Dom was feeling rather smug when he headed back down to the kitchen. His instincts were spot on about Bernie. He was fairly certain about Serena too but if he was to play cupid. He needed to be sure, it could be disastrous if he meddled and got it wrong.
It was Saturday night when he found the opportunity unexpectedly presented to him by Sasha and Essie of all people. Their burgeoning relationship had led the team into a late night discussion on the joys of dating. Bernie had excused herself, Dom could see this was not a topic she was comfortable joining in but Serena was still cradling her glass and quietly listening to the debate that was raging.
“It’s easy for a woman. If a man likes you, you know it. They are pretty straight-forward. For us blokes, we have to try and be mind-readers to know if you really like us or just being polite.” Fletch states adamantly.
“You don’t know what you are talking about Fletch. It’s awful being a woman. Most men lie about their relationship status and are just looking for sex.” Jasmine counters.
“At least we are honest about ourselves, Fletch.” Morven adds, backing up her best friend.
Dom just couldn’t resist the tease to Serena, it was too good an opportunity to pass up. “What do you think Serena? You are the ideal person to help us resolve this argument. Where do you stand on the pros and cons of dating men versus women?”
If Serena is surprised Dom is being so forward about her sexuality she doesn’t let it show. “I’m not sure I am an expert Dom.”
“Oh come on Serena, you must have an opinion at least.”
“For me personally, I agree with Fletch that generally men are easier to read. It is a lot more of a physical connection than with a woman, which is more emotional, and therefore where the confusion can lie.”
“See.” Fletch looks smugly at Jasmine and Morven as if Serena’s opinion is a definitive end to the debate.
“And which do you prefer?” Dom wheels back around to address Serena again.
“That’s a silly question. I think we all know I am partial to both.” She adds with a light smile.
“Aye-aye.” Chips in Fletch.
“Not at the same time Fletcher.” Fletch’s cheeky smile makes Serena roll her eyes in despair.
“Ok then at the moment. Which do you prefer?” Dom’s seemingly innocent question makes Raf turn his head. He narrows his eyes at Dom, and watches the young chef as he waits for Serena’s response.
Serena pauses, taking a large gulp of wine and is desperately grateful that Bernie has already gone home, as she answers slowly and carefully. “At the moment Dom, I would say I am more interested in pursuing a relationship with a woman than a man.”
Dom smiles slightly before he breaks out into that cheeky grin of his. “Damn there go my chances then. I am heart-broken!”
“If you really are curious Dom, I can introduce you to a friend of mine who would just love you to experiment on her.”
Dom’s face screws up in disgust. “I guess we know where Mr Copeland sits in this debate then. And with that I am off home. I’ll never get another date again unless I get some beauty sleep.” Serena finishes her glass of wine and smiles at them. “Raf, can you make sure it is all locked up after you guys are finished. Goodnight.”
Raf watches Serena leave, Sasha and Essie following her out just as Morven and Jasmine’s taxi pulls up outside.
Dom was about to follow the girls when Raf tugs his arm slightly. “What was all that about, Dom?”
“All what about?”
“Come on don’t play dumb with me. Why are you so interested in Serena’s love life all of a sudden and don’t try and tell me it was for you.”
“I was just curious if Serena was interested in anyone at the moment.” Dom tries to feign disinterest but Raf is too savvy for that.
“Sit down Dom, we need to have a chat.”
Serena found Bernie studying her more than usual during the course of their shared Sunday service. It appeared to Serena that nearly every time she glanced up Bernie’s eyes seemed to be on her, narrow and thoughtful. Bernie would even brave holding her gaze for a moment before returning to her work. Serena was so busy watching Bernie and Bernie was so busy trying to scrutinise Serena that neither could see Dom and Raf studying them both.
Serena was just as lost in her thoughts later when Raf sidled up to her after service had finished.
“Serena.” The brunette jumped about a foot in the air at the unexpected voice so close by. “Sorry I didn’t mean to surprise you.”
“It’s OK Raf I was just miles away.”
“Look, can you meet me in the office after service there is something I need your help to sort out. It’s kind of personal.”
Serena jerks her head in surprise. Raf is not usually one for sharing his personal feelings on anything with her, well not without large amounts of wine having been consumed anyway. It must be serious she thinks, if he needs to ask for her help, so she readily agrees to his request.
Serena could still catch the faint scent of Henrik’s aftershave lingering in the office as she waited for Raf to appear. For something that had seemed so urgent, the Scotsman was suddenly nowhere to be found. She stood up and began to pace restlessly around the enclosed space, her feet, already burning from the hours stood during the frantic service, bemoaning her decision. The door opened and Serena spun around, the berating words for Raf on his lateness frozen on her lips as her eyes landed on the tall frame of Bernie instead.
“Oh sorry.” Bernie stuttered out. “Dom asked me to come and find his coat, he thinks he must have left it in here earlier.”
“That’s strange as I have not seen it since I have been in here.” The words die on her lips as the door is pulled firmly shut and the unmistakeable sound of the lock clicking fills the room.
Bernie is the first to move to the door, her time in the army makes her twitchy about closed doors and locked rooms. She rattles the handle firmly but it is most definitely locked tight. Through the window can see the smiling face of Dom with Raf.
“For goodness sake, what are you doing?” She asks through the door. Trying the door one more time more for emphasis than because she thinks it might yield this time.
It is Dom who speaks up, suddenly braver than he feels in the face of Bernie’s obvious irritation at his actions. “We think that the two of you need to talk.”
“Properly for once.” Raf chimes in, “No running away or hiding from each other.”
“We’ll unlock the door in twenty minutes. If you have not sorted yourselves out by then. Well, you never will.” Dom adds finally before wilting under Bernie's hard stare and shuffling off to hide out of her sight.
Serena watches their interaction aghast. Has she been so obvious in her feelings for Bernie that even Dom knows now and if Dom knows has he told Bernie? Serena needed to get out of this office sooner rather than later.
She lifted the phone on the desk from its cradle and started to dial. “Don’t worry I’ll call Henrik, he only left a few minutes ago, he’ll have his key and can let us out.”
“Wait. Stop.” Serena’s fingers still at Bernie’s command and she jerks her head up to face the blonde. Bernie is worrying at her bottom lip with her teeth and seems to be having some kind of internal debate for a moment before she lets out a deep breath and the confidence returns to her posture. “I have not been entirely honest with you.”
Serena yearns to be closer to Bernie right now, be touching her skin. She carefully replaces the phone on the cradle, Henrik and the locked door forgotten for the time being. “Go on.”
“In the café the other day when I said that our kiss, well when I said our kiss was not a big deal.” Bernie’s confidence seems to wane a bit and Serena moves around the desk, to lean against it next to the blonde who has picked up one of Henrik’s pens and is twiddling it between her fingers. The movement seems to give Bernie back her impetus as she lifts her gaze back to Serena again, the crease on her brow the only sign of her remaining nerves. “Well it’s not a big deal, doesn’t have to be if it’s not what you want but it did mean more to me than I led you to believe. You mean more to me than I led you to believe.”
Serena’s surprise must be apparent she can feel the shock still reverberating through her body. “So why did you say otherwise?”
“I thought, well it doesn’t matter what I thought. I’ve been trying to do what I thought would make you happy, but I don’t think I know what that is anymore.”
Bernie is looking up at her shyly through her fringe in that oh so familiar fashion and Serena can feel herself lurch towards her, wants nothing more than to wrap her body around Bernie’s but this is what got them here in the first place; assuming, not talking. She has to restrain herself, needs to know that they are on the same page first.
“Bernie, when we kissed, well I’ve never felt anything so amazing but it was confusing at the same time and it scared me. We hardly know each other and the sensation was so intense it overwhelmed me and I ran.” When Serena looks up, Bernie is facing her, her fingers reaching for Serena’s to stroke at the soft skin on the back of her hands, the touch so tender and intimate that Serena could just stay here forever.
Bernie is so close to her now, her body resting against Serena’s, their eyes locked together and it feels so reminiscent of the first time they had been in this room. The night when Serena had pressed against Bernie in anger, the desire blazing in her even then and Serena realises how much time she wasted fighting against her own feelings. Bernie has moved to tangle their fingers together and Serena feels her skin prickle with the pent up desire. Finally, like a dam bursting, she can’t stop it anymore; pulls her arms back behind her, their intertwined fingers bring Bernie impossibly closer until their mouths are meeting and it is so heart-breakingly tender that Serena thinks she might have fainted from the feeling. Her hands are everywhere all of a sudden; grasping, tugging and pulling at anything they can get, both women completely lost in the touch of the other. The light knock at the door, even the sound of it unlocking, loud in the otherwise silent room, doesn’t disturb their embrace.
“Ms Wolfe, Ms Campbell, might I request you to join the rest of the team in the dining area for a moment.” Henrik’s calm tone does however shake them apart and the two women flush the deepest shade of red.
“Mr Hanssen. I thought you had left for the evening.” Serena’s diction stumbling, her words slightly muddled as if her lips and tongue can’t shift their motion from kissing back to speech as quickly as they need to.
“Yes well I have an announcement and when you are,” Henrik pauses and glances down at Bernie’s untucked shirt, “ready, please come back through.”
Serena and Bernie look at each other, neither knowing whether to laugh or cry. They share a wry smile instead, know that they will never live this down with Henrik or the rest of the team but perhaps, just perhaps it’ll be worth it.
When they join the team they find every face turned away, most attempting to suppress the smirks on their faces or in Dom’s case not even vaguely trying. Serena moves over to stand by Raf and Bernie by Dom. On opposite sides of the room they can see the darkened eyes and flushed skin on the other, the evidence of their mutual passion still visible for all to see, their eyes locked together until Henrik coughs to gain their attention.
“As you know I had already left for the evening but I received a call on my way home from a friend who shall remain nameless and he informed me that, to my great delight, The Wyvern will be regaining its Michelin star status next year. I understand that the consistent dedication to showcasing local produce and constant menu innovation have convinced the judges of our worthiness. Now I hope you appreciate that this is yet to be confirmed but I wanted to share the news with you all immediately. Thank you all for the considerable time and dedication you have put into get us back on track. Now there are 12 bottles of champagne in the fridge, it is Monday tomorrow, so may I suggest you have a very good night celebrating and make sure the fridge is restocked for Tuesday please.” The team erupt into a cheer as Fletch dives behind the bar and starts pulling out glasses. The air is filled with the sound of the champagne hissing as he carefully opens the bottles and glasses clinking as the team toast the Wyvern and its success.
Serena is looking for Bernie but she has disappeared off and goes to finds Raf instead.
“Don’t ever pull a stunt like that again.”
“Sorry.” He says in his deep Scottish brogue. “Actually no, I am not sorry, I’d do it again. If only to keep on seeing you grin like a Cheshire Cat. I’m guessing from Bernie’s mussed up clothing and your very flushed cheeks and happy expression that you sorted things out.”
“Kind of. I think. Until Hanssen walked in on us.”
“I really am sorry about that, we didn’t see him until it was too late. Did he interrupt something? You both looked a bit hot and bothered when you came out.”
“Let’s just say, I’m glad it wasn’t five minutes later.” Serena is still casting her eye about for Bernie, noticeable by her absence.
“Hanssen grabbed her after his announcement. I think they are in the office. She may not be enjoying this meeting as much as yours.” Raf teases lightly
“I should bloody hope not too. Will Hanssen say anything do you think?”
“Undoubtedly. She is your boss Serena, he will expect her to still be able to do her job.” Serena frowns, she had not really considered Bernie as her boss but in Hanssen’s eyes that’s exactly what he would think.
“Do you think he’ll ask her to stop our…… well not pursue something romantic with me?” Serena is suddenly unsure. If push came to shove would she choose her job over their blossoming relationship?
“I think we know where she would tell him to go, after all she covered up the wine order screw-up.”
“What screw up?”
Raf twists his mouth, looks for Fletch, anybody to help him out but there is nobody he can turn to. “Look Serena. That Sav Blanc you helped us sell, it wasn’t Bernie that placed the order wrongly. It was you. Bernie told Guy and Hanssen that is was her fault, which is why Henrik was on her back about it.”
“Why am I only learning this now?”
“Bernie told Fletch not to mention it to anyone.” Serena is lost in her own thoughts and Raf leaves her to them with a last squeeze of her arm. Suddenly Serena doesn’t feel like staying and drinking champagne anymore. The night has been intense and all she craves is her sofa, a bottle of wine and her pyjamas. After a quick tour of the room to say goodnight to the team, she heads for the changing rooms and sees the vacant office as she passes. She finds Bernie sat on the bench pulling on her ankle boots, already changed back into her skinny jeans and shirt.
“Everything OK with Hanssen?” Serena enquires as she moves to open her locker and pull out her trousers and pullover.
“He wasn’t exactly thrilled to walk in on us, but I have not been fired, yet.”
“It won’t come to that surely?” Serena says as she quickly sheds her chef’s whites and picks up a brush to run through her short dark hair.
“No I don’t think so. I’m just tired I think and could have managed without another headmasterly ticking-off.” Bernie shakes her messy locks before pushing her fringe back from her eyes and watching Serena closely as she finished dressing and reaches for her coat and bag. “Are you not coming back out to join the celebration?” Bernie stands from the bench and moves to touch a hand to Serena’s shoulder.
“No. I think I want to get home.”
“Can I walk you at least?”
“Are you expecting me to invite you up for coffee Ms Wolfe?” Serena quirks her eyebrow.
Bernie blushes but smiles softly at the innuendo. “No it is just a nice night and I can always use the fresh air.”
Serena gives a sarcastic snort. “Fresh air? You will be smoking half the way and you know it.”
“I could use a cigarette then if you are being picky. Will you wait for me while I grab my bag from the office?” Serena nods, will admit the idea of a walk with Bernie as company is pleasant but they seem to be back to awkward, stilted conversations again and Serena worries that maybe Hanssen’s words are having an impact.
They leave together, call out goodnight to the team, ignore the wolf-whistles and catcalling from the team as they do.
“Do you mind?” Bernie asks as they brush shoulders walking slowly back in the direction of Serena’s house. “The team seeing us leave together. I mean it will fuel the rumour-mill for weeks.”
“It’s only rumour if it’s not true.” The implication of the words hangs heavily between them as they walk on in silence.
Bernie longs to reach out for Serena’s hand; she can feel the backs of their fingers brushing against each other as they walk and it is tormenting her. She smokes to distract her mind. She has no idea what she will say when they reach Serena’s house. There is so much to say but she has never been great with words, even worse with feelings. She can’t help but wonder what would have happened if Henrik had not walked in earlier. The kiss was so different to the one they shared on the roof that had been a fiery frantic battle of lips and tongue, this had been so soft, she had just melted into it, completely abandoned herself to the emotion of it all.
Lost is how she feels; completely at sea in unfamiliar waters and Serena is both tempest and her salvation. Bernie is still buried in her thoughts when Serena turns and starts towards her door, Bernie’s legs following unquestioningly, her feet only halting her at the doorway.
“Come in Bernie, we can’t talk on the doorstep.”
“Are you sure that is wise?”
“You are the one who wanted to walk me home. Now are you coming in or not?” Bernie steps over the doorstep and Serena guides her through to the kitchen, sits her down and puts the kettle on before she starts to speak again.
“I need you to start being honest with me, Bernie.” Serena moves closer, leans against the kitchen table facing the stool that Bernie is sat on.
“I am.” Bernie finally lifts her face to Serena’s and can see the confusion in her eyes.
“The Sav Blanc. It was my fault.”
“Fletch told you?”
“No it was Raf, but that is not the point. Why did you hide it from me?” Bernie sees the irritation and hears the reprimand in the tone. “I am not a child who you need to protect. I am capable of fixing my own mistakes.”
“I never lied to you about it. I just omitted to tell you the truth.”
“Stop splitting hairs and be honest with me for once please.”
The anguish in Serena’s eyes is what breaks her in the end and the words she has held back come tumbling out. “It was pure selfishness on my part. I didn’t want you to resign again. I wanted you to stay at the Wyvern with me. I like having you around." Bernie takes a breath before turning the tables. "Serena, why did you go to so much trouble to help me out? I would have left by now if you hadn't come up with the mid-week deal idea”
Serena purses her lips at the irony. “It was purely selfishness on my part. I didn’t want you to be fired. I wanted you to stay here with me at the Wyvern. I like having you around.” She hesitates but needs to finish the sentence, needs to add the words Bernie neglected to. “I like you, rather a lot it would seem.”
Bernie is stirred to her feet, takes one long stride bridging the gap between them, her mouth just a fraction from Serena’s own. “If I kiss you again, do you promise not to run away this time?”
Bernie can feel the smile on Serena’s lips against her own where they are just grazing together. “Where will I run to? This is my house.”
It is definitely Bernie this time who crashes their mouths together and it is frenzied, a whole evening of anxiety, arousal and doubt pouring out into that kiss.
Serena can see it in Bernie's eyes, the moment she concedes to her feelings, the long stride across the kitchen and Serena is suddenly enjoying the weight of Bernie in her arms once more. Bernie's tongue is insistent and Serena is in no mood to play coy, welcomes her wholeheartedly. She can taste the nicotine as their tongues dual against one another, hears a moan but is not sure if it is her or Bernie, right now doesn't care.
Serena spins Bernie around, back against the table, she hears the grunt from Bernie as she connects with the wooden surface but it turns into a growl as Serena moves her lips to Bernie's throat. She can feel the rhythmic pounding of Bernie's heart beating against the sensitive skin of her mouth and she sucks at it, hard; wants to pull the desire from her body, leave her skin stained with their passion.
She hears a little yelp from Bernie and she draws back, the angry welts already noticeable. Her eyes track up to lock with Bernie's asks the silent question. Shall I stop? Sees the response. Don't you dare. Dives back in.
Serena's fingers fumble with buttons of Bernie's tight fitting shirt until she just rips it away in frustration and sets her mouth against delectable collarbones down to rough lace which she pulls firmly out of her way. Her tongue lathing one nipple, a happy gurgle offered in response, her fingers pinching the other, and a soft hiss returning back. She sets her teeth against the firm skin and tugs not letting go until she has stretched it to its limit and it pops back. Bernie's teeth are gritted to the pain but her eyes urge Serena on, need her not to stop.
Serena slows, soothes and caresses. Her kisses soft and tender, her murmured words touching reddened skin like a gentle breeze, cooling and warming in equal measure. Her hands are slipped under Bernie's ripped shirt, circling at her side, moving round to trace patterns at the hollow of her back. She finds sweat pooling there, slides her fingers in the moisture before bringing the tips up to her parted lips, passed her teeth to rub the nectar to her tongue. Bernie moans loudly and her hips jerk at the eroticism of the sight.
A wicked smile forms on Serena's mouth as she slides her finger out ever so slowly, slipping it down her own chin, between her breasts to her navel, before she flips it over and twists at the button on Bernie's jeans. She is compelled to kneel to wriggle the jeans down Bernie's legs and free, she can feel the cool, hard tile compressing her patella as she does so, hears the crack as she stands back up. Her eyes meet Bernie's, finds them soft with affection but still that same fire of passion lurking beneath and they lean into each other. Nuzzle their noses, before kissing tenderly once again.
Bernie's hands slide down to grip Serena's arse as they start to deepen the kiss once more. Her mouth slips round to Serena's ear, licks the shell, pulls her earlobe between sharp teeth and whispers all the things she wants to do to her on this kitchen table and Serena is on fire again. Hands grip Bernie's hips, nails digging in to push her back onto the table, tips slide under elastic and Bernie's underwear pools on the floor. Her fingers track down the curve of her hipbone, round to scratch in soft curls, before slipping down and inside. Bernie moans loudly, crudely and opens her legs wide, her head falling back as she pants out a curse, Serena pulls back slightly before pushing in harder her hips driving her forward and deep inside Bernie.
She stills for a moment and Bernie's head lolls forward, their eyes meet and Serena can actually feel her clench around her fingers with desire. She pecks a kiss to Bernie's soft mouth before bending to nip at her throat, arching her back and thrusting against Bernie again and again, finding and losing rhythm before discovering it again in a jerking, frantic crescendo. Bernie cries out to the heavens and comes, Serena slows her movement, prolonging the pleasure until Bernie can take no more and she guides Serena's hand free and falls back, body prone and lifeless, on Serena's kitchen table.
Serena spins and props her exhausted body against the end of the table, she brings her soaked fingers to her lips and rubs the moisture across them, devours the sweet taste as it rolls across her tongue and sucks every last delicious drop from her hand. When she looks beside her Bernie's body is still motionless but her head is turned and eyes are open, dark desire filling them as Serena moans at the unique flavour of her essence filling her mouth. Bernie reaches to pull Serena on top of her but she backs away.
"I'm not as young as I used to be and my knees and back will not thank me tomorrow. I need my bed. Are you coming?"
Bernie did not need asking twice.