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Diamonds and Girls

Category: Lesbian Sex
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“Fi! Hold the door!”

A screech cuts through the rush hour bustle, and I wince in recognition. Clutching my bag closer, I sink into my seat and stare at the Metro doors, willing them to close.


I duck my head. I know she knows I can hear her, but I don’t care. I’ve never made a secret of hating her.

The familiar, ugly clanking of the door chime sounds, and hope brushes against my heart like a feather. But no, in the last instant, Noa pushes her way through, tumbling into a pair of overweight tourists. She rights herself gracefully and bestows a winning smile on the couple, breathless apologies bubbling up and over stained lips.

The tourists are overwhelmed. Though they melt easily enough beneath the full glare of her charm, they are flustered and bemused, unsure what they’ve done to merit the too enthusiastic overtures of this stunning young woman.

That’s Noa’s problem. Her charm has no ‘subtle’ setting. She’s constantly overdoing it.

Okay, so maybe that’s not really so bad a problem to have.

Actually, Noa is perfect. She’s smart, she’s responsible, she’s friendly. She has that unapologetic patrician beauty, full lips, a classic nose, huge charcoal eyes beneath a regal brow. Her features are so disgustingly stunning that she can afford only nearly flawless skin. My judgmental eyes pick out a few small bumps on her chin, well hidden by her makeup. On normal people, acne is disfiguring. On Noa, it’s beneath notice.

Today, her dark curls are swept out of her face by a couple pearl-studded pins, then let free to bounce past her shoulder blades in defined, silky ringlets. Aren’t curls supposed to frizz in humidity? A navy suit hugs her curves. She looks like she can’t remember whether she’s a senator or a queen.

Having brow-beaten the poor tourists into apologizing to her, Noa turns to me in triumph. I tense. At least the seat beside me is taken.

“Why didn’t you hold the door?” she demands.

I had been going to ignore her, but the question is so ludicrous that I can’t help but raise my head in disbelief. “It’s the fucking Metro. You can’t hold Metro doors.”

You really can’t. They just shut on you, not like elevator doors. The operator isn’t supposed to pull away unless all the doors are shut, but there’s no kind of mechanism to prevent them from closing heavily into whatever is in their way. Eventually, the operator will reopen them to let victims reclaim their bags and limbs, but only after a lot of embarrassed shouting and frantic pulling and potential pain. You have to be really stupid to try and hold the Metro doors. Sometimes kids on field trips or risk-seeking investment managers running late to client meetings are, to the aggravation and awkward amusement of all other passengers.

Noa knows this. She’s lived in the city for nearly a decade. She’s tricked me into talking to her, tricked me into breaking a six month long strict embargo. After New Year’s, I’d intended the no-diplomatic-relations policy to be permanent.

It stings, that she’s manipulated me so easily, but it doesn’t particularly surprise.

“But I haven’t seen you in forever, Fi!” Her eyes are wide and innocent as she gushes on in a consummate imitation of sincerity. “And we live in the same building. Have you been avoiding me?”

“Fuck you.” A few passengers from the surrounding crush glance at us, but neither one of us is fazed. We’ve had worse rows in front of more significant audiences than a carload of anonymous Metro riders.

“You didn’t make it to Bonaire this year,” she prompts.

I glower bitterly at her patent leather pumps. I’d skipped our families’ annual diving trip so that I wouldn’t have to see her.

Noa smirks at me. “I missed you.”

“I hate you.”

She laughs, delighted. Her laugh is exquisite, like flame-filled bubbles bursting. “Hate you more.” She gives me an appraising look, arching one delicately shaped brow. “What’s with the emo twink look?”

I glare at her furiously, trying to think of something hurtful enough to say back, even as blood heats my cheeks. Plenty of adults wear steampunk jewelry, right? And her eye-liner and mascara are as heavy as my own.

But she knows my insecurities too well. I’m sensitive about my slight frame, my too small breasts, my narrow hips; I’m forever trying to escape the epithet ‘boyish’. To that end, I’d recently cut my hair into a shape I considered quite feminine. The flimsy red strands frame my face in layers, with the longest wisps reaching my collar bone.

Everyone had complimented me on it. One offhand remark from Noa, and I’m desperately afraid I really do look like some effeminate teenage gay porn star.

I can’t think of anything sufficiently hateful, so I fall back on my one tried and true tactic. It’s the only strategy that really works against Noa, but I don’t like to use it because it’s too easy. I want to be maliciously clever, to confound her with my cruel, witty brilliance. Instead, I’m forced to do what works. I give her my widest pale green gaze and let my lower lip tremble.

Instant remorse flickers in those glorious eyes. Too easy. “Fiona.” She swallows. “I’m just kidding. Your hair is really cute.”

“Fuck you,” I say sullenly.

My half-hearted hostility is enough to put her back on comfortable ground. I can see the relief on her face that I’m not going to cry. I’m not even sure she realizes that I’m aware of this weapon in my arsenal.

Now that I think about it, all my major victories against Noa have involved my own hysterical tears. It’s sort of pathetic, really.

“Fuck you,” I repeat, defiantly.

She grins archly, mocking me. “If you’re feeling versatile.”

My face has to be the same color as my hair. The weight of a few shocked looks presses down on me. The tourist couple just looks puzzled. But firmly on Noa’s side.

The train shudders into the next station and I flee, five stops too early.


I can’t remember a time when I didn’t hate Noa Silber.

Our mothers were—are—best friends. They grew up down the street from each other, went to college together, were each other’s maids of honor, and convinced their husbands to buy houses next door to one another. They are even both named Rebecca. It was their dearest wish that Noa and I be the next generation of best friends.

It says a lot about both their personalities that they’ve yet to give up on this wish. Throughout our long history of mutual hatred, our mothers just smiled with fond exasperation at our ‘sisterhood’. One of us could probably kill the other, and they’d cry together at the funeral and visit the survivor together in jail, and commiserate over the tragic fate of sisters who loved each other so much, they were driven to murder and imprisonment.

Noa is twenty months older than me. Perhaps we really did get along as babies, but if our lifelong enmity has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t trust photo albums designed by moms. In any case, Noa was a constant, unchanging force from my earliest memories onward.

Infuriating Noa, bossy and arrogant and superior, better loved and better at everything. Full of pranks and goads, always overprotective at the worst times, which is to say, exactly when it would get me into trouble. The entire world was Noa’s sandbox, and I was just one more toy in it.

As the smaller, weaker one, I had to fight a little dirty. When we were little, Noa couldn’t go a full day without being yelled at for making me cry. That likely explains why my tears remain such an effective shield to this day. Of course, I paid the heavier price, by becoming known as weepy and vulnerable. My entire fucking personality got twisted. I’m still too easily hurt and too easily defensive, and I still blame Noa.


When I get home two days later, Noa is waiting for me in the lobby. She’s flirting with the night concierge, looking tousled and sexy in a wife beater and flannel pajama bottoms.

I roll my eyes. “How long have you been waiting for me?” It’s 4 a.m.

Noa shrugs. “An hour or so. I knew you wouldn’t get off before then.”

“Yeah, well, it’s been a long night. I’m going to bed.” I give the concierge a curt nod and head for the elevators, straining under the weight of my oversized duffel bag. I’m so close to my bed, I can practically feel cool sheets pillowing against my aching limbs.

Noa trails after me. “I’m throwing you a birthday party.”

I spare her a disbelieving glance as I jab at the Up button. “What?”

She follows me into the elevator. “You heard me. It’s next Saturday, at the M.” Her perfect lips tug up in amusement and she leans one hip against a mirrored wall. Her dark eyes sparkle with challenge.

“I’m already having a party. You’re just not invited.”


“Fine, then, I don’t want a party. But if I did, I wouldn’t want you there.”

Her eyes narrow dangerously. “You can’t not have a 24th birthday party.”

The elevator stops on my floor and I dodge around her, not an easy task considering the size of my duffel bag. She follows me out.

“Oh, no?” I ask tiredly. “What is that, social suicide for yuppie socialites?”

She stations herself between me and my door and favors me with a lofty smile. “Something like that. It’s not about them, though, Fi. It’s about you. Birthday parties are an annual well of invaluable, magical self-centeredness. We need them to reaffirm our sense of self-worth, of human dignity. They’re an inherent, inalienable right.”

“Did Laura tell you that?” Laura’s our shrink.

“Nope, I told Laura that.” Of course. Trust Noa to preach the moral purity of self-centeredness. There’s a slight pause, but Noa makes no move to vacate my doorway. “She thinks I should leave off bothering you.”

I raise my brows. “Wonderful. She give you any drugs to help with that?”

Noa scowls. “She doesn’t get us.”

“Sounds like she does.”

Anger flashes across Noa’s gorgeous features, surprising me. Then her elegant mask reasserts itself and she leans forward with a dazzling, predatory smile. “Do I really make you so uncomfortable, pixie?” she asks softly. Her breath, hot on my cheek, smells of chai. One hand slithers under the back of my tee to lightly massage the skin stretched between my hip and the bottom of my spine. Embers catch in the pit of my stomach.

I stand my ground, barely. “Get out of my way,” I manage to grate. “This bag is really heavy.” Which totally explains my sudden trembling and shortness of breath.

Victorious, she sidles away from my door. She’s cocky, now, having made her point. I’ve never known anyone to turn sex on and off so effortlessly. “You know,” she mocks me, “your eyes turn dark green when they’re glazed over with lust. It’s hot.”

My hand is shaking as I fumble with the lock. Damn her.

I get the door open and am about to stumble inside when she catches me with a hand on my shoulder. I flinch halfway out of my own skin, yelping and spinning and dropping my stupid bag. God fucking damn her.

Noa steps back, raising her hands in a show of innocence. I’m a panting, sweaty bundle of crazy, sick with arousal and shame, but she just stares at me coolly. “Next Saturday, at the M. Send me a list of emails to invite by Monday.”

“Or?” I demand hoarsely.

Her midnight gray eyes gleam. “Or I’ll tell your mother you’re a stripper.”

She saunters away before I can slam the door in her face, flannel pajamas clinging to the twin shapely globes of her ass. I watch until she disappears around the corner before summoning the strength to lug my bag all the way inside and shut the door. I sink to the floor of my studio in the dark and bury my face in my knees.

I hate her, and I want her. It’s not a spectrum. The two feelings only ever get stronger or weaker in tandem.


I can’t put a time stamp on exactly when Noa realized her hold over me, but at some point between elementary and middle school, her attitude changed. She went from competitive bully to smug tormentor. Not that she became any less competitive or tyrannical, but she began to truly revel not in winning or getting her way, but in outwitting me. She was an evil genius, and I was her audience.

I know exactly when I finally clued in to the situation. It was soccer camp the summer before seventh grade, my twelfth birthday, and the first time Noa hospitalized me. Unless you count the time I ended up in the deep end of the Silber’s pool before I was even old enough to walk, but all evidence there was purely circumstantial. Or the time I crashed my bicycle trying to ride down the library steps, but that was on a freely accepted dare, and so I deserve at least half the blame.

But my twelfth birthday was entirely Noa’s fault.

The camp was run by a handful of sexy English soccer stars. We worshipped them. Tan, muscled, and masculine, they split their time between directing drills in their licentious accents and fighting off the attentions of a horde of hormone-crazed teenagers.

Already easily the most popular girl at camp, Noa hit upon a brilliant plan for ingratiating herself with our English counselors, as well. She planned my birthday party. For an entire week before June 30th, she plotted and conspired and convinced Ian and Alistair and Connor and Rhys that she was the sweetest angel on the planet, to care so much about another girl’s happiness.

That was a good week. I was a skinny stick of a child who looked more like I was approaching my tenth birthday than my twelfth. The smallest uniform available was hopelessly baggy on me, and the constant sun had turned my red hair bright orange and my white skin bright red. I was fast and clever enough with the ball, but the other girls tended to run right over me on the field. Needless to say, Noa’s attention elevated me from scrawny benchwarmer to lucky birthday girl. All the counselors and most of the campers knew my name, and everyone was looking forward to my party.

I was desperately grateful to Noa. Sure, she had written a fake love note to Alistair from me on the first day of camp, and I had retaliated by writing all the counselors fake love notes on her behalf, and she had told the entire camp that I went by the nickname ‘imp’, and I had thrown her shin guards into the lake, but it seemed like all was forgiven.

To be honest, I don’t even recognize myself in that sweetly naive child. But I do remember the fleeting sensation of joy and gratitude and admiration; I was special to Noa.

I sat with her during lunch and brought her oranges, I passed her the ball as often as possible during scrimmages (much to the annoyance of my teammates whenever she happened to be on the opposing side), I talked her up to the counselors, and I quickly developed an enormous girl crush.

Then the 30th arrived. I recall being preoccupied during our morning jog with why Noa hadn’t joined us yet. When I collapsed onto the springy grass after the run, I was surprised by a sudden, deafening chorus of Happy Birthday To You. I gaped as Noa descended on me, flanked by our English Gods of Soccer, carrying a cake.

A strawberry cake.

I looked at Noa in confusion. She knew I was allergic to strawberries. Itchy hives, severe swelling of the face and throat, risk of anaphylaxis. I couldn’t eat anything that might have touched a strawberry.

Noa beamed down at me. Thirteen years old, and she owned the fucking world. Her curls were tugged into a loose knot at the back of her head, but several dark locks had pulled free to dance in the hot breeze. Her face shone with a mixture of sunscreen and sweat, and she brimmed with excited energy as she sang. Hints of frosting stained the corners of her grin.

“Happy birthday, imp!”

I smiled haltingly as the camp erupted in cheers. Noa claimed a kiss on the cheek from each of the counselors who had helped her buy the cake. I hid my uncertainty and thanked her kindly. Perhaps she had forgotten my allergy?

My suspicions solidified when she didn’t insist I have any cake, though. Without Noa to remind them of my presence, no-one even noticed that I didn’t take any.

For the rest of the morning, Noa ignored me completely. By lunch, I was close to tears. I kept asking myself what I had done wrong, if I had maybe set some prank into motion weeks ago that might only now have come to Noa’s attention. Nothing occurred to me.

I grabbed my sandwich and approached Noa hesitantly. She sat with a group of girls her age, under the shade of a large maple. Noa ignored me, but some of the other girls smiled and wished me a happy birthday, so I sank down near the edge of their circle and downed my sandwich, heart thumping, eyes drawn again and again to Noa to see if she would change her mind and acknowledge me after all.

“Do you think Alistair would kiss me on the lips?”

Noa’s question surprised us all. Her friends giggled or looked appalled. I probably belonged with the latter set, but I felt no jealousy, only awe that she would consider something so brave.

I ducked my gaze over to Alistair. He was juggling with a bunch of the other counselors, handling the ball with a skill we could only envy, jumping and diving with tireless ease. We all agreed Alistair was the most handsome of the counselors.

“Are you going to ask him?”

“Maybe he has a girlfriend.”

“Not in the States, he doesn’t.”

“I wouldn’t ask. Just do it!”

“Are you gonna go for tongue?”

Noa laughed off the assault of questions. “I was just wondering,” she said airily. “Might do it, might not.” Her bright eyes slid to me. “What do you think, Fi?”

I blinked at being suddenly included, and groped for something to say. “I think he would,” I mumbled finally. “I think he’d kiss you, if you wanted.”

Noa looked pleased, and speculative. A whistle blew, and we all jumped to our feet. As the other girls ran off to throw away their sandwich wrappers, Noa grabbed me.

“Wait a minute, imp.” She locked her fingers in mine and tugged me further into the trees. I muttered in protest, but she ignored me and dragged us behind a thick trunk overgrown with vines, out of view of the fields.

“I want to practice.”

I stared at her, not comprehending.

She tossed her head in annoyance and added, “I’ve never kissed anyone on the lips before.”

I began to panic, wondering if she was truly saying what I thought she was. “It’s not that hard,” I blurted.

It was the wrong thing to say. Her eyes glittered, dark and dangerous. “Who have you been kissing?”

I gulped. “Just some boys. From school. No-one special.”

Noa glared at me. “Well, then, if it’s not that hard, then show me.”

“I can’t!”

“Why not? You want to.” She rolled her eyes and sighed. I could see the wheels turning in her head, could see the realization hit that she’d apparently have to be nice to me to get me to kiss her. At no point did I see anything resembling doubt that I’d eventually agree.

Her sudden winsome smile still made my heart take off like a mad horse. She looked at me pleadingly. “Just a quick kiss, Fi? So that I don’t look stupid in front of Alistair?”

I stared at her lips. They were pink and soft looking. “I—I don’t think…”

She drew in closer. “Pretty please?”


“For your birthday?”


“For me?”

I shut my eyes and let her press her lips against mine. They felt as soft as they looked. For a long moment, they rested against mine, while my heart sped on and my head grew light from holding my breath. None of the boys had kissed me this long.

I gasped when Noa’s tongue slid against my lower lip, and suddenly our mouths were both open and locked together. I probed eagerly, desperately, discovering tongue and teeth and gums and cheeks – and strawberries.

She’d hidden strawberries under her tongue.

I drew back in horror, but it was too late. My lips were puffing, my neck was on fire, my throat was closing. The last thing I remember before my eyes swelled shut and I stopped breathing was Noa’s panicked hollering.

“Help!” she shrieked. “Fiona’s dying!”

I spent the rest of my birthday in the hospital. I might actually have died, but it turned out that our hero counselors had good sense in addition to soccer skills and sex appeal. Connor knew exactly where to find my EpiPen, and how to use it. I had stabilized by the time I reached the emergency room, though I wasn’t allowed to leave until the next morning.

By then, the entire camp no longer thought of me as the birthday girl, but as the pockmarked kid so stupid and greedy that she ate cake she knew she was allergic to. I told no-one about Noa’s trick. I would rather have died than admit I kissed her.

The next night, though, I snuck to her bed while she slept and cut off all her beautiful hair. I recall staring down at her peaceful loveliness and considering putting the scissors through her throat, instead. In the end, I decided removing her hair would hurt more.

Noa didn’t make it to the warm-up run that morning. I placed myself carefully between Alistair and Connor as they led us in stretching, nervous thrills coursing through my veins.

She appeared midway through the routine and marched straight through the gathered kids, ignoring the shocked gasps with her own brand of majestically indifferent pride. I thought her disappointingly pretty with her hacked off curls. But her eyes were black with rage, and that was rewarding beyond words.

She stopped directly before me, and, without a second glance at Alistair or Connor, slugged me in the jaw.

I was already so high on adrenaline that I felt more shock than pain. With a maniacal laugh, I launched myself at her, kicking and punching and clawing. We rolled around on the grass while the campers yelled encouragements and the counselors just yelled. By the time they dragged us apart, I’d broken her nose, and she’d broken my arm.

We were both kicked out of camp. She’s been baiting me with the promise of a second kiss ever since.


“Hey, sprite.”

“What are you, fucking stalking me?”

She gives my ass a playful slap. “This is the only Starbucks in our building,” she points out reasonably. She jostles her iced latte at me, proof that she had been there first.

I glare at her suspiciously. I’m here every morning at the same time, and have never seen her. She blinks and smiles, loitering as I wait for my drink.

“I got your list.”

“Excellent. Was there something else, or can you please fuck off?” Iciness is a tone you master quickly in the adult dancing business.

Apparently ignoring bad manners is something mastered quickly in the corporate management business. Noa doesn’t blink, just tuts in amusement. “That’s some mouth you’ve got on you, pixie.”

I ignore that. She’s not my fucking mother. (That’s just an expression; my Irish mom is actually where I get my mouth.)

“It was pretty long, your list,” Noa goes on.

I scowl sideways. “Surprised I have friends?”

“Pleasantly,” she says pleasantly. “How many have you slept with?”

Most of them. “None of your God damn business.” So I like to fuck my friends. Sue me. If I were any good at baking, I’d make them cookies instead. Where is my coffee?

Noa snorts. “You are unbelievable, pixie. I hope your party doesn’t conflict with any orgies you had scheduled.”

“It does, actually. But I just added the whole group to the list.” I give her a mild look. “What sort of place did you say the M was?”

Her lips twitch in appreciation. They are berry colored, today, a few shades lighter than the shadow smudged into the corners of her lids. Her body is draped in a lavender silk dress that would have read ‘business casual’ on anyone else but screamed ‘fuck me’ on her. Or rather, ‘fantasize about fucking me, because I was not made for touching by the likes of mortals’.

She’s rambling on about this M place. Hotel lounge, apparently quite classy. I study her hips, her flat pelvis, trying to find a panty line. I can’t.

My coffee finally appears on the counter. I grab it and chug, heading for the door. I drop the cup into the garbage on the way out, drained except for the ice cubes, which barely had the chance to begin to melt.

“My goodness, Fiona. Thirsty?” Noa can keep up with me in her heels because she is taller.

“Biking to work,” I explain briefly. “Need my hands.” Reaching the rack, I bend over to unlock the chain.

“You bike every day? All the way to the zoo?”

I give her an irritated look. “It’s only a mile and a half. Not all of us can afford A5’s.”

“Let me drive you.”

It’s about 100 degrees in the shade. I’m beyond tempted. Unfortunately, my kneejerk instinct when it comes to Noa and temptation is too deeply ingrained. “It’ll take me longer with traffic. I’m fine.” I free my bike and swing one leg over. The sun blares in my eyes and I already regret my refusal.

Noa shrugs, slipping on a pair of thick rimmed shades. “Suit yourself. I’ll send out the invites tonight.”

“No dumb themes, okay?”

“Relax. I’m good at this.”

“Yeah, your record at planning my birthdays is really spotless.” I’m shocked at how bitter I sound.

“Lighten up, sprite.” She takes a step back. “Go have fun with your bugs.”


“Snakes, bugs, whatever. Have fun.”

“I don’t need your fucking condescension.” I’m Assistant Curator at the zoo’s Reptile Discovery Center. It might pay shit, but that’s because our economic system is fucked up, not because any moron can do it.

Her smile is sweet and bored. “Then why haven’t you left yet?”

There’s no good answer to that. I give her a look of pure venom and kick off from the curb, pedaling furiously down the street. I’m mad because she always wins our verbal battles, and because I’m sweating when I could be in an air-conditioned luxury car, and because when I risk a glance back over my shoulder, she’s already gone.


New Year’s Eve, 2012. The last time I saw Noa, until she shoved her way onto that Metro.

It was after midnight. I was halfway through my third set, second floor center pole, already down to my waist chain, garter, and heels. Seven inch heels, with hollow plastic platforms filled with 2012 confetti. Asgard wasn’t exactly the classiest establishment to begin with, but New Year’s brought out entirely new levels of tacky.

The mood overall was a lot more camp than the club’s usual pretentious vibe. The customers were rowdy, the bouncers were busy, and the DJ was showing off. I was feeling the champagne. Even though I’d been mixing it with grapefruit juice, I must’ve downed about three quarters of a bottle by then.

The beat dropped and I twirled, grabbing the pole with both hands and bending forward to display my ass. Then I descended, jerking my hips in time with the bass pounding through my arteries, relishing the slight strain in my thighs. I rose with slow, exaggerated gyrations, swung around the pole, and there was Noa.

She was with a good sized group just being seated. She looked completely at ease, laughing and joking with a pair of young men, both very good looking in a hip hop preppy way, not at all her type.

The shock of recognition pulsed through me, and I had a weird out-of-body moment in which I waited to see how I would react. As the seconds stretched and I continued to sway with the music, I concluded that I was evidently going to be professional about it. Good.

An older man waved a bill at me and I strode over to his edge of the stage. I crouched and thrust my chest in the general direction of his face, my eyes glued to Noa. She was clanking shot glasses with her friends. She threw the drink down her throat with practiced ease and looked up to catch me staring.

Our eyes locked. Confusion flickered briefly on her face, then her lips rounded in a small O.

That was all the reaction I got. In the next instant, one of the preps nudged her shoulder to hand her another shooter, and she broke our gaze to take it.

I felt strangely cheated. I should feel mortified. Perfect Noa with her perfect job now realized the lengths I had to go to to pay rent. This was a major point for her. I wasn’t ashamed of stripping, not exactly, but I didn’t want my parents to know, and she was sure to tell them.

But instead of humiliated or frightened, I was indignant. I suppose it was the champagne. If my life was going to fall to shambles, couldn’t she at least make a scene?

I ground my teeth and put on one of the most provocative shows of my career. Noa might own the rest of the entire fucking world, but I fucking owned my fucking stage. I couldn’t even tell you exactly what I did differently, but I was staring straight at Noa the entire time, and by the end, the old man had stuffed more than a few twenties into my garter, so it must have been hot.

I gave him my standard you’re-amazing-and-I’m-friendly-but-working smile and danced a few more times around the pole before Katie came on stage to relieve me.

“You okay, hun?” Katie asked as I slipped back on my glittering tear drop g-string.

I nodded shortly. “Fine.” The damn bikini top was all gauze and rhinestones, mostly rhinestones. I fumbled with the clasp, then quickly hooked on the matching skirt, which was all rhinestones, just long strings of sparkling crystals hanging from a belt of more faux diamonds. The ridiculous thing looked like it might have actually been designed as a necklace.

“Need a break?”

I glared at her. “No. Why?”

Katie shrugged uncomfortably. “You look flushed. Lay off the champagne, okay?”

I shrugged back at her. “Fine.”

The DJ’s voice cut into the music. “And thank you, Noa, for outdoing yourself once again. Let’s all welcome to the center pole, Dicey!”

My eyes found Noa’s again, and I watched the realization sink in that my stripper name was Noa. This time, her look of shock was slightly more gratifying. I left Katie on stage and, instead of sauntering through the crowd to collect more tips, made a beeline for Noa’s table. Fuck professional.


Her soft voice surprised me. First, she hardly ever calls me Fiona. Second, I wasn’t sure she wouldn’t pretend not to know me.

Her friends looked from Noa to me in puzzlement, but she ignored them. Hot, dark, and unreadable, her eyes lingered on me. On my face, on my outfit, and, I was suddenly quite certain, on my stomach and legs and breasts. Noa Silber was checking me out.

A crazy confidence overcame me, then, replacing the defensive vulnerability that generally defined my personality. I knew I was a decent dancer. I could sell sex. I was also easy; I had a lot of sex, and I was good at it, good at giving others exactly what they wanted inside the bedroom, overcompensating, maybe, for how wary—okay, bitchy—I was outside of it. But sex as a weapon? That was Noa’s game, not mine. I didn’t know I was capable of it until that moment.

“Want a lap dance?” I purred.

“Oh, hell yeah, Noa!” That was one of the preps.

The only other girl in their party, a plump blonde with a sunburn she probably thought was a tan, made the connection. “Didn’t they just say her name is Noa, too? Do you know her?”

I could see Noa asking herself the same thing. I’ve never known her to back away from a challenge, though, ever. She licked her lips. “How much?”

I bent forward until our noses were level and almost touching, and brushed her long bangs from her eyes. She’d straightened her hair tonight, and the dark strands were smooth and soft to the touch. I tucked what I could behind her ear, but a few sleek locks fell back against her nose. “I’ll leave it up to you,” I breathed. “You seem like an…accurate tipper.”

“She does know you!”

I rose and spun around to conceal my smile. Spreading my heels, I twisted to cock a brow over my shoulder at the blonde. “She still need a slide rule to calculate tips?”

The girl snickered. “She’s got your number, Noa.” Of course Noa didn’t need the slide rule; she just liked showing off her accuracy fetish, and that she was faster on the damn thing than everyone else with their phone calculators.

“Damn, Noa.” Prep Two was overwhelmed by an attack of hilarity. “You got told by a stripper.”

“Shut up, Julian.” Noa’s voice was harsh. She never took her eyes from me. Her next words were for me, and they were no less rough. “Okay, Noa,” she emphasized the name, “show me why these are illegal.”

Lap dances are, in fact, illegal in the District. The rules get bent every once in a while, though, and it helps when the recipient is a woman. It helps extra when that woman looks young, harmless, and rich, and also happens to be the most beautiful person security has ever seen. I definitely had a few minutes before someone ‘noticed’.

I didn’t waste it. Catching the beat, I shimmied backwards around Noa’s primly closed legs and sat on her lap. Her skirt was cool and satiny beneath my butt cheeks as I began to hump her thighs. I spread my legs as far apart as they went, leaned forward with my elbows on my knees, and rolled my hips in time with the rhythm of the rap song blaring through the house. Wild cheers from the peanut gallery.

The beat quickened and I started to bounce. Straightening, I flipped back my ponytail, arched my spine, and thrust my ass into Noa’s groin and lower stomach, in a series of short jiggles. She might have been a chair beneath me, she was so tense and tight.

I didn’t know I was going to turn around until I did. The dangling rhinestones of my not-skirt caught on Noa’s dress, pulling threads. Noa didn’t seem to notice. She sat stiffly, hands gripping her seat, breathing shallow, eyes on me. I lifted one platform heel to prop onto her table, still straddling her with my other leg. A few strands of crystals and a gauzy tear drop thong did very little to conceal the goods as I undulated slowly. The preps were swearing loud enough to be heard over the blasting music and thumping one another on the back. The rest of their friends watched in shocked silence.

“I didn’t know you had a tattoo.”

I stared at Noa. Here I was waving my shaven pussy in her face for tips, and all she could say is that she didn’t know about my tattoo?

Not that you could miss it. A trio of cavorting foxes dominated my right side. They tumbled down the length of my right back in unostentatious shades of burnt umber, black and white, in the style of an art nouveau water color. One thickly plumed tail curled up towards my ear; another fell down around my right hip.

I fingered that lower swirl of tail, suddenly unsure. Had I imagined her looks before? Noa appeared as controlled as ever, now. In her smoky stare I saw anticipation and amusement, but no lust. Could she have faked desire so that I’d make a fool of myself? That sounded like a familiar refrain.

To hide my bubbling insecurity, I plastered impassivity onto my face and began to move more quickly, picking back up the beat. I swung my leg up off the table and danced around Noa’s chair, swaying, crouching, spinning, skimming my hands all over my body.

It was going all wrong.

I was supposed to be teasing her. But the more anxious I became, the more relaxed Noa grew. She was so damn sure of herself. She preened and smiled with coy embarrassment at her friends, happily the center of attention. And there I was, performing for her like a tame monkey. Seemed she did own my stage, after all.

“Sit down, Fiona.”

I faltered. “What?”

Noa kicked out an empty chair from their table. “Come on,” she urged, “take a break.”

Excuse me! No-one interrupted my personal performances! I held audiences captive!

“Okay.” I sat.

She slid me a shot, but I shook my head. “Have any water?” I was surprised when she handed me her own glass, and surprised again when it turned out to really be water. I ignored the straw and gulped greedily.

Prep One seemed to understand the protocol for addressing strippers a little better. “Fuck, that was hot.” I batted my eyelashes at him, hating my self esteem for subsisting on the cocky praise of drunken ex-frat boys.

“So,” another guy asked, “how do you two know each other?” He was slim and looked South Asian, though his pronounced accent was British.

“Our moms are friends,” I told him.

“Fiona’s been in love with me since we were kids,” said Noa.

I spit out an ice cube, spluttering. What the fuck? I raised my shocked gaze to Noa’s and found her eyeing me with that speculative gleam again. I was frozen, trapped. I knew it wasn’t true. I didn’t love her. I hated her. But I couldn’t make my mouth form the words.

“Everyone’s in love with you,” the Brit muttered. He sounded more hopeless than resentful, so I figured he had a thing for Noa.

I found my tongue. “Well, I’m not!” I exclaimed shrilly. I heard how childish I sounded and regretted the champagne.

“Well, good,” Noa snapped back. “‘Cause I’d hate to think I was encouraging you.” She flicked a bill out of her wrist clutch and folded it one handed as she leaned in. I shrank back—the world’s worst stripper—but she stopped at my garter and snapped it under with a quick flip of her long, dexterous fingers. I couldn’t see the denomination, but dear God, it was humiliating.

If we’d still been kids, I would have punched her. Unfortunately, my job was not a place I could afford to get kicked out of. Instead, I slid stiffly to my feet, no longer bothering to keep the anger from my face.

Noa rose, too. I was bizarrely taller than her in my plastic confetti platforms. “Your chair’s wet,” she noted icily. She sounded mad, and a little disgusted, with no trace of her usual smugness.

My face burned, and I didn’t bother looking down to see the truth of her words. I could feel the evidence soaking my thong in moist, slippery warmth. “Get out.”

We faced each other, toe to toe, and for a moment, I thought Noa might hit me. There was no mistaking our threatening stances, and security started angling in. Noa turned and jerked her head at her friends. “Let’s go,” she said shortly. “It reeks of estrus in here.”

Her entourage filed out after her, most of them handing me bills while shamefacedly averting their gazes. I took the offered money silently, feeling clammy and close to tears.

Prep Two—Julian—stayed behind to take care of the bill. He handed me a twenty with a sympathetic look. Sympathy looked out of place on his Armani ad face. “That was cold,” he said. “But you started it.”

I gaped at him, mouth opening and closing like a fish’s, and then at his retreating back when he realized I wasn’t going to say anything. He strode out through the gaudy 2012 decorations.

I decided to take the shot, after all. And to never see Noa Silber again.


I get an anxious call from Hadrian Monday night.

“What’s this about a birthday party?” he demands as soon as I answer.

I sigh and mute the television. The mother of all thunderstorms is raging outside. “Guess the invitations went out.”

“Just got it. What the hell, Fiona? Noa Silber? I thought you weren’t talking to her anymore. Besides, Jared and I wanted to invite you over to dinner for your birthday. Why didn’t you tell me about this? I’m your best friend! Why—”

“Untie your panties, Hay,” I break in. “We can still do dinner, before the party. It wasn’t my idea, okay?”

I kick myself for not anticipating this. Hadrian’s been my best friend since we were freshmen. I met him at the zoo. He was snapping the big cats with a fancy wide angle lens, oblivious to the stares he was drawing in his tiny cut off chinos and oversized sun hat. We hit it off right away; we both love animals and dancing, and have no problem getting naked, although I didn’t know to charge for it yet. Hay was already stripping back then, to subsidize his photography.

We even look weirdly alike. When we’re out together, people assume he’s my brother, sometimes my twin. We’re both slight and natural red heads, though Hay’s hair is a little darker, almost auburn, and currently cut in that horrid Justin Bieber style.

But another thing we have in common is that he’s always disliked Noa nearly as much as I have.

Hadrian groans loudly. “Oh, sweet potato, it’s a bad idea.”

“Don’t you think I know that?”

“Noa’s, I take it?”

“Yes, it was all Noa. I saw her on the Metro, and next thing I know, she’s demanding a list of invitees. She picked the location, did the invites, everything. It was blackmail!”

I know Noa hasn’t told home about my side job yet, because my mother hasn’t called me up in hysterical tears. In the bottom of my heart, though, I also know that—party or no party—this only means she hasn’t found the best moment yet. A bomb this good would be completely wasted on a hasty phone call. Noa has an impeccable sense of timing.

I can hear Hadrian muttering on the other end of the line, but can’t make out what he’s saying.

“What is it, Hay?” I ask, irritated. “Just say it, okay?”

“Fiona,” he says, somewhere between a persuasive whine and a disappointed scold, “you can’t keep letting her walk all over you like this.”

“I can’t stop her!” I exclaim. “Don’t you think I’ve tried?”

“No,” he says. “No, I don’t. Not truly. You avoid her whenever she goes too far and it hurts too bad, but as soon as she shows any hint of interest or humanity, you go right back to pining after her.”

“I do not pine!”

“Okay, okay, maybe pine is too strong a word. Just saying, I’m not so shocked you’re going along with this.”

Stung, I kick at my pillow and remind myself that Hadrian is only trying to protect me. Hay is one of the sweetest people I know, and was better at hiding it back when he spent seven nights a week at clubs cruising for men. Since marrying Jared, he’s become more and more comfortable unleashing his inner mother hen.

“Are you and Jay going to come?” I ask in a small voice.

“Fiona! Of course we are.” He clucks. “You are the moon of my life. I wouldn’t miss your birthday party for the world, even if it is being thrown by the antichrist, plus I need to be there in case the devil incarnate tries to pull anything.”

I roll my eyes, but am smiling. “Thank you, my sun and stars. I’ll need you.”

“Damn right you will. And then you’ll owe me. Wanna come over and blow me as an advance?”

I laugh. “What, right now?”

“Yeah. Thunderstorms make me hard.”

“Breathing makes you hard, punk. Where’s your husband?”

“Jared’s traveling.” I can hear the pout. “Some lawyer trip. Probably snorting coke in Vegas, or whatever lawyers do.” I know he actually knows exactly where Jared is—city, hotel, room number, and hour by hour itinerary. “He wouldn’t mind if you sucked me off. We’re so alike, it’d be like masturbating. I’m allowed to do that.”

“Or incest,” I say wryly.

“Twincest. That’s way less gross.”

“How do you figure that? Never mind—don’t want to know. And quit bluffing. I know you don’t fool around without marital supervision.” He’s just offering sex to ease the sting of his hard words about Noa. Pity sex, basically, but well meant.

Hadrian sighs unconcernedly. “Fine, then. We’ll wait till Jared gets back, and have another threesome.”

“Oh, goodie,” I gush. “I can’t wait to get all six feet, two inches and 190 pounds of rich, hot lawyer muscle into my bed. I’m going to kiss him until I get stubble burn, then I’m going to go to town on his nipples while my hands reacquaint themselves with his perfect ass and his eight pack and that sexy V cut and –”

“Moon of my life, shut the fuck up.”

I laugh. “Jealous?”

“Hardly. But now I’m going to have to call Jared back for another round.” Hay giggles. “Teleconference?”

“Hadrian Moore Miller, you are too much. I’m going to sleep. Give Jay my love.”

“Night, sweet potato.”


The M is glamorous.

High textured walls, leather couches in cream and crimson, everything bathed in a cool violet light. Mirrors in beveled bronze frames line the walls, interspersed with giant mahogany vases holding single orchids. A glistening chandelier hangs low over the dance floor, and cathedral windows overlook spectacular views of the city.

It is Noa’s natural habitat. She glides from group to group, martini glass in one hand, iPhone in the other – alcohol and text messages, essential tools of the modern hostess. Watching just her, I can’t tell if she’s talking to friends or strangers. She rarely laughs, but is always smiling, strawberry lips creating a gracious frame for her perfect white teeth.

Her dress is short and fluttery and sewn with golden sequins. It cinches tight around her waist with a corded belt of stiff apricot silk. I am reminded of that fairy tale princess with gowns made of the sun, moon, and stars. Her dark curls are unrestrained, and she keeps transferring her phone to the martini hand so she can rake its heavy wealth from her face.

Her pasty-skinned, limp-haired boyfriend trails after her. I met him tonight and can’t remember how long they’ve been together or even what his name is, but he’s just like every other boyfriend Noa’s ever had.

Noa only dates men with barely mediocre looks. It’s one of the more annoying things about her. She doesn’t have an ugly fetish, or anything, and she’s certainly not worried about competition. It’s just her way of alerting everyone that, while she might be stunning and ooze the same carefree decadence as the M, she’s not at all shallow. It doesn’t matter that each homely groupie is as dull as the last; people assume that Noa is simply insightful enough to see what they don’t. After all, she could have anyone.

“Oh, Lord, Fiona. Look a full five seconds at any one of your other guests, or I’m going to leave.”

I tear my eyes away and find Hadrian glaring at me in exasperation. I scowl back at my skinny double with his stupid Bieber do, count to five, and stick out my tongue.

Hazel eyes roll as Hadrian thrusts a drink into my hands. “You’re chugging this,” he informs me, “then we’re dancing.”

“Thanks, Hitler.”

He smirks at me, adorably elfin. Jared’s large frame slides in on my other side.

“I have the next round,” he announces in his deep rumble.

“Sorry, lover,” Hadrian says firmly. “Too much drinking, not enough dancing. You watch our drinks. Fiona and I are going to dance.”

I raise both eyebrows at Jared. “You always let him top from the bottom like this?”

Jared chuckles. He could give Noa a run for her looks, with his muscular physique, chiseled features, golden eyes, and skin like chocolate whipped cream. The look he gives Hadrian is both scorching and fond as he murmurs, “I prefer not to punish him in public.”

I grab Hadrian and head for the dance floor before the two fools start having sex in the middle of my party.

We find a group of my grad school friends under the chandelier and let loose. The floor is hot and crowded, but dancing relaxes me more than the drinks had, and I soon find I’m really enjoying myself.

It’s fun to watch Hay dance. People are always telling him he dances like a stripper, which I suppose is technically accurate. Really, though, what strippers do on stage can only loosely be termed dancing. Girls sway and swivel and pose, guys thrust and bounce their junk. Don’t believe what you see in the movies; usually, you’re lucky if a stripper is mostly on beat.

Hay has rhythm—Jared says he moves ‘like a sistah’—but it’s more than that. He’s creative. Quick, energetic, uninhibited, only flirting with obscenity. He’s all over the place with never a hint of sloppiness, kind of like a choreographed Beyoncé video, except that you can tell he’s making it up as he goes. And, yes, he does look sexy in his designer tank and painted on jeans. The pants hug his little bubble butt and are so low rise, it’s clear he believes in neither underwear nor pubic hair.

I’m used to Hay drawing an audience when we dance, but I’m not oblivious to the admiring glances being thrown my way, as well. I’m in a cropped boho top, high waisted short shorts, and heavily studded stiletto sandals. Hay did my hair, straightening and teasing and gelling and styling until I looked like a scene girl, an exotic creature in this world of suits and champagne. And while I’m no imaginative genius like Hay, I know enough to have fun when I’m dancing. That’s the secret, you know.

We’re on the dance floor for a long time, and when we return to the table, it’s only to grab a couple rounds of shots before heading right back. I drink more than I should—well, more than I should on any day besides my birthday—and the night passes in happy flashes of dancing, friends, and silliness. Hay and I share a body shot off Jared’s criminal abs. Justen from the zoo kisses Leah from class and Katie ‘Dicey’ from Asgard leaves with my neighbor Will. Noa runs damage control when Hay leaps up onto the table to dance, but otherwise, I hardly see her the entire night.

By last call, I’m well past tipsy but high on adrenaline and the giddy relief that my party has gone perfectly. I’m still dancing when the lights brighten and the music fades. I stumble over to Jared to reclaim my clutch and shoes and beg for a ride home, but Noa appears suddenly.

“I live in her building,” she tells Jared. “We can share a cab, and I’ll make sure she gets into her apartment safely.”

Jared hesitates, giving her a penetrating look. Hay would never have let me leave with Noa, but he’s fast asleep, protectively cradled in Jared’s arms. “You okay with that, Fiona?” Jared asks me.

“I don’t want to go home,” I announce. “I’m having fun.” I try to spin, but the lounge spins faster, and I fall to the side. Noa catches me.

“You can’t carry them both,” she reasons to Jared.

“Okay,” he says, finally. “Thank you.” He looks a little worried. I try to smile reassuringly at him, but his frown only deepens. Then I catch a glimpse of myself in one of the mirrors, and realize I’m grinning like a maniac. My inability to control my own face strikes me as absolutely hysterical. This is what happens when I combine dancing and tequila.

“Have everything, pixie?”

“Yes.” I giggle, thinking that she doesn’t have everything; she’s missing her number one accessory, the ugly boyfriend. I wonder where he went, but don’t ask. “Do we have to go home?”

Noa makes sure I’m steady on my feet, then releases me. “We do. But I’m glad you had fun. Careful! Watch your step. Do you want to put back on your shoes?”

I shake my head emphatically.

“Fine. Then kiss your boys goodnight, and let’s go.”

I pout, but give Jared and lightly snoring Hadrian kisses, then follow her outside and into a taxi. I’m still nowhere near sober, but the gleeful rush of dancing gradually recedes. We ride in silence for a minute.

“It was a good party, Noa,” I say finally. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, sprite.” There is a well-earned pride in her voice, but she’s as gracious as ever. “Your friends are a good group. Only real crisis was when I had to talk management out of kicking us out after your little boyfriend got up on that table.”

I peer at her curiously. “I hardly saw you, the whole time.”

She flushes slightly. I barely catch it in the flashing lights illuminating the night outside the cab. “I tried to stay out of your way.”

I blink, not understanding. “Why?”

“I…well, I know I upset you, sometimes. Most times.” Her charcoal eyes flicker up to mine and then flit back down quickly. “Maybe always. And I wanted you to have fun tonight.”

She’s telling me the truth. I can never say if Noa’s being truthful or not—she has no tells—but right now, I can just feel it. Like I’ve got tequila-enhanced lie detection superpowers.

I’m touched. It’s a bit twisted, to make sure someone’s happy by avoiding them, but it strikes me as incredibly sweet, and more so because it’s so unexpected, and—oh, shit, I’m tearing up. Fucking tequila.

Consternation pulls Noa’s brows together. “Fiona? What’s wrong?” Her left arm twitches, but she stops herself before reaching out.

I try to fight back the tears, but it’s no use. I’m as weepy now as I was giddy a few moments ago. “I’m sorry!” I blubber.

Noa stares at me, bewildered and flustered. “What for?”

“For crying!” I hiccup dramatically. “I did have fun,” I insist through my tears. “It was a great party, really. Very n-nice of you. And now—” hiccup, “—I’m crying.” I sob harder.

“Dammit, Fi,” she mutters. “Those boys let you drink too much.” She looks from me to the road in distress. We’re almost home, now.

I hiccup in agreement as the cab pulls in front of our building. Noa digs some money out and pays the driver. She opens her door and looks back at me uncertainly. She’s uncomfortable in part because my moods are playing ping pong, but it’s mostly because strong emotional displays embarrass her. Especially tears. She has no idea what to do with tears.

“Can you walk?”

I nod miserably and scooch out after her, grateful I’m wearing pants, even if they are indecently short. The concrete is cool and scratchy beneath my bare feet. Noa steadies me with one hand supporting my elbow and beeps us inside.

The concierge doesn’t even look up. I’m not the drunkest person he’ll see tonight.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper again.

Noa’s hand on my arm tightens. “Stop apologizing, imp.” She sounds cross, and I cringe, but bite my tongue to keep another apology from slipping out. Noa halts, looks at me, and smoothes her expression. Her grip on my arms loosens, too. “It’s your birthday, pixie,” she says more gently. “You can cry if you want to.”

I manage a teary smile. We get to my studio and Noa handles the lock. I stumble inside, throw my shoes and purse onto the floor, and fall into my bed.

“Want some water?”

“Only if I’m out of tequila.” I bury my face in a pillow and hear the faucet run briefly.

“You drink too much, Fi. I know you’re Irish, but you weigh like a hundred pounds.” Noa’s hand is light on my shoulder. Struggling into a sitting position, I accept the water from her. I still feel as if someone’s cranked my emotional volume up too high, but at least I’ve stopped crying, and I don’t feel dizzy.

“Keep sipping, pixie,” Noa murmurs. She slips onto the bed beside me and strokes my hair. “That’s a good girl. Everything okay, again?”

For an instant, I think how good her caresses make me feel, how safe and cared for.

Then a sudden wave of anxiety seizes my chest. With a wild look, I thrust the glass back into her hands and jerk away from her, scrambling backwards across the bed.

Water sloshes onto her hands and lap and she jumps up in surprise. “What the hell, Fi?” she demands. Her grey eyes flash with anger.

I cower against the wall on the far side of the bed, sick with a sudden dreadful certainly. “What are you going to do?”

She gapes at me like I’ve grown another head. “Do?”

“Did you want to get into my apartment so you can plant something?”


“Is there a web cam set up somewhere?


“Going to humiliate me and then post it to YouTube?”

“Fi, you’re—”

“Or was there something in the water? Do you want to kill me?”

“Stop it, Fiona!” Noa’s shriek cuts through my hysterical tirade. “Please! You’re scaring me.”

Now there’s a fucking joke. “Don’t lie to me, Noa!” I cry. “Since when have you ever had to be scared of me?”

Her eyes go flat. “As I recall it, you’ve always matched me prank for prank.” She sucks in a breath, nostrils flaring. “Dammit, Fiona, I don’t want you to be scared of me.”

I look at her helplessly. “You know something? I just can’t do it anymore.” I feel tears threatening again, and force down the feeling of defeat by dragging up a well of rage. “I. Give. Up,” I growl at her. “You win, okay? You fucking win.”

Noa throws the glass down. It shatters with a loud crack, splinters scattering across the hard wood floor.

“Fuck you, Fi,” she snaps. “I don’t need this. You’ve got some crazy insecurity issues, you know that? I can’t say anything, I can’t do anything, I can’t even look at you without you freaking out.” She plants her hands on her hips. “If I tease, you get mad. If I’m nice, you go bat shit!”

“Of course I’m insecure!” I shout. “I’ve spent my entire life being tormented by you! You won, okay? God, Noa. Don’t you see you’ve always won?” My fury deflates as defeat forces its way back to the fore. “Why can’t you just leave me alone?” I sniffle and turn my head away. “What do you want from me?”

Noa’s breath catches. When I glance back at her, her eyes are very wide as she opens her mouth several times, only to close it again. I can’t decipher her expression at all as she spins around, starlight dress fanning, and stalks to the kitchen. I watch, trembling, as she retrieves the dustbin from beneath the sink and sweeps up the shattered glass.

“Fi,” she says, finally. She’s standing at the far side of my bed, gazing at me indecisively. Her voice is soft and apprehensive. “Only you get me this riled up.”

That doesn’t sound like an apology, but I don’t really expect her to repent winning at life. I draw in a shaky breath and opt to go along. “I get riled up pretty easy,” I admit. “By anyone.”

I think one corner of her mouth twitches, but I’m not sure. She shoves back her curls and closes her eyes. Without the dark, intelligent intensity of those too sharp eyes, she looks almost lifeless in her perfection, like a handmade doll. Porcelain skin, angled cheeks, full bowed lips – she is exquisite beyond words. I smother that thought in its crib and wait fearfully for her next move.

I don’t know what progression of thoughts march through that lovely head, but when she speaks, it’s in a sudden rush of disconnected darts. “I don’t know how to get your trust, Fi. Don’t know what I want from you. You hurt me, too, you know. Sometimes I want to kill you, and sometimes I just want … you.”

I can’t process all that—I hurt her?—so I don’t even try. I latch onto the important part. “Want me how?”

Storm grey eyes open. “The way you want me.”

My groin pulses, lighting a dizzy heat in my lower abdomen. “No more games, Noa.” My voice is low and faint, even to my own ears. “You have to say it.”

For a moment, I don’t think she will, but then her jaw locks in determination. Noa was never a coward. “I want you to kiss me.” Her voice wavers slightly, but she plunges on. “I want to kiss you. Everywhere. I want to love you.” Her stare is relentless. “I want to fuck you.”

Oh, God. I strangle a moan. A cold sweat prickles across my head and shoulders, and I shiver. The warm ache in the bottom of my belly might be desire, or it might be nausea.

“Fiona?” Her dark eyes are worried, but her expression is gravely calm. “Do you want me to leave or stay?”

“Both,” I answer honestly.

She studies me in silence until I push myself off the wall and slink back across the bed, slow and unsteady. I gain my feet and look up at her. She’s still in her heels.

I want to be precociously eager, to wrap my arms around her neck and pull her down for a kiss. Sex is my comfort zone. But I’m scared to give in. I’d claimed to have given up, but my defense mechanisms are warmongering generals rebelling against their cease-fire orders.

“Is this you encouraging me?” I rasp.

Noa winces. “I’m sorry about New Year’s. I was cruel.” She wets her lips, and my hormones surge up like an enraged populace seeking to overwhelm the generals. They want peace. “I just … I lost control.”

“You seemed pretty in control.”

Noa looks at me calmly. “I wasn’t. I was panicking. You were naked and draped in diamonds, Fi. I was as turned on as you were, and I lost it and freaked. Pushed you away before I did something crazy.”

I meet her stoic stare, considering what she is telling me. “Are you panicking now?” I ask finally.


I want to laugh, because she looks like the statue of a goddess, composed and serene. But I don’t.

Instead, I kiss her.

I clasp her hands, rise up onto my toes, close my eyes, and press my lips gently against hers. Her mouth is soft and warm and it twitches beneath my pressure. I release her hands and slide my grip up to her elbows, pulling her in to me. She grasps my elbows, too, and we hold each other, at once clinging to the other and maintaining a distance between us.

Our lips part, but we stay locked like that, so that our breath mingles. I swallow, hard. Dear God, I’m turned on.

I lean back a bit so that my eyes can focus. We probe each other with our stares. Noa surprises me by stepping in close and pressing her body against mine as she claims a second kiss. I wriggle my arms around her shoulders and tug her down onto the bed behind me. We’re still egging each other on, but the game has changed. I like this game.

Straddling me, she cups my face and plants firm, closed-mouth kisses all around my lips, sending shivers down through my toes. Her hair falls down around us. I run my hands up the undersides of her smooth thighs, feeling for the swell of her ass.

Her breath catches when I begin to hump up into her, kneading her cheeks. I feel her tongue against my lips, finally, and open quickly for her. Her tongue swirls into my mouth and I arch against her.

We break away both gasping for air. She straightens, balancing on my hips. I think maybe I should say something, but I can only stare up at her, mesmerized.

Wordlessly, she pulls her dress over her head. Her bra and panties match, skin-toned lace lying neatly flush against her curves. Her flat stomach clenches with each ragged breath as she reaches behind her back to lose the bra.

I admire her high, fleshy breasts. The areolas are almost the same color as her skin, but her erect nipples are flushed a deep rose. Those nipples grow even harder when I reach up to massage them between my thumbs and first fingers, and a low whine escapes Noa’s throat.

She rolls off of me towards the center of the bed and tugs off her strappy gold heels. Then she kneels and faces me, clad only in a skin colored thong and all those curls.

“You, too,” she says softly.

I strip quickly. The shorts are so tight that I have to struggle a bit, and my cheeks heat. I smooth the silky straight layers of my styled hair self-consciously and crawl closer until we’re facing each other on our knees.

We kiss again, our breasts squashed together, her roaming fingers somewhat more tentative than my own. I coax her down, drag off the lacy thong, and stretch out beside her.

“Is this what you want?” I ask, massaging the slope of her naked hip.

Her head jerks. “Yes. Oh, yes.” She takes a deep, shuddering breath. “But, I’m scared, Fi.”

You wouldn’t think it, watching her. But I’m close enough to feel her racing pulse and the tension in her limbs.

“It’s okay,” I murmur, stroking her arms, her hair, her shoulders. “It’s just me. It’s Fiona.” Again and again. “Just Fiona.” I don’t know why I think this might comfort her, but somehow, it seems to, and, gradually, she relaxes.

Enough to start analyzing, but I’ll take analysis over panic any day.

“Have you done this before?” she guesses. “Been a girl’s first girl?”

I’d known, of course, but it’s still a strumming thrill to have her say it. “Yes,” I say softly. I’m not sure if she’s asking for reassurances that she’s different from, or the same as the others.

“And?” Her gaze washes into mine, deep and colorless like the ocean under heavy clouds, and I know she wants to hear she’s different.

And she is different. Much different. She is Noa. I search for the words to explain what is different, beyond that she’s easily the most beautiful creature, male or female, to have graced my sheets. I stare into her wide-eyed, anxious face, and feel the belligerent pride roiling barely concealed beneath the surface of that trusting visage. An idea pops into my head. “You remind me more of the boys.”

Whatever she expected to hear, it wasn’t that. I rush to explain.

“Not you. Just…this. It reminds me of when I first convince a guy to try pegging. The sudden role reversal, the unexpected vulnerability. That fight against an unfamiliar desire to submit, to trust—it’s always a bit surreal.”

She frowns. “Don’t you fucking call me submissive, imp.”

I giggle. “That’s just what the boys say.”

She tries to hold the glare, but it grudgingly gives way to curiosity. “You’ve really, you know, done that, to a guy?”

I nod solemnly and she gives me this impressed, conspiratorial grin, and I grin back smugly, and suddenly it’s like we’re back in middle school, giggling about boys, except that we never had that sort of comradely bond, and now that we do, somehow, inexplicably, it’s blowing my fucking mind.

“Why didn’t we ever do this before?”

Noa raises a wry brow. “Sex? Or talk without trying to rip out the other’s metaphorical throat?”

“Both. Either.” I shrug. “I meant sex, but I’m guessing they’re related.”

“We hate each other,” she supplies with a shrug, tracing the line of my collar bone with one finger.

“Imagine,” I persist, “if we’d had sex back in high school, and been friends all this time.”

Noa’s jaw hangs open and she looks at me in dismay. “Friends, Fi? It’s not going to be that easy. We really do hate each other.” She takes the sting out of her words by trailing her finger up my throat and chin to tenderly caress my lips. “It’s more than hate. It always has been, and how much more, we’re only learning now. But we’re still going to annoy the shit out of each other tomorrow morning.”

She’s right, damn her, and I’m proving her point by resenting how she is always fucking right. “I hate that you’re always right,” I inform her crossly. “Now can I kiss you before your general perfection totally fucking ruins the mood?”

Noa pinches my nose. “You’re lucky you’re cute when you’re mad, sprite.”

I stick out my tongue, which conveniently puts my mouth in the correct shape for kissing. She tastes of sugar and bourbon.

It’s hot, as our bodies take over once again, but the agonizing tension from before is gone. I roll on top and melt into her. It’s a relief, to agree we still hate each other. Noa becomes bolder, fondling my bare ass and wrapping her hand in my hair as I kiss a line down her throat, past her collar bone, and between her breasts.

She makes a coughing sound when my mouth closes over a nipple. She’ll never be a screamer. Her self control is too iron, too much of who she is. But that flawless poise is a part of what I’ve always envied and admired, and each hitched gasp and half swallowed moan I’m able to provoke excites me far more than any porn worthy over- responsive wailing.

I trail my tongue lower, dipping it into her belly button, enjoying the way she squirms with her hips and presses down on my head. She knows where she wants my mouth.

I don’t give in, yet. I brush light kisses down her hip and keep going, playfully wetting the inside of one knee. She kicks out, ticklish.

“Dammit, Fiona, don’t you fucking tease me.” Her voice is deep with need, and she’s tugging on my hair now, trying to pull me back up.

I latch my mouth onto the inside of a white thigh and suck hard. Noa hisses but I don’t let go. I catch her scent – sweet, musky, intoxicating – and keep sipping in that small patch of skin until I’m sure I’ve left a mark. The resulting fleck is a gorgeous dark red.

When I look up, Noa is rubbing herself. I smack her hand away. She glares down at me, flushed and bright eyed, tousled curls spilling over her breasts. Her wild beauty glows, savage and pure and alive. I can’t resist any longer.

I eat her slowly, a hand pressing down on each thigh, forcing her bare lips farther apart. She moans softly. Her fingers massage my scalp, twisting my hair as I work her throbbing nub.

My tongue paints deep, languorous circles. Her muscles tighten with every clockwise upstroke, so after a while I hone in on that one spot, using my tongue to spread around her slippery fluids and then digging repeatedly against the left side of her swollen clit hood.

“F-fi,” she stutters hoarsely. “On fire.”

I slip one hand up to her abdomen and relish the uncontrolled clamping of her hard muscles. She’s sweating heavily and hardly breathing, at all.

I know she’s close. I could pull away, withhold release, build her higher, tease her.

But I don’t want to pull away. Not yet, another second, just one more.

And then she’s convulsing, and I know it’s too late. I lick her gently through it, while she tautens and quivers and grunts just once.

I crawl back up for a kiss, sorry that I didn’t make it last longer. She’s panting lightly, and smiling at me so happily that I forget all regrets.

“You’re amazing, pixie,” she murmurs.

I let myself smile. “I cook, too.”

“The webcam video will go viral.”

“That had better be a joke.”

Noa swats my bottom and sits up. She gives me a long, speculative look – a look I recognize all too well – and I’m abruptly nervous. She’s the sleek predator once again. I tell myself I can see tenderness in the depths of those charcoal eyes, but the thought does nothing to calm my nerves.

“You liked that.”

I lick my lips apprehensively, unsure of what to say. Liked it? I fucking loved it. But I’ll be God damned if I admit that to Noa.

Besides, it wasn’t a question.

Noa rakes back her curls with a knowing grin, sexy and carefree. My heart dives, a reverse two-and-one-half somersaults with two-and-one-half twists. I want her so badly it hurts to breathe.

She leers. No hint of her earlier hesitation remains; she is as fearless and voracious as ever. A quick learner. I think I may have created a monster. “If I asked you to lick me again, right now, you would, wouldn’t you?”

“Fuck you,” I gasp. That’s a yes.

Cocking her head at me, she arches her elegant brow. “So sorry, Fi,” she says. “Afraid I don’t want that.”

I stare at her indignantly. “Why not?” I splutter. So much for pride.

She leans in, caressing my waist, and plants a slow kiss on my trembling cheek before murmuring into my ear. “Wanna make you come.”

As established, Noa doesn’t whine in want, so that needy moaning sound must be me. I’d probably be embarrassed, if I could think a little straighter than Anderson Cooper.

“Tell me what you like.”

I just gawk at her, my mind vacant. She’s running her hands over my breasts.

She gives me an amused look and tries again. “What do you want, pixie?”

“Y-you,” I manage.

The answer pleases her, and I feel a surge of glad pride. Oh, fuck me. I’ve realized that while I do want her, I want even more to please her. Hadrian’s going to flip his shit.

“Fine, then,” she announces. “We’ll do this my way.” She pushes me down and kisses me hard. I kiss her back for dear life, trying to suck as much of her mouth into my own as possible, reaching under her arms, clutching her shoulders from behind, pressing her tightly to me. When she finally pulls away, my lips and tongue feel bruised, numb, and tingly.

“More,” I beg.

She gives me a brilliant smile and unwraps long legs to swing from the bed. I try and fail to contain a disappointed whimper. She strolls naked to my desk.

“You know,” she says casually, “I’ve thought more than once about shoving one of these glass paperweights up your infuriating ass.”

I don’t have the heart to tell her that the glass paperweights are, in fact, butt plugs.

“Would you like that, Fiona?”

I gurgle unintelligibly. That’s a yes, again. Good thing Noa speaks my language.

She selects one of the pretty, frosted glass pieces and saunters back over. The flared base is decorated with a large, olive-colored jewel; the stone glistens as Noa twirls the bulbous head between her fingers.

She climbs back on top of me and places the head against my lips. “Lick it, imp,” she orders.

I twist my head away, frowning. “Not if that’s supposed to be a substitute for lube.”

She nods patiently and waits for me to open my mouth. I hesitate for a moment, acutely aware of the weight of her strong, lithe body on top of my own. If I surrender now, she’s going to dominate me. I want it, but I’m not sure I can handle it.

Noa was scared, too, I remember. She got over herself. Our lifelong competition pushes me over the edge and I open my mouth wide, defiant, sticking out my tongue as if I’m getting a throat culture. Noa slips in the toy and I close my lips around the shaft, sucking on the hard conical bubble like a pacifier as I breathe loudly through my nose.

“You look beautiful, pixie,” Noa whispers. “So delicate.” She taps the plug lightly, humming in appreciation. “It matches your eyes. Peridots, like grass, fresher than emeralds. And your hair is fire.” She combs back the strands clinging to the sweat on my forehead, imitating on me the same gesture I’ve seen her perform countless times on herself. Then she giggles. “And you’ve shut up, for once. How did I never think of this before?”

I slap her thigh and she laughs. Only I make her laugh. “None of that!” she exclaims between titters, and firmly places both my hands above my head. “Hold onto the bed,” she commands, and I grip the sleek wooden spindles of my bed frame.

She looks around quickly. There are handcuffs and under-the-bed restraints in my closet, but I wouldn’t have mentioned those even if I hadn’t been gagged. Noa’s a good improviser, though. You wouldn’t think it, since she’s such an anal perfectionist, but she is.

She ends up claiming my pearls from the jewelry piled messily on top of the night table. She threads the long string around my wrists and through the wooden posts before fastening the clasp, so that the necklace lies loosely against my skin, but not so loosely that I could slip out my hands without ripping it. The pearls are faux, but they were a gift from my grandmother. My fingers tighten their grip and I grit my teeth against the glass plug.

Noa pulls it out. “Lube?”

There’s a bottle in that box in my closet, but then she’d see the rest of my collection. No sense in giving her any more ammunition for my mother; I was grounded for most of my fifteenth year after Noa found my condoms and tattled. “Packet in my purse,” I offer instead.

The graceful arch of one brow twitches, but she doesn’t say anything, just fetches the clutch I’d discarded on my way in. She’s fumbling with the small packet as she returns to the bed.

“Can I have a pillow?” I ask.

Noa scowls down at me from where she’s kneeling at my feet. “You have a pillow.”

I flush. “Under my butt,” I clarify. “Better angle.”

She considers me, head cocked, grey eyes large. “No,” she says finally.

I blink, resentment curling instantly in my chest. What the fuck does she mean, no? “Why not?” I demand.

“Because,” she says tranquilly, “I asked you before what you wanted. You had your chance to make requests, and now we’re doing what I want.”

“You’re a fucking control freak,” I snap. Twisting in frustration, I’m careful not to move my hands and risk breaking my grandmother’s pearls.

“I know.” Supremely unconcerned, she tosses the used lube packet onto a corner of the bed and raises the anointed plug before her eyes. The wetness of the lubricant has turned the opaque finish of the frosted glass transparent. “Legs apart.”

Her clinical tone is humiliating, but as I obey with a helpless glare, arousal burns in my core anyways. I lie there anxiously, the muscles of my exposed private parts clenching involuntarily under Noa’s scrutiny.

Then she leans down, yanks my hips up, and slides brusquely forward, wedging her knees under my back. “I’ll be your pillow,” she mutters. I gasp as my knees fall down towards my ears and my weight is shifted to my head and shoulders. It’s not entirely comfortable, but as Noa bends over to kiss my mouth, the intimate feeling of being wrapped up in her body is worth any soreness.

A whimper of protest escapes when she straightens, crescendoing into a surprised whine as she slaps one hand down against my ass, hard. I jerk on her lap, mewing as she alternates between raining blows and kisses down onto my cheeks.

Just when it’s starting to really hurt, she gives my ass a quick, soothing rub and spreads me wide. I brace myself for the plug, but instead of cold glass, I feel a soft, hot tongue flatten itself against the puckered skin of my back entrance.

“Ah!” I shout, arching up into her. Pleasure rolls through me in waves as Noa licks my asshole, her swipes and tickling probes creating sensations I can’t name. Shaking, I moan her name as exquisite feeling after exquisite feeling assails me.

Finally – and too soon – her wet tongue is replaced by the cool slickness of the butt plug. I wrench my eyes open at the abrupt switch and watch, whining softly and unbrokenly, as Noa slowly forces the toy into my hole.

There is a moment of burning as the head swells to its widest diameter, stretching my sphincter painfully, but then the plug pops in and my muscles tighten back around the short stem. The jeweled base rests against my opening, its wide rim digging into my butt cheeks. I feel full, stuffed, like I’ve gorged on ecstasy and could explode at any moment.

Noa taps the gem and I flinch as my clit throbs in response.

“How does that feel?”

I groan. “I-incredible.”

She smiles fondly down on me, still flicking at the jewel plugging my ass. “You’re a slut, imp.”

I moan enthusiastically and her smile widens. She caresses my legs, stroking my thighs, massaging my bent knees, kissing my ankles. Then she pulls them around her waist and I lock my feet behind her back. Slowly, torturously slowly, she kisses her way from my forehead down my neck. Sure hands play with my breasts as she makes her way lower, down my chest and to my stomach, licking and nibbling. She’s silent the whole time, but I make enough noise for both of us.

She kisses each hip bone and traces the tufting tail of my fox tattoo with her tongue before straightening. Her eyes burn into mine. “I want to kiss you,” she informs me gravely, “while you come.”

Oh God. I haul in a deep, quaking breath and tilt my head back to meet her lips. As her tongue slips against mine, a finger slides between my soaking pussy lips and begins to rub me, hard, fast, and deliberate.

I wail into her mouth as my heels dig into the small of her back and my hips thrash beneath her touch. My vaginal muscles seem to expand and tighten simultaneously, and the first fluttering spasms encounter the butt plug and ricochet back as stronger surges of hot, taut pleasure. I buck against her, frantic for release. I suck all the air from her lungs and hold it, stiffening as I tip past the point of no return. As my climax breaks, I feel the plug being pulled from my pulsing ass, and my mind goes completely blank. There is only bliss, and the taste of Noa.

When I next come to my senses, I’m clutching Noa’s face between my hands, my mouth still clinging to hers, animal sounds pushing out around our raw, rough kisses. I never felt the necklace snap. As I shift on the bedding, I can feel some pearls roll beneath my shoulders. I don’t care.

Gradually, our kisses become less ardent, more affectionate, until Noa places a final peck on my temple and untangles herself. She collapses beside me and looks over, sweaty, exhausted, and more beautiful than I’ve ever seen her.

“Sorry about the necklace,” she says. “I didn’t think—”

“Never mind the necklace.” I really don’t care. “That was unbelievable. We’ll do what you want,” I avow fervently. “Every time.”

Her lips curve. “Fine by me, though that doesn’t seem entirely healthy.”

“That’s why we pay Laura.”

We lie there in a companionable silence for a while. I’m still trying to catch my breath.

“I wasn’t trying to kill you, with the strawberries.”

I blink, taken aback by the quiet comment. “I didn’t really think you were.” Easy to be generous, now.

“I thought you’d get a rash, that it would be funny. It was supposed to be a joke.”

“Yeah, well, I cut your hair because I figured it was a fate worse than death.”

“It was!” Noa’s nostrils flare in outrage. “I had big plans to marry Alistair. I’d named all four of our kids. You ruined my life, cutting off all my hair.” She giggles.

“You are my life,” I tell her seriously. “I know it’s not healthy. But it’s true. And,” I take a deep breath and continue, “it does at least seem just a tiny bit more healthy now than it did this morning.”

She reaches over and takes my hand, folding it into her own. “You’re my life, too, imp. Fiona.”

I sigh happily. “Fuck healthy.”

“Potty mouth,” Noa accuses me wryly.

“Goody two-shoes,” I shoot back.

“Drunken leprechaun.”

“Neurotic Jew.”


“Corporate whore.”

“Real whore.”


Noa chuckles. “Not anymore, sprite. Not anymore.”

I glower. “Well, I’m not a whore.”

“My mistake,” she concedes. “Slut, then.”

I roll my eyes. “Want to sleep here?”

She does. I’m still pouting as we crawl under the comforter, and she’s still laughing. We drift off curled up around each other.

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