Her matron would be ashamed. Not at the lack of attention which allowed a client to leave a valuable behind, but allowing him to very publicly die near the temple. Officers found him crumpled in the alleyway, his throat slit and clothes torn apart likely by whoever wanted the mirror he’d left in Audrey’s room.
Audrey was sure her matron would not tolerate the pure filth that spilled from her lips. Too much time spent with Clara was the likely cause of it.
Slipping the mirror under her skirts, Audrey suppressed any distaste for Clara’s complete lack of manners or lady-like decorum and slipped from her rooms. The stone hallways were a titter with panicked Sisters trying to keep other clients calm, trainee Sisters fetching anything they asked, and Audrey made her way through them as calmly as she could. She needed to find out what this mirror was and why it was worth killing for. Flashing her practiced smile at the officers, who parted to allow her through (if they bothered to look at her at all), Audrey prayed to the Sacred Mother whom she served for the strength to control her temper. Clara wouldn’t refuse to help her, but the brute was sure to make her dance. Perhaps Katherine would be more receptive.
Clara just couldn’t help herself. The low rumbling hiss of the water in the pipes was so horrid, she shuddered and squirmed. And it was everywhere in Trixa, the entire city powered by steam and pressurized water. The sound of it cut right through her flesh and made her teeth grind, causing the clockwork in her left eye to rattle in its socket.
“Don’t grind your teeth,” Katherine whispered, trailing her calloused hands down Clara’s bare belly. “Unless you want me to recalibrate your eye.”
Clara would normally take any contact from Katherine, but the gold sphere would need to be removed and adjusted, the socket cleaned and oiled, then the whole mechanism rewound and she would see fuzzy lines in her vision for days. So Clara obeyed, licking her lips and trying to keep how much she enjoyed the engineer’s hands on her from slipping through them. She closed her eyes to fully immerse herself in the press of her lover’s naked body against her own. Clara had learned long ago not to compare her own body to her love. Katherine was long, thin, and pale, lean muscle honed from countless hours spent perfecting her machines. Clara would never have the sort of figure in fashion. Hers curved wildly at the bust and hips, her skin the color of creamed cocoa and hair black as midnight to mark her of mixed blood. A Go-Away. Unworthy.
Katherine attached her mouth to Clara’s dusky nipple, nimble fingers filled her with an expert engineer’s talent then slipped inside her folds to expose vivid, pink flesh to air, and everything was perfect. Clara bit down hard on her lip to keep silent, raising her hips to plead for more. Katherine was ever benevolent, circling the aching center of Clara’s desire till she shuddered and sighed in climax, even in ecstasy refusing to emit a sound. She had kept a tight rein on her mouth at all times as a child and the habit remained. Clara could hear Katherine’s smile of bliss, her fingers ready to search for more. She slipped her fingers in Katherine’s fire-red curls, letting the ethereal creature feasting upon her make enough noise for the both of them. Katherine always hummed when she worked, be it on machines or on Clara’s body.
When the whine of the latch on the front door split the air, Katherine pulled away in preparation for her lover’s dive for her crossbow. She giggled at Clara’s immediate need to be armed even though they both knew nobody could enter their home uninvited without grievous injury.
“Anybody here?” Audrey’s voice called from the foyer.
“You can put the weapon down, honey.” Katherine pulled on an oversized tunic to cover her nakedness. “It’s only Audrey.”
“She interrupted us.” Clara grumbled, sliding off the bed and flinging the bedroom door open. She leaned over the railing and glared at Audrey with her good eye, the gold one covered by her bangs. “You have terrible timing.”
Audrey snapped her head up, then immediately averted her eyes. “Have you no decency? Cover yourself!”
“No and no.” Clara cocked her hip and tapped her bow on the wood railing, the gold chain and key that wound her clockwork eye glinting in the light as it dangled between her bare breasts. “What do you want?”
Audrey sighed in relief when Katherine draped a robe over Clara’s shoulders.
Clara smirked at her lover. “I like bothering her.”
“I know.” Katherine smiled wide and Clara finally lowered her weapon.
“Thank you, Kathy.” Audrey flipped her blonde tresses over her shoulder as she removed her cloak, revealing the fine, hand-stitched, embroidery which marked her as a Sister. “I have quite enough of naked women at the temple and frankly, Clara, I am in no mood to play with you.” So much for holding her temper. She folded her cloak and laid it neatly on the chair nearest to her. She adjusted her corset and voluminous skirts beneath her leather belt before sitting, back straight and feet crossed at the ankles. She placed the mirror in her lap and calmly waited until Katherine descended the stairs. “I have a problem.” Audrey said, holding the mirror out to the engineer.
Upon inspection, Katherine’s luminescent skin became impossibly paler. “Where did this come from?”
“One of my clients left it in my room then had the nerve to die outside the temple. From the look on your face, I’m guessing you know what it is.”
Katherine fingered the palm-sized mirror as if it were filled with blasting gel. “It’s a coming of age gift. They are handed down in High-Born families when their child is of bonding age. They guard them very closely as every High-Born family has no proof of lineage without it.” She placed it on the table and pushed it gently away from her, watching as it glided across the blue tablecloth. “If this was stolen…”
Audrey gaped at Katherine. “How do you know about-”
“How this got in the temple is more important.” Clara interrupted; robe closed to barely cover her chest, she picked up the mirror and inspected the gold etchings on the back. “You’re in deep shit if the High-Born find out your temple was the last place this was seen.”
“We can barely operate as is.” Audrey wrung her hands. “The High-Born families have been trying to be rid of the Sisters for years. Even if the dead man was just some petty thief,” She looked down at her lap, unable to continue.
“They’ll destroy your temple and all the others across the Ten Kingdoms to get at this thing.” Clara wrinkled her nose at it. “When you step in it, you really step in it, Audrey.”
Through the budding tears in her eyes, Audrey was about to bring further shame to her matron with more foul language when Katherine interrupted. “It has to go back.”
Audrey’s jaw dropped, her blue blossom eyes wide. “How?”
Clara flicked her bangs from in front of her gold eye and tossed the mirror back on the table. Katherine flinched away from the clatter it made against the cloth-covered wood.
“You’re not safe at the temple. Telegraph your sisters and tell them to scatter. Fast.” Clara said.
Clara’s voice held a hint of urgency which was enough to make Audrey panic. “What are you going to do?” She asked the couple, fisting her skirts to keep her fingers from shaking.
“Hand it right back.” Katherine muttered.
While Audrey frantically called her Sisters, Clara kneeled down in front of a dumbstruck Katherine. “Are you sure about this? He swore to kill you if you ever went back.”
“What should I do? Let them slaughter all the Sacred Sisters?” She clenched and unclenched her hands, aching to be in her workshop. “And Audrey? They’ll make a spectacle of her execution for this. She’s a fellow Go-Away. It goes back. And I’ll take it there.”
“You will not go to City Center alone.” Clara growled.
Katherine stroked the trembling cheek, tracing the soft edge of Clara’s chin. “I won’t go alone. Now go get dressed.”
The simple box mocked her and in turn, Katherine only stared at it. Though Clara had dressed and gone to help Audrey at the temple (which took some convincing), Katherine hesitated. She got as far as pulling the dusty box from the back of her closet. She’d gotten up briefly to bathe but the stubborn thing was still there when she was done.
‘They’ll be back soon.’ She thought, finally standing over it. With trembling fingers, Katherine laid out the gleaming corset and fine fabrics of her last remnants of a life she gladly left behind. The corset smelled the same as the day she ran, each metal ring closing in her torso like the prison her home had been. Her hands worked the buckles and ties with a heartbreaking familiarity, tightening her waist and neatly folding her skirts. Even the wild red curls willfully accepted the popular high-born twisted updo. The heeled boots creaked angrily, pinching as she shoved her feet into them. It sounded like her mother’s voice as she was disowned, echoed with her father’s vow to see her dead rather than with a half-breed Go-Away. Katherine truly believed it was Clara’s low birth and not her lack of a penis that enraged her parents.
Katherine’s work-hewn fingernails scraped the family crest on the corset, a winged fish bursting from the sea. The mirror was the polar opposite, a bird diving from the sky. The Skyrider family. The family whose son she’d abandoned for Clara. Both families ruthless enough to slaughter their way through the Sacred Sisters to find Audrey, the mirror, and eventually herself and Clara.
Yes, she would go back. Even if they killed her, Katherine would give her life to save her lover.
The familiar tones of Clara and Audrey arguing brought Katherine from her musings. She only sighed, blowing a curl of hair from her face before closing the now empty box and turning to leave the room.
“You’ll never get to City Center. They wouldn’t let some half-breed Go-Away near the gates!” Audrey shouted.
Sadly true. Clara wouldn’t be able to come along to leave the mirror. A shame since her skills with a bow would make Katherine feel much safer.
“But they will let in a sacred whore?”
‘Oh, Clara. You know better.’ Katherine shook her head as she stepped slowly down the stairs, the heels of her shoes unstable for her engineer’s feet. Clara, like all Go-Aways, respected the Sacred Sisters, who served The Great Mother by selling the one thing a citizen of any birth would always buy: their bodies. And with the money, the Sisters help poverty-stricken Go-Aways all over the Ten Kingdoms. So many would suffer without their aid, including Clara, who was raised in a Sister supported orphanage.
“A Sister can cross the gates on business.” Audrey fumed, her fists on her hips. “Whores can travel anywhere to do their whoring, don’t you know?”
“That’s enough, you two.” Katherine breathed, tapping her fingers on the banister.
Clara stepped back first, her eyes following the lines of Katherine’s corset, the gleam of metal chains and clasps flashing in her dark eye before she looked away, her lips drawn tight between awe and revulsion.
“If she so much as gets a scratch, I’ll use you for target practice.” Clara mumbled at Audrey before walking from the room.
“I’m sorry, Audrey. Clara is uncomfortable with this plan.”
“If that isn’t the understatement of the-” Audrey’s jaw hung limp at the sight of the rough-handed and usually oil-stained woman in nearly complete High-Born clothes. “You… You look amazing!”
Katherine nodded, sadness in her eyes. “Thank you. I just need my jacket, gloves, and hat. Then we can go.”
“But Kathy! How did you-”
“Audrey, I’ll explain if we make it passed the wall alive.” Katherine walked towards the closet by the door, stopping to take a lingering glance into the kitchen. She could picture Clara in there, hunched over the sink, using all her willpower to keep from breaking things. But Katherine only shrugged into her velvet coat, deep blue with lace at the cuffs, and pinned her hat securely so the mesh fell into her eyes. The gold buttons reflected the lamplight into her eyes as she slipped her hands into the silk gloves, covering her workwoman’s hands. Lastly, a black wool cloak, enshrouding everything and casting a shadow over her face.
Audrey wrapped her own purple cloak around her shoulders. “Aren’t you going to say goodbye?”
“Never.” Katherine held the door open for her friend. “Let’s go.”
The wall separating Central City from the rest of Trixa was a monument to the strength of the stone as it sternly bore the weight of so many armed Special Forces. Unlike Trixa’s understaffed police, Central City’s guards were heavily funded and ruthlessly trained. Impersonating a High-Born or forging papers risked execution on the spot. Little did Audrey know, Katherine’s papers were real. Though the redhead felt she was wearing a fabulous costume and almost wished she would be accused of fraud.
The mirror was like a mile of chain in Audrey’s pocket, threatening to drown her. She kept it in the small of her back in a hidden pocket beneath the intricate bindings of her skirts, to fool probing fingers should they appear. The temptation to throw it over the wall and run was second only to her desire to not be shot in the back and left to die in the street.
“Just don’t talk too much and everything will be fine.” Katherine pushed back her hood as they approached the gate and the crowd around them thinned. “And stay close.”
Audrey nodded, though she knew Katherine was keeping her eyes forward. She moved behind the redhead as they neared the towering stone pillars forcing the entering or leaving rabble into neat lines.
Katherine squared her shoulders and stepped right into place, her skirts gliding confidently, right up to the guard in the window. “I request passage to Central City.”
The guard didn’t even look up from his board. “Papers, please.” He barked.
Katherine placed the neatly folded parchment demurely in front of him. “I am Katherine, of the Seabourne family, requesting return passage to Central City.”
Audrey kept her head down, her own cotton encased hands folded in plain sight in front of her thighs. The guard in the window looked through Katherine’s papers to her, and she didn’t move an inch. His eyes narrowed, frowning at the embroidery on her bodice which marked Audrey as a Sister.
“You are taking that in with you?” He sneered, his ivory teeth suddenly making perfect targets for the small dagger strapped to Audrey’s garter.
“You think poorly of a daughter from one of the Great Families seeking a blessing for her hopes to conceive?” Katherine lifted her fingers to her lips, her eyes a look of withering pity. “I shudder to think what rumors shall travel through the Seabourne family. And to others.”
The guard cringed and pushed Katherine’s papers back to her. “Move on through, Miss Katherine.”
“May the Great Mother bless you.” Katherine said without feeling and walked, chin high, though the gleam of spears and air guns at either side of them. Crossbows glinted in the air above them as they moved as quickly as they could without arousing suspicion. The wall was as thick as a city block, a complete fortress encircling the High-Born from the Go-Aways. Nothing passed through without the permission of the high families. Families like Katherine’s.
The engineer’s back was suddenly a stranger’s to Audrey. The shoulders usually hunched over a gadget were now stiff and her body glided on feet which made no sound on the stone streets. The very air around her smoothed and parted to allow Katherine to pass in the slow, graceful gait of a woman who owned everything she set eyes on. And with every silent step, Audrey battled her panic and begged the Great Mother for the chance to see Katherine covered in grease and oil, sweating under her goggles from the steam in her workshop or to even hear her say something against the roaring of the throngs of people near the wall.
‘Even if it means bearing the sight of that thug naked once again, let me live through this.’
“Breathe.” Katherine whispered, slowing her stride to allow the Sister to walk beside her. “The wall was the easy part. While we’re in the city, do not leave my side. You do not want to know what they will do to an unescorted Sister.”
“You know this place. Whatever you say.”
Katherine stopped suddenly, her shoulders slumping as far as the constrictive corsetry would allow. “I’m so sorry. I know this was a way to flush me out and it put you in danger.”
Audrey sighed, her cheeks turning pink with shame. “It’s my fault for not making sure my client left with what he came with.” She ached to touch her friend’s shoulder, offer some comfort, but a Sister could not touch a High-Born woman in the city walls. “Why?” Was all she could say.
“Because I love Clara.”
Before Audrey could reply, hands pulled her into the crowd. Hard leather gloves muffled her scream.
“Audrey!” Katherine was only able to reach for the empty space her friend once stood before foul-smelling dust was thrown into her face. The world melted into shifting spirals of light and nauseating color before darkness swallowed her.
Katherine rubbed her temples, almost sorry she’d woken. When she saw the bleached white ceiling swirling with raised clouds and stars in a failed attempt at cheer, Katherine’s heart dropped and she wished the powder they’d used to knock her out had killed her.
“Welcome home, Katherine.”
Death would be better than having to face this dark wood furniture again, the painted window on the wall with phantom sunshine illuminating nothing…
“You have been gone awhile but we kept your room the same. Isn’t it comforting?”
The ancient tomes on marriage and proper High-Born etiquette on the bookshelves… No time for flights of fancy. Waste of time for a proper wife.
“For awhile we thought you would simply get bored and come back on your own. When you didn’t…”
The high, unpadded stool upon which Katherine learned the most scarring of lessons…
“The theft of the mirror was the perfect chance to bring you home.”
The walk-in closet filled with expensive dresses. All high-backed to hide the scars…
“Some gratitude would be appreciated.”
Katherine had plenty of ideas for expressing this gratitude. “Where is Audrey?”
“Your charity needs limits, Katherine.” Ah, that was the familiar cold, scolding voice to scrape at her ears.
“Where. Is. Audrey?!” She was growling now and the figure in the room with her stood and walked to the foot of the canopied bed.
“Your whore is being treated as she should; servicing some of my lonelier, more desperate guards.”
Katherine burst out laughing, tears glistening on her eyelashes.
“You laugh? How callous. She will service them all and then she will die.”
“You’re a fool, Mother.” Katherine spat the word like the curse that she was. “And you don’t know the Sisters.”
“Say it again!” Audrey shouted, pulling her whip tight around the guard. The hand-woven leather groaned as it constricted around his wrists and ankles, pulling his back at a painful angle.
“I’m sorry, Sister!” The guard screamed, tears streaming down his sweaty face.
“Good boy.” Audrey purred, and kicked him in the back of the head. He collapsed in a heap on top of his cohorts and Audrey tugged her whip free. “Idiots. Nobody rapes a Sister.” She grumbled, winding the whip around her waist so it appeared to only be a finely woven belt.
Stepping over the subdued men, Audrey brushed her cloak free of dust and wrapped it around her shoulders, lifting the hood to cover her face before she opened the door.
Audrey ran right into the lanky form of a woman in a tight vest and trousers. Straw straight, blood-red hair covered her face and her skin was so dark, the woman was a six-foot shadow of fear in the doorway. But Audrey sighed with relief.
“I knew you’d follow me, Vi. Did Clara call you?”
Elvira nodded, then lifted a long arm to point with her bloodied dirk. Audrey raised a brow as droplets hit the floor. No more guards to worry about then.
“You know where Clara and Katherine are?”
Vi nodded again and turned the blade sharply in her hands. Hurry up, she was saying.
“Alright, Vi. Lead on.”
Katherine glared at her mother. “I’m not going anywhere with you.”
“Stop being so obstinate.” Beatrice cooed, waving an ornamental fan before her face. Vivid pink feathers – which Katherine was certain would look less prissy and garish on the bird – were sewn to the edge of the fan, the rim of Beatrice’s bodice, and hem of her dress, brushing against the hard ivory skin and equally hard granite floor. Every fold of fabric and curl of silver hair was cold and severe, but the blue of her eyes was positively glacial; lacking all the warmth of her daughter’s matching eyes. “Your fiancée is waiting a long time for you to come to your senses.”
Katherine grimaced briefly before a sick grin curled her pink lips. “I should have known you both would trick me into coming home.” She faced her mother down, standing to meet her eye to eye. How freedom can change perspective! Hadn’t this woman been tall and as monumental as the statues of the Great Mother in Trixa? Now, she was just an old woman, clinging to the chance her daughter still feared her enough to obey. “Never. You can take your dynasty and shove it.”
Two guards spilled into the door, easily seizing the engineer’s arms as Beatrice chuckled. “You speak as if you were one of them now! Such a waste.”
“Don’t worry, my Lady Seabourne.” A brutish man, more uniform than muscle, stepped around Beatrice and Katherine felt bile rise up from her stomach.
“You’ve gotten fat, Claus.” She snarled. “This pampered life doesn’t agree with you.”
Where once she might have found him attractive for a male, Claus’ ugliness contained on the inside, now leaked out to oily skin and eyes bagged by too much wine. Patting his pockets, he smiled smoke-stained teeth at his betrothed. His hair was cropped military short and his wool uniform sagged under the weight of his medals and growing belly. “We will wash that Go-Away filth from your mouth. You will honor our engagement and never leave Central City again.” His smile was self-assured and strained. “You will work for the special guard. You will use that ingenious mind for the good of the people and not those castoff filth beyond the wall.”
Katherine doubled over with laughter and the guards tightened their grip. “Not smart enough!” She gasped between giggles, shaking her shoulders. “You never were!” Katherine lifted her face to look down on the taller man, wrinkling her nose. “You would marry me to have me invent and build weapons to kill innocent people. And you sent that poor man to die in the Sister’s temple to set off a war to tear Trixa apart. They would all burn while you sat behind your wall, right?”
“What a clean world it would be, my child.” Beatrice cut in. “You could come home and do your duty without further temptation to roam.”
Katherine’s eyes went hollow with anger, her teeth gnashing as she hissed. “I was gladly disowned. Father said he would kill me if I came back. I think I’ll take that option instead of helping you.”
“Your father is dead.” Claus pulled a small compressed air pistol from his belt and wrenched Katherine’s head back with a gloved fist, the white of it clashing violently with the red locks.
“Good!” Katherine screamed. “I hope he died of the same beatings he gave me!”
Claus pushed the muzzle hard into her chin. “You will do as you are told or your Go-Away whore will die first!”
A metal arrow sliced through Claus’ hand and two of its siblings buried themselves in the necks of the guards holding her. In a very short moment, Katherine stood tall over her captors, looking at her former fiancée clutching his skewered hand.
“You underestimate the talents of whores.” Katherine sighed as Clara stepped through the door leading to the washroom.
Beatrice moved to run, the heels of her shoes groaning on the granite as she turned but strong leather wrapped around her and bound her tight, her fan clattering to the floor. Audrey dragged the hogtied woman to her back and jammed the whip handle between the older woman’s lips to keep her from screaming. “Say the word Kathy, and this bitch is dead.”
“Don’t curse, Audrey. The Head Sister would not approve.”
Clara cocked back her small, wrist mounted crossbow, another arrow clocking into place and the pressurized air cartridge whining at the expectation of violence. She looked down at Claus before stepping over the dead guards to retrieve her arrows. She flicked the blood off in his sweaty face before turning to her lover. “I brought your gun.” Clara pulled it from her back pocket and placed the silver pistol into Katherine’s gloved hand.
“Thank you, love.” Katherine’s hand welcomed the custom-made grip, its weight a familiar and comforting sensation. She leveled it in her former fiancée’s face, right between his eyes and opened her free hand to catch the mirror from Audrey’s well-timed toss. “Take your mirror.” She snarled, dropping it between his knees. “And if I ever see your shadow in Trixa, I will put a lead ball right between your eyes.” Then Katherine brought the pistol down hard on Claus’ temple, his body joining the others at her feet.
Clara kicked him with her foot. “He’s short.” She mumbled.
Katherine beamed up at Clara, standing up on her toes to kiss a creamy cheek. “I knew you would come for me.”
“Always.” Clara said, a blush on her cheeks.
Elvira tapped her blade on the doorframe to get their attention. Her body blocked the doorway, but her head leaned into the hallway looking for more guards.
“She’s right. We should get out of here.” Audrey tugged her whip tight when Beatrice struggled in its coils.
“Guards will come. It will take time to fight them all.” Clara said, slipping her hand into her shirt to retrieve her key. “We can get out through the waste system where I came in.” Katherine listened to the crisp clicking sound of Clara inserting the key into the hole above her ear and winding the clockwork eye to make sure it would allow her to see during the battle.
‘The first thing I ever made for her.’ Katherine thought. Her face hardened when she looked back to her mother. “No.” She said, standing over the woman struggling on the floor. “We are going to walk right out of here. Aren’t we, Mother?”
Audrey pulled the whip handle from between the rose-stained lips, gaping at her friend in disbelief.
“None of you will leave here alive! I’ll have you all killed!” Beatrice screeched predictably, and Katherine rolled her eyes.
“I don’t think so. I am leaving and taking my friends and my love with me. And I will never come back here. You will let us in return for my silence.”
“You little fool. You’ll never make it down the hallway.” Beatrice’s face twisted horridly in anger, the lines of her face catching harsh shadows streaked with face powder and rouge.
Furious, Katherine pressed her gun against her mother’s throat. “You would admit your only daughter ran away to take a Go-Away woman as her lover? Would you!” Katherine screamed and Audrey cringed. Clara watched them both carefully, ready to pull her lover away or put an arrow in the old woman’s eye.
“No,” Katherine rasped. “I could kill you right now and to avoid a scandal, the other families would let me walk out of here with the gun smoking in my hands and your head as a hat. The Kingdoms would be abuzz with the sad news of you passing peacefully in your sleep. They would hush it all up because they know if I die, if I get so much as a bruise, it all explodes. Everyone will know your daughter ran off to Trixa to be a Go-Away with her female partner.” Her face was completely flushed with anger, tears streaming down her face. “You will let us leave. And you will thank the Blessed Mother we did.” Katherine backed away slowly, her shoulders shaking violently till Clara placed her cloak around them.
“Let’s get out of here.” Katherine whispered, kicking the mirror as she moved towards the door.
True to Katherine’s word, they all passed through the wall with barely a disgruntled glare from the guards. Elvira was the first to disappear. None of them knew where she went, but her imposing presence vanished the moment they passed the wall.
Audrey returned to her temple to call her fellow Sister’s home and give a note to the police with the Seabourne family crest clearly stamped on it, stating the Sisters were fully exonerated and are to be left alone. Trixa’s officers would honor anything with a High-Born seal on it. Katherine also treated Audrey to information about some of the less honest farmers in Central City. Now the temple had access to High-Born flowers, fruit, and vegetables. A special thanks for treating her mother to Audrey’s whip.
Clara didn’t like how quiet her Kathy was as they walked the dusty streets to their home. Wandering eyes caught Katherine’s fancy clothing when the wind blew apart her cloak but Katherine didn’t bother to cover herself
‘Let them look.’ Katherine thought. ‘Let them gawk at the slumming High-Born. I just don’t care anymore.’
Clara walked closer to her, and they closed the distance to their doorway with their shoulders touching.
Katherine stood in their sitting room in a daze as Clara bolted the front door. She removed the cloak and coat from her lover’s shoulders and hung it in the closet, frowning at Katherine’s silence.
“Do you regret it?” Clara whispered, unzipping her jacket to hang it next to the cloak.
“If you mean not shooting my mother in the face, yes.” Katherine grumbled, oblivious to anything but the air in front of her face.
Clara fumbled with the key around her neck. “Please don’t make me say it.” She whispered, her arms so tight, the wrist-mounted crossbow creaked against her chest.
Finally lifting her eyes, Katherine stepped to Clara’s side, un-strapping the thick, leather buckles holding the air-powered weapon to Clara’s wrist. Kissing it, Katherine smiled, weakly. “I don’t like being there or thinking about her. But you are worth a million women like my mother, and never forget it.”
Rather than smile, Clara pushed Katherine up against the closet door. It slammed shut at the combined weight of their bodies and Clara swallowed her lover’s surprise with a demanding kiss.
“He touched you.” Clara whispered against her lips, the leather of her vest grinding against Katherine’s corset.
“Never.” Katherine gasped before Clara’s hand slithered up her leg and she clung to the other woman for balance.
Clara pressed in harder, feeling the heat build in Katherine’s body, a flush across those beautiful, pale cheeks. Her fingers scraped at Katherine’s metal corset, undoing the hooks and peeling it away.
The redhead’s crystal blue eyes watched Clara as she pressed her hands against the fabric. “Do you like this dress?” She giggled.
“No.” Clara rasped, pulling at the cups of the corset to expose Katherine’s breasts and shoving her hips between the creamy legs. “I hate it.” Clara hiked up the skirts. “I want to make it dirty.”
Katherine shuddered and smiled. “Do it, baby. Tear it to shreds.” Katherine wrapped her legs tight around the ample hips, her fingers carding through Clara’s short hair, and pulling her down to her bare chest.
It was the chemise to tear first. The sound of the threads surrendering to Clara’s desperate want drenched Katherine’s drawers before those were torn from Katherine’s body entirely. Clara left the ivory garter belt, stockings, and boots to feel the fine silk in her hands. Katherine fumbled with Clara’s belt buckle undoing it halfway before Clara pushed Katherine’s hands away.
“Just touch me.” She pleaded; her fingers traveling the lace trim of the stockings to Katherine’s inner thigh, the tips of her fingers flicking the elastic to make Katherine writhe under her.
Katherine threw her hat to the floor, lifting her hands to Clara’s cheeks to pull their lips together. Clara bit at Katherine’s lips to make them swell red like the stain the High-Born ladies used before pulling Kathy’s silk gloves off with her teeth, one finger at a time. She then returned to the kiss-stained lips to taste the gasps as Clara’s fingers parted Katherine’s folds.
‘Mine.’ Clara’s mind, dizzy with lust to the point of frenzy, gave no thought to her own ache, the swollen need in her own breeches. Katherine’s scent, her voice, her pleasure screaming at the ceiling as her clit was teased and stroked so violently, the way she pleaded and scratched at Clara’s back satisfied Clara’s every need. Her greedy fingers plunged deep, fucking Katherine against the wall at a pace to echo her pounding heart and rhythmic claim in her head. ‘Mine, mine, MINE!’
With a final hoarse cry, Katherine burst over Clara’s fingers, panting and purring her lover’s name. This was the only situation where the engineer’s fingers moved slowly, hesitating as they smoothed Clara’s bangs away from her face. Even the gold eye looked sheepish and unsure, and Clara clung to her. The markswoman would never cry. She hadn’t cried when she’d woken on Katherine’s worktable with a mechanical eye in her head and a key around her neck.
The engineer reached into Clara’s vest and pulled the key free, touching it to her lips. “I gave you my heart when I gave you that eye. I’ll never leave you.”
Clara set Katherine to her feet, inspecting the dress. “A complete loss.”
“Good.” Katherine threw her arms around Clara’s neck, indulging in a thankful kiss so involving, neither woman heard the door open.
“Hello? I just wanted to thank you – Oh, by the Great Mother! Don’t you have a bedroom!?” Audrey screeched.
“All these rooms are ours and we’ll do what we like with them.” Clara huffed, giving no thought to her rumpled clothes while Katherine turned and tried to gather herself back into the corset. “Don’t you knock?”
“We did tell her she was welcome anytime.” Katherine sighed, fighting with the metal bodice and the fabric beneath it. “And gave her a key.”
“Go dress yourselves! Gods, you two!”
Clara complied only because Katherine didn’t want to be bare in front of her friend.
“You are so bad.” Katherine giggled, scurrying up the stairs.
Clara smirked and swatted her lover on her sweat-soaked behind. “Leave the dress on the bed. I’m not done with it yet.”
Audrey shuddered. “Worse than the newly bonded…” She grumbled, turning her back to them to hide her blush and her relieved smile. It was good to see them together and happy, even if she saw too much of it.
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