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All Summered Up: From Here To Eternity

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Ever since winning the Michelin star, Vignemale had gone from strength to strength. Business was booming, the restaurant was consistently fully booked and Anne was in her element. As she watched the final plate of the night leave the pass she sighed at a job well done. It had been a stressful service but, with her team behind her, they’d absolutely smashed it out the park as usual. Just as she was about to turn round, she felt the warm, supportive arms of her girlfriend wrap around her waist.

“Well done, baby.” Ann whispered as she hooked her chin over Anne’s shoulder.

“Busy one tonight but nothing I can’t handle.” Anne rested her head against Ann’s. “And you, I watched you all night making sheets and sheets of lasagne. You’re a distraction in the kitchen, Miss Walker. I may need to look over the terms and conditions of your contract again.”

Ann laughed before playfully pinching Anne’s side.

“I’m serious, I’d like to see you in my office.” Anne turned in Ann’s embrace to face her.

“Behave.” Ann warned. “I’m not finished and you’ve got an awful lot of cleaning up to do.”

Anne scrunched her nose up and pouted.

“Go on, tick tock.” Ann patted Anne’s chest before returning to her work station.

As Anne watched her girlfriend set back to work she shook her head. Ann was definitely the boss around here. Things had changed a little bit since winning the award, most notably Anne had a new sous chef, a young lad straight out of culinary school, and a few more faces in her kitchen team. Her business advisor had pushed her to find a new, larger premises to deal with the influx of new customers but she fought against it each and every time. Anne didn’t want to expand, she didn’t want an empire of restaurants, she wanted to stay in the one place she’d forged herself, keep it intimate and special. It definitely hadn’t hampered her bookings, if anything it had helped give the place a more exclusive feel, even if that hadn’t been her intention. Vignemale was finally turning a profit, not to mention the mountain of orders Ann’s side business was generating. 

“Are we all ready for tomorrow?” Marian swanned into the kitchen with a stack of empty plates.

“Yes!” Ann’s bright voice answered immediately.

That was the thing with Ann, she never got annoyed at Marian’s inane questions or with Henry’s inability to keep his work station clean or indeed with Anne’s short temper in the middle of service. She had the patience of a saint.

“Anne?” Marian poked.

“Yes, Marian! Ann already told you we’re ready.” Anne snapped.

“You need a snack.” Marian tutted. “Ann, your girlfriend needs feeding.”

“Goodbye, Marian!” Anne said loudly as she ushered her sister out of the kitchen.

“That was a bit rude.” Ann walked towards Anne as she furiously scrubbed down her work station.

“I know! Coming in here after dinner service and asking stupid questions.”

“No, silly. I’m talking about how you spoke to your sister.” Ann clicked her tongue. “Maybe she’s right, did you eat those snacks I made for you earlier?”

Anne looked at the floor sheepishly.

“You’re impossible!” Ann sighed with a smile. “Eat them now, please. I’m not going home with you in one of your moods.”

Cordingley giggled to herself as she washed the pots, overhearing the exchange.

“You see how I get treated, Elizabeth?” Anne said over her shoulder. “Like a child. In my own kitchen!”

The clasp on the Tupperware lid snapped as Anne took out the slices of focaccia Ann had expertly baked just for her. As soon as she took the first bite she realised how hungry she actually was. After a few more bites, her brain fog started to clear and she felt human again. She supposed Marian was right. How incredibly annoying.

As Sunday night drew to a close, Anne did a stock check in the fridge before gathering all the equipment she needed for the morning. Vignemale was doing so well, as was Walker’s, but when an enquiry came through about catering for a large private party, Anne couldn’t turn it down. She’d hired catering tents, portable fridges, a portable oven and stove, a blast chiller and more work surfaces than was probably humanly possible to use. She used a company to provide everything as it was entirely impractical to move her own equipment out the kitchen for a day, but she was worried. Cooking in a new kitchen, in a brand new environment, with equipment she didn’t know and trust? Stressful.

--

Summer was exceptionally warm this year with record temperatures being broken consistently. The kitchen was extremely hot, despite the efforts of the air conditioning units, and it affected everyone’s work rate. Henry would scuttle off to the large fridges to pretend to look for something just to cool off, Cordingley was forever refilling everyone’s water bottles and chirping on about staying hydrated. Truth be told, the extreme heat was even starting to get to Anne.

Ann Walker, on the other hand, took it all in her stride. She’d begun wearing her gym pants to work instead of her uniform trousers and technically, Anne couldn’t object. She was, after all, a joint boss, meaning she could do as she pleased. Anne would be lying if she said she didn’t enjoy the view more these days. Every time Ann bent over to scrub her work surface or grab a dish from the lower shelves, Anne had an unobscured view of her tight ass in those ridiculous leggings and it was unbelievably distracting.

“Anne Lister.” Ann’s scolding tone interrupted Anne’s dirty thoughts.

“Hm?” Anne replied, feigning innocence.

“You’d best be getting things ready for tomorrow and not looking where you shouldn’t.”

Anne laughed loudly, how did Ann always know?

“Well.” Anne walked up behind her, grinding her hips into Ann’s behind. “You shouldn’t come to work wearing such tight leggings.” Anne smiled against Ann’s neck as she felt her shiver. “You can’t blame me.”

It took all of Ann’s willpower not to turn around and allow Anne to hoist her up onto the worktop, to let her girlfriend thoroughly ravish her until she was an incoherent mess. This was still a working kitchen, after all. Only, Ann knew full well the effect her new work attire had on Anne and it thrilled her. Sure, the cropped leggings were much cooler than her uniform trousers, that much was true but mostly, she loved the way Anne couldn’t keep her hands to herself when she wore them. That was where the real fun was.

“Go away.” Ann laughed breathlessly. “I have work to do.”

Anne threw her hands up in surrender. “As you wish, Miss Walker.”

Ann shook her head as she watched her girlfriend scamper off to gather more supplies for the morning.

--

The shrill beep of Anne’s alarm rang out into the bedroom, earning groans from the two women tangled up together. Anne stretched and switched it off before rubbing her eyes and grimacing. They’d both slept terribly, tossing and turning in the sticky heat, eventually passing out about two hours ago. Anne had been so keyed up after watching her girlfriend prance around the kitchen the day before, she’d tried to initiate some relief for them both, only, Ann wasn’t having any of it. She was too hot, too irritable, too tired so Anne retreated respectfully. She’d contemplated dealing with her desire herself in the shower this morning but well, it just wasn’t ever as good without Ann. She was always worth the wait. Perhaps she could harness this extra energy in the kitchen today.

“I wish we could just go on holiday!” Ann huffed dramatically as she hauled herself out of bed.

“Sorry?” Anne asked with a broad grin.

“It’s so fucking hot. I just want to go away to the beach, lie on a sun lounger and drink cocktails. You know? Be totally carefree for a week.” Ann’s pout grew.

“Now, while that all sounds lovely. We have work to do today, Miss Walker.”

Ann huffed again, louder this time.

“I tell you what, when things settle down a bit, we’ll see if we can’t get a few days away somewhere, hm?” Anne said sincerely. “We’ve both been working so hard, it might be nice to have a little summer break. Just you and me. Oh!” Anne’s face lit up. “Maybe we can go camping?”

“Anne!” Ann whined. “I don’t want to sleep in a tent, get bitten by bugs and have to cook our food over a fire! I want the seaside and to eat out for every meal!”

Anne stalked over to where Ann was still pouting.

“Whatever you want.” Her lips ghosted over the salty skin of Ann’s neck. “Did you say something about eating out?”

Ann immediately held Anne’s head in her hands, pulling her upwards to meet her gaze. “Really?” Ann said sarcastically.

“Alright, alright!” Anne backed away. “Can’t blame me for trying.” Anne added with a wink.

Ann rolled her eyes before picking up her clothes and heading to the bathroom to shower. Anne sighed as she watched her leave; what she really wanted was to cancel the party, turn off their phones and drag Ann back to bed.

It was going to be an awfully long day in the kitchen.

--

The boot clicked shut as Anne loaded the last of the boxes into Ann’s white SUV. Although Anne drove it ninety-nine percent of the time, she still thought of it as Ann’s car, and as much as she missed her rusty old Ford, she had to admit she preferred the comfort of Ann’s Audi - plus their apartment only had one parking space.

Their apartment.

Anne still felt her stomach swirl every time she said those two words. Truthfully, leaving the space above the restaurant had been easier than she’d anticipated, it actually felt good to draw a line between work and home. She’d thought about renting it but settled on turning it into an office space for the three of them to share. Marian had made do with makeshift desks out of hours in the restaurant but with Ann also needing her own space for paperwork and packaging, it just made sense to move everyone upstairs. Anne was just thinking about how they hadn’t made full use of her large wooden desk yet when Cath honked her horn.

“Morning, Lister!” She shouted from the open car window as she pulled in. “Ann still asleep?”

Anne chuckled as she made her way over. “Morning Cath, she’s getting Argus ready. What have you got planned today?”

“I’m going to take him out for a walk this morning, you know, as it’s a bit cooler and then I think we’re going to watch Love Island all afternoon.”

“He’ll like that.” Anne laughed.

“Look, it’s Aunty Cath!” Ann’s bright voice and Argus’ deep bark mixed together as Ann made her way towards Cath’s car.

“Good morning, lovebirds.” Cath laughed as Ann snaked her hand around Anne’s waist and snuggled into her side.

“Hey, Cath.” Ann smiled as she absentmindedly stroked Anne’s stomach. “Ready for this big lug?”

“Now hang on, I said I’d look after Argus. You never told me Anne needed babysitting too.”

Anne shook her head as Cath and Ann laughed loudly.

Argus barked again and looked up at Anne.

“Don’t you start, you’re my only ally in this house.” Anne’s knees creaked as she bent down to scratch behind his ears.

Cath took Argus’ bag from Ann before opening the back door for him to clamber into.

“You be good!” Ann said sweetly through the open window.

“He’s always good. Takes after me.” Anne stuck her chin out before winking at Ann.

“Hope today goes well, I’ll drop Argus off tomorrow.” Cath climbed into the driver’s seat.

“Thanks again for this, we both really appreciate it.” Anne said sincerely.

“You owe me one.” Cath said with a grin. “Maybe a few night’s worth of pasta eh, Ann?”

“Whatever you want, Cath.” Ann chuckled. “See you tomorrow.”

Anne kissed the top of Ann’s head as they watched Cath drive away, she suddenly wished they didn’t have a full day of work, that they could just enjoy a day off free from responsibilities. Ann’s idea of a beach vacation wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

“Right you, we’d best get going.” Ann patted Anne’s stomach before unfurling herself and walking over to her car.

“I’m driving then?” Anne teased.

“Of course you are.” Ann quipped before climbing into the passenger seat.

--

As Anne and Ann made their way to the catering tents in the bottom corner of the enormous garden, they passed more members of staff setting up the marquees and tables. People were fixing fairy lights to the neat hedges and expertly coiffured foliage on each trellis. Ann was just starting to swoon about how romantic it all was to make such an effort for a 25th wedding anniversary when the sharp tone of her girlfriend shattered the serenity.

“Fuck me, it’s hot in here!” Anne was pacing around inside the main catering tent.

It was true, Ann had already started to perspire the second she stepped into the tent but she could see it was already beginning to stress Anne out. Which really wasn’t a good sign.

“It’ll cool off once we get these fans on.” Ann soothed as she reached around the back to switch them on.

“Why have they put the fridges there? I specifically told them to put them across the other side.” Anne gesticulated with her hands. “I drew a floorplan! Useless!”

Ann took a deep breath, knowing how particular her girlfriend was. She knew that Anne wouldn’t let this go all day. She would absolutely, one hundred percent, moan about it for the next eight hours to anyone who made the mistake of popping their head into the tent.

“I’m going to start bringing in the stuff from the car, alright?” Ann said politely as she tried to defuse the situation. “You could help me if you like?”

“Hm?” Anne’s head snapped up from where she was inspecting the exact angle of her work station to make sure it was level. “Oh, right. Yes.”

Ann discreetly shook her head as she made her way back outside towards the driveway. One thing was for sure, Anne was going to be insufferable all day. She shouldn’t get frustrated really, she knew exactly how Anne worked and she respected her for it. She had methods, systems, intricate ways of working and if something went awry, it had a knock on effect on everything else. She could understand why Anne was peeved that the installers hadn’t paid any attention to her careful plans but what Anne wasn’t very good at was accepting things and moving on. She’d sit and stew about it for hours, constantly muttering to herself as she got more and more annoyed.

“Anne.” Ann held out her hand as Anne approached the boot of the car.

Anne smiled shyly as she took Ann’s hand and intertwined their fingers.

“Let’s not get caught up with this, okay? We can work around it, don’t let it niggle at you all day.” Ann’s tone was patient but firm.

Anne nodded, she supposed she had been rather short tempered about the whole thing and it wasn’t even 9AM yet.

“I’m sorry, I’ll do my best to ignore the incompetence of other people.” Anne stuck out her jaw. “Ouch!” She rubbed her arm as Ann swatted her.

Ann handed Anne one of the heavier boxes before she picked up a smaller one and made her way back down the driveway towards their corner. Anne licked her lips as her eyes naturally fell to Ann’s ass in her black leggings. Good lord she was hot. Intelligent, clever and hot.

“Eyes to the front, Lister.” Ann said over her shoulder.

Anne laughed loudly. “How did you know?”

“You’re so predictable, honestly.” Ann huffed as she placed the box on the stainless steel worktop.

“Hm.” Anne scoffed as she wrapped her hands around her waist and pulled her close. “I think.” Ann shivered as Anne placed soft kisses against her neck. “You do it on purpose.” Anne kissed the underside of her jaw. “To drive me crazy.”

Ann’s whimper escaped her lips before she could stop it and she watched Anne’s eyes flicker with mischief. They had so much to do, so much prep, so much organising but in this moment Ann was utterly powerless to resist her girlfriend as she leaned forward to kiss her deeply. Anne’s grip on her waist tightened as they both became breathless, like they’d both been starved of each other for weeks. Ann lost herself entirely to the press of Anne’s body, to the insistent brush of her tongue, to her soft and perfect lips as she tangled her fingers in Anne’s dark hair.

“Fuck, I want you.” Anne whispered into the crook of Ann’s neck as she broke away for air.

The truth was, Ann wanted her too. Despite giving her the brush off last night, she had been so worked up ever since. She always was around Anne. The intense physical attraction buzzed between them constantly and if either of them had thought it would soon fade with time, they were both mistaken. If anything, their continued commitment to each other only strengthened it.

“Anne.” Ann whispered as she weakly tried to break away.

They couldn’t do anything about it, not here but god, how Ann wished they could. She longed for Anne to drag her off to the backseat of her car and bury her head between her thighs. The filthy image alone was turning her on beyond measure, let alone the warm fingers teasing the elastic of her leggings and the insistent lips trailing up her neck.

“Anne.” She said more firmly, bracing herself by placing a hand on Anne’s strong chest.

As Anne pulled away, her lips parted and her eyes dark, Ann was momentarily worried she wouldn’t have the strength to stop them. Her girlfriend had that look on her face, the look that meant you were really in for it, the kind of look that drove Ann wild, that made her heart race, that made her wet.

“We can’t. I know.” Anne exhaled, resting her forehead against Ann’s. “We have work to do. I know, I know.” Anne closed her eyes in defeat.

“But after.” Ann cupped her strong jaw and smiled. “After.”

Anne growled as she kissed Ann deeply before somehow dragging herself away from the goddess standing before her. There was work to do, a lot of it and, if Anne was ever going to get to shag her girlfriend, they had to get through this day first.

--

Ann unloaded the numerous loaves of sourdough she’d made ahead of time along with the catering sized container of fresh tomatoes. It had taken her hours to finely dice them all last night in the restaurant but she knew there’d be no time to spend on the starters today. The happy couple wanted a fresh, classic, uncomplicated menu and after talking it over with Anne and Ann over a glass of wine a few weeks ago, it had all been decided. They’d start with bruschetta before Anne would move onto the citrus infused barbecued sea bass served with a simple dill and mustard potato salad while Ann took care of the vegetarians with her famous lemon and mozzarella ravioli. The dessert was a joint effort of coffee panna cotta with a coffee and chocolate crumb served with espresso gelato.

“You got this?” Anne squeezed Ann’s waist as she breezed past towards the fridges.

“Yes chef.” Ann nodded.

“Excellent. I’m going to make sure the catering BBQ is up to scratch and then I’ll get started on preparing the fish.”

Ann just shook her head with a smile as she watched her girlfriend disappear outside. She knew exactly what face Anne would make as she inspected every single feature on the BBQ the catering company had provided. She only feared for their customer service team if something wasn’t quite up to spec. As silence descended in the tent, she found she missed Anne’s presence immediately. They’d be spending the main course apart with Anne cooking outside and Ann inside tending to her pasta. She was perfectly capable of working alone and had done for years, only, she’d gotten used to having Anne in such close proximity, it felt odd to cook by herself.

She could hear Anne’s muttering getting louder as she began to roll the pasta for her ravioli. She looked up to see her girlfriend sweep into the tent with a stern frown and braced for impact.

“That fucking BBQ isn’t what I ordered.” Anne spat as she marched to the fridge.

“What’s wrong with it?” Ann’s tone remained calm despite the chaotic whirlwind around her.

“It’s not the one I picked.” Anne deposited the large container of fish onto her work station with a thud.

“Okay.” Ann said slowly. “But what’s actually wrong with it?”

“Well.” Anne took the lid off and placed it on the counter. “Nothing.”

Ann raised her eyebrows before returning to her ravioli.

“Don’t give me that look.” Anne said playfully as she began preparing the sea bass.

“What look?” Ann feigned innocence as she concentrated on getting the perfect thickness to her pasta.

“The look that says, you’re an idiot.” Anne placed her sharp knife down on the chopping board.

Ann laughed before wiping her hands on her apron, leaving a smudge of white flour on the fabric. She walked over to Anne before snaking her hands around her waist.

“You’re going to get flour all over me.” Anne muttered before Ann squeezed her tightly.

“You’ve got this, okay? I know it’s a lot of pressure but we’re doing this together. That BBQ might not be the one you picked and by all means berate the sales rep tomorrow, but right now, let’s focus? Marian and Cordingley will be here in an hour to help.”

“Hm.” Anne hummed. “Marian will be a hinderance more like.”

“Be nicer to your sister.” Ann pinched Anne’s side causing her to squeak.

“You need to start being nicer to me, I’ve decided.” Anne pouted playfully.

“Oh, I think you’ll like what I’ve got in mind for later.” Ann grazed her hand over Anne’s hard stomach as she ground her hips gently into her behind.

“Stop torturing me, we’ve got such a long day.” Anne sighed.

“Best get on with it then, hadn’t you?” Ann untangled herself and winked before floating back to her station.

Anne just shook her head. Ann Walker would be the death of her, she was sure of it.

--

Two hours later and Anne was cursing loudly. The sea bass had been prepared ready to go on the grill, the ravioli were finished and ready to be cooked a few minutes before service and Ann was just finishing the dressing for the bruschetta.

“It’s so fucking humid in here, Jesus!” Anne spat as she wiped her sweaty forehead with the sleeve of her apron for the ten millionth time.

Ann, who looked as fresh as when she’d woken up, clicked her tongue and carried on drizzling the olive oil over the ruby red tomatoes.

“These stupid panna cottas won’t set because it’s too fucking hot!” Anne clenched her teeth as she watched another one collapse into a heap.

She was really pissed off with this whole arrangement. Why had they even agreed to do this? It was absolutely impossible to work in these temperatures with sub-par equipment. This could ruin their reputation and it was utterly absurd that they’d found themselves in this position. Who’s idea was this anyway?

“Anne!” Marian scolded. “The guests can hear you, please keep your voice down.”

The look that Anne shot her sister was enough to strike fear into the hearts of even the bravest men. Marian, of course, shrugged it off refusing to let her sister get under her skin.

“The guests are starting to sit down now, starters out in fifteen?” Marian said calmly.

“Yes, I’ve got it all under control!” Ann said with a smile. “They’re due out the oven in a few minutes which gives me plenty of time to plate up.”

Marian nodded with a grin. Anne just tutted to herself. Of course Ann was on time, relaxed and completely unfazed by the heat consuming every cell in Anne’s body. Of course she was better equipped to deal with this, she was better equipped to deal with everything.

“Stop that.” Ann looked pointedly over at Anne’s furrowed brow and irritated snarl. “I know what you’re thinking and I’m telling you to stop it. It’s time to get the fish on anyway, go on.” Ann shooed Anne with her hands. “The fresh air will do you good, I’ll sort the panna cottas.”

Anne’s anger melted away instantly, she unclenched her jaw and smoothed out her forehead.

“I’m sorry.” Anne took a deep, cleansing breath. “I just need to cool off.”

“I know.” Ann smiled warmly.

Anne nodded as she gathered the trays of sea bass and headed outside. Ann was right, of course, the first inhalation of the fresh air cleared Anne’s mind almost instantly. Although she could feel the dampness on her back, the beads of sweat tickling her neck, the wayward strands of hair sticking to her face, she felt calmer. The heat from the BBQ wasn’t exactly helping but at least out here there was a breeze. Anne carefully placed the sliced oranges on the grill to char them before laying the fish over the top and really, even though it wasn’t the one she’d picked, she had to admit this BBQ was slightly better designed for the volume of food she was cooking.

She rolled her neck as she waited for the other side of the oranges to brown and caught a glimpse of her girlfriend through the clear window pane in the catering tent. The sight momentarily took her breath away, how did she ever get so lucky? Ann was plating up the bruschetta and the way she concentrated on each and every plate, the way her tongue poked out the side of her mouth, the dampness on her neck from the heat, it was all consuming. Anne licked her lips before the smell of citrus swiftly brought her back to the present moment.

“Fuck.” Anne whispered for the hundredth time that day as she rescued the oranges just in the nick of time.

As the last plate left the tent, Ann stretched her back before making her way over to the two huge pans of boiling water on the stove. As she salted each one, the hot steam against her face made her grimace. Good lord it was hot in here. She placed the large steel lids back onto the pots before going to check on Anne.

“How long, chef?” Ann said sweetly as she walked up behind her girlfriend.

As Anne turned, Ann’s heart skipped. She had her sunglasses on, one hand on her hip and the other squeezed the heavy tongs playfully. She looked so handsome in her chef blacks, Ann wasn’t sure she’d survive it.

“You’re all sweaty.” Anne’s voice dropped an octave.

“Oh. The pan. I mean, the steam.” Ann stumbled over her words.

Anne just laughed, thrilled at the effect she could have on her girlfriend.

“You look like you’ve got everything under control out here.” Ann said once she’d returned to her body.

“Hm. Maybe not everything.” Anne tilted her head to peek over her sunglasses and look Ann up and down.

Ann held her gaze as the heat swirled around them, setting their bodies alight with want. Filthy images of ripping open the last few buttons of Anne’s apron flashed through Ann’s mind, how she wanted to trail her lips down Anne’s sweaty torso and dip her head between those strong, tight thighs. Anne shuffled slightly as she barely resisted the urge to abandon this whole event in favour of hoisting Ann over her shoulder and carrying her off to find the nearest private space. She’d just licked her lips and stepped forward when Marian’s voice cut through her like a bucket of ice.

“Twenty minutes, okay?”

Anne and Ann both nodded as they struggled to find words in their heads.

“You two, honestly.” Marian shook her head with a frown. “Do you ever stop shagging?”

Ann’s face coloured pink as she turned and made her way back to the tent. It was time to get the ravioli ready, not be thinking about how she’d like to edge Anne Lister with her tongue.

Focus.

--

The tiny plastic thermometer read 31 degrees where it was clipped to the inside of the tent. Anne had her head in the blast chiller as she checked on the progress of the dessert. They still had a good 25 minutes to spare but Anne was anything but relaxed.

“The ice cream isn’t setting! For fuck’s sake, I can’t serve ice cream that isn’t set!” Anne slammed the chiller door and ran her fingers through her damp hair.

“What’s the issue?” Ann looked up sweetly from Cordingley’s station.

“The fucking ice cream, Ann. It’s not set.” Anne huffed. “Why are you even helping Cordingley? We’ve got more pressing matters to worry about.”

Ann calmly put down the dirty pan in her hand and took a deep breath. “Firstly.” She said as she made her way over to the big ball of stress in the shape of her girlfriend. “It’s gelato.”

“What?” Anne scowled.

“It’s not ice cream, it’s gelato.”

Anne scoffed.

“Secondly, it won’t be set for another 15 minutes, like I told you. If you keep opening up the chiller, it’s going to take longer. You have to be patient.” Ann’s tone was measured. “I’m just helping Cordingley gather up the dirty things to make space for us to prepare dessert. Alright?” Ann patted Anne’s chest, she could almost feel how irritated Anne was through the fabric.

“I’m going to find Marian.” Anne huffed before flinging the tent door open and wandering out into the sun.

Cordingley and Ann shared a knowing glance before they carried on their duties. One thing was for sure, Marian had definitely drawn the short straw in this situation. Ann had effectively shut down Anne’s rant before she was finished, meaning, she was going to start it all over again to Marian just to get it out of her system. Ann shook her head, wondering how Anne’s sister ever put up with her.

About ten minutes later, Anne’s sharp tongue could be heard as she made her way back to the catering tent.

“Yes, I know that Marian but you see, who’s going to deal with the accounts while you swan around the countryside?”

Ann furrowed her brow from inside the tent, what were they arguing about now?

“Anne! Nothing is going to catch fire in a week! That’s all I’m asking for! Seven days!” Marian’s pitch was growing increasingly higher as she laboured over her words.

“Can’t be done.” Anne swept into the tent. “That’s the end of it.”

“The end of what?” Ann said as she watched her girlfriend’s deep scowl settle on her face.

“Anne!” Marian’s face was pink as she followed her sister inside. “Is it so much to ask for a break? Most people want holidays you know, it’s not illegal.”

“Marian!” Anne snapped.

Ann took a deep breath, she was going to have to sort this out or risk the whole party hearing Anne and Marian shout at each other and spoil the rather lovely afternoon they were having.

“Stop it! The pair of you!” Ann scolded, causing Anne and Marian to instantly freeze on the spot. “Marian, what’s the problem?” Ann said gently.

Anne scoffed, of course Ann would ask Marian and not her.

“I just asked if I could take next week off.” Marian exhaled. “I understand it’s short notice but I’ve been invited to house sit with a good friend of mine and I, well, I haven’t had a single day off since we opened.”

Ann let out a sigh. “Is that all?”

Marian furrowed her brow and nodded as Anne opened her mouth to protest. Ann held a single finger up at her girlfriend and shot her a pointed look. Anne sank back down with a pout.

“Of course you can take a week off, go and let loose, have some fun.”

“Really?” Marian grinned.

“Yes.” Ann nodded. “Anne and I will be fine, we’ll work it out, won’t we darling?”

Anne narrowed her eyes at the pair of them.

“Don’t you think your sister has done enough for you over the last year? We wouldn’t be here without her now would we? I think a week off is the least we can offer her, don’t you?”

Anne shuffled her feet, like a child being scolded by a parent. Cordingley turned back towards the sink as her giggle threatened to break free from her lips. She loved the Listers but they did make her laugh; Anne with her childish pout and Marian with her incessant need for her sister’s approval. Cordingley had a suspicion Ann felt just as exasperated with the pair of them as she did sometimes.

“Thank you, Ann.” Marian said sincerely. “I’ll go and clear the plates. What’s the ETA for dessert?”

“Ten minutes.” Ann said, her eyes trained on her girlfriend who was stewing silently as she prepped the chocolate crumb.

Marian skipped out the tent with a smile on her face. How wonderful it was to have someone in her corner, someone able to tame her sister, to extinguish her short temper with a single look. She wasn’t sure she’d ever tire of watching Anne back down, it really was a sight to behold.

Meanwhile, Ann looked up at the ceiling, gathering her strength before making her way over to Anne.

“Are you cross with me?” She said softly as she wrapped her arms around Anne’s waist from behind.

“I am a little, yes.” Ann could tell Anne was still pouting even if she couldn’t see her face.

“Maybe I can make it up to you.” Ann stood on tiptoes to nose under Anne’s collar and placed a soft kiss on her neck.

She felt the tension roll off Anne’s rigid shoulders. Marian really did have a knack of getting under her skin more than anyone else in her life.

“Come on, let’s see if that gelato is set yet.” Ann took Anne’s hand and led them to the blast chiller.

Anne exhaled loudly. “I’m sorry.”

Ann nodded.

“She just makes me so cross.”

“I know, I know.” Ann soothed, bringing Anne’s hand to her lips and kissing her knuckle softly.

As Ann turned away to open the freezer door, Anne felt the tension leave her body. Only Ann Walker had the capability to calm her temper with one touch of her hand and, although this was new territory for Anne, she relished the calmness Ann brought with her. She supposed Ann was right too, about Marian and her time off, nothing would catch fire, the world wouldn’t end, it would just be mildly inconvenient. Perhaps she had been a little harsh on her sister, maybe.

“Look.” Ann’s angelic voice cut through Anne’s internal thoughts.

Anne smiled at the perfectly set gelato as Ann Walker, once again, solved everything in an instant.

“Let’s get everything else ready and we can plate up the gelato last, it’ll soon start to melt inside this tent, so we’ll put it on at the end.” Ann’s voice muffled as she leaned back into the blast chiller to set the gelato back down.

“Oh.” Anne squeaked as Ann turned back to face her.

“What?” Ann froze. “What’s wrong? What have I got on me?”

“Nothing.” Anne said, licking her lips and raising her eyebrows. “It’s just, you’re, I mean, the freezer.” Anne gesticulated with her hands towards Ann’s firm nipples straining against the fabric of her top.

“Go and get those bowls ready, you beast!” Ann swatted Anne’s shoulder and sent her away with a chuckle.

Anne laughed as she floated through the tent ready to start plating up the desserts. She stretched her arms above her head before setting to work, making sure each bowl was absolutely identical with the perfectly set panna cotta and just the right amount of chocolate coffee crumb. Truthfully, she was quite glad the job was almost over, it had been a long, hot and stressful day and she was ready for a drink.

“Marian, I’m going to help serve these because this is going to melt within two minutes.” Ann said as she placed perfect quenelles of the rich espresso gelato onto each bowl. “You mind starting at this end? I’m almost done so I’ll follow you out with the rest.”

“You got it, chief.” Marian saluted before promptly getting to work.

Anne scoffed quietly to herself, when would she ever get any respect around here? She was the boss after all. She flinched as Cordingley’s warm hand touched her shoulder.

“Don’t let Marian get to you, she’s doing it on purpose.”

Anne turned and smiled. “I know, I know.”

“You and Ann make one hell of a team, got to admit.” Cordingley winked as she started tidying up the workbench.

“Thank you Elizabeth. For today, and always.” Anne smiled warmly, perhaps she really was going soft in her old age.

--

Anne wasn’t sure how much time had passed as she folded the tea towel and placed it onto the work surface before wandering outside into the cooler evening air. She smiled as she quietly made her way over to her girlfriend who was leaning on one of the wooden beams near the BBQ.

“There you are.” Anne said softly as she snaked her arms around Ann’s waist from behind and pulled her close to her chest.

“It’s so romantic isn’t it?” Ann said wistfully as she rested her head against Anne’s strong shoulder.

Ann’s gaze was fixed on the couples slow dancing on the grass. The band played softly in the background while the fairy lights twinkled in the foliage. The sun was setting, filling the sky with bright oranges and yellows as the swifts swooped like acrobats looking for a place to roost. As the cool breeze fluttered over the pair of them, Anne couldn’t help but agree, it was rather romantic.

“Do you think we’ll be that happy in 25 years?” Ann snuggled in closer.

“I’d certainly like to be.” Anne kissed the soft spot behind Ann’s ear.

Ann just squeezed Anne’s arms tighter as they swayed gently to the music. It was far too soon to talk about marriage but Ann couldn’t help but imagine the pair of them older, with more grey hairs and years worth of adventures under their belt. Would they still be in Manchester? Would they still be running the same business? Would Anne have grown tired of her yet?

“Would you?” Anne said softly.

Ann let go of the breath she didn’t realise she was holding before she twisted in Anne’s grasp to face her. She smiled as she linked her arms around Anne’s neck, swaying them both to the music.

“I only want to be with you.” Ann’s eyes glistened. “For the rest of my life.”

A comforting warmth spread through Anne’s bones as she let Ann’s words nestle themselves deep in her heart. Her grin widened, the skin around her eyes crinkled as her smile got bigger and bigger. Finally, Anne took a deep breath as her tears threated to escape at any moment.

“I only want to be with you too, Ann Walker.” Anne said with a slight tremble in her voice.

The pair of them laughed as the moment hung around them, they were both weeping softly as their smiles grew. Anne had just licked her lips, just dipped her head forward to kiss the woman of her dreams when Marian appeared.

“Get a room.” She teased as she began carrying their equipment to the car.

The pair of them just grinned as Anne rolled her eyes, she could never get a moment’s peace from her sister, could she?

“You know.” Ann traced a finger down Anne’s stomach. “That’s not such a bad idea.”

“Oh?” Anne raised her eyebrows.

Ann licked her lips and nodded. “How quickly do you think you could pack up the kitchen?”

“I’m on it.” Anne winked as she sprinted back into the catering tent.

Ann just chuckled, it really wasn’t her intention but perhaps Anne was a little whipped. As the sound of pots and pans clattered and Anne’s silhouette could be seen hurriedly sweeping through the tent, Ann wondered just how she’d gotten so lucky.

“Good job today, Ann.” Marian said softly as she gently squeezed Ann’s shoulder.

“Thanks, Marian.” Ann smiled warmly. “It was a group effort.”

“You know, I’ve never seen anyone have this much of a positive effect over my sister. And, while I have no idea how you put up with her, it’s just really lovely to see. That’s all.”

“She does the same for me.” Ann said honestly. “I love the bones of that woman.”

“I know.” Marian smiled and nodded. “You’re a hell of a team.”

The warm, sentimental moment was interrupted by Anne breezing out the tent at a hundred miles an hour, boxes stacked high, her strong arms flexing as she carried the equipment towards the car.

“You could help too you know, Marian.” Anne tutted as she walked past her sister.

Marian turned back to Ann and shook her head. “What’s she in such a rush for anyway?”

“Oh.” Ann laughed. “Probably best you don’t know.”

With her arms in the air in surrender, Marian scurried off swiftly to tell the client they were leaving. While she was happy for her sister, she really didn’t need to know about what she got up to in her private time. It didn’t really take a genius to work it out but Marian was quite happy not to know all the sordid details.

--

Anne was practically salivating as she watched Ann climb the stairs to their apartment in those impossibly tight leggings. The way the fabric clung to her perfect ass should really be illegal and it was a wonder Anne had managed to concentrate at all this afternoon. She’d driven Ann’s car in record speed to the restaurant to offload the few supplies they’d borrowed for the event. Ann was under strict orders to stay in the passenger seat as Anne couldn’t trust herself not to lose her resolve before they could make it back home. Deep cleaning the kitchen after shagging Ann on every available surface would take all night and Anne was already tired. No, it was best Ann stayed firmly in the car.

Ann giggled brightly, opening their front door as Anne pawed at her ass. How wonderful it was to be wanted so much and so often; Ann’s libido was arguably even higher than Anne’s and she’d never felt this well matched with anyone. Of course it wasn’t all about the sex; the earth shattering, mind blowing, life changing sex, but it did help. Warmth suffused through Ann’s bones as she thought back to the moment at the party, before they were interrupted by Marian, of course. Ann knew from the moment she met Anne but now she was sure, she was the only woman for her.

As Ann tugged Anne by the hand up the staircase to the bedroom, Anne’s eyes were still firmly glued to her lycra clad behind. Anne’s legs faltered as she felt her desire cloud her brain. Perhaps she’d take Ann right here on the stairs, make her scream her name over and over again. Instead, Anne just followed the goddess in front of her to the bedroom. The woman who single handedly transformed Anne’s business, who committed emotionally and physically to her, who even got on with her annoying sister, the woman who changed Anne’s life beyond all recognition.

The thick, humid summer evening air hung around them as Ann slowly unbuttoned her heavy chef jacket and let it drop to the floor. Anne shifted on her feet as she watched Ann twist her arm behind her back to unclasp her bra. She groaned as Ann stood before her, bare chested with her thumbs teasing the waistband of her leggings.

“Fuck, you’re hot.” Anne sighed as her fingers itched to rip the flimsy fabric in two.

Ann ran her teeth over her bottom lip as she stepped out of her leggings with a smirk before slowly walking backwards to the edge of the bed. It was a silent invitation, a dare, a come-and-get-me-handsome, rendering Anne absolutely powerless to refuse. Throwing her black top across the room and stepping out of her trousers in record time, Anne closed the gap between them. She was so wet she could barely think straight as Ann cupped her strong jaw and crashed their lips together. The kiss was hot, desperate, needy as Anne pressed Ann backwards onto the sheets. Like a reflex, Ann’s legs wrapped around Anne’s torso, pulling her closer as she slipped her tongue into Anne’s mouth.

Heat simmered between them as Ann began to lose the ability to think. Anne shifted to grind her boxer-clad body against her girlfriend. Grinding was always overlooked in movies, Anne thought to herself; it never had enough air time, it was always about ripping each other’s clothes off and getting right down to it. For Anne, a good slow grind while kissing the woman beneath her was one of her favourite things to do and, from the way Ann was reciprocating, it was safe to assume she felt similarly.

“What do you want?” Anne husked against Ann’s skin as she nipped at her pulse point.

Ann whimpered, her eyes were tightly closed and her senses entirely flooded with arousal. Truthfully, she wanted any of it, wanted all of it, her body just ached for Anne to touch her. Why was Anne even talking? She whimpered again loudly as Anne pulled back.

“Use your words.” The smug grin that appeared on her face only served to annoy Ann further.

“You’re such a prick.” Ann whined as her heart raced, could her girlfriend get any more infuriating? “Please touch me.”

“Not until you tell me what you want.” Anne ghosted her lips over Ann’s heated skin in the crook of her neck.

Ann did her best to think straight, she really did but it was difficult with Anne’s hard, sweaty body pressed into her. Those soft lips tracing over her skin distracted her to the point of madness as she fought to catch her breath. She moaned as she cupped Anne’s strong jaw and pulled her mouth away from her neck.

“Sit on the bed.” Ann breathed.

Anne’s eyes twinkled mischievously as the blood thumped in her ears. Ann was in one of her moods and it thrilled Anne to her very core. She did as she was told, slowly pushing herself upwards and sitting back on her heels. Her hands itched to trace the freckles on Ann’s thighs, to push her legs apart, to worship the hot, wet centre of her. But, she waited.

As Ann rose and walked over to Anne’s underwear drawer, Anne felt her core clench at what it meant. Her strong chest heaved, her heart raced as she swiftly shimmied out of her boxers. Ann turned with a smirk, bare chested with the strap and harness in her hand, making Anne wonder if she’d even survive tonight.

Anne just about registered how good Ann had gotten at adjusting the harness just so, at how perfect she was at readying Anne for action, nudging the Bumpher deliciously slowly against her as she made sure the strap was secure. Anne could feel the sweat gathering at her temples in anticipation but she remained still. She closed her eyes and shivered as Ann traced one finger down her hard, sweaty torso before stopping just short of where the strap stood proudly between her legs. A small squeak escaped her mouth as Ann pressed her backwards. She just about had time to grab Ann’s hand on the way down and pull her onto the bed with her.

“Where do you want me?” Anne whispered, barely able to contain her raging arousal.

Ann tilted her head towards the headboard and raised her eyebrow.

“You’re bossy tonight.” Anne laughed as she shimmied upwards to rest her back against the dark wood at the top of their bed.

“Hm.” Ann hummed as she straddled Anne’s lap, linking her arms around her broad shoulders. “I’m always bossy.”

Anne would’ve laughed if she’d heard her girlfriend’s words but all of her concentration was currently being directed at Ann’s bare chest mere centimetres from her face. It was here, between the moment of restraint and the moment she buried her face between Ann’s perfect tits, that Anne felt a hot tear streak down her face. How embarrassing.

“Darling?” Ann cupped Anne’s face in her soft hands and brought Anne’s gaze to meet her own.

Anne smiled and shook her head, trying her best to brush it off and get back to business but Ann wouldn’t allow it. She held Anne firmly, denying her the soft brush of her breasts against her mouth.

“I’m fine, honestly.” Anne said earnestly.

“What is it?” Ann brushed her thumb over Anne’s cheek so sweetly, Anne worried it’d make her cry more.

Anne swallowed hard, this was absolutely not the situation to start crying in. How unsexy and weak, to cry during sex – actually, cry before having sex. Anne couldn’t believe this was happening. Only, no one had ever allowed her to be vulnerable before. She wouldn’t have dared show her soft belly to anyone, let alone during sex; the one thing Anne excelled at. Yet, here she was, crying with Ann in her lap all because of a few words that were exchanged between them this afternoon. For the first time in her life, she could see their future stretching in front of them. It wasn’t a constant battle or a series of misunderstandings, it was a healthy, adult, equal relationship with the greatest woman on the planet. Honestly? Anne was overwhelmed.

“I just love you so much.” Anne managed to say as she looked up into those blue eyes.

What Anne felt as she watched a wide grin spread across Ann’s face was surely what poets wrote sonnets about. It felt like the first rays of sun in the morning, or the perfect cup of tea.

“Anne.” Ann tilted Anne’s head back up to meet her gaze. “I’m going to love you for the rest of my life.”

Anne couldn’t tell when she’d started crying again but all she knew was that the woman currently kissing away the droplets of water on her face was the woman she was going to spend forever with. They stayed in the cocoon of warmth and happiness for a few moments until Ann shifted in Anne’s lap.

“Fuck.” Anne groaned quietly as the Bumpher brushed her hard clit.

Ann’s eyes turned a shade darker as desire clouded her senses. There was something intoxicating about being the cause of Anne’s pleasure, about seeing her writhe under her touch, about the involuntary noises that would slip from her mouth. Ann shivered as she trailed her eyes down her girlfriend’s bare chest, across the hard lines of her abs, down past the dark thatch of hair to the cock between her legs. Anne watched as a blush crept up Ann’s neck, revelling in the knowledge that Ann was getting wet from the sight alone.

“You’re so hot.” Ann whispered before lifting her gaze back up towards Anne.

“Well, yes, that’s a given. It is the middle of summer.” Anne said with a cocky grin.

Ann clicked her tongue as she shuffled herself upright. Anne’s lips parted as she watched her girlfriend ease herself down on her cock slowly, taking every inch of her until their thighs met. Anne groaned at the perfect pressure, at the filthy way Ann was looking at her, at knowing how deep she was inside her.

“Maybe I wasn’t clear.” Ann breathed, her eyes half closed as she adjusted. “You’re so strong.”

Anne grunted.

“You’re so fucking hot, there’s no one as handsome as you.” Ann smiled as Anne’s eyes turned darker, her breathing picking up speed.

Ann leaned forward to rest her hands on Anne’s shoulders, nudging the base of the strap deliciously into Anne’s wet core. Anne bit her lip and closed her eyes as she felt Ann’s mouth brush her ear.

“No one fucks me like you do.”

Suddenly, the energy around them became desperate, like they’d been starved of each other for years. Anne squeezed Ann’s hips as she began moving underneath her, their kisses growing sloppy and wet as Ann began to meet Anne’s every thrust. Anne’s skin vibrated with need as she lost herself to the soft bounce of Ann’s breasts, the loud gasps that escaped her throat, the feeling of her grinding down hard onto her cock. The air was thick and humid as it hung around them both, enveloping them in a cocoon of frantic desire.

“I’m so close already.” Ann panted as she tilted her head back, revealing the damp skin of her neck.

Anne was too, truth be told, but she was beyond the power of speech. Her eyes fixated on her own hands gripping Ann’s waist, how her tanned skin contrasted against Ann’s soft, pale stomach, how hot and sweaty they both were and how it felt so fucking good. As Ann steadied herself with her hands against Anne’s strong, hard chest, Anne’s grip tightened, her thumbs pressing into Ann’s hips as she began to bring her down harder into her lap. It had been a while since they'd done it like this, hard and fast, and good lord, did it feel good. Anne panted as she rutted into Ann frantically, chasing her release, wanting to send Ann into oblivion with her.

“Look at me.” Ann whispered.

“Are you okay?” Anne answered, her hips never faltering.

“I love you.” Ann said breathlessly as her back began to arch.

Right here, in the moment just before Ann reached her climax, Anne was overwhelmed with the knowledge that this was the woman she was going to marry - the woman she was going to plan her future with, raise a brood of children with, take care of, support and encourage and love forever. Her heart beat faster as she felt herself racing towards her peak alongside her girlfriend; the woman who had changed the trajectory of her life forever.

“Ann.” It was all Anne could manage to say as she rapidly approached her release.

“Yes baby.” Ann’s eyes slipped closed as she continued to grind down onto her cock. “Come inside me.”

Anne groaned loudly as she felt her climax consume her entire body, pleasure raced through her veins as her heart hammered in her chest. If she’d been able to think clearly, she’d have made a note of the fact this might be the hardest she’d ever come before, however, all she could concentrate on was the intense release still vibrating through her.

“Fuck, Anne.” Ann’s core twitched around her girlfriend’s cock as she began to lose the ability to hold herself up.

Anne splayed a hand across Ann’s slick back, pulling her to rest her weight on top of her as she continued to flex her hips upwards.

“You feel incredible. I love you.” Anne husked as Ann cried out loudly at the first wave of her climax.

The feeling of Anne’s strong arms holding her tightly while the strap brushed that perfect spot inside her pushed Ann over the edge. Her fingernails dug into Anne’s skin as she held on for dear life, the moment so intense she could barely breathe as her orgasm raced through her body. She cried out loudly as Anne coaxed every last drop of pleasure from her body.

Finally, they stilled; their bodies pressed tightly together, damp with sweat, their lungs fighting for air. Ann already felt herself drifting off happy, satiated and ridiculously in love.

“We can’t sleep like this, darling.” Anne murmured into the nest of blonde hair tickling her nose.

“Yes we can.” Ann snuggled further into Anne’s chest.

Anne chuckled and shook her head. “We’ll get cold, come on.”

“Annnnne!” Ann whined like a child as Anne stirred underneath her.

“I promise it’ll be better.” Anne shimmied down the bed, untangling her limbs from Ann’s.

Ann pouted as she watched her girlfriend step out of the harness and pull a clean t-shirt over her head.

“No fair.” She muttered as those mesmerising muscles disappeared from view.

“Go get ready for bed.” Anne swatted Ann’s bare behind as she padded to the bathroom.

Ann’s eyes danced over the purple bruises around her hips as she looked at herself in the bathroom mirror. Anne really was a beast wasn’t she? Not that Ann would change a single thing about their physical connection, it was the best sex Ann had ever had in her entire life. She wondered whether one day it would fade, whether they’d find themselves old and grey and getting on each other’s nerves like old married couples did. She wondered whether Anne would still insist on getting up at 5AM to go running or whether she’d relax the older she got and stay in bed a little longer. Would they have any kids for Anne to teach how to ride a bike and build a fire? As Ann’s smile grew wider, she realised she wanted all of it, a whole life’s worth of adventures and memories with Anne.

“What are you smiling about?” Anne said from the bed, reaching out for Ann as she walked back into the bedroom.

Ann settled herself into her favourite spot, pressing her back into Anne’s front as Anne’s arms enveloped her from behind. She noted there were fresh sheets on the bed, Anne must’ve changed them while she was in the bathroom.

“I just love you, darling.” Ann said as she flicked off the bedside lamp.

Anne smiled as they began to drift to sleep, surrounded by the warmth of the summer night and the infinite possibilities for the future.