Trouble in Paradise

I am sitting in the back of the main cabin drinking some water to avoid the hangover that I know is coming tomorrow morning when Santiago appears.

“Hey, babe. I’ve barely seen you tonight! What have you been up to?” she asks, kissing my forehead.

“Oh, you know… the usual,” I reply evasively. I have a feeling she won’t be thrilled with me when she finds out exactly what I’ve been up to in her absence.

She grins. “The usual, huh? Okay, so, who have you been up to?”

I chew my lip nervously. “Well, I was with Kimberly and, uhh, some others, in the Pillow Room.”

“Which others?” she presses.

“A few guys? I don’t remember. I was really drunk.”

“Katherine!” she says, exasperated. “You don’t remember? And you were with guys? Did you have sex with them? Were you at least safe?”

I avoid her eyes. “I don’t remember,” I say softly.

“WHAT?!”

“I mean, I was really, really drunk. I definitely made out with Kimberly, but I don’t quite remember the rest.” I crack a smile. “On the bright side, I think I was actually too drunk to do anything, so there’s that.”

Santiago doesn’t smile back. She looks upset.

“Look, I’m pretty sure I didn’t. I remember laying down on the cot, and room was spinning a bit. I don’t think I was able to do much of anything,” I say.

“Katherine, that is really dangerous. You know what it’s like out there.” I am silent. I can’t argue. “Are you sure you didn’t do anything?”

I shrug helplessly. “No.”

She sighs again. Without warning, my eyes well up with tears. I hate it when she’s disappointed or angry with me. She’s the only person I could ever allow myself to be this vulnerable with, and I’m suddenly terrified that I’ve ruined it. I clutch her hand and whisper, “Don’t leave me.”

“What?” She rolls her eyes. “Don’t be stupid. I’m not going to leave you.” She sits down next to me. “Katherine.” I look up at her. “I don’t care who you fuck,” she continues. “You know that. I just want you to be safe. It’s scary out there.” I nod miserably, ashamed of myself. “Please just be safe.” She kisses me, smoothing my hair reassuringly. “Do you promise?” I nod silently, still looking down at my lap.

Awkward Savior

A loud knock sounds at the door, startling everyone. Charlotte opens it, and Enrique strolls in. He and Santiago lock eyes for a brief moment.  “Thanks for coming–” she begins, but Enrique cuts her off.

“It’s not for you. It’s for her.” He strides over to my bed.

“Well, thank you anyway,” Santiago finishes, sounding sad.

“What’s that about?” Sinclair asks Santiago softly, but she only shrugs in response.

Enrique feels my forehead, listens to my lungs and heart, and pokes and prods me for a few minutes before standing up. “She’s going to be fine. It’s pneumonia.” He takes out a few bottles of pills and cough syrup from his medical bag as the others let out audible sighs of relief.

There are several cries of thanks as he gathers his things to leave. He fixes Santiago with another piercing stare. “I told you… it’s not for you.” He then turns and walks out without another word, leaving the rest of us in awkward silence.

What If It’s…

This is slightly out of order in terms of when it happened for the players, but makes sense to be discussed here in terms of Katherine’s timeline: I wanted a Black Box scene to show how Katherine’s friends and family would react to her near-death experience.

I lay in bed, coughing uncontrollably. Santiago, Charlotte, my little brother Artie, and Sinclair are gathered in my bedroom. Artie is holding a cool washcloth to my fevered brow.

“So cold,” I mumble. “Why is it so cold in here?”

Artie calls to the others, “Can we get some extra blankets?” Santiago gently lays another comforter over me.

After a moment, I throw them off. “Too hot.” A moment later, I start shivering again.

Artie covers me with the blankets again and takes a step away from the bed. “She’s burning up,” he murmurs. “Cold sweats. We have to do something.”

I can hear Sinclair on the phone, giving a list of my symptoms. He sounds tense. “That’s right. Swollen lymph nodes, fever, cold sweats, and she can’t keep anything down. … No, no rash or lesions. ” His voice quickly gets louder and turns angry. “What do you mean, you can’t see her? Don’t you know who I am?!” he yells into the phone. This is the third or fourth hospital he’s called.

Charlotte yanks the receiver from his hand. “You can’t do this! You have to treat her! This is discrimination!” She launches into a tirade of legalese and then stops abruptly. “They hung up,” she says quietly. I hear a chorus of sighs.

Artie mops my brow again. His image becomes fuzzy. All of a sudden, I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I am dying. “Daddy?” I whisper weakly. He hovers over me, looking concerned. I reach out to clutch his hand and see a female figure just to his left. “Mommy?” My mother backs away from the bed as I reach for her. I look at my father, confused, and his face morphs back into Artie’s. I glance up and see Charlotte staring at me, horrified. I convulse as another coughing fit takes wracks my body.

“Isn’t there anyone else we can call?” Charlotte says desperately. Santiago sighs heavily, and the others turn to look at her.

“What?” Sinclair asks her.

“…Enrique” she answers. “He’s a med student. He might be able to help.” Sinclair hands her the phone without another word. She takes the phone and dials a number.

Close Call

NOTE: This post contains spoilers related to the Lottery of Death.

As a player, I’m not entirely sure where in the timeline the Lottery of Death happens. I think that’s probably unclear on purpose; since it’s not the way things “really” happen (well, as far as we living people know, anyway).

People are in good spirits until the bell rings, signaling that the Lottery is about to begin. The room goes silent as ominous music fills the room. I sit close to Santiago, my left arm linked through her right. Nate already has a tear sliding down his face. I smile at him, slightly bemused. “Already?”

Santiago gives me a Look. “Well, yeah. This is scary,” she says. I immediately wipe the smile off my face and nod somberly. She’s right.

One of the two Agents of Death passes out small pieces of paper to write our names on: one for the least risky behavior over the past year, up to five for very risky. Everyone must throw their name in at least once. The second Agent collects the names in a hat from which they will pull the names of the unfortunate. I am unsure whether to put my name in two times or three, but in the end decide to go with my original instinct and put in three. Death announces that they need ten names. Ten? I think, looking around. steps There were roughly forty people. That’s a lot.

Death asks Pepper to pull the names. Pepper steps out of the kitchen and comes to stand at the front of the room. He reaches into the hat and begins reading off the names, not pausing for more than a second or two between each. “Sam. Tomasz. Max.” As each name is called, that person stands up and goes to the front of the room to wait.

“Simon. Leon. Ruben. Trevor.” The room is silent save for the music and Pepper’s solemn voice.

“Joani.” Gasps all around the room, and one high-pitched voice lets out a horrified wail of, “What!?” I am slightly shaken, myself. I knew Joani. Not well, but I knew her. She was a bit of a quack, but she was kind and she had a good heart.

“Dawn.” I hear a choked sob, and look over to see Charlotte’s shoulders shaking. I am sad for her, but feel surprisingly calm: lots of people were more risky than me and my friends. I become more and more relieved as names are called and none are people I am close with.

“…and Katherine.”

Santiago and I look at each other in shock. I hesitate, then realize they are waiting for me. I stand up to join the crowd of names that had been pulled, my eyes wide. This isn’t real. This isn’t happening. Santiago lets out a primal scream of grief that sounds almost inhuman. I jump, and look over numbly. Her face is buried in her arms.

“Please follow us outside. The rest of you, wait here.”

I fall into line in a daze as we follow of the Agents of Death dressed in black. As we march outside single file, I am filled with regret. “I made stupid choices,” I thought. “I should not have been so careless.” One anguished thought rises above the others: “I’m not ready to die!”

They lead us outside to a field behind the cabins. “Wait here. Do not speak.” We are left with the Angel of Death. I am standing amongst nine other people, and yet I have never felt so alone in my life. Tears stream down my face. We wait for what feels like forever before we are told to advance down the field. I can hear the distant strains of the same sad music from inside wafting down the field.

I see coffins in the distance. Only five? I squint in confusion. We are stopped about ten feet from the coffins. “Those of you who see your names in the coffins, lay down in them. If you are covered with a shroud, then you have passed on. The others who see your names in a coffin have contracted the virus, but you may not know it yet. The rest of you have had a near-death experience sometime later this year, but you survive.” My stomach drops as I advance, skimming the names in search of my own.

It isn’t there.

It takes a moment for the news to sink in. I’m not dead? I back away from the coffins and see the rest of the crowd starting to approach. Santiago rushes at me and envelops me in a bear hug. “Don’t you ever scare me like that again!” I find Charlotte and Kimberly and hug them, too. I look around at the crowd, which is a mixture of people embracing and sobbing. There are two bodies still in the coffins. I don’t remember who.

The music slowly dies down, and the Angel of Death faces us solemnly. “We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of Leon.” The former disco star. I hear more gasping sobs from the people around me. The Angel of Death looks around sadly. “We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of Simon.” The rock star? He was part of Urban Renaissance.

As the opening notes of Just A Little Lovin’ trickle from the speakers, there are no words. The vastly different cliques mingle, embracing both friends and strangers, united in their grief.

A Thin Line

The next morning, I am cold and distant towards Santiago. I can’t help feeling angry with her for abandoning me after our connection last night and going off to have more sex with God knows who. Then I feel guilty for feeling that way, considering my own sexual exploits. But I never led her on, I argue with myself. Before breakfast, she asks me to take a walk. I shrug. “Sure. Whatever.”

We walk out back near the river while everyone else gets in line for food. She takes a deep breath and pauses, seeming to struggle with the words. I almost take a step toward her, but catch myself. Finally, she looks at me. “I’m sorry.” I am silent. “I know I hurt your feelings last night. We both agreed not to do that again, and I shouldn’t have taken advantage of you being a good friend.”

I glare at her. “You think that’s why I’m angry?”

She looks confused. “Well, isn’t it?”

“You–” Words elude me. “You’re such an idiot!” I explode. “I knew we shouldn’t have done that again!” I storm off, walking downriver a bit. I hate her, I think to myself. I hate her for making me feel this way. And I hate myself for falling for her, AGAIN.

I hear Santiago approaching behind me, but I don’t turn around.

“Katherine.” I ignore her. “Katherine, please talk to me.”

I turn around, but I don’t say anything. The pain in my eyes says it all.

Santiago looks ashamed. “I’m sorry. I never wanted to hurt you.” I open my mouth to reply, but she holds up one finger. “I realized something last night. Everyone else is just sex. But you… I care a lot about you, Katherine.” I stare at her in disbelief. “And judging by your reaction this morning,” she continues, “you feel the same way about me.” She shrugs helplessly. “Up until now, I had no idea. After we talked about it last time, I thought that you wanted to be just friends. I guess I’ve been pretty dense.” She smiles ruefully. “As usual.”

“You… you didn’t know?” She didn’t know. She didn’t abandon me last night; she left because she thought I wanted her to.

She taps her forehead. “Thick skulled.”

I take a step closer and allow my arm to circle her waist. “So, does this mean we’re a… a Thing?”

She smiles and kisses me. “I guess so. Now, come on – I’m hungry. And if we wait any longer, the brown water they call coffee around here will be gone.” She takes my hand and leads me back inside for breakfast.

Empty Bed, Empty Heart

We are still enjoying the afterglow, lying wrapped in each other’s arms, when Abner walks in. He freezes mid-stride when he sees us. I grin widely and make a peace sign with my fingers, “‘Sup, Abner?” while Santiago bursts into laughter at the shocked look on his face.

He stammers, “I’m sorry… I can come back later, when you’ve finished… commencing.” He turns and is halfway to the door in the amount of time it takes me to open my mouth to speak.

“No, it’s okay,” I assure him, “we’re done.”

“But you’re lesbians. Can’t you… commence… several times?”

“Who says we haven’t?” Santiago challenges him, and then it’s my turn to dissolve into laughter. Abner sits on his cot, seemingly unsure what else to do.

“So, uhhh. You two, huh?” he says awkwardly.

“Yup!” I smile brightly. “So, what’s going on out there?”

We make small talk for a few minutes, Santiago and I snuggled up against each other under a blanket.

Just then, Kimberly bursts in. “What are you guys doing?! Charlotte is crying.”

What?” I exclaim. Both Santiago and I sit up and make a mad scramble for our clothing.

“What happened?” I demand, fastening my bra.

“She ran off,” Kimberly says evasively.

I sigh, slipping my feet into my shoes. Before we leave the cabin, Santiago grabs me and kisses me again. I relax against her, the entire world melting away.

“You guys! Your friend is crying! This is no time for making out!” We break apart guiltily and rush from the cabin to look for Charlotte.

We split up to look. First I check the main lodge, which is almost completely empty. I walk around just to make sure she isn’t hiding in a corner somewhere. Next, I check the bathrooms. “Kimberly?” I call out. It’s silent. No one there, either.

When I peek into the Darkroom I find Kimberly topless–well, “topless” at least in terms of clothing. She’s laying on the floor with Sam straddling her, pinching one nipple while slapping the other breast. I pause in shock. Her words from just a little while ago echo in my head: Your friend is crying! This is no time for making out! Well, this explains why Charlotte is upset. Kimberly catches my eye and grins at me. I shake my head in exasperation and turn around, walking silently back outside to continue my search for Charlotte.

I’m about to head toward the Pillow Room when I spot her across the path, walking with Dawn and… Max, I think his name was? Santiago spies her from across the field as well, and we arrive at the same time.

“Charlotte!” I call out.

She stops and looks at me. “Hey,” she says glumly.

“Are you okay?” I ask. “I heard you were… upset.” I choose my words carefully, glancing at Dawn and Max.

“I’m fine,” she says calmly. A bit too calmly.

“Are you sure?” I press.

“Yes. These two lovely people were about to show me a good time.”

I am taken aback: casual sex is not usually Charlotte’s style. And what the fuck  happened with Kimberly? I exchange a Look with Santiago. “Oh. Umm… okay. You’re sure you’re okay?” She nods. “Okay, well… have a good time, then.” I watch her skeptically as she disappears into her cabin the with two strangers.

I sigh softly. “I hope she’s okay.”

“I’m sure she’s fine,” Santiago says. “She’s probably just blowing off some steam. Lord knows, she could use it.”

“Yeah. Well… I’m going to bed. Are you coming?”

“I’m going to stay up a little while longer,” Santiago says. Oh. My face falls. I know what that means.

“Okay… have fun,” I say, trying to sound cheerful.

“Thanks. See you later,” she says, heading back across the lawn.

I head back to the cabin, feeling strangely empty. The last thing I see before I fall asleep is Santiago’s empty bed.

Your Pen Doesn’t Work

I always enjoy the drag show. Nate is as sassy as ever, the kind of Queen you can’t help but love… or love to hate, for some! A few of the Club Diamond regulars perform (Lady Verona, Reginald), as well as a few new guest stars. When Santiago’s girlfriend Pen takes the stage, I can feel her tense up beside me.

Earlier in the day, Santiago had told Charlotte, Kimberly and I that Pen was planning something. “I don’t know what,” she says, “but something ‘to show the world that you belong to me’ or something. I don’t know– whatever. I’m sure it will be fine,” she says, waving her bejeweled wrist dismissively. But I know better – Santiago hates feeling anything less than independent and especially hates feeling “caged.”

Knowing this, I almost expect her to bolt as soon as Pen takes the mic. “Touch me,” she croons. “How can it be?” She glides effortlessly up and down the stage, as though she was born to be in the spotlight. “Hold me close to your heart…” Pen reaches into the audience, past the first row to the second where Santiago and I are perched. “Touch me…” She grabs Santiago’s hand, smiling. “And give all your love to me…” Santiago’s eyes are wide with shock as she gapes at Pen, transfixed. Pen drops her hand and finishes the song to much applause. Afterwards, she returns to her seat without so much as a glance in our direction.

I turn to face Santiago. She looks… uncomfortable? Certainly not happy. I lean over and whisper, “You okay?”

She nods unconvincingly. “Just…  feeling overwhelmed.” I don’t quite believe her, but I don’t push. Knowing Santiago, she’ll tell me when she’s good and ready, so I let it go.

After the drag show, Urban Renaissance takes the stage. “Move those fuckin’ chairs, and let’s dance!” they cry out. I sway with the music, enjoying the buzz from my beer. After a few moments, I can feel someone’s eyes on me. I turn and make eye contact with a butch-looking woman. I generally tend to go for femmes, but something about her intrigues me. I dance closer, closing the distance slightly. She does the same. We dance together for a few moments, wordless.

I step off the dance floor and grab my beer, studying her. We make eye contact again, and she comes over.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

“Dawn.”

“Katherine.” She offers no further information, and I don’t ask. Her arms encircle my waist. After a few moments of dancing close, she gestures over her shoulder with her chin. “Wanna get out of here?”

I smile devilishly and open my mouth to answer when I hear a shriek, and a hysterical voice yelling. Santiago. The music stops as I whirl around.

“…WITH YOUR FINGERS IN MY CUNT! YOU DON’T FUCKING OWN ME! FUCK!!” Santiago runs from the club in tears, leaving Pen standing by herself near the stage. Without a second thought, I leave Dawn alone on the dance floor and race outside after her.

“Santiago! Santiago, WAIT!” I catch up with her. “What the fuck just happened??”

Her voice cracks as she spits, “She fingered me on the dance floor. But it wasn’t for me. She just wanted to show people that she owns me, to show off how fucking perfect her life is. But no one fucking owns me. NO ONE!

Her shoulders are still quaking. For a moment I am lost. The strongest woman I know looks back at me, her face streaked with tears. It pains me to see. I wrap an arm around her and escort her back to the cabin we share with several others. Thankfully, it’s empty. We lay on a mattress on the floor and I hold her until her tears subside, stroking her hair and whispering that everything was going to be okay.

Suddenly, her lips are on mine. After a moment, she pulls back slightly. “Katherine, what are we… I mean…” I hesitate, then tangle my fingers in her hair and pull her face back to mine. She moans into my mouth. There is a small voice in the back of my brain warning me that we’d both promised not to do this again, that we are better off as friends, that this is going to be a disaster… but I ignore it: this feels so right. She kisses across my cheek to my ear, nibbling at my earlobe. I dig my nails into her back when she gently bites the top shell of my ear and breathes hot air against it. Her lips travel down my neck to my breasts, pausing there. I pull her shirt up and rake my nails down her back, which arches at the sensation.

I raise my hips to allow her to pull my skirt down and off, along with my panties. “Wait,” I pant. Sitting up, I pull my shirt off and unclasp my bra. Leaning forward, I pull her shirt up over her head. I caress her cheek, tracing her jawline. “You’re so beautiful,” I whisper, pulling her lips to mine again. She twines her fingers through my curls. When she pulls away, she pushes me back down gently and her lips continue their downward descent.

She is gentle – more gentle than she’s ever been with me. Our lovemaking feels both frantic and tender. She knows exactly how to touch me: my body is her canvas, her touch the paint brush. I shudder beneath her, calling out her name – not the name everyone calls her, but her real name, the one she tells almost no one. When I’ve caught my breath, she is staring at me in wonderment. My mind flashes briefly back to the tantra workshop from earlier in the night. How does it feel to really be seen?

I pull her down next to me, kissing her passionately. Then I raise myself up to kneel over her. I lick and suckle at her breasts, rolling her nipples in my fingers before lowering my mouth to her center. I am gentle also – almost too gentle, as she pushes a hand on my head and thrusts her hips up at the same time. I chuckle against her and lick her with greater fervor. I feel her convulse beneath me, and I continue. She convulses again… and again… and again…

Challenge Accepted

I sidle up to where Santiago is chatting with some people and nudge her. “Am I glowing?” I ask in a low voice.

She glances up and studies my face for a moment, then exclaims an incredulous, “Already!?” I laugh. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear she sounded jealous.

Still gloating, I saunter off, scoping out the rest of the party-goers. After a few moments, I spot Nick, a former co-worker from the Times.

“Hey, Katherine!” he says.

“Nick! So good to see you! What are you up to these days?” We make small talk for a few moments. I’m barely listening as we make niceties; years of my grandmother throwing parties for New York’s wealthiest has helped me perfect the art of pretending to be engaged when I’m not really all that interested. He tells me about some magazine he’s working for, how it’s been hard to get funding, etc. I nod and smile pleasantly, throwing in an occasional “hmm,” or “uh huh” in all the right places.

“What would really help is if I could get an interview with Sinclair,” Nick continues.

That gets my attention. “With Sinclair?” I glance over and notice that, much like a bloodhound, Claire seems to have found her way back to him. From the look on his face, she is grilling him once again. “Huh. Well, let’s go talk to him. I’ll introduce you.”

Nick’s eyes go wide. “Really?” he gasps. “That would be amazing!”

“Sure, come on,” I said, heading over towards where Sinclair is standing. “He’d probably love to help you out.”

I lead Nick over to Sinclair. “Sinclair, have you met Nick? He used to work with me at the Times.” The men shake hands, and Nick launches into his pitch. I space out a bit, scanning the rest of the party, cataloguing faces both new and old. I snap back to the conversation when I realize Sinclair is shaking his head uncomfortably.

“Out Magazine? I’m not sure that’s such a good idea…” Oh. Shit. I’d heard of it, it was a gay-centered magazine. Whoops. Perhaps my listening-without-listening skills aren’t as good as I’d thought.

“Perhaps the Times would be a better platform for this interview,” I interrupt. Sinclair nods in relief, agreeing with me. I see Terrence out of the corner of my eye. I should go say hello, I think. I clap a hand on Sinclair’s shoulder before I amble off. “I’m sure you guys can figure something out, though.”

“Terrence!”

“Katherine!” He kisses my cheek.

“Excellent party, as always! But, poor Sinclair. That Claire girl is badgering him and threatening to out him to his wife. We should do something.” I lean in conspiratorially. “Blackmail, perhaps? Do you have any dirt on her?”

Terrence shakes his head. “We’re not gonna blackmail her. Look, it’s fine. I’m the one who told her.”

My mouth drops open. “What?? Why would you–”

He cuts me off. “It’s fine. She needed to know. Don’t worry about it, it will all be fine!” He pats my shoulder condescendingly and walks off.

I watch him walk off, shaking my head in disbelief. “I hate it when he treats me like his stupid kid sister,” I mutter aloud to myself.

I make my way back to my friends, who are chatting with Morgan. Morgan is a feisty woman who comes off as a bit rough. She’s loud, she says what’s on her mind, and she knows how to get what she wants. I like her. But I am not really listening to the conversation; I’m already scanning the crowd for new prey. Claire was just too easy.

“Who’s that girl in the copper skirt?” I asked.

Morgan glances over and laughs. “Oh, good luck with that one – that’s Evelyn. She’s Chain’s sister, and she’s straight. Part of the Saratoga crowd.”

My eyes linger. “Straight, huh? Are you sure?”

Morgan laughs again. “Katherine, there’s your challenge for tonight,” she teases. “I’d love to see you try to seduce Evelyn.” Santiago and Charlotte look amused. Welp. I never could resist a challenge.

“I accept!”

Sin: Claire

I stand in a cluster with Santiago, Charlotte, and Kimberly, looking around as the opening ceremonies begin. As per usual, people have gathered into their little cliques. But last year, people had started to mingle more. Not only the usual cliques, but Terrence’s crowd and the Saratoga hippies had also begun to mix as we became more comfortable with each other. I survey the crowd and wonder what kind of trouble I should get up to first. As Dolly croons the last few notes of the Star Spangled banner, Terrence hands an American flag to Steven, one of the leather daddies, who mounts it to the flagpole.

As the flag rises up to sway in the breeze, Terrence greets us. “Welcome back to the party everyone! And thanks for coming out this year! I don’t know all of you nearly as well as I should, but I’m sure we’ll fix that before the end of the night.” He pauses and smiles devilishly at the knowing laughter from the crowd. “Anyway! Take care of each other, and clean up after yourselves. I’m not your daddy; if you want that, talk to Steven.” The laughter is louder and more appreciative this time, and there’s a smattering of applause.

Within the first ten minutes or so, I’ve got my sights set on Claire. She’s a hot young thing, and seems to be engrossed in conversation with my friend Sinclair Everett.

“Well, that’s not good,” Santiago is saying.

“What’s not good?” Kimberly asks.

Charlotte motions toward Claire and Sinclair. “That,” she says. “Sinclair is running for Congress, and Claire is his campaign manager. And she had no idea he was going to be here.”

“Oh. Sounds awkward,” says Kimberly, not sounding concerned at all.

Due to his political career, Sinclair is extremely closeted. He’s been married to his wife Mary for over ten years, and they have two adorable children. I’m not surprised that he didn’t tell his campaign manager that he was planning on going to Mr T’s “Big Gay 4th of July Party.” I glance over, and both are gesturing and looking upset.

Charlotte, Kimberly, and Santiago are still gossiping when I smile slyly and say, “I’ll take care of this.”

“I’m your campaign manager. I need you to trust me to act in your best–” Claire stops speaking as I approach.

“Darling!” I kiss Sinclair’s cheek. “So good to see you! And who’s your friend?”

“Katherine, this is Claire, my campaign manager. Claire, this is Katherine, a good friend of mine. She works for the Times.”

“For the Times? That sounds exciting,” Claire says eagerly, taking my outstretched hand. I look her up and down a little and hold her hand a little longer than is absolutely necessary. She flushes slightly.

“Yes, it is. I love my job, and I’d love to tell you allll about it. May I buy you a drink?” I ask, holding my arm out in the direction of the main cabin where Terrence has set up a bar and hired a bartender for the weekend.

She pauses, glancing at Sinclair. “Well… we were just talking about our next moves, and–”

“Oh, come on,” I protest. “It’s a party! You can talk shop anytime!”

“I guess one drink can’t hurt,” she relents. I smile brightly and place my hand on the small of her back, gently steering her toward the bar. I squeeze Sinclair’s shoulder reassuringly as I lead Claire away, and he mouths a silent ‘Thank you.

When we get to the bar, I survey the items quickly. “Whatever the lady wants, and a beer for me,” I tell Tony. “Put it on my tab.” I smile at Claire again, a predatory glint in my eye. We make small talk for a few moments before I casually place a hand on her waist and gesture outside with my chin. I am pleased when she nods without hesitation.

As I lead her back outside we run into a butch-looking woman. “Hey, Claire – what are you up to?” she asks.

“Hi, honey,” Claire says. “This is Katherine. Sinclair introduced us; she works for the Times. Katherine, this is Barbara, my girlfriend.”

“We were just talking about setting up an interview for a future issue. I don’t want to to bore you; you should go have some fun. I’ll be back soon,” Claire says smoothly.

Barbara smiles and waves us off with a laughing, “Don’t work too hard, this is a party!” but there’s a small shadow of doubt in her eyes.

I smile innocently. “Nice to meet you, Barbara!”

Claire and I continue on down the path for a bit when I spy a small clump of trees just out of view of any would-be onlookers. I stroll over casually, and she follows me. Once I’m satisfied that no one can see, I push her up against a tree and kiss her aggressively as my hands explore her body. Her skin is soft and smooth. I nibble her neck and push her shirt up, pinching and rolling her nipples. She gasps softly.

“Shhh,” I whisper in her ear, and bend down to take a nipple in my mouth. My left hand trails up her inner thigh as my right hand remains on her breast. She lets out a little whimper as I push her skirt out of the way. I grin devilishly at discovering just how wet she is. I cover her mouth with my own as I penetrate her, muffling her cries. It doesn’t take long for her to cum, her hips bucking against my hand as I fuck her hard.

“Holy fuck,” she says. “I needed that.”

I raise an eyebrow. “We’re not done yet.”

We switch places, and I hitch my skirt up around my hips before leaning back against the tree trunk. My dress is thin and the bark is itchy against my back, but I stop noticing when her fingers find my clit. “Yesssss,” I hiss. I rest my hands on her shoulders, and my nails involuntarily dig in as I get closer and closer to orgasm. I hold my breath as I cum in an effort to keep quiet, but a cry still manages to escape my lips.

After I catch my breath, we start to get dressed and straighten our clothing.

“I should, uhh, get back to Barbara,” says Claire awkwardly.

“Yeah, no problem,” I say easily. “This was fun. I’m sure I’ll see you around.”

We come out from the clump of trees together and walk back over to the party. “Do you see– oh, nevermind, there she is.” Claire heads over to Barbara who is standing nearby. I see Barbara staring daggers at me out of the corner of my eye, but I ignore her.