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A Christmas Haunting

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25th November

Serena Campbell, consultant vascular surgeon and co-lead of AAU, retrieved a bottle of Shiraz from the bottom drawer of her desk. De-corking the bottle she placed it on the desk leaving it to breathe. Sitting in the consultant’s office she shared with her co-lead, best friend and partner, Berenice Wolfe. Serena contemplated the past four years or so. She had known Bernie for four years and nine months. They had gone through more trials and tribulations than most couples endure during decades together. Glancing at the wall clock noting her shift and Bernie’s ended ten minutes ago. Bernie had been in surgery with a young female cyclist hit by a car who had suffered a serious compound fracture of her right lower tibia and dislocated right ankle. Surgery would take another thirty minutes.

Serena decided tonight she would ask Bernie the question that had been on her mind for the past year. She poured herself a large glass of her favourite beverage hoping it would calm her nerves. Although in the scheme of things this was hardly a crisis. No definitely not a crisis. Serena leaned back in her chair crossing her legs and allowed her mind to wander back to an overcast February day in the staff car park outside Wyvern Wing. That was the day Berenice Griselda Wolfe walked into her life over a cactus alternator and a lucky fag she really didn’t want to smoke but let it hang from the corner of her mouth.

A great deal had happened in the time they had known one another. Bernie had recently been medically discharged from the army, after twenty-five distinguished years’ service, having been injured in the line of duty when they met. The fiercely private and stoic trauma surgeon had been outed as a lesbian when her affair with a woman was revealed by a patient several months later. As a result, divorce quickly followed with the inevitable estrangement from her children due to the affair and said divorce.

Bernie and Serena had become a formidable team at work and set up the trauma unit in AAU together. Their professional relationship quickly evolved into a friendship and before they knew it they were best friends and secretly falling in love with each other. When Serena declared her feelings for Bernie the blonde bolted and ran off to Ukraine under the misguided belief she was protecting Serena, only to return and declare she more than liked her best friend.

Serena, on the other hand, had dealt with the fact she was not the dyed in the wool heterosexual she had always assumed herself to be, and was in fact in love with a woman, that she, Serena Wendy Campbell nee McKinnie, was a lesbian. That had been far easier to deal with than dealing with her emotionally restrained best friend now lover had been. But they had both decided when Bernie returned from Ukraine they wanted to be together and things had gone well, very well, for a while as their relationship developed and strengthened.

Bernie repaired her relationship with her son, Cameron, but her relationship with her daughter, Charlotte, was not so easy to repair and had taken some time for the young woman to communicate by text and eventually by phone. They met up a couple of times for lunch and the ice had definitely thawed to Bernie’s relief and they were on track to repair the damage between them. Serena had suffered the loss of her daughter due to a severe head injury. The marriage of her nephew Jason and the birth of her great-niece Guinevere, who would always be a surrogate granddaughter to her.

The loss of her daughter had sent Serena careening over an emotional cliff of grief dragging her into a dark deep pit of depression fuelled by anger and alcohol. Throughout those dark days, Bernie had remained resolutely loyal and protective taking everything Serena dished out. Eventually feeling suffocated by grief Serena had taken a sabbatical. It was her only option if she was to survive beyond simply functioning and to make sure she didn’t destroy what she had with Bernie.

Serena survived the devastating destructive force that grieving the loss of a child brings and she managed to protect her relationship with Bernie during the process. Unfortunately in Serena's absence, the trauma unit they jointly set up on AAU had been closed. So after an extended visit with Serena, to the vineyard she was renting in the south of France, Bernie had taken her extensive trauma knowledge and skills elsewhere. That elsewhere had taken her to Nairobi and the task of setting up a new trauma centre. A dream job for her.

They contended with a long-distance relationship until Serena agreed it was time for pastures new and to start her life with the greatest love affair of her life. She moved to Nairobi with Bernie and began working at the same hospital. However, CEO Henrik Hanssen called in a favour when he had to take care of urgent family matters back in Sweden and so Serena returned to Holby as acting CEO on a temporary basis with Bernie’s blessing.

But as these things often go all the best-laid plans overtime changed along with their priorities. Serena ended up staying in Holby, between her family and the hospital needing her more and more she didn't feel she had a choice. She missed Bernie with a fierce aching pain in her chest and fooled herself into believing she would return to Nairobi and pick-up her life with Bernie again as soon as she could. Then the infidelity happened. She had been a victim of it when Edward, her ex-husband, had had a number of affairs during their marriage. Serena never thought she’d ever fall so low as to behave like that towards a partner, especially the love of her life.

And so their last trial was all Serena’s doing. She would forever feel guilty over her dalliance with a subordinate. Her excuse was hormonal due to the menopause, feeling incredibly lonely without Bernie around, or even in contact with her partner, and succumbing to the seductive lure of a younger woman who definitely stroked her ego at the time.

Bernie had been shocked to learn Serena had cheated on her and was naturally upset at the betrayal. However, she had quickly come to the conclusion that ultimately she was in love with Serena and had her part to play in the whole sordid affair by not only being physically distant but incommunicado for the three weeks leading up to it. Bernie told Serena emphatically they could fix their relationship and work through the issue. She promised to come home and to be better at communicating with Serena.

Serena had deliberated over accepting Bernie’s offer to give up her new trauma centre in Nairobi to return to Holby for her. Bernie had spoken with Connie Beauchamp about the vacancy for a consultant trauma surgeon in the new ED trauma unit. It didn’t seem fair. It felt like she was getting off lightly and should be punished for the pain she had caused Bernie.

Finishing her wine Serena poured out another half a glass making sure to leave enough in the bottle to share with Bernie when she arrived. A shudder ran through her remembering her dilemma throughout Jason and Greta’s wedding day. Processing her feelings and what she should do regarding her relationship with Bernie. Serena desperately wanted to be with her partner and to share adventures with the love of her life. But she also wanted to be there for Jason, Greta and Guinevere.

Holding her great-niece, and surrogate granddaughter, listening to Bernie give her reading at Jason’s wedding, Serena knew with all certainty Berenice Wolfe was the greatest love of her life and she had to do what was right for her, for both of them. Serena’s heart was breaking. She would never love anyone with the depth and passion she loved Bernie with. No future partner would ever come close to how she felt for Bernie, but Holby and her small family needed her and she couldn't hold Bernie back or take her dreams away or deny patients her expertise and brilliance. There was also the fact that Bernie deserved to be with someone who could share her adventures and daring-do.

The memory of the evening inside Albie’s during Jason and Greta’s wedding reception still caused Serena heartache. Stood at the bar she had found herself making up an absurd reason for breaking up with Bernie in order to set her partner free so she could be happy. If Serena remembered correctly she had said something about not seeing Bernie putting the sodding bin out in her slippers? Bernie Wolfe was not a slippers woman!

Serena chuckled at the memory of her stupidity and the lame excuse she had come up with to end her relationship with Bernie. She knew full well Bernie took the bin out in her trainers, and more often than not with a fag hanging out of her mouth, cursing at the one loose brick on the drive the wheelie bin always caught making the bin jar to a halt and Bernie trip falling into it. Serena had also mentioned not envisioning Bernie pushing Guinevere on a swing. This year the blonde had made a point of proving a point and bought the biggest swing and slide set she could find and with Jason and Cameron’s help put it together for the little girls second birthday. To Serena’s delight, Bernie takes great joy pushing Guinevere regularly on the said swing.

Of course, Serena knew exactly where the idea a domestic Bernie Wolfe was not who she had fallen in love with had come from. Jason, her nephew, had made a passing comment about Bernie being adventurous and telling stories of daring-do to Guinevere, but not imagining his Aunty Bernie pushing his daughter on a swing. Of course, Jason would see things in such black and white fashion because that was Jason. However, Serena had no excuse. She knew Bernie on a much deeper level. She had taken Jason’s assumptions and used them unwisely to her misguided advantage pushing Bernie away and convincing her she would be better off out of the relationship. Serena hated doing it but believed at the time she was doing her partner a favour.

What Serena wanted was Bernie, the domestic Bernie she had actually fallen in love with as well as the adventurous Bernie she had gotten to know. She just wanted Bernie in all her forms and on all levels. Initially, Bernie accepted Serena ending their relationship and left the wedding reception with her heartbreaking believing it would always be irreparable. Pausing momentarily in the doorway of Albie’s Bernie regarded Serena with a wink and tapped two fingers to her left temple saluting the brunette a goodbye.

Then she was gone.

Closing her eyes taking a long sip of wine to wash the painful memories away Serena swallowed the burgundy alcoholic beverage and continued her train of thought knowing the most painful part was now dealt with and what lay ahead was pure joy…

Memories of being rooted to the spot with people dancing around her and the dawning realisation she had just made the absolute biggest mistake of her life and that included marrying Edward Campbell. Because marrying him had an exit option, divorce, which she inevitably took. Losing Bernie Wolfe would result in a lifetime of guilt and pain from which there was no escape. Serena no longer believed she could survive losing Bernie. Her noble attempt to let her go now seemed incredibly stupid and self-destructive.

It had always been Bernie’s decision whether to stay or whether to go and she had made her choice wanting to stay with Serena in Holby. Resigning from her trauma centre in Nairobi Bernie took up the consultant trauma surgeon vacancy in the new ED trauma unit, thus proving her desire to be with Serena and her absolute commitment to their relationship.

So why, Serena wondered, was she throwing away her chance of happiness? Her heart pounded in her chest and with each beat a second past. With each second Bernie took another step. With each step, Bernie took she moved a step further away from Serena and a step closer to leaving for good. Suddenly realising she was letting the love of her life go Serena threw the bridal flowers she had caught over her head and rushed toward the door grabbing her coat on the way out desperately hoping against hope that Bernie hadn’t already got in a taxi and left.

Fortunately for Serena's sake, Bernie was competitive, stubborn and no body’s fool. Which is why she didn’t take no for an answer once she had made her mind up and set a course of action. Standing on the pavement outside Albie’s with her back to the door a cigarette hanging from her mouth and both hands pushed into her coat pockets desperately fishing for her lighter.

A pair of hands landed on Bernie's shoulders and before she had a chance to react was spun around. Serena Campbell stood in front of her a little out of breath, cheeks flushed pink and unshed tears in her eyes. Serena gushed, “I lied! I didn’t mean a word of what I said in there!”

Bernie removed her cigarette from her mouth and grinned, “I know.”

Slightly caught off guard Serena looked a little bemused raising her right eyebrow, “You knew?”

Bernie looked rather smug, “I was sure you were attempting to punish yourself for the affair.”

Shaking her head Serena dropped her gaze away from Bernie feeling embarrassed and guilty, “Nothing I wouldn’t deserve.”

Bernie brought her hands up and wrapped them around her partner’s waist, “Stop! We’re adults and I’m not blameless in setting you on the road to infidelity…”

Serena leaned her head against Bernie’s shoulder and moaned, “Could we perhaps draw a line over that… Definitely not my finest moment.”

Unable to hold back a chuckle Bernie agreed, “As I said yesterday. I’m hurt by the infidelity. Do I think it’s insurmountable? No, I don’t. Do I think it’s solvable, yes I do? But we have to work on this together, Serena… And, and maybe I have to make a bit more of an effort.”

Lifting her head to stare into Bernie’s eyes Serena asked, “How, how did I get so lucky to be with you?”

“We're still together then?” Bernie teased raising her right eyebrow in question.

With a huff, Serena had to admit, “I suppose I deserve that.” Looking at Bernie’s lips and back up into her brown eyes full of love and happiness Serena grinned, “We never really broke up did we?”

Bernie shook her head laughing. The sound resembled a honking goose and Serena loved it and would never tire of the sound, “I don’t believe we did.”

Serena looked at her partner’s lips and huffed, “Well are you going to kiss me then?”

There was no more talking for a good few minutes when Bernie leaned in capturing Serena’s lips in a passionate and heated kiss. Her arms tightened around her partner’s waist and Serena pushed her hands into Bernie’s hair. Both women loved it when Serena played with the soft blonde locks. The kiss was a calming and healing balm to both their souls. Serena revelled in Bernie’s unique taste of honeycomb and chocolate with a strong hint of whisky tonight. For Bernie, the taste of her partner would always be a mix of Shiraz and pain au chocolat, but right now it was all Shiraz. The difficulties they had faced recently hadn’t suddenly disappeared but a veil had definitely been drawn and this was their first step forward together.

Over the past two years since that night, Bernie and Serena’s relationship had deepened and grown beyond their own expectations. Even Bernie’s relationship with Charlotte had eventually improved. Mother and daughter spent time talking on the phone regularly, having lunch when possible and Charlotte would visit for the odd weekend here and there. The young woman had warmed to Serena seeing the benefit her mother’s relationship was having on her communication and ability to express her emotions. Serena for her part was grateful she got on well with both Cameron and Charlotte.

Now Serena wanted to take her relationship with Bernie to the next natural level. They had tentatively skated around talk of marriage but neither had asked outright if it was something the other woman wanted. Serena felt as they were usually in step and on the same page with just about everything else, and with their private and professional lives stabilised, the time was as right as it would ever be to broach the subject of marriage with her girlfriend.

For a good year, she had accepted the one doing the asking would have to be her. Serena believed having been unfaithful she should be the one to ask. And hoped by asking Bernie to marry her that would demonstrate she was serious about committing to her partner legally and for life. Of course, there was a chance Bernie would ask her but Serena was fed up of waiting believing Bernie was reluctant to rock their happy boat now everything was working for them. She also knew the blonde believed a piece of paper wouldn’t change her love or commitment towards Serena, and yes Serena agreed but wanted to give them the legal protection only being married would afford them where remaining unmarried partners wouldn’t. Plus she wanted the world to know Bernie Wolfe was hers and only hers.

Her thoughts were interrupted a moment or two later when the door opened abruptly and Bernie walked in. Dressed in sinfully tight black jeans and a figure-hugging white shirt, its top two buttons open and the sleeves rolled back to mid-forearm. Rushing to her desk she leaned across it switching her computer off, “Sorry surgery took longer than expected. I’ll be ready to go in a sec…”

Serena felt relaxed having drunk two glasses of wine for Dutch courage and currently enjoyed the view of Bernie. The tight shirt offered a lovely view of the curve of Bernie’s right breast as the blonde leaned over her desk. Realising Serena hadn’t said a word Bernie stood and folded her arms over her chest, “How many of those have you had, Campbell?”

Lifting the bottle Serena held it against the desk light gaging how much remained and put the bottle down waving her hand in the air dismissively, “Two glasses.”

Bernie snorted, “Decided to start without me?”

Tilting her head to the right giving the woman she loved more than anything a lazy smile Serena explained, “Dutch courage, but you can join me now you’re here.”

Bernie pushed her desk chair up beside Serena’s desk and took a seat. Finished pouring her partner a large glass of Shiraz Serena slid the glass towards Bernie. Reaching out Bernie took the glass by its stem and carefully rolled the red liquid around regarding Serena with a twinkle in her eyes and a smirk gracing her lips, “The last time I recall you wanting to tell me something over a bottle of wine in this office you botched it and I jumped to conclusions and confined us to theatre!”

Serena snorted at the memory swallowing the wine she had just taken a sip of, “Yes, well, perhaps it would be better this time if you did not jump to bloody conclusions and waited for me to explain myself!”

Bernie’s grin widened and her expression became distinctively mischievous. Putting her glass down she placed her hands on Serena’s knees pulling herself towards her partner and in a husky voice asked, “Oh so have you been a naughty girl? Do you need Major Wolfe to discipline you?”

Serena’s face, neck and chest flushed red with combined arousal and embarrassment. Bernie knew what to say to hit that switch which turned her on in an instant. But they were at work and the blinds were open, “Berenice! We’re at work!”

Bernie pushed her body forward and husked against Serena’s lips, “Never bothered you before… besides our shifts finished twenty minutes ago.” Not waiting any longer Bernie claimed her girlfriend’s lips. There was no hesitation from Serena, opening her mouth she granted Bernie instant access and slid her tongue past Bernie’s to swipe back and forth across her partner's mouth. Serena moaned intensifying the kiss and Bernie whimpered revelling in the bliss kisses from Serena Campbell always brought her.

Not wanting to be spotted necking with her girlfriend at work like a pair of hormonal teenage girls Serena reluctantly, but for the required necessity of breathing, broke the kiss and rested her forehead against Bernie’s. Both women were somewhat breathless and flushed.

Sitting back in her chair taking a sip of wine Bernie finally asked, “So, what umm, what was it you wanted to talk about that couldn’t wait till we got home?”

Serena suddenly felt very nervous and went quiet. Staring at her glass and turning it around by the stem she was lost to her thoughts. Suddenly full of self-doubt, she wondered how wise it was to proceed. What if Bernie wasn’t keen? What if Bernie bolted for the door? And what if said bolting Wolfe found a secondment to the Mongolian steps next time. Definitely, no mobile phone towers or internet connection there Serena was sure of that.

Bernie slowly put her glass down licking the residue wine from her lips. The silence was actually deafening. Well apart from the quickening thrum of her heartbeat, her pulse loud in her ears. Fearing the worst and no longer able to stand the suspense any longer Bernie broke the silence, “Serena, you’re worrying me!”

“Sorry? What?” Bernie’s voice broke Serena from her thoughts and she looked at her partner a little confused not having actually heard what Bernie said.

“What is it you want to talk about? You’re worrying me.” Bernie repeated what she had just said. Her expression was clearly troubled.

Serena realised her sudden silence was the cause of the problem and huffed at her girlfriend for jumping the gun and making assumptions again, “Darling, you said you wouldn’t jump to assumptions!” Bernie smiled and relaxed sipping her wine she waved her right hand in the air indicating Serena should carry on. Serena leaned forward and took both of Bernie’s hands in her own and looked into her partner's warm brown eyes that were searching Serena’s features for any hint this was going to be bad news.

Serena gave Bernie a broad smile pouring all the love she had for this woman into her expression and waited a moment for signs Bernie had taken on board there was nothing to worry about. Tilting her head to the side Serena decided to just bloody well get on with it and pop the question, “We haven’t properly talked about this. But it’s something that’s been on my mind for at least a year now... if not longer.”

Bernie’s brows furrowed attempting to figure out where Serena was going with this. Serena noticed the figurative cogs turning behind Bernie’s eyes but was grateful her partner remained quiet allowing Serena to say whatever it was she needed to get off her chest. Squeezing Bernie’s hands and holding her gaze Serena took a steadying breath and went for it, “How do you feel about marriage?” Well kind of went for it...

Bernie snorted thinking it was a light-hearted question, “Bloody expensive. Usually an unequal balance of power. Too easy to get into. Far too difficult to get out of and completely unnecessary and overrated!”

The room fell deathly silent and Serena felt foolish. She really should have tested the waters on this and broached the subject well before now. If that’s how Bernie felt about marriage Serena would drop the topic and accept her relationship with Bernie as it was. After all, a piece of paper didn’t make them more of a couple or more committed to each other. No, it afforded legal protection and some tax relief but it certainly was not necessary or essential for them and their future as a couple.

“Right well that was all it was.” Offering Bernie a sad smile, unable to keep the disappointment from showing on her face, Serena pointed at Bernie's wine glass, “Why don’t you drink up and we’ll head home?”

For all of Serena’s efforts to keep her tone neutral and upbeat and not give the game away she was disappointed, she failed miserably. Bernie saw straight through the hastily erected facade. Tilting her head to the right and then the left Bernie studied Serena and sighed realising Serena wanted to talk seriously about marriage and she had just closed the conversation down with sarcasm. But she thought Serena would be the last person to want to remarry. After her first go at it with Edward Campbell who could blame her.

Bernie had considered broaching the subject to gage Serena’s opinion but always ended up bottling out of it. Bernie was more than grateful to be in a monogamous relationship with the love of her life and didn't want to be greedy and ask for more. Bernie feared she would ruin everything and tempt fate to pull the preverbal rug from under her. So Bernie kept her thoughts on marrying Serena to herself.

However glancing to the wine, the fact only one desk lamp was on giving the room a subdued and warm ambience, well as much as an office on a hospital ward could have a warm ambience. Serena had seemed on edge from the moment Bernie had entered the office. The realisation began to dawn on her and she groaned rubbing her right hand up her face pushing her fingers into her fringe. With an apologetic expression painted across her face, Bernie apologised, “So-sorry… I did it again.”

Looking up at her partner Serena wasn’t quite following what Bernie was driving at, “Did what again?”

Unsure if Serena was being kind or simply not grasping what Bernie had done the blonde trauma surgeon elaborated, “Can we start this conversation again?” When Serena bit her lip and nodded Bernie pushed on attempting to undo her mistake, “You asked me what I thought about marriage.” Serena nodded and Bernie continued, “I shouldn’t have given such a flippant response to a serious question.”

Serena interrupted mumbling, “No need to apologise. If that’s your opinion of marriage then-”

It was Bernie’s turn to interrupt Serena, “It’s not though.”

Confused Serena asked, “Then why on earth say that?”

“I thought you were disinterested in marriage. I wanted to make things easier for you,” Bernie answered sincerely.

Shaking her head Serena hoped the action would clear her confusion and wondered briefly if drinking wine before Bernie arrived had been a wise idea after all, “Why would that make it easier for me?”

“Well you, you wouldn’t have to explain to me why you didn’t want to get married again,” Bernie dropped her gaze to her lap and sighed.

Wrapped up in her own thoughts and trying to crack this particular puzzle but deciding only Bernie could enlighten her on where that idea had come from Serena sighed, “Why on earth would you think I wouldn’t want to get married again?”

Feeling a little foolish for yet again making assumptions Bernie stuttered out her reason, “I-I… Umm… Well, I-I thought after Edward-”

Serena finally lost her patience snapping with a frustrated snort, “Oh for goodness sake, Berenice! That was Edward, not you!”

Silence.

The answer wasn’t what Bernie had expected, hoped for definitely yes but expected no, slowly the information sunk in replacing assumption with solid fact, “Oh…” She mumbled. When the preverbal penny finally dropped into the preverbal slot Bernie lifted her head and regarded Serena wide-eyed from under her messy fringe, “OOH!”

“Quite!” Serena huffed. Honestly what the hell was she going to do with her gay mess, Bernie Wolfe?

Bernie waved her right hand in the air and glanced to her right, “But that sounds like…That you’re-”

Finding her partner’s wide-eyed expression, which made her resemble a deer caught in headlights, amusing a chuckle escaped Serena. But watching Bernie join the dots Serena huffed and losing patience, blaming it on the wine she had imbibed, “For an intelligent woman you can be pretty dense at times!”

Bernie was a little frustrated now, “Perhaps if you were more direct it would help instead of the infernal dancing around conversations?”

That was the red rag that broke Serena’s will and she snapped harsher than she ever intended, “MARRY ME?”

Silence.

Serena wasn’t sure how to gage Bernie’s reaction. The expression on her partner’s face difficult to read. Serena could usually read Bernie like a book unless they were playing poker, but right now it was hard to decipher what Bernie was thinking. Was she displeased with the proposal? Hadn’t she said she was open to the idea of getting married again? Was she open to the idea of marriage with anyone but Serena? Was she planning her exit strategy and about to bolt any minute. Serena considered with Bernie's track record of running why she hadn’t locked the bloody door!

Not able to stand the silence any longer Serena tentatively asked, “What… What are you thinking?”

“…Thinking as romantic gestures and proposals go you could work on the venue and the delivery darling!” Bernie smirked winking at Serena.

Exasperated and realising Bernie had been teasing her Serena was exasperated waiting for an answer to her proposal and shouted, “BERNIE!”

Bernie snorted, “Yes, yes, yes… I’ll marry you, Campbell!” The blonde leaned forward sealing her acceptance to Serena’s proposal with a passionate kiss. The action drew moans, groans and whimpers from both women filling the space around them.

Needing air they pulled back from their kiss resting their foreheads together. Bernie stared at Serena’s lips and let out a happy sigh admitting, “I’ve wanted to propose to you for months…”

Serena wasn’t cross, she wasn’t disappointed she had had to be the one to propose, one of them had to ask and one of them had to answer. The only thing that truly mattered was they were engaged and would get married. Letting that admission go Serena asked, “So, long or short engagement?”

Bernie sat deep in thought. Taking Serena’s hands in her own, rubbing her thumbs across her fiancée’s knuckles, regarding her with a loving smile offering her opinion, “I think, I think we’ve waited far too long to be happy to drag our engagement out for months or even years… But if you’d rather wait-”

Serena shook her head, “I don’t. I’ve waited long enough. Let’s get married as soon as we can,” Serena leaned forward sealing their decision by initiating a soft and sensual kiss.

Chapter Text

24th December, Christmas Eve

Before falling asleep, after a night of unadulterated passion, Serena and Bernie decided Serena would take care of the wedding arrangements and Bernie would sort out their honeymoon. Both women agreed they would prefer to marry as soon as possible, which at the earliest would legally be twenty-nine days from the following day when Serena would contact the registry office. That would mean a possible Christmas Eve wedding. Although neither woman expected to get that date at such short notice.

As agreed Serena had arranged their wedding for as soon as possible. Not believing she would get a date around Christmas, and expecting to be told the first available date would be late March, Serena was happily surprised when the registry office offered her a choice of either 11 a.m. or 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Serena took the 2 p.m. booking without hesitation.

It would be a fight to get Henrik to agree to allow two of his most senior consultant surgeons to take four days annual leave over Christmas with winter pressures in full flow. Everyone was tired and often working double shifts. It was a huge ask but she knew whenever they wanted to get married would cause a staffing problem as they would both be absent, and Bernie and herself needed a break.

As it turned out Henrik had already completed the Christmas rota for department heads and senior consultants. By luck, Serena and Bernie had been rostered off for Christmas Day and Boxing Day together. So they would now only needed two annual leave days off but at Christmas, that would be a struggle. With a lot of pleading, threats of blackmail, and when the blackmail failed mutiny was promised, Henrik was badgered into allowing both women to have both the Sunday and Monday off as well.

By begging and swapping full and half shifts with colleagues; Ange Godard, Sasha Levi and Ric Griffin, Serena managed to secure two additional days off for herself and Bernie, Christmas Eve and the 29th December. She decided to wait until they returned from their honeymoon before breaking the news to Bernie Henrik expected them to attend two big medical conferences to generate funding for not one but two high profile research programmes which would bring the hospital both prestige and additional funding. And their colleagues would be calling in favours in payment for the days off they worked for Serena and Bernie at Christmas.

The ceremony had taken place at 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve at Holby’s Guild Hall, a beautiful building dating back to the 17th Century. Their wedding took place in the adequately sized Regents Gallery, a beautiful whitewashed room with oil portraits of local aristocracy, politicians and one of Prince George, the Prince Regent from 1815. He later became King George IV and was the regent after whom the room was named after having visited Holby in 1815 attending a banquet at the Guild Hall in his honour at the time. The Regents Gallery was a suitable size for a small wedding. It’s stained glass windows at the far end of the room above where the ceremony would take place, and being decked out tastefully for Christmas gave the desired effect of a sophisticated and romantic ambience.

Bernie had worn her soft grey trouser suit, white shirt and black ankle boots with a dark navy blue wool overcoat. Serena dressed in a deep red figure-hugging knee-length dress with a soft wool cream overcoat, which reached knee-high black patent leather stiletto-heeled boots. A white fluffy hat with small gold speckles scattered through it and a red scarf matching the colour of her dress finished off her outfit. Serena had to place her index finger under Bernie’s chin and gently close it before the blonde started to drool when she first caught sight of her wife in her wedding attire.

The short notice and date the wedding was being held on meant the number of guests able to attend was smaller than if they’d given plenty of notice and the wedding wasn’t happening on Christmas Eve. Bernie was secretly pleased about the smaller number of guests. She really didn’t like big fussy affairs. Serena on the other hand was a social butterfly and loved big parties and gatherings. She had wanted a decent-sized wedding and was somewhat disappointed but understood it was the compromise she would have to make if she wanted to a) marry Bernie sooner rather than later and b) have a romantic Christmas wedding. Serena focused on her priority, marrying Bernie, and she is grateful she would spend the rest of her life with the love of her life.

The ceremony had taken thirty minutes and present were Bernie’s children Cameron and Charlotte and Serena’s nephew come, surrogate son, Jason, his wife Greta and their daughter and Serena’s, surrogate granddaughter, Guinevere. Their friends; Sian Kors, Fleur Fanshawe, Ric Griffin, Adrian Fletcher and his two oldest children Evie and Mikey along with Dom Copeland and Henrik Hanssen had all managed to take an hour out of their day to at least attend the ceremony.

Charlotte and Jason had been their official witnesses and after photographs had been taken inside and out by the professional photographer the happy couple with their children, Fleur, Sian, Evie and Mikey had made their way across the square to the Grand Hotel, a large hundred-bed Victorian hotel, for their small reception. Henrik, Ric, Fletch and Dom had had to return to the hospital to complete their shifts. Serena assured them, as she had everyone else who had been unable to attend, they would have a big party in the spring when winter pressures in the hospital were gone. That and the promise to share their wedding video had placated the disappointment from everyone not able to attend.

At 3.15 p.m. the wedding party sat down in a cosy room at the front of the Victorian hotel for a relaxed and simple reception. The room contained a large table big enough to accommodate a maximum of twenty people. A large open fire burned logs which crackled and split under the heat of dancing red and amber flames. The room had been tastefully decorated for Christmas with its own Christmas tree standing next to the ceiling to floor window affording a view of the snow-covered square.

Two hours later Bernie and Serena said goodbye to their children and friends and set off for their honeymoon in Bernie’s small sports car. The roads were fairly busy with a mixture of the last-minute shoppers, commuters finishing work for the festive season and other people heading to their Christmas destinations. It had been a cold day with a wintery sun giving the crisp temperatures a little warmth. Darkness had already descended like a black cloak across the city and countryside by the time the newlyweds left the reception at 5.15 p.m.

Snow had fallen the day before and covered the city and countryside beyond promising a white Christmas with more snow forecast for later this evening. Serena settled down for the drive opening the flask of coffee Jason had thoughtfully asked the hotel staff to fill for their drive. She wondered if he knew where Bernie had booked for their honeymoon given it was one standard-sized flask between the two of them. Serena didn’t have a clue where she would be spending the next five days. Her only stipulation had been a honeymoon location full of comfort, style and romance. A honeymoon they would never forget. Bernie had assured her she would meet Serena’s exacting standards for the perfect honeymoon they would both love giving them cherished memories for years to come.

As they left Holby behind the snow began to fall again and Bernie adjusted her speed to accommodate for the weather and road conditions. Turning to watch Bernie drive Serena snuggled into her seat, feeling more content than she thought she probably ever had. Inside the car, she was toasty warm and loved beyond measure by her new wife. Glancing out the window into the darkness the countryside she could make out from the street lights and car headlights rushing past was covered by a blanket of snow interspersed by small villages nestled in valleys giving a warm colourful glow from the Christmas lights most of the houses were decorated in. It wasn’t long before they joined the M5 heading south-west.

Serena leaned forward and turned the radio on. Laughing instantly at the coincidence of the song now filling the car, “Let it Snow, Let it Snow,” Bernie snorted shaking her head but joined Serena in singing along and they continued to sing to every festive song the radio station played. An hour later Serena opened the flask handing the cup to Bernie to take a couple of sips before taking her own turn.

While Serena had no idea whatsoever where they were spending their honeymoon by the fact they were driving south-west from Holby it was clear their honeymoon would be taken in the West Country, at home in the UK. But that was all Serena knew. The anticipation was building and she employed her knack for great patience waiting to discover the surprise destination.

They had left the M5 joining the A30 at Exeter. Glancing at the clock on the dashboard Serena noted they’d been driving for three hours, the weather slowing them down, and she had seen the county sign welcoming them to Cornwall knowing there were no more than two hours of road left before they would hit Land’s End at the end of the Cornish peninsular, the most south-westerly point of the UK. Going any further would mean getting their feet wet in the Atlantic Ocean.

When she about to ask how much further they had to travel Bernie slowed the car and turned off the A30 at Bodmin following the A38 for a short while before turning again on to the B3268 signposted for Fowey. They went what felt like around five miles before Bernie turned the car onto an unmarked road. They were in complete darkness other than the illumination the headlights afforded them. The snow was still falling but much harder.

Twenty minutes later the car slowed down once more turning right between two Victorian stone gateposts with ornate iron gates left open. The name of the property, “Auderley House,” was carved into both gateposts. Bernie drove slowly along the drive which was bordered either side by woods. The drive was approximately four hundred yards long and ended outside the front door of the house. The drive carried around to the left side of the house where a large carriage house and stables sat. The carriage house had been converted into a garage for guests cars. Bernie brought the car to a stop. It was 8.35 p.m. and Bernie was glad to have reached their destination.

The large red brick Grade II Victorian house with its original sash windows occupied the site of a former rectory dating from the 16th century which the current building replaced in 1862. Although large the house had a cosy and charming appearance. Its tiled roof was crowned with Elizabethan style chimneys giving it a quirky yet classical appearance. It had two moderate-sized wings each with squared-off full-length bay windows running from four feet under the eves to four feet above the ground.

The door opened and a woman in her mid-thirties stepped out under the tiled pitch roofed open-sided porch with her hands clasped together and a broad smile lighting her face under brunette hair styled in marcel waves and puffs with a large mantilla comb tucked in the back holding it up. Dressed in a simple white blouse with a high collar and a long brown skirt which reached just below her ankles allowing the toes of her black shoes to poke out under the hem. Her attire gave the impression of an eccentric individual born too late to enjoy the 1960s.

Serena was the first out of the car and returned the warm smile offered by the younger woman. When Bernie joined her wife the eccentric-looking woman greeted her guests simultaneously, but her smile broadened on seeing Bernie, “Hello, Hello... Welcome to Auderley House. I am Miss Elizabeth Carter. Pleased to meet you... You can bring your luggage in later. Come in and rest after your long journey…” Elizabeth stepped aside and ushered them into the house.

The younger woman continued to chatter to Serena and Bernie as she walked briskly through the hall and down to the corridor to the kitchen, “I’ll show you around the house once you’ve had a nice cup of tea… You must be tired after your journey. Awful weather we’re having… the forecast is for more snow over the next forty-eight hours, well according to the West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser…”

Serena smiled and wonder if the woman realised their journey had only been three hours and they had arrived in the comfort of a modern motor vehicle with heating, and not by dog sledge from the frigid North Pole. Still, she appreciated the polite and warm welcome they were being given.

Pausing in the entrance hall Elizabeth indicated to the door of a cupboard near the front door and suggested Serena and Bernie hang their hats, scarfs and coats up and leave their shoes in it before heading to the kitchen. Next to the hall cupboard sat a pretty polished cherry wood hall table. A large blue glazed china bowel full of potpourri sat on the table in front of the bowel sat a set of three keys on top of a handwritten note.

Reaching the kitchen, a large country house kitchen with all the modern conveniences anyone would need or could wish for but full of vintage charm maintained by the dishwasher being housed with the cabinets beneath the marble countertop and the fridge freezer standing concealed in what had been an alcove but was now fronted by a door in matching wood and colour to the rest of the cabinetry. The original cast iron cream coloured Aga Rayburn cooker dominated the kitchen in a recess on the right-hand wall. Elizabeth asked if Bernie wouldn’t mind making the tea and promptly took a seat at the large kitchen table which took up the centre of the room.

Serena found the cups in the most obvious place for them, the top cupboard above the kettle. Over their cups of tea, they discussed at length their modest but charming wedding. The younger woman was excited and full of questions regarding their earlier nuptials. Serena thought it was as if she’d never heard of same-sex couples getting married but let the thought go assuming she was more than an odd duck. The pot of tea finished and their wedding thoroughly discussed Elizabeth stood suggesting she had taken enough of their time and should give them a tour of the house then leave them to their honeymoon.

From the entrance hall, with its beautiful Victorian parquet flooring, the ground floor of the house spread out left, into a west wing and to the right or east wing. The west wing consisted of a formal drawing room, a games room complete with a pool table, a black gammon table, card table, and a dartboard. The next room along was the formal dining room with a large mahogany table and matching chairs able to accommodate twenty people. Beyond the dining room at the end of the corridor was the large kitchen where they had just enjoyed a pot of tea sat around the big table which can easily seat up to twenty people.

Across the entrance hall in the east wing, the door nearest to the front door led into a study. Further up the hall also on the right, a door led into the library which had a connecting door into the study. Off the entrance hall directly opposite the front door was the snug, a small room containing a three-seater chesterfield leather sofa, cushions, blankets, a large footstool and 43 inch TV. The window at the far end overlooked the formal garden. Between the snug and the start of the west wing was the large ornate oak staircase and between the crook of the stairs and the door to the snug sat a grandfather clock.

Upstairs the ten bedrooms could accommodate eighteen guests. The master bedroom along with the second-largest bedroom both enjoyed en suite bathrooms and further three full family-sized bathrooms were situated between the other bedrooms on the main floor. Open fires in the sitting room, dining room, snug and master bedroom all added a charming and romantic warmth to those rooms and the house overall.

The door to the next room was already open and holding her left hand out Elizabeth indicated Bernie and Serena should enter and she followed them inside, “There are actually ten bedrooms but we only allow nine to be used. This room is the master bedroom with en suite. It has been prepared for you. The other bedrooms have not been prepared for guests, with it just being yourselves staying.” Bernie and Serena both thought the bedroom was probably the cosiest, most beautiful and elegant bedroom they had ever seen or had the privilege to sleep in.

A large four-poster bed dominated the big spacious room between the door and the window. On either side of the bed sat a bedside table accommodating an ornate brass stemmed table lamp with large cream coloured lamp shades. The bed was covered in big fluffy pillows, Indian white cotton sheets and finished off by a thick pillar box red wool blanket across the bottom half of the bed. A fire was crackled away opposite the foot of the bed and two high back armchairs sat either side of the hearth with a small table between them. Two doors sat at either end of the wall the fireplace was adjoined to. The one nearest the window led into a large full bathroom. The second door in the top corner of the room led into a decent-sized dressing room.

The bedroom was decorated for Christmas with several small candles sitting along the mantelpiece and a Christmas garland hanging over the mantelpiece with red bows in it. The curtains were still open and the moonlight illuminated the falling snow and winter wonderland beyond the warm walls of the house.

“Oh this… this is simply, beautiful!” Serena exclaimed stepping further in to have a better look at the bedroom.

Bernie had been rendered speechless. The room was beyond her expectations but it was Serena’s reaction that mattered to her and she was thrilled her wife was so pleased. Turning to Elizabeth, Bernie bestowed her with a grateful smile, “Thank you, this will do very nicely.”

Elizabeth gave Bernie a wink and lead the women out of the room intending to head back downstairs. With her curiosity piqued Serena enquired, “Is there a reason you use nine out of ten rooms?”

Halting at the top of the stairs and glancing to the bedroom door to her right before regarding the younger women with a serious expression, the first time her smile had dropped since they met her, Elizabeth Carter advised in a serious tone, “Personal reasons. The family keeps the room locked…” Turning back to the stairs the older woman began to descend them but spoke a little louder in a cheerful tone, “Besides you have this entire house to enjoy. I’m sure being restricted from entering one-bedroom won’t ruin your stay?”

Bernie replied in a unanimous tone flicking both eyebrows up and grinning, “Quite!”

Once they reached the front hall Elizabeth retrieved her coat, scarf and hat from the hall cupboard. Once suitably dressed for the elements she pointed to a set of house keys on the hall table and the piece of paper underneath them. “House keys. Front, back and garage door.” Pointing to her right she explained, “Just follow the house around to the right and you can’t miss the garage.”

“You’re not going to walk home in that weather?” Bernie asked concerned.

“How else am I to get home, dear girl? I don’t have far to go... I’m very used to this weather.” Before Bernie could offer to drive her home Elizabeth opened the door and turned back to Bernie and Serena before stepping out into the snow, “Enjoy ladies. I will see you again.”

With a wave of her hand over her shoulder Miss Elizabeth Carter stepped out into the snow and disappeared into the heavy flurry. A gust of snow blew through the open door onto the oak parquet flooring the only sign the younger woman had been there and the house lights flickered twice. Serena shivered but considering she was stood by an open door with a cold wind and snow blowing in that wasn’t surprising. Bernie decided now was a good time to get their luggage and put the car in the garage. She wanted to settle in for the night, for the weekend.

Rushing out to the car without her overcoat the blonde opened the car's boot and immediately began to fight with Serena’s suitcase struggling to get it out of the boot. It was almost as if the case had decided it was far too cold to leave the warmth of the car boot. Bernie huffed and grunted getting wet with the snow and cold in the icy temperatures, “Did you have to pack your entire wardrobe?”

Standing at the door with her arms folded over her chest trying to stay warm Serena was finding Bernie’s attempts to retrieve her suitcase amusing, “Not my fault you insist on driving a ridiculously small sports car, darling!”

Wrestling the large suitcase from the space it occupied in the boot Bernie muttered through gritted teeth, “Nothing wrong with the size of my car!” Finally freeing the case she hefted it from the boot grunting, “It’s the size of your case!” Dropping the case to the snow-covered ground Bernie straightened up, placing both hands on her lower back arching it and rolling her shoulders attempting to relieve the ache settling in.

Watching her wife Serena frowned knowing the signs Bernie’s back was complaining and warned in a no-nonsense tone, “Do not put your back out carrying those cases, Berenice! I’ve got plans for us tonight!”

Bernie pouted complaining, “I have no idea why you would bring so many clothes on your honeymoon? You’re not exactly going to need any clothes for the next five days and nights!”

Serena quickly ran out from under the porch grabbing her wife and crushing their lips together in a searing passionate kiss. Bernie wrapped her arms around Serena’s waist and pulled her flush against her drinking in the warmth Serena’s always warmer body gave her. Serena’s hands found their way into snow-covered wet blonde locks and both women were lost to the moment and their love. So lost in each other the newlyweds never noticed the translucent figure watching them from a first-floor bedroom window.

Needing air and warmth they simultaneously pulled back. Serena grabbed her case before Bernie could and rushed inside with it. Bernie brought her own case in leaving it in the hall and gave Serena a quick peck on the lips informing her she was going to put the car in the garage and would be back in a few minutes.

Serena closed the front door and turned determined to take the cases upstairs before Bernie returned not wanting her wife to hurt her back but knowing Bernie would want to carry it upstairs for her. Serena chuckled to herself at the thought Bernie was always her big macho army medic. Partway up the stairs, Serena thought she saw a quick movement out of her peripheral vision. If she didn’t know the house was empty, apart from her and Bernie, she honestly would have thought someone had just walked across the landing in front of her. Once in their room, Serena put the cases on the floor at the foot of the bed and shivered feeling cold all of a sudden. Believing her shivers were down to standing out in the cold night air during a heavy snowstorm she stepped up to the fire. Bending forward Serena held the palms of her hands out to catch the warmth radiating from the dancing red and amber flickering flames.

It didn't take long before Serena felt warm again and decided to join her wife downstairs for some supper. She was hungry and suspected Bernie would to be too. Reaching the downstairs entrance hall Serena watched her wife stamping her snow caked boots on the thick coir door matt that lay outside in the open entrance porch in front of the door. The door which was wide open allowing all the cold air to rush in and the heat of the house out. Shivering again Serena folded her arms across her chest, “I’m hungry so you’re no doubt starving.”

Brushing snow off her shoulders and arms Bernie entered the house, closed the door and toed off her ankle boots placing them in the hall cupboard next to Serena's shoes and with their coats. Turning to her wife Bernie took Serena’s hand and pulled her flush against her body rubbing her red cold nose against her wife’s. Serena jumped at the coldness she felt but found Bernie’s affectionate nose rub endearing and she suspected she was probably one of only two people to ever receive this overly affectionate gesture from the stoic major. Bernie pressed her lips to Serena’s and enjoyed a brief slow kiss mumbling against her wife’s lips, “I missed you…”

Chuckling Serena leaned back studding the other woman, “You only went to park the car?”

Always embarrassed at expressing her feelings, but trying very hard to be better at doing so with Serena, with red cheeks from the cold Bernie offered Serena a shy smile and looked away mumbling, “I still missed you.”

The sentiment warmed Serena’s heart, even if it was overly sentimental and not in character from her wife, the effort it took for Bernie to admit it made Serena love her wife all the more. Leaning in she gave a quick rub of her nose to garner Bernie’s attention and pecked her lips in an all too brief kiss which held a promise of much more to come.

Turning around to head for the kitchen Serena squeezed Bernie's hand and led her out of the hall teasing, “You’re either getting sentimental in your old age or you’re utterly hopelessly in love!”

Bernie didn’t reply straight away. Allowing Serena to lead her through the ground floor of the house to the kitchen. Just as they were about to leave the corridor and enter the kitchen Bernie yanked on Serena’s hand and pulled her around pushing her against a wood-panelled wall pinning her against it with her own body pressed flush to Serena. The squeal Serena released at being taken by surprise evolved instantly into a deep moan of pleasure when Bernie, who was still holding her wife’s hand put the palm of her free hand flat against the wall next to Serena’s head and pressed her lips against the pulse point of Serena’s neck. Kissing, nipping and lathing her tongue across Serena’s neck feeling tiny goosebumps rise and a distinctive shiver run through the body Bernie was flush against all pleasurable responses to Bernie's romantic intimate attention.

Moving up to Serena’s ear Bernie bit her ear lobe tugging on it and groaned when she heard the moans coming from her wife. Bernie’s libido raised rapidly when she felt Serena’s firm nipples pressing through her dress and rubbing against Bernie’s own breasts every time Serena wriggled in pleasure. Sucking on Serena’s ear lobe, inhaling her wife’s favourite perfume, Bernie slowly pulled her mouth off the soft lobe feeling the small diamond stud earring, a gift Bernie had bought especially for her partner to wear for their wedding, slide across her tongue and finally, she released the earlobe. Running the tip of her tongue around the shell of Serena’s ear Bernie whispered in a husky tone, “I am hopelessly, truly, madly and deeply in love with you Mrs Wolfe.”

Bernie claimed Serena’s lips in a searing passionate kiss which Serena returned with the same amount of want and need and passion. Eventually, they had to break away from their kiss to take a breath of much-needed air. Bernie rested her forehead against Serena's and as what usually happened when they were bestowing affection towards each other Serena’s fingers found their way into Bernie’s messy blonde locks and began to play with them and Bernie's fingers stroked the nape of Serena's neck. A double-action which always brought a soothing peace and calm to both women.

Bernie grinned and on a breathy pant admitted, “God I’ve wanted to do that all day…”

Serena grinned back and hummed, “Mmm me too darling.” Bernie’s stomach chose that moment to protest at being empty. Dropping her hand from Bernie’s hair Serena swatted her wife’s backside, “Come on let’s feed the beast…”

Chuckling Bernie stepped back and hand in hand they walked the few feet into the large country kitchen. So wrapped up in their feelings for each other and the happiness they felt neither woman picked up on the atmosphere shift in the house. A sense of curious anticipation filled the building.

Bernie informed her partner, “We have everything we need for our stay. I sent a shopping list when I confirmed the booking. Cupboards, fridge and freezer are full of all our favourite food and snacks. Including tea, coffee, bread, butter, milk, cheese, eggs, bacon, English muffins, scones, mince pies, chocolates…” Opening a door to a walk-in pantry Bernie pointed to the two boxes on the floor under the bottom shelf opposite the door, “And a double case of Shiraz and a bottle of Champaign. Anything we don’t eat or drink we’ll take home with us.”

Serena was touched that Bernie had taken care of their dietary and beverage requirements. But tomorrow was a big day and she really didn’t want to spend her wedding night in this kitchen, as lovely as it was, preparing Christmas dinner with Bernie. So she wondered what the plan was for Christmas dinner, “Dare I ask if we’ll be spending our wedding night in here preparing Christmas dinner?”

With a shake of her head and her trademark honking goose laugh Bernie happily put Serena’s concerns to rest, “Absolutely not! I’ve booked a table at the village pub, The Luggar for Christmas lunch. It’s a twenty-minute walk or I can drive us around... And all our dinners are home-cooked pre-prepared meals. We only need to put them in the Rayburn or microwave, open a bottle of Shiraz and afterwards fill the dishwasher.”

Serena gave Bernie a huge smile. Everything had been taken care of and this was their honeymoon and Serena wanted Bernie to enjoy it as much as she would, “Perfect. But we’ll walk to the pub. I want you to enjoy yourself and if we walk you can have a drink.”

They shared a loving kiss and Bernie advised with a waggle of her eyebrows in a suggestive manner, “Table is booked for 1 p.m. I thought we’d need a lie in and a lazy morning after our wedding night exertions.”

Kissing Bernie again Serena chuckled, “Is that so. Well, Mrs Wolfe, you have taken care of everything… How about we get a light supper and a glass of wine. Then we can take care of each other for the remainder of the night!”

Bernie suddenly realised her maiden name was now her married name, which felt a little odd being called Mrs Wolfe. She had been married once before but never took her husband's name firmly sticking to her maiden name despite the years of backhanded comments from her in-laws, particularly her ex-mother-in-law. She had loved the fact at work she was either Major Wolfe or Ms Wolfe and professionally that would never change. Now she was simply adding the designation Mrs Wolfe to her personal life and she was more than comfortable with that given her spouse was Serena and she wanted the whole world to know that fact.

By 10.20 p.m. they had each eaten a bowl of soup and two slices of buttered crusty bread all washed down with two large glasses of Shiraz each. Over their meal, they held hands across the table and reminisced about the day, their wedding and the reception. For both women, the world only existed around the kitchen table they shared. Their meal finished Bernie rinsed the pot, bowls, cutlery and glasses passing each item to Serena who stacked them in the dishwasher. With all the items in the dishwasher, the women made sure all the windows and doors were securely shut and locked. Hand in hand they walked side by side up the staircase to bed.

Entering their bedroom they both shivered. The bottom section of the large ceiling to floor slash window was open and cold air filled the room. Snow, blown in by the wind that had picked up since their arrival, lay on the carpet in front of the window and the strong draft had extinguished the fire. It was clearly a strange occurrence. The window had been closed when Elizabeth had shown them around the house earlier. Serena knew it was definitely closed when she’d brought the cases up earlier and the fire had been going because she had warmed herself with it.

Both of them were thinking more or less the same thing. They were the only people in the house… Weren’t they?

Bernie moved to the window. Her curiosity getting the better of her she wanted to work out how this window could possibly be open. Standing directly in the open window, her blonde hair being tussled by the draft, Bernie bent forward turning her head to the left examining the white wood frame running her fingers slowly up and down the grove on the inside of the frame which held the internal rope pulley used to open and close the window. Not finding anything which looked out of place on the left side she wasn’t expecting to find anything on the right side of the frame either, but gave it the same thorough examination.

Finding nothing out of the ordinary with the window frame and pulley system Bernie straightened up and pushed down on the lower section of the window closing it. Once closed she pushed down on the top of the lower window to make sure it was firmly shut. Checking the mechanism of the lock Bernie flicked the simple curved catch across to lock the window with her index finger. Then she flicked it back to the open position and finally flicked it in the opposite direction once again to lock it. Satisfied the mechanisms of the sash window and lock were working fine and not the cause of the problem Bernie pulled the curtains closed.

Crossing her arms and rubbing her hands up and down her upper arms to warm herself up Bernie watched Serena kneeling in front of the fire relighting it. The room was large and stylish but with the fire built up and going again, the soft lighting from the two bedside table lamps and the candles on the mantlepiece gave it a cosy and romantic atmosphere. Folding her arms over her chest Bernie turned back to stare at the window still puzzled by the fact they had found it open.

Sitting back on her heels Serena studied Bernie for a moment suspecting she knew what had her attention but enquired anyway, “Penny for them?”

Bernie turned back to her wife and pointed over her shoulder, “You don’t think…” Glancing back to the window she trailed off.

With a tilt of her head and quirk of her eyebrow, Serena chuckled, “You’re not suggesting what I think you’re suggesting?”

Turning back to Serena with a shake of her head Bernie snorted, “How would you explain a large heavy window opening against gravity?”

Serena stood and glanced around the room holding her hands out and offered what she felt was the most plausible explanation, “It’s an old house?”

Turning back to the window Bernie informed her wife of her findings, “The window’s been well maintained. No signs of wear on the rope and no excess paint in the runner.”

“Window expert now are you, amongst your array of other talents?” Serena asked in a cheeky teasing tone. Moving up behind her wife she slid her arms around Bernie’s waist pressing her lips between the taller woman's shoulder blades and squeezed her affectionately.

As if momentarily unaware of her wife’s words or actions Bernie continued deep in thought and puzzled by this occurrence, “It’s a large heavy sash window... To open it you have to push upwards and we're the only people in the house.”

Serena chuckled against Bernie’s back and mumbled, “We’re scientist’s darling we don’t believe in ghosts… It’s just a coincidence.”

Turning in Serena’s arms Bernie wrapped her own arms around her wife's waist drawing her in close and flush against her body. Grinning and nodding her head Bernie agreed with Serena’s assessment, “You’re right… I’m no window expert. This has to be purely coincidental.”

Neither woman wanted to dwell on the window a moment longer. No that would mean admitting it was impossible for the bottom section of the heavy sash window to go upwards all by itself. They were scientists and rational women not taken by flights of fantasy and were not about to spend their wedding night debating the existence of the paranormal. And so an unspoken acceptance the subject was closed settled between them. Pressing their lips together they enjoyed a long slow and loving kiss full of the promise the night ahead held for them. A night of passionate lovemaking and the consummation of their marriage.

Chapter Text

24th December, Christmas Eve (Continued on from the previous chapter)

Meeting at the foot of the bed Serena pushed Bernie’s jacket over her shoulders and pulled it off folding it over the back of one of the armchairs. Turning back to the blonde she began to unbutton her white shirt pulling it out of her trousers. With Bernie’s shirt unbuttoned and untucked Serena stepped into Bernie’s personal space and ran her hands across her toned abdomen, up her sides to cup and gently squeeze her wife’s small firm breasts being held in a white lacy bra. Rubbing her thumbs across the pert nipples Serena teased them until they were straining against the material and Bernie was squirming with the exquisite sensation.

Sliding her right hand down the front of Bernie’s body Serena scratched her short neat nails against soft abdominal skin before continuing her journey further down her wife’s toned and lean body. Reaching the waistband of her trousers Serena pushed her palm flat against the zip flap of the trousers when Bernie’s eyes went wide and her eyebrows arched Serena moved her hand to the apex of Bernie’s legs and cupped her sex applying pressure by squeezing her wife and rubbing her hand back and forth before repeating the squeeze. All the time Serena’s eyes were locked with Bernie’s enjoying what she was doing to her wife and the effect it was having on her.

Bringing her other hand down Serena unbuttoned and unzipped the slim fit grey trousers. Pushing her hand inside the trousers Serena cupped her wife’s sex and rubbed her hand against the very warm and wet gusset of the white lacy briefs. Serena growled at the evidence of her wife’s arousal and pressed her lips against Bernie’s claiming her in a searing passionate kiss. Bernie began to rock her hips against Serena’s hands lost in her need for release.

Realising they were getting ahead of themselves and not wanting to make Bernie cum like this Serena withdrew her hand much to Bernie’s frustration the blonde huffed and pouted. Serena took Bernie’s face between her hands and whispered against her wife’s lips, “Let’s slow down a little. I want us to take our time and make it an occasion to remember.” Bernie acknowledged her acceptance by kissing Serena back gently and deeply to convey the passion she felt and the love she held for her.

Pulling back from the kiss Serena knelt in front of Bernie and slowly pulled her trousers down over her slim hips, down her toned slim legs and off entirely. Bernie stepped out of the trousers pooled at her feet and Serena threw them aside. Running her hands from Bernie’s hips down the outside of her legs then back up the inside of her legs Serena inhaled her wife’s scent and began to kiss the inside of Bernie’s right thigh. Kissing slowly down her leg to the inside of her wife’s knee, onto her calf and finally her ankle. She took her time tasting and teasing as she went.

After pulling Bernie’s right sock off Serena focused her attention on her wife’s left leg. With her face level with Bernie’s damp briefs, Serena took in a long deep inhalation and moaned in appreciation of the sweet musky scent. Pressing her soft lips to the inside of Bernie’s left leg she kissed her with the same love and care she had bestowed on her right leg. Serena took her time to kiss, nip and lick all the way down to Bernie’s left ankle. Reaching her left sock Serena pulled it off leaving her very aroused wife stood in her open shirt, bra and briefs.

Standing Serena licked her lips hungry to take and taste the greatest love she had ever had. Wanting to savour every second of tonight so she could indulge in the memories whenever the whim took her. That thought didn’t make her feel greedy. Of course, she would be sharing her life and bed every night with Berenice Wolfe for the rest of their lives but she knew there would be times she would want to indulge in the memories of her wedding night. After all, she had waited all her life for this happiness and she was going to revel in her euphoria whenever she wanted to.

Serena’s eyes were dark and hooded with love and lust and she looked like a cat about to pounce on its prey. Bernie wanted nothing more right now than to be Serena’s prey. She had never desired or wanted anyone with the burning need she felt right now for the woman in front of her.

Her Serena.

Her wife.

Licking her own lips Bernie waited for Serena to make her next move. Without discussing it Serena had taken charge and Bernie had acquiescence. Their sex life was healthy and equal. Both women enjoyed being the one in control as much as the one submitting. In the early days of their relationship, it hadn’t been so. Bernie tended to take charge which Serena loved. But as time went on the dynamic of their sex life changed and for the better.

That started after a rather passionate argument at work over a difference of opinion on the most appropriate course of treatment for a patient. The argument had continued when they got home until Serena felt the need to assert her control. Things had got very interesting that night when after a bottle of wine Serena pushed Bernie onto the bed and pinned her down. Berenice Wolfe found she was actually able to relinquish control quite easily, well only if it was Serena taking control she could and only in private. She had been surprised at how much she loved being at the mercy and whim of Serena Wendy Campbell. It was another element of growth for her in embracing her feelings and communicating with the love of her life. And most importantly the fact she trusted Serena where she had never trusted anyone before her. For Serena, it cemented their trust and added spice to their lovemaking.

Bernie trembled under the hungry feral gaze her wife held her under. Watching Serena lick her lips Bernie subconsciously licked her own in anticipation and swallowed against her dry throat. Her heartbeat thrumming through her body but the aching throb in her clit caused her to wriggle her hips.

A wicked grin appeared on Serena’s face and stepping into Bernie’s personal space she pushed her hands under her shirt kissing and biting Bernie’s prominent collar bone. Unhooking the white lacy bra and letting the straps fall off Bernie’s shoulders Serena stepped back pushing the shirt off Bernie’s shoulders letting it to drop to her biceps trapping her arms against her sides. Rubbing the palms of her hands against Bernie’s hard erect nipples Serena enjoyed playing with Bernie’s small firm breasts. Palms flat against Bernie’s chest Serena pushed them up to her bare shoulders and pushed firmly causing Bernie to fall backwards onto the bed.

Intending on making Bernie as aroused and wet as possible Serena stepped back. Satisfied she had her wife’s undivided attention Serena slid her hands over her own larger breasts holding them through her dress massaging and rubbing with her palms. The motion elicited a very pleasurable tingle in her hard nipples. Moaning and letting her head lull back Bernie had a front-row seat to the show Serena was putting on for her.

Felling her arousal rising Serena reached around behind her neck and pulled the zipper down on her dress. Shaking her hips in a seductive manner causing her breasts to giggle she shimmied out of the dress. Bernie had to swallow hard against the dry lump in her throat. She was transfixed by the vision in front of her. Serena was now only clothed in a black lacy bra and matching panties with black silk stockings and her knee-high patent black stiletto boots. Noting how transfixed Bernie looked, with dark eyes full of desire and her tongue darting out to lick her lips subconsciously Serena knew she was pressing all the right buttons and her choice of underwear and the stiletto-heeled boots had been a perfect choice.

Serena ran her gaze slowly from Bernie’s eyes to her mouth, firm small breasts and hard nipples all the way down her toned abdomen ending up staring at the apex of her legs and those soaked briefs. Licking her lips slowly deep in thought about what she wanted to do to this gorgeous woman who was her new wife. A noticeable shiver went through Serena and her nostrils flared at the scent coming from Bernie, a mixture of her perfume and her arousal. It was intoxicating to her and she needed desperately to take Bernie.

To take her NOW!

Leaning forward, giving Bernie a breath-stealing view of her ample cleavage, Serena grabbed the thin waistband of her wife’s lacy white brief’s and yanked them down pulling them off in one fell swoop. Exposing the small triangle of wet hair at the apex of the blonde’s legs. Serena stood up between Bernie’s legs with her left hand on her hip and her right hand hold the damp briefs to her nose where she was inhaling Bernie’s scent. Serena looked sexy and imposing. Finished with the white lacy briefs Serena threw them over her head. Instructing her wife in a no-nonsense tone she motioned with her right hand for to Bernie to move back up the bed, “Move!”

Bernie didn’t need asking twice and scooted up the bed on her bottom. Once her head was on the pillow she waited patiently, although she wasn’t sure exactly how long she could remain patient with her need for Serena to get on with it becoming imperative. But she didn’t fancy the consequences of telling her wife to bloody well get on with it when she was in the mood to be in charge.

Climbing onto the foot of the bed Serena tapped Bernie’s left ankle, “Spread!”

Once again Bernie complied with the instruction without question and spread her legs. Serena crawled up the bed between her legs with a lust rooted in her eyes. Hovering over Bernie she slowly lowered her body onto Bernie’s. Leaning in Serena pressed her lips to the right side of Bernie’s neck placing soft kisses across the area. After a moment her kisses became more passionate and she added playful nips which she soothed with gentle licks. Moving up to Bernie’s ear she bit the lobe and sucked on it whispering in a husky tone, “I want you so bad…”

Driving her point home Serena rolled her hips into her wife’s and began rubbing her black lacy panties against Bernie’s bare sex. The lace and fabric caused delightful friction against Bernie’s throbbing clit. The ex-army medic trembled and whimpered under her wife’s administrations. Bernie is slowly coming undone. The familiar scent that is Serena Wendy Wolfe nee McKinney, a floral bouquet of rose and jasmine with a touch of vanilla to deepen it filled the air around her. Channel No.5. Serena’s favourite perfume. And the sensual passionate assault Bernie was under from her wife’s mouth and fingers hastened her impending undoing. Serena stroked her short nails from Bernie’s hips up her sides to just under her breasts and continued to repeat the stroking motion while rolling her hips and rubbing her lacy panty clad sex against Bernie’s wet sex.

Grazing her teeth against the hot soft skin of Bernie’s neck Serena inhaled the familiar scent that was Bernie Wolfe, a mix of her coconut scented shampoo and Bernie’s favourite perfume, Mojave Ghost. The woody scent made up of chantilly musk, amber, cedarwood, sandalwood, magnolia and Jamaican naseberry created a calming, soothing fragrance which was perfectly suited to Bernie. Serena loved the scent on her wife finding it intoxicating.

Biting down without warning on Bernie’s neck just above her collar bone Serena made her mark. The bite is hard enough to leave a distinctive bite mark but making sure there would be a definitive love bite Serena sucked hard to draw out the bruise. She was astounded at her primal need to claim and mark Bernie as her own. She had never marked her before even during the roughest of foreplay or sex they had shared. But here she was sinking her teeth into the love of her life.

The sudden sharp pain caused Bernie to hiss and arch her back bucking her hips hard into Serena. She loved it when Serena was assertive and dominant equally as much as she loved being the assertive dominant one and Serena submitting to her wants and whims. Bernie’s need for more from her wife was burning through her body. Serena as always was on the same page needing more herself and moved her mouth across to Bernie’s crushing their lips together in a deep and passionate kiss. Tongues slid and twisted together tasting and feeling each other. Moans and groans filled the room. Bernie forgot her arms were restricted by her shirt and tried to bring them around the hot writhing body above her.

That attempt brought their kiss to an abrupt end when Serena drew back and with a smirk at Bernie’s huff moved down to her breasts pulling the unhooked bra down off the small firm breasts and brought her mouth to Bernie’s right breast kissing softly around the breast and working her way to the pert hard nipple begging to be kissed and sucked. Serena wasted no time bringing the nipple into her warm wet mouth lathing her tongue against it and sucked firmly for several minutes. Bringing her right hand up to Bernie’s left breast Serena cupped and massaged the breast rubbing her thumb against the nipple.

Twisting Bernie’s left nipple hard between her finger and thumb Serena bit down tugging equally hard on her right nipple. Bernie whimpered from the pain and pleasure she was receiving and Serena engrossed in her own pleasure moaned loudly. After a while, Bernie’s right nipple was becoming too sensitive for Serena’s mouth and she moved across to the left nipple pulling it hard into her mouth and chewed down on it tugging her head back pulling on the taut nub. Bernie hissed loudly and groaned when Serena switched hands. Bringing her left hand to her wife’s right breast and massaged it gently rubbing her thumb against the overly sensitive nipple but when that became too much she dragged the nails of her left hand from Bernie’s right hip to under her right breast. Serena stroked her short nails up and down her wife’s side in a sensual manner.

When Bernie couldn’t stop wriggling and her whimpers turned to loud hisses Serena knew her wife’s left nipple was too sensitive to take any more and she kissed the tip of both nipples and kissed and licked her way slowly down Bernie’s toned abdomen. Reaching the neatly trimmed triangle of dark brown thatch at the apex of Bernie’s legs. Serena kissed the soft wet hair and took deep breaths, making it obvious to her wife she was breathing in her strong sweet musky aroma.

It was blatantly obvious from the wetness glistening under the subtle light from the bedside lights and flushed swollen lips that Bernie was fully aroused and in need of immediate attention. Serena was equally hungry for her wife. The couple had a healthy sex life and enjoyed intimate moments from quick liaisons to long nights of passion several nights a week. But this was a sexual hunger Serena had never experienced with anyone before, including Bernie.

Glancing up Serena locked her eyes with Bernie. The blonde visibly swallowing hard noticing the feral hungry look in her wife’s eyes. Serena dropped her gaze to Bernie’s needy sex and her tongue subconsciously slipped out and ran slowly across her bottom lip. Lifting her gaze to meet Bernie’s again, Serena licked her bottom lip a second time and with a deep growl bent her head and dived between her wife’s legs.

Kissing the soft hair across Bernie’s mons then down the right side of her groin to her inner thigh then back up the path she’d just taken across her wife’s mons and down the left side of her groin to her inner thigh. Nipping and licking she moved to Bernie’s swollen flushed lips and licked the area tickling and kissing all the way around to her right side. Bernie wriggled and whimpered in a frustrated manner and Serena chuckled against her sensitive lips knowing exactly what Bernie wanted but not prepared to give in and give it to her just yet.

Placing her mouth against Bernie’s sex Serena warned, “Patience Berenice!”

The hot air and vibration of Serena’s voice hit Bernie directly on her clit. The blonde bit down hard on her tongue tasting blood and growled in utter frustration knowing exactly what Serena was up to grumbling, “I’ll give you patience Campbell when it’s your turn!”

Amused Serena chortled against Bernie’s hot, swollen wet sex. She was amused long enough until she realised that Bernie would tease her mercifully when it was her turn. Between the two of them, Bernie had stronger will power for just about everything. Serena couldn’t last as long as her wife where prolonged foreplay and teasing was concerned and she decided she should give Bernie what she wanted and relieve her now otherwise Bernie would make her pay. It was also what Serena wanted too desperately needing her own release.

Sliding her tongue between Bernie’s lips Serena moved it around slowly tasting her and groaned deeply the vibration this caused adding to Bernie’s pleasure. Serena sucked gently but with passion on Bernie’s lips, sucking the copious amounts of her juice from one side and then the other, a hungry need building in her own core. Pushing her tongue down to the wellspring of Bernie’s juice Serena nuzzled her nose against her wife’s clit and settled down to lap at the juice like she was dying of thirst in a desert.

Bernie trembled under the talented tongue and slowly rolled her hips in tandem with each swipe of Serena’s tongue against her vaginal opening. When Serena greedily pushed her tongue into Bernie to gain more juice Bernie felt her core tightening and a familiar pleasurable pressure building between her legs. Glancing down her body she watched and listened as Serena taking her sustenance and moaning in utter bliss.

Moving her mouth up a little Serena sucked Bernie’s swollen throbbing clit into her mouth and sucked hard on it. Bernie bucked and grunted at the switch in attention to her needy clit. Serena knew Bernie’s most pleasurable orgasms were clitoral orgasms. Bernie wasn’t far off cumin but wanted to cum with Serena at the same time. She squeezed her eyes shut and husked out in a breathy plea, “No, S’rena… I want…”

With a kiss to her wife’s clit Serena very softly stroked it with one finger not wanting Bernie to lose her edge. Not sure why Bernie wanted her to stop, but knowing whatever it was is important to her wife. Serena asked gently, “What do you want… what do you need darling?”

Bernie unconsciously pushed against Serena’s fingers fighting the much-needed release her body is crying out for alongside her desire to touch Serena and make her cum at the same time. She wanted them to cum together the first time they came as a married couple. Opening her eyes and locking her gaze with Serena’s Bernie explained only just able to formulate a coherent sentence, “For us to cum together.”

Serena understood and it certainly wasn’t a chore because she would do anything to make Bernie happy and she desperately needed her own release. Sitting up she indicated Bernie sit also so she could remove her shirt and bra. Once Bernie was completely naked Serena removed her own panties and climbed back onto the bed. Noticing the blush spreading across Bernie’s cheeks Serena laid down against her wife’s body sliding her right leg between Bernie’s. Rubbing the lacy top of her stocking against Bernie’s clit Serena whispered against the blonde’s kiss swollen lips, “Don’t you dare go all coy on me, Major Wolfe! I know what turns you on, this isn’t our first tryst together…”

Kissing Bernie and punctuating each kiss with a word Serena purred seductively; “Lacy underwear,” Kiss, “Stilettoes,” Kiss, “Knee-high or thigh-high boots,” Kiss, “Stiletto heels,” Kiss, “…Which is why I’m wearing this,” Kiss “All for you darling.” Serena continued the kiss slowly and deeply. Putting all her love and passion into it. Bernie readily returned the kiss with equal love and passion. Relishing the smell and taste of her own juices on Serena’s face, lips and tongue.

Soft moans, deep groans and whimpers once again filled the room. Serena’s left hand made for Bernie’s hair and her fingers played with the soft messy blonde locks tugging on them now and again. Bernie’s right hand cupped and massaged Serena’s left breast, kneading it and rubbing her palm against the firm nipple. Serena rubbed her sex against Bernie’s toned right thigh and the motion caused her own right thigh to rub against Bernie’s highly sensitive swollen clit with more pressure. The blonde hissed in pleasure as the top of the silk stocking caught her needy clit drawing her closer to her climax.

It was moments like this that Serena was grateful she was now with a woman. A man would never have made such a quick recovery. Both women worked themselves and each other back up to where they had been only five minutes before. Serena still wanted to take the dominant role and Bernie willingly submitted to her wife. Pinning Bernie down Serena took the lead knowing what they both wanted and both desperately needed.

Moving her right hand down between Bernie’s legs Serena scratched her short nails against the damp soft curls at the apex of her wife’s legs pushing two fingers down against Bernie’s swollen clit feeling a strong throb coming from the small engorged organ. Releasing a deep groan Serena broke the kiss momentarily chuckling, “I do believe I’ve discovered a new pulse point!”

Bernie chuckled against her wife’s lips and quickly claimed them deepening the kiss and rocking her hips upwards against the firm rhythmic stroking of Serena’s talented fingers as they worked their magic on her. Sliding her left hand between Serena’s legs she was more than satisfied with how wet her wife was. Sinking her fingers beyond the wet patch of curls to cup Serena’s sex Bernie rubbed her palm against her wife's heated core coating her fingers in the sweet juice which she intended to devour as soon as they had both reached their first joint climax. Feeling Serena push against her fingers and pick up the speed of her thrusts Bernie matched her pace thrusting her hips upwards hard against Serena and grunted with each thrust she made.

Serena growled at the response she was receiving and revelled in the wonderful pleasure touching and being touched by Bernie brought her. The room filled with a mixture of sounds; grunts, groans and fingers working wet lips and clits, and the mixed musky scent of their arousal. With bodies slick with sweat and breathing laboured between passionate hungry kisses both women passionately worked each other up to their respective orgasms. Bernie’s bent her right knee and brought it up against Serena’s bottom nudging her to move up a little.

Understanding the instruction Serena did as requested and broke her kiss with a loud cry and hiss of absolute pleasure at the sensation of two long firm fingers entering her and thrusting hard and fast accompanied by a strong thumb rubbing against her engorged clit. Serena threw her head back and called into the night, “OH GOD… YESSS… YESSS… I NEED THIS SO MUCH!”

Her wife’s reaction was driving Bernie to utter distraction. She felt herself on the edge of her own precipice knowing Serena so close too. Not wanting to cum before Bernie but with her, Serena leaned in and claimed Bernie’s lips again. Her kiss was passionate and full of love. It was deep and slow and her fingers played slowly, almost lazily, with a light touch against Bernie’s engorged throbbing clit.

Serena knew exactly how to touch, taste and take her wife. Bernie began to whimper into Serena’s mouth and her body trembled. The signs of Bernie’s impending orgasm were clear and Serena continued to play with her wife. Her fingers making butterfly tickles and strokes edging the stoic major to complete abandonment of her whit’s and senses. Serena loved to break Bernie to hear her scream her name and become completely spent and sated.

The scent of sex, the sound of fingers playing in wet folds and tight vaginas coupled with vocal noises of whimpers, grunts and groans continued to fill the room such was the passion in the lovemaking the two newlyweds were enjoying.

Bernie was the first to hit her peak but held onto her orgasm wanting Serena to cum with her. Serena could feel the tremble in her wife’s body increase and her back arching. Bernie was close but then she had been under Serena’s mouth and hands for longer than Serena had been receiving attention from Bernie so naturally, Bernie would reach her peak first. But it was clear she was holding back waiting for Serena.

Thrusting her hips faster against Bernie’s penetrating fingers Serena tried to gain more pressure and friction. Panting against Bernie’s ear and tugging on her messy damp blonde locks Serena let her wife know how turned on she was. When Bernie added a third finger continuing to thrust hard and fast into Serena, just how she loved it, Serena cried out in relief. Curling her fingers Bernie made a come hither motion hitting Serena’s G spot with expert ease and rubbed it firmly continuing to thrust into her wife. Serena started trembling uncontrollably. Panting and grunting louder and louder until the snapping sensation deep in their cores told them they had reached the pinnacle of endurance and they simultaneously fell over their climatic cliffs.

Pushing her head further into the pillow, the veins in her temple and neck corded and her body taught like a bowstring, Bernie’s back arched lifting herself further off the bed. Her body shook uncontrollably with the pulsing pleasure coursing throughout her. Falling hard into her orgasm Bernie’s mouth opened allowing a strangled cry to fill not just Serena’s ears but by the volume possibly the entire house, “FUCKING HELL FRAULEIN!” Suddenly spent and sated she collapsed back onto the bed panting and seeing stars.

Bernie didn’t stop her loving administrations of Serena, although it was extremely hard in the midst of the throws of her own climax. Only seconds behind Bernie and Serena hit her own climax too. Feeling the pressure in her core explode she crashed into her orgasm. Body trembling uncontrollably she was unable to stop her hips bucking hard against Bernie’s hand and body. Overcome by a burning tsunami of pleasure Serena enjoyed her much needed release beyond measure and growled against Bernie’s ear, “OHHH GOD YESSS! OH YESSS, BERNIE!”

Both women slowed their fingers gentling their touch but continued to play and make love to the other knowing they each had another orgasm in them. Skin flushed red and slick with perspiration, tussled hair sticking to their foreheads from the exertion of their lovemaking, they stole breathless kisses and rubbed noses. Their now ultra-sensitive clits twitched and throbbed painfully under their continuing play but neither wanted to stop. They both wanted the small intense orgasm their bodies were promising them if they could just persevere a little longer.

Carefully Bernie removed one finger leaving two still inside her wife and slowly but gently moved her fingers back and forth deep inside Serena. Curling just her index finger she stroked her wife’s G spot with the slightest of pressure not wanting to overstimulate her and spoil the experience for Serena. Bernie wasn’t the least bit surprised it only took about a minute before Serena’s body shook and her hips bucked hard once against her hand and body. Her wife’s deep satisfied moan vibrated against Bernie’s neck followed by a whimper and wiggle of her hips letting Bernie know Serena was fully and utterly satisfied and happily spent for now.

The sensitivity in Bernie’s clit was almost making Serena’s touch unbearable but she wanted to cum again. She needed to cum again. It would be quick and intense. Serena nuzzled and purred against Bernie’s neck encouraging her wife to cum. Bernie didn’t need any further encouragement her clit couldn’t take any more stimulation. A loud deep groan and a hard triple buck of her hips and Bernie came quick and hard. Instantly she squeezed her legs together and whimpered indicating to Serena that she too was totally and completely satisfied and spent for the time being.

Bernie’s body went limp. Serena stopped playing with her wife’s clit and cupped her sex holding her most intimate part feeling how incredibly wet Bernie was and enjoyed the throbbing and involuntary spasms she could feel against her palm. Raising her hips Serena silently let Bernie know she needed her wife to remove her fingers which were becoming uncomfortable. Bernie obliged by carefully pulling her fingers out of the tight hot and wet cocoon they were nestled in. Serena’s mouth kissed its way up her wife’s neck to claim her lips in a loving kiss that sought to convey love and not stoke passion.

Drawing out of the kiss Serena brought her right hand up from her wife’s sex and moved some messy blonde locks out of Bernie’s eyes. The two women grinned at each other. Serena’s smile was the sexy one that had drawn Bernie to the woman, who owned her heart, all those years ago on an overcast day in the staff car park outside Holby City hospital’s Wyvern Wing. Bernie bestowed her new wife with the smile that always melted Serena’s heart, a big smile with her eyes squeezed shut. A smile Bernie only ever gave Serena, her children, Jason, Greta and Guinevere. Her family.

Cupping Bernie’s left cheek Serena rubbed her thumb back and forth across her cheekbone and pecked her lips, “That my darling was incredible. You are incredible…” Claiming Bernie’s lips again the two women shared a long slow kiss.

When the kiss ended Bernie pushed her fingers into Serena’s short hair and scratched her nails up and down the nape of her neck earning an appreciative moan from her wife, “Thank you, my love, that was amazing. You’re amazing…” Bernie pressed her lips against Serena’s initiating another kiss by running her tongue along her wife’s bottom lip.

Serena took advantage sucking Bernie’s tongue into her mouth before her own tongue slipped into wife’s mouth. They both moaned softly keeping the kiss to affirming their deep love for one another and solidifying the nuptials they enjoyed earlier in the day. Fingers played in each other’s hair and they nestled into one another neither ever wanting to leave the cocoon they had made for themselves in each other’s arms in this bed.

The soothing motion of Bernie’s fingers scratching against the nape of Serena’s neck relaxed Serena making her sleepy. Her body felt sticky and she wanted a quick shower before she fell asleep. Pulling out of the kiss Serena informed Bernie of her plan, “As much as I’m loving this and I really don’t want to move. I do need a shower. I’ll be back in fifteen minutes…” With a quick peck of her wife’s lips, Serena climbed out of bed and removed her bra, boots and stockings putting on a little show for Bernie. With a sexy wiggle of her curvaceous hips, Serena disappeared into the en suite bathroom. Hearing the shower start Bernie rolled over onto her front and placed her right hand on the pillow next to her nose. Closing her eyes she inhaled the lingering scent of her wife on her fingers and drifted to sleep.

Unaware of how long she had been asleep and wanting a shower herself Bernie grinned at the gentle caress which started at her shoulders and moved down the plain of her back to just above her buttocks before moving up her back to her shoulders and repeating the downward journey. It was a light casual touch rather than the loving touch mixed with a therapeutic massage Bernie was used to from her wife. She supposed they were both tired and Serena was merely using the touch to wake her from her nap. Bernie thought Serena’s attempt to wake her was failing miserably because it was lulling her to sleep as opposed to waking her up. Not wanting to open her eyes yet she mumbled sleepily, “That’s nice…” When there was no reply but the soft-touch up and down her back continued. Bernie chuckled against her pillow, “I’m awake…”

“Good,” Serena’s voice was farther away than it should be considering she was stroking Bernie’s back. The blonde opened her eyes and turned her head to find Serena stood in the doorway to the en suite with a white fluffy towel wrapped around her torso. Towel drying her hair Serena admired the view of her naked wife taking a nap and informed a sleepy Bernie, “I’ve left a fresh towel on the heated towel rail for you.”

Bernie rolled over sitting up abruptly. Suddenly wide awake she looked around the bed and then the room as if expecting to find someone or something. Serena watched her lowering the towel from her dam hair and waited for Bernie to explain. With a startled look in her eyes, Bernie met Serena’s puzzled expression, “H-how… How did you do that?”

Not sure what Bernie meant Serena enquired with a slight chuckle, “How did I do what?”

“Stroking my back… How can you be over there?” Bernie was genuinely puzzled. She had felt the sensation of being touched and it was a gentle caring touch. But then Serena was at the other end of the large bedroom stood in the en suite doorway. Bernie would have been aware of her running back to the en suite door if Serena had been the one stroking her back.

Serena threw the towel over her shoulder and shook her head, “Because I wasn’t stroking your back darling. I was in the shower…” Watching Bernie process the information and the puzzled expression remain on her features Serena added, “You dreamt it, Bernie.” Thinking about this she added, “You know how dreams can be vivid and you do suffer from those…” Serena didn’t need to elaborate further on what vivid dreams she was referring too. Once in a while, Bernie’s PTSD would kick in and she would have nightmares, horrifyingly vivid nightmares, of her years in war zones.

When Bernie didn’t respond Serena decided her explanation had settled the matter and moved across the room to the dressing table. Taking a seat she combed her damp hair then applied her overnight moisturiser. Bernie supposed Serena was right. She couldn’t think of a rational explanation of her own. Satisfied with that she pushed herself off the bed and headed into the en suite to take a quick shower and prepare for bed.

Returning to the bedroom Bernie pulled the curtains open so they could watch the snow falling and climbed into bed. By 1 a.m. the two women were tucked up in bed cuddled into each other. Bernie revelled in the warmth of Serena’s soft warm body. Feeling happier than she had ever been in her life and overwhelmed by her emotions Bernie rubbed her nose against Serena’s. With a soft kiss to her wife's lips, Bernie wished her a merry Christmas, “Happy Christmas, my love.”

Serena returned the kiss, “Happy Christmas darling.” Snuggling further into her wife’s side and squeezing her tight Serena grinned knowing all her Christmases had come at once and she would never want for anything ever again now she had Bernie as her wife.

This would be the best Christmas either woman had ever had up to that point in their lives. It would also be the most memorable but not for the obvious reasons. No, it would be memorable for reasons that neither Bernie nor Serena could ever have imagined or would ever be able to ignore in the coming hours and days.

Chapter Text

25th December

The thing about snow was it reflected light. Bernie hadn’t considered that the previous night when she made the romantic gesture of leaving the curtains open so they could watch the fluffy white flakes fall from the cosy comfort of their bed by firelight. Daylight filled the room and she cursed her lack of forethought. A puff of air being blown between slightly parted lips drew Bernie’s attention to her bed companion.

Turning her head to the right Bernie grinned at the sight of Serena laid on her front, head resting on Bernie’s shoulder, her short grey hair tousled from sleep and looking gorgeous. Suddenly grateful to be awake in order to indulge in watching her wife sleep and noting the wrinkles of age and professional stress smoothed out and almost gone. Bernie decided she was allowed to take credit for this because Serena had told her on numerous occasions how good she was for her.

Serena snuggled into Bernie’s side wrapping her right arm further around Bernie’s waist. Nuzzling her nose against her neck Serena mumbled something incoherent obviously dreaming. Finding her sleeping partner adorable and not wanting to wake her Bernie stifled a chuckle. Kissing Serena's forehead seemed to calm her and she let out a series of small puffs of breath followed by a snore. Bernie covered her mouth and nose with her left hand trying to stifle the laugh threatening to break free which she knew would wake Serena. Between the warmth of her wife's body and the sinfully comfortable bed, Bernie was lulled back to sleep with her lips pressed against Serena's forehead.

An hour or so later Bernie woke feeling rested but somewhat frisky. The light breaths coming from Serena caressed her neck and the press of Serena’s breast against her own felt more than lovely. Their limbs were entwined and Bernie was acutely aware of the position of her wife’s right hand which was resting on her pubic bone. An acute throb began in her clit and travelled up through her body. Rolling to her right Bernie pushed Serena onto her back and slid her left leg between her wife’s kissing Serena’s neck up to her jaw then across to her mouth. Bringing her left hand up to Serena’s right breast she squeezed and massaged it then kissed her way down to between Serena’s breasts nuzzling her nose against her wife’s soft skin. Mounted on Serena’s left thigh Bernie slowly rubbed herself against the supple muscle enjoying the gentle friction the movement caused and the slow build-up of her arousal.

Slowly like fog clearing under the warmth of the sun Serena woke from her restful slumber. Kisses and soft touches bestowed with love and gentleness drew her to her senses and she was aware of what or rather who had woken her. Serena's body woke before her mind and reacted to the sensual touches her wife was giving her. A very aroused Bernie coated her wife’s thigh with her juices and spread her legs a little further pushing herself against Serena.

Feeling Bernie’s engorged firm clit rubbing against her thigh Serena revelled in the fact she was the cause of the reaction and enjoyed being on the receiving end of it. Bringing her arms around Bernie’s body Serena bent her head forward and rubbed her nose against her wife’s messy blonde hair and in a husky tone purred, “Someone’s awake.”

Continuing to kiss Serena's cleavage Bernie raised her eyes locking her gaze with the dark smouldering eyes looking back at her. Lifting her left thigh to push against Bernie’s sex Serena teased her wife with a saucy comment she knew full well would garner a response, “Good morning major, nice of you to stand to attention for me!” She emphasised her point with a cheeky wink and watched Bernie’s eyes fully dilated with arousal and knew they wouldn’t be getting up any time soon.

With a chuckle that vibrated through Serena’s right nipple Bernie got down to business. Sucking hard on the pert sensitive nipple and rolling her tongue around it Bernie bit down tugging hard. Serena hissed at the sharp pleasurable pain arching her back and pushing her breast firmly against her wife’s mouth. Her nipple tingled and the hiss turned into a deep moan. Bernie’s tongue lavished pleasure on the hard sensitive nipple. Not wanting to ignore the left nipple Bernie brought her right hand up and pinched the nipple between her finger and thumb and pulled on it.

Rolling her hips and pushing her thigh hard up against Bernie’s sex Serena moaned against her wife’s breast and the blonde began to rub herself faster against the supple thigh pressed firmly between her legs. Bernie enjoyed the friction she was generating against her engorged tingling clit.

Not wanting to cum just yet, because her intention in initiating this lovemaking session was to pleasure Serena, Bernie fought against her own intense need to achieve an orgasm and lifted her hips bringing her sex off her wife's thigh. Continuing to kiss, nip and lick the soft skin beneath her lips Bernie drew her mouth down Serena's body until she reached the dark damp curls at the apex of her wife's legs. Instinctively Serena knew the destination Bernie was heading for and opened her legs further for the blonde to nestle comfortably between them.

After a moment spent kissing her way around the damp curls and wet swollen lips Bernie took a gentle slow swipe with her tongue of Serena’s sex from her clit down to her vaginal entrance and took her time swiping her tongue back and forth along the cleft of her wife’s sex. Pushing her tongue into the wellspring of Serena’s juices Bernie lapped at the area for several minutes, her tongue gliding back and forth across her wife’s vaginal entrance and sucked on her lips one side at a time.

Alternating between soft and slow to firm and fast sucking and licking Bernie stoked Serena’s arousal and pushed her towards her orgasm. Wriggling Serena groaned enjoying everything Bernie was doing to her but desperately needing more. Bernie hummed in absolute pleasure at the scent and taste of her wife. The former army medic was sure the only sustenance she ever needed was right here between her wife’s legs.

The hum from Bernie against Serena’s sex caused a delightful vibration. Serena whimpered and trembled begging in a breathless cry, “More!… Please, Bernie!”

Never wanting to deny her wife anything, especially an orgasm, Bernie focused her mouth on the pulsing swollen clit. Sucking the small organ into her warm wet mouth she began a steady soft and slow sucking motion. Bringing her left hand down between Serena’s legs Bernie rubbed her fingers against her wife’s vaginal entrance coating them in her juices to act as a lubricant.

The anticipation was building in Serena. With care, Bernie pushed two long strong dexterous fingers into the tight warm and wet channel and moved them back and forth in a steady motion in order to build up Serena’s pleasure. After a few moments, Serena bucked her hips a couple of times and Bernie added a third finger understanding her wife’s desire for relief. Serena shuddered when the third finger entered her spreading her further.

Forcing her hips upwards and driving her head into the pillow Serena trembled, groaned and moaned letting Bernie hear and feel how much she was enjoying the attention. Serena’s left hand reached for the headboard to brace herself from what she knew would be a powerful orgasm. Her right hand went to Bernie’s head and her fingers tangled in the messy blonde locks. Needing even more contact from Bernie’s mouth Serena pushed her wife’s head down against her sex and Bernie understood the silent instruction.

Bernie could read Serena’s body like a book. She knew all the physical and verbal responses to her touch. She knew the messages she was receiving were to give Serena her much-needed climax. Continuing to suck on the highly sensitive clit in a soft and slow manner Bernie counteracted the attention she gave Serena’s vagina with firm fast thrusts and after a moment curled her middle finger to catch and rub against her wife’s G spot.

Serena grunted and rolled her hips faster, “OH… Yes, that’s it... That’s it, don’t stop. Please don’t stop!”

Bernie had no intention of stopping. The difference in touch and pace between the blonde’s mouth and her fingers sent Serena careening to the edge of her precipice and she clung to it for as long as she possibly could in order to enjoy the pleasurable sensations her wife was showering her with. But when Bernie began humming against her clit and pinched and twisted her left nipple tugging on it Serena couldn’t hold out any longer and fell over her precipice crashing into her much needed orgasm. Her hips bucked quickly and she tugged and pulled on Bernie’s hair crying out, “OH, OH, OH GOD BERNIE YESS! YESSS... BERNIE!”

Serena collapsed back against the mattress limp and sated. Bernie stopped sucking her clit and stilled her fingers inside her. But kept her wife’s clit in her mouth and her fingers deep inside the warm slick throbbing core enjoying the intense throbbing and twitching from the aftershocks of Serena’s orgasm. Serena's fingers played gently with Bernie’s soft locks enjoying the afterglow of her climax. Not wanting Serena to feel uncomfortable Bernie released her clit placing a loving kiss on the small sensitive organ.

Raising her head Bernie carefully pulled her fingers out of her wife and sucked the juices coating them humming at the delectable taste and scent. Serena continued to stroke her wife’s hair with one hand and held onto the headboard with her other hand. Her eyes locked with Bernie watching her enjoying the taste of her own sexual juices.

Having licked her fingers clean of Serena’s juices Bernie kissed her way back up her wife’s body. Straddling Serena’s right thigh again Bernie pushed her sex against the soft skin and supple muscle and began to firmly rub herself against Serena building up welcome friction. Bernie had had a small orgasm when she felt her wife cum under her loving administrations. But she just needed a little more to extinguish the burning need throbbing between her legs right now.

Pressing her lips against Serena’s they enjoyed a long slow loving kiss. Bernie’s right hand cupped Serena’s left breast and she moaned into her wife’s mouth deepening their kiss. Serena’s right hand continued to play with Bernie’s blonde locks and she brought her left hand down to scratch her nails up and down the plane of Bernie’s back rolling her hips so her thigh pressed firmly up against Bernie’s thrusting sex.

With a deep moan Bernie broke their kiss and grunted pushing harder and faster up against Serena’s thigh and her body shook a couple of times when she hit the sweet spot needed and her orgasm hit. Serena felt the fluttering pulse of Bernie’s sex against her thigh along with the extra sexual juices Bernie’s orgasm had caused and was now delightfully coating her upper leg.

Feeling the strong aftershocks rush through her and intensify the throbbing in her clit Bernie whimpered and fell limp on top of her wife. Bring both arms around her partner Serena held her close kissing her wife’s temple. Applying soft stroking motions up and down Bernie's back Serena eased her back from the intense pleasure of her orgasm and waited for her breaths to even out and the tremble to end.

With her senses back intact Bernie rolled onto her back letting out a long slow breath. Serena rolled to her left side and drew her right index finger up and down Bernie’s chest with a light slow touch, “That darling is exactly how I love to be woken up.”

With a much too smug grin on her face Bernie scratched the nails of her left hand back and forth across Serena’s hip, “I aim to please…”

“Well then please me some more darling…” Serena requested in a gravelly tone full of lust.

Bernie leaned in pressing her lips to Serena’s and they enjoyed a passionate kiss. Tongues slid against one another swiping around each other’s mouths. Enjoying the lingering taste of herself on Bernie’s lips and tongue served to ignite Serena’s passion. Deepening their kiss Serena moaned into her spouse's mouth scratching her nails against skin flushed and sticky from their previous lovemaking session. Bernie responded to the deepening kiss with equal passion letting her wife know how much she needed her by whimpering into Serena's mouth.

They spent another hour making love before getting up and venturing into the shower where they took their time lovingly enjoying soft kisses and caresses and washed each other’s bodies and hair. Serena was stood by the window enjoying the view of the garden in its winter wonderland state. There seemed to be a welcome break in snowfall. Which she was grateful for given that they had decided to walk to the village pub for their Christmas lunch. Standing with her arms folded her eyes scanned the large formal garden and the tree line of the woods beyond.

A figure appeared to be walking across the garden moving away from the house and towards the woods. It looked like a woman by their height and slim build. The dark hat and long dark coat looked feminine suggesting Serena’s assumption of the sex of the person seemed accurate based on the physical features and clothing of the figure hurrying through the snow. Bernie was behind her pulling on a pair of skinny jeans. Serena turned to her with a puzzled expression, “I thought you said we had this place to ourselves?”

Tucking her white shirt into wine coloured skinny jeans Bernie zipped and buttoned them up and pulled down the bottom of her navy blue jumper before tidying her shirt collar, “We do. It’s exclusively for our use.”

Pointing over her shoulder Serena stated in a none too pleased tone, “Well someone needs to tell the woman cutting through the garden this isn't a public park!”

Tilting her head to the side in thought Bernie offered, “Probably a local using a short cut who doesn’t know the house is occupied for Christmas… If we come across her on the way to the pub we’ll let her know we're staying in the house till the 29th.” That seemed to appease Serena and the two women made their way downstairs to have a coffee before leaving for their Christmas lunch at the village pub, The Luggar.

Donned in warm winter coats, scarves, gloves and waterproof boots the two women stepped out the back door putting their hats on. Serena was wearing her favourite big black fluff hat, which as far as Bernie was concerned made her look like a character straight out of the film Doctor Zhivago, and Bernie had her favourite black Berghaus beanie over her messy unruly locks. Holding hands they made their way across the terrace and up the stone steps to the lawned upper level of the garden. Snow crunched under their feet and their breaths formed white wispy trails on the frigid air snaking away and dissipating.

Auderly House sits on twelve and a half acres of grounds consisting of a large area of lawn interspersed with mature shrubs and trees. The grounds include a west-facing terrace, with three wide stone steps leading up onto the lawn where a pond was also located. Its own wood has three distinct paths. One led eastwards ending in a clearing planted with bluebells, foxgloves and primroses and was a lovely spot to have a picnic when the weather permitted. The second path leads through the centre of the woods onto a coastal path that ends on a small private cove included in the twelve and a half acres of parkland. The third path leads off to the west of the property only brushing through the edge of the woods and crossed two fields ending at the village church from there the pub was only two hundred yards from the church.

Climbing the steps from the terrace onto the upper level of the garden the two women headed across to the path that would lead to the village. Bernie paused and turned back to look at the garden, “You definitely saw someone heading for the woods?” She enquired.

Serena turned back to her wife wondering why they had stopped walking, “Yes. A woman. She was walking towards that central path and disappeared into the woods.”

Bernie turned back to Serena and nodded her head in the direction she had been looking, “Then where are the footprints? You only saw her forty minutes ago and the temperatures are keeping the snow frozen. There should be footprints.”

Leaning forward Serena looked around Bernie at the virgin snow and there were no footprints from the woman she had seen heading into the woods. The snow was pristine with no marks in it at all. Serena had to agree it was very strange, but she couldn’t offer an explanation, “I haven’t got the foggiest idea why there aren’t any footprints.”

Bernie was deep in thought pondering the mystery of the missing footprints. Tugging on her wife's hand to gain her attention Serena nodded in the direction they were heading before Bernie came to a stop, “Come on darling, I’m really hungry and we’ve got a lovely Christmas dinner waiting for us.”

Bernie squeezed Serena’s hand and they headed off towards the path that would take them to the village pub. They could have taken the country lane outside the house but decided taking the footpath across the fields would be safer in the winter weather with no cars to worry about and it would take approximately twenty minutes to walk via the lane while the footpath would only take fifteen minutes.

Due to the heavy snow, they were leaving thirty minutes before their reservation just in case it took them longer than fifteen minutes to get to the pub. Reaching the start of the footpath they came to an abrupt stop realising walking to the pub had been a naïve idea given the amount of snow that had fallen. The snow was up to Bernie’s shins and almost at Serena’s knees.

“Well, that’s buggered that route up!” Bernie huffed with her hands on her hips.

Serena pointed to the path not wanting to give up as it was technically a short walk and what was a bit of snow, “Come on where’s your sense of adventure major?”

With a snort Bernie looked at her wife with a raised eyebrow, “Darling it’s Christmas lunch at the pub! Not Shackleton’s expedition to the Antarctic! Come on I’ll get the car keys and we’ll drive around.” Bernie turned walking back to the house.

“You won’t be able to have a drink though,” Serena reminded her.

Turning around and with a warm smile, Bernie reassured Serena that wasn’t a problem, “I’ll survive. I can have a drink when we get back. We do have two cases of Shiraz to get through…” Noticing Serena about to protest Bernie added in a reassuring tone, “I really don’t mind so long as I’m with you and we have an enjoyable Christmas lunch.”

There really wasn’t any other option. Calling a taxi to such a remote location just to do a five-minute car journey in this weather wasn’t going to happen and with no other option other than to drive themselves Serena had to agree Bernie was right.

Fifteen minutes later the two women drove carefully to The Luggar, a 17th-century traditional Cornish pub sitting next to the harbour in the small coastal village. Under licencing laws for Christmas Day, the pub would only be open from 11.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. to serve Christmas dinner to pre-booked customers. The pub was full of locals and their guests visiting them for the festive season. Being a small pub the table timings were approximate and somewhat loose with no one being rushed through their meal. The landlady had allowed two hours for each table knowing people would want to enjoy the special meal and drinks with family and friends. But then things rarely ran to time when running a pub restaurant anyway.

The landlady, a typically bubbly and forthright woman in her mid-sixties with a short plumb red pixie haircut wearing gold Christmas tree earrings and a fetching red Christmas jumper with gold Christmas trees dotted around the front, approached apologizing for the delay in seating them. She asked Bernie and Serena to get a drink at the bar while their table was made ready for them once the current occupants had finished their coffees so it wouldn't be too long a wait.

Every available space had been commandeered for people to sit and eat. The dining area was small, only able to accommodate twelve tables, mostly tables for four, two of which had been pushed together to accommodate a party of eight, and there are two tables to seat two people. Tables had been set up in the bar area and snug to accommodate the bookings for Christmas dinner.

With everyone sat at tables the bar stools were vacant. Bernie pulled one out for Serena and in her typical soft butch style swung her right leg over her own stool like she was mounting it rather than sitting on it. Just one of many Bernie mannerisms which Serena found endearing and amusing. Ordering Serena a large Shiraz Bernie decided to have a Shandy but informed the bartender she was driving so as to make sure there was only a trace of larger in her drink.

It was around fifteen minutes or so later when a young woman showed them to a table nestled in a cosy spot to the right of an inglenook fireplace situated at the gable end of the building across from the bar. Divested of hats, gloves, scarfs and coats the two women settled in for their Christmas dinner. The scent of roast turkey, roast beef and goose fat basted roast potatoes filled the pub making their empty stomachs grumble in anticipation. They had both been really looking forward to the traditional meal and having had no breakfast they were more than ready to eat.

They took a leisurely time eating their meal enjoying the food and light conversation. Needing both hands to use their cutlery Serena rubbed the side of her foot against Bernie’s right calf and offered a wink when Bernie looked over the top of her glass smirking back at her wife. The meal was a delicious traditional Christmas dinner, a classic prawn cocktail starter followed by roast turkey with cranberry sauce, roast potatoes basted in goose fat, carrots, roasted parsnips, Brussel sprouts, sage and onion stuffing, pigs in blankets, a Yorkshire pudding all covered in a drizzle of turkey gravy. Afters was a homemade Christmas pudding complete with brandy poured over it. Once the two puddings were placed in front of the two women their waitress lit a small lighter and put the flame to the top of the puddings setting them alight. She returned with their brandy butter sauce in two miniature white serving jugs.

Over their pudding, they kept the conversation light and full of teasing with attempts to find out what they had each bought the other for Christmas. However, neither woman gave ground to the other simply both stating all would be revealed on their return to Auderly House. With a full stomach and having consumed a bottle of Shiraz all to herself, Serena had become increasingly flirtatious as the afternoon progressed. Bernie gave as good as she got but this only fuelled Serena’s libido much to the blonde’s amusement.

So wrapped up in their own little bubble they hadn’t been aware they were the last patrons in the pub. When the landlady returned to take away the coffee cups they were both startled back to the present. The older woman paused when she went to pick up Serena’s coffee cup and chuckled, “I’d suggest getting a room but you’re staying at the big house and have more rooms to choose from than I have hot dinners to serve!” The older woman laughed loud at the beetroot blush covering Bernie’s face, “You’re not the first gays in this village you know.”

Noting a surprised expression on Serena’s face and the continuing embarrassment on Bernie’s the landlady put the coffee cup down and folded her arms across her chest. Looking at both her customers in the eye, one at a time, she reassured them, “Don’t worry. You haven’t got a sign on your backs saying, lesbians… Ellen told me you’re on your honeymoon…”

Bernie shook her head a little thinking they were now the talk of the village and hating being in the spotlight, “Whose Ellen? And why is she talking about us?”

With a raised hand the landlady halted any further comment from Bernie, “Calm down dear. Ellen Beaumont, the lady you’re renting Audley House from. When she placed your booking for Christmas dinner she mentioned you were two ladies on their honeymoon…” Pointing to the table Bernie and Serena were sat at she informed them, “I made sure you had the most romantic table our pub could offer.”

Bernie felt guilty at jumping to conclusions and assuming the worst, “Sorry… I thought-”

With a smirk the landlady let Bernie know she wasn’t offended and leaned forward patting the back of the blonde’s hand, “Yes I know what you thought. A small rural community with nothing exciting going on and a lot of loose tongues all-round… As I said you’re not this village's first gays and dare say you’ll be it's last.”

“Thank you for a wonderful Christmas lunch… And the best table is appreciated.” Serena interjected to take the focus off her embarrassed wife.

Turning to Serena with her smile never dropping and the laugh returning the landlady informed her, “Oh don’t be thanking me dear I can’t cook. I burn water. It’s my husband, Mr Bligh, you want to thank for Christmas dinner. But I did make sure you had this table.”

Bernie had been thinking about the name the landlady had given and it puzzled her, “You said we’re renting the house from Ellen Beaumont… Surely you mean Elizabeth Grant?”

There was silence and Mrs Bligh turned her gaze on Bernie with a curious expression, “No, Ellen Beaumont. She owns Audley House...” In a teasing tone, she added, “Surely you know who you’re renting from?”

“I booked through an online holiday lettings agent,” Bernie wasn’t taking the blame for this.

Serena suggested, “Well there you go then, Elizabeth must work for the letting agent?”

“I suppose…” Bernie pondered the suggestion, “I sent all our requirements to the letting agent.” Bernie had an unsettling feeling that something was amiss but Serena’s suggestion did make perfect sense.

With a slow shake of her head Mrs Bligh put paid to Serena’s suggestion, “Elizabeth Grant wouldn’t have been able to meet you and show you around… that would be impossible.”

“You know Elizabeth Grant?” Serena asked.

“Not personally, no.” Mrs Bligh had taken on a serious expression.

“Then how would you-” Bernie began to question.

Mrs Bligh cut Bernie off, “Born and bred in this village. Not much I don’t know dear.” The landlady took a moment before she said anything else. “My granny was a schoolgirl when Elizabeth was alive.”

“It has to be a different woman. The one I met was very much alive… I know I’m a surgeon…” Bernie was not going to be told she hadn’t met the woman when she knew fine and well she had.

“Elizabeth Grant died a long time ago. I remember granny talking about a scandal that was the talk of the district for years… Elizabeth was involved.”

Never one to miss out on a bit of gossip and with her interest piqued Serena couldn’t resist asking for more information, “Scandal? What happened?”

Bernie rolled her eyes and hissed at her wife under her breath, “S’rena!”

A soft chuckle left Mrs Bligh and she waved off Bernie’s caution, “Oh it's fine. There’s no one alive now who remembers so no harm telling you. It was before my time so I only know what granny told me and that wasn’t much…” Mrs Bligh seemed to ponder her next words, “Elizabeth was the daughter of the postmaster, that’s when the village had a post office. We have to go to Fowey or Bodmin these days. Granny wasn’t a tattletale. Probably because of the scandal. She was very fond of Miss Grant and Miss Hardy…”

“Oh! The scandal was two women!” Bernie exclaimed not expecting that revelation.

“It was. All granny told me was Elizabeth, or Beth as she was known, and Christina Hardy who lived at Audley House with her parents and two older brothers, were accused of conducting unnatural acts together… I’ll let you draw a conclusion as to what those unnatural acts might be,” Mrs Bligh emphasised what she meant with a quirk of her right eyebrow.

Serena wanted to know everything, “When was this?... What happened?”

Mrs Bligh held her hand up and chortled, “Sometime during the Great War. Not entirely sure… Other than they were separated and Beth died a few years later. Granny hated talking about it…”

“How sad. It’s frustrating not knowing what happened.” Serena pouted annoyed at being given crumbs when she wanted a feast.

Pointing at her wife Bernie huffed, “See what you’ve unleashed now!”

“Well if you run out of things to do on your honeymoon there is a library in the house. You might find out more in there?” Mrs Bligh winked at Serena.

Bernie turned to the landlady shaking her head, “You’re not helping!”

Chuckling Mrs Bligh collected up their cups, “We'll you'll just have to make sure she doesn't run out of things to do and I'm sure you're more than capable of that...” With another chuckle the older woman walked away, “I’ll leave you ladies to enjoy your honeymoon and Christmas.”

Standing Bernie put her scarf, coat and gloves on, “Come on Cinderella your coach awaits.”

Serena grinned getting to her feet and putting her scarf, coat and hat on as well, “Don’t we have to pay?”

Pulling her beanie on Bernie shook her head and held out her hand, “Prepaid the holiday lettings agent. They took care of the booking and payment.” Taking Bernie’s hand Serena allowed her wife to lead her to the door.

Reaching the door they said their goodbyes. Mrs Bligh looked up from wiping down the bar, “Thank you…” Then as an afterthought, she added pointing to her right with the cloth in her hand, “Oh, if you’re interested, Elizabeth Grant, is buried in the churchyard.”

Serena smiled, “Thank you…”

Grinning back Mrs Bligh added, “And merry Christmas.”

Opening the door Bernie and Serena turned back to the landlady and returned the sentiment in unison, “Merry Christmas!”

Daylight was waning as night drew in fast. Driving out of the village Bernie smirked at Serena whose eyes were glued to the church when they passed it. Knowing Serena would be like a dog with a bone until she had acquired all the information she could on what became of Beth and her lover Christina, Bernie informed her, “We’ll come back in daylight when we won’t break our necks tripping over headstones...”

Serena put her hand on Bernie’s knee and squeezed it, “Would you mind if we had a look through the library in the house too?”

Placing her left hand on top of Serena’s hand that rested on her knee Bernie gave it a squeeze, “Course not… Just don’t expect too much.”

Serena nodded understanding Bernie was only managing her expectations, “I won’t.”

***

Once divested of their outdoor apparel Serena suggested they call their children before doing anything else. Sitting in the large living room Serena called Jason on Skype first. The two women spent thirty minutes talking to the young man his wife Greta and their daughter, Serena’s great-niece come, surrogate granddaughter, Guinevere. The two and a half-year-old babbled away to them bringing all her presents to the screen to show her gran and Aunty Bunny.

Bernie loved the little girl and let loose her goose honking laugh when Guinevere tried to feed her some carrot but ended up smearing the screen of her father’s phone instead. The laugh startled the youngster for a moment until she started to laugh hysterically much to Serena and Bernie’s delight. After merry Christmas’s were wished by everyone to everyone Guinevere ran back to the phone grabbing it from her startled father and shouted, “Uve oou Gan. Uve oou nanty Bunny,” And kissed the screen. She must have hit the end call button because the screen suddenly went black.

Knowing how the declaration from the toddler would have affected Serena, Bernie took the phone from her wife’s hand and placed it on the large coffee table and drew her into a tight hug allowing her to cry. Not sad tears but happy tears which happened to be tinged with a little sadness. When Elinor her only child died Serena knew she would never be a grandmother, but through her nephew Jason she had a beautiful great-niece who was very much a surrogate granddaughter to her. After five minutes Serena sat up brushing tears away from her cheeks feeling a little silly but knowing she would never be judged by Bernie. “That’s the first time she’s, she's said she loves me, loves us.”

Bernie grinned, “When we get home why not ask Jason if we can have her stay for the weekend.”

Serena looked at Bernie with a huge grin on her face, “That would be wonderful. I will, thank you.”

Bernie leaned in and kissed the tip of Serena’s nose, “No thanks needed. I love her too.”

Serena gave Bernie’s lips a quick peck then leaned forward to grab her phone and handed it to her partner, “Time for you to call Cameron and Charlotte.”

Bernie knew both her children were with their father for Christmas day, as they had done so for many years. The conversation with Cameron was short because he was working the night shift and had to leave for work soon, but it was friendly. He thanked his mum and stepmum for his gift. Serena advised him to take no prisoners tonight and Bernie told him to shine and be the brilliant doctor she knew he was.

Charlotte spoke to her mother and stepmother for twenty minutes asking them all about the honeymoon venue. Bernie rolled her eyes at her daughter’s enthusiasm for the possibility of a ghost. After thanking them both for her gift she told her mother and stepmother they were on their honeymoon and she would be disappointed if they were good and didn't enjoy themselves. Which made Bernie blush much to Charlotte and Serena’s amusement.

When the conversation was over Bernie’s sat in reflection. Serena could read her wife like a book and suggested, “How about next Christmas we have the children with us for a change?”

Turning to look at Serena with moist eyes Bernie leaned in and kissed her wife slowly and lovingly. Bernie Wolfe was a woman of few words but what she lacked in words she made up for in action. The kiss was her grateful response.

With phone calls dealt with Serena suggested they should open their gifts. Bernie offered to get them from their room. Serena looked around the big room they were sat in. It was beautifully decorated and had all its original period features. But it was enormous with just the two of them. It wasn’t cosy enough, far too formal for what Serena wanted this evening and she let Bernie know, “Don't you think it’s too large a room just for the two of us?”

Bernie glanced around seeing what Serena meant, “There’s the snug. We can settle in there for the evening… TV is in there too.” The blonde offered helpfully.

Standing Serena headed for the kitchen, “Excellent. I’ll get snacks and drinks. Can you get the gifts from the bedroom?”

In the kitchen, Serena gathered together various snacks for the evening. Finding a big enough tray she placed plates, napkins and two large wine glasses on it. Putting together a cheese board with white and red grapes and a packet of Ritz Crackers Serena placed a cheese knife on the board. She added a large bowl of plain crisps and a large pot of cheese and chive dip to the tray.

Happy with her choices Serena took the tray to the snug and found Bernie kneeling before the fire lighting the logs. Their presents sat in the large gift bag on the three-seater sofa. Before leaving to retrieve their drinks Serena leaned down and kissed the top of her wife’s head.

With two bottles of Shiraz and a corkscrew in her hands, Serena returned to the snug to find Bernie dipping a large crisp into the cheese and chive dip. Putting one bottle on the coffee table she de-corked the other and poured out two generous measures. Bernie moved the large gift bag with their presents from the sofa placing it on the floor at her feet and Serena took the space next to her wife.

Bernie munched on crisps dipping them into the cheese and chive dip. Serena shook her head chuckling, “I swear you’ve got hollow legs!”

Bernie turned to Serena with an expression that said “What?” and around a crisp pleaded innocence, “It’s Christmas!… Besides my wife prepared this and it wouldn’t be conducive to a happy marriage if I didn’t enjoy it.”

Serena held the back of her hand to her mouth attempting not to gag on the wine she was swallowing, “Oh very good darling. You’ve been reading the 101 manual on how to keep your wife happy haven't you?”

Bernie leaned in and pressed her lips against her wife’s and they enjoyed a long slow loving kiss. When Bernie pulled back she rubbed her nose against Serena’s and muttered staring at Serena’s lips, “I didn’t think I need a manual to keep you happy my love.”

With an agreeable moan, Serena capture Bernie’s lips and they enjoyed another kiss only this time it was deeper and full of promises for later. When they parted from the kiss Serena picked up her glass of wine taking a sip she pointed with her left hand at the bag of gifts on the floor, “Let’s open our presents shall we?”

Putting her glass down Serena took the gift Bernie was passing her and noted it was from Jason and Greta. Ever particle the young couple had bought her matching caramel coloured cashmere hat, scarf and gloves. Along with a knitting book and some yarn in various colours. Guinevere’s present was a photo book of her first two years dotted with pictures of Serena and her surrogate granddaughter. The final picture was Serena and Bernie walking in the park holding Guinevere’s hands and the little girl in bright yellow boots splashing excitedly in a puddle. Serena loved the gifts and encouraged Bernie to open her gift from Jason and Greta next.

Opening the neatly wrapped box Bernie’s grin widened when she saw what they had bought her. Honking out her trademark laugh Bernie showed Serena her gift, “Oh this is great…” Pulling out a pair of white Rebook running shoes with a small woven Union Jack tab on the outside of each shoe. Inside the box was a pack of Reebok sports socks and a black Reebok beanie. Her gift from Guinevere was a framed photo of herself and Serena sat on a picnic blanket with the toddler between them all smiling at the camera.

The next two gifts were for both of them. One from Cameron and the other Charlotte. They opened a gift each and were thrilled with the presents. Both women suspected Charlotte had chosen the gifts because they were perfectly coordinated. Charlotte had bought them a voucher for a night at the theatre with dinner included and Cameron had given them a voucher for a night in a hotel with breakfast included. It was quickly decided they would make a weekend of it in London and book two nights paying for one themselves. Which West End show they would see would be decided nearer the time.

After some wine and a few grapes, Serena handed Bernie a box and asked her to open it. The ruby-red satin wrapping was done to perfection and the gold ribbon curled expertly. The card attached read; Happy Christmas to the love, light and joy of my life, Serena xxx. Carefully unwrapping the gift Bernie discovered a thin navy blue box under the wrapping paper and opening the box her smile lit up the room. Inside the box was jewellery set comprising of a platinum pendant with two diamonds on either side of a rich dark red garnet on a delicate platinum chain with matching diamond and garnet earrings. “This is too much, S’rena… These are beautiful, just beautiful.” Bernie gushed sincerely to her wife.

Serena was over the moon that Bernie loved her gift, “Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, is too much for you my love.” She sealed her declaration with a tender kiss and sitting back added, “In case you’re not aware the diamonds are my birthstone and the garnet is yours.”

Bernie couldn’t keep the smile off her face and nodded, “I did know… Thank you so much. This is simply beautiful.”

“Diamonds are the symbol of love and garnets symbolise friendship and trust… They’re a perfect match.” Serena added pointing to the gemstones, “Just like us.”

With a smug grin Bernie handed Serena her gift and watched her wife chuckle at the state of the wrapping. It was a complete mess. Give Bernie a scalpel and she was a highly skilled surgeon but give the woman a pair of scissors, sellotape and wrapping paper and she was incapable of covering the gift in a neat tidy manner. At least Serena knew her wife had wrapped this and she found Bernie’s lack of skill in this endeavour endearing and so very much Bernie. Inside the gift box were two smaller boxes.

The first box held a small oval gold locket. Engraved on the front were the entwined letters B and S. Set inside the bottom of the B was a small garnet and set inside the lower curve of the S was a small diamond. On the back an inscription read; My love My life My Everything 24/22/2020 BW xxx. When Serena looked up her eyes were damp with unshed tears. Bernie encouraged her to open the locket. The locket opened into three delicate photo frames which all had photos in them. The first was Elinor, the second picture was Bernie and Serena and the third was Jason, Greta and Guinevere. It was an incredibly touching gift and Serena let her tears fall but assured Bernie they were happy tears. Throwing her arms around Bernie she hugged her tight and thanked her for her gift.

Bernie told her she still had another box to open. Whatever Serena had been expecting it certainly wasn’t this. She sat looking at the beautiful platinum diamond and garnet encrusted eternity ring. The gemstones were set in diamond then garnet combination which continued across the top of the ring. Bernie spoke softly explaining her reason for the ring, “It’s an eternity ring.”

“I can see that... It’s beautiful darling. Truly beautiful.” Serena’s emotions were teetering on the edge again as she slipped the ring on against her wedding ring turning her hand this way and that letting the firelight and sidelights in the room catch the gemstones making them sparkle.

“I-I umm, know eternity rings are usually given on the first or tenth anniversary… Or even at the birth of a first child…” Bernie wasn’t so sure she had done the right thing buying an eternity ring twenty-four hours after they had said I do. But deciding the gift had been given and received she wanted to explain her reasoning for choosing this gift, “I told you once I would wait an eternity to be with you.” Giving Serena a soft broad smile Bernie ploughed on and mumbled out the rest of her explanation, “I’m grateful I didn’t have to wait that long… But I ah, I-I wanted to show you my love is eternal.”

Bernie Wolfe was a dark horse where romance was concerned. She came across as disinterested and unknowledgeable but that was because she didn’t go in for over the top excessive gestures which amounted to just words for the sake of it. No, the blonde was a romantic in the truest sense and in Serena’s opinion the best kind. And her Christmas gifts from her wife proved this beyond a shadow of a doubt because when Bernie applied her focus on romance she made her gestures count. And being on the receiving end of a romantic Berenice Wolfe was absolute bliss as far as Serena was concerned.

Serena couldn’t love her wife anymore even if she tried. Pushing Bernie back against the armrest of the sofa she climbed on top and growled, “Shut up and kiss me!” As orders went Bernie knew this was the easiest one she would ever have to follow.

With lips locked together and hands in each other’s hair, they enjoyed a long passionate kiss in the warmth of the wood-burning open fire. The remainder of their evening was spent laying on the sofa cuddling and feeding each other nibbles, snacks and enjoying the wine. They choose to watch Christmassy films and started off with “Love Actually” and then watched the classic “A Christmas Carol.”

They dozed off in each other’s arms and only woke and moved when Bernie needed the toilet. Much to her displeasure, there was no downstairs toilet and she would have to go upstairs to the en suite in their room. Serena decided to clear up the tray of food and took it along with the empty wine bottles and glasses to the kitchen. Making her way upstairs Bernie shivered but assumed the house outside the snug felt cooler because she'd been sat in the small room all evening with a roaring wood fire making her toasty warm.

It was late and they’d be going to bed soon so once Bernie had finished in the bathroom she lit the fire so the room would be warm for when they turned in for the night. Leaving the bedroom became a problem though when the door, she was certain she hadn’t closed, wouldn’t open. It was as if it was locked from the outside. Turning the round door handle back and forth and pulling on it had no effect and the door remained closed. Believing Serena was playing a practical joke on her Bernie banged the palm of her right hand hard on the door yelling out with a chuckle, “Campbell, if you think this is funny you’ll wish you never bothered by the time I'm finished with you!”

There was no reply and no matter how hard Bernie tried she couldn’t get the door open. It was beginning to grate on her and she was losing her sense of humour with the situation. Putting her ear to the door she thought she could hear someone walking on the landing, “S’rena, come on you’ve had your fun. Unlock the door!” The door remained closed. Bernie decided Serena would eventually have to open the door soon when she came to bed. With a huff she took a seat sat on the side of the bed and waited and waited.

Serena meanwhile was nowhere near the bedroom. She was in the kitchen putting the remainder of the uneaten snacks in the fridge and rinsing dishes stacking them in the dishwasher. Opening the pantry door she entered to put the box of Riz crackers on a shelf. The door slammed shut behind her making her jump and squeal in surprise. Assuming it was a draft that had closed the door Serena tried to open it but it wouldn’t budge. After a couple of attempts, she believed Bernie was playing tricks on her and banged on the door calling out, “Not funny Bernie. Open the door!”

But the door remained closed and she couldn’t hear anyone on the other side of the door. That wasn’t proof it wasn’t Bernie trapping her in the pantry. Bernie had a knack for sneaking up on her all the time. When the light in the pantry flickered on and off and then remained off Serena had a sinking feeling this wasn’t Bernie after all. Her wife would never go this far for a joke. She wouldn’t frighten Serena just for a laugh that would be cruel and Bernie wasn't cruel. Backing up against the back of the small pantry Serena sank to her bottom and drew her knees up wrapping her arms around her legs wondering where Bernie was and hoping she’d come looking for her soon.

When the lights went out in the bedroom Bernie just assumed the bulb had blown but when neither bedside light worked it was more puzzling. The moonlight reflected off the snow illuminating the room and the wood burning in the fire added a cosy feel. Bernie wasn’t feeling cosy though and got up from the bed. Glancing out the window she saw a dark figure stood in the garden. Dressed in feminine clothes the figure turned and walked to the woods where Bernie lost sight of it. Just as she lost sight of the figure outside she heard the door unclick. Going to the door Bernie thought Serena had finally opened it.

Yanking the door open Bernie huffed, “Well about time fraulein-” She was brought up straight when there was no one there and the house was in complete darkness. Something was definitely amiss and suddenly Bernie was filled with worry. Where was Serena? Was she ok? Making her way downstairs a quickly and safely as she could in the dark Bernie first went into the snug which was lit by the firelight. Serena wasn't there. Picking up her phone she used the torch on it to find her way through the ground floor to the kitchen calling out to her wife.

It had seemed like an eternity being locked in the small dark pantry alone. But hearing Bernie’s voice calling out to her Serena stood and banged on the door shouting back, “Bernie, Bernie! I’m in here!” Seconds later the door opened and Bernie was stood in front of her. Serena launched herself forward out of the pantry and into Bernie’s arms. Burying her face into her wife’s neck, “Where were you? I couldn’t get out. I was locked in there in the dark!”

Bernie kissed the side of Serena’s head and squeezed her tight in her arms reassuring her wife she was safe, “I was locked in the bedroom. I couldn’t get out... It’s ok I’m here now.”

Serena leaned back looking at Bernie with a very worried look on her face, “How could we both be locked in rooms with no locks and all the lights go out?” Suddenly an idea occurred to her which frightened her, “Someone else is in this house!”

Hearing the panic in her wife’s voice and seeing the worried expression on her face Bernie reassured her, “No one is in the house darling. It’s an old house and the doors probably just got stuck with the temperature change and the house settling at night… The lights going out will be a fuse.” Bernie hoped that a simple explanation would be enough to allay Serena’s worry.

However, Serena wasn’t completely convinced, “You believe that?”

Bernie nodded emphatically, “Yes. As a scientist, I naturally adhere to Occam’s razor. The principle that the simplest answer is usually the correct one.”

“Umm, I’m aware of Occam’s razor darling, scientist here to remember... I just can’t see the pantry and bedroom doors suddenly getting stuck and the fuses blowing all at the same time.” Serena wanted to believe Bernie because it would take the uneasy feeling that had settled over her away. There was only one way to find out if Bernie was right, “Let’s put your theory to the test and check the fuses… just please tell me they're not in the cellar?”

Bernie chuckled releasing Serena, “This house doesn’t have a cellar.” Pointing with the torch on her phone to a door she advised, “I’d say the fuse box is probably through there in the utility room.”

The utility room door was on the opposite wall to the door entering the kitchen. The room was a decent size and contained a double Belfast sink, washing machine and tumble dryer. There was also the original clothes drying rack with four thin ropes running along the wall from the door to the window.

Bernie used the torch on her phone to find the fuse box which turned out to be above the door housed in a wooden cabinet that was painted white. Handing the phone to Serena and having her wife point the torch at the fuse box Bernie checked the master switch flicking it off then on a couple of times and leaned across turning the utility room light on. Closing the fuse box and cabinet door she turned a smug smile on her wife.

Serena turned the torch on the phone off and handed the phone back to Bernie, “Yes alright, you were right. No need to look so bloody smug!”

Before leaving the kitchen they made two mugs of tea and collected two bottles of mineral water from the fridge. Bernie checked all the windows and doors downstairs including the back door, terrace doors and the front door. They enjoyed their tea in the snug watching the fire wain and die. Tea finished and fire out they left their mugs on the coffee table to deal with in the morning and collected their gifts, phones and water and headed upstairs to their room to prepare for bed.

Just like the previous night when they entered the bedroom the window was open and the fire was out. Serena just looked at Bernie and held one hand out with a mineral bottle in it and pointed at the window and then the fire, “How does Occam's razor explain this?”

Bernie stood open-mouthed not able to explain, other than to give the explanation she had given the previous night, but decided that it was probably best not to offer that given the earlier events of the evening. Serena put her water and phone on her bedside table and set her gifts down on the dressing table. Bernie did the same and nothing more was said about the strange events of the past hour. Serena closed the window locking it and pulled the curtains closed. Bernie lit the wood fire stoking it into a healthy flame knowing the temperature would drop overnight.

Around half an hour later they were tucked up in bed. Both secretly unsettled by being locked in rooms in the dark and then finding their bedroom window open and the fire out for a second night. But they kept their concerns to themselves. Bernie spooned around Serena letting her wife nestle against her and making sure she was between Serena and the door. Feeling loved and safe in the cocoon of Bernie’s arms Serena drifted off to sleep well before Bernie did.

Feeling her wife’s body relax and her breaths even out Bernie smiled content that Serena was asleep. Yawning and feeling her eyes becoming heavy as sleep began to claim her too Bernie thought she was imagining the woman stood by the window. Needing to ward off sleep for a moment Bernie blinked a couple of times and focused on the woman in the room who looked familiar and realised it was Elizabeth Grant. She took two steps towards the bed holding her hand out in a gesture that indicated she wanted Bernie to take it, “Christina… My Christina…”

Bernie closed her eyes hoping she was imagining the woman was there and scooted backwards across the big bed pulling Serena with her just in case they weren't alone. Holding her wife tighter she kept her eyes squeezed shut. Feeling the sudden movement Serena stirred wriggling in the tight hold Bernie had her in and moved around to face her wife. Never completely waking up Serena nestled into Bernie and buried her face against the blonde’s neck mumbling something incoherent.

When Serena moved and mumbled the apparition disappeared. Needing to check if the woman was still there Bernie slowly opened her right eye to take a cursory look. She let out a breath relieved to see the woman was gone and told herself, “It’s been a busy couple of days... I’m more tired than I thought!” Pushing her nose into Serena’s hair Bernie inhaled the familiar scent allowing it to settle her and a minute or two later sleep took hold and she drifted off into the land of nod.