Ann hummed contentedly as she buried herself further into the crisp cotton sheets. She could feel the warmth of the low early morning sun on her back, maybe there was something to this sleeping without the curtains drawn. Maybe it was just being in Anne’s bed, in Shibden. Her bedding smelt like her, all citrus and sandalwood. She inhaled deeply, filling her lungs. She realised, if she could feel the sun on her back it meant that Anne wasn’t pressed up against her.
She looked over her shoulder, maybe she had rolled over in the night, but she was alone. She turned fully and felt the other side of the bed, it was warm from the sun but not from Anne. It was then that she heard the voices rising up the stairs. She turned towards the open doorway and chuckled lightly.
It was silly wasn’t it, that something like a door - or rather absence of one, had stopped them. Well, it was more that Marian had heard them which put a stop to them before they progressed much further. It was better that way she supposed, she couldn’t imagine having to face the entire family in the morning because she was certain they wouldn’t have been able to stay much quieter. She knew that Anne would come up with a solution, and soon.
At that moment Anne’s magnificent form filled the doorway. Ann felt breathless. She was dressed in the most absurdly alluring pair of black running shorts she had ever seen, paired with a black racer back running vest. Both garments clung perfectly to her glistening lithe body. Anne stood there smiling for a moment at the angel in her bed before closing the distance between them.
She sat on the edge of the bed. She looked down at a still sleepy Ann, framed perfectly by her golden curls. “You weren’t here when I woke up,” her voice still small with sleep. Anne hummed as she started to trace shapes across the sheets still covering her, “I went for my morning run. I had quite a bit of energy to burn off.” They both smiled knowingly at the reason for that.
As they continued to gaze at each other Ann’s hand reached out from under the covers. Her finger tips teasingly stroking up and down Anne’s muscular thigh. Anne felt herself tense at the touch as Ann smiled cheekily. She bent down and kissed her forehead gently, quickly sitting back up before Ann had a chance to capture her lips in more vigorous pursuits.
“I’m going to shower. I’ll be quick.” Ann raised her eyebrows suggestively, “The family are downstairs so you needn’t worry about being disturbed.” Ann’s smile widened, this was getting better. Anne grinned as she saw the wicked thoughts building behind Ann’s widening eyes, “They’re in the dining room, directly below us.” There was a pause before Ann realised what that meant, and then the pout Anne knew would form. She leant down and gave her another quick kiss before standing, “Come down for breakfast when you’re ready.”
Ann nodded as she watched Anne grab some clothes from her dresser on the opposite side of the room. When she was alone again she fell back into the sheets with a huff. Anne really needed to come up with a solution to this door problem.
She had just finished pouring herself a cup of tea when Anne swept into the dining room on her phone, pausing to lay a kiss on the top of her head before taking her seat next to her. Oblivious to everyone waiting she continued her conversation, "Yes, have it delivered to the Hall. Today." Ann held up the teapot and Anne nodded with a smile, ignoring the glare that Marian was shooting at her from across the table. “Marian, what’s the name of the person you called about the door?”
“I emailed you the invoices.” Her sister had been here less than 24 hours and she had already been bossing people about. It was a good thing John had Sundays off, perhaps by tomorrow she will have calmed down.
“Yes, yes, but I can’t check when I’m on the phone.”
Marian tutted loudly, she wasn’t even supposed to be on her phone at the dinner table. It was one of the few house rules she asked her to adhere to, “It’s the Wright Brothers, the ones who always do the repairs. As you know.”
Anne nodded her head dismissively and turned her attention back to the phone call, “Yes, the Wright Brothers. Give them a call. Tell them we want someone here tomorrow first thing, if not today. Otherwise we’ll go elsewhere.” She ignored the furious huff coming from Marian’s direction. “Yes, that’s right. Wonderful.”
She ended the call and noticed all of the eyes at the table were on her. “Eugenie,” was all she said, as if that would answer all their questions.
“I told you that they’re backed up until at least Thursday.”
“Yes I know.” Anne took a long calming breath, “And I told you that won’t do.” She saw that Ann had filled her teacup so she picked it up offering her a warm smile, “Thank you darling. The door will be fixed by Tuesday.”
Her eyes widened as she looked at the copious amounts of food laid out on the table before them. She didn’t often indulge in a large breakfast but she had worked up quite the appetite from her run and hoped that Ann would be willing to go out for a walk later that afternoon.
As Anne started to load her plate with pieces of toast, bacon, and sausages Ann sipped on her tea, willing her pulse to steady itself. She had not had the benefit of an early morning run to expel her energies and seeing Anne in her running shorts had done nothing to quell her desire. Having to sit quietly watching her take charge, her damp hair clinging to her neck, was torturous. Not to mention the loose black shirt she had chosen to wear had the top two buttons undone and the way it hung gave her a very good view of Anne’s smooth neck.
She heard herself gulp loudly at the thought of running her tongue along it. It was almost as though her salacious thoughts had been spoken out loud because Anne turned to her with a devilish glint in her eye. Both of their thoughts were apparently loud enough for the entire table to hear because there was a loud cough from across the table as Aunt Anne cleared her throat, bringing them both back.
“Were you planning on attending service today?” Anne paused thoughtfully at her aunt’s question. She had considered going, she seldom got the chance to go when she was in London and she missed hearing the sermons each week. Whenever she was home she would usually take her aunt to church, her father long having stopped attending and Marian never really starting. However, she wasn’t sure if Ann attended church regularly or would want to go with her.
“Yes, I would like to go,” Anne finally answered. She quickly turned to Ann, adding, “You don’t have to come along, I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.” She frowned, worrying that it would make her seem terribly old-fashioned. She didn’t know anyone who attended church regularly anymore, Mariana had certainly never wanted to go with her all the time they had been together.
“I’d love to come,” was Ann’s reply. Anne looked up at her, hopefully that she’d heard her right. “I usually attend the church at Lightcliffe but-” her voice trailed off.
“We’ll go down to the Minster.” Anne reached out for her hand and held it in hers, “The noon service is usually much quieter.”
Ann nodded, “That sounds perfect.”
“Wonderful!” Aunt Anne proclaimed, “None of Anne’s other friends were church goers.” She didn’t mean to keep comparing Ann to the women who had kept her niece’s company before but she was so vastly different from them all, in the best possible way.
Without thinking Anne replied, “Mariana always said she was more spiritual rather than religious.” She felt Ann’s hand flinch and she immediately regretted bringing up her name. Why did she still feel the need to constantly defend her? It was a habit honed over too many years that she was still trying to break. She looked at Ann apologetically. She could see her trying to offer a smile, but Anne knew that she had made a mistake.
“Well demons are spirits too, she should be more specific,” Marian quipped. At that there was a burst of laughter around the table, including Ann. Anne felt the tension in her shoulders relax as the noise filled the room. For the first time since they’d arrived, Anne found herself grateful for her sister’s presence.
Ann was glad she’d chosen to go with them to church. Admittedly she had been distracted for most of it, largely due to the unnecessarily tight trousers she hadn’t noticed Anne had dressed herself in. What she’d found more compelling was how composed Anne had been during the service. She was used to Anne filling a room with her presence, but as she sat between her and her aunt there was a quiet calm to her as she contemplated the words that were being spoken.
The act of worship had always been something she considered to be intensely private, even though it was usually conducted in public. The way Anne had held her hand in her lap through almost the entire service felt incredibly intimate. When she had lived at Crow Nest she would often attend a service in the middle of the week when there were fewer parishioners. That was mostly to avoid her family and the endless stream of people they seemed to think would suit her.
She never quite understood how they thought a church was a suitable place to fix her up on a date. They would always want to talk through the mass like they were on a speed date, never thinking for a moment how disrespectful it was or that she had actually gone to church for a reason. Anne had a clear reverence for the church, even though Ann had shared a giggle with Aunt Anne at the numerous questions she had for the vicar afterwards. He seemed to be very experienced with her line of questioning and had politely allowed her to ramble on until someone rescued him by letting him know he had to prepare for the next service.
Ann had wanted to spend more time observing the dynamic between the two Anne Listers, and had considered taking them for lunch whilst they were in town. However, she was aware that the longer they spent away from the Hall the more likely a member of the Tribe was to spot them. She’d had such a lovely day, she wouldn’t want an inevitable altercation to ruin it. She’d almost forgotten how lovely Halifax was on a summer’s day when she didn’t have to deal with a member of her family lecturing her for something she had or hadn’t done, what she was wearing, how she was spending her days, or any of the other myriad reasons they always seemed to find. She was sure she’d get more time with the other Annes during the rest of their stay.
Instead, she had agreed to go on a walk with Anne around the estate. It was probably best to get her away from the Hall for a bit, in case there was another squabble between Anne and Marian. Their relationship was very different to hers and Elizabeth’s. They seemed to be at constant odds with each other despite them separately admitting to her that they couldn’t do without the other. She’d been sworn never to divulge that information though. It would save so much unnecessary conflict and energy, but winding the other up seemed to be one of the few joys they shared.
Anne had gone into the Hall to change into a more suitable pair of trousers, even she had admitted that her current ones were a little more snug than was necessary. Ann had agreed to wait downstairs otherwise they would most definitely get distracted. Her short summer dress was a little impractical but Anne had commented on how the little daisies against the dark blue fabric complimented her eyes. She assured her that they wouldn’t be wandering too far, although she would bring down some more sensible shoes as if she insisted on wearing ballet flats Anne would end up having to carry her. A prospect neither of them seemed to mind too much.
As she watched Anne run in through the back door she took the opportunity to take a proper look at the Hall from the courtyard. Every brick added to its majesty. From the Gothic tower that housed Anne’s extensive library that she still hadn’t explored to the stained-glass leaded windows.
She turned and found herself facing the stable area. She wished that they could go to Crow Nest and see her horses, that was the one thing she truly missed about not being there. She received regular updates from James and she had no concern that the estate wouldn’t be taken care of in her absence. Being so close without at least visiting was harder than she expected. However, James had also told her that her Aunt had continued to show up unannounced in the vain hope that Ann would have snuck back home and not told anyone. She supposed that’s exactly what she had done. Perhaps nearer towards the end of the week they could risk a visit.
Ann made her way into the stables. Like the rest of the house, the stable and barn area was impressive. The vaulted ceiling reached up almost as high as the Hall. She knew that they didn’t keep horses anymore but the stable area was more than sufficient if they chose to again. She ran her hand along the timber frames, they were still very sturdy. Another testament to how well built and cared for the Hall had been over the centuries. She hadn’t missed the smell that greeted her, there were no horses but there were definitely some farm animals kept here. Guessing from the tiny pellets that littered the floor, her guess was goats. From the clucking sounds she heard in the distance, chickens too.
As she wandered further out another smaller barn came into view, tucked away from where anyone would have much reason to go. She looked back but there was still no sign of Anne so decided to continue exploring. This one was smaller but it felt almost like a museum. There was a large collection of machinery, she wasn’t sure if it was antique or just rusted from lack of use. She spied in the very back a large carriage that looked like it had been there for centuries. All four wheels were intact but she was sure it wasn’t suitable for use anymore, but it did look very handsome and must have been wonderful to travel in at one point.
She walked up to it to take a closer look, there was a coat of arms on the faded yellow door. She could make out the shape of a stag on the crest, she leaned forward to try and make out more of the detail. “It’s the Lister coat of arms.” Ann jumped back as Anne’s voice caught her by complete surprise. She clutched her heart as Anne put down the bag in her hand and moved towards her.
She stepped towards the carriage and gently ran her fingers along the crest, “Ermine, three mullets or on a fess sable, and a canton gules.” Ann looked at her puzzled, it was true that Anne was often wordy but she was usually able to understand what was said, but none of those words in that combination made any sense. Anne tilted her head and beckoned Ann to come stand by the carriage.
Anne took a step back allowing her to get closer to the crest, as she leant forward to take another look when she felt Anne move to stand behind her. Ann could feel the press of her hips against her as she placed a gentle kiss on the side of her face. Ann turned to catch the mischievous grin on Anne’s face as she focused on the coat of arms, “Eyes forward Miss Walker, I’m about to give you a Lister History lesson.” She was so smug, Ann turned back to the carriage.
Anne’s hand caressed her side as it came up to point at the crest, there was a noticeable shiver from Ann. She dipped her head so that her mouth was right next to Anne’s ear, “The ermine is the white part of the shield, it resembles the white winter fur with the black tips of a stoat.” Ann managed to hum in acknowledgement as she felt Anne’s hot breath on her neck. “Three mullets or, are the three gold stars across the black band - the fess sable.” Somehow Ann was still standing as Anne placed her lips firmly against her neck for a brief kiss. There was another more strained hum from Ann. “The canton gules is the red square in the top left, most branches of a family used it to distinguish their particular line.” She dipped her head lower gently sucking on the piece of exposed skin between her neck and shoulder, “Would you like to know about the wreath next?” she asked teasingly.
Ann spun round, crashing her mouth against Anne’s, kissing her fervently. They broke apart for a moment, Ann breathed heavily as Anne licked her lips hungrily, “I take that as a no, Miss Walker?” Ann’s hand grasped the front of her shirt in a tight fist as she pulled her closer, “Absolutely not.” Their kisses were greedy. It had been over twelve hours since she’d felt her lips on hers, and that was far too long. Ann opened her mouth slightly, granting Anne’s probing tongue entry as they deepened the kiss. Anne placed both hands on either side of her against the carriage as she pressed forward, pushing Ann back against the carriage.
The carriage shifted slightly followed by a loud creak that echoed through the cavernous barn. They froze where they stood, their eyes wide open, lips still firmly pressed together as they waited to see if the carriage would move further. After a moment Anne leaned back, pulling Ann back up slowly. They could feel their hearts thumping against each other, neither of them wanted to stop. Anne looked around the barn and listened for the sound of footsteps, it seemed no one had been within earshot of the creaking carriage. When she turned back to Ann her eyes were deep with lust. She didn’t want to lay her on the dirty stable floor, but she couldn’t see where else they could go. Then she had an idea.
She placed one arm around Ann and spun them so they swapped places. She carefully opened the carriage door, no further noise. She could hear Ann shuffling impatiently behind her as she pressed down on the floor of the carriage, it seemed sturdy enough. She ran her hand across the bottom, it was cleaner than she would have expected. She looked around the inside of the carriage, this just might do.
She turned around to face Ann, the absolute dichotomy of that angelic face masking the wanton desire she saw burning in those deep blue eyes would be her undoing. She placed her hands on her hips and in one swift movement lifted her up. Ann’s arms and legs came up instinctively to wrap around Anne’s strong torso as their lips met again in a searing kiss. She moved slowly, placing Ann on the floor of the open carriage doorway. Without breaking their kiss Anne leant forward, encouraging her to scoot back further. Anne pushed herself up, allowing her body weight to get Ann to lean back onto the floor till she was laying on top of her with just the bottom of their legs protruding from the carriage.
Anne pulled back for a moment. It was dark due to the aged stained windows, but Ann’s beautiful face was gently lit from the sunlight coming through the open door. The calmness she was trying to convey betrayed by the shallow breaths causing her chest to rise and fall rapidly. Anne’s eyes raked over her slowly followed by the slow trace of her hand up Ann’s slender thigh. She paused at the hem of her dress, turning to face Ann, eyes wild with desire. Their lips collided as Anne’s hand slipped beneath her dress and gripped the back of her thigh, bending Ann’s knee up as she tried to find some purchase.
Anne’s mouth moved lower, sucking her neck hungrily, spurred on by every moan escaping Ann’s lips. The fingers on Ann’s hand entwined with Anne’s chestnut hair as she held her tight against her. She wanted her mouth always. It didn’t matter where, as long as it was touching some part of her. She felt her hips starting to rise as Anne between her legs, as she squeezed her thigh commandingly.
Her eyes shot open as she felt Anne nipping at her neck as her mouth travelled upwards. The maddening touch of the tip of Anne’s tongue tracing her outer ear. Her thigh pressing up against her. The tight grip pinning her to the ground. The world was spinning around her. Her heart raced, pumping faster than it ever had. She tried to close her eyes but she couldn’t stop the dizziness as she felt herself spiralling further and further.
She felt herself cry out but it was like she had been silenced. She tried again. Still nothing. She closed her eyes, concentrating on her breathing and then finally she heard it, “Wait! Stop!” Anne immediately pulled back, her breath ragged.
“Sorry? What?” She managed between laboured breaths.
Ann lay beneath her, she placed one arm across her as though she was shielding herself. Anne tried to steady her breaths as she pulled her hand out from beneath her dress, leaning back so that she was no longer lying across her.
“Is something wrong?” Anne’s voice was full of concern. Ann shook her head, “Did I hurt you?” Ann shook her head again. Anne would need more than that but she could see how shaken she seemed. She slowly raised her hand and gently caressed the side of Ann’s face, smiling warmly back at her. She continued until Ann seemed to relax. “You can tell me darling, what happened?”
Ann looked down for a beat. When she tilted her head up she was biting the bottom of her lip, she felt so silly. “It’s just-” She searched Anne’s face, she didn’t want to upset her, or worse, make her mad. There was nothing but kindness and concern looking at her from those deep brown eyes. “We’re on the floor of a carriage,” she said meekly. “I just didn’t think-”
Anne cast her head down, of course. What had she been thinking? Of course Ann didn’t want to have sex in the back of an old barn on a shabby estate whose doors were falling off their hinges. She shut her eyes tight in frustration. She should have just come to Shibden alone and then taken her away for a weekend in York, taken them both to a fancy hotel where they could be wined and dined instead of dinners with her ludicrous family. She could feel her stomach turn itself inside out. She cursed herself for still never having learnt this lesson.
There was a warmth pressed against her cheek, she knew it was Ann. She allowed herself to lean into the touch before she slowly opened her eyes. Anne pressed a kiss to her palm, “I’m sorry Ann. You deserve more than-”
Ann sat up and pressed a firm kiss against Anne’s lips, only pulling back when she could feel Anne had stopped talking. “So that’s how to get you to stop talking?” she said teasingly.
There was a faint hint of a smile on Anne’s lips. “Anne,” she waited until she turned her head up to look at her. She wrapped her arms around her neck again, making sure she couldn’t move. “You are everything I’ve ever wanted.” Anne put her hands on her waist, pulling her in closer, she wanted to believe her. “I want this,” Ann rested her forehead against hers, “So much.” They both sighed into each other. “We have a bed. Which will be behind a door, soon. We can wait.”
Anne tilted her head back and kissed her forehead gently as she held her close. She knew she was right. She wanted Ann, but not in the back of some old barn. Well, at least not for their first time. She would have to file that thought away for another time. They were there for the whole week after all.
Ann inhaled deeply. Even sat on the floor of a dusty carriage, that space in the crook of Anne’s neck was her favourite place. She tilted her head and Anne felt her shake with laughter. Anne pulled back to see what it was that was making her laugh, Ann nodded to just below where their feet dangled out of the carriage. Looking up at them was the most confused looking baby goat Ann had ever seen. Anne groaned loudly, yelling into the carriage, “Ugh Marian! I said no goats!”