The two women had their tea in the sitting room. Monty was attending to business at the banking house, leaving them in each other's company for the afternoon. Seated at either end of the finely upholstered sofa, Sibella read the social column of the newspaper, while Phoebe had her nose deep in Great Expectations.
"Hmm," Sibella hummed distastefully. "Daisy Greville has found herself yet another cause."
Phoebe did not respond.
"Hmm?" The countess looked up from her novel and gazed at the blonde through her spectacles. Sibella smiled, amused.
"Never mind, it's nothing." She turned back to her newspaper, still smiling.
"No, what is it?"
"I only remarked that Daisy Greville has found herself yet another cause. But go back to your reading, I can see you're enjoying it."
"It really is the most marvelous book," Phoebe said earnestly. "It makes me relieved that I did not go mad on my wedding day. According to Mr. Dickens, if I had, I would now be spending my days planning my revenge against the malicious plots of men while walking laps around a banquet table covered in decaying cake."
"Good heavens! Yes, that does sound highly unpleasant."
"Have you read any of his other works? They're simply wonderful."
"I haven't yet, but if you say they're so wonderful, then I shall."
"Really?" Phoebe's face lit up. She often made literary suggestions to her acquaintances, but few people ever took her up on them.
"Certainly! Why not?" Sibella smiled at the brunette.
"Wait here." The countess removed her spectacles, sprang up from the sofa, and ran out of the room. When she reappeared, she was carrying a stack of books, holding them in place with her chin. She set them down gingerly on the table. "These are the ones you should start with. I suggest alternating the novels with the Christmas stories." She paused nervously. "I hope you're not feigning interest for my sake. I know people do sometimes."
"Of course not, dear! If you say I should read them, then I shall."
Phoebe smiled again, relieved, and picked up one of the books. "This one is my favorite. It's set during the French Revolution. I've never read more clever plot twists and motivations." She held the book out to Sibella. When the blonde reached out a hand to take it, the countess did not let go. They stayed there for a moment, each with one hand holding the book. Phoebe looked at Sibella with a curious expression.
"I have an odd question," the brunette said.
"Yes?" Sibella asked quietly.
"May I kiss you?"
The blonde's eyebrows flew toward her bangs in surprise. "Oh." She seemed to think for a moment. "I suppose so, yes."
"Are you certain?"
The blonde stood to face Phoebe, one hand still holding the book. "Yes," she said softly. A blush crept into Phoebe's cheeks as Sibella stepped closer. Taking a breath to steady her nerves, the countess leaned forward, but the blonde met her halfway, ruby lips covering pale pink. Sibella's other hand came up to rest lightly on the back of Phoebe's neck. She let her mouth linger for a moment before pulling back and waiting anxiously for the brunette's reaction.
The countess kept her eyes closed at first, then opened them to look at the woman in front of her. She smiled timidly. The blonde matched her smile as Phoebe's cheeks turned a more pronounced shade of pink.
"Your lips are very soft," Phoebe murmured, unsure of what else to say.
Sibella giggled quietly. "Thank you."
"Sibella?" Phoebe whispered after a moment.
"Could we… could we do that again?" the brunette asked nervously.
Sibella smiled and pressed her mouth to Phoebe's again.