Four- Saturday, 1 a.m
Gemma, well-dressed and well lubricated in
every possible sense, walked into the hotel room and stood over Clara's
sleeping body. Clara was lying propped up on a heap of pillows, her spare
and slight body slumped in exhaustion, snoring lightly through her stuffy
She looked as though the weight of her exhaustion and
illness had knocked her back onto the bed, forcing her eyes closed. It
wasn't even that she looked peaceful, but Gemma was suddenly aware of how
wound-tight Clara usually was. It was funny, seeing her so still, so
rested. Her face seemed softened, childish, its angry adult lines of
stress smoothed out by unconsciousness.
Clara had bowed out
of the party, sneezing uncontrollably and deliciously into a wad of paper
napkins, only an hour before, but she looked as if she had been asleep for
Gemma shook her head sympathetically, and put down the
crackling brown paper bag that filled her arms, bursting with essentials
for Clara's cold- a fresh box of man-size tissues, rosehip and cinnamon
tea, aspirins, orange juice, cough syrup and six mangoes- not actually
essential, but Gemma had thought Clara might like them.
she turned over in bed, Clara murmured softly, in wordless, shapeless
phrases. She sounded oddly oratory while talking to herself, as though
concisely putting across a case at a meeting.
Gemma took off
her coat, momentarily feeling in the pocket for her little gift. The young
Indian homeboy who'd served her had been so wide-eyed at the sight of
Gemma in her slightly drunk, leggy, backless-gowned splendour that he had
handed her a single, slightly crushed but gloriously fragrant red rose
from the wilting display by the counter- a crazy, romantic gesture which
had touched her, especially in her inebriated state.
fingered its bruised petals in her pocket, visualising its unrelenting
beauty, as dark and velvety as one of Charlotte's romantic beauties- and,
here, in the same room as Clara's susceptible, sneezy nose, as
As if in response to her guilty thoughts, Clara's
face screwed up like a cat's and she let loose with four slightly muted
sneezes which surprisingly didn't wake her, though she made a soft moaning
noise and rubbed her nose on her forearm.
It had been a hard
evening for her boss, Gemma knew. Usually purposeful and composed, she'd
been a wreck at the party, networking from person to person only to hear
another variation on 'Go to bed, Clara, you look fucking awful.' Clara had
been all right, if a little jumpy since their kiss, as they'd finished
their drive in weighty silence- Gemma, finally, at the wheel- but once
they'd got to the hotel and checked into their room, she'd gone to
Gemma, standing in the doorway with her bag and
looking past Clara's sagging shoulder at their room, realised why. It was
your average inoffensive inner-city hotel room, the walls painted an
uneven, yogurt-like apricot, with two clashing prints- a soft, romantic
Renoir and something vaguely Miro-like- on either wall. There were two
armchairs, a collapsing dressing table, and two bedside
And one bed.
Clara had sunk down on the
white coverlet and rested her head in her hands. Gemma, humping their bags
around to break up the silence, made a few half-hearted jokes about how
she'd had better responses from women she had to share beds with, but got
nothing in response.
Clara looked as though she was going to
cry. Instead, she'd launched into a real get-down Janis Joplin coughing
jag, and once Gemma had finished patting her back and got her a glass of
water from the bathroom, Clara wiped her eyes, swallowed several times and
muttered something about how she should have remembered the bed
Charlotte, who had made the reservations, had
planned to be in Gemma's place that night.
There was nothing
Gemma could really say to that, though she spent a brief moment wondering
why, in hotel rooms, there was never really anything you could pick up and
Then- surprised at why on earth she cared- she'd
suggested they meet Alex for a drink, which they'd had in the smoke-filled
hotel bar before moving on to an equally dingy place down the road with
the ridiculous name of Ye Olde Sportsman. Several pints of bitter,
incalculable cigarettes and a fat one of chocolate Thai weed had mellowed
Clara out, but they hadn't made her any happier, and meanwhile her
incessant sneezes had inflamed Gemma to the point of spontaneous
combustion. Gemma reached out and laid her hand on Clara's cheek. She was
too hot. Clara stirred against Gemma's cool hand, making a
little crooning noise.
A slow smile lit Gemma's face.
'There,' she whispered gently.
Clara's face screwed up a little in
discomfort, but in a few seconds it seemed to relax again into its usual
calm, delicate lines, so smooth her facial bones seemed to have been
turned on a lathe. Her eyelids were almost black with tiredness, dark and
bruised-looking, like the flesh of ruined plums, and the sooty shadows
beneath her soft lashes spread to her cheekbones.
herself heavily down into on the ancient blush-pink velvet chair by the
bed, causing a great cloud of dust to rise from its mouldering threadbare
cushions. Stirring, Clara took a deep breath through her nose, taking in a
good-sized pinch of dust which immediately began to tickle the inside of
her nose. Sucked deeply into her nasal passages, the dust began to prickle
and burn. Even though she was still half-asleep, Clara felt her nostrils
expanding and contracting, trying furiously to get rid of the irritant.
Her large, extremely sensitive nose started itching like crazy, but she
was feeling too tired and dozy to try to hold the sneeze off. Gemma took
out her laptop and checked her emails, trying to hold back the temptation
of a quick trip down her Favourites tab. Even Clara's strange little
sleep-sneezes had inflamed her with lust, and the many G and T's she'd
consumed throughout the dismal party had given her an even worse case of
the horn. She debated the diplomacy of swinging her legs over the chair,
nudging aside the abrasive lace at her crotch and having five minutes of
pleasure before the boss woke up, but then she noticed that Clara's face
was scrunching up promisingly.
One bleary-looking eye
fluttered open- she made a real effort to keep it so, and lost the battle,
snuggling back down into the pillows, but her nostrils were flickering in
and out, contracting delicately, then flaring again to an even larger
size, distorting her beautiful face and making it look almost
She lifted her head slightly from the pillows and
opened her big dark eyes, which already looked wet. Her mouth opened as if
to say something, then shut abruptly as the sneeze spread into the back of
'Hey, love,' Gemma said. 'Good sleep?'
expressive face screwed up tightly and contorted into a dramatic grimace,
eyes squeezed to agonised slits, dark slashes of eyebrows raising,
nostrils flared hugely like a comedy mask.
Then she relaxed,
her dark, watery eyes looking upwards as she took a deep, gusty breath,
rubbing her nose furiously. Her lips parted as she concentrated, taking
deep rasping breaths as her strong nose
'Huh-Huh-HUh-HUH-HAH...HAISSHHOOOO!' A thick, wet spray,
visible in the unforgiving light from the window, jetted from her nose and
'Bloody hell,' Gemma said frankly. 'Bless
Clara groaned softly as she raised her head, the room
seeming to tip violently and then right itself. 'Excuse me. Just got a
little bit of a tickle.'
She looked dreadful, ravaged by her
cold. Her eyes were puffy and red-rimmed, and her nose was swollen and
chapped. Her clear, glowing skin was free of makeup, but shiny with some
sweet lotion that smelled overpoweringly of coconuts, obscuring her
genuine tang of darkness and spice. It brought out the reddish highlights
that gleamed on her cheekbones, but unfortunately it also accentuated her
nose, which was a harsh, inflamed red at the nostrils and shiny at the tip
from constant blowing, wiping and rubbing.
'Sounded like a
big tickle to me.' Gemma aimed a butterfly kiss at the bridge of her nose,
which set her off again- Clara froze, her nostrils flaring and her eyes
creasing up slightly. Then she relaxed.
'False alarm. Oh no,
She took a deep, cautious breath in, nostrils
expanding again slightly, her upper lip curving delicately up to her nose,
her eyebrows raising dramatically and eyes squeezing a little narrower.
Her eyebrows met in the centre of her forehead. Head
thrown back, mouth open wide enough to show a glimpse of white teeth, she
held a finger beneath her quivering nostrils.
'Let it out,'
Gemma said, more than a hint of flirtation in her tone. 'We're not on the
Clara's eyes shut tightly, her lips completely
opened and she jerked forward, hand covering her mouth and nose, with an
enormous, bellowing 'HaaaaaAAAA-TCSHHOOO!'
Gemma patted her
on the shoulder. 'Looked like you needed that.'
'I did!' Clara
shook her head like a wet dog drying itself. 'I've never had to sneeze
that badly. I hate how cold-sneezes drag themselves out like
Her face was soft-looking, hot, feverish and blurred,
smeary with snot and perspiration. Her dark skin contrasted strongly with
the fat white bedlinen- she looked small and delicate, unlike
Giant, fever-bright eyes burned out from her bony
'How did we do?' Clara asked,
Gemma plumped the pillows on the bed, propping
Clara's skinny frame up on them. 'Fine. Alex is still schmoozing, but I
had to get away from Will...he had his hands on my arse for the best part
of the evening.'
Clara grinned, coughing into her fist. 'I
don't blame him. You look fantastic.'
Even when she felt so
miserable and cold-sodden, Gemma made her horny. The spark of lust in her
crotch was inflamed yet further by this beautiful girl's solicitous
concern and the sight of Gemma's smooth, sculptured, soap-white back as
she shed her rain-damp coat, her delicate but strong-looking frame wrapped
in a wisp of black Dior.
'Thanks. Now, more importantly,'
Gemma sat down next to Clara, placing warm hands on her back. 'How are you
Clara coughed and cleared her throat. 'Like three
of the seven dwarves,' she said stuffily. 'Grumpy, Dopey and
Gemma put the swollen brown paper bag on the bed
next to Clara.
'Got you a get-well present from one of those
Indian shops down the street.'
Clara looked inside at the
fat, freckled gold and red mangoes and her tired eyes lit up. 'Ummm.
Gemma, I was craving these!'
She grinned at the girl, face
illuminated in the dusk by the gold light of the hotel sign, which ran
down the window as though melting, stippled by the rain. The light threw
orange crescents onto the irises of her eyes, floating like reflections of
a harvest moon on dark water. It glowed in a gold flower on the curved
shield of her cheek.
Then she started to cough again, her
slight frame shaking with the force, and Gemma got up, sat on the bed and
began to slowly massage Clara's back to soothe her cough, gently stroking
at the tension, whispering comfort.
Clara's cough eased slowly.
'Oh, that's it, you got it there. Thanks, that feels so good...' her sore,
aching muscles gave into the pressure of Gemma's warm hands. 'Oh. Honey,
how did you know my back hurt?'
'A wild guess.' Clara's skin was
hot, every square inch packed dense with fever, radiating out to Gemma's
fingertips, travelling through her bloodstream. She even smelled hot- a
sweet, intense, dark fragrance, a secret tang of spice. She was clammy
with sweat, which gleamed on her deep brown skin. Gemma wished her own
hands- which were warm, though she can feel poor Clara shivering with a
little chill as she touched her- could absorb her sour, burning heat like
When she felt Clara beginning to drowse and relax, she
propped her up on the mountain of pillows she'd stolen from the hotel's
linen closet, making sure that was a pillow supporting her neck and head,
and one curving comfortingly into the small of her
'This should feel better.' She stationed the box of
man-size tissues she'd bought at the corner shop in Clara's lap. 'Now blow
your nose, love, you sound like Daffy Duck.'
Clara obediently gave
her nose a thorough, foghorning blow, which went some way towards clearing
'This is so sweet of you, Gemma-' she yawned, balling up
the tissue and slam-dunking it into the bin at the side of the bed which
was filled with similar soaked wads, 'but really, I'm
'You're not fine. You were sneezing in your sleep,'
Gemma said teasingly.
'I've never seen anyone do
'Really? I wonder why I didn't wake myself
'They were quite quiet little sneezes,' Gemma explained,
gently touching Clara's nose with the tip of her index finger. 'For you,
anyway. I think your poor nose is just getting
'Certainly feels that way.' Clara smiled up at Gemma,
although her nose wrinkled dramatically at the other woman's soft touch.
Then her face screwed up and she motioned Gemma away frantically as she
snatched a tissue from the box in her lap, pressing it tightly to her
nose. 'Honey, I gotta...ahh-sneeze! hahh...hah...hah...'
longer pause than usual.
She waited, thinking- OK, so I'm
not. I'm cool. This
There. Oh no,
just kept getting worse, but the sneeze wouldn't come.
stared into the bright light of the lamp, her nostrils choked with dust
and tender from the earlier wrenching sneezes, but she realised that the
problem wasn't that the sneeze was too small. It was too
'Huhuh... ahh... uh...'
flared, her mouth opened as her head tilted back, her hand in front of her
mouth. The feeling kept building. And building.
And then... nothing. Her mouth closed, her eyes
opened, and her face took on a look of deep concentration and frustration.
This was torture! Gemma found herself holding her hand to her mouth,
biting lightly on the knuckle. This was too much. Watching Clara fight the
torturous sensations in her nose, sugary silver lines of fission, jolts of
electricity, ran straight to her eager, responsive pussy.
nostrils twitched violently, and suddenly it exploded out of her, bending
her double. 'AAAHHH- Ahhh-AhhhHAHSHOOOO!'
'Feeling better after
that?' Gemma asked, faintly amused as Clara sniffed and swiped at her nose
with the tissue.
'A little. But I think there's still one in
Rubbing miserably at her itchy nose, Clara sat up,
folding her legs into a lotus position. Her hair was pulled back, making
her look younger, her big, burning eyes swallowing up the stained skin
around them. She looked painfully vulnerable, eyes burning out from their
darkly stained rims, the bruised black swathes beneath her eyes suddenly
apparent, her nose red and running pathetically.
Gemma, aching with
sympathy, put her arm around Clara's shoulders. Clara's bony little frame
'I could go for some TV,' she said,
scrubbing at her nostrils with the base of her palm.
took her dismissal calmly, going to the small hotel-room set and turning
it on. When she returned to Clara's side with the remote control, she was
careful to keep her distance, and she could almost feel Clara
A few moments later, as Gemma channel-surfed, Clara
said, not looking at her, 'You can get under the covers if you like, you
know. It's freezing in here.'
Gemma kicked off her shoes and
slipped in next to Clara. 'Good point. Let's see. What have we got...' she
flicked the remote. 'Yay, South Park!'
Clara groaned, rolling her
eyes. 'I keep forgetting you're a child.'
'Relax, Grandma. Oh
look. Documentary about blues singers...that should be more your
Clara sniffled wetly. 'Too hard to follow for me, I'm
afraid. Right now I'm just concentrating on stopping my sinuses from
exploding. Let's go for the crap cartoon.'
Gemma grinned. 'You love
it.' She eyed the tea service at the side of the bed. 'And I bet you could
go for a cup of tea with your puerile entertainment.'
nodded. 'That'd be wonderful, honey, thanks.'
As Gemma made
her the tea, Clara was struggling to stay awake in spite of the persistent
tickle in her nose. She looked drowsy, vulnerable, her dark features soft
and heavy as though tiredness had half-rubbed them out.
sleepy,' Gemma said gently, handing her the tea and slipping back into bed
with her. 'Anything else I can get you?'
Blearily, Clara looked at
her through watery eyes as she sipped her tea, feeling sure that she was
about to sneeze. 'Oh, no. Thanks. I don't want you going to any more
'Sure?' Gemma touched her friend's cheek. 'How about some
aspirin? I bought some in case you needed it.'
Clara shook her
head. 'To be honest, this makes me- it makes me- sorry, I'm going to-
hah-chhh! hachoo!' she reached for another tissue and wiped her nose. 'A
Her sneezes, Gemma noticed, were
surprisingly small and light, not- as was usually the case with Clara-
involving her throat, chest, and pretty much everything else. Gemma
wondered why they'd suddenly got so abrupt and nasal. Clara sounded
ominously as though she was about to have a real, unappeasable sneezing
fit, but she was fighting it, scrunching her face up in protest and
bringing her hands up to her nose with a short, 'Huhhh-' before lowering
them in relief as no sneeze came.
'Is your tea
She swallowed. 'Wonderful, thanks. Feels nice to my
'That's good. You warm enough? Need any more
'I'm fine.' Clara looked down at her hands.
'I'm not used to being looked after,' Clara said frankly.
'Gemma, stop worrying. You're so nice to care about me, but-' her hand
went to her nose again, 'hahhh-chhEEEOOO!- excuse me- I just have a cold,
and I'm probably giving it to you. I mean, you can go back down to the bar
if you want. I'm pretty bad company.' Her face contorted suddenly. 'Sorry,
honey, I'm gonna sneeze-' She sneezed violently for a fourth time,
'iehhhSSHHHEWW!' and miserably rubbed her nose on her hand, reaching, with
the other one, for a fresh tissue.
'Fine. I'll leave you here
on your own. Should I just get something for you to beat yourself up
with?' Gemma slapped her forehead in exasperation. 'Ms. Johnson, you're
crazy! Why should I take care of you, if you don't even enjoy
Clara stared at her watery-eyed, over a knot of damp Kleenex.
'Oh, honey, I do, but...it makes me feel so ungrateful...
hahISHoo!...excuse me...just thinking how nice this all is. To be in a
warm bed with hot tea and with you here taking care of me. I'm just not
sure I-I- I- I'm going to sneeze!-Ahhh-AHH-AHSHOO!'
at the growing violence and frequency of her friend's sneezes. She'd been
correct- Clara was about to launch into a serious sneezing fit. 'Are you
Clara nodded frantically, holding her cup tightly so as
not to spill as another sneeze built up in her fragile
Gently, Gemma took it out
of her hands and placed it on the bedside table.
nodding her thanks, proceeded to let loose with a volley of wet, dramatic
'HAHSSHOOO! I - ha-ISHooo! - I'm- uh...huh-ISHooo!
ISHOOO!' Gasping with exertion, she fumbled in the box and pulled out a
thick wad of Kleenex. 'Uhhh...' she sniffed, 'I have got to stop
Clara turned away from Gemma, cheeks blazing with
exertion and embarrassment, and sneezed convulsively several times in a
row, tears slowly streaming down her cheeks, soaking her way right through
the tissues she held to her nose.
Gently, Gemma put her hand back
between Clara's shoulder blades and stroked her back, not for the purpose
of relieving the fit that had seized her, but just for a little
Finally, Clara sniffed and opened her red, streaming
She wiped them, and her sore nose, with the
back of her hand, looking miserable and exhausted, and mopped her forehead
with a quick, mannish gesture.
Before Gemma could say
anything, she groaned softly and began fretfully rubbing at her nose
again. She rubbed her nostrils vigorously, trying desperately to get at
the tickle, but it was way too deep inside.
turned into a burning sensation, which reminded her of her mother's
radioactively hot West Indian curries. She had always made Clara eat them
when she showed signs of a cold, to loosen her congestion (which usually
worked, as the stuff would have blasted holes in walls) but they were
always packed with spices, and the hot, peppery fragrance had always got
right up her nose and made her desperately want to sneeze. When they had
company, Mrs. Johnson never let her youngest daughter eat anything spicy.
When her face screwed up and she began to hitch in breath, her two older
sisters and any visiting cousins would shriek in dramatic delight and
throw themselves under the table on her sister Alice's scream of
Their mother would wearily mutter, 'Don't be silly,
Then afterwards, looking wearily down at her
daughter, she would inquire, 'Clara, can't
you do something about that?'
She had never been able
Perhaps she should have worked on that
'Are you all right?' Gemma asked softly. She felt
achingly protective, wanted to cool Clara's flushed face with damp
flannels, hold a handkerchief to her runny nose.
'Got a tickle in
my nose,' Clara said plaintively. 'Won't go ah...h...away.'
you'd stop trying to hold them in,' Gemma said, 'It's not good for you,
Ms. Johnson. Didn't your mama tell you that?'
'My mama,' Clara
said, her voice stretched tight, 'preferred that I try to act a little
more ladylike. Which involved, among other things, not sneezing like a
six-hundred-pound docker with chronic allergies.'
Gemma sat next to Clara on the bed, enthralled at her boss's attempts to
quench the sneezy feelings in her nose, 'your mama's not
Clara's nose wriggled and her face contorted as she
tried to hold back the powerful sneeze building up. 'You...you just
said...that they were too big!'
'I didn't say any such thing,'
Gemma said indignantly. 'I just said they weren't quiet, and frankly they
aren't. There's nothing wrong with the way you sneeze. For a little woman
like you, they're pretty damn impressive, that's all.'
softly and began fretfully rubbing at her nose again. 'But Gemma,
this...this is gonna be huge. And they make my head hurt so...'
Clara's face scrunched up and she recoiled to give yet another sneeze,
Gemma quickly placed a finger below her trembling nose.
was a strange impulse, especially since she knew Clara hated to be
touched, but it always worked with her sometime-lover Levonda's hay fever.
'Ahhhh-' Her whole body was tense, but she didn't push Gemma away. She
gently rubbed Clara's nose, feeling her breaths as the sneeze came even
harder. 'Ahhhh-aahhhh-' Gemma pressed harder and found that Clara let out
a pleased, relieved sigh. She felt almost as relieved that Clara wasn't
angry with her.
'Thanks,' she whispered, as her eyes opened.
She was flushed a deep red from exertion and
'Are you okay, love?' Gemma asked, concerned.
'I'm sorry about that. You just looked like you were going to faint if you
sneezed any more.
right. They are a little...intense.' She looked shaken and
'Glad I could help. You feeling better now?'
nodded sleepily, stifling a yawn against her hand. Gemma gently stroked
the back of her neck to soothe her into sleep. The dark skin on the back
of Clara's neck seared her cool, dry fingers. 'Hey, you're very
Gemma pushed the dark, hefty fringe of her locks out of
the way and laid a hand on her feverish forehead. 'God, you're burning
Her raging heat shocked her, and yet she wasn't
surprised. Clara's blood was always boiling, her hand when she took it
like a hot water bottle. But this heat wasn't right, spoke of pain and
The sweating curve of Clara's forehead burned her
palm like a brand. Gemma's blue eyes were enormous with concern. 'Lie
down. I think you need some sleep.'
Clara lay back down without
protest, one arm clasping the blanket to her chest. Her huge eyes, like
upturned black bowls of stars, were wet from discomfort rather than
sadness, but she still looked pathetic.
Gemma saw how
incredibly miserable she looked, and gently pressed a cool hand to her
cheek to comfort her. 'You must feel dreadful, you poor
Nobody had ever said anything like that to Clara. She
cleared her aching throat to tell Gemma just what to do with herself, but
couldn't. She had never had anyone speak to her so slowly and
Gemma reached out and turned off Cartman and co. 'Do you
The words pushed out from between her lips. 'I
don't think I...I'll be able to sleep that's all. I mean I...' She stopped
'What do you mean?' Gemma resisted the temptation to push
the stray locks back from Clara's face.
'Nothing. I'm just- are you
gonna go out?' She bit a fingernail.
'I was thinking about it...'
Gemma had enough tact to try not to smile.
'Do you want me to
stay with you, then?'
Clara nodded slightly. Her head jarred.
'Crazy isn't it...I mean...I'm sorry.'
'That's fine,' Gemma said.
'Really, I was going to stay anyway. I know you're feeling lousy. I
wouldn't dream of leaving you on your own unless you wanted me
'You don't have to if you don't want to...I...'
fine,' she interrupted again. 'Don't worry about it.'
sit there,' Clara said sleepily. 'Feels too much like I'm being watched.
Lie here. Cuddle up with me.'
Gemma, who had never been invited to
share Clara's bed, hung back. 'I'll wait till you're
Clara grinned at her. 'You think I'm gonna seduce you?'
She rasped laughter. 'I know how I must look, I know you're not into me
and believe me, I feel way too weak to jump your bones. I just want some
sleep, honey. You can use me as a hot water bottle, hmm?'
down beside Clara and tucked them both in, kissing Clara lightly on the
cheek. 'Night, Ms. Johnson.'
'It'll only take five minutes,' Clara
murmured. As her eyes began to close, she felt rested, warmed, nourished,
loved. 'You-' she yawned- 'you can go when I'm
Gemma's response was to put her arms around Clara,
holding her hot, shivery little body close. 'I won't.'
Five- Saturday, 2. a.m
Clara woke at two to find Gemma dozing next
to her, head on her shoulder, cuddled warmly into the curve of her hip,
looking annoyingly healthy and peaceful with her lemon-meringue skin and
sleepy-angel smile. Clara couldn't help but smile, gently tracing a warm
line down her friend's child-smooth cheek.
'I tired you out,
hmm?' she said quietly, her deep voice cracked and husky. 'I told you- you
should've left me alone. I'm a cranky bitch. I said, didn't I? Poor
She covered Gemma's shoulders with the blanket,
tucked her in carefully and then retreated back under the covers, staring
with fevered eyes at the wall.
She felt terrible, with a pounding
headache and a stuffy, streaming nose, her every joint feeling as though
it had been soldered with iron, the pillow hot and sweaty against her
fevered cheek. Clara's inflamed nose hurt a little when she reached to
wipe it, though it ran too much for her not to. She did, and then groaned
as she felt a twinge in her nose.
'Fuck,' she mouthed,
staring furiously at the ceiling, trying not to inhale until the twinge
went away, knowing it wouldn't no matter how long she held her breath.
Gemma sighed contentedly in her sleep and burrowed deeper into her pillow.
I can't wake her, Clara thought frantically. She's been so sweet to me,
she's tired, she needs her sleep... but I really have to
She pressed her sleek forearm to her nose, and
rubbed it hard, but all it did was turn the tickling into an itch. Her
nose was dreadfully blocked from sleeping, and she knew the resultant
explosion would be messy and loud. Clara desperately tried to hold the
sneeze back, but she was too weak not to let it take her over. She turned
to the bedside table, noticed that the tissues had gone- there was nothing
to muffle her runny, itchy, sneezy-feeling nose in- and almost in
response, the tickling worsened. Her eyes began to squint, and she started
taking in one big breath as her mouth opened wider. The itch began to
spread from the pinpoint in the back of her nose to a broad fan-shape
Her eyes began to water, her nostrils beginning
to flare involuntarily into huge circles. Her mouth was open, her chin
quivering, eyelids fluttering in response to the maddening tickle as her
whole body began to shake with the intensity of the
It built inexorably, 'ahhh... haahhhh... Ahhhh...
Ahhh...' receded, leaving her eyes watering, 'Ahh... aah... ah...' then it
filled her lungs, and she jerked up involuntarily from the pillows with a
huge, wet, warning-less 'HAH-SSSHHOO!' spraying from her
Gemma woke with a start, realising she was
practically wrapped around her boss. 'Oh God,' she said, rubbing her eyes.
'I didn't mean to...'
Clara, her nose now streaming messily, cut
her short. 'Whadever, huddey, just please get be subthig to blow by doze
Gemma gently touched her forehead. 'I left the tissues in
the bathroom. Hold on a minute.'
Clara's response was to let
out a soft moan as she felt the urge grew larger and larger, building up
in her nose. She tried stifling the sneeze by twitching and wiggling her
nose up and down, from side to side. Her face contorted as she hoped to
hold back the powerful sneeze building up. 'AAAHH... Ahhh.... aaaahh...'
The pre-sneeze quieted down as Clara tried to rub her nose, but it wasn't
enough, 'Ah...ahh... aaahh...AHHH...AHHHH...'
Just as the sneeze
was about to explode from her mouth and nose, she felt Gemma's hand cover
her face and her thumb and forefinger gently rubbing her nose, from the
top of the bridge to the tip of her nose. The sneeze was instantly gone as
she opened her eyes.
'Is that it?' Gemma asked.
nodded. 'How do you do that, Gemma? I can never stop myself.'
learnt it when I was a kid. Had to. When I get hay fever, I just sneeze my
head off all day if I don't rub it like that.'
'I bet they're not
as big as mine.' Clara sniffled. 'Or as messy. Gemma, I... Ihhh...' she
held up her hand in warning as her expression changed from one of
annoyance to helpless urgency, rubbing terribly at her poor sore nose. 'I
think I... Ihhh... need a tissSHOOO!'
Gemma chuckled, unable
to help it. 'Good point. I'll go and get them.'
Clara groaned. 'Do
you have to? My nose is just so tickly! If you don't help me out, I'm
going to sneeze all night...' Her eyes were still slitted, her mouth open
a little, her left eyebrow raised and her upper lip curving delicately
upwards to the right. She was obviously fighting off another enormous
'Clara, I'm not going to rub your nose all night.
And it's probably better that you don't hold them in. I'll be right
She went to the bathroom and grabbed the tissues, hearing
Clara's sneezes echo behind her.
'Bless you!' Gemma came back
in, clutching the tissues. 'Does that feel any better?'
was lying down, eyes half-closed, looking tired and miserable. 'I don't
know...I still feel a bit sneezy.'
Gemma sat beside her friend and
stroked her hair soothingly.
'Clara, you look dreadful,' she said
Clara, sweating and chilled, closed her eyes. She didn't
reply; she didn't feel like it. She was quite relieved that Gemma had
dropped her formal 'Ms. Johnson,' address, which she thought was only her
due, having sneezed all over the poor girl- but the tender familiarity in
Gemma's voice made her almost angry.
'I don't need this,' she
wanted to scream, even though she did. Every fibre of her body
She tried not to sniff although her nose was running
Touching it would result in another sneeze, and
her head felt so heavy and fragile that the idea of one of her great
wrenching sneezes seemed unbearably painful.
'Clara?' Gemma watched
as her lips parted slightly. She was breathing deeply and a little
irregularly. 'Honey, do you think you're going to sneeze?'
nodded miserably, half-opening slitted, watery eyes. Her nose wrinkled and
expanded as Gemma frantically unwrapped the box of tissues and broke the
seal on the lid.
Clara's eyes began to squint, and she
started taking in one big breath as her mouth opened wider. She was
fighting it, scrunching her nose and pinching her nostrils with one
'That's not good for you,' Gemma said.
sighed, took in a deep breath and, feeling the tickle recede a little for
a moment, managed to choke out, 'Hon- this is gonna be such a big sneeze!
Could you please rub my nose?' Clara's enormous dark eyes were pouring
forth libations of hot, helpless tears as the tickle in her nose came
right back, stronger than before, 'AHHHH...'
Again, Gemma gently
massaged her nose, trying to rid Clara of the
'HAAA... HAaaa... ahhhh... ahhh... ah...ah...' The
urge faded as she removed her hand from Clara's face, only to realize she
stopped too soon, 'ahhh... ahhh... AAhhhh... AHHH...
Clara shook her head and gestured
for the tissues, holding a hand to her nose. 'Ahh-ah-ASHOO! Fuck- sorry- I
really gohh... gotta-aAAHHH...'
Gemma pulled two tissues from
the Kleenex box and offered them to Clara. Clara raised the tissues, now
no more than a confetti-like pastel pulp, to her trembling, twitching
nostrils, dabbing them ineffectually as they flared, as though to dam
another sneeze back that way. It didn't work. The sneeze barrelled through
her fragile frame, exploding from her nose and mouth with a volume and
violence that made Gemma- who had thought she was used to Clara's massive,
messy sneezes- start in surprise, dropping the box of Kleenex onto the
'Bless you,' Gemma said, amazed, lying down
next to her again.
Clara recoiled, closing her streaming
eyes- Gemma was too much for her, with her strong scent, her vibrant eyes,
her intense warmth. She needed coolness and silence. She felt Gemma's warm
touch, as she wiped Clara's nose for her with a soft tissue. Clara was
amazed that she didn't tickle, especially as the inside of her nose felt
like a mass of exposed, tingling nerves.
Feeling guilty, she
opened her eyes. 'Thagk you,' she croaked.
Gemma whispered, 'It's
OK. Go to sleep now.'
'I- hi cad't...I goddah sdeeze
agaid....' She took in a deep, hitching only to find the tickly feeling
that seized her nose disappear immediately, as Gemma's finger pressed up
against her nostrils.
Clara opened her eyes and grinned, before
settling back into a thin, feverish doze. She heard Gemma yawn, as though
from a distance.
'No, no...' Gemma snuggled
Gemma put her arms around her, her
warmth instantly soothing and comforting Clara. 'Hmm?'
Clara dozed off immediately, but
Gemma lay there, feeling more awake than she'd ever been. The ache and
emptiness in her pussy didn't help her sleeplessness. She hadn't touched
herself all evening, but knew without touching that she'd be wet, slick
and sensitive- even more so after that delicious experience. There was
nothing Gemma got off on more than stifling women's sneezes for them; she
was crazy about women who stifled, or tried to, hell-bent on being
ladylike, and she loved the intimacy of holding off their sneezes, the
build-up, the longing, the denial of release, like bringing them to the
brink of orgasm and keeping them there.
She told herself
furiously to behave. The sleeping bundle of sniffles, sneezes and
cold-germs snuggled into her didn't seem all that interested in orgasms.
The trouble was that Gemma craved one. Or several.
solved part of her dilemma by rolling away, taking half of the duvet with
'Hey,' Gemma said half-heartedly, but didn't bother to
snatch her share of the covers back. She was too hot anyway. Far too
And she had to be touched- it was unbearable, this ache,
She rolled over onto her side, and slowly- Gemma liked
to tease herself as much as she liked to tease other women- slipped down
her sheer, silvery stockings. Then, telling herself that Clara could wake
up at any time, she wriggled out of the classic black lace thong that she
always wore when trying to pull. Tucking it neatly away in her overnight
bag at the side of the bed, she consoled herself that tonight wasn't
everything, that she was going to seduce Clara some other time, when she
was feeling a little better maybe, and that now she just desperately
needed to touch herself before she could even think about sleeping. The
need to come had spread throughout her body, an intense, wanting ache that
coloured her blood, brought out hot, swampy sweat on her limbs and made
her feel as though that throbbing, drumming core of heat in her pussy was
the only thing that mattered. Even her heart beat faster in sympathy, or
it could have been arousal- Gemma loved to think that she might get caught
while pleasuring herself. She loved danger. Even before she cupped her
cunt in one hand- as though reassuring it that it was going to be
satisfied one way or another- she could smell the dusky richness of her
musk rising, strong and powerful. Mixed guilt, fear and horniness made her
shiver as she experimentally, gently, touched her clit and felt it spring
into life, hard and swollen. I want it, she thought again and again. I
want it, I want it, I want it...
Her whole body seemed to sigh with
relief as she began to ease the throbbing ache that she felt in her fat,
swollen-out labia. But she had to come. This was no time for leisurely
pleasure...the muscles in her buttocks, in the back of her legs, tightened
and released, her dry mouth and throat seemed to stretch as she buried her
head in the pillow, biting on one finger to stifle her uncontrollable
cries. Hearing her own suppressed, desperate whines and moans almost sent
her over the edge.
She felt hot and wet and wonderful. Cramming her
fingers into her cunt, she felt chamber after fleshy chamber open until
her hand was almost swallowed, slicked with thick wetness, and then,
riding her hand, she dared remove her stifling finger from her mouth and
used it to touch her clit, first gently, then pounding mercilessly to ease
the mounting ache, hardly aware that she was murmuring to herself, 'I
wanna come...I...I wanna come...I have to...I have to...'
then she did. Her narrow, delicate hips thrusting forward, she dimly felt
her hand deluged with wetness, her muscles contracting and relaxing beyond
her control, the beautiful feeling of utter will-lessness dragging her
under, leaving her gasping as she lay back on the pillows, dress rucked up
to her waist.
Clara stirred. As well she
Slowly rising from the shallow waters of fever-sleep,
she blinked once or twice and closed her eyes again, though to anyone more
than half-awake who wasn't running a high temperature and doped up with
cold-pills, it would have been screamingly obvious that her bed-partner
had her knees drawn up and her hand between her legs. Wishing she could
breathe properly through her clogged nose, which also blocked out the
rich, wild aroma of Gemma's musk rising from the bedclothes she'd thrown
off, Clara settled back down into the pillows and began to doze
It didn't last this time, either. Clara was
uncomfortably aware that the bed didn't feel still- that there was a
small, shivering vibration, lighter and faster than her own pulse, coming
The bed creaked as Gemma turned over, opening her
thighs wider. Clara felt Gemma freeze for a moment at the creak, and they
both lay there, silent and listening. Feeling that some movement was
called for, Clara rolled over onto her back, her eyes still tightly shut
as she tried to go back to sleep. But she couldn't. For some reason, her
heart was racing and her mouth dry, no matter how tightly shut her eyes
Then the motion began again for real- she felt Gemma's body
rock back and forth in a slightly erratic rhythm, her neck curving back
against the pillows. Then she heard how Gemma was breathing, in short,
shallow gasps which grew deeper and deeper, and the heat and scent of
Gemma's pleasure suddenly seemed to seep across the white sheets that
divided them. Clara, realising finally that Gemma was actually pleasuring
herself, so carried away that the bedframe was beginning to rattle, dimly
remembered how she and Charlotte had politely ignored each other's
midnight playings when they roomed together in college- for the first
Gemma's excitement passed to Clara like the office
bug they'd shared- not through coughs and sneezes, but the quivering of
the mattress, the creaking of the bedstead, the pungent and wonderful
smell of Gemma's sex. Against her will, Clara started to get hot-
inexorably, desire began to well up in her, and within seconds the
thundering tattoo of her heart was competing with the twitching in her
groin, turning her into one huge, responsive pulse. Hearing the soft,
sweet sound of her lubricated fingers squishing against the swollen, slick
tissues of her cunt, Clara realised just how gloriously wet and open Gemma
was. She was close. She had to be.
Clara felt Gemma's hips rock and
lift up from the mattress, and then, sensing Gemma's hesitancy, realised
that the girl was actually fighting an orgasm- that this was going to be
forceful, this was going to be loud, and yet she couldn't stop. The rhythm
of Gemma's playing recommenced fitfully, then paused as she murmured
something incomprehensible but delicious-sounding into the pillow, her
need struggling against her fear of waking Clara.
smiled to herself. What a very, very considerate girl this
Then her face screwed up as she regarded the ceiling
with slitted eyes, and realised, with a queasy defeatism, that she was
going to sneeze. She couldn't.
She felt Gemma rocking herself back
down, or trying to- felt the heat of Gemma's need in her own sex, felt the
need to explode not only filling her nose, rising in her throat, but
taking control of her responsive, fever-hot pussy. Clara knew, though,
that she couldn't move- couldn't open her eyes, couldn't raise her hands
to her nose, couldn't stifle the uprushing sneeze against the
What had Gemma said before- that she'd sneezed in her
sleep? Had she really?
Clara couldn't imagine it, but it was
her only option-
Then she realised something
Well, a lot of things, but they flooded into her head
at once, so strong that her big, teary dark eyes almost flew
Gemma standing in front of her
desk, holding out tissues, saying, 'We could go straight from
The hunger in her eyes as Clara fought back her
sneezes on her sofa.
The way she'd slid into Clara's lap in
the car, and the brief glimpse Clara had managed to get at her beautifully
swollen labia in those ridiculously tight jeans...and how they had
How she'd fussed and teased her earlier, 'I wish
you'd stop trying to hold them in.'
And she remembered Ruth,
sniffling and sneezing so prettily over dinner last week, the way
Charlotte had caught her sneezes in a tissue, and how Gemma had
And how, later, Gemma had got her own way. Again. The
flush on Ruth's cheeks. Their clasped hands.
She couldn't help it.
And, feeling every vibration of Gemma's
struggle with herself, she let it come. 'EeehhhhSHHHHEEOO!'
actually heard Gemma moan, though she tried to stifle it in the pillow. In
a few seconds, she sensed the unmistakable judder of Gemma's delicate hips
as she came, less violently than the first time, but still powerfully.
That sneeze had pushed her over the edge, but as the mind-filling pleasure
ebbed away, Gemma froze in apprehension as she turned around and saw what
she had half-expected to see- her boss, wide awake and raised up on one
elbow, smiling a beautiful, expectant smile.
said. 'Aren't you gonna say 'bless you?''
Saturday, 2.34 a.m
Gemma, her usually flawless white-ice cheeks
blazing a patchy red, hurriedly tugged down the hem of her fragile dress
with sticky fingers, almost ripping the expensive fabric in her haste to
cover herself up. Clara watched her lazily, a mild twitch of
disappointment at the corner of her mouth as Gemma thrust the hem back
down to her bare knees. When Gemma dared to look across at Clara again,
her boss- deadpan- offered her a cigarette.
Clara was touched
by the way the girl smiled, almost as if she was about to burst into
tears, her eyes blurred so they seemed almost all pupil, spreading drops
of liquid jet. Gemma's cheeks were slowly fading back to their usual soft,
pearly sheen, not a mark on them but a lingering kiss of heat on her
cheekbones which even the coldest of showers couldn't have chilled
God, she's so young, Clara thought, a deep ache in the
centre of her chest. She's so fucking young.
Gemma raised herself
up on her willowy elbows to take the cigarette.
hair fell in a black-silk pelt over her eyes, which looked even larger and
shinier with arousal and unshed tears, luminous against the pallor of her
cheeks. Her head sagged forward as though it was too heavy for the slender
column that supported it. Clara concentrated on the shadow of Gemma's long
dark lashes against the gently rounded curve of her cheek, trying to
distract herself from the palpable pain and anger that radiated from her.
She tried not to think that Gemma had never looked more
'Thanks,' Gemma whispered and took the
Clara lit one for herself and lay back to savour
it, but she exploded into a harsh fit of coughing the minute the first
scratchy drag hit the back of her tender throat.
said hoarsely, and then wrapped her lips around the filter
Gemma regarded her sternly. 'You shouldn't be smoking,
with that cold.'
Clara said mildly, 'When you gotta, you
Gemma threw her head back and laughed. 'And ain't that the
truth.' She looked cautiously across at Clara. 'I thought you were
'I was.' Clara rolled over onto her back and Gemma
watched the silver light from the hotel sign leaking through the curtains,
Clara's features as though they were some beautiful
postcard mountain range, caressing the broad planes of her bones and
adding a wicked little silver light to her almond-shaped eyes. Although
maybe that light was there already.
'I'm sorry,' Gemma said
Clara shook her head. 'You don't have to
'I just... you don't know how I needed
The ache in Clara had spread its insinuating
self from the hollow of her chest to the hollow of her pelvis. She knew
just how much Gemma had needed that.
She leaned up on the
pillows, feeling hotter, dizzier and more light-headed than she had all
night, and reached for a tissue from the box Gemma had kindly left next to
her on the bedside table. Clara blew her nose so violently that her head
spun for a moment, and when she breathed in again she was assaulted by the
thick, musky scent that rose from the other girl. To her mingled
appreciation and annoyance, she felt a trickle of wetness run from her own
feverishly hot sex, down the tight seam between her clamped thighs. She
took in another drag from her cigarette, desperate to block out that heady
perfume, and the wicked, ticklish smoke drifted straight into the flared
chambers of her wide nostrils, hitting their innermost sensitive core
before she could even warn Gemma.
She sneezed explosively
three times, so quickly and heavily that she couldn't even begin to raise
her hands to her nose and mouth, her head jolting back and forward with
each build-up and release, great clouds of spray enveloping the air around
her as the sneezes rushed gracelessly out. 'HehCHHHOOOO!
Clara rubbed her nose,
then her ravaged throat, and sniffed.
Gemma tried to keep a
poker-face, her brain still churning out scenarios to rationalise her
behaviour- she'd been really turned on by some straight woman at the
party, she was about to have her period and of course Clara knew how randy
you felt then, she'd been having a dream about all three members of
Destiny's Child and had no choice but to bring herself off
She muttered a quick, expressionless 'Bless
Clara's eyes, watery but obviously amused, fixed her
with a 'Who do you think you're kidding,' stare as she swiped at her
streaming nose with the back of her hand.
'Thank you,' she
said throatily, and then leant back on her pillows. Their silence was only
occasionally punctuated by Clara's sniffs, which grew slowly heavier and
wetter, her left hand constantly attending to her nose, pressing her
fingers against her nostrils as though she was trying to ease away the
uprising tickle that way.
After each deep sniff, her face
contorted dangerously, but in a couple of seconds her forehead cleared
again and she breathed in- slowly and laboriously, through her mouth, like
a little kid with a blocked nose.
A moment later, she had to
sniff and Gemma watched her face seize and relax. She knew she shouldn't
look but it was hard to take her eyes from Clara's face as it screwed up,
a little more tightly each time, and settled down again. It wasn't exactly
a build-up, but after the first few minutes of this her eyes began to
water and she blinked rapidly, tears of irritation dribbling to her
cheekbones, where they were quickly wiped away.
Gemma saw the
tiniest of twitches in Clara's poor red-edged nostrils. They flared a
little, and then she relaxed, but Gemma glimpsed one finger hovering a few
centimetres from her nose, which alerted her to the fact that Clara was a
little concerned about the prodigious size of this particular tickle.
Don't look, she told herself. You can't look. And then- fuck it, se knows
A few seconds rewarded her, as a genuine pre-sneeze
expression drifted slowly over Clara's face. It wasn't the
fully-stretched, mouth-wide, eyes-streaming kind of grimace that one would
expect from someone who's really going to blow, but a slight frown of
discomfort- the kind of concentrating, inward-turned look that you'd see
on the face of a woman who'd only just registered that little speck of
dust she'd inadvertently inhaled deeply into her
Clara's wide, dark eyes narrowed suddenly, long
black lashes flickering as though to mirror her irritation. Then, in a
fraction of a second, her eyebrows slanted upwards as though she was
considering something, meeting in the middle of her brow. Her generous,
damp lips fell helplessly open, nostrils genuinely flaring like a
racehorse's, her mouth opening a little more as though she was shaping an
'O' with her plushy lips.
breathed, eyes slowly flickering shut as she rubbed her nose furiously
with her knuckles, shaking her head, as though frustrated with herself for
having to do something so damn...human, Gemma
Clara's expressive dark face screwed up tightly,
then it relaxed into a slack, surrendering mask, dark, watery eyes still
looking upwards as she took a deep, gusty
'Hhuhhhh...huhuhhhhhh...IKCSHOOOO!' Clara sneezed
explosively, loudly enough to wake anyone in the rooms surrounding them
through the rattling MDF walls. 'HurrrESCHEEEWWW! Eh... eh...
For once, Gemma didn't bless her; she just stared at
the wall, although the colour on her cheekbones deepened again. Clara,
still looking strangely serene, just reached for a tissue and blew her
nose with exaggerated gusto and volume, as though to emphasise the silence
that had suffused the air around them.
After a few spikily
uncomfortable moments, Clara made an exaggerated wincing motion and
knuckled her fist against the small of her back.
muttered, almost quietly enough to be ignored- but not
'You OK?' Gemma asked, her voice still
'My back hurts a little.' Clara motioned behind
her languidly, looking for a moment like a commanding Cleopatra, her dark,
half-closed eyes daring Gemma to refuse. 'Could you give me one of those
fantastic massages of yours?'
'They don't work so well when
you're sitting up like that.' Gemma cleared her throat. 'You want the full
Clara arched an eyebrow. 'Always.'
lie down on your stomach.'
Clara slowly got into position, pulling
down her faded red T-shirt in a gesture towards modesty, managing for a
fleeting second to cover her buttocks until she let her arms drop to her
sides and the T-shirt rose up so high that it exposed a stripe of warm
brown flesh, like rich, well-toned wood, that showed above her plain white
panties. For all her enviable skinniness, Clara- like most Afro-Caribbean
women- still had an arse you could stand a pint on.
she was mentally drifting into her friend Jeremy's lexicon, but still, she
thought, what a divine arse- it was almost architectural, a pair of
upright, sculptural, landmark curves, not like part of a body at all,
especially Clara's slim, taut frame.
'Take your shirt
The words exploded involuntarily from Gemma's mouth as
quickly as one of Clara's surprised sneezes- she didn't think that she was
going to say that until it was out.
'Oh, of course,' Clara
said, unfussed, and slipped it over her head, carelessly tossing the limp
rag of well-worn cotton to the floor.
Gemma caught only a
glimpse of Clara's breasts- barely peach-sized but firm and insolently
pert- before Clara settled back into the cushions with an almost
post-coital sigh. Gemma fought the urge to slip her hands under the rack
of Clara's ribs and touch that tempting softness, the surprising,
vulnerable, feminine suggestions of abundance and sensuality against all
Clara's taut brown muscle, caress their warm weight and cup the smooth,
heavy heat of her breasts, feel Clara's nipples harden beneath her teasing
Instead, Gemma began to navigate her boss's back,
only dimly registering that Clara's muscles were hard as little rocky
sea-creatures, like calcified coils beneath her fingers, her back mutely
testifying to the strains of her life at work, her life with Charlotte.
Her life without Charlotte.
Fuck Charlotte, Gemma thought
furiously, feeling Clara's shoulders- as though in response to her secret
heresy- hunch into a brace of knots.
'Relax,' she said
softly, feeling anything but relaxed.
'Hurts a little,' Clara
murmured, her head buried in the cushions.
'Oh, I'm sorry.'
Gemma kneaded more gently. 'I can get a little rough.' If you want, she
'It's good, but you're not quite reaching
where it aches.'
'This isn't the best angle.'
would be the best angle?'
Shortly after college, Gemma had been a
professional masseur for a while. True, the massage parlour she was
working in specialised in ten-quid hand jobs, for which nearly all of her
clients were grateful, but she'd come to see it as a great way to get
Her response to Clara's question wasn't
But it was what Clara was hoping
Gemma positioned herself delicately, one knee resting
either side of the backs of Clara's smooth thighs, keeping herself
balanced so that no part of her touched the other woman but her hands, on
which she placed most of her weight.
Clara moaned in
response. Gemma, grateful that she couldn't be seen, rolled her eyes up to
the ratty ceiling lamp, as though to express to it what she was thinking-
Oh, that helps, Ms. Johnson.
Furiously she concentrated on
not letting herself settle. If she'd been in a different outfit- if just
one of them had been fully clothed, for Christ's sake- she could just have
balanced her pelvis gently against the incredible rise of Clara's butt and
leaned in further.
She just hoped she could keep in mind that
she was in fact wearing a dress which had made something of a hole in her
bank balance but which barely amounted to a fragile, flaunting wisp of
black lace. And nothing else. If she leant into Clara now, the other woman
would be sure to feel the soft, close-trimmed curls of her pubic hair, her
heat which stubbornly refused to die down, her wetness.
Satan himself was feeding Clara her lines, she said clearly, turning her
head to the side, 'Can you just do my shoulders again?'
mouthed, 'fuck,' and leant forward, still concentrating on bending so her
pelvis didn't touch Clara.
'Umm, too hard.'
you're demanding,' said Gemma, and immediately bit her lip, although she
could feel a wave of gravelly laughter course through Clara's
'Sorry,' said her boss, though she didn't sound sorry
Gemma leant back a little more, still not trusting
herself, and continued to rub Clara's back, hoping that her boss would
drift off to sleep soon so she could touch herself again- maybe having the
presence of mind to get to the bathroom first, this time. She felt Clara
relaxing, heard her breathing, clogged to a snotty snuffle, grow slower
and more regular, and when she kneaded away a particularly hard, tight
knot of muscle, she felt Clara let out a great sigh of pleasure that came
from some deep, vital part of her.
But Clara wasn't sleepy,
and Gemma could feel that too. She wondered if she was imagining the way
that Clara's body seemed to be arching, rising up toward her, curving into
the bowed shape of her hips and thighs like a drawn-back arrow, as though
Clara were sensing her restlessness, seeking her heat, almost- but so far
away from- appeasing the crushing urge of her need.
hunch up like that,' Gemma said, trying her damnedest to sound stern and
powerful. 'Lie straight.'
Then Gemma understood the source of this strange
movement and sighed involuntarily- of course this arching-up wasn't a
It was something worse.
resting her head to the side, though still muffled in the cushions and
almost hidden from Gemma by the fall of her hair. Gemma could see enough
to realise that she was holding a finger up to her nose, valiantly trying
the trick that Gemma had shown her earlier.
'Sorry,' she said
tightly. 'Ho- hold on a sec.'
Clara took in a long, ragged
breath, then snuffled thickly a few times as though trying to dam the
sneeze back. She frantically ran through her strange, quirky little
motions of stifling, which were already becoming familiar to Gemma-
pressing one finger to her left nostril, then placing the finger under her
nose, rubbing both nostrils, then pressing her finger to the right as
though the tickle was spreading from one nostril to the
Gemma carried on stroking her seized-up shoulders,
feeling, through the tension, the trembling in her strong, wiry little
body, what a big sneeze Clara was fighting. She wanted to tell her that
she was fine, that she was going to feel so much better after she let it
come, but Clara still valiantly tried to hold it back. She was practically
shuddering with the effort against Gemma's hands.
shallowly, shuddering with the intensity of the sneeze, she tried to warn
'I- hhi- ohh... sorry... got a sneeze up my
In this moment, her boss seemed so vulnerable, so utterly
helpless that Gemma wanted to let her know she was OK, but she didn't know
how, couldn't articulate anything she wanted to say. Then she felt Clara's
shoulders seize up as she stifled with an expertise that Gemma grudgingly
admired, head jolting forward a little against the pillow, fingers
pinching the tip of her nose, making a slight suppressed-hiccup
her take in a deep, relieved breath and then let out a long sigh. 'You
know, that isn't good for you!'
Clara sniffed. 'A lot of
things aren't good for me.'
Gemma bit her lip again,
thinking- she knows. She's not stupid. Ruth at dinner last week- Clara at
dinner last week- Charlotte with those roses- how come she's even letting
me touch her? What the hell is this about? Clara was still sniffling.
Gemma thought, sadistically, that her nose must really be running after
that, and as if to confirm it
Clara snuffled thickly and
rubbed her nose against the pillow- not just to wipe it, but as though
trying to rub away an itch. Little demon that she was, Gemma remembered
how much sniffing irritated
Clara's nose, as though notching
up degrees towards a big sneeze, and she just carried on rubbing her
boss's back, feigning calm though she felt as ready to explode as Clara
clearly did. Gemma lightly stroked Clara's neck, as if to soothe her,
although she knew her delicate, feathery touch mirrored the tickles that
plagued her nostrils.
Clara practically writhed beneath her. 'You
like this, don't you,' she said frankly, if indistinctly. Gemma froze,
then Clara gave a little shivery laugh, her breath hot against Gemma's
skin, as she amended, 'You like to see me suffer. What are you, paying me
back for all that overtime?'
Gemma, practically chewing on her lip
now, said nothing, thinking only- This woman is fucking with me. All she
could think of was the feel of Clara, the look of her, the smell of her,
that ripe sweet yeasty smell that rose from her skin, deepening into the
rich, unmistakable tang of her wetness. Dimly, Gemma felt saliva flooding
Clara sniffled helplessly. 'And you're not even
going to offer me a tissue...' her voice was trembling with suppressed
laughter. 'That's not like you.'
If she says one more thing
like that, Gemma thought, I'm going to put these magic fingers of mine
where she wants them, and see what she has to say then. See how she can
tease me then, the little bitch.
'Oh, I'm sorry,' Gemma said
too sweetly. She leant forward- no longer caring about the shock of her
wet heat against Clara's bare flesh- and gave her boss a supposedly
innocent little kiss on the cheek, making sure a few strands of her hair
lightly brushed her nostrils. 'I thought you liked to be ignored at times
'You're not gonna do that,' Clara laughed, as she
felt Gemma's weight slowly sink down on her back. 'Jesus, girl, you're all
over me.' She laughed again, nervous but intoxicated, feeling Gemma's
fingers- so near, and yet so far... 'You've been all over me all day.' Her
voice was unbearably rich, coming from somewhere deep and real inside her.
Gemma knew this was how Clara would sound while making love, wild and raw
'Oh, not all over you, surely,' Gemma teased,
feeling her already swollen, sodden cunt moisten into a velvety river. A
raw note of desire found its way into her teasing sing-song as she leaned
in further, 'And I bet you still have to sneeze...'
her face contorting a little. 'Not really...'
Her smell. So
ripe, so rich. Overpowering.
Gemma, in a warm, needy, erotic
daze, deftly raised herself a little on her other arm as she slipped a
hand between herself and Clara's body, her palm resting flatly on the warm
curve of Clara's left buttock. Clara froze for a moment, although her
breathing still came heavy and irregular as she tried to hold back the
'Not really,' Gemma repeated teasingly, feeling Clara
tense, register the itch in her nose for real as Gemma kissed her other
cheek, burying her twitching, seizing nose in her fragrant hair. 'What
does 'not really' mean, Ms. Johnson?'
'It means- ihh- it
Gemma buried her nose in the fleshy nape of Clara's neck,
taking in great gulps of the smoky, spicy scent of her, the creamy-smooth
texture of her dusky skin, and nuzzled her softly, playfully, a gesture
she could still get out of- if she wanted to... something she didn't have
to follow up...
Fuck that. No. She wanted Clara so painfully, so
badly she was almost panting, those terrible hungry-child noises in the
back of her throat only dammed back by the thinnest of restraints, wanting
to thrust her face between Clara's warm, damp thighs...
'Or did you
want something else?' she whispered, her own voice deep in her throat,
Clara writhed beneath her. 'What?....no-
'I think you do.' Gemma, as though conducting some kind of
experiment, was tracing her fingertips up and down the cleft between
Clara's spread thighs with agonising slowness.
'What the hell
are you doing?' Clara managed to get out, although she didn't stop rubbing
her nose. She'd clearly been expecting this, which just made Gemma
'Taking your temperature.' Gemma applied the
pressure of her fingers a little harder. 'I heard somewhere that women are
one degree hotter here than anywhere else.' She slipped her fingers inside
the taut elastic at Clara's inner thigh. 'Although I think you might be a
few more degrees hotter.'
Clara was still fighting the urge
to sneeze, her breaths coming hard, hot and ragged as Gemma's fingers
entered the tight contours of her feverish wetness. Clara responded
instantly, shivering with pleasure, as she arched and bucked again, her
hot, fat-lipped cunt greedily swallowing Gemma's
'Ohhh,' she moaned, writhing, her whole wet, open
sex slicking the palm of Gemma's hand as she strained back, her voice
interrupted with the jagged motions of her pleasure and the urges that
still seized her nose. 'Oh, Gemma, you bitch, you dirty little
Gemma gasped, her throat painfully dry, almost
shivering with relief and passion. 'Try and tell me you don't want
She felt the pulse of arousal beating in her, swelling her
clitoris, the vibration of arousal coursing through her like the beat of a
tiny inner drum as she felt her clit begin to throb almost
'No intention,' Clara murmured into the pillows,
sinking back against Gemma's fingers with a long, contented, shivery sigh,
her hips rolling easily backwards.
Gemma rolled one finger
insistently in the depths of Clara's wetness, the two surrounding fingers
gently petting her swollen labia, stroking her coarse, close-clipped black
hair. Gemma thought of how wonderfully abrasive that hair would be against
her nose and mouth, and shuddered with anticipation.
sniffed suddenly and rubbed her nose in that itch-relieving motion against
the pillow's rough white cotton. Saliva flooded Gemma's mouth as her
fingers explored Clara, the heel of her palm resting against the other
woman's fat, damp lips. The caresses went on and on, and Clara immediately
took up the rhythm of Gemma's hand, thrusting rhythmically back and forth,
but her breathing becoming less and less regular. Gemma felt her tense up
again, and then, lying against her, she could almost feel the force of the
sneeze barrel through Clara's body, rising up from her chest to explode
out of her nose.
She groaned, reaching to pinch her
From what Gemma could see of her profile, Clara's
nostrils had grown African-mask enormous, and her whole face seemed
stretched into a drastic, trembling
'This tuhhhhh...t-tickles...' she groaned. 'Gemma,
I'm...I huh... I'm really...
Gently, Gemma added the
other hand, sliding it in as Clara hunched up, her flat belly lifting off
the mattress, and, with the soft tip of her finger, she gently touched the
hardening cushion of flesh at the edge of Clara's cunt, feeling her
muscles contract strongly.
Clara moaned, wriggling appreciatively
against the new pressure. 'Ohhhh... Gemma, I'm gonna...'
dipped harder into her. 'I know, honey...'
'No you don't...I...
Her dark eyes dropped slowly closed as she struggled and
Gemma realised exactly what she was going to do. She smiled, licked her
dry, salt-corroded lips and slid another finger into her swollen,
receptive cunt, kissing her on the twitching tip of her
Clara finally surrendered. Her breath quickened,
shortening from sighs and gasps to harsh little hitches,
A great sneeze bellowed
out of her, and the athletic muscles of her cunt clenched wonderfully with
the force of the sneeze, tightly hugging Gemma's rigid fingers and then
relaxing, endlessly soft and wet.
'Oh,' Gemma moaned softly.
'That...that just felt so fucking sexy...' she took her hand from Clara's
cunt and greedily, sensually licked each one of the fingers, enjoying the
blatantly rich tang of her pussy. 'And you taste fabulous.'
eat me,' Clara commanded, the layers of her voice stripped down to their
That voice reached Gemma in her deepest
Gemma looked up into Clara's dark, lust-unfocused
eyes, and where she usually would have teased and withheld, she found
herself helping Clara wriggle out of her damp, sex-fragrant panties, and
sliding down the bed to obey her boss's order. She felt drunker than she'd
ever been in her life, stoned, stunned, and suddenly, inexplicably,
Clara found herself making small, hungry noises in
the back of her throat as, her hands in Gemma's glossy, silk-smooth hair,
she actually pushed Gemma's head down to her pelvis. She needed it badly.
Gemma's attention, her passion, her obvious desire had turned Clara on to
the point of explosion, and that sneeze- well, that sneeze had felt good.
She was used to Charlotte's little games and had obliged her from time to
time with rolled-up tissues, de-budded Q-tips, the sneeze-provoking spices
of her childhood- never roses, though. To induce the sneezes felt sexy and
faintly satisfying, but in theory they weren't really uncontrollable. She
was never conscious, when staring into Charlotte's hungry, receptive eyes,
of really needing to sneeze- just wanting to. The difference was
And what she'd done to Gemma, just because she was
desperate to ease that constant, annoying tickle in her nose- well, it had
been spectacular, and Gemma wasn't the only one turned on. The urgent,
desperate throbbing that hardened her clitoris made Clara believe that she
must finally know what an erection felt like.
'It's never...' she
murmured, but didn't finish. Her fingers tightened in Gemma's tousled
The sigh that escaped from Clara as Gemma's mouth found
her most sensitive spot seemed to contain all her demons- she breathed
them out as though they were alcohol fumes, and Gemma felt Clara relax
entirely on the damp hotel sheets, every last one of her muscles feeling
as though it was unknotting, unravelling, leaving her open and wet,
partially sentient, every thought and impulse she had concentrated on her
cunt and what Gemma was doing to it. The girl nudged languorously at
Clara's labia with her tongue, and then teasingly licked her swollen,
throbbing clit, making her moan. Clara's primal sex-sounds spiralled from
her deep, stretched-back throat like a formless, extended blues holler as
Gemma expertly found her way around her cunt, cupping it in her lips like
a fragile fruit and probing its insides with her eager
Clara had slept with a lot of men in her life- she'd
had enough Toms, Ricks and Steves to fill a phone book, and she'd even
once drunkenly rolled around with Leo- but, as far as women went, she'd
remained faithful to Charlotte. No other woman's tongue had touched her
there, and, stretching in ecstasy, Clara hazily realised that she had
options. To say the least, it was a good feeling.
The aching tingle at her clit began to ease,
spreading through her in sweeping, steady waves. It felt as though there
was no difference between her own flesh and Gemma's mouth, as though they
had both become liquid, flowing into each other like rivers of melting
metal, her cunt burning but half-liquefied, almost dissolving, Gemma's
rigid, probing tongue the only thing solid about it, the centre around
which she felt like her whole being was collapsing.
kept moving, not allowing her to come immediately, sucking the flesh of
her outer labia into her mouth, taking soft mouthfuls of Clara and then
ever-so-gently applying her teeth, one minute taking her clitoris between
her pursed lips, the next moving further down to make her shudder and moan
helplessly, probing where even Charlotte hadn't managed to go in a single
one of their hot, sporadic nights, entering her most secret, hidden
places, leaving her helpless and bare, all her careful restraints
shattered. Her body knew she was going to explode, but her mind was not
quite conscious of the urge- she just felt sublimely
As Gemma licked her unceasingly, Clara started to
drift in and out of consciousness, to have that recurring dream again,
that vision- but this time she was not on the rocks. Not falling. She was
in the sea already. No. She was the sea. Her whole body was fluid. Her
orgasm was not even part of her any more, but gathering inexorably above
her like storm-clouds over the sea, ready to break and strike her with a
wrenching bolt of light, rip her in two. She was afraid. She was furious.
She was ecstatic.
'I'm gonna come,' she whispered, aware that it
sounded like the greatest understatement she'd ever uttered in her
Gemma just sucked the hard, pulsating bud of Clara's
clit up between her lips and teeth, and started doing something with her
tongue that only serious devotion and years of practise at this particular
art could possibly have achieved.
The clouds burst, and she
was deluged in rain, sweat, pleasure.
'I'm drowning,' Clara
said nonsensically to the ceiling, and came in an intense, powerful,
screaming and laughing release.
Outside herself completely
now, she saw the wild, abandoned creature on the bed, moaning and cursing,
her hips bucking violently, thrusting her cunt into this beautiful girl's
face, the girl uncomplainingly giving and taking her lust, and wondered
who the fuck she was- before her orgasm thrust her back into that body,
making her aware of the clamour of her satisfied self, stunned at the
pulsing, flawless fusion of herself and this strange, lovely creature, her
body set free, one hand pressed heavily to her mouth as she tried to
stifle the explosion of jubilant noise which rose again and again in her
She opened her eyes.
The rain was over,
the tides out, her fever still throbbing at her temples but her body
feeling cleaned, new, purified. She was redeemed.
Gemma, wiping her mouth, put it, 'Fucking hell, you needed
Clara- feeling free for the first time in months- just
Monday, 4.30 p.m
Clara was cooking. This
surprised Gemma- she'd never visualised her well-groomed, tomboyish boss
as she looked now, the sleeves of her faded red football sweatshirt rolled
up, a pan of heavily steaming rice in her hand, shrouded in the thick wet
steam and sniffling as it loosened the congestion in her stuffy nose,
singing something soft and jazzy and moving from stove to sink in an easy,
swinging rhythm which Gemma could tell she must have learned from her
The tiny kitchen, shrunk by its dark, oppressive shade of
gay-Edwardian English green and papered with black and white photos of
Clara and Leo's idols- Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Judy Garland, Elizabeth
Taylor, Joan Crawford, Dinah Washington, Mahalia Jackson, and several
pretty boys wearing ironic smiles and spandex, smelt absolutely delicious
and Gemma, who'd been living on black coffee and cigarettes- Clara's
brand- all day, suddenly felt an overpowering hunger.
stopped singing when she saw her, and gave Gemma a pleased but guided
smile that slowly lit her huge dark eyes. 'Hey. What you doing here,
'Just came to see how you are. Your flatmate let me in.'
Gemma looked from the kitchen door to the living room with its racks of
labelled tapes hemming the walls. 'Nice place. Um. Nice
Clara smiled but said nothing. She looked a lot
better. Though still muffled up from the sharp-edged cold, a bit snuffly,
and with a pronounced, chapped redness at her nose and lips, the dark
shadows- and the haunted look- had gone from her eyes, making her
naturally bony face look softer and more content. There was a curious,
quiet heaviness about her, as though she wanted to say something but was
'I just want to know, umm...' Gemma shifted
her balance. 'Is this gonna get weird?' Clara let out a rich, deep-bellied
gust of laughter. 'It is fucking weird,' she replied, with the scathing
frankness that had been absent from her manner these past few weeks. 'Do
you want a cup of tea?'
'Ehm, no thanks.' Gemma, wondering why she
didn't feel uncomfortable, leaned against the door-frame, listening to the
music playing in the living room. Knowing Clara's all-encompassing and
occasionally obscure musical tastes, she was relieved to recognise the
track- Roots Manuva's 'Swords in the Dirt.'
'I made plenty,'
Clara said, talking down into her slow-boiling pan of rice and peas. 'If
you want some. The boys'll be happy to have someone else stay to dinner.'
She sniffed heavily and brushed at her runny nose with her
'That'd be great. I'm starving.'
'You came on
a good night.' Clara was now talking to her pin-up of James Brown. 'Alex
brought some of that Thai weed over. We were just gonna chill.' She
reached for a sheet of kitchen roll and blew her nose, wiping away its
'Sweet.' Gemma craned to get herself into Clara's line of
vision. 'Feeling better?'
Clara looked up and smiled, and part of
Gemma wished she hadn't- being full-frontally assaulted with one of
Clara's rare smiles nearly always robbed her of her breath, and now she
could do nothing but stare. 'A lot, honey, thank
'Charlotte was asking where you were.'
shrugged off her ex-lover's name. 'I'm going in
She picked up a smouldering cigarette from a
chipped yellow saucer at the side of the stove and sucked a last drag out
of it, followed by a thick, throaty cough.
'You shouldn't be
smoking,' Gemma muttered.
'I know.' Clara picked up a decimated
cigarette packet, took one and extended the pack to Gemma with a knowing
smile on her face. Gemma took it, smiling back.
'I don't know
what I see in you,' Clara muttered grudgingly, filling
with a sweet rush of excitement and relief. 'You're more like her than you
Gemma didn't need to be told whom Clara was talking
'And you're less like her than you know,' she said
Then they looked at each other for a while, smoking over a
pan of boiling rice, saying nothing.
Gemma thought- Usually, I
forget my lovers on the way to pick up breakfast, but I haven't stopped
thinking about you all day. I don't know why I'm here. I don't know what
you want to give me, who you're prepared to be for me. I'm
Clara thought- I know you. I know your type. I've been your
type. I know your agenda, your lines, your desires that drift away like
smoke. I know you're bad for me and I think I love you. Can I admit this?
Should I admit this? Dare I love you?
Gemma, not quite sure of what
she was doing, reached into the pocket of her winter coat and pulled out
the red rose the Indian boy had given her on Saturday night. It had
remained remarkably fresh, its petals bruised and dark but still clinging
together, as she extended it to Clara. She hoped she didn't have to
explain this- it was just something they needed, a link from their night
of lust to this ordered, early-evening kitchen, something to keep them
airborne a while longer... Clara sceptically arched an
'You know-' she started, but didn't
She just gave Gemma a wicked, indulgent smile, as she
lifted the bloom to her nose.