Nova followed Iris out of the gallery through a service doorway on the side of the building, far from the bustle of the tourist-infested main entryway.
“My place isn’t far. Here, this way,” Iris said, taking Nova’s hand in hers and intertwining their fingers together in a quite intimate fashion.
Nova shook her head and extricated her hand out of Iris’s grasp. Then offered her right hand instead. The fingers of her left danced. ‘I can’t speak without this hand, so I’d be grateful if you could use the other.’
Iris did so as she gazed at the movements of Nova’s left hand. “Sure. What’s up with that? Are you mute? Is that why you’re speaking through a machine?”
“Hmm.” Iris seemed to consider that for a minute as she lead Nova forward and they rejoined one of Old Verizen’s main thoroughfares. “Don’t you have a more natural-sounding voice, though? Or even better, a really deep, cavernous voice, like an old demon king or something. That would be really cool.”
‘I do. But I like this one. It’s stylish.’
“It does suit you well, I suppose.” Iris nodded. “Oh, by the way, I didn’t even ask you your name, yet, did I?”
“Nova,” Iris said, tasting the name. “My name is Iris Montero,” she said with a sly grin, tightening her hold on Nova’s hand. “And I’m sure it’s going to be a pleasure meeting you.”
Iris’s apartment was only a few minutes’ walk away. On the way, as they entered the younger and more modern parts of the city and stopped to buy some food at a street stall, Nova’s attention was caught by a massive screen on the side of a building, showing a public channel’s news program. They were still talking about last night’s series of violent incidents and questioning how the perpetrators could have escaped so easily from the pursuing police forces. Sometimes, snippets of footage shot from a hovering helicopter would be shown, though the most violent bits were cut. At some point, the picture froze and showed a zoomed-in view of Nova’s and Sirius’s forms. They were both covered from head to toe in their combat suits, and the news anchor and his guests were wondering at their identities and whether or not their attack was backed by such and such criminal organization.
It was a first for Nova, seeing herself on national television.
I’m famous, now. Actually, now that I think about it, won’t this make international news? They’ll definitely talk about this in Altera, too. Won’t Mom and Dad see this?
The moment the thought occurred to her, Nova froze, her gaze fixed on the screen. Wasn’t this pretty bad? Notwithstanding her military training with Viper Nest, her parents had always insisted she stay away from violence. And once she hadn’t, regular visits to a therapist had followed.
And now, two days after going on a road trip with her little friends, she’d burned an elderly woman to death live on TV.
This may not go down so well with Mama Storm and Papa Storm.
Though Wieslaw talked to Mom before we left. That might lessen the blow. Hopefully… Otherwise, I’m gonna be in deep shit for this. I really should have thought this through a little more thoroughly before cutting loose.
“What’s wrong?” Iris asked after seeing Nova’s reaction. She followed her gaze up to the screen and smirked. “It’s not polite to leer at someone else while you’re on a date with a girl. Though I admit that’s a figure worth leering at. Don’t worry, though; she’s got nothing on you.”
Nova glanced at her, nonplussed. ‘That’s what you care about? Not that she killed someone in plain view of countless witnesses?’
Iris giggled. “Have you read the comments online? Nobody really cares about what she did. Most of them are just praising her good looks.” She quickly fished out her phone and fiddled with it before presenting the screen to Nova. “Here, look.”
Nova truly hadn’t actively searched for public reactions to last night’s rampage. She’d been pretty sure what it would all come down to and had no desire to go looking for more sanctimonious condemnation of her actions. She got enough of that from Sirius. It hadn’t occurred to her at all that the focus of the reactions would be more on her beauty than on the brutal murders she’d committed.
Even she wasn’t quite so narcissistic as to think she was pretty enough to be forgiven for burning someone alive in the street.
Curious and a bit flattered, Nova turned her eyes to the article Iris had brought up. It didn’t take long for her to realize that Iris had somewhat overstated things. The article itself, of course, blamed her – and Sirius, and everyone else involved – quite explicitly. There was no way a public media outlet would do anything else. The users’ comments below the article, on the other hand… Well, saying that most of them praised her good looks was a polite and sanitized reimagining of their contents. They started at ‘I’d tap that ass any day of the week’ and went straight downhill from there. They were quite a bit more vulgar than Nova had hoped for from hearing Iris say it. She felt a lot less flattered, now.
‘Unsightly. Don’t they have moderators on these things?’
Iris giggled and retrieved her phone. “Shall we go?”
Nova shrugged. She gnawed off the last fragments of meat clinging to the wooden skewer she’d bought, before throwing it into a nearby trash can. She licked the oil left on her fingers and followed Iris.
# # #
As she opened her front door and let Nova in, Iris did her best not to grin too widely. It wasn’t the first time she brought a girl home for the night, but it was definitely the first time her guest was this gorgeous. She was really looking forward to this.
They both removed their shoes and stepped into the apartment.
As Nova let her gaze trail over Iris’s room, Iris discreetly did the same over the curves of Nova’s body.
Her mouth felt parched, and she had to consciously regulate her breathing not to be too obvious about her interest. Her heartbeat was still a bit uncontrolled from when they held hands while walking, and she desperately fought off the blush that was trying to climb up her cheeks.
This is just embarrassing. I’m acting like a shy young virgin.
Iris wasn’t shy, and she definitely wasn’t a virgin. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have propositioned a stranger within 30 seconds of first meeting her. But she had to admit that even she had no experience dealing with someone so far out of her league.
‘It’s a nice place,’ Nova said once her inspection was over.
Iris’s apartment wasn’t very large. She wasn’t a struggling artist, by any means, constantly hurting for cash and subsisting on instant noodles, but neither could she afford a penthouse suite in Verizen’s posh neighborhoods. She had a nice, cozy place with wide windows. It was just large enough for her and the rare few guests she sometimes invited over. It didn’t look like much in and of itself, but paintings decorated every wall, and thick, warm rugs covered the floors. Her furniture went more for comfortable than stylish. The smell of paint and solvent permeated the apartment, wafting from a makeshift worktable set along a wall, a long plywood desktop covered in brightly colored stains. Pots and jars and brushes and cans and stacks of blank or half-finished canvas were stored on and around it. Overall, it formed quite the wonderful mess. Iris had always loved the smell it gave off. She always found it so… relaxing.
“Thanks,” Iris said over her shoulder as she walked deeper into the apartment. “Do you want a drink?”
‘No, thank you.’ Nova took a few steps toward the workstation and ran her fingers over some of the tools strewn over it. She turned toward Iris. ‘Should I pose for you, then?’
A smile slowly lifted the corners of Iris’s mouth. In truth, her offer to use Nova as a model had only been an excuse to invite her home and, well, have sex with her. But it was undeniable that the young woman would for make a magnificent painting, if Iris only had the skill to render her beauty on canvas. Also, it would make the atmosphere quite romantic, which was always a plus.
“You don’t mind? Then I think I’ll take you up on your offer.” She shifted from one foot to the other and back, like an over-excited kid right before her birthday party. “How do you want to do this, then?”
‘You tell me. You’re the artist.’
“Um.” Iris contemplated for a moment, her gaze roving over her room. “How about you sit on the windowsill and look out at the city? That would make for a pretty nice scene, I think.”
Nova nodded. ‘Sure. Do I take my clothes off?’
Iris had been about to walk toward the window to clear up the clutter from the sill, but Nova’s words made her stop mid-step. She swallowed audibly, and her eyes were uncontrollably drawn to Nova’s body. She tried not to stare too obviously. She failed.
“Do, uh, do you want to?” she asked with a dry voice.
‘You tell me. You’re the artist.’
Iris nodded sagely and tried to look like she was considering the offer from a purely professional point of view. She failed at that, too; she couldn’t prevent a lecherous grin from appearing on her face. “All right, then. It certainly would improve the scene, I say. Let’s do that.” Then, as she saw Nova’s hand reach for her shoulder and one of her skirt’s suspender straps, she cleared her throat and continued, “Ahem, uh, should I… should I help you disrobe?”
This time, it was Nova who froze. Slowly, she lowered her hands. She turned to face Iris and nodded to her. Iris took a deep, steadying breath and slowly approached Nova. Her hands reached up and continued the work of slipping off the suspender straps from Nova’s shoulders. Once they both fell at her sides, Iris unfastened the lacings securing the skirt under Nova’s abdomen. With a quiet swish of fabric, the black skirt finally fell and bundled around Nova’s feet. A pair of thigh-high stockings covered most of her legs, but a tantalizing swathe of healthily tanned skin was still bared between the top of Nova’s stockings and the hem of her white shirt.
And, intermittently peeking from behind the shirt when Nova moved and the hem shifted left and right…
Iris felt like her skull had turned into a pressure cooker as all the blood rushed to her head.
“You, uh… Ahem, you’re not wearing any… I mean…”
Iris gulped. She hadn’t expected this kind of surprise attack! With her proper, clearly high-quality and expensive attire and the way she moved and acted, Iris had taken Nova for a modest young lady from a rich family… But to think she was this audacious under her icy exterior!
Iris wanted to push Nova down right there and then and have her way with her, but she forced her mind back on track with great effort and moved her slightly trembling fingers toward Nova’s collar. She first removed the ribbon holding the collar closed. Then, with superhuman focus, she started unbuttoning Nova’s shirt, revealing more and more flawless skin as she went down. Of course, Nova wore nothing under her shirt, but her breasts didn’t need any help to form a deep, attractive valley between them. Iris gently pushed the shirt off Nova’s shoulders. It followed the skirt down to the floor and fell in a pile around Nova’s feet.
Iris let out a deep breath and stepped back to admire the masterpiece displayed in front of her.
Flawless was the word. Except for the faint, thin line of an old scar snaking down her forearm, there was not a single thing out of place, not a single ripple to mar Nova’s absolute beauty. No freckles, no birthmarks, no pores, not even a hair; only smooth, perfect skin. Iris had heard skin be compared to porcelain before, but she’d never seen an example of it in real life.
Almost without any conscious decision to do so, Iris took a step forward and reverentially placed a hand on Nova’s hip, appreciating the soft and tender flesh under her palm. Even a simple touch was electrifying, enough to give Iris shivers and lock her breath in her throat. Slowly, her hand trailed up the curve from Nova’s hips to her waist. There was not a single bit of superfluous fat to be found anywhere, only toned, firm, perfectly defined muscle – just enough of it to look healthy and athletic instead of unsightly. Iris’s hand kept ascending until it cupped one of Nova’s breasts. They were a work of art. Round and symmetrical, standing tall and proud. And so very soft. Iris stepped closer again, and her other hand wrapped around Nova’s waist and pressed their bodies against each other. Iris lost herself in the feeling as she gently squeezed and fondled while the nipple hardened under her palm. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Nova’s mouth open in a mute gasp and, without thinking, stole her lips. Nova flinched and recoiled in surprise, but Iris’s grasp on her waist tightened and prevented her escape. A few moments later, Nova’s stiff body relaxed, and she returned the kiss, her arms wrapping around Iris’s neck.
It took a few minutes for Iris to recover her reason. She slowly brought the kiss to a halt and stepped away from Nova, her hands releasing their hold on her only reluctantly.
Iris licked her lips and looked at Nova. The young woman was still impassive, but her face had reddened, her body fairly radiating heat, and her green eyes were even more luminous than before. Her breathing was unsteady, her breasts rising and falling in a mesmerizing display.
“Hmm, sorry. I got a bit too excited all of a sudden,” Iris said.
‘It’s fine. It was quite pleasant.’
Iris grinned. “I’m glad you think so. Do you still want to pose for me? I won’t have enough time to finish a whole painting, but I’d like to at least get an outline of a scene.”
‘Do I keep my stockings on, then?’
“Um, yes, please. For now, at least. It creates a nice contrast with your skin.”
Nova nodded. ‘Before that, though, I need to warn my friends not to wait for me tonight. Give me a moment.’
Nova started to fiddle with the transparent bracelet or wristguard or whatever she was wearing. Iris had never seen anything like it, but she could guess it was some sort of high-tech device, like a computer or a smartphone. It clung to Nova’s forearm like a transparent second skin, almost invisible when she wasn’t directly using it.
“Good. I’ll prepare my stuff in the meantime,” Iris said.
It didn’t take long for Iris to set up a tripod and a blank canvas, along with the collection of brushes and paints she predicted she’d need. Nova had long finished sending whatever message she had to to her friends and was lounging on the couch, her eyes following Iris’s every movement and making her feel oddly self-conscious.
“All right, I’m ready.”
Nova nodded and went to take her place. She sat lazily on the windowsill, looking out at the city beyond the window, like Iris had asked for. When Iris doused the lights in the apartment, the glow of the street lights cast deep shadows on Nova’s skin, tracing the lines of her body. Her pose and demeanor needed no correcting; she knew how to display herself.
Iris nodded with satisfaction and sat before her canvas. “Hmm, perfect. Try not to move too much. It shouldn’t take all that long, since I’m only going for a rough sketch.”
Nova nodded and settled down in as comfortable a position as she could find.
For a while, the entire apartment was silent. Neither of them spoke, but it wasn’t an awkward silence. The only sounds were that of their quiet breathing, the muted passage of the cars outside, and the gentle scrape of Iris’s brush on the canvas.
Gradually, Iris lost the heated desire she’d felt before. Right now, the idea of pushing Nova to the ground and fucking her brains out seemed almost sacrilegious. Now, the mood was no longer one of burning passion, but of peaceful and reverent appreciation for the perfect female form before her eyes.
Eventually, Iris leaned back on her stool. She rolled her shoulders and let out a satisfied breath. “I’m done. Do you want to come and see?”
Nova looked up, blinking owlishly almost like she’d forgotten about Iris’s presence or what she was even doing here. She recovered quickly, though, and rose up from her seat on the windowsill. She stretched sensually, giving an admiring Iris a full view of her body, and approached.
She leaned behind Iris and looked at the result of her work.
‘It this what you call a rough sketch? Isn’t it complete already?’
Iris shook her head. “No. The shadows here and here and here aren’t finished. And the background isn’t detailed enough. I haven’t done the highlights in your hair, either. If you look carefully, you can tell that there should be some produced by the street lights through the window, so it looks a little wrong to the eye.”
‘If you say so. You’re the artist.’
Iris smiled and got up off the stool. “I do say so. But for now, it’ll do.”
Then, without another word, Iris stared into Nova’s bright green eyes and slowly closed the distance. Her arms slowly wrapped around Nova’s neck, and she brought their lips together again.
The kiss was calmer this time, less searing, and it didn’t surprise Nova as much as the previous one had. She closed her eyes and leaned into it. After a minute spent enjoying the taste, Iris gently pushed Nova back a step. The edge of the couch behind her hit the back of her knee, and Iris pushed down on her shoulders at the same time to force her to sit, then followed her down and straddled her lap. Iris immediately resumed the kiss, even more softly than before, barely touching, her tongue trailing just over the surface of Nova’s lips.
Gradually, Nova’s body tilted to the side, until finally, she lay down on her back on the couch with Iris straddling her.
Iris leaned back and gazed down at Nova lying under her. “Give me a moment.”
With Nova looking up at her, Iris shrugged of the suspenders holding up her overalls and slipped out of her t-shirt. She unhooked her bra and tossed it to the side. Then, she proceeded to slide the overalls off her legs, taking her panties with them. Nova made no move to escape from under her and just watched her strip.
Finally out of her clothes, Iris smiled down at Nova and took hold of her arms. She pinned Nova’s wrists together above her head, as if she was her prisoner – one who didn’t resist her captor in the least and allowed her to do as she willed. As Iris pressed her body against Nova’s and kissed the side of her neck, enjoying the warmth and softness of her skin, the fingers of her free hand trailed down Nova’s side and over the outside of her thigh. Then, they slid to the inside of her thigh, caressing, and slowly, ever so slowly, moved up, as Nova’s breathing grew more and more rapid and she started squirming under Iris.
When Iris’s fingers finally reached their destination, Nova’s body jolted, as if she’d received an electric shock. Her thighs quickly closed up like they were trying to prevent further intrusion, but all that did was instead trap Iris’s hand in place. Iris raised her head and looked into Nova’s eyes, a smirk slowly pulling on the corners of her lips.
“Oh, my. Miss Storm, aren’t you quite… sensitive?”
As if to punctuate the last word, her fingers stroked again, and Nova’s entire body shuddered, though interestingly, her face remained as impassive as ever. To Iris, it looked like Nova was trying to play tough, but her body was betraying her utterly.
With a little laugh, she lowered her head and whispered in Nova’s ear, “Well, shall we start in earnest, then?”
# # #
Sirius idly played with his phone while, next to him, his little sister watched some TV show were a contestant answered trivia questions to try and win truckloads of money. It sometimes seemed to Sirius that no matter what planet you were on, human culture didn’t differ by much, in the end.
His father was cleaning all the fishing equipment they’d used this morning, while his mother was applying her wondrous skills to turn their catches into an actual meal.
Nova had left this morning, apparently, to tour the city. It was getting late, by now, though, and dinner would soon be served, so Sirius idly wondered if he should perhaps give her a call and ask her where she was.
Suddenly, a notification appeared at the top of his screen to inform him he’d received a message. Camilla’s head reflexively turned to glance at his phone, too, her attention caught by the distinctive sound.
Well, speak of the devil…
Upon seeing the sender, without even thinking about it, Sirius opened the message.
Then froze solid in absolute shock.
There was one line of text.
“Don’t expect me tonight. I’ll be sleeping outside. Tell your mother sorry for not tasting her food like I said I would.”
Innocuous, all things considered.
There was also a photo right below that line of text. It was a selfie, with Nova in the foreground, making a V sign with two fingers while sticking her tongue out. It might have looked playful and cute on another girl, but with Nova’s blank, emotionless face, it just looked weird. In the background, another girl with blond hair and wearing jean overalls was carrying a glass jar full of paint brushes. It looked like the two of them were in an artist’s workshop.
Also innocuous, all things considered.
The only problem was that Nova was very visibly, undeniably, incontrovertibly topless, her bare chest right in the middle of the frame.
“Brother, what is this?” a dead monotone voice said from right next to him as a burning stare drilled into his face.