Violence/Profanity and Sexual Content: This story contains moderate levels of violence as well as profanity. This is a work of alternative fiction that depicts two women as well as an opposite sex couple in a both physically and emotionally loving relationship.
Thanks: I've got the best beta readers a bard could hope for. These guys (Barbara, kd, Ellie and Medora MacD) simply rock. They kindly supplied any semi-colons, or other such funky punctuation. Kamouraskan, your editing suggestions were greatly appreciated. In addition to my wonderful beta readers, several friends offered me their support and encouragement. To them I offer a heartfelt thank you.
Dedication: This is dedicated to the one I love. If I had more than my heart to give... it would already be yours.
Comments or Questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Part II: stormy weather
"My compliments to the chef," Liv offered around a bite of vegetable soup as she waved her spoon towards Kayla before pushing the bowl away.
Regally, the brunette bowed deeply at the waist. "It was my pleasure, ma'am," the tall woman drawled, trying to maintain her smile even though she couldn't help but notice that most of Liv's food remained untouched. She should eat more. I know she missed breakfast.
Kayla sat down heavily in the chair next to Liv's and held out a cookie she'd fished from the box of supplies she had delivered. With a waggle of her eyebrows and an almost shy smile, she offered it to Liv.
Liv reached out, only to have Kayla pull it away several times before finally presenting it with a flourish. A delighted smile crept its way onto Liv's lips. Kayla was actually playful when she wanted to be. Marcy was right. Kayla had to be experienced. The powerful but cool personality she presented at first blush was nothing like the interesting, if slightly introverted, personality she exhibited after scratching the surface.
The last several hours had been spent much like the night before, only this time the kitchen table was the meeting place for their quiet conversation. And although Liv could tell Kayla vehemently disliked talking about herself, she had managed to weasel out a few interesting details about her companion.
She came right out and asked if what Marcy had said was true, that she was a genius, causing the brunette's eyes to drop to the tabletop.
Kayla shrugged self deprecatingly, then admitted, "Only a little bit."
When Liv responded by saying wasn't that like being 'a little bit' pregnant, both women had burst into laughter.
Liv found out Kayla was 23 years old, much younger than she'd suspected. She was incredibly well traveled for someone her age, having lived in Ireland, Germany and Mexico all within the past several years. Surprisingly, Kayla had confessed that, despite her extensive travels, her favorite spot was a small town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of West Virginia, where her grandmother had a non-working ranch that still boarded a few horses. Kayla had moved there last month, having only recently returned from Mexico.
The blonde also found Kayla to be attentive, moody, an excellent cook, sexy, private, defensive, provocative, funny, and, as Marcy had said the night before, intense. And it's not just those eyes. It's more. She was already finding it difficult not to touch Kayla when they spoke. Liv was a 'touchy' kind of person anyway. But for some reason, the urge to make physical contact was Kayla was nearly overwhelming.
Having finished her soup before Liv had made even a small dent in hers, Kayla moved from task to talk around the kitchen, giving Liv the opportunity to study the brunette's long lanky form. I haven't heard even one remotely personal story, at least with any detail. I wonder if she's ever been in love.
"You didn't eat very much," Kayla pointed out, hoping she didn't sound like too much of a mother hen.
Liv stopped her perusal immediately, hoping her lack of appetite hadn't insulted the cook. "It was really delicious. Honest. I'm just worried about the kids."
Kayla nodded and joined Liv at the table again, her restless energy not allowing her to remain in any one position for long. "Why haven't they called? Marcy knows I have a cell phone and that I'll be worried."
"'Cause they're not thinking about us. They're thinking about each other."
Dark eyebrows drew together. She wanted to understand. She really did. But her rational mind wouldn't let her. "They're too young." Her voice was unyielding.
"They can't help that."
"But that doesn't change the facts."
"Exactly. They're in love."
Kayla exploded out of her seat. "Dammit! Why are you acting like this is okay... like it's nothing? You know what's going to happen when they end up at some motel."
Liv slammed her palms down on the table, rattling the small wooden structure and sending her spoon clattering across its dark wood surface. "I do NOT think it's okay or nothing. But what the hell do you want me to do about it? Swim to shore and crawl in bed between them?"
Kayla roughly pushed her chair away and stormed out of the kitchen.
Where is she going? Green eyes widened. She wouldn't. Oh, shit! I'll bet she would!
Kayla had only meant to have a quick lunch with Liv before she began exploring the passageway. Instead, she'd spent hours talking with Liv and wishing the phone would ring. The tall woman bounded out of the house and onto the porch where a light drizzle was soaking the slightly swaying porch swing. She looked to the darkening sky then dropped her focus to the sea. The waves had increased along with the winds but the storm hadn't hit yet. She could normally swim that distance in a little more than an hour. But with the waves...
"Don't even think about it, Kayla," Liv growled from behind the agitated woman.
"What are you talking about?" I don't have to justify myself to you!
"You are not swimming to the mainland with a major storm about to hit! That's not only incredibly reckless, but just plain stupid. You're crazy, aren't you?"
"If I was, it wouldn't be any of your business..." Kayla spun around to face Liv, a small piece of damp, inky black hair sticking to her cheek. "...well, would it?" she added acidly.
Liv sucked in a breath, shocked at how the simple but true words hurt. "I care if a friend is about to do something dangerous. I guess it was presumptuous of me to think of you that way. Do what you want," she said coolly before turning on her heels and re-entering the ancient home.
Kayla spun away from the slamming screen door. I am not reckless. I was taking the weather conditions into account, she thought petulantly as the sudden desire to find Marcy and wring her neck drained away.
As the rain drizzled down her cheeks, Liv's words reminded her of the fractured arm and ribs arm she'd gotten outside of Belfast, the pneumonia in Munich, and her personal favorite twenty-six stitches while in Mexico City last spring. The tall woman sighed. Either she was reckless or the biggest klutz on the face of the earth. Kayla admitted to herself that her desire to get to the mainland was as much an attempt to gain control over the situation as it was to separate two incredibly horny teenagers. She'd never been in charge of Marcy's well being before and she obviously wasn't handling the stress very well.
"Liv, wait up!" Kayla ran inside catching a flash of movement out of the corner of her eye as she passed the library.
With her back to Kayla, Liv was scanning a tall shelf of leather bound books, making a rather obvious attempt not to acknowledge the other women's sudden appearance in the room. But when Kayla cleared her throat loudly, announcing her presence, Liv felt compelled to say something. "Why are you still here? I thought you'd be doing your live bait imitation by now."
"Ouch," Kayla winced but still managed to chuckle lightly. "I... um... decided that you were right. It wouldn't be a good idea for me to swim to the mainland." Kayla dug her toe into the rug, trying not to stare at Liv's lightly muscled arms and shoulders as she reached for a book high over her head.
Kayla rushed to her side and tugged loose the dusty hardcover. "Here ya go." She handed it to Liv. "It wasn't one of my better ideas anyway, seeing as how I have no idea where they went."
Liv exhaled shakily, relieved that she wouldn't have to worry about Kayla too. She needs someone to watch out for her and make sure she doesn't take silly chances. She needs someone to watch her back. I could do that. The odd thought came unbidden.
Blue eyes fluttered shut and a strange look of concentration washed over Kayla's face as she processed the bombarding images and emotions that were enveloping her. Friendship. Protectiveness. Affection? A dark eyebrow rose.
Liv stood transfixed. Her eyes rooted on Kayla's face.
"Close your eyes, Liv," Kayla whispered, feeling Liv's stare.
Green eyes immediately slid shut and Liv forgot how to breathe.
A sudden sense of quiet strength and security flowed through the older woman, filling her completely. Then, like a puff of smoke, it simply disappeared.
"You felt it, didn't you?" Kayla asked nervously. She wasn't wrong about this. Liv had to be feeling it. It was too strong for her not to.
Liv opened her eyes and was greeted by Kayla's nervous smile. She nodded, not knowing how to put into words what she'd just experienced. "Did..." she swallowed. "Did you do that to me?"
Kayla nodded. "Just the same way you did it to me."
"Are... are you magic?" Liv asked in awe.
"No," Kayla laughed depreciatingly. "It's not magic." The darker woman grasped Liv's hand and tugged her toward a low, suede-covered sofa that faced a large picture window overlooking the ocean.
In unison, they dropped onto the soft cushions. Liv began to pull her hand away but Kayla held fast, giving it a slight tug. Her eyes asked permission for their hands to remain joined. A small grin shaped Liv's mouth as she relaxed her arm and gently squeezed the palm resting in hers. Permission granted.
The rain increased from a drizzle to a steady but light downpour, as the staccato rhythm of pelting droplets sounded against the window's heavy glass. The flashes of light that had pierced the distant horizon this morning were much closer now, and the storm appeared to be taunting the island with its looming, dangerous presence.
Kayla straightened her shoulders and said a little prayer. "My family, for as far back as anyone can remember, hundreds, maybe even thousands of years, has had unusual 'gifts'." The last word was tinged with a mixture of sarcasm and sadness. "These 'abilities' have been diluted and most certainly diminished over time. The Reddings don't live in small, mediaeval European villages anymore." A full lip quirked and Kayla let loose her thickest southern drawl. "And contrary to what the rest of the country thinks, we can't count on intermarriages to strengthen these particular traits."
Liv smiled weakly, having endured many an inbreeding joke when she left rural Virginia for college in Washington, D.C.
"For the past couple of hundred years, only a few people in a century have been blessed... or afflicted," she added wryly, "...with these traits. And it seems as far as the 20th century is concerned... well, now that Papaw is dead, anyway... that I'm pretty much it." Well almost.
"You're the only one in your family with special..." Liv searched for the right word, still unsure of exactly what Kayla was trying to tell her, "...abilities?"
Kayla shook her head her head 'no'. "We all have a little. Everyone does really, just to varying degrees. But almost no one has the ability or knowledge to understand and exploit what's naturally theirs. What I have runs stronger than most, and I'm more successful at harnessing it."
"So you're telling me you're psychic?" Liv shifted so she was fully facing the woman alongside her.
"No. I don't predict the future."
Liv frowned unbecomingly. "I don't... Kayla, I don't understand."
The younger woman took a deep breath. "I'm what you would call moderately telepathic."
Green eyes widened. "A mind reader?" Liv had mentioned that a couple of times in the past two days. Once in jest, and again when the situation wasn't so funny. But even as she asked it, she didn't really believe it could be true. She let go of Kayla's hand and turned her gaze out over the churning, rolling waves, whose movement seemed to mirror how she felt. Nervously, she ran her hand through pale golden locks as her mind raced.
Kayla's heart lurched at the implied rejection.
Liv felt the twinge of pain in her own chest and her head snapped back, dark green eyes locking on glistening blue. "You're upset," Liv stated plainly but in a gentle voice. "Don't be. I'm just trying to process what you're telling me, okay?" And what I'm feeling. Whatever the hell it is.
"Do you want to know more?" Kayla asked hesitantly. She knew Liv was starting to get a little freaked out. Who could blame her?
"Yes. I want to know anything and everything you're willing to tell me." Liv slid her hand back into Kayla's.
Kayla let out a breath she didn't know she was holding before returning Liv's solid grip. Her hand is so much smaller than mine, but still strong, Kayla thought idly before continuing. "Okay, this is the part that's going to sound pretty weird." A pale brow lifted, causing Kayla to let out an explosive laugh. "Okay, more weird than what you've already heard."
Kayla felt her chest expand fully with the deep breath she sucked in. "When I'm around you, what I feel is so much stronger than it normally is, more intense. All my life I've had flashes or impressions of thoughts that I oftentimes couldn't even put into words. I score very high on those ridiculous blind study tests where I guess the playing card someone has drawn or whether they're concentrating on circles or squares. But I've met others who score higher. Around you, Liv... around you I not only get glimpses of imagery, I feel your emotions."
Liv looked a little pale. "And this only happens around me?"
The linguist bit her lower lip and shook her head. "And somehow you're making me feel things too?" Kayla had to be doing something to her.
Kayla smiled a little sadly. Communication was never her strong suit. "No, don't you see? You're doing that all on your own."
"Don't you think I would have noticed if I was psychic?" Liv said exasperatedly.
"Not really. I already said that most people have some paranormal abilities -- they just don't know it. If mine are heightened around you, why wouldn't yours be heightened around me?" she asked reasonably. "I felt something from that very first moment when I saw you in the parking lot at the boat rental shop. Didn't you?"
"You mean other than me thinking you were gorgeous and wanting to jump your bones?" Liv blurted, immediately blushing a deep scarlet, her pale eyebrows standing out in stark relief.
The room visibly darkened and a loud boom of thunder exploded overhead as the sky opened up over the small island. Liv jumped and Kayla put a comforting hand on her knee, happily replaying Liv's admission in her mind, relieved her attraction wasn't one-sided. "Let me guess, not only do you not like the dark, you don't like storms either."
"It makes sense to me." Liv shrugged. "And do you have to guess?"
"Paranormal abilities aren't all or nothing." Kayla sighed unhappily, thinking of the few times she'd tried to explain this, and the reason she finally stopped trying altogether. Kayla's abilities, even with people other than Liv, were an invasion of privacy most people simply couldn't handle. It didn't matter that she wasn't trying to read their thoughts. Sometimes it just happened. And when she couldn't do it on command, or stop doing it on command, they became angry or mistrustful.
"So every time I talk to you, you don't automatically know what I'm thinking?" The thought of someone in her head with her, especially when she didn't know about it, made Liv shiver.
Kayla felt a sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach. "I'm not sitting here reading your mind. It's just that occasionally, and it seems to happen mostly when your emotions are really intense, I get a mental picture of what you're thinking. It's not a word for word kind of thing."
"Oh, right." That was a stupid question. "You already said it was more impressions and emotions." Intense green eyes studied Kayla's face, plainly seeing her worry and fear, and not knowing what to do about it. Liv's natural urge to comfort Kayla fought with her own uncertainty and doubts. This was a lot to accept, even as just a friend. And there was no denying that Liv wanted more than friendship from Kayla.
A light flashed, quickly followed by a crackling hiss and thundering boom. Liv jumped again, practically crawling onto Kayla's lap.
"It's okay, Liv," she laughed. Not that I mind your current position. "We're safe in the house."
"What do you mean safe?" the smaller woman asked incredulously. "That lightning hit the island. I can practically smell the burn. Do you really think a half an inch of glass will protect us?" She flinched at the sound of another more distance clap of thunder. "Granted, we're not in a trailer park, but this place is so old I'm surprised the wind alone hasn't sent it into the ocean."
As if Liv's words were prophetic, a powerful gale sent a broken branch flying by the window and slamming into the porch railing. As Liv shot up in a near panic, she was stopped then wrapped in strong arms. "I'm sorry I teased you. I didn't know you were truly afraid." Kayla could feel Liv's heart beating wildly against her own chest.
"Do you... Do you really think we're safe in here?" Liv knew she was seeking a ridiculous reassurance that Kayla couldn't possibly give. But she decided to ask for it anyway.
"You're safe. I promise." Kayla tightened her arms around her new friend, daring the storm to break her grip. "The entire house is protected, Liv. The storm can't touch you inside."
"What do you mean 'protected'?" the blonde asked confusedly, shamefully absorbing Kayla's close, reassuring presence. "I don't give a shit what kind of insurance you have!"
"I mean by a spell."
A loud boom sounded and the house shook as everything went black.
Liv buried her face in the crook of Kayla's shoulder and neck, speaking against the warm skin. "You have a lot more to tell me, don't you Kayla?"
Slightly adjusting Liv's position, Kayla brought her hand up to rest between Liv's shoulder blades, on the soft fabric of her T-shirt. Closing her eyes in pleasure, she leaned back into the sofa, taking Liv with her. "Yeah. I sure do."
"Oh my God! They are going to kill us. We're dead. Dead. So dead. And it's going to be a looong, sloooow, excruciatingly painful death," Doug worried aloud. The teenager was standing in the lobby of the cheapest motel he and Marcy could find, counting out his cash as the sheets of rain and dark skies made it look as though it were night-time and not mid-afternoon.
"Yep. We are TOTALLY BEYOND dead," Marcy agreed, digging through her purse and adding a few bills to Doug's small pile. "Do we have enough for a room?" She'd convinced Doug it wasn't worth trying to make it back to the island in a storm. They might as well spend one last night together before Kayla murdered them both.
Doug frowned and mentally began calculating the sales tax. "I think so. If we spend next to nothing on dinner we should barely make it." The blond poked his head around the corner and spied a greasy looking man at the reception desk.
Marcy followed his gaze. "Let me get the room, Doug. If he sees us together, without any parents, he'll never rent it to us."
Doug knew that wasn't true. The man looked as though he'd rent them the room in fifteen minute increments if they asked, but he handed Marcy the bills anyway and watched her turn the corner to the reception desk. There was no use in making her feel 'dirty' about getting a room here. They needed a place to stay and this was all they could afford. They were both soaking wet and worry over their impending deaths was taking its toll. He only wished he'd brought more money or was old enough for a credit card. Marcy deserved to stay someplace nice.
Doug hadn't even completed his thought when a large cockroach darted across the floor in front of him. With impressive speed, Doug lunged towards the bug, hearing the satisfying crunch under his shoe. One down. 999,999,999 to go.
The middle-aged desk clerk dragged his gaze from the small black-and-white television playing behind him when he heard the annoying ringing of the bell. A scowl was firmly planted on his face. Couldn't whoever it was see he was busy watchin' the stock car races?! When he saw his young customer, however, his scowl instantly disappeared. "Helllo, baby doll. Mmm... mmm," he hummed. He hadn't seen such a fine looking young thing in quite some time. "You need a room?" He turned and waved his hand towards a rack full of room keys attached to neon pink and green key chains.
"Yes please. One room." Jesus Christ! Another one just like from the boat rental shop? Don't they have their own women to drool over in these parts?
"A single room," he clarified hopefully, unable to keep his stare from becoming an outright leer. She was a beauty. He generally didn't care for shorthaired women. But his interest lay farther south anyway. His eyes eagerly slid down a body that was as firm and young as the day is long.
Before Marcy could answer, the man stepped out from behind the desk, moving alongside her. Then he slowly circled her as though his actions were part of some bizarre mating ritual. While behind her, he leaned towards her, taking a loud sniff of her scent.
Marcy stepped away, torn between laughing and getting sick. "No. I'd like a double room." She'd skip dinner and pay the extra few dollars if it meant he wouldn't think she was by herself.
"Well now, baby. It looks to me like you're all alone. Why would you need a double room? Our beds are real roomy." He moved around in front of Marcy and smiled broadly. Now that he'd gotten a closer look, he could tell she was younger than he'd suspected. Maybe he'd be her first. A man could always hope. Reaching down, he pressed a key into one of her hands while taking the cash from the other. Not bothering to count it out, he stuffed it into his shirt pocket alongside his cigarettes.
Touch me and die asshole, Marcy thought darkly.
"Hi, Sis!" Doug said brightly as he stepped between Marcy and the desk clerk just as the man's hands were about to meet Marcy's skin. "Did you get a room yet? You know how Dad gets," he warned.
Marcy stared at Doug for a moment, a little relieved and a lot confused. After a full 5 seconds a light bulb clicked on in her head. "Yes. This..." she paused, searching for a word with more than four letters, "...person was helping me."
The man looked at Doug doubtfully. If this curly headed blonde-haired boy was related to the beauty, then he was the Goddamned King of France! "Where's your daddy then, boy?" he said crisply, pissed off at the interruption. He was about to make the girl an offer no one in her right mind would refuse.
"He's still at the bar, sir. He sent us ahead to get a room. He should be here any minute," Doug lied smoothly, looking just a bit pathetic.
Marcy shook her head sadly, trying to look broken up over their poor daddy and praying Doug wouldn't expect her to speak, much less adlib.
Doug smiled inwardly. Yanking this dimwit's chain was great fun. "Marcy," Doug chastised. "You know how Daddy gets after he's been drinking." Then the teen turned wholesome, painfully honest, green eyes on the clerk. "We need to get to our room fast, Mister. After a bout with Jack Daniels, Daddy's not the most patient man in the world."
The teenage boy leaned into Marcy and asked in his best stage whisper, "Did you check to see if they have a safe?"
Marcy's eyes went round. Oh crap! Why did Doug have to make things so complicated? "Umm.. No?" she hazarded, hoping she'd guessed correctly.
"We don't have no safe," the clerk interrupted, wondering what valuables a drunk might have.
"That's okay, Sir," Doug sighed. "We can never get them away from him anyway."
"Get what away, boy?"
"His guns," Doug replied gravely.
Marcy's jaw dropped and the young man moved to comfort his 'sister'. "There, there, Sis. We can always hope he'll pass out before anyone can make him angry." Doug focused on the clerk while gently patting Marcy's back in what he hoped was a brotherly way. But she smelled so good! "Daddy sleeps with his damn 12 gauge. I was just hoping we could manage to keep him away from his Colts for at least one night."
Marcy lifted her head, unable to resist joining in. "But he loves them so! The only way anyone will get those guns away from him is to pry them from his cold lifeless hand."
"I know." Doug's eyes began to tear. "I never thought he'd actually use them 'till that fool waiter in Atlanta pinched your ass."
The clerk took a large step away from Marcy.
Doug leaned in toward the rapidly paling clerk and whispered conspiratorially, "I hope that waiter already had himself a son, if you know what I mean."
"Dayuuum!" the clerk drawled, shaking his head, trying not to look at Marcy. Even a gorgeous young thing like her wasn't worth getting shot for. Thank God it was the boy who came looking for her and not her daddy! "I know exactly what you mean, son." The man's head bobbed up and down rapidly as he reached for the rack of keys, pulling one off the very end. "Here t...take this one. It's for the very end room, outside and around the corner. It has two nice beds." He pointed out the front door. "It's real quiet over there. And nobody will be tempted to bother your sis... I mean daddy. You kids go on now, and wait for your daddy out front."
"Thank you, kindly!" Doug beamed and grabbed the new key, taking the old one out of Marcy's hand and tossing it on the counter.
"Doug?" Marcy said as the couple began walking out of the motel.
"Yeah, Sis?" he replied smugly.
Marcy cupped her hands around her face, trying to see through the torrential downpour as long legs picked up the pace to a trot. "Remind me never to believe anything you say... ever again, okay?"
"Okay," Doug yelled, trying to be heard over the wind. He grabbed the girl's hand, leading the way, flinching with every flash in the sky and thinking about his sister's fear of storms. Shit. Liv must be terrified. His sister had had a nearly paralyzing fear of lightning ever since a neighbors' house was destroyed in a storm when she a child. I really fucked up this time.
"Don't worry," Marcy said loudly, jumping over a large puddle. "Kayla will take care of her."
Doug glanced over at his girlfriend for a quick second as they reached the door. Wet slippery hands tried to fit the key into the lock. With one hand he pushed drenched curls out of his eyes. Did I say that out loud?
The women were pressed tightly together and what should have been an incredibly uncomfortable position for virtual strangers felt surprisingly natural. The first few seconds of awkwardness were swept away by the smell of wet wood, suede, and Liv's shampoo that filled Kayla's nostrils as the fairer woman seemed to relax into their embrace, despite the storm. They had adjusted to the dim light and the nearly constant claps of thunder that interrupted the low burr of their voices.
Kayla and Liv fell silent, listening to Nature's fury and considering what had just been said. For Kayla it was a chance she hadn't taken in her adult life, bad experiences in her youth having left her wary of non-family members' reactions. She wasn't interested in being viewed as a carnival sideshow or a mental Peeping Tom. The emotional exposure she felt now that Liv knew her 'secret' caused a nervous ache in her belly that her friend's close presence went a long way toward curing.
For Liv, it was a lesson in acceptance. To believe Kayla was to deny the logical and rational and jump off a cliff into the unknown. That's what it came down to -- believing Kayla; and she wasn't sure she could do that yet. Not completely. Liv's mind was awhirl with so many questions she barely knew where to begin. Finally, she decided to just start with something... anything... and hope Kayla would take it from there. "So if this house is 'protected' then how come we're sitting in the dark?"
Liv's simple, common sense question surprised the younger women. It was almost ridiculous in its unimportance, especially when compared to what Kayla had just told her and what she had yet to explain. "Well, as far as I know, the spell only protects the house. The generator is outside. I umm... I think it was struck by lightning."
"I knew it!" Liv mumbled into Kayla's shoulder, trying to control her fear. The lightning caused her to snuggle even closer, rubbing her cheek along the cool fabric of Kayla's shirt. Liv's obvious distress spurred the arms around her to tighten to an almost painful degree, as Liv greedily soaked up the comfort they offered. She hated storms and especially lightning. She hated dark and spooky places and basically disbelieved all things supernatural. But that wasn't possible now, was it?
The linguist didn't want to believe. But how could she not? She had felt what Kayla described and marveled at her extraordinary luck. Somehow, all her fears were converging at the exact same time.
"This storm should blow over by tomorrow," Kayla began, feeling the tremors running through her companion. "But the kids may not be able to bring the boat across to the island until fairly late in the day, when the waters have calmed. After that, you can get a motel on the mainland for the rest of the week."
Liv nodded. If Kayla hadn't suggested it, she would have herself. She wanted off this island. Now. But if tomorrow was as good as she could get, she'd take it. Then she backtracked over the younger woman's words. "What do you mean 'you' can go to the mainland? Where will you be?"
"I have to stay on the island for a while."
"What? You're not coming with us?" She pulled away to search Kayla's face in the dim light. "You'd stay here alone?"
"Of course. There's nothing to be afraid of," she commented reasonably.
"But you said this place was haunted!"
"I never said haunted. I said it was protected by a spell. There's a big difference."
A pale brow lifted. "There is, huh? God, I can't believe I'm hearing this." Liv covered her eyes with her palms as she shook her head. "Okay, for arguments sake, let's say they are different. Why would you stay here in either case?"
"I have to find a missing family history and it's somewhere in this house." Kayla paused to collect her thoughts before launching into a complicated story.
Liv cocked her head to the side and waited for the darker woman to elaborate. To her credit, she made it a full 10 seconds before going berserk. "MORE! MORE! MORE! You need to say more! I have no idea what you're talking about! I don't know what a 'history' is or how it's connected to you or this house. I..." Liv's words were cut off by the hand that clamped itself firmly over her rapidly moving mouth.
"Okay! Christ, I was just getting to that part!" In actuality, Kayla wasn't bothered in the least by her friend's mini-explosion. But somehow she felt the need to at least pretend to be indignant. "Will you let me finish now?"
Liv nodded sheepishly and mumbled her apology into long, smooth fingers.
"All right then." Kayla gingerly removed her palm from Liv's lips, their softness imprinting itself on her mind. She carefully watched Liv's face for signs of another outburst.
Liv opened her mouth again. "I'm..."
Kayla's hand flew up but stopped inches from the older woman's lips, waiting to see whether the blonde would utter another word. Two dark eyebrows rose slowly, reminding Liv to remain quiet.
The linguist grinned. Kayla was playing with her. If she wasn't going to be talking, Liv decided she didn't need to be facing Kayla. The hedonist in her, who was already missing Kayla's warm skin and unique aroma, snuggled back alongside the lanky woman, waiting for her to begin. The prolonged silence caused Liv's mind to sidetrack for a moment, hoping the kids were safe and fed and someplace out of the vicious rain.
Kayla moved slightly, recapturing Liv's attention before she began. "Last month, a manila envelope somehow found me in Mexico. Considering I was residing in a tent at the time, I was fairly shocked."
The blonde wanted to ask why she was living in a tent in Mexico but barely resisted the urge by biting her tongue.
"It was from Papaw's lawyers. Looking at it, I figured the old man had finally passed over - he was 100 if he was a damn day."
"You weren't close, I take it."
Kayla smirked. She'd have better luck at trying to stop the storm than keeping Liv quiet. "No. I never met him. He was my father's grandfather, and daddy hadn't seen him since the '50's. Anyway, the envelope contained some legal papers concerning his estate that I assumed every direct descendant got and a smaller, handwritten envelope addressed to Kayla Marie Redding."
"That's a pretty name," Liv complimented softly.
Kayla felt the warmth in the sincere words and grinned broadly. "Thanks," she uttered, a bit flustered. Before she could speak again she became acutely aware of the steady vibration of Liv's heartbeat and paused to absorb its strong, constant rhythm.
Liv prompted her gently with a little poke. "Go on."
Kayla blinked, a little unnerved by how easily just about everything about Liv could distract her from what she was trying to say. "Right, where was I?"
"The personally addressed letter."
Kayla nodded. "The letter contained instructions for the house and the name of the person Papaw had chosen as guardian for the histories."
"What does that mean, 'guardian'? And while you're at it, explain the term 'histories'."
"I'm getting there!" Kayla reached down and pinched Liv's thigh, eliciting a surprised, but delighted, squawk from the Liv. She felt comfortable with a bit of physicality, especially since Liv was practically plastered to her.
"Sorry," Liv giggled. "Please continue." She could tell Kayla was trying to keep her mind off the storm and found it impossibly endearing.
Kayla's face went very serious as she closed her eyes, hearing her grandmother's words and feeling the weight of the past and family ties settle over her like a heavy cloak. "Since ancient times, my family has been persecuted because it was different... because of its abilities. And I'm not just talking about telepathy. A whole host of other paranormal powers runs strong through my family. If you find what I can do startling, can you imagine the powers my ancestors possessed, before time and travels had diluted our bloodline?"
Liv nodded, totally drawn in by the intense low voice and pale eyes that glinted with each flash of lightning. She wondered briefly if the stories of sorcerers and wizards were based on people with the abilities that ran in Kayla's family.
"Their abilities were seen as evil, a direct extension of whatever demonic power was the flavor of the month during that age. Several times throughout history, my line was nearly wiped from the face of the earth. They were hunted down and murdered, branded as criminals, the insane, or followers of Satan." Kayla's words took on an angry edge. "They were seen as an affront to the Gods or God and considered a perversion of man's ordained nature. They were intolerably different and feared by those who knew their secrets."
Liv's chest constricted. Was this how Kayla saw herself? As a perversion? Her words from that morning came crashing back to her... Oh God, that's what I called her. Her mind flashed to hurt blue eyes and she felt her stomach twist again.
Kayla stopped speaking and tilted her head down to look at her companion. "Hey, are you okay?" she asked in a low concerned voice, alert eyes widening at the intense, almost angry look on Liv's face. "Liv?"
"There's nothing wrong with you!" Liv said savagely as she convulsively grasped Kayla's shirt.
Kayla blinked. "Whoa, hey... calm down. You don't need to convince me."
"Kayla, I mean it! I..."
"It's okay, Liv. I know that. But... umm..." Unexpected tears pricked pale eyes. But it's so good to hear you say it. Kayla turned away from Liv, focusing on the rain that was pounding relentlessly against the wide picture window, trying to regain some measure of control. "I'm glad you think that."
Kayla smiled and tried to think of something to say. When she couldn't, she wrapped Liv in a heartfelt hug. This hugging thing was something she could see herself getting used to, very quickly.
Even before long arms had even tightened to their full extent, the linguist was struck by the difference in the touch. This hug wasn't meant to comfort. It was one of pure affection and it caused a light blush to work its way onto Liv's cheeks as her body and soul responded without conscious thought. She heard the clap of thunder that invaded the silence of the cavernous library, but this time it rolled over her. Liv's senses were otherwise engaged.
Soft blonde hair tickled Kayla's nose as she turned her head to the side and let her cheek rest on Liv's shoulder for just a second, before withdrawing with a soft sigh. "Well," Kayla's gaze dropped to their linked hands, which seemed to have a special affinity for finding their way back to each other again. "Now that that's settled. I'll umm... keep going, okay?"
Kayla crossed her long legs at the ankles and shifted slightly. "At some point in history, we aren't sure exactly when, a sickness swept through the English countryside, killing thousands and decimating entire communities. For some reason, the illness didn't touch a single member of my family. Every one of them was spared, and in that season of sickness, the Reddings were able to work their crops and prospered. The superstitious local peasants saw that as definitive proof that the Reddings, although they didn't use that name in ancient times, were somehow behind the plague.
Kayla shrugged one shoulder. "It was an excuse, I guess. A good reason to slaughter the lot them. And they were very nearly successful. But somehow a handful of people managed to survive."
"In the generations before the slaughter, our family embraced storytelling as a way to keep our traditions and the collective experience of generations of men and women with paranormal abilities alive. After the slaughter, it was decided that each generation would record its experiences, births, deaths, marriages, and the evolution of our powers in a family 'history'. A diary, if you will. With so few remaining elders, they were worried too much would be lost relaying the stories only by the spoken word."
"The writings survived?" Liv inquired doubtfully. "All this time?"
"No, not all of them. Around the time of Christ, a fire claimed almost half the existing histories. And more than three hundred years of histories were lost in the early 13th century when the boat carrying them from England to Ireland sunk off the coast of Wales. But since then, we've managed to take pretty good care of them. And considering how old some of them are, they're in pretty good condition."
"You've actually seen them?"
Kayla smiled. Liv was gonna love this part. What linguist wouldn't? "You've seen them." Kayla spread her arms wide. "Look on the shelves around you."
Green eyes widened to an almost comical degree. "Oh my God! These books here are the histories you're talking about?" Liv eyes shot the tall shelves loaded with dusty, leather bound books of all colors, shapes, and sizes. At the very top, her eyes strained to recognize what she'd seen only once, during a museum field trip for a college ancient writings course… scroll cases. "You leave them sitting here in this old house?" she asked incredulously.
"No," Kayla laughed. "Well, I guess we do. But it's not as bad as you think. The house is protected, remember? They're perfectly safe here."
Liv scowled. Writings that old should be scientifically preserved, not gathering dust.
A dark eyebrow arched and Kayla leaned in towards her companion. "I don't want to burst your bubble or anything, but umm... Papaw had them all copied onto CD-ROM before he died. Three thousand years of loving, fighting, and living has now been condensed into something that would fit in your purse and resides in a safety deposit box in downtown Washington, D.C." Kayla chuckled again. "Kind of takes the romance out of the story, doncha think?"
"Not at all," Liv protested instantly. And it didn't. "This is fabulous." She craned her neck trying to get a good look at the books on the shelves surrounding her, despite the darkness. "Damn storm," she mumbled, drawing an immediate grin from Kayla.
"Don't worry, you can look at them later. Spend as much time as you like. Although it might be easier with a little light."
"You'd actually let me look through them?"
It was time to show a little faith in her new friend. "Of course." Kayla grinned engagingly. "It's not like they're full of secret recipes for magic potions or anything." Okay, maybe a few are.
Liv was stunned. These documents had to be practically sacred to Kayla's family, or there was no way they would have survived wars, and weather and time itself… not for this long. The fact that Kayla had even told her about them indicated a level of trust that wasn't lost on Liv. "I don't know what to say." She let out an excited breath. "Thank you."
Dark green eyes continued to flicker around the room. All those lives. All those stories. "Do you know how rare writings from the time period you're describing are?" Liv's scholarly curiosity was brimming. There must be dozens of different dialects in the texts. The glint of happy blue eyes caught her attention and she smiled enthusiastically in response. "I guess you can tell I'm just a bit interested and dying to look at them."
"Just a bit," Kayla laughed, realizing that doing something nice for Liv felt better than she could have ever imagined. The excitement fairly radiated off the smaller woman and was downright infectious, despite the reason Kayla was here.
"Most people couldn't even read or write then," Liv offered rapidly, caught up in her passion.
Kayla nodded, quietly agreeing. "Not all the histories were written by family members. For different reasons, sometimes people were paid to transcribe them. Exactly how they were prepared was up to the head of the household. There are no guidelines for their compilation. The only rule is that they must survive. And that responsibility rests on the guardian's shoulders. They protect the histories."
"And your Papaw named you as the guardian?" Liv hazarded. It made sense. Kayla had said her abilities were stronger than the rest of her family. It made sense that she would have the most compelling interest in the lessons the histories undoubtedly contained.
"No," Kayla said with a bitterness that surprised the older woman. "Papaw didn't choose me. And I'm glad. Being the guardian is not a coveted position, Liv. It comes with certain family responsibilities that can be all-consuming. Papaw's role as guardian kept him on his island for nearly his entire adult life."
Liv's brow furrowed. "Why? If the histories are safe here, did he really need to be physically present to watch over them?" Liv was suddenly relieved Kayla hadn't been chosen as the guardian. The books were diaries of the past, and nothing in them could be worth sacrificing her friend's freedom or future. Family obligation be damned.
A dark head shook as Kayla's mood took another downward turn. "He wasn't here to watch over the histories. He was here to find a missing history… a very important missing history."
Pale brows lifted and Liv cocked her head. "He spent a lifetime looking for a missing book? In this house?" She turned disbelieving eyes on her friend.
"As the guardian, it was his duty to maintain and preserve the histories. That's not something my family takes lightly," she offered a little defensively.
"Yeah, but a lifetime?"
A flash of blinding light exploded into the dark room and before the women could move, or even blink, there was an earsplitting crack and thunderous boom as a jagged, white bolt pierced the sky and exploded into the old wooden dock in front of the house. It shattered instantly, sending splinters of flaming wood high into the sky before plummeting into the crashing black waves.
This time is was Kayla who jumped, springing to her feet and staring down at what was left of the flaming dock. "Holy Shit!"
Liv scrambled off the sofa and away from the window. A surge of anxiety welled within her, and she felt herself begin to panic as her heart hammered painfully in her chest as a cold sweat broke out across flushed skin.
Kayla spun around at the sound of Liv's whimpering to find her huddled in the corner of room. Her breathing hitched at the sight.
The shorter woman's eyes were darting wildly from wall to wall, searching desperately for a way to escape the storm as her hands clutching ineffectually at the wooden shelves alongside her. Kayla approached her much the same way she would a frightened animal.
"It's okay, we're safe in the house, remember?" she reminded softly, slowly making her way to the nearly hysterical woman.
"No! You can't know that! There are no such things as spells!" Liv's hands flew to ears and she tucked her chin to her chest as another loud clap rang out.
Kayla had never felt so helpless in her life. Liv looked as though she was ready to bolt from the room, even though there was no place to go. The darker woman clenched her jaw in frustration and tried to speak in her calmest, most comforting voice. "You need to believe me," she urged patiently. "I know it seems impossible but it isn't. Trust me." You can trust me.
Dilated eyes, full of fear, focused on sincere blue. "Do…" Liv paused, trying to calm down, sounding frantic even to her own ears. "Do you swear?"
"I swear." The reassurance was unwavering, coming without the slightest pause or hesitation.
The conviction in Kayla's voice gave Liv no choice but to believe. Slowly, she uncurled from her crouched position, reaching for the strong hand that was offered as Kayla leaned forward. Tears collected in pale lashes, and Liv began to cry helplessly, partly in relief over Kayla's reassurance and partly because of an odd sense of embarrassment. She didn't like looking weak or needy in front of Kayla. And she knew that was exactly how she looked, curled up in the corner of the room, hiding from lightning like a frightened child.
Kayla pulled her into her arms without thought. Any self-consciousness about this type of physical contact between the women had disappeared hours ago. Comfort was freely offered and just as freely accepted as Liv drew from Kayla's strength.
The darker woman crooned softly into the pink ear alongside her lips, willing Liv's fear away. Finally, after several moments, Kayla could feel the pounding of Liv's thundering heartbeat against her chest begin to calm, and the linguist's death-grip on the back of her T-shirt relax, even as the storm's fury continued to pound the house.
Kayla gently pried Liv from her, still maintaining physical contact but at arms length so she could examine her tear-stained face. "Are you okay?" Duh! Does she look okay, dumbass?
"Not really," Liv answered honestly, not bothering to hide exactly how she was feeling. "I feel stupid and pathetic at the same time."
"Don't." It was a simple request that tugged at Liv's heart.
"Okay." Liv let out a shuddering breath. "I'll try."
With a quick nod, Kayla grasped Liv's hand and led her out of the room and toward the stairs. While she couldn't help Liv escape the storm completely, she didn't need to subject her to a panoramic view of the angry sky. Kayla cursed herself for not thinking of this sooner.
"Where… where are we going?" Liv asked, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, suddenly feeling very weary.
"We're going to start searching for the lost history."
Liv sniffed but didn't object to Kayla's idea. They had nothing but time to kill until the kids could make it back to the island with the boat. "What makes you think we'll find it if your Papaw spent a lifetime searching and was never successful?" Liv flinched as another flash of bright light lit up the stairs in front of her, a crackling hiss right on its heels. She felt the squeeze of Kayla's hand as the sound faded away, replaced by the howl of the wind and unrelenting hammering of the rain.
"Because I'm guessing Papaw never knew about the secret passageway we found this morning. It has to be there. Every other inch of the house has been scoured."
Liv stopped mid-step, causing Kayla, who was leading her by the hand, to jerk backwards and stumble back to the step occupied by Liv.
"Ah… Kayla, I umm… I know what I said earlier. But I… uh…" She fidgeted worriedly. "I don't think I want to go searching around that dark passage." God, I'm such a chickenshit! Give me a snake-filled jungle any day. Tribal wars -- no problem. But one nasty summer storm and I fall apart like the Goddamned 'House of Usher'. Oh, that was a bad… bad thought!
"Look," Kayla's face was compassionate but deadly serious. "There won't be any windows so you won't see the lightning. And these old walls are so thick, I doubt you'll even know there is a storm going on." Kayla smiled mischievously. "C'mon, Liv. Aren't you the least bit curious? Where's your sense of adventure?" she baited.
Liv closed her eyes in frustration. She wanted to help Kayla and there was no denying that curiosity's teasing tendrils were licking at her soul. "The sooner we find these papers, the sooner you can leave the island, right?"
Kayla nodded and answered Liv's unspoken question. "Right. We'll kill Marcy and Doug for making us worry, then we'll find some peaceful time together. I really want to do that," she promised.
"And you'll explain more about this spell and why this missing history is so important?"
"Everything I know," Kayla agreed, tilting her head and sending loose raven tresses cascading over broad shoulders. She lifted her eyebrows in entreaty as she moved to the step in front of Liv. "I could really use your help," she finally added softly, meaning it in a way she didn't understand yet.
And that did it.
Liv ran a determined hand through pale hair as her eyes fixed on a deep, icy blue. She was completely hooked and she knew it. Her feet unfroze and she moved alongside Kayla as they ascended the remaining stairs to the second floor. "Just because this is your family's creepy old house…" she teased, consciously allowing her anxiety to begin to drain away, "… doesn't mean that you're in charge or that I'm just a side-kick in this little adventure, ya know," she informed, surprising herself. Green eyes blinked. Where did that come from?
Never just a sidekick, Kayla's heart supplied without thought. "Yeah, but I'm much taller. I should be in charge," she bantered back with a grin.
"But I'm older!" Liv protested with an answering smile, enjoying the juvenile banter.
"And you're bragging about that? Doug was saying you were pretty decrepit. "
The linguist playfully slapped Kayla's belly with the back of her hand, drawing a loud 'ufff' from her companion as they rounded the corner.
Nervous gray eyes surveyed the dingy motel room whose burnt orange and avocado color scheme was reminiscent of the decade before Marcy's birth. "Ewww!!" the girl complained, wrinkling her nose. Stating the obvious she tugged her soaked cotton shirt away from her stomach, unsure what was rainwater and what was just plain sweat. "This place looks totally gross."
Doug nodded, poking his finger through a cigarette hole in the edge of the rusty-orange bedspread.
Marcy cringed as she moved around Doug toward what she assumed was the bathroom door, ignoring the squishing sounds her sneakers made on the worn carpet. "Don't touch that, Doug!" the dark teen said disgustedly as she stuck her throat in a gagging motion, adding a few retching sounds just for effect. "God only knows the last time that was washed! Motels wash the sheets between each guest..." at least I hope so, "... but not the bedspreads. I don't even want to think of about what people have done on that recently."
The young man yanked his hand away from the bed as though it had been burned, vigorously wiping the potentially germ-infected finger against his denim shorts. "Good point," he muttered, scanning the room's meager furnishings, his eyes locking on an old black rotary phone on the nightstand between the beds. We could call Marcy's folks. They'd know Kayla's cell phone number.
Marcy disappeared into the bathroom as Doug sat heavily on the bed, rolling his eyes at the loud 'BOIIIING' the bedsprings made as he shifted. He could insist they call Marcy's parents, he knew they should. His gaze drifted back to the phone before dropping to the floor. Knowing what he should do, and actually having the nerve to do it, were clearly two very separate things.
Truth be known, Doug was far more afraid of what Liv would think, than of what Kayla would do. He'd spent two long, mostly lonely years waiting for his sister to come home; living for the colorfully stamped letters, addressed solely to him, and wondering what kept the person he loved most in the world, except for Marcy, so far away. Liv had only been back in the States a few weeks and he'd already ruined his own plans. After this, assuming Kayla let him live, his sister wouldn't trust him again for a very long time. Not that he could blame her, but the thought still sucked.
Doug sighed and focused on the steady, rhythmic pounding of the rain. God, he hated disappointing Liv. Sure, he'd made lots of mistakes in the past, and once or twice in the last 2 years Aunt Ruth had actually called Liv in Africa so she could talk to her brother and straighten him out. Usually just the sound of Liv's voice and a few gentle reminders mixed in with some good-natured sibling jibes were enough to ground him, reminding him that he wouldn't live with Aunt Ruth forever.
To make matters worse, a tiny, petty corner of his heart resented the fact that he cared so much what Liv thought of him, that he needed her to love him unconditionally. The young man frowned, allowing his thoughts to turn dark and his insecurities free rein.
Liv always had so much confidence in him; encouraged him to ask Marcy out on a date after he'd gone on and on about her in several of his letters; supported him when he wanted to try out for the baseball and debate teams, even when Aunt Ruth had complained that he wouldn't stick with them. And he hadn't, of course. But Liv had said that wasn't the point. He should never be afraid to try new things. He didn't have to make a life-long commitment, just a reasonable effort. Liv had backed up her words with money, something Aunt Ruth easily understood and begrudgingly respected.
His Aunt wasn't a bad person, just someone who was not cut out to be a parent. She tolerated his presence with a stoic sense of duty, cashing the monthly checks Liv sent for his care as though she was boarding a burdensome family pet. Simply put, it was Liv that supported Doug in every way. He groaned, and during a rare moment of teenage insight, wondered if the price of the airfare home was what had kept Liv away for such long periods at a time.
He wanted to ask Liv if he could come and live with her again when he finished school. He only had one year to go. Maybe he could even take his GED or finish high school in Washington, D.C. But how was he going to convince her after this stunt? No, D.C. was farther away from Marcy. He's could make it one more year with Aunt Ruth. Then maybe they could all be together like families were supposed to.
"Duuuuug," Marcy moaned, interrupting the fair-haired teen's morose thoughts, the thin wooden door barely muffling her voice. "I don't think they cleaned this place since the last guests. I found a pair of tennis shoes in the shower."
"In the shower? Sorry," the boy chuckled miserably.
"S'not not your fault," Marcy reminded him simply, already wishing she could take back what sounded like a complaint. Doug's ever increasing guilt over the worry he was undoubtedly causing Liv was eating away at her more than her own. She didn't need to add to it. "I'm just glad we're together, that's all," she reflected out loud as a powerful gust of wind rattled the bathroom window.
"Me too." Doug reached down and pulled off the bedspread, tossing it into the corner of the room. Tentatively, he bent down and sniffed the sheets. They looked surprisingly fresh and carried with them the clean, if slightly institutional, scent of bleach. Satisfied that he wouldn't catch a dreaded disease from the bedding alone, he slipped off his wet T-shirt and tossed it on the floor alongside the bedspread. Moving to the second bed, he stripped its bedspread as Marcy's voice rang out from the bathroom.
"I don't suppose there's an air conditioner in here?"
"Stupid question, Marcy."
"A fan, then?"
Doug peered over the edge of the bed. "Yep, there's a small one in the corner."
"Good. Here..." Marcy's arm snaked out of the bathroom with a wad of wrinkled wet, but soapy smelling, clothes clutched tightly in her hand. "Can you hang these to dry?"
Doug stood frozen, staring at the wet naked arm, his mouth agape. She's na.. na... naked in there? Yes!! He had heard running water in the bathroom but with the rain and wind it hadn't registered to him that she was actually in the shower. Nude. In her birthday suit. Clothingless. Completely and totally without clothes.
"Doug?" Marcy's head popped out of the small bathroom; her wet dark hair was slicked back, accentuating high cheekbones and a slender, long neck, but the rest of her body was hidden safely behind the door. "What's wrong?" Her gaze dropped to Doug's bare chest and a single eyebrow rose in a fair imitation of Kayla.
Doug was slim but powerfully built despite being an inch or so shorter than her 5'9". Marcy couldn't help but notice the young man had added considerable muscle since the last time she'd seen him in a similar state of undress, at the beach the summer before. She mentally praised his decision to take a part time job as a stable boy, the physical labor adding mass and definition to his naturally slender frame.
For a long quiet moment each of them got lost in their thoughts, which were mostly lascivious. A loud clap of thunder boomed and the lights in the room flickered, snapping Marcy back to the present. She swallowed, suddenly feeling far more nervous than she'd been a moment ago. "Do you want me to wash your clothes too? Then we can dry them in front of the fan?"
"Ahh... Umm... I uh..." Doug shifted onto his heels, his mind reeling. Any thoughts of guilt or sorrow were instantly wiped away as he tried to wrap his mind around the simple fact that his girlfriend was a few feet away from him... buck-naked. His mind derailed again.
"Doug, what is with you?" She knew damn well what Doug was thinking, but enjoyed watching him squirm nonetheless.
The young man shook his head to clear decidedly carnal mental wanderings. "What was the question again?" he asked, recognizing the fiery heat on his own cheeks as a scarlet blush.
Marcy smiled. "I asked if you'd like me to wash your clothes. I know how sticky and sweaty I was; that shower felt great and now I'll be able to put on clean clothes.
Doug licked suddenly dry lips, he hadn't heard a word past 'sticky and sweaty'. "Oh yeah," he focused on the droplets of water that had collected in the hollow of her throat. "You're sooo hot," he muttered dreamily. Marcy's chuckle drew his eyes back to her face. "I... um... I mean, I know you were hot," he corrected himself, embarrassed again.
"Marcy, um... what are you going to wear while your clothes are drying?" NOTHING!!! NOTHING!!! If there is a God in heaven, then PLEASE LET HER SAY 'NOTHING'!!!!!! So fervent was his mental chanting that he began to feel a little lightheaded and stumbled backwards on unsteady feet until he felt the cool sheets rub against the back of his knees. With a light groan he flopped down gracelessly on the bed and stared at the textured white ceiling.
Marcy's chuckle became an outright laugh. She couldn't think of anything more flattering than having a boyfriend who thought she walked on water, and literally got weak in the knees just thinking about seeing her naked. She simply adored him. "Doug, I was planning on using towels or the sheets from one of the beds... Before getting dressed again," she added firmly, making sure her meaning was crystal clear, even as libido her screamed otherwise.
And with that... Doug's commitment to atheism was restored.
Liv sat on Kayla's bed as the younger woman padded quietly over to an empty cloth backpack that was resting alongside a wide maple dresser. She watched with interested eyes as Kayla picked it up and carried it to one of the metal chests that she'd been so secretive about the day before. The brunette dropped to her knees in front of the chest and inserted a small metal key into its lock. With an almost inaudible 'clack' the lock released and sure hands pushed open the lid.
Liv was far enough away that in the dim light she couldn't see into the box. She resisted the urge to get off the bed and join Kayla on the floor. Vaguely surprised that she felt she was sitting altogether too far away from the enigmatic woman and already missing the reassuring physical contact she'd received downstairs.
"Aren't you going to ask me what's inside?" Kayla prompted mischievously as she withdrew a black sack and unlaced its top. From the sack she pulled out two large flashlights. Sitting one on the floor next to her knee, she fumbled for a moment to find the other's switch, aided only by the brief flashes of lightning that illuminated the room. Then with a click, everything was bathed in a soft golden glow. She picked up the second light and tossed it over to Liv, who let it bounce several times on the bed's springy mattress before reaching for it.
The heavy flashlight was the size of a coffee can and had several more knobs and gauges than Liv had ever seen on a flashlight before. Its lens was tinted an amber color. She looked at the high tech gadget for a moment before deciding to conserve her batteries. Kayla's provided more than enough light. "Jesus, Kayla, were you planning on spending a lot of time in the dark?" She motioned to the enormous light even though Kayla was facing away from her, and imagined her friend's smirk as Kayla's head cocked slightly to the side while she continued to sort through the box.
"And no," Liv continued, "I'm not going to ask what's in those boxes.... Again," she emphasized. "The other times I asked and all I got from you was 'nothing', 'nothing important', and my personal favorite 'nothing to concern yourself about'. If you had added 'blondie' to the end of that response, I'd have been forced to smack you."
Liv could tell by the sudden slump of Kayla's shoulders that she didn't like having her own words thrown back at her. But she continued anyway, remembering how she'd felt when Kayla dismissively brushed off her questions and wondering why Kayla was offering the information so freely now. The lanky brunette was a bundle of contradictions, at times startlingly open and at the other times infuriatingly closed-mouthed. "I may have been a little slow on the uptake, but eventually I did get the hint."
Kayla felt the sting of Liv's words and winced, not missing the echo of frustration and hurt in the linguist's voice. She'd been downright rude when it came to the boxes and she knew it. It was nothing personal, she just didn't think explaining what was in the boxes, bare moments after meeting someone for the first time, was a good idea.
Once Kayla had got a good look at the island and house, she was more certain than ever that she'd made the right decision. Why freak Liv out and possibly ruin her trip? The island was scary enough on its own without encouraging people's imaginations to run wild. Of course, that was before she told the Liv about her own 'abilities' and the histories, before she explained what she was feeling, hoping against hope Liv wouldn't simply think was she was a nutcase. Things were different now. She felt different now.
Kayla girded her mental loins but couldn't bring herself to turn and face her companion. "I'm sorry for being such a first-class bitch," she flatly told Liv.
Liv's jaw dropped, not expecting the blunt admission or apology. "I never said..."
"I know you didn't. But I was. And I'm sorry. I didn't feel like explaining myself, so for some stupid reason I figured it was just better to avoid your questions." And feel like shit for doing it.
Liv leaned forward on the edge of the bed, resting her elbows on her knees as she eyed Kayla's back intently. "You don't have to explain yourself to me. I was just curious." And interested in you and every little thing about you.
"They contain the equipment I need for my job," Kayla explained, ignoring Liv's previous statement and feeling very much like she needed to explain herself to the woman behind her. That had been another thing Kayla had avoiding discussing, her profession. If she had it to do all over again she'd be completely forthright with Liv. But since she couldn't turn back the clock, she decided full-disclosure was the next best thing. Instinctively, she knew if she wanted to pursue a relationship with Liv, those soulful, compelling sea-green eyes would ask questions that she'd be powerless to ignore.
"Your job?" Two pale eyebrows shot skyward. "So you're finally going to tell me, huh?"
Kayla took a deep breath, exhaling slowly as she dug a few more items out of the metal chest and stuffed them into her backpack. "I'm a..." A beat. "...private consultant usually hired by individuals but occasionally by universities or corporations, especially real estate companies. I guess you could call me a researcher," she finished in a rush.
Liv smiled knowingly. She'd always figured 'private consultant' was secret code for 'unemployed'. "And you research...?" she left the sentence hanging, hoping to prod the other woman along. Verdant eyes were focused on Kayla, expectantly, when a bright light suddenly filled the room and Liv bent over, covering her ears, waiting for the boom that would surely follow.
Kayla glanced over her shoulder just as the earsplitting boom exploded over the house, shooting her companion a sympathetic look and trying her best to hurry. She stuffed the items she'd pulled from the metal box into the small backpack and strapped it behind her, cinching the straps with a sharp tug. "I research paranormal phenomena."
Liv scrunched her eyebrows together in thought. "You study psychics?"
"Not exactly." Kayla rose to her feet. "I'm not a parapsychologist. I'm more of a field researcher who focuses on the... spiritual aspect of things. I travel to where the paranormal activity is supposedly taking place and try to determine if it's a hoax."
"And if it's not?"
"It always is..." Kayla smiled weakly. "Almost."
A mischievous grin edged its way onto Liv's lips as Kayla's profession finally became clear. "You're a ghostbuster aren't you?!" she exclaimed delightedly.
Kayla's head sagged. Shit. Not the song. Anything but that. "Silly me. And here I thought you'd be afraid," she muttered sarcastically, shaking her head.
"I ain't afraid of no ghosts," Liv immediately shot back, mimicking the song perfectly. Then her smile slid from her face as she considered what she was actually saying. This was no joke or movie. This was real. "Wait. Oh Christ! You're telling me that ghosts are real and in this house?"
Kayla watched helplessly as the color drained from Liv's face. "Liv..."
"Then, hell yes I'm afraid of ghosts!" Liv suddenly exploded, surprising both herself and Kayla.
A slender eyebrow arched. "Gee, I wonder why I didn't want to tell you sooner?"
"You said this place wasn't haunted!" the blonde roared, ignoring Kayla's sassy remark. "Downstairs... you said a spell was different! Though why THAT comforts me I'll never know." Angry green eyes darkened further. "You knew all along that something was wrong with this place and you still let me bring Dougie here, knowing there might be danger?" Liv accused, her fear having been fully swept away by anger.
"That is not true!" Kayla immediately protested. "I would never endanger anyone intentionally. You seem to be forgetting that I brought my own sister along too."
"Liv," Kayla said in the calmest voice she could muster, "I wasn't sure what we'd encounter here. I only brought my equipment so I could check things out."
"I cannot BELIEVE I'm asking this, but are there ghosts here, or not?"
"After I left you on the porch yesterday I did a little investigating, checked for pressure and temperature differences in several rooms, set up some photography equipment on the second floor, stuff like that. So far I haven't found anything out of the ordinary."
Liv sat back down on the bed and wrapped her arms around herself, swaying slightly. "Oh God. What if my dream last night wasn't a dream? What if some THING was touching me?" she shuddered, completely disgusted with herself because she had to admit that whatever it was had felt utterly fantastic.
Kayla was instantly at her side on the bed, grabbing both her hands and gently rubbing her thumbs across the soft skin of Liv's wrists. "No. It was just a dream. Nothing more."
Liv jerked her hands out of Kayla's. "How... how can you possibly know that?"
"Well... um..." Kayla was suddenly flustered. "I was in the middle of a very... ahh... arousing dream..." Kayla winced at her babbling voice and the understatement of her own words, hoping the dim lighting would hide her blush, "before something woke me up. At the time I thought it was something in my closet but now I think it was just Doug in the hallway. I went to check out where I thought the noise was coming from and somehow I ended up in your closet. I… I guess you know the rest."
Liv closed her eyes for a moment cursing her temper. She reached out to retake Kayla's hands, which were nervously twisting the bedspread. "Kayla, what does that have to do with my dream?" she whispered softly, her fear and anger melting away as she began to focus on the uneasy woman next to her. She lightly gripped the larger hands in hers. "Were you dreaming about me?" she asked hopefully, unable to think of why else Kayla would look so mortally embarrassed. Blue eyes gone gray in the glow of the flashlight dropped from Liv's. But the older woman gently grasped Kayla's chin and lifted her head, demanding eye contact once again.
"I'm not sure," Kayla admitted. "Were you dreaming about me?"
Now it was Liv's turn to be a bit embarrassed. "I'm not sure either. But I think so," she offered bravely, voicing what Kayla was too afraid to say. "Were you feeling my dream? Or was it the same dream and somehow we were both sharing it? Is that even possible?" Liv hadn't thought so. But obviously the simple truths she believed before coming to Cobb Island didn't seem to apply here.
"It's not an unheard of phenomena," Kayla answered clinically, even as she remembered the overwhelming rush of desire and wellbeing that flooded through her during the dream. Unable to stop herself, she pulled Liv onto her lap and wrapped long arms around the linguist's back, tugging her tightly against her, until they were sitting nose-to-nose.
If Liv was surprised by the intimate contact, she didn't show it. Kayla's sudden movement had forced her to straddle her waist or fall off the edge of the bed. And the resulting position was overtly sexual, sending a bolt of desire tearing through both women. Liv leaned her head forward until her lips were barely pressing against the tender skin on Kayla's throat. She took a deep breath of skin and clean perspiration and sandalwood, closing her eyes in pleasure. "That's the smell from my dream," she finally whispered dazedly, her words barely carrying over the sound of the howling wind.
Kayla's heart began to pump furiously when Liv's warm breath tickled her throat, causing goosebumps to chase up and down her spine. She nodded at the smaller woman's soft words, deciding not to risk an attempt at speech, then fell backwards, taking Liv with her and twisting until Liv's shoulders met the soft bedspread and she was laying fully atop her. At that moment it didn't matter to Kayla if she'd shared Liv's dream or vice versa. She licked suddenly dry lips and sank into Liv, overwhelmed with the certainty that Liv was meant to be in her arms.
Liv moaned at the exquisite contact, keeping her eyes firmly closed, and eagerly soaking in the sensation of Kayla's weight rooting her firmly to the bed. This was the feeling she remembered.
Kayla leaned forward until her lips were pressed softly against the tip of Liv's ear. "Tell me if this is what you remember, Liv," Kayla said huskily as she began whispering in hushed, low tones, describing the dream from the night before.
Liv let out a soft groan, a slow burn igniting between her legs as she heard the dream in vivid detail but from the perspective of the person whose tongue had bathed her in kisses and whose tender caresses had set her on fire.
When Kayla finished speaking she placed a soft kiss on Liv's ear and started to pull away, knowing she'd gone farther than she'd intended and afraid if she stayed in her current position for another second, she wouldn't be able to stop herself from physically recreating the words she'd just spoken.
"Don't even think about moving yet," Liv growled softly, threading her fingers through thick dark locks and tugging Kayla's ear to her own lips. Liv wrapped her legs around Kayla thighs, pulling the taller woman's center to her own, and feeling a tremor run through her before Kayla leaned into the intimate touch, giving up any pretense that this was something other than a mutual seduction.
By the time Liv finished her side of the story, both women were flushed and breathing raggedly. Reluctantly, Kayla began to pull back from Liv and this time the smaller woman let her go. She wasn't sure whether she was disappointed or not. "Yep," Kayla said taking in an enormous gulp of air. "I think we... er... experienced the same thing. I'm sor... sorry," she apologized sheepishly, feeling a trickle of sweat drip down her belly. "That... I mean... I got sort of out of hand."
Kayla's hands were shaking under the weight of her own arousal. She recognized that neither of them were ready for things to go any farther. She wanted more than bed sports with Liv and that would take time. But she also knew that if Liv as much as crooked her little finger, it would take a crowbar to pry them apart.
Liv could only nod, turning her head away from Kayla. One look into deep dilated blue eyes and she knew she'd be tearing Kayla's clothes off. She couldn't remember the last time she'd been this aroused. "It's okay," she finally breathed roughly. "I um... I sort of held you down while I was talking. I'm sorry, too."
Kayla sat up and put a respectable distance between herself and Liv, trying to remember why it was a bad idea to sleep with people you'd just met. "Did you hear me complaining?" she snorted.
The linguist moved to the edge of the bed and threw her feet over the side as she sat up. "No." She smiled and ran an unsteady hand through her hair with one hand and fanned herself with the other.
Kayla grinned broadly, inordinately pleased by the gesture.
Liv struck her tongue out at in response to Kalya's smug smile. "I guess I didn't." Kayla's hand found its way to her knee and Liv grasped it tightly, lifting her eyebrows in question. "Let's continue this conversation after we know each other a little better, okay?"
Kayla's head bobbed vigorously. "Soon."
Liv let out a frustrated breath as she pushed herself up onto slightly unsteady feet. "Verrry soon."
Continued in Part 3.