The house fell quiet afterwards.
One by one they trooped off to bed, her darling daughters curled foetal-like against each other in Catherine's bed when she checks on them, tears streaking their faces, Louise no doubt to ponder where to find her next employer, Chanel still shaken from her earlier shock, Mamy slumped in her chair after another half-bottle of sherry, Augustine dreaming of fictional lovers and Pierrette...where on earth had Pierrette gone?
In her chair by the fire, nothing lighting the room now but the dancing flames and the glow from the snow outside because the electricity went an hour after they locked the door to Marcel's room once more, Gaby puffed on another cigarette and wondered vaguely, not caring enough to get up and look, where her sister-in-law had vanished to. Perhaps one of the spare rooms? It was not beyond all possibilities that Louise had made her a bed up somewhere for the night - hell, knowing both of them perhaps Pierrette was sharing with Louise! Nothing could surprise her ever again now.
The lurid images entered her head before she could prevent them; Pierrette would be predatory, but Louise was no meek kitten. She could see the tangle of dark hair and blonde, young pale flesh pressed against carefully moisturised and much-used skin. Louise's piercing eyes and Pierrette's long fingers and both of their curving smirks – she'd seen her sister-in-law's plenty of times and hated how she felt about it – but Louise's was as bad. The idle thought of who might be on top forced its way into her head and it took all her strength to push them away, cursing herself all the way.
She needed to be stronger. She needed to maintain the resolve that had nearly crumbled so easily earlier when Pierrette had kissed her.
"You're up late."
She jumped in her seat and chastised herself for giving away her surprise.
Pierrette came slinking out of the shadows and sat next to her on the sofa, leaning across to retrieve a match for her own cigarette. Gaby's eyes couldn't help but be drawn to the swell of her breasts against her dress, she still hadn't fixed the damned thing properly and there was a tantalising glimpse of the flushed skin beneath. Earlier in the evening, before her husband had blown his own brains out, Gaby had been rather pleased to be the cause of that flush and the pride returned to her now, smirking inside and squirming at the feelings that were evoked. For all her sexual prowess and confidence Pierrette had been moaning putty in her hands and had wanted her and god almighty she had wanted her back.
"It's my house, I can do as I please."
How easy it would be now, with everyone safely upstairs and their chances of being discovered so low, to reacquaint herself with Pierrette's hot, soft lips, to pull the other woman close and touch her as she had earlier. It killed her to admit it but Pierrette had been right - perhaps a woman's touch was what she had been missing these many years? A quick, and unfortunately brief fumble with her sister-in-law had excited her more than years with Marcel had and more than Jacques was ever likely to. Damn her.
"Will you stay here?"
Truthfully Gaby had thought of little else and for that she felt a stab of self-loathing. Her poor daughters - one the witness of her own Papa's suicide, another pregnant by the man - were in such turmoil and all she had thought of was whether it would be appropriate to sell the house. She wanted to be as far away from all of this as she could and she wrestled with her own mind over whether Jacques was still part of her future plans. Only one day ago she was preparing to leave with him, spend a life with him, but...well, he had another lover didn't he?
Her eyes were drawn back to Pierrette, who was looking at her inquisitively. Another damned lover and not just any lover, oh no, it seemed Jacques infidelity was at least an indication of his superior taste!
"I..." Did she really want to speak to Pierrette like this? After everything was there anyone else? It was a sobering thought but she knew it was a true one - there was no one else. Her daughters too young and fragile, her Mother too drunk, Louise would be entirely inappropriate, her sister too emotionally self-centered and Chanel...well, she doubted her formerly loyal Housekeeper would listen to her woes after she had treated her. Until she got away from this house there was only Pierrette.
The enquiring face was kinder than she expected, leaning slightly to one side as she observed her and smiling slightly, as though she were the only one who knew the punch-line of a particularly scandalous joke.
"I don't know. Catherine is still too young to be left along, although she would have me believe otherwise. Perhaps I should send her to school in England? It has done Suzon little good I suppose, but at least it would give her an adventure, something to look forward to...Suzon will need a home of course, but she may prefer it to be elsewhere..."
She sighed and glanced at Pierrette. "If you want to know if I'm planning to sell the house then you'll have to stay in suspense - I'm unsure whether it will be appropriate..." Gaby felt her mouth twitch slightly at Pierrette's great show of pretending she was not interested in anything of the sort. "If I do, I'll be sure to make sure you're taken care of. Marcel would have wanted that."
Gaby took hold of Pierrette's hand, feeling brave and forcing herself not to think too much about the softness of the skin, and squeezed it gently. In response Pierette, unsurprisingly she supposed, smirked.
"I meant are you planning to stay in that seat all night?"
Gaby allowed her head to fall back against the sofa, unable to summon the energy to be annoyed by Pierrette's playfulness anymore. She didn't let go of the other woman's hand but rolled her eyes at her sister-in-laws continued mirth and couldn't stop the small smile that formed on her own protesting lips.
"No, I'm sure I will retire at some point."
Pierrette nodded gently and turned back to the fire. The light flickered across her hair, making strands as red as her dress and the shadows darkening her eyes until they were as dark as they had been earlier in the pursuit of pleasure. Gaby's breath hitched slightly and she felt her mouth turn dry.
Pierrette turned back to her, smiling her secret smile and speaking slowly, as though it were something Gaby herself had not worked out yet.
"Well, I don't have a bed."
Gaby looked away, unable to hold Pierrette's fierce gaze for too long. It was dangerous. Pierrette was dangerous, her damned hands and skin and breasts pressing against her dress were all far too dangerous for her to think about without losing her breath. But god she wanted to. She wanted to pull the other woman close and let herself be thoroughly ravished as Pierrette's kisses earlier had promised she would be, wanted so muchto take the woman to her bed but she couldn't - although really, she thought hopefully, there was no one to stop her anymore - because Pierrette would have to be the one to start it.
She wouldn't do it herself. Ever. Even with the men in her life it had been them to approach her, Mamy had instilled into her the simple thought that if she instigated anything then she was a whore - it was fine for the gentlemen, but not for an aspiring lady such as herself. She supposes the fact that she had beauty on her side was what saved her from being left on the shelf like poor Augustine. But beauty didn't seem to be enough at the moment. Pierrette was perfectly mannered and, despite the twinkle in her eye that suggested her thoughts were otherwise engaged, was being well-behaved. Gaby thought it was perfectly typical of the damned woman to be unhelpful now.
"I'm sure someone with your talents would be able to find a bed for the night."
Quite apart from being stung by the words, as any self-respecting woman would be, Pierrette merely looked more amused than ever before and still holding Gaby's hand gently she turned in her seat, crossing one leg over the other and facing the blonde woman.
"Who would you suggest? Not the girls of course and I'm a little tired of Chanel now. Your charming sister perhaps? She looked so beautiful as the Dame aux Camelias."
Gaby felt her insides squirm at the assessment – try as she might she found it impossible to be charitable towards Augustine anymore and Pierrette's admiration did not make her more disposed to being just that. She pulled her hand out of Pierrette's at long last and took a deep drag on her cigarettes.
"I thought your tastes would probably be more inclined towards Louise."
"Louise is far from my taste. She's a little too eager isn't she? And I am unlikely to want your cast offs after everything we've discovered tonight am I?"
"She's not-" What was the point? Pierrette would think what she wanted no matter how much she protested and pointing out that she had not welcomed Louise's advances would fall on deaf ears. "You'd have been welcome to her."
Pierrette leaned her head back and gave her full and throaty laugh that made Gaby think of truly filthy things. Why could she not have a normal lover that had a laugh like that? Why did so many desirable things have to combine with so many disreputable things in this damned woman!
"How very generous you are my dear Gaby."
Pointedly Pierrette slid her hand across the meagre space between them and wrapped her fingers around Gaby's. It occurred to her that quite apart from the fact Pierrette was holding her hand again that their joined hands were worrying positioned and if the darker woman was so inclined she would be able to push down in a very precarious place on her lap and Gaby would not argue. She gulped as discreetly as she could.
Mere moments later she realised that this could quite easily be interpreted as the first move and elation spread through her body. It was very nearly good enough for her sensibilities and Gaby's eyes flitted from Pierrette's eyes to her lips and back again. She licked her own lips and waited, her heart beating half out of her chest and the heat of the fire getting all the blame for the flush she was experiencing.
"But welcome or not, Louise doesn't interest me. She doesn't excite me; and I think you more than anyone knows how much I like excitement."
Gaby acted first. She leant forward and pressed her lips against Pierrette's with soft force, demanding but not pushing and knowing, without shadow of any doubt, that the kiss would be reciprocated. She feared no rebuke here, not as she had when she'd tried to kiss Marcel sometimes, or later, when Jacques and she had been obliged to sneak around. There had been nothing sure about any of those kisses but Pierrette, for all her other faults, was no liar and this kiss, coupled with the one that evening too, was the most honest thing she'd felt in a long time.
She should have known this would happen again. From the moment Pierrette had sauntered into her current seat, the two of them alone, in front the fire, emotions still running high from hours before, she should have known that they would end up like this. She broke the kiss briefly and as swiftly as she could Gaby put out her cigarette, taking a moment to wonder if Pierrette would think she had changed her mind, but when she turned back, her attention no longer distract, she was greeted by a hand wrapping around her neck and pulling her closer.
Pierrette was just as passionate as she remembered and more than she could have wished for. With arms wrapped around each other they fell into the depths of the sofa, sinking into the warmth of each other and the material and becoming wholly unaware of the surroundings. Gaby felt a hand ghost over her shoulder and continue on its path lower until, after what seemed like hours, a thumb brushed over the top of her breast and long fingers curled under it, squeezing gently. A flat, warm palm soon followed and she moaned quietly against Pierrette's lips, marvelling at how scorching that spot could feel at the touch despite how hot her entire body had already been. She wanted more and pushed herself against the hand, ready to agree with Pierrette quite wholeheartedly that a woman's touch was far from shocking. At least not in the negative way she had thought only earlier today.
Pierrette pushed back harder and Gaby soon found herself pinned under a warm and slender figure once more, the control she had momentarily felt in the situation leaving her and making her catch her breathe with excitement. There was something thoroughly intoxicating about being under Pierrette's control: she was helpless to the other woman's touch and couldn't find the energy to mind. The kiss continued as Pierrette teased apart her lips with expert precision – Gaby wondered once again if she really did do this for a living – and squeezed her breast with more firmness. She moaned again, louder this time and with less restraint and allowed a long legs to slide between her own as Pierrette pulled herself up and into her lap, red material being pushed up around the darker woman's thighs as she fitted herself comfortably above Gaby.
"No one's going to save you this time…"
The joking threat made Gaby chuckle but nothing could ever be sufficient to make her forget the burning lust in her veins. She needed Pierrette to stop being such a tease and do something about her eternal goddamn threats! If she said her touch was so wonderful then why didn't she prove it? Gaby reached up and pulled Pierrette's mouth closer, her hands tangling in the thick dark hair that she knew would look so wonderful and mysterious next to her own.
Pierrette didn't mind where things like this happened generally – she was not known for being a high-maintenance or fussy woman – but for reasons that escaped her she didn't particularly want her first time with Gaby, Gaby's first time with a woman, to be an awkward affair on a couch. She needed to do this properly and she would not forgive herself if she didn't – if she really wanted a bungled and unsatisfactory moment then she might as well have sought out Augustine, or indeed Louise. Beauty was not everything though, she thought as she tossed her head back and allowed Gaby's taunting lips to sear against her flesh, and Louise, though beautiful, was a little dull for her tastes. Gaby on the other hand was moth fascinating and beautiful and half the fun, as far as Pierrette was concerned, was imagining the outrage her sister would display in the morning when her actions seemed improper in the light of day and she regretted it. Pierrette was looking forward to reminding Gaby how much she had wanted this, needed this, and that she was far from being collected and judgmental when the lights were gone.
Pierrette, with great reluctance, but recognising it as a necessity, removed herself from Gaby's lap and reached for her hand, pulling the other woman up and being amused that the same few buttons Gaby had gotten rid of earlier, were not open again. She wrapped her arms around Gaby and kissed her, slow and deep and sensual before smirking at her with raised eyebrow.
"The couch and the floor? Really Gaby, another incident and I'll start to wonder which of us really does have the loose morals."
She grinned at the outraged expression and kissed her again, taking her hand and kissing the knuckles gently.
"Shall we go upstairs and do thing properly?"
Gaby blanched at the slight but soon recovered when Pierrette's lips were on her own and then reaching her fingers, tantalising them with the things her tongue could do and the softness of her mouth. She attempted her usual detachment but thought the flush colouring her face was probably ruining the image quite spectacularly – for once in her life, Gaby found she didn't much care and instead nodded. She didn't trust her voice.
Peirrette smirked again and with a sly wink she turned around and began leading Gaby through the house, never letter go of her hand and keeping it as close to her body as she could manage without it causing them difficultly. She wondered which room as she climbed the stairs: Gaby's own would probably be fraught with memories, she hadn't a room of her own to take her to, and Chanel was hardly likely to give up her room for the night. Perhaps Louise would?
Gaby didn't think for a moment and as they approached her bedroom she led them inside, assuming Peirrette wouldn't know which one to go into. She wanted this woman in her bed, in her room, in her life. She wanted her so much she felt pathetic with it, but she needed Pierrette and she knew that now. The physical gratification that was promised was not all of it, she needed the company, the understanding. Above all she needed someone in her life that wanted nothing from her she couldn't give – the girls askes so much, expected so much, her Mother was a nuisance at best and the less said about Augustine the better. The staff were better of course, but Chanel had asked her for something – for understanding – and Gaby knew she had absolutely failed to give her that, and Louise wanted what Gaby was not prepared to give. Not to her anyway. She would give it to Pierrette if she wanted it.
Once inside the room she pressed the door shut and turned the lock: she didn't trust Louise or Augustine not to burst in. As Pierrette looked around the room Gaby matched her smirk.
"Are you waiting for something? I might not be in the mood all night."
Pierrette knew she was lying and grinned at her.
"I'm sure I can do something about that."
The dark woman advanced on her once more, predatory like a panther and twice as beautiful and Gaby gasped when she was pressed against the door, the desk until finally it was the bed and they had lost most of their clothes. A lean body pressed her onto the bed and Gaby moaned around her mouth as thin fingers danced lower.
Afterwards she would say it was the heat of the moment and as Pierrette had predicted, the following morning she threw the other woman from her bed and pretending nothing had happened when the household assembled the following morning. Pierrette felt a stab of sorrow – she may have seen it coming but it didn't mean she had to like it – and knew that Gaby should have been hers all along. Not Marcel's and not Jacques' and not any man that the blonde woman decided to settle with once she had grown tired of being a glamorous widow.
After a day of being avoided Pierrette wondered whether it was worth staying for another night. In the end she would be glad she had. It was dark again and Gaby appeared like a beautiful spectre, her silken nightdress shimmering in the snow-light gleaming in from outside the window of the room Pierrette had finally been given.
Hours later, with Gaby's shining blonde head buried between her thighs, eagerly lapping and learning how to torture every nerve, Pierrette wondered if she could seep into the daylight eventually.