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Sleepwalking:
A Lesbian Romance Novella
by Cara Malone





www.caramalonebooks.com

This story is a work of fiction.
Any resemblance to real people or events is entirely unintentional.
Copyright
© 2017 Cara Malone
All Rights Reserved.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Copyright
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
A Note from the Author
Books by Cara Malone


CHAPTER 1


Leah McAllister had never felt quite so acutely uncomfortable as she did walking into Westbrook University’s LGBT student organization with her best friend, Michelle. It was past seven and they were running late thanks to Leah’s stalling tactics, and when they opened the door to the library conference room, a half dozen heads all turned in unison to watch them enter. Leah felt nervous butterflies filling her stomach and she fought the urge to clutch the steno pad in her hand defensively in front of her chest.

She hated to be the center of attention like this, and she’d rather melt into the floor – or better yet, scurry back to her dorm room where Netflix and a package of Oreos waited for her – than come to this meeting.

But Chelle insisted, saying it would make for a good article in the student newspaper if nothing else. Leah felt her hand gently on the small of her back, pushing her further into the room. There was a red-headed guy sitting at the head of the table and as Leah took a few tentative steps into the room, his hand shot up in the air and he waved the girls in.

“Welcome to Open Doors,” he said with a large, friendly smile. “Hey, would you shut that door behind you?”

“Huh?” Leah asked, as a few people around the table laughed and there was more than one groan. One of them came from Chelle.

“Alex, if you don’t stop making that joke we’re going to vote you off the island,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Leah, that’s Alex. He’s the Open Doors president, and he’s not as funny as he thinks he is.”

“Hey,” Leah said, returning his wave.

Chelle made introductions all the way around the table – there was Donovan, linking his arm in Alex’s as he nodded at Leah, and then Christy, who looked familiar but Leah couldn’t place her yet. Chelle gave Leah the names of the other girls and guys sitting around the table, too, but she was starting to feel a little bit anxious again and they didn’t stick in her mind. She was wondering what would happen when they got back around to her.

Leah glanced around the room – it was pretty sparsely furnished, and aside from the conference table in the center of the room, the only other piece of furniture was a long rectangular table pressed up against the wall by the door. There were an assortment of chips and dips and cookies and a veggie tray spread out on it, as well as a couple two-liter bottles of soda and a stack of red solo cups.

Replace the soft drinks with coffee slowly cooling in a grimy carafe, and replace the conference table with a circle of folding chairs, and this would be an Al-Anon meeting. She didn’t know how to introduce herself to an LGBT student group, but she did know what to say at one of those meetings.

She tried the words out in her head. My name is Leah and I’m a lesbian. She’d say them out loud to a round of polite clapping from the other group members.

The idea made her pulse quicken. No, after three years of pestering on Chelle’s part, Leah had finally agreed to come to an Open Doors meeting, but she’d made it very clear that she was here in a journalistic capacity, to cover whatever event the group was planning for LGBT History Month in October. Leah thought that it had been a fine compromise, and she hoped that it would get Chelle off her back for at least a little while.

“And this is my roommate, Leah,” she was saying, and Leah could just tell by the sideways grin she was giving her that this was not the first time the group was hearing her name. Chelle always did have trouble minding her own business. She prodded Leah lightly in the ribs and said, “Introduce yourself.”

“Umm,” Leah said, looking around the table. The girl with the familiar face – Christy – was studying Leah with an intensity in her eyes, and it made her feel flushed. “Well, I’m just here because I got kicked out of Westbrook’s fight club. They really take that no talking rule seriously, and I figured I’d come check you guys out while I’m waiting to hear back from the intestinal parasites support group I applied to join.”

She got a much heartier round of laughter than Alex’s overused one-liner, and Chelle pulled her over to a pair of empty chairs to sit down before she had the chance to second-guess her presence here.

“Leah writes for the school paper,” Chelle said as the laughter died down. “She’s going to write an article about our LGBT History Month events.”

“Well then I guess that means we better come up with some ideas,” Alex said, calling the meeting back to order. “What do you guys have for me?”

People started throwing out ideas – movie screenings and panel discussions and poster campaigns – and Leah flipped to a new page in her notebook to jot down notes as ideas flew around the table.

Once when she glanced up, she caught the stare of Christy sitting directly across from her. She looked tall even in her chair, with impeccable posture and an athletic build. Leah was almost sure that she’d noticed her last spring when she’d gone to the university’s pool to interview the coach of the swim team after they won Divisionals. Christy was very pretty, with long, sandy blonde hair and eyes that had just a hint of emerald in them. The way she was looking at her made Leah feel anxious, and she fixed her eyes down on her notepad for the duration of the meeting.


***


After the flurry of ideas for LGBT History Month died down, Alex called a snack break and everyone started to push away from the table and move toward the refreshment table. Leah felt the anxiety beginning to well up inside her again, but thankfully Chelle saw the way she was gripping her notepad like it was a lifeline and stuck beside her.

Chelle had always been the more social one between them, Leah preferring to fade into the background in social situations and become more of a wallflower, and as the meeting became more casual she wasn’t sure that her journalistic façade was going to carry her much farther. Chelle took Leah by the elbow and pulled her out of her chair, then they headed over to the snack table where everyone was piling cookies and chips onto little paper plates and chatting with each other.

“Let’s go say hi to Alex,” Chelle said. “He’s been the Open Doors president for two years now, and he’s the reason we’re as functional as we are. If it wasn’t for him, our meetings would probably devolve into sitting around someone’s dorm room eating cookie dough and watching Orange is the New Black.”

“And that would be a tragedy,” Alex said, his voice dripping with hyperbole at Chelle’s prediction. Then he smiled and held out his hand to Leah. “Nice to meet you, Leah. Glad you could finally squeeze us into your schedule.”

Leah blushed, then shot a look at Chelle.

“I may or may not have mentioned you a time or two,” Chelle said.

“Well, thanks for having me,” Leah said. “And I’ll be happy to do a follow-up article when you get the details of the panel discussion worked out.”

Alex arched one eyebrow at her, and she was worried that she’d said something wrong. Then he cocked his head to the side and asked, “Are you sure you’re only here in your capacity as a reporter?”

Leah felt a lump forming in her throat and she swallowed it down hard, glancing over to Chelle for backup, but she was very unhelpfully wandering away to talk to a pretty girl with beachy brunette waves in her hair who was standing near the drinks. Leah rolled her eyes and then turned back to Alex, ready to defend her motivations, but thankfully the boy Chelle had introduced as Donovan came over and threw his arm around Alex’s shoulder, distracting him.

“Baby, we’re out of regular Coke,” he said, resting his head against Alex’s. “Do you have any more in your car?”

“I suppose you couldn’t possibly drink a diet soda instead,” Alex said, playfully poking Donovan in his somewhat pudgy stomach and eliciting a scowl from him. After a moment, he relented. “Oh, fine. I think there’s another bottle in the trunk. I’ll go get it because I wouldn’t want you to die of aspartame ingestion.”

“Thank you,” Donovan said sweetly, planting a kiss on Alex’s temple.

“Excuse me, snack emergency,” Alex said to Leah as he dug a keychain out of his pocket. “It was nice to meet you, Leah. I hope you’ll come back to Open Doors sometime. Oh, and help yourself to some food.”

“Thanks,” Leah said. She looked around for Chelle and found her sitting at the conference table, eating chips off the brunette’s plate while they talked and smiled at each other. Then she looked at the snack table. It was clearing out now as people took plates back to their seats, so Leah wandered over.

She was pouring herself a cup of diet soda when she sensed someone approaching behind her. She turned just as Christy grabbed a plate and gave Leah a flirtatious little grin that made the butterflies in her stomach burst into flight once again. She was even taller standing beside Leah, lean and muscular through her bare arms, and she thought that she caught a slight smell of chlorine in her thick blonde hair.

“Umm, you’re Christy Jameson, right? You broke the school’s hundred-meter freestyle record last year,” Leah said, then went back to busying herself with the snack table so she wouldn’t have to look into those smoldering eyes. It was obvious from across the conference table that Christy was flirting with her, and it made her heart race.

“Yeah,” she said, a broad smile breaking across her face as she set down her plate and turned to face Leah. “How did you know?”

“I write for The Western Review,” Leah said. “I didn’t cover that particular story, but I remembered your name because I did do the article on the team’s Divisionals win last spring.”

“Very cool,” Christy said, leaning against the end of the snack table and sliding a few inches closer to Leah. She looked around at Chelle, wondering if she could use her as a feasible excuse to run away, but Chelle was watching the two of them and shot Leah a devious look.

She thought she knew everything about Leah, from the first moment when they’d been assigned to be roommates freshman year. It took Chelle exactly ten seconds to look her up and down and decide exactly who Leah was, even if three years later Leah still hadn’t quite figured it out for herself. She knew that Chelle would be of no use in this particular situation because she would fail to see the problem.

“So this is your first Open Doors meeting,” Christy observed, and Leah felt another flush rising into her cheeks as she felt Christy’s eyes on her. “You’re not a freshman, though?”

“No,” Leah said, grabbing a plate and piling it with chips and cookies for lack of something better to do. She wasn’t even particularly hungry, but she didn’t like the way her insides went fuzzy and fluttery when she made too much eye contact with Christy. “I’m actually a senior.”

“Me too,” Christy said. “What are you studying?”

“Journalism,” she said, her voice cracking just slightly as she spoke.

“Oh, duh,” Christy said with a laugh. Then she took a step closer and Leah could feel her body heat. It was making her pulse throb in her ears and an uncomfortably strong, thrumming warmth build somewhere deep in her core.

“It just seemed logical,” Leah replied with a nervous laugh. Finally, her plate was full of food she didn’t really want and she had nothing left to do but turn and look Christy in the eyes.

She was at least a full head taller than Leah, with long, straight hair the color of the wheat fields that surrounded the campus. Her lips were full and pink, and her eyes sparked with something wild while she studied Leah’s expression. It felt almost obscene to be looked into like that in front of so many strangers. Leah’s eyes darted around the room, expecting to see an audience hanging on the tension growing between them, but instead, everyone was wrapped up in their own conversations.

“Do you want to come to Tink’s with me after this?” Christy asked, and her voice was practically a whisper. Leah bit her lip. Tink’s was another place that Chelle had spent three years trying to drag Leah to. Christy saw the hesitation in Leah’s face and added, “Hey, how can you write about the Westbrook LGBT community and not mention Tink’s? Bring Chelle, of course.”

“The thing is…” Leah said, then paused. Her heart was racing all the more as she said, “I’m not gay.”

Christy’s brow knit together, and while it wasn’t quite the skeptical eyebrow arch that Alex had given her, it didn’t look as if she was fully picking up what Leah was putting down. She was just about to thank Christy for the offer and say that she had an early morning tomorrow – it was true, after all – when Christy said, “Doesn’t matter to me. So are you in?”

“In for what?” Chelle asked, finally choosing to come over and rescue Leah at the exact wrong moment. Of course she was going to want to go to Tink’s - it was her favorite place in Westbrook. Leah knew there was no way she was getting out of it now.

“Tink’s,” Christy said.

“Hell yeah, we’re in,” Chelle replied, shooting a shocked glance over at Leah, who returned it with a somewhat helpless shrug.

“Why not?” She said.


CHAPTER 2


Morgan Park had never been into the bar scene, and a year shy of her thirtieth birthday, she was even less enamored with Tink’s than she’d ever been. It was loud, electronic dance music pumping through speakers strategically located all throughout the bar so that no matter where you stood, it was hard to have a conversation. Being the only gay bar in a relatively small city, it was always crowded, and the heaving, sweaty sea of bodies on the dance floor often overflowed to the bar area. When Morgan came here, which wasn’t often, she spent most of her time in the small room off to the side of the dance floor, where there were a couple of pool tables and a dart board, and it was sometimes possible to have a conversation.

Her girlfriend, Allison, on the other hand, thrived on crowds and heavy bass beats that vibrated your chest, and that’s why they were at Tink’s tonight. They’d had a rough day and Morgan decided Alli needed to dance it out.

They’d been there for about two hours and Morgan was on her third bottle of Yuengling, and she was beginning to really regret making that decision. She’d snagged one of the few stools that capped each end of the bar – Tink’s was not a sitting kind of place – and she was watching Allison on the dance floor.

Morgan had let her order a single drink – an amaretto sour, pretty much the only thing that Allison ever ordered – and then she’d cut her off because it was obvious from her behavior that more alcohol would only be pouring gasoline on the fire that was raging in Allison’s head.

Her beautiful girlfriend was completely immersed in the sea of bodies on the dance floor. She was probably the only one out there who was old enough to rent a car, and she was throwing her hands in the air, sloshing the dregs of her drink over the back of her hand and showering everyone within a two-foot radius of her. Her long blonde hair was stringy with sweat and alcohol, and her eyes had that manic glint in them that Morgan hated to see. It was there more often than not these days – her expression a little too big, her eyes a little too wide, her smile a little too stretched.

It made something at the bottom of Morgan’s stomach want to turn over whenever she caught that look on Alli’s face.

She thought that maybe it hadn’t been the right decision to bring her to Tink’s tonight. Maybe they should have gone home and worked on some form of self-care instead. But Morgan didn’t have the energy for that – it was a hard day for her, too – and at least Allison looked like she was having fun.

Maybe a little too much fun.

Morgan watched as her girlfriend of six years wrapped her arm around the waist of some teenage-looking girl, probably from the college up the street, and grinded her hips against the girl’s tight little ass. Morgan chugged down the remainder of her beer and waved the bartender over to order another.


CHAPTER 3


Leah was overwhelmed by the frenetic energy of Tink’s, the town’s closest approximation of a dance club. At nine o’clock on a Friday night, the dance floor was already packed with sweating bodies and the entire bar pulsed to a drunken beat.

Christy went over to the bar and shouted Leah’s drink order over the noise, then shrugged and smiled when Leah asked if she’d put it on her tab. She hung close to Chelle at the end of the bar while she drank her first beer, then started on another one. The alcohol was making her belly feel warm and her head feel just the right amount of tingly. She watched with awe as a few dozen people formed a mass of dancing, intertwined bodies in front of her – boys with their arms around other boys’ waists, girls with their hips pressed against each other, couples kissing and getting lost in each other and the music.

“You want to try it?” Christy asked, catching the drift of Leah’s gaze.

“Oh, no-”

But before Leah had a chance to argue, Christy grabbed her hand and pulled her onto the dance floor. Leah attempted and failed to snag Chelle’s hand while Christy led her away from the bar, and then it was just the two of them.

Well, just the two of them surrounded by about forty other people all moving and undulating in close proximity around them. Bodies pulsed all around them and a rainbow of colors splashed Leah’s skin and reflected off the mirrors surrounding the dance floor from a strobe light slowly revolving over their heads. A sensual, slow song played, and Leah noticed that most of the people around here were grinding rhythmically against each other.

The music vibrated through Leah’s body and the colors and mirrors and sea of bodies around her made Leah lose track of herself. It didn’t feel quite like reality on the dance floor, and it felt nice when she noticed Christy’s hands on her hips. Maybe it had to do with the alcohol, or the lights, but Leah slipped into the moment and let Christy pull her closer.

And then there was a second set of hands on her.

Someone was grabbing her from behind, squeezing her hips insistently. Leah turned around, surprised – she knew Chelle would never do something so forward, but she’d almost rather it be Chelle than a stranger.

It was a blonde woman who looked like she was in her early thirties, her skin and hair wicked with sweat. She’d obviously been on the dance floor for quite a while, and fleetingly Leah wondered if some kind of party drug was responsible for the wild look in her eyes. Ecstasy, maybe?

Then, before Leah could react, the woman pressed herself up against Leah. She wrapped her arms around Leah’s waist and thrust her leg between Leah’s thighs as her body moved just slightly out of rhythm with the music.

“Hey beautiful,” she said, a wide smile stretching across her face. “How are you tonight?”

“I’m okay,” Leah said, trying to balance the ingrained need to be polite with a concerted effort to extricate herself from this stranger’s grasp. She was suddenly very present, no longer hypnotized by the atmosphere of the dance floor and wanting desperately to get out of this woman’s sweat-slicked arms.

“I bet I could make you better than okay,” she said, her hips grinding seductively over Leah’s thigh. “What would you say to a threesome with me and my girlfriend over there by the bar?”

She nodded to the bar, but Leah was too busy trying to get free.

“Uh, no thanks,” she said, pressing the woman’s arms down over her hips.

Then came Christy’s voice, barking over Leah’s shoulder. “Hey, back off.”

Maybe it was because Christy towered over almost everyone else on the dance floor – including a lot of the men – but the blonde woman immediately let go of Leah, spinning around and dancing casually away to insert herself in another group of girls before she could garner any more trouble from Christy.

“Thanks,” Leah said to her savior.

“No problem,” Christy replied. “You want to go outside and get some air?”

“Yeah, I think that would probably be a good idea,” Leah said. She looked around for Chelle and saw her chatting with the bartender, a girl with a pixie cut and a geometric deer skull tattooed on her bicep. Too far away to shout to, and too many bodies in between them to make it feasible for Leah to thread her way through the crowd to tell her that she and Christy were going to step outside.

Besides, she didn’t look like she’d welcome the interruption – she was leaning over the bar and batting her lashes at the girl. So Leah let Christy slide her hand into hers and lead her through the crowd to a door on the back wall of the bar that led out to a small smoking patio.


***


It was cool and dark outside, and quiet once the door swung shut. There were a half dozen smokers standing around, laughing at each other’s jokes and lighting up. Christy led Leah to the far corner of the patio, which was closed in by a tall wooden fence with a gate at the back.

“Ah, I can hear myself think finally,” Christy said, a smile spreading across her lips. She had perfectly white, perfectly straight teeth, and Leah found herself drawn to the girl’s mouth and her plump pink lips. The alcohol running through her veins made her a bit more uninhibited than she was used to, and – like it usually did – it made her stare at pretty girls longer than was polite.

Leah caught herself doing this – she wasn’t that drunk yet – and wrinkled her nose as a cloud of cigarette smoke wafted over to them. She said, “It’s a bit smoky out here. Does it bother you?”

“Not really, but we can get away from it if you want,” Christy said, bumping the latch off the gate. “After you.”

The gate swung open on a little alley running between Tink’s and the pizza shop next door. The alley was empty and lit by a street lamp burning at the opposite end, and the smoke on the patio was starting to turn Leah’s stomach so she went through the door and Christy followed after her, the gate swinging shut behind them.

Leah wandered a little way down the alley and Christy followed behind her.

“So what made you come to Open Doors tonight?” she asked. “I mean, I know you were there for the newspaper, but why were you really there?”

Leah twisted around to face Christy, the world spinning pleasantly on its axis as the alcohol made her sway on her feet. She studied Christy’s face with a very serious expression, then said with a little laugh, “Chelle. She made me go.”

Then she wandered a few more steps down the alley and decided the alley was a little too much like a tilting funhouse floor to keep walking. She leaned up against the cool brick wall of the pizza joint and Christy followed her.

“Yeah she can be a bit pushy when she thinks she knows what’s best for you,” Christy said with a laugh. She inched closer, and Leah could feel her heat the same way she felt it when Christy approached her by the snack table – only now there was no audience, real or imaginary, to watch them.

“She’s usually right,” Leah admitted, feeling her breath catch in her throat.

Christy took another step forward, her toes bumping against Leah’s and those full, pouty lips less than a foot from her own. Christy put one hand on the wall and leaned in over Leah’s shoulder, her lips brushing Leah’s ear as she said, “I want to kiss you now. Is that okay?”

“Yes,” Leah breathed, barely able to conjure any words at all.

And then Christy’s mouth was on hers, her free hand cupping the side of Leah’s face as their lips met in a soft, teasingly short kiss that left her panting and feeling both sober and dizzyingly good.

Christy stood up straight again, then her lips brushed against Leah’s forehead as she asked, “Was that all right?”

Leah didn’t answer with words this time. She reached up and grabbed the straps of Christy’s tank top, pulling her back down to meet Leah’s lips again. This time the kiss was more passionate, more urgent, and Leah felt desire blooming deep in her core. Her heart was racing again, but it felt so much better this time, her back pressed up against the brick and Christy’s tall, lean body against her own.

She let her hands wander up the curve of Christy’s hip, and then when Christy nudged her knee between Leah’s thighs, she got up the nerve to let her hands rise higher. She ran her fingers lightly up Christy’s ribs and then cupped her palms against her breasts as Christy let out a low moan of approval.

Everything was a blur of hands and flesh and excitement tearing through her. Christy was squeezing Leah’s hips, moving them back and forth over her thigh and sending shivers of desire up from her core all the way through her body. Before long, she was grinding her hips against Christy of her own accord, moaning and feeling herself getting wet. She squeezed Christy’s breasts with urgency and her breathing grew heavier, the need to release building like an ache between her thighs.

Then, before she could object, she felt Christy’s hands going to the button of her jeans. With a swift flick of her fingers, her fly was open, and then Christy’s hand was sliding down her stomach and hooking under the waistband of her panties.

“We shouldn’t-” Leah objected, glancing up and down the alley as Christy bowed her head to kiss and lick a trail of shivering pleasure down from Leah’s jaw to her collar bone.

“We already are,” Christy said, and then her fingers slid into the wetness between Leah’s thighs.

She squeezed her eyes shut, pleasure like an explosion going off behind her eyes as Christy’s hand slid up and down over her. Her thumb found Leah’s clit, rubbing circles around it as her fingers continued to play through her wetness, and all Leah could manage was a long, incoherent moan.

It only took a few strokes, Christy’s thigh still pressing tightly between Leah’s legs and her lips sucking her neck, before Leah was plummeting over the edge into one of the most intense orgasms of her life. She threw her hands around Christy and clung to her as her thighs squeezed against Christy’s and her hips moved of their own accord.

She shuddered as the last waves of her orgasm subsided, and then, out of breath, she looked up to see Christy smiling with a smug satisfaction in her eyes.

“What?” Leah asked, suddenly self-conscious. She untangled her limbs from Christy’s and slid away from her on the wall as she rebuttoned her jeans.

Christy put one slick flinger to her mouth, her tongue snaking out to taste Leah on her skin, and she said, “You came pretty fast for a straight girl.”

“I just… I don’t date girls,” Leah said, feeling the need to justify what just happened between them. The real truth was that she had no clue what had come over her, or why her body had responded so powerfully to Christy’s touch.

“No need to explain yourself to me,” Christy said. Leah sighed as she straightened her clothes, looking bashfully at Christy. Christy linked her arm in Leah’s and led her back toward Tink’s. She added with a shrug and a grin, “I know I’m irresistible.”

Leah laughed, her pulse slowly returning to normal and the flush of her cheeks beginning to fade. One thing was for sure - none of the very small roster of boys Leah had fooled around with had ever made her feel like that.


CHAPTER 4


Morgan slid off her barstool and elbowed her way across the crowded dance floor. Allison had a redheaded girl pinned up against the mirrored back wall, her lips zeroing in on the girl’s, and Morgan had had enough. She put her hand on Allison’s shoulder just as Alli was cupping her hand under the girl’s chin and turning her face up to meet hers.

“Okay, that’s enough,” Morgan said, and Allison turned to face her. The mania danced in her eyes, and for a moment Morgan felt a strong urge to take a step away from her. But this was Allison, her girlfriend, and that would be ridiculous. Shame washed over her for having thought otherwise.

“Hey, baby,” Alli said, her voice a few registers too high. She turned back to the girl on the wall, who was now looking quite uncomfortable. Morgan thought she looked barely old enough to get into Tink’s, and certainly not long enough in the tooth to know how to deal with someone like Allison. She said to the redheaded girl, “This is my girlfriend I was telling you about. Isn’t she beautiful?”

Allison turned back to Morgan and ran the back of her hand down the side of her face, from her temple down to her chin – it was something that the old Allison used to do, and it used to set Morgan on fire with desire for her. Now, it was just another gut-wrenching reminder that things weren’t the way they used to be. She brushed Alli’s hand away.

“Sure,” the girl said warily, clearly nervous about whether she was about to get laid out on the dance floor by her new companion’s butch girlfriend.

Allison threw her arm around Morgan’s shoulder and shouted over the music, her words vibrating against Morgan’s ear, “What do you say? Should we invite her to come home with us?”

“What? No,” Morgan barked.

The suggestion stung, a lightning bolt of disappointment tearing through her heart. There was never a time when she wasn’t enough for Allison, in all the years they were together, and it hurt to be asked to share her bed in such a casual way. But Morgan reminder herself that this was not the real Allison, and at least tonight, it was as much Morgan’s fault as anyone’s that she was like this. It had been her idea to come to the bar, after all.

With a sigh, she said, “Let’s go home.”

Then she wrapped her arm around Allison’s waist and started pulling her away from the girl, threading a path through the crowd.


***


Allison was calmer in the car, away from all those people whose intoxication and energy only served to ramp her up. She rested her feverish forehead against the cool passenger window, but Morgan could tell by the way her feet tapped quietly but relentlessly against the floorboard that she was still keyed up.

She should have known better than to bring Allison to Tink’s, but the bar seemed like a better atmosphere tonight than their little two-bedroom apartment with the empty room they had been slowly converting into a nursery. She didn’t think either of them wanted to look at that room with its cheerful, pastel green walls – not after the day they had.

Just this morning, the world seemed like a completely different, more hospitable place. Morgan woke up to Alli snuggling into the crook of her arm, her gorgeous body warm and curvy and pressed up against her own. She rolled over and kissed Allison’s stomach, then her mouth inched lower over her soft skin. They stayed in bed longer than usual, savoring the rare opportunity to spend a lazy morning in each other’s arms. Morgan made spinach omelets and toast, and then they got ready to drive into the city to see their fertility doctor.

That car ride had been the polar opposite of this one – Allison was animated and hopeful, and if Morgan had been paying closer attention instead of being wrapped up in her own little bubble of bliss, she might have noticed the subtle signs that said Alli was on edge. But she didn’t, because everything felt so right.

“I can feel her growing inside me,” Allison said, a healthy flush in her cheeks as she reached across the center console to take Morgan’s hand off the wheel at a stoplight and rub it gently over her stomach.

Morgan felt happiness swelling in her heart. She was more of a pragmatist than Alli, and she knew that the success rate of in vitro fertilization was les than fifty percent. She wanted to remain cautiously optimistic until after they met with the doctor and he told them that the embryo transfer was successful, but Allison’s certainty made it hard not to imagine their child growing and thriving in her womb.

“What makes you think it’s a girl?”

“I don’t know,” Allison said, a frown darkening her face for just a moment. Then she said, “I just feel it. We’re getting good news today.”

Despite all of Allison’s positive vibes and her endless happy chatter as Morgan watched the nurse draw her blood, the doctor opened her chart with a sigh and the appointment did not go well. Morgan’s heart cracked in two the moment she heard him say the words implantation did not take, and everything after that was a wall of static. She caught little snippets of his speech here and there, things about waiting until Allison’s next cycle, and the costs associated with trying again. It wasn’t money they had laying around – everything had gone into this first attempt, which Morgan realized in the wake of disappointment that she had set her heart on, against her better judgment.

And then, against her better judgment, they’d walked out of the doctor’s office and she’d looked at the darkness gathering behind Allison’s crystal blue eyes. Morgan didn’t want to watch the depression wash over her girlfriend again, pulling her under, and she didn’t want to look at that fucking empty nursery.

So they went to Tink’s. They drank and Allison danced and Morgan watched her getting more and more out of control as the afternoon turned into night and the college students started to crowd into the bar.

Morgan could forgive the flirtations, and even the fact that Alli had tried to orchestrate a threesome without any prior discussion. They were both grieving any way they could. But Morgan couldn’t forgive herself for not knowing how to take care of Allison in a way that wouldn’t make her spin out of control. It had been a long day, and with Allison as keyed up as she was, it was bound to be a long night, too.


CHAPTER 5

When Leah and Christy rejoined Chelle at the bar, she immediately cocked her eyebrow at them.

“And where have you been?” She asked. “I was looking for you.”

“We just stepped outside for some air,” Christy said, shooting a little sideways grin at Leah and making her turn an uncomfortable shade of red.

“Yeah, I bet,” Chelle said, laughing as she looked from Christy – confident, tall, and self-assured – to Leah, who was struggling to maintain eye contact. “Look, I have an early shift at the library tomorrow so I think I’m going to go.”

“I should go, too,” Leah said, stepping away from Christy and inching toward Chelle. Her body was still thrumming out the last faint spasms of her pleasure, but the idea of staying here alone with Christy brought fear bubbling back up in her.

She’d gone to her first Open Doors meeting this evening and wound up with Christy’s hand thrust down the front of her jeans, and she wasn’t about to spend the rest of the night alone in a gay bar with a girl she barely knew – who had, incidentally, just given her one of the most intense orgasms of her life. It was too much for Leah, especially without Chelle there to act as a safety net.

“No, stay,” Christy begged, taking hold of Leah’s hand in both of hers and trying to tug her back in the direction of the dance floor. “Dance with me some more.”

“I really should go,” Leah said. “I have an interview tomorrow morning for The Review.”

Christy turned to Chelle with a sarcastic look, clearly a little annoyed that she’d put the idea into Leah’s head to go. “Who the hell needs the library to be open on a Saturday morning, anyway?”

“The books aren’t going to shelve themselves,” Chelle said with a shrug, and Christy let Leah’s hand slip out of hers, realizing this was a battle she would not win.

“Okay,” she said. “Well I’m going to dance some more. Will I see you around Open Doors, Leah?”

“Yeah, maybe,” Leah said, although she hadn’t exactly had much time to reflect on how it would feel or what it would mean to return to the group as a girl instead of a deputy of the school newspaper. She still felt heavily intoxicated, drunk on the atmosphere and the way Christy had made her feel more than the meager amount of alcohol she’d consumed, and her head was swimming with new thoughts and feelings.

“Good,” Christy said, shooting Leah a flirtatious look that made Leah’s stomach go warm and fuzzy all over again. Then she danced her way back into the crowd, disappearing into the middle of the dance floor, and Leah and Chelle headed outside.


***


They made it about twelve steps down the sidewalk before Chelle burst with excitement and demanded, “Okay, spill!”

“Spill what?” Leah asked, suddenly feeling bashful about the whole night.

You know what,” Chelle said, exasperated. “Tell me what happened between you and Christy. You were gone for a long time.”

“We just went outside for some air,” Leah said, repeating the partial truth that Christy had told Chelle in the bar.

AND?

It seemed like she might blow a blood vessel if Leah didn’t appease her, so with her face turning redder and redder, she relented and confessed haltingly, “We… kissed a little bit. And then she… put her hand down my pants. And I may have… gotten off. Just a little bit.”

Chelle stopped midstride on the sidewalk. “Holy shit.”

Leah turned around, waiting for Chelle to recover from her melodramatic moment and start walking again. As innocently as she could muster, Leah asked, “What?”

“Nothing, straight girl,” Chelle said with a roll of her eyes.

Leah instantly regretted telling Chelle what happened with Christy. She should have downplayed it, omitted most of the details, because this could only add fuel to the fire Chelle had been kindling ever since their freshman year in the dorms. She’d decided within minutes of meeting Leah that she knew everything about her, including her sexuality, and while most of the time Chelle’s cockiness proved to be earned, it could be quite irritating when it was directed at you.

“Why do you care so much?” Leah snapped.

The state of Leah’s love life – in particular, the players involved – had been the prevailing narrative of their friendship for years, and sometimes it got really tiring for both of them.

“I just want you to be yourself,” Chelle said with a sigh, then started to trudge toward campus again. “I don’t understand why you’re fighting it so hard. It’s not like your family is religious and they’re going to disown you if you come out.”

“I am myself,” Leah insisted. “There’s nothing to come out of. Do you know how many straight girls kiss other girls in college? Throw a stone at any frat house on campus and you’ll hit a straight girl drunk enough to kiss her best friend. But I’ve never fallen in love with a girl.”

“Okay, fine. If that’s your criteria, then how many men have you fallen in love with?” Chelle asked. “Better yet, what was the name of the last guy you dated?”

Leah sighed, irritated that Chelle knew her well enough to paint her into a corner so swiftly. She said, “Fine, so the truth is I’ve never been in love at all. That only means you can’t make assumptions about me based on-”

“Based on the totally slutty things you do at gay bars with lesbians you meet at LGBT student groups,” Chelle shot back with a laugh.

Leah knocked into her, sending Chelle stumbling into the path of an oncoming group of bar-goers passing them on the sidewalk. She muttered an apology to them and then Leah turned serious and said, “I just don’t want things to be harder than they have to be.”

“Love is fucking hard no matter who you’re with,” Chelle said, looping her arm around Leah’s elbow to steady herself. She’d had quite a few more beers than Leah had, and she rested her head on Leah’s shoulder as they walked back to their dorm.


CHAPTER 6


“I don’t know why you had to drag me out of there like that,” Allison snapped as soon as she and Morgan were alone in their apartment. Apparently, the short car ride home had reinvigorated her and now she was in the mood to fight. “Those people are our friends. I’m embarrassed they had to see that.”

“Trust me, I’m embarrassed too,” Morgan said under her breath. Out loud, she tried to appease Allison by pointing out, “Those people used to be our friends, five years ago. Now the Friday night crowd is a bunch of barely legal college kids and all our friends are at home with their families.”

This was the wrong thing to say, and Morgan realized it the moment it crossed her lips.

“Their families? So you’re saying this is my fault?” Allison asked, a quiver working its way into her voice. “I bet you’ve been waiting all day to sling that barb at me, haven’t you? It didn’t take. It’s not like I told my uterus to reject the egg.”

She flopped down on the couch, drawing her knees up to her chest, and Morgan saw a few tears rolling down her cheeks. Her heart was breaking for the second time today, and she went over to Alli and wrapped her arms around her, trying to encompass the entirety of the tight little ball she’d curled into.

“I never said it was your fault,” Morgan said softly, kissing away a salty streak on Allison’s cheek. “And I don’t think that.”

“I’m sorry,” Alli said, the tears flowing freely now.

It was the first honest moment Morgan had seen her have all night, and even though it was killing her to watch Allison sob, the heave of her chest bordering on violent as she shook in Morgan’s arms, a little bit of relief washed over her. The mania always stole Alli’s honesty and took her emotions hostage, and if she was feeling the loss of their failed IVF treatment this acutely, then maybe she’d broken free from the demon in her head.

With a mucousy, barely audible voice, Alli murmured, “I was so sure it was a girl,” and then she buried her face against Morgan’s shoulder.

“It’s okay, babe,” Morgan said, stroking Allison’s damp hair. She worked the sleeve of her shirt down over her hand and lifted Alli’s head by the chin, using her sleeve to wipe away the tears smeared across her beautiful face. “It’s not the end of the world. We’ll find a way to try again.”

A rustle of anxiety stirred in her stomach as she said those last words, but she forced it out of her mind. They were okay. Alli was okay. They would be okay. That had become somewhat of a mantra running through her head with increasing frequency over the last few months, and the feeling in her gut was saying that it might not be a great idea to try IVF again. At least not right now.

But Morgan didn’t want to think about that, or the implication behind it. She bent down and brought her lips to Allison’s, kissing her and tasting the salt of her tears. All Morgan wanted was to put an end to this horrible day, and to end it on a note that she could look back on without wanting to cry. She wanted to make love to her girlfriend and believe that everything was fine.

Alli returned her kiss intensely, opening her lips and pushing her tongue into Morgan’s mouth. The move never failed to send fireworks through her, igniting every inch of her body with passion and creating an urgency within her. She needed Allison, now.

Morgan flipped her onto her back on the couch and straddled her hips, her hand sliding under the hem of her shirt and yanking it up over Alli’s head in one swift movement. Her porcelain skin was so soft and inviting, and Morgan could see her nipples growing hard beneath the sheer fabric of her bra. She slipped the straps down over Alli’s shoulders and yanked the cups down to reveal her perfect breasts, the sight of them never failing to thrust Morgan’s desire into overdrive.

She took Alli’s nipple into her mouth, circling it with quick movements of her tongue while Allison arched her back and let out a moan. Morgan felt her hand going down to where their hips met, and then Allison was working the button of her jeans open and sliding her hand over the damp cotton of Morgan’s underwear.

Morgan let out a groan bordering on primal and rocked her hips against Allison’s hand while she tongued and teased her nipples. Alli’s fingers hooked under the elastic before long and plunged into her wetness.

“Oh god,” Morgan grunted as she felt Allison’s fingers sliding up and down, making her ache and throb as the need to release built to almost unbearable heights, and then Alli was inside of her and Morgan’s hips were grinding wildly against her hand. Her heart was racing and everything in the world seemed to be fading to black, and as she came – shuddering and thrusting against her girlfriend’s palm – she nipped at Alli’s flesh, her teeth closing momentarily around her nipple.

“Ouch!” Allison cried at the sudden pain, but the anger that flashed in her eyes was gone as fast as it appeared. She pulled her hand out of Morgan’s jeans against the last quiver of her thighs, then pushed Morgan down between her legs. Morgan could hear the pleading in her voice as Alli breathed, “My turn.”

Morgan was still catching her breath, her muscles still throbbing between her legs, but she was hungry to taste Allison. Whether she wanted to admit it or not, watching her relentlessly go after all of those girls tonight at Tink’s was doing something feral inside of Morgan’s head, and she needed to make sure Allison remembered who she belonged to. She shoved the billowy fabric of Alli’s skirt up over her hips and yanked her sheer, sky blue panties down around her knees, then laid down with her arms hooked under Alli’s thighs. She always clamped them against the sides of Morgan’s head when she was getting close, and it was the best feeling in the world.

She closed her lips around Alli’s clit and sucked while her tongue made tight little circles over her skin, and Allison was immediately writhing and moaning loudly beneath her. Morgan stopped for just a second to look up at her – she loved knowing that she could get Alli going so fast with one simple move, and she was going to enjoy teasing her for quite a while before she let her come tonight. That would be her revenge for everything that happened at the bar.

Allison laced her fingers through Morgan’s short, thick blonde hair, pushing her head back down between her legs. Morgan ran her tongue up and down over Alli’s slickness, tasting and teasing every inch of her and watching the flesh of her thighs stand up in goose bumps as she moaned with pleasure.

“That feels so good, baby,” Alli whispered, always the more talkative one between the sheets – or on the couch.

Morgan squeezed the soft skin of Allison’s thighs in her hands and flicked her tongue up and down over her clit. Alli’s hips squirmed beneath her, her back arching again and her fingers tightening around Morgan’s hair.

“Right there,” Allison breathed. “Don’t stop.”

Morgan untangled one arm from Alli’s legs and slid her hand between her thighs. She teased a finger up and down over her wetness, then plunged it deep inside to another loud gasp of appreciation. She was corkscrewing her fingers as Allison bounced her hips up and down against them, putting her hands over her eyes, when Alli said, “Can you imagine how much better this would feel if there were three of us?”

Morgan stopped moving her hand and snapped her head up from between Alli’s thighs to glare at her.

Oblivious, Alli was still rocking her hips against Morgan as she added, out of breath, “Triple the pleasure, babe. Don’t you wish we’d brought that cute redhead home?”

Morgan got up from the couch abruptly, going over to the kitchen at the far end of the living room to get a paper towel and clean herself up.

“What’s wrong?” Alli asked, sitting up on the couch. “You coming back, baby?”

“No, I’m not coming back,” Morgan snapped. “And no, I don’t need another woman involved to enjoy being with you.”

She stood at the sink wiping her hands with the paper towel until they were long past clean, and she kept her back turned to Alli as she spoke. A lump was forming in the back of her throat and threatening to turn to tears, and she wouldn’t give Allison the satisfaction. She’d assume that stunt with the girl at the bar had been designed to get a rise out of her, and they’d never once discussed the possibility of a threesome before Alli decided to just go ahead and invite someone home with them. Morgan was willing to forgive it in the bar, but while she had her head between Alli’s thighs?

Realizing that Morgan wasn’t going to be coming back to the couch, Alli stood up and yanked her panties angrily up her legs, not caring or maybe not noticing that her skirt was caught in the waistband in the process. One ass cheek hanging out, she put her hands on her hips and indignantly declared, “Maybe I wouldn’t either if you were a little more fun.

Morgan wanted nothing more than to spin around and snap something equally cruel back at Allison. She wanted to stomp across the room and get in Alli’s face and tell her how much fun the last six months had been, walking on eggshells just to keep her on an even keel. Instead, Morgan dropped the wadded up paper towel into the sink and then gripped its porcelain edge. Even without looking at her, Morgan could hear the mania rising back into Allison’s voice, the unreasonable, unmanageable version of her girlfriend rearing its head again.

“Are you listening to me?” Allison demanded, and Morgan closed her eyes.

It was better not to engage. After a few seconds of silence, she heard a loud thump – the sound of their solid oak coffee table being up-ended. It was Alli’s new go-to move, and with the exception of a few extra dents in the hardwood, it didn’t really hurt anything to let her take her frustrations out on the furniture. Morgan heard the floorboards creak as Allison started to pace back and forth in front of the couch, working herself into an increasingly agitated state.

Morgan sighed, then opened one of the cabinets next to the sink. She took out a glass and filled it from the tap, then opened the junk drawer next to the stove. It had all the usual junk drawer staples – scissors, opened packs of birthday candles, rubber bands, a cheap deck of playing cards, takeout menus – all the debris that a couple acquires over a six-year relationship that proves, more than the furniture and the décor and the memories, that their relationship is real. And at the back of the drawer, intentionally hidden, was a blister pack of Nyquil LiquiCaps that Morgan bought on a hot summer day a few months ago when Allison was particularly out of control.

She took out the pack and carefully broke open four of the capsules over the water glass, making sure to hide her actions from Allison, who was so wrapped up in her frenetic pacing she’d almost forgotten about Morgan in the kitchen. The water turned a murky, faint green as the medicine dissolved, but it didn’t matter – in the handful of times Morgan had become so exhausted with Allison in the past year that she was willing to drug her for some relief, Alli was too hyper to notice the color of the water. Morgan tucked the rest of the blister pack into the back of the drawer, then turned around.

Allison was muttering to herself as she paced, and when Morgan approached, she gave her a dirty look and snapped, “What do you want?”

“I just thought you looked thirsty,” Morgan said innocently. “Here.”

Alli took the glass, and Morgan watched with a mix of relief and guilt as she downed it in a few quick gulps. She loved Allison more than anyone else in the world, and when Allison needed her most, all Morgan could do was drug her.

The Nyquil didn’t take long to work. After Allison handed the empty glass back to Morgan, the jittery way her feet insisted on pacing the floor slowed down, and a minute or two later the fire raging behind her eyes had begun to die away. That was always the worst part for Morgan, trying to decide between letting the fever of mania go unchecked, or turning her vibrant, glowing, lovely Allison into a zombie. But today had to go down as one of the longest and most trying twenty-four hour periods that Morgan had ever experienced, and the Nyquil that calmed Alli’s racing thoughts was a crutch Morgan was willing to use tonight.

“Want to go to bed?” She asked quietly, and suddenly she had to resist the urge to laugh because it was an ordinary enough question, but at this point in their lives it felt like trying to convince the feral cat to do what she wanted.

Thankfully, Alli was done putting up a fight for the night. She’d had a long day too, and the sedative effect of the cough medicine seemed to have done its job, sapping the last of her energy.

Morgan righted the coffee table and set the empty glass down, then went to Alli, looping her arm around her waist and kissing her temple softly before leading her down the narrow hall to their bedroom. Allison melted onto the bed and Morgan removed her shoes, then pulled the covers over her and turned out the light.

“Aren’t you coming to bed?” Alli murmured, struggling up through heavy eyelids to reach for Morgan in the dark.

She patted Allison’s hand and then stepped away, saying softly, “Soon. Get some rest.”


***


Morgan fought the urge to pause in the hallway as she walked past the open door of the second bedroom. Three weeks ago – just before Allison’s implant appointment – the two of them had spent a sweaty, messy, cheerful afternoon painting the walls in Benjamin Moore’s Mint Julep – fifty dollars a gallon, because the nursery had to be perfect.

The room was empty now except for a couple large, unopened boxes stacked in the center of the floor. Allison had gone out and bought a crib, a changing table, and a rocking chair, and Morgan had promised to assemble it all this weekend. She hardly saw the point now, and she couldn’t keep her eyes from stealing a look into the room as she walked by. It was the same as it had been this morning, only the pastel green walls no longer reminder her of spring and growth and optimism. In the shadows of night, they took on a sickly pallor. Morgan pulled the door shut.


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