2: Trying something new

Mallory awoke sometime in the afternoon. Yawning, she scratched her head and then her flat belly. She was tempted to lay back down and sleep some more, but glancing at her clock, she knew it was time to start her day. She sat up and yawned again.

"I gotta go to the gym," she pushed herself because usually the thought of working out was enough to get her out of bed, but not right now. "Gotta work out." She growled as she cast her covers off, revealing her nude body to her empty bedroom. She swung her legs over the queen-sized bed and managed to stumble to her bathroom.

A hot shower woke her up completely and made her feel human again. She made herself look halfway presentable by her standards, which meant she looked breathtaking by other people's standards. Once that was out of the way, she had some breakfast, which consisted of oatmeal with raisins, a favorite of hers since she was a child. She also made a mental note that she had to buy some more oatmeal, as she had just eaten the last of it, and some other essentials. After that, she put on her workout clothes and took the short walk to her favorite gym.

She went through her usual exercises while conversing with a few friends. They made plans to hit some clubs, but could not pin down a date that was good for all of them. They would get around to it eventually, as they always did. It just always took a while. Despite the plans to go clubbing, the gym was full of serious gym nuts, so everyone was about working out. Most people were talking about their bodies. Mallory fell right into line with that.

The redhead often felt she was in paradise when she went to the gym. She liked toning her body and getting stronger; she always had. She also enjoyed looking good. Being in shape made her feel good, both physically and mentally. She was able to clear her head when she worked out and do some thinking. She also felt clear to indulge in her many vices since she felt like working out and eating decently would wipe those away.

Her afternoon was spent at the gym; almost five full hours because she had not been there in several days thanks to work. Generally, she would spend one to two hours at the gym. She walked back home and took another hot shower. She preferred showering at home, probably because her shower was much better than the one at the gym. She had two showerheads and much better water pressure. Her shower was not as long as earlier, but just as satisfying.

She went back out, shopping for her essentials, especially breakfast foods, at a market that was only a few blocks from her apartment. When she returned home, she put the items away and then curled up with a good book on her sofa. She tucked her legs underneath her and found the page that she had been on when last she read this book.

"I wonder how many people would guess how normal my days off are. Normal and boring," she snickered to herself. Well, boring until my friends can figure out when everyone can get together and go out.

She smiled as she flipped the pages of her thick book. In the digital age and time of ereaders, she still loved the feel of a real book. She enjoyed turning pages. She liked feeling the texture of a page. Even the way the paper smelled, ranging from the crisp new prints to the worn older ones, filled her with joy. For some reason, she felt like it all added to the experience of the story and helped the book come to life.

"I don't know how serious readers use tablets and their phones to read stuff," she mumbled, shaking her head.

As it got a little later, she ordered some takeout for dinner, as was her habit. She thought it was weird that she felt fine cooking breakfast for one, but thought it was a waste of time to cook dinner for one. She set her book down to check her appointments. While she liked reading full, complete books, she kept all her appointments logged in her work phone. She also checked to see if she had any messages from her so-called boss. She never answered her work phone on her days off, so her boss had learned to leave messages, even though she swore that was beneath her.

"Nothing pressing," she noted as she listened to the voice mails.

The only messages that she had were about new appointments. She put those into her phone and tossed the device to the far end of couch, not wanting to think about it for the rest of the night. The intercom buzzed, announcing the arrival of her takeout delivery. With her dinner paid for and the delivery guy tipped handsomely, she ate dinner and then returned to her book with a glass of wine in hand.

Now that everything was settled and she had nothing left to take care of for the night, the quiet seemed to bounce off the walls as she read. She was used to it and it did not happen very often, but it caused a bit of anxiety flutter in her blood whenever she noticed it. She figured it was just a symptom of living alone and rarely watching television. She had a little more wine to help the silence fade from her mind and focused on her book.

"Just me, my book, and my booze," she joked, forcing out an awkward smile for her own benefit. She read a few more lines of the book, finding that she was drawer closer to the end, which only made things worse. "I might need something stronger if I really want to dismiss the quiet."

She had been doing a good job ignoring the silence, but after a while it always crept upon her, even if she turned on something for some background noise. The silence somehow sneaked underneath things, but she turned on some music to try to beat it. Even with music going, she could still feel the anxiety in her blood. Once she was done with her wine, she decided to have something a little stronger. It would cure the quiet.

-8-8-8-8-

Poe sighed and dropped her paintbrush. No matter how much she worked on her latest piece, it continued to be a mess. She could not understand what the problem was, so there was really no way to fix it. Internally, her stomach toiled and rolled, which made it difficult to concentrate.

"Maybe I need to eat something," she considered, tearing herself away from her wretched canvas.

She pulled out the closest items in her fridge, strawberries and macaroni salad, which her mother had given her on her last visit to her family a few days ago. She ate those as a meal, not even sure what meal because she did not have a displayed clock. It looked like the sun was setting, so she would put the time at least in the evening. Once she ate, she noted that her stomach did not feel better.

"What is wrong with me?" she wondered aloud as she sat back down in front of her painting. Her eyes wandered her desk and fell onto that accursed card Nadi had given her after telling her that she needed to get laid.

She scowled at the card, glaring daggers at it. Of course, it remained unmoved. She picked it up, harshly rubbing her fingers against the thick texture. It was a well-made card, better than the ones that she handed out. It was soiled with flecks of paint from her attempt to work, but nothing was blocked as far as the company name and number. She flung the card down.

"I don't need no damn escort. I could get a date on my own if I wanted to," Poe declared, sitting up a little straighter.

She withered a bit as she remembered how effectively she had talked her way out of a possible date with that sexy redhead at Goodies the night before. She was about as smooth as sandpaper in that case. She felt that illustrated her ability to talk to women better than the delusion that she wanted to operate under.

"No, I can get a date, dammit!" she proclaimed.

Leaping up from her seat, she marched to the bathroom and took a shower. She thankfully had done the laundry earlier and threw on her favorite jeans and a soccer jersey. While it was not the sexiest outfit on Earth, it was comfortable and showed off a physique that she was proud of. Lastly, she tamed her hair as best she could, combing it out and letting it hang free for the first time in a long time.

She made sure her lilac streak hung on the side of her face. Her hair had waves in it from being trapped in a braid for so long, but Nadi once assured her that it was cute and all right to wear her hair like that. That was the end of grooming for her.

Poe grabbed her keys, phone, and wallet, leaving the house with no clue as to what time it was or where she was going. Stepping out into the fading daylight, she realized that it might help her if she knew the exact time. Going into her pocket, she checked her phone to see that it was the late evening. If she hurried, she could wander one of her favorite museums for a couple of hours.

"Maybe I could pick up a girl at the modern art museum or something," she muttered.

One of the things that she loved about her apartment, and one of the reasons that she purchased it, was because it was within walking distance of a lot of museums. Well, it was in walking distance of a lot of things, but the museums were the selling point for her. Museums were generally the only things that she would leave her apartment for on her own, as far as entertainment went anyway. She smiled as she entered the modern art museum.

"Maybe I should start working in another medium. I'm pretty good with plaster," Poe mused as she stared at a few statues. She noticed a girl a few feet away and was tempted to go to talk to her, but stopped as she considered the possible outcomes. "No, don't think negative. Just go talk to her."

Taking a deep breath, Poe steeled herself before easing over to the girl, who was now admiring a piece by Van Gogh. Poe was not a brilliant student of art as far as time periods and artist biographies. In fact, she barely passed her only art history class. But, she was always good at finding something in the art that spoke to her and she could always discuss technique, even if she could not name the artistic era.

"I really like the colors in this piece," Poe said.

The girl looked at her and then started going through Van Gogh's whole life. Poe tensed and resisted the urge to run. Dammit! I'm a painter! I should know about this shit! After her internal scolding, she noticed that the girl was looking at her expectantly. She searched her mind for something to say after blanking out everything the girl uttered.

"Um … I took a class where they made us copy famous artists," Poe said and as soon as it left her mouth, she mentally slapped herself. What the fuck was that? Gotta recover! "I was never really good when I got to Van Gogh."

The girl gave her a look, as if skeptical that Poe could even hold a paintbrush. She then went into a very technical lecture about Van Gogh's technique. Mentally, Poe groaned and found that she wanted to shut in on herself. Or better still, to tell the girl to shut the fuck up. While she knew art technique, she did not feel the need to have a conversation about it, especially with all of the art jargon the girl was using. If all of the art talk was a ploy to get her to leave the girl alone, it worked.

Poe did not care to discuss art, especially when she was producing crap in her opinion. Besides, she preferred to just admire art when she was in a museum. She would not mind talking about why the work was touching, but she did not want to do a technical analysis of any piece. Being able to break down the way the painting was made did not come close to talking about why the piece was produced or why it was worthy to hang in a museum. The girl did not touch on any of that in her dissertation.

"Okay, yes, that's how the picture was put to canvass, but what do you think he was feeling when he put this to canvass?" Poe asked and the girl looked at her as if she had said something wrong.

"He was probably feeling tortured as always," the girl replied, the "idiot" went unsaid, but definitely hung in the air between them.

Poe sighed and decided to move on. She tried with a couple of other women, who, too, only seemed to want to lecture her about artists' lives or method the artist used. She did not care and had to literally bite her tongue not to say that to the third woman. Typically, trips to the museum were not some bothersome, but then again, typically she was not in the museum for the sole purpose to pick up a woman. She left the closing museum dateless.

"Time to try my luck at the club," Poe mumbled, frowning at the thought.

Of course, she was never lucky at clubs. If she could not talk art as an artist, she really never knew what to talk about in a loud club. Nadi and Justin told her all the time that clubs were not for verbal communication, which she thought was good. She was horrible at verbal communication, after all. Still, she was just as awkward in a club as she was in the art museum.

Bass hummed through her as she made her way into the dark club. She saw moving bodies that at first appeared as one throbbing organism to her adjusting eyes. She often saw crowded areas in that manner and took a mental snapshot, considering making it the subject of a painting. Of course, that meant that she would have to be able to paint again.

"I've been producing crap," she grumbled in regards to her art. She did not have a chance to contemplate it as someone began grinding against her.

She shuddered at the surprise contact and all her mind could think was "escape!" With her heart racing, Poe quickly moved away from any and all gyrating bodies. When her back hit a wall, her heart made its way out of her throat and back into her chest. She had to take a deep breath before venturing back out into the crowd.

"It's okay. You've been to dozens of clubs with and without Nadi. You don't need her to babysit you," Poe reminded herself in a low voice. I just hate it when people touch me without my permission!

As soon as she finished giving herself that little pep talk, a woman came over to offer to buy her a drink. Just like the last woman to offer, Poe turned her down on the grounds of being too young. The predatory look that appeared on the woman's face when Poe said "not old enough to drink" caused the artist to practically run for the door. She did not make it far, but far enough to get away from that wolf.

"You're pretty cut!" a woman said to her, shouting over the music. She motioned to Poe's partially exposed bicep, but did not touch her.

Poe smiled and flexed. "I work out."

"It shows. I'm Jillian!"

"Poe." She offered her hand to the woman. They shared a friendly handshake.

"So, what do you do for a living?"

"Um … I write …" Poe answered.

"Oh, really? Anything I might have read?"

Poe sighed and hoped that Jillian had not read her series. "Uh … a series called Maru: Knight of the Realm." And the light that came on in Jillian's eyes was all too familiar to Poe. Jillian was a fan and not the type that Poe could handle. She would not simply ask for an autograph.

"Oh, my god! I just start reading that series after a friend of mine was telling me that the lead character was gay! You know what you should to do in the next book?" Jillian then preceded to tell her everything that needed to be in the third book.

Mentally, Poe groaned and mapped out her escape. While she did not mind people making suggestions, she hated when people told her what to do with her characters. It was her work. She knew what she was doing. She had it all planned out and some people just refused to believe that, as far as she could tell since they liked telling her what she should do. Making matters worse, she also detested when people told her that her character Maru was gay.

"You know, there's nothing in the books to suggest she's a lesbian," Poe felt the urge to point out and decided not to filter herself. She really did not care if people thought the character was gay, but she disliked when people outright told her about her own characters.

"What? There's plenty. Maru is clearly gay," Jillian argued.

"Maru is a sixteen year old tomboy with no romantic interests. How is that clearly gay?"

The woman then cited several incidents from the books, which was too much for Poe. She did not want to discuss her work, especially since she knew that so far her character was rather asexual. She just wanted to relax with a woman. Jillian clearly would not be that woman, especially as she went on and on about the books.

"I'm sorry, but I need to go," Poe said and she quickly departed as Jillian was trying to give Poe her phone number.

The artist escaped the club, sighing as soon as she hit the streets. Knowing that Jillian was not the norm as far as women and fans went, Poe braved another club. Even though it was a different club and different women, Poe found herself still lacking the conversational skills to do anything but fumble.

"How did I ever get dates if I can't even make it through a night of talking?" Poe muttered to herself. "But then again, I never had a bunch of dates and things were different at school. There was more to talk about."

A little after midnight, dragging her feet, Poe returned home with her shoulders slumped and her head down. She stripped off her street clothes and put on some paint stained sweat pants and a tank top. She flopped down on her stool, facing her canvas. She picked up a paintbrush, but found her hand refused to move.

"I can't even paint," she sniffled, bottom lip trembling. "I'm pathetic. I can't hold a decent conversation with a girl. I can't do anything."

Her eyes fell to the card that was sitting on her desk. A thought began drifting through her mind. She was distracted from the fragment of a haunting idea by her phone ringing. She knew who it was from the ringtone, but she could not answer it until she figured out where she left it. She forgot to take it out if her pants.

"Hi, Mom," she said, trying not to mumble, but failing. She was surprised that her mother was calling her so late, but she was also happy to just hear from her mother. She realized that she was probably getting the call so late because she had forgotten to call her family earlier, which was her habit.

"Hi, my little Leonardo. How are you?" her mother, Rayne Bryant, asked.

"Struggling. I want to paint, but it's not coming."

Her mother made a sympathetic cooing noise. "I'm sorry. Have you tried writing? You usually write when you get a painting block. Your manuscript should be done in a couple of months, right?"

"Yeah, Mom, but I'll get that done, no problem."

"You sound so down. I just wanna hold you and pet your head."

"Mom!" Poe huffed.

Rayne laughed. "What? You and I both know that always makes you feel better."

"I'm twenty! I can't still have my mom petting my head."

"Well, then we have to find you a lady friend to pet your head. It always makes you feel better. Honestly, I don't think its fair that I only got eight years to do it. That's not nearly long enough for me," Rayne dramatically lamented.

Poe's heart thumped, even though she knew that her mother was partially joking. "Me, too, Mom. Please never stop offering to pet my head." She remembered when her mother first caressed her head and it instantly calmed her down. She did not know where it came from, but it comforted her. From that moment on, her mother had petted her head whenever she was feeling down and it helped pick her back up. It also made her feel close to her mother.

"Don't worry. I won't."

Poe smiled. "Mom, you should go to bed. You've got classes. I'll call you this evening, okay?"

"All right, little Leonardo. Your dad wondered why you didn't call earlier. I got worried, too. Calvin thinks bears got you."

Poe laughed. "Bears?"

"Yeah, I don't know why, but he's now convinced that any time something bad happens, bears or wolves did it. I'm sure it has to do with this myths and legends book your father reads him as bedtime stories. So, call to let your brother know you escaped the bears."

"Sorry, I went out and lost track of time. I'll definitely call tomorrow."

"It's all right. It's good that you went out. You're young. You should go out and have a good time. Do you need anything?" her mother asked with concern.

"No, Mom. I'm good."

"Eating well?"

Poe laughed. "Yes, Mom! Now, go to bed. You have class in the morning!"

"I'm going. I love you, my little Leonardo."

"I love you, too. Tell the guys I love them, too."

"I will."

The call was disconnected and Poe felt lighter. There were people in the world that cared for her and they were only a phone call away. So what I can't get a date? Snorting, she turned her attention back to her painting and found herself in the same trouble. The painting had to be cursed as it sucked all the joy her mother had just bestowed upon her.

"Damn you, picture. Damn you, muse. Return to me …" Poe whimpered and rubbed her eye with the heel of her hand. Glazing around the apartment, she took in the emptiness, the lack of warmth, and the stillness.

She thought of her family, everyone in bed by now. Her parents were morning people, typically in bed by ten. She knew that she had worried her parents by forgetting to call if her mother stayed up so late trying to get in touch her. Thoughts of her brother wandered through her mind and she knew he was asleep, as he was always in bed by nine. He was probably snuggled under his Spiderman blankets, wearing his Spiderman pajamas, too. She had covered his bedroom walls in Spiderman characters. He loved it. He loved her.

Feeling a lump raising in her throat, she tried to beat down thoughts that no one else would ever love her. Tearing herself away from the canvas, she rushed out of the apartment. She nearly forgot to take her keys. Maybe football will help.

-8-8-8-8-

Poe woke up, not sure of the time. There were lines under her eyes with dark circles. She felt like she needed more sleep, but she would not dare. She noticed she was twisted in the sheets and the more she tried to escape, the more tangled she became. Falling the short distance to the floor, she panted as she crawled out of the possessed linen.

"Is everything destined to go wrong lately?" she huffed, glaring at her wicked bed.

She wandered to the fridge and pulled out a bowl of cold potatoes that she had made last night. Not bothering to warm them up, she drowned them in ketchup and mustard before going back to her painting. As soon as she sat down, that damned card caught her eye and flooded her with the nightmares that visited during her fitful sleep.

Shadows shaped like people had condemned her and abandoned her. There were echoes of people telling her that she was not worth loving, not worth sticking around for, and sounds of footsteps moving away from her. The haunting images and noises twisted her guts and squeezed her heart as if trying to crush the organ.

"This is just because of my damn bad luck with women," she told herself. "Maybe I should call. It'll help me relax and I won't feel so out of sorts around women next time. There's no pressure here and it might not be so bad. I can get this monkey off of my back and paint again. Hell, write again."

Her cocoa eyes wandered to her laptop computer. She would not be surprised if dust had gathered on the thing. She had not written anything in over a week. Because of that, she had tried painting, only to fail at that.

Snatching the card from her desk, she went to find her phone. She made the call before she had a chance to chicken out. As it rang, she felt like her heart was going to leap out of her chest.

-8-8-8-8-

Mallory was nursing her second drink of the night at home when her work phone went off. She debated on answering it. While it was not her day off, she was done with her date and wanted some time to herself. Still, she grabbed the phone.

"What's up, Tats?" Mallory asked.

"I've told you not to call me that," her boss huffed.

"You've told me a lot of things. I clearly don't listen," the redhead remarked. "Now, what's up?"

"I'm going to give you a bunny."

"You're trusting me with another bunny?" the redhead chuckled. A bunny was the term that Tatijana liked to use for first customers.

"Because you know how to handle cute little bunnies, despite your treatment of older pets. This particular bunny needs very special care. She sounded ready to run on the phone."

"She?" Mallory echoed.

"Yes, she. A single little bunny. Is that a problem?"

"No, of course not. It's just rare for a she-bunny, but I guess they have to show up sometimes. Give me the details."

Mallory put the information she needed into her phone as soon as she could. It was no more than the basic information, the bare bones that her boss asked for when interviewing potential clients. She was not sure what to expect from the date or what was expected of her, beyond not freaking the girl out. She did not even know what she should wear. She noticed that the address seemed familiar.

-8-8-8-8-

"Are you sure this is where she wants to meet you?" Baran inquired as he pulled up to Goodies.

"This is the address she gave. Weird," Scarlet commented. "Well, Bear, I'll call you if I need you."

"This doesn't seem right." He scanned outside of the car, checking out the street.

"Aw, Bear, you're worried about me!" she proclaimed with a teasing grin.

Baran tensed and bristled. She could have sworn his mustache stiffened. "Shut the hell up and stop calling me that! I hope you get fucking shot!" he barked, glaring at her from the rear view mirror. If looks could kill, he would not have to worry about her getting shot because his eyes would have done her in.

She laughed as she exited the vehicle. Her heels clicked on the sidewalk, causing a girl standing in front of the Goode Bar to turn around. She was shorter than Scarlet, especially since the redhead was in her heels. The girl had tan-colored skin and she was dressed casually in black cargo parts and a tank top that depicted a scene of a castle in the middle of the woods, complete with animals. Scarlet knew that she was overdressed for whatever her date planned, unless they were going right back to the girl's place. Upon closer inspection, she recognized the girl that had shunned her a few of days ago.

"Poe?" Scarlet asked with a smile that she knew was smug, almost haughty.

Those cute almond-shaped, chocolate eyes blinked in shock and maybe even a hint of terror. "You? You're Scarlet?" There was a slight tremble in her voice.

"I am." The smile was morphing into that of a predator.

Poe took a step back and balled her hands into fists. Briefly, Scarlet thought the girl would attack her and considering how stocky the girl was, she was sure Poe packed a decent punch. Her smile dropped and she softened a bit.

"I knew this was a stupid idea. Never mind," Poe declared and she was about to flee the scene, but Scarlet grabbed her hand before she could escape. Yanking her hand back, Poe almost fell over. "Don't touch me!"

"Okay, just calm down, Poe. Calm down. I'm sorry for teasing you," Scarlet said with a straight face. "Please, don't run off. Besides, my boss will charge you no matter what."

Poe took a breath that seemed to relax her. "Really?" she asked in adorable disbelief.

"Yeah, so let's do the date you had planned."

"Uh … I didn't really have anything planned. I don't know what I was thinking when I made that phone call," Poe sighed and shook her head before scratching the top of her messy ebony hair. The lilac strip of hair hung by the side of her face and only made her seem cuter.

"Then let's just go back to your place or find a room somewhere," Scarlet suggested.

"Or we could go walk through Independence Park! They might have something going on!" Poe replied, walking off toward the park.

Scarlet chuckled, but she followed Poe. She doubted that she had ever had a date that wanted to invent things to do rather than just go somewhere private if there were no other plans. The park was a block away. It was a massive area, much like Central Park in New York. There were generally a number of different events going on, especially in the summer. They wandered right into an international food festival.

"Oh, I love these things. They always have the best food. Have you been to one of these?" Poe asked with a smile.

Scarlet shook her head. "I've heard about them, but never bothered to go."

"Well, you're going now. They're cool. Sometimes, they have themes, like Island Tastes or Greek Flavors." Poe looked around. "This looks like just a regular one, which is good for an intro. A lot of restaurants use this as advertising and sometimes just really good cooks come here to show off."

Scarlet smiled; her enthusiasm for something like this is adorable. Poe did not do much talking after that, nothing beyond asking about food. Scarlet scanned the area while Poe focused on the vendors and their goods. The event was like a fair, but instead of rides and games, there were only food stands. It smelled good, she would give it that.

"Wanna try some meatballs?" Poe said, already buying a small bowl.

Scarlet doubted a trip to a five-star restaurant was on the agenda, but she declined the meatballs. "If I see something I want, I'll be sure to let you know."

Poe nodded and they continued on. When Poe finished the meatballs, she bought some fried bananas just because they were passing them. When she finished those, she purchased a gyro. Scarlet decided to get one, too, as she figured Poe would keep eating until they got to the end of the area.

"You have a good physique for someone that seems to eat everything," Scarlet commented.

Poe blushed and chuckled a bit. "Oh! I work out and I do martial arts."

Scarlet nodded. "I can see it in the way you move. I work out, too. I go to the gym whenever I can."

"Me, too, but I haven't been lately. You do martial arts, too?"

"I do. I have since I was a kid. You?"

Poe shook her head. "Since I was thirteen."

Scarlet nodded and the conversation faded again. The silence was not awkward or deafening. They walked from one end of the food fair to the other, Poe eating more along the way. The sun was gone and the vendors were beginning to pack up.

"I love those things. It's like traveling the world, one dish at a time," Poe commented, licking her lips.

Scarlet chuckled. "I'd rather see the sights."

Poe smiled. "Well, yeah, those are good, too. Have you traveled?"

"A bit. Hong Kong, Tokyo, London, Paris, and a few other cities in Europe. You?"

"Just England with my mom for her dance stuff. I'd like to see some other places, especially Italy."

"Why Italy?"

"Art," was Poe's simple answer and the end of the conversation as well as the park. "I wonder what we should do now."

Scarlet smiled. "We could go back to your place."

Those puppy-like eyes went wide. "Uh … we don't need to do that. We're having a good time out. I'm fine with this."

Generally, Scarlet would have let things stay at that and let Poe waste her money, but she could not do that to such an adorable girl. Besides, she was supposed to make sure the little bunny became a repeat customer.

"Look, you take me to your place and I'll forget how rude you were to me for no reason at Goodies," Scarlet proposed with a smile.

Poe's face twisted and she scratched her head. "How about a sorry and a hand shake?" was the counteroffer.

Fiery red hair swayed as the escort shook her head. "Nope, especially since you had me walk around all night in high heels."

The younger woman yelped. "Sorry about that."

"Sorry isn't going to cut it. Let's get moving," Scarlet stated. Poe winced and looked as if the redhead requested that she commit seppuku. "Come on, kid, I just want to make you come, not cut off your head. Now, can we go before I can't walk anymore? I might end up just soaking my feet at your place."

Scarlet snickered at her own joke while Poe marched off. Scarlet was not sure if the girl was leaving her or leading the way. She decided to check for herself, moving up close to Poe and picking her pocket. Poe noticed immediately.

"Hey! Give it back!" the shorter woman ordered, attacking Scarlet with a surprising spinning kick.

"Whoa! Calm down! I'm not mugging you!" Scarlet swore as she blocked the kick.

"Then give it back!"

Scarlet continued to defend against the fierce fighter. She tried to look in the wallet, but could not because Poe's fists and feet seemed to be everywhere. She dropped the wallet and held her hands up in surrender. They were both breathing heavily and Scarlet chuckled.

"You are amazing!" the escort declared.

"You're not bad either. Why'd you take my wallet? Are you trying to rip me off?" Poe demanded.

"Nope, just wanted to see your address. And since I got your ID, I can," Scarlet laughed as she held up Poe's driver's license. "You live close by."

Poe's face practically fell into the dirt. "How'd you do that?"

Scarlet smirked. "I'm a little street savvy. You live five blocks from Goodies. Let's go. My feet really are killing me."

Poe sighed and her shoulders slumped. They took the walk to Poe's building. It was in a decent part of town with several loft apartments. Poe lived in a loft and the space was pronounced because her digs were rather spartan. There was no entertainment center, just a couch with a laptop resting on it. That explains why she was watching TV at Goodies.

"You paint," Scarlet noted, seeing the canvas, paints, and desk cluttered with other art supplies.

"I try. You want something to eat or drink?"

Scarlet smirked. "Yeah, you."

-8-8-8-8-

Scarlet pouncing caught Poe by surprise, causing her to yelp. Lips on her neck distracted her from her trip to the fridge. She could not help moaning as those lips gently devoured her neck. Her legs wobbled and she knew that she needed to get to the bed or she would fall over.

"Where are you going, Poe?" Scarlet purred her name. The sound made the artist want to melt.

"Just the bed …" Poe answered, holding in a moan. The feel of those lips was so delicious that she could not even freak out over being touched without giving her permission. Of course, she was a lot less high-strung than when she had been trolling for a date. This is much less pressure, has been all day.

"Good idea."

Scarlet's mouth and hands never left Poe, drawing out more moans. Poe felt like fire was coursing though her veins as she somehow managed to reach the bed. She was about to collapse on it, but she was not sure if the platform would be able to handle the weight. As she eased down, Scarlet followed her, placing a knee on the futon mattress to support herself.

With each touch of Scarlet's lush lips, Poe felt heat building through her. Scarlet's wonderful fingertips scorched paths on her body, even with her clothes in the way. From the way that she felt, as if she was going to erupt in ways that rivaled a volcano just from petting, she knew it had been too long since she had been with a woman. I need to be touched.

"You actually taste good, very sweet. I didn't expect that," Scarlet said, nipping at Poe's earlobe while pulling Poe's shirt up. "Is this okay?"

The artist whimpered. "Yes …" she hissed.

Scarlet smiled against her burning flesh. Poe almost screamed when she felt hands against her skin. She had no idea what happened to her shirt and did not care as Scarlet palmed both of her breasts. The massage was gentle and thumbs caressed her nipples. Arching into the delightful sensations, she called out loudly.

"That's it, baby, let loose. Make all those beautiful sounds," Scarlet implored her, pinching her taut nipples.

Poe did just that, crying out as she wrapped her arms around Scarlet. The redhead kissed her way down her neck while pushing the younger woman further back onto the bed. Scarlet pulled away only to free herself from her dress and bra. She then moved to get Poe out of her pants and underwear.

Poe panted in anticipation as she found herself memorized by full, swaying breasts. Her hands had minds of their own, reaching for detectable treasures while Scarlet smiled down at her before returning to Poe's neck. The younger woman shivered as a wet tongue slid down her neck. She would not have been surprised if steam had risen off of her body in the tongue's wake.

"Oh, god." Poe lost contact with Scarlet's glorious rack as the redhead moved further down her body.

"Let go, Poe. Let me give you everything you need," Scarlet said. Of course, Poe could not respond because she could not speak, could not think. Her brain could only focus on the sensations brought on by Scarlet's tongue.

When that divine tongue flickered her right nipple while Scarlet's fingers played with the other, Poe had to clutch Scarlet's shoulders to keep from flying off of the bed. Her breathing increased, as if she were running a four-minute mile. Her eyes closed tight as hot lips wrapped around her pebbled nipple and, when Scarlet allowed for simple suction, Poe thought her head might blow off of her shoulders and she would surely die.

By the time Poe realized that she had survived, Scarlet had switched peaks and her free hand crept down Poe's muscled abdomen. Poe tensed, knowing what was coming next. Scarlet giving her left bud more attention caused her to arch and forget about the hand on her stomach until it came to her destination.

"Yes!" Poe hissed.

The puddle between her legs might have embarrassed the artist, but she was too far gone to care. She pushed her hips up to met exploring fingers, moving faster and faster because of the incredible feeling. She knew she was going to fall to pieces soon. She was going to be blown apart.

Her breathing increased to the point hurting her chest, but she could not bring herself to care. Her heart was pounding in her ears, as was the sound of her own blood rushing to her ears. When she exploded, all of those things went away. There was nothing but pleasure all around her and then there was nothing.

When the world came back into focus, Poe realized that she had fallen asleep. For a split second, she considered that Scarlet had left, but then she felt pressure against her side. This feels really good. I forgot how nice this is. She turned to see Scarlet smiling at her.

"Welcome back to the land of the living," the redhead remarked.

"You're still here," Poe said with a small smile of her own.

"Of course, you still have me for another hour."

Poe was an expert on having single sentences destroy her whole world and that was definitely one of them. None of this is real. I'm just a job for her. In an hour, she'll leave and I'll go back to being by myself. The apartment would remain empty, her paintings would continue to fall apart, she would never be able to finish her book, and she would continue to have horrible luck with women.

"Let's make the most of that hour," Scarlet declared before attacking Poe with her mouth again.

-8-8-8-8-

By the time Scarlet left, she was confident that neighbors knew Poe got laid and also that Poe would call her back. She had made the girl pass out, after all. She made her way home, thinking of a nice, hot shower and a good night's sleep, even though it was now morning.

-8-8-8-8-

Next time: Poe tries something else to get herself out of her mood while Mallory tries to play the hero.