When you got right down to it, New Orleans was perfect. Old city seeped in culture, sex and death mingling so heady-thick that even people whose most exciting days revolved around fantasy football and reality television could feel it. Found themselves possessed by sudden urges to drink themselves into stupors, take home the pretty stranger who had been giving them the eye all night, lay down the cash for that tattoo that they had always wanted but never been able to work up the nerve for. All three at once, if the mood was right. If you happened to be a pair of previously dead chicks who had broken more natural laws than Courtney Love to relieve themselves of that minor detail and had all the major players of heaven and hell after their oh-so-corporeal asses as a result, well, there really wasn’t a better place to hide in plain sight.
Apartments in the French Quarter went cheap, Cordelia discovered in a morning spent in a café tucked into one of the courtyards, small and nameless and almost certain never to be found again. The humidity was taking her hair and coiling it into delicate ringlets against her temples and the nape of her neck. Lilah was studying those curls very closely and Cordelia tilted her head just so as she studied the newspaper so that Lilah could not fail to notice how adorable the effect was on her. She trailed her finger down the rows of tiny black print. “Cheaper than a hotel if we’re planning on sticking around for a while.” Cordelia looked up. “Might be nice to stick around for a while.”
“Might be,” Lilah said, shifting her shoulders in a movement that could have been assent, disagreement, or acknowledgement that the world was still turning. She took a sip of her coffee, licked the traces off her lips, and smiled her agent provocateur’s smile as Cordelia’s pupils dilated. “There’s a reason why apartments in this part of the city go so cheap, though.”
“Why?” All that Cordelia had seen thus far was beauty-and, all right, the odd drunk, but it wasn’t like Los Angeles didn’t have its fair share of those, too. Lilah, though, spoke of the city as if it were family: irritating, familiar, and loved all at once. She seemed to know virtually everything about Cordelia’s past, yet dug in her heels-stylish as ever even in shoes made for getting the hell out of Dodge at a moment’s notice-when it came to revealing the tiniest detail of her own.
That smirk was made for Lilah’s face. “You’ll see,” she said. The amused drawl in her voice softened it and made it glow.
Three nights later, at about two in the morning, Cordelia did in fact see. And hear. And, if by that point she hadn’t been refusing to open the windows in spite of the fact that it was the kind of sticky-sweet night that made most people want to fight, fuck, or both, smell. “My God,” she exclaimed, “don’t people ever sleep?”
Lilah, perched in a chair on the other side of the room, smiled and shook her head so that her ponytail swept in damp little tendrils across her shoulders. “Nope.” She was wearing cut-off shorts and a tank top that scooped low enough to expose the first glistening hint of cleavage, and she still held herself like the ice goddess of LA. “Guess we’ll just have to figure out something else to while away those hours.”
“Oh,” Cordelia said as Lilah rose from her chair and approached her perch on the windowsill. “How much sleep do dead people need, anyway?”
It wasn’t clear who kissed whom first, big deep kiss full of tongues and teeth and bitchqueen willpower coming from both sides. They had been working this rhythm for months now, and they had it down to sweet science. Cordelia cupped one of Lilah’s breasts in her palm, rubbing her thumb across the nipple until it was peaked and eager. Lilah wasn’t wearing a bra; color Cordelia not shocked. She slid her hands up beneath Lilah’s shirt until she could feel blister-warm skin and place her palm against the thump-thump-thump that still had a tendency to stutter for a beat or two even now, as if it knew the natural order was being hijacked.
Lilah bit at Cordelia’s lower lip to get her attention, hard enough to make her jump, and then suckled at the tiny hurt until all was forgiven. For someone who played on the weaknesses of others, Lilah had the ferocity of a pit bull when it came to protecting her own desire not to be forgotten. Cordelia’s return kiss was an apology and a promise that her attention would not wander again.
Lilah accepted the apology with a slow, dark smile that Cordelia could feel gliding over her skin. She was nudged further back onto the windowsill, until she could feel the cool glass kissing her shoulder blades through her blouse. Lilah’s fingernails began tracing lazy patterns on Cordelia’s knees, working their way up to her thighs with a slow, wicked grace that made Cordelia’s mouth go dry and other parts of her…definitely not. Cordelia pulled away from Lilah’s mouth to begin trailing kisses sugar-sweet and butterfly-light across her jaw. She never ventured south towards Lilah’s neck, just as Lilah would never violate the circular weal of scar tissue that marked Cordelia’s abdomen. Lilah understood the sanctity of scars. It was one more thing to add to Lilah’s list of good points, right up there with the legs that went on forever and the wit that could cut down everything in its path.
Cordelia bit down on Lilah’s earlobe hard enough to make her twitch, hard enough to hurt. The fingernails halted in their journey as Lilah whispered, “Bitch.” The grin in her voice turned it into an endearment.
“Pot. Kettle,” Cordelia murmured back. “I’m sure the two of you will get on fab-ooh.” Lilah quit playing games, and Cordelia wasn’t wearing any underwear. After a while it had seemed pointless to keep ruining good clothes.
One finger, then two, moving in slow, knowing strokes while her free hand pushed Cordelia’s skirt higher on her hips. Heat pooled in Cordelia’s belly and radiated out towards her limbs in waves. She pulled Lilah closer, furious meshing of teeth and tongue, and wondered what kind of show they were giving to the people below. She hoped that they enjoyed it.
“Ever been fucked against a window?” Lilah parted their mouths long enough to murmur against Cordelia’s ear, the cascade of warm breath making her jump. Someday she was going to ask Lilah if reincarnation had endowed her with the ability to read minds.
“First time for everything.” Cordelia didn’t like the way her voice sounded, needy and cheap, like a girl used to the backseats of cars rather than a bitch worthy of giving Lilah Morgan a run for her money. Lilah’s grin was quick and sharp and wicked. The big, bad She-wolf was loving it, just as Cordelia had known she would. She hiked Cordelia’s skirt high enough to render it purposeless, dropping to her knees in a movement simultaneously so arrogant and graceful that Cordelia’s knees would have turned to water if she had been daring to stand. The fingers moved and Cordelia made a muted sound, but then Lilah was there, and disappointment became a distant memory.
Cordelia gasped, grabbed the edges of the windowsill hard enough to make her knuckles turn pearly-white and the joints creak, and avoided noise only with the knowledge of how very much Lilah would like to hear her scream. There were appearances to keep up, though a part of Cordelia’s mind wanted to know what, exactly, those might be at this point, and Lilah would not stop until she got what she wanted. The longer Cordelia held off, the more fun she could have making Lilah pay for it later.
Lilah’s fingers kneaded against Cordelia’s thigh as she moved, hard enough to leave bruises in the soft skin. A mark, however brief, that she belonged to someone. Lilah swirled her tongue and a squeal escaped Cordelia’s lips before she could clamp them down around the sound and imprison it. Lilah laughed, a low noise that nearly drove Cordelia into doing it again. She settled for a gasp instead and tangled her fingers through Lilah’s hair, making sure she didn’t pull away.
The heat turned into crackles of lightning that left no nerve untouched and Cordelia panted, throwing her head back and cracking it on the window hard enough to make her see stars. Under different circumstances it would have been ludicrous enough to induces curses and giggles, but there were dark spots dancing on the edges of her vision and she had her priorities set elsewhere.
Lilah did something talented and evil that Cordelia was going to be sure to reciprocate later and Cordy yelped, not caring in the slightest that Lilah was winning their little battle of wills. There were other things on her mind.
Like the orgasm that ripped over her hard and fast enough to leave her blind and create a ringing in her ears that it took her several seconds to realize was her own voice. She writhed, loving it, loving Lilah a little, and came back to herself with the person downstairs pounding on their ceiling. Lilah had rocked back on her heels, wearing a smile that Cordelia would call cat in cream, except, eww. Lilah was going to pay for that grin. As soon as Cordelia’s limbs had gotten done reassuring themselves that, yes, they did belong to her she pushed herself off the sill, knocking them both to the floor with a thump that probably made their cheerful new neighbor have an apoplectic fit.
Cordelia could taste herself on Lilah’s lips and it made her bold. She pinned Lilah’s unresisting wrists above her head with one hand, working open the fly of her cut-offs with the other. There was a challenge in Lilah’s suddenly languid eyes. She shivered when Cordelia made contact with her skin.
“Hell,” Cordelia said between kisses, “we can sleep tomorrow.”
Lilah gasped, arching her hips, and dug her fingernails into the carpet. “If then.”