where Lily had been shaping it to put in a panel that would reveal hints of Nirih’s legs during the twirls of the Five-Step Horseman, a popular dance this year, but retain her modesty while walking slowly.
Lily frowned. “No, the color is—”
“It isn’t the right shade, it isn’t even yellow! It isn’t done! You have been sitting on your fat ass doing nothing while my daughter’s future is being burned away like your stupid, pathetic, life!”
Lily couldn’t get a word inserted into Djulian’s tirade. She raised her hand but Djulian swatted it out of place.
Djulian stepped forward, jamming her chest into Lily and pushing her back. “I will not have my daughter become like you, cow!”
Tears shimmered in Lily’s eyes. “I’m working. I can change the col—”
“You are nothing but a useless shit like that damn dress!”
“I’ll be damned if I put that garbage on my daughter!”
“Shut up, cow! Let’s see how Penir da Kasin, a real seamstress, and your mother think about this!” Djulian shoved Lily back hard, forcing her to step back. A bench caught the back of Lily’s knees and she tumbled over it. She tried to stop her fall by grabbing a nearby desk, but her fingers caught on the paper on top and she continued to fall.
The impact against the wooden floor drove the wits out of her. A sharp burst of light flashed across her vision from the pain of hitting her tail bone against the hard surface.
Djulian stormed away. “Fucking cow,” she muttered.
Lily heard the door slam shut, the glass rattling loudly. A few pages hanging on the edge of the desk slipped off and fluttered to the ground.
Sniffing, she tried to find purchase on the desk and the bench to pull herself up, but her fingers refused to grip anything. Her fingers slipped uselessly and she fell back.
She was trying, damn the Couple. Every night, every day. She brought it home but it just took too long to focus, to work on it, to even concentrate. She was trying.
Tears welled in her eyes. She sniffed and wiped at them but the action set off a torrent that rolled down her cheeks. Sobbing, she clutched at the pages and stared at them dumbly. Her mind rolled through excuses and reasons, none of them sounded right.
After a few seconds, she gave up trying to get up. Dropping the paper, she curled her head over her knees and let the sobs burst out. Her cries echoed against the inside of the story. She was sure that passersby on the street could hear her but she didn’t care anymore.
She didn’t know how long she had been crying when the door rattled open. She tried to stop her crying, but couldn’t. No matter what she did, the tears kept flowing and the sobs rose in her throat.
“Good morning!” crowed Mindil. “I brought… Lily?”
Lily ducked her head, as if she could hide behind the bench.
“What’s wrong?” Mindil dropped a heavy-sounded paper bag and rushed over. Her boots were loud on the wooden floors. She stopped on the far side of the bench. Bending over, she peered through the opening. “Lily!”
Lily looked up, her vision blurry with her tears. As usual, Mindil wore a flowered dress that did wonders for showing off her wide hips and large breasts.
Mindil rushed around and then lowered herself to her knees. Her dress rode up, revealing a well-rounded thigh. Before she finished kneeling, Lily spotted a wedge of brown hair where she expected to see a pair of underwear.
Lily gasped with shock but it was quickly replaced by an unexpected rush of heat and desire. Humiliated by her own desire, she jerked away from Mindil as the other woman reached out for a hug.
Mindil moved faster than Lily and wrapped her arms around her and pulled her tight. “Come here,” she said with a purr.
Lily found herself pressed against Mindil’s breast, her cheek hot with shame. She took in a deep shuddering breath and caught scent of Mindil’s perfume, it was a citrus-scent with a hint of flowers; it wasn’t Mindil’s usual scent.
“There, there,” crooned Mindil. “Let the tears out.”
Lily fought for a moment, struggling with the despair and desire. Then, she just sank down into the embrace as nothing more than a comforting warmth. Another sob rose up and she buried her face into Mindil’s chest to let it out.
“Tears turn to vinegar when held in. Just let it out.”
Growing up, Lily’s mother always demanded that Lily stop crying or at least excuse herself. Lily had never been with anyone who encouraged her to let her cry. A fresh sob came but Mindil only held her firmly as it burst out.
Lily’s cries broke apart. She snaked one arm around Mindil’s waist and hugged her tight to keep her balance.
Mindil stroked Lily’s back with one hand. “Let it out, let it all out.”
The sobs filled the room, raw and ragged. She tried to speak. “I-I wanted to tell her… I could change the color… she didn’t, she did—”
“Shush, cry first and then talk. I won’t leave.”
After a while, the tears slowed until they burned Lily’s eyes. She didn’t move at first, it was too comforting to be held by Mindil. She smelled good and she was nice to Lily, even if Lily was cheating on her with her husband.
Guilt prickled Lily’s thoughts. She pushed herself up.
“Oh, now we have something else in that pretty head of yours.” Mindil smiled as she held Lily into a sitting position. She kept her forearm on Lily’s shoulders while her other hand slid down to Lily’s far arm.
Lily kept her own arm around Mindil’s waist. “I-I… I’m not—”
“You are beautiful.”
Words failed her. Lily looked at her in shock.
“You were about to say something degrading, weren’t you?”
Mindil grinned. “Well, don’t. You are beautiful. You have talents that women would kill for and you have a successful business.”
The tears threatened to return. “I… She said I was—”
“Well, she’s fucking a horse.”
Lily gasped. “Min!”
Mindil leaned forward. “Want to tell me who’s fucking a horse?”
“I-I can’t. That’s wouldn’t be—”
“Ah, Djulian de Kasin.”
“I saw her ranting in a carriage as I was walking up. Well, you’re right, she’s obviously fucking the horse.”
Mindil shrugged. “Everything else is true though. You are a wonderful, beautiful young lady. Don’t let anyone forget that. I am… I can list half a dozen wo… people who would want to be in your store today.”
A tremor raced along Mindil’s arm.
Lily spread her fingers along the small of Mindil’s back. She stared into the woman’s face, taking in the bright brown eyes and the red-painted lips. The curiosity that had been plucking at her imagination rose up again as she wondered what it would be like to kiss them.
“I don’t mind.”
Mindil cocked her head slightly. “You were thinking about something. I could see it in your eyes.”
“I-I… I was…”
A soft giggle. “You are blushing.”
Lily looked down away from Mindil. She was aware of how close they were, with her arm still around Mindil’s waist and their breasts almost touching. She peeked back at the red lips and then away again.
“Are you afraid I’m going to say no?” Mindil’s voice grew quieter. It was ironic since her power made sure no one could ever overhear them, but the intimacy of the quiet voice felt like fingers down Lily’s sides. She trembled at the sound.
“Y… No… yes.”
Mindil slipped her arm off Lily’s shoulder. She traced her fingers down Lily’s spine, the touch was hot with the fabric between them. Then, she stopped at the small of Lily’s back, spreading her fingers not unlike what Lily was doing herself. “Maybe if you ask?”
Lily panted softly. She was hot and flustered, it rolled over her body and seemed to center on the fingers against her skin. The rest of her body was responding in kind, with nipples growing harder with her thoughts and a heated moisture between her legs. She could feel it clinging to her own panties, a reminder that Mindil had nothing underneath her own dress.
She looked up. Mindil was watching her carefully, her eyes scanning back and forth. She was still smiling, the perfect soft lips that were drawing Lily in. She gulped and trembled with her indecision.
It wasn’t that Mindil would lash out at her. She was confident that Mindil knew exactly what was on her thoughts. It was the long, teasing that made it hard. The tiny shred of doubt as she considered something completely scandalous.
Screwing up her courage, Lily liked her lips. “I…”
Mindil didn’t say anything.
“I want to kiss you.”
Lily cringed, waiting for Mindil to be shocked or angry.
Instead, the other woman tilted her head to the right. “I want you to kiss me. Actually, I’ve wanted to you to kiss me since I saw you one year during the High Moon Ball. You were about twenty girls ahead of me and I thought you were the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.” Mindil took a deep breath. “Both Hasan and I have been dreaming of you for so long.”
“I-I…” Lily was too stunned to feel guilty about Hasan’s affections.
Mindil leaned forward, pressing her breast against Lily’s. “In fact, I would ever much like to kiss you right now.”
They were only inches apart.
Lily’s world spun around her as she leaned into it. Her body burned with an infernal, caught in the closeness of the embrace and the anticipation. She hesitated and then brought her lips to Mindil’s.
Soft. Sweet and tasted of citrus. She realized it was Mindil’s lips were the source of the scent, but the sharpness was a beautiful contrast to the softness as they pressed together.
Lily inhaled, drinking in the warmth, and then kissed again.
Mindil’s hand against her back pulled her closer as she shifted her body to nestled up against Lily. She kissed softly at first and then more eagerly. The only moment she pulled back, it was to breathe and even then her lips remained touching Lily’s.
Lily moaned. She pulled herself even closer, lifting one leg and her hips enough that Mindil’s leg slipped underneath it. The pressure against her sex, already aching and soaked, sent a surge of pleasure through her body. She wrapped her free arm around Mindil’s shoulders.
They kissed harder, mouths open as they sank into each other. All the despair and frustration faded away. Lily swam in the pleasure, moaning as she ground her body tight against Mindil’s.
They bumped against the desk and the feet scraped against the noise.
Mindil giggled into the kiss. She let out a soft breath, the citrus scent flooded Lily’s lungs before she broke the embrace.
Lily whimpered softly and kissed her back. The intensity faded slightly but the softness against her lips and the heat along her body was difficult to pull away. She smiled. “Thank you,” she whispered.
Mindil giggled. “You’re welcome. I think we both wanted this.”
“I-I wasn’t sure.” Lily started to pull herself off Mindil, but then realized she didn’t want to move. Instead, she nestled down firmly on Mindil’s thigh and shifted her body up until her crotch rested against her friend’s belly. She watched Mindil to make sure she wasn’t going too far.
Mindil responded with a kiss. “Now, do you feel better? No more tears?”
Lily giggled herself and shook her head.
“Are you sure? It still feels pretty damp down here.”
With a frown, Lily looked to where Mindil ran a finger along Lily’s thigh. The wave of heat rose up from the touch, gathering between her legs. With a flush, she looked up unsure of what to say.
“I know, probably a bit forward.”
“I’ve never done this.”
“Neither have I, so it is going to be new for both of us. That is, if you want to do it again.”
“Then, my lovely little Lily, you have a dress to finish and an horse fucker to prove wrong.”
“What? She’s obviously fucking horses with an attitude like that.”
“You shouldn’t say things like that.”
Mindil grinned and kissed Lily again. “Then I will shut up once you finish that dress.”
Reluctantly, Lily pulled away.
“Beside, I got some delicious nut muffins to have for breakfast. They have little hunks of sausage and egg in them and they taste divine.”
Feeling much better, Lily helped Mindil up and they both fixed their dresses. As Mindil turned to retrieve the bag of food that had spilled on the floor, Lily noticed that there was a bright red hand print on the woman’s dress, right where Lily was touching her.
With a heated blush, she promised to discretely recolor it before anyone else noticed.