WARNING: This is a Uber story. All characters are figments of my imagination, any similarity to living or dead individual are unintentional.
VIOLENCE WARNING/DISCLAIMER: The violence in this story, is not into gross or gory. Please feel free not to read if violence of any kind bothers you.
LOVE/SEX WARNING/DISCLAIMER:This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.
A NOTE OF THANKS: I would like to thank Patty McDermott for putting so much time and energy into beta reading my work.
Jesus, what happened? Dru groaned. "Kasey?" She rubbed her eyes, and realized they were open. Inky blackness closed down her focus to her breathing and what she could feel. Something heavy held her in place. The taste of dirt lined her teeth as she ran her tongue over them. She spit dirt out of her mouth, then heard a noise nearby. Fearful of another barrage of rock, she stilled. Oh god, she remember her last sight of Kasey
"Wha .… Is anyone there? Dru? Carla?" The publisher's voice sounded small in the darkness.
"I'm here, Iggy, but I'm stuck." The writer shifted her weight, dislodging rubble and sending a shower of fine dirt over her. She was able to wiggle her arms to where she could brace them and squirm free. First thing she did was turn on the lights on her hard hat. For once she was thankful for the ugly thing. The glare of the narrow beams of light showed the loader was turned over, propped above them a foot or so. Diesel dripped from the engine into a growing puddle. A large boulder kept the car from crushing them. The fumes were enough to cause Dru's stomach to twist into a knot. The light fell onto the publisher, who laid on her back not far away, with a thin gash across her forehead. Blood from the wound flowed slowly down either side of her face. The car had protected them from the larger rocks, but now they were wedged into a small space underneath the loader. Dru couldn't help but think about the last sight of Kasey turning, their eyes locking for a brief instant before the lights had gone out. Then hearing her name, and feeling herself falling through the air.
She hoped Mason was getting help, and that someone would be digging them out. Regardless, it would take time for anyone to reach them. It was eerie to review the cave in. It was so unexpected and out of the blue, and silent up until the last moments when the rocks and walls began to break apart. A bout of coughing racked her body. Her lungs itched from inhaling the fine dust. She rubbed her chest out of reflex to alleviate the irritation.
Was there a way out of this mess?, she asked herself. If they were going to be saved, they would have to do it themselves, which at the moment didn't look too promising with tons of rock encircling them. Dru took a breath, it was humid and saturated with diesel fumes. They had to get out of this position soon or she was going to lose her breakfast.
"Iggy, are you hurt?" the taller woman rolled over to face the other woman. Brown eyes looked back, understanding their dilemma. "Can you move?"
"I think so, and I don't feel like anything is broken, but I sure do ache in places I hadn't been aware of in ages." Iggy forced herself to roll over and face Dru, thinking she was even beautiful with dirt smeared all over her face.
The writer eased forward to take a look at Iggy's forehead. She held the woman's head, turning it to the left and then to the right. Dru then shrugged off the backpack that Mason had given her. She rummaged through the contents, finally finding what she was looking for. She opened a slim package of gauze and poured some disinfectant onto it. "This might sting," she warned.
"Like it could be worse than anything else I'm feeling. Ouch! Okay I lied it did hurt," Iggy grumbled. "At least you're gentle. That's nice." Brown eyes gleamed. Dru rolled her eyes.
"Can it Pinkerton, or I'll leave ya here to fend for yourself." Long, tanned fingers applied a bandage around Iggy's head to keep the wound clean. Dru then sifted through her pack again and found a bottle of water. It felt good to wash away the lingering, gritty taste, though everything was beginning to taste and smell like the loader fuel. She offered the bottle to her companion, who took it and gulped loudly. Iggy then wiped the back of her hand across her mouth and handed back the bottle to Dru.
"Thanks," the slender woman said as she shifted to a sitting position.
"We've got to try and dig our way out," Dru urged. She then started shifting rocks from where they blocked the end of the loader. Of course she was praying this was only a small layer that they could break through easily. She had to get out and find Kasey. Rolling that thought over and over in her mind, Dru knew nothing else mattered. She had to survive. She had to find her lover. There was no other option for her. She couldn't lose another person that she loved--not again.
The publisher reached out and took the debris Dru pulled down, shoving or rolling the rocks and dirt to the back of their confines. Very slowly, the area where they were trapped began to fill up while the section Dru was working on cleared slightly. They moved from one claustrophobic prison into another, but this left them with very little protection should things go awry. The closeness began to play on Dru's nerves. She hated confined spaces, and this didn't help her phobia. The need to stand and breathe fresh air kept asserting itself. She stopped, lowered her head and took deep breaths. C'mon, Dru. You can do this. You have no choice so just buck up and keep going. There's someone out there who needs you, and you can't help her unless you're in one piece.
"You okay?" asked Iggy. She watched the dark head nod but noted the sweat beading on Dru's face. This was the first time she had ever seen the writer at odds with a situation she couldn't handle. Then again, this wasn't the type of event a person faced everyday, and she couldn’t say that she was enjoying it herself. The one saving grace of the whole matter was that she finally had Dru to herself. This brought a wry grin to her lips. Oh yeah, like this is the perfect place to make love. Of course I'll have to add this to my list of romantic outings. I don't think so. She chuckled.
Dru raised an eyebrow in Iggy's direction, "Something funny?"
The publisher shook her head. "I just was thinking. I finally have you alone, and it's not exactly the ambience I was hoping for to mark this momentous occasion."
"Damn, Iggy. Do you ever think of anything else?" Dru growled.
"You're going to tell me you never think of being with Kasey?"
"That's different," informed Dru as she rolled another rock towards the other woman.
"Oh yeah right. How?" Iggy blinked innocently.
"Well … um … it just is." Dru couldn't come up with a good argument and knew she'd been busted big time. "Ok, so you've got me there, but this doesn't change a thing. It's never going to happen between you and me." Dru heard the large sigh behind her.
"I know, but I can dream can't I?"
Dru pulled muscles through her shoulders, and her back and ached. She hadn't done anything this strenuous in years, the position she had to hold gave her leverage to powerhouse and maneuver the rocks, but was beginning to take its toll on her arms and legs. Iggy remained quiet for the most part, and that was just fine with Dru. She wasn't in a talkative mood. They worked in silence until Dru's muscles began to twitch and jump, and the sweat dripped off her in a constant stream.
"You better drink some water or you'll dehydrate." Iggy said. Her voice sounded tired and hoarse. Dru realized she was right. She eased off the pack and faced the publisher who was covered from head to toe in dirt. One sleeve of her tan cotton blouse hung on only by a few threads. If Iggy looked this bad, Dru could only imagine how bad she looked. She leaned against the wall she'd been working on, exhaling loudly. They searched through their packs and came up with six sports bottles of water and a dozen trail mix bars. The publisher and writer shared their meal in silence, both lost in their own thoughts.
While chewing on her tail bar, Dru closed her eyes, forcing her muscles to relax, and eased herself into the breathing exercises Carl had taught her. In with the good. Out with the bad. The thought of the old handy man coaching her brought an unexpected smile to her lips.
"I can't believe you can smile at a time like this," Iggy complained chewing her meal.
"Better that than giving up." Dru took another section out of her bar.
"Oh, I haven't given up. I still have too many things to do with my life." Iggy glanced around their confines. "So, what do you think caused this?"
Dru shrugged. "Could have been an earthquake," She speculated, although she wasn't really sure. "I have a hypothetical question for you."
The other woman's interest peaked. "Yeah?"
"Who would benefit most from your death?" Dru watched closely while the other women mulled over the question. Though it was kind of comical watching Iggy work her jaw a few times dumbfounded.
"Ah … gee … I guess Robby. Why?" Pale brown eyes became hard points studying the writer.
"Mmm, no reason exactly. I was curious as to why you asked me to watch Mason earlier today. Aren't you two close?" Dru closed her eyes and rested her head against the rocks, waiting for Iggy's answer.
"It was just something he said the other night while driving me home that kind of shook me up." Iggy dug in the dirt in front of her with a dirty finger, rolling a pebble around.
"Which was?" coaxed Dru without opening her eyes. She heard the publisher shift her position.
"He said that Robby's remission may only be temporary, and that I shouldn't get my hopes up." Iggy shrugged, "It might only temporary, but I can't see how it hurts to believe that she'll make a full recovery. He gave me the impression that he knew more than he was telling." She fell silent.
Dru considered this. If Mason did know something, why didn't he share it with Iggy? Maybe he didn't want Iggy to worry. That's as good an excuse as any. Can't fault a man for caring. So then what else could cause him to act this way? Maybe there was more to this story than met the eye. If this was one of her mystery novels, Dru would have conjured up a few twists and turns that, would throw everyone off the path. The real culprit would appear as innocent as a babe. In this case, Mason would be prime suspect, but this wasn't her mystery. This was real life.
"Just because he might be protecting your feelings, Iggy, doesn't mean what he's doing is suspicious," Dru reasoned. The writer opened her eyes and watched the publisher who stilled played in the dirt with her finger. "You two seem pretty close."
Iggy nodded. "It's just been the three of us for a long time, so I guess you could say we're close. Mason always has treated me well, and he's done right by my sister." She picked up a pebble and bounced it from one hand to the other. "He's one of a small group of men I trust. At least I thought he was."
"Iggy, don't sell him short now. You aren't sure about anything, so until you are give the guy the benefit of a doubt. Ok?"
Dru sighed before putting, the cap back on her water bottle and stuffing it back into her pack. Just then, a terrible thought hit her. She and Iggy had the only packs. If Kasey and Carla made it through the cave in and were in the same situation, they would be without water or food. With that thought in mind, Dru doubled her efforts. She worked furiously, determined to find Kasey; determined not to let the woman she loved perish in this dusty tomb. It wasn't going to happen. Not on her watch.
Dru grunted as she tugged ferociously at a stubborn, jagged rock. Suddenly, she fell back, tossing the boulder over her head as a gust of air hit her full in the face. Earlier, she had told Iggy to turn the light on her helmet off and to work only with hers in an effort to conserve their meager resources. There was no way to know how long they would be stuck here in this hell hole, and this was all they had to sustain them. Dru thought of Kasey and felt a twinge in her heart. Dru truly believed the young woman was alive. It was just a gut feeling, but she held onto it tenaciously.
"Daddy!" Kasey giggled, as her father threw her up in the air yet again, sending little butterfly flutters through her stomach. His strawberry-blonde hair fell over his forehead in a curly mass, while pale hazel eyes danced in merriment and gazed up at her.
"Are you daddy's little girl?" he asked, nuzzling her in a bear hug before letting her down gently.
"Of course daddy," Kasey squealed as she wrapped her arms around the neck of the father she adored. "But can't you stay home with us this time?"
"Sorry muffin-head, no can do. This is a big contract and I've got to do the bidding. You know how it is. They call in a bunch of us blue collar guys to tell the white collar guys that they're full of snot, and this and that can't be done. After all the haggling, we prevail and the real work begins." He tweaked Kasey's nose. "Sounds like fun, huh?" he grinned.
"Oh yeah. Not! Why don't they just listen to you in the first place and forget all the other junk?" She took his hand studying the short, strong fingers that looked much like her own.
"Because my little darling, they aren't as smart as you to figure that out." He smiled warmly at his ten-year-old daughter. "C'mon. Your mother isn't any happier about this than you are. I need you to keep things on an even keel while I'm gone. You know how she can get, and you're also the only one who has ever been able to cool her temper." He took his daughter's hand and walked into the master bedroom where his wife, Marlene, was packing a suitcase. She looked up as her husband and first born daughter entered. A pensive smile greeted them.
"Are you going to be going out to a fancy dinner while there? If so, I'll pack your suit." She folded up a t-shirt very precisely and placed it into the allotted space she'd prepared for it.
"I'm not sure. Put it in just to be safe." He walked over to the slightly overweight woman and slipped his arms around her. She slapped his hands away.
"Not in front of Kasey, Ranston Lovett!" She chuckled. He ignored her and nibbled on her neck. They all knew Marlene Lovett was extremely ticklish. Kasey tried not to laugh when her mother couldn't hold back the uncontrollable laughter. She wiggled around to face her husband and nudged him hard in the shoulder. "You're so evil."
Ranston waggled his strawberry-blonde eyebrows. "Yeah, and you love it." The blush on her mother's face was priceless. Ranston looked lovingly at his wife before leaning in to kiss her. It obviously was time for Kasey to make her exit.
That had been the last time she had seen her parents civil to each other. From then on, everything started to go downhill. Why she didn't really know, but the hugging and the kissing ended, and the yelling and subsequent silence began. Kasey's loving home turned into a cold prison. She and her sister, Ricky, would sit for hours trying to figure out what had changed. Dad had been promoted, and mother retreated into her social groups. The more money they acquired, the less love they shared. One day, Kasey told Ricky, "If money does that to people then I want to be poor all my life." Ricky nodded in agreement.
It hurt her to lose that close relationship with her father, and there were times she ached to have it back. He had been her protector and had always turned up when she needed him most. She remembered the day that three older boys followed her as she walked home from school. She didn't recognize them from school or the neighborhood. At first, she didn't worry about them, but, as Kasey kept walking, her intuition warned her to find safety. She looked for a house with the little marker in the window that all the school children knew designated it a place they could go if they felt threatened. Just her luck. There were none in the immediate vicinity.
"Hey you!" one boy yelled out. The boys were only a couple of feet behind her. A shiver ran down her spine, and she knew these guys only meant trouble.
"Hay is for horses. Save it. You might marry one someday." It was a stupid saying, but nothing else came to mind. Her heart began to race as she tried to figure a way out of the situation. One of the thugs grabbed her arm while another pushed her into the bushes. They all landed on the ground. She kicked out with all of her strength, catching one in the groin and another on the chin with a flailing elbow, but they didn't let go. A fist from somewhere caught her in the side of the face. It hurt and sent stars floating in her vision. She heard the sound of her blouse being ripped and their menacing laughter. Then she heard the wonderful sound of a low growl deep in someone's chest, which she recognized instantly. Her father picked two of the boys up and rammed their faces together. They were knocked senseless and fell to the ground. The third tried to get up and run away, but a hand snagged him by the collar and a fist was slammed his mouth. Then it was just dad and her. He offered her his hand, pulling her close into a protective hug.
"I'm sorry, baby. Are you okay?" His voice rumbled in his chest under her ear.
She nodded. "I am now."
Kasey felt a chill seep into her body. Her protector was gone, and she was all alone. "Daddy?" Her back and about everything else hurt. Although her mind was a bit fuzzy, reality finally sunk in and Kasey suddenly remembered the mine and the horrifying sight of Dru going over the edge. Kasey remembered yelling for her lover, paralyzed with fright and unable to do anything to save the woman she loved more than anything in the world. "Oh God! No!" It was dark, and the proofreader didn't know what to do. At least her arms weren't pinned. She sighed and switched on the light on her helmet. The ceiling of the mine was ragged with sharp rocks. Nothing looked like it had before the . . . What was it? Earthquake? Maybe considering they were near the San Andreas Fault. It really didn't matter. What mattered was getting out of there and finding Dru. Kasey groaned and struggled to her feet. She brushed the dirt off her slightly shredded clothes and surveyed the results of the cave in. The entrance was completely blocked. I wonder if this place have a backdoor, Kasey thought to herself. Our of the corner of her eye, she spotted a small movement a few feet away. "Carla!" The proofreader quickly made her way over rocks and fallen timber to reach the woman. ,The secretary didn't look well at all. The whole left side of her face was bruised and one eye was swollen shut. A boulder straddled one of her legs, which, by the looks of it was broken. The brunette moaned, and her eyes slowly fluttered opened. Confusion and fear flashed across her face as she peered up at Kasey.
"Oh God. I hurt." Carla groaned. "She recognized Kasey, then tried to look around. "Where's Iggy and Dru?" Two brunette colored brows furrowed. As she tried to sit up, she screamed from the pain. Kasey eased an arm about the slender shoulders.
"Relax. Let me see what I can do to ease the pain." Kasey brushed the hair out of the other woman's face. I'm going to lay you back down and see if I can remove the rocks," Kasey said hesitantly. "But I'm pretty sure that your right leg is broken, so don’t try to move. All right?"
A small whimper escaped Carla's lips, but she nodded. Kasey began to throw off the rocks and finally got down to Carla's legs. The release of pressure on the woman's broken leg caused her to cry out. A jagged, bloody bone poked out of Carla's shin. Damn and double damn, Kasey thought. Iggy and Dru had both packs. The strawberry-blonde surveyed the area and spied splintered wall boards. Climbing to her feet, Kasey collected the timber and then kneeled beside the now very pale secretary.
"I'm going to try and put a splint on your leg," she said calmly. "What little I remember of first aide is not to try and set anything protruding from the skin." Kasey made her voice soft and soothing as she placed planks above and below and on each side of the injured leg. She used Carla's ripped pant leg tearing it into stripes to wrap around the splint. Kasey wished she has some water to wash the wound, but the bottles of water also were in the packs. At least the wound wasn't bleeding. That was one good thing in their favor. It took her more time than she wanted to get Carla comfortable in such rotten conditions. The first thing Kasey wanted to do was run to the edge where she had last seen her lover, but she forced herself to pay attention to the injured woman instead. Just glancing in the direction where the loader had once been was enough twist her guts into knot.
"Did you see them?" Carla whispered. "They went over the edge, didn't they?"
"I … Yes. They went over the edge, but I don't believe they're dead. I would know." Kasey didn't know how she knew that. She just did. She had a connection with the tall, dark woman that she couldn't explain. There was a link between them, and if it had been severed, Kasey would have felt it. She also knew she never wanted that bond to break--not for any reason. Swallowing hard a few times to keep from breaking into tears, Kasey finally forced herself to focus on Carla.
"Do me a favor," Carla asked after the proofreader finished tying off the splint.
"What?" The strawberry-blonde quirked an eyebrow.
Carla scooted into a sitting position trying not to look at the leg with the broken boards keeping it immobile. "Check to see if they are there."
Kasey knew what the woman was asking, and her own curiosity was eating away at her. She regarded the location in question, pensively before standing. She glanced back down at Carla. "I don't think they're there, but I'll check."
Rocks slid and wobbled under her feet. A layer of dust hung in the air, causing her mouth to feel like it was full of grime. Bouncing pools of light from her helmet ran over the area, where the loader had been. A mountain of boulders and debris filled the spot. Kasey refused to give up on the hope that Dru was alive. She couldn't. Turning, she saw Carla watching her from where she sat among the rubble, a worried expression on her face. She estimated where the loader had been and began removing rocks. The proofreader kept working until a light sheen of sweat covered her body. Removing another rock, she suddenly realized that she needed to find water or she would dehydrate, and that wouldn't be good. She made her way back and sat down next to Carla.
"Well, nothing. There's nothing there." She leaned to one side and removed an annoying stone, tossing it onto the heap next to them. "There's so many rocks and so much debris that it's going to take me forever to remove all of it." She fell silent for a moment. "They're going to have to take care of themselves for now. Our most immediate problem is that we need water, food, and medical help for you."
"I'm not leaving this place until I find Iggy. I don't care if my leg falls off, and no one is going to make me." Two very determined eyes stared back at Kasey. A small smile worked its way over Kasey's face in agreement.
"I know exactly how you feel." Oh boy, do I, Kasey thought to herself. Her lover was down there, and she would rather die here trying to get her out than leave, but would it be smarter to find a way out, get help, and then come back? Suddenly her thoughts were interrupted, and she realized Carla was speaking.
"Do you think Mason sent for help?" Carla's voice sounded small in the gloom.
"Of course he did. There are going to be people climbing all over themselves out there to try and save us."
"You're sure?" The secretary said quietly. Kasey couldn't believe her ears.
"What are you trying to say, Carla? Stop the games and just plain spit it out." Anger edged her words.
"I don't know what I'm trying to say." the woman shrugged.
Kasey didn't like where this conversation was heading.
"Who is to say they haven't already decided we're all dead?" Carla tried to stand. "If they think that, then we're on our own."
Kasey leaned forward, placing a hand on both shoulders of the woman to keep her from moving. "Where in hell do you think you're going?"
"I've got to do something. I can't sit here and do nothing." A tear slipped down her cheek, which she angrily wiped away. "I've got to find her."
Kasey couldn't argue. "I feel the same way, but we also have to think about staying alive. We need to find water and a way out of here." She lowered her eyes to the ground. "And I agree. We won't leave without them. I give you my word on that."
Carla snapped her head around and scanned the area. "There!" The secretary pointed at a long, narrow board that would work as a good crutch. Kasey retrieved the board while Carla torn off her other pant leg. Together then wrapped the top with the fabric to cushion the edge. Kasey helped the secretary stand. Carla experimentally leaned on the crutch and took a small step. Pain etched the woman's features, but she didn't make a sound. The proofreader helped her over and around the large obstructions, but Carla was a real trooper and wanted to manage on her own.
"Oh." Despite herself, Dru grinned. "So, she's been hitting on you like you've been doing to me. Gee, Iggy, do you think?" To keep their minds occupied while digging, Dru interrogated Iggy about her obviously smitten secretary. She couldn't help herself, she had to laugh at Iggy's inability to see the irony in the situation.
Iggy growled, "Don't even go there. She's my secretary and an okay kid, but I …"
"… Only had eyes only for me. Yes I know," the writer drolly stated. "But knowing I cared about someone else stopped you from trying, didn't it?"
"I, ah … it's not the same thing." She stuttered.
"It isn't?" Two eyebrows disappeared. "How?"
"Damn it, Dru. Let's get back to digging, all right? This isn't the place or the time to be discussing this shit."
Ah, so she hit a nerve. Dru smiled to herself. There were things about the publisher she could relate to and all this time she thought they were so different. Both of them are afraid to let people get close. Dru now that believed Iggy chose her as a possible love interest because the publisher knew it was never going to happen in this lifetime. After all, Dru had put her off on numerous occasions. Almost everyone knew about Iggy's interest in the writer. So, now, looking at it another way, Dru surmised that it was the publisher's way to deterring interested suitors. Iggy was afraid of becoming involved, which, in turn, would allow another person to see her weaknesses and fears. Is this was what frightened the woman? Dru knew it was this very fact that scared the bejabbers out of her. Would Kasey still love her after she learned all about Dru's insecurities and shortcomings? She had started this line of talk to keep Iggy's mind off of their situation but found herself preoccupied by it as well.
The opening Dru had been working on was now large enough for both of them to climb through. The coolness of the cavern dried the perspiration that had collected on the writer's face and body. Dru took a deep breath to clear her lungs of the lingering diesel fumes. Iggy crawled up beside her, and both women rested for a moment, trying to figure out their next move.
"Was that where we were?" Iggy pointed to an area some twenty to thirty feet straight up.
"Yeah, and that's where we're going. Kasey and Carla are up there, and I'm going to get to them."
"But that's crazy. There's no way up."
The publisher was right. When the rock broke away it left the area behind as smooth as glass. If she was by herself, Dru wouldn't hesitate to try, but she had Iggy to worry about. Dru rubbed her eyes and tried to think of another away to get to her lover. She ached for the warmth of the strawberry-blonde in her arms. A light touch on her arm drew her attention. "What?"
"Nothing. It was just the look on your face. I was worried. Are you feeling all right?"
Embarrassed, Dru nodded. "I'm as well as can be expected."
"You really do love her, don't you?" Iggy mused aloud.
The words hit home, and no matter how she tried to dance around the truth it didn't change the fact that the proofreader owned her--heart, body, and soul. "Yes," Dru replied quietly, exhaling to release some of the tension that had built up inside her. "I didn't know how much until now."
"Damn, Dru. You'll see her again. If anyone should be happy it should be you and Kasey."
Now that was a first from the stoic publisher. Strange how viewpoints change under harsh conditions. She even found herself liking this woman. Now that was almost as frightening as being in love, that brought a grin to her face. "C'mon. Let's get started. There may be another way up or some kind of tunnel That we can follow to where they are. It doesn't matter. We have to do something other than sit here." Dru climbed to her feet, offering a hand to the dirty-faced platinum blonde.
"Carla, I need to rest for a minute," Kerry exclaimed. It was a ruse to get the secretary to sit down and take some weight off her leg. They had traversed an obstacle course of debris for well over an hour, and it was obvious the brunette was in pain. There was a tightness around the secretary's hazel eyes. Her lips were drawn in a tight line of concentration. Not once had Carla complained. Moreover, she wanted to keep going, almost driven to find their two missing companions. Kasey's throat was parched and dry. She tried to roll her tongue around in her mouth to draw up some moisture.
Carla nodded, agreeing to rest for a few minutes before going on. As Kasey lowered the woman to the ground, a moan escaped before being bitten off with iron determination by the secretary.
Kasey leaned over the broken leg to check the bandage. Not much bleeding, thank goodness. Still, the leg was swelling. "You need to stay off the leg for awhile."
Shaking her head stubbornly, the secretary bellowed out emphatically, "No!"
"Carla, don't do this. Let me go on ahead and check things out, then I'll come back. It'll give you time to rest, and I'll be able to move faster and cover more ground." The strawberry-blonde placed a comforting hand on the slender woman's shoulder. "It'll give me a chance to find the easiest route to follow." Sad hazel eyes looked up at Kasey, then acquiesced.
Everything looked pretty much like the rest of the place she had just explored. At least it was cooler than it had been earlier. She followed the only path available so far, a narrow track down the center of the former mining tunnel. Her foot slipped and flew out from under her, but Kasey caught herself before falling. She took a breath to calm her heartbeat. Kneeling down, the proofreader dipped a finger into a liquid coating the ragged floor, bringing it to her mouth to taste. A smile tweaked her lips. Water! She stood and traced the trickle of moisture to its source. A small puddle of water gathered into a grouping of rocks. Her throat was so parched it ached. Cupping her hands, Kasey brought a quenching drink to her lips. She hadn't tasted anything quite as wonderful as that first swallow. She stood brushing herself off and headed off to tell Carla.
Dru couldn't help but hear Iggy sigh loudly in the silence of the cavern. She couldn't blame her. The writer was tired, and every joint ached from climbing over all the rocks and timber. Dru peered back over her shoulder at the slender form following. This was getting to be a little much for the both of them. She was learning way too much about Iggy. She wasn't saying it was bad, but she didn't like allowing the woman to know so much about her own weaknesses. When they got out of here, she didn't want Iggy to use them against her in any way. She wasn't saying she would, but you never know.
Dru stopped in an area devoid of the maze of rocks. She shrugged off her pack and pulled open the flap, retrieving her bottled water. She felt the liquid slip down her throat and hit her stomach. The publisher stood next to her for a moment before finding her own bottle. She took a large swallow before shoving it back into the pack. The writer got the distinct impression that Iggy wanted to ask her something. It wasn't like she hadn't asked enough questions already since they'd been stranded alone in the mine. Dru already had given her a lot to think about regarding Carla. Thinking of the brunette instantly made her think of the strawberry-blonde. Was she all right? Stop it! She told herself savagely. You can't go there. You have to believe she's alive and trying to find a way out of this just like you. Dru pushed the morbid thoughts out of her mind. If she were to survive, she had to believe Kasey was alive. Otherwise, why go on?
They had been moving deeper into the mine. From where she stood, Dru could no longer see the loader with the small beam of light from her hard hat. Iggy and Dru had passed from that chamber into a narrower one. The main mine was above them. Dru tried to find a way up to it, but there wasn't access to the upper level. This wasn't a manmade tunnel they were in, but one created from the earthquake or whatever it was, that caused the ground to open up swallow them. Again, Dru scanned the walls, and, this time, thought she saw something promising. She nudged Iggy with an elbow and pointed.
"Do you think you can make it up there?" Dru asked.
The publisher followed the pointed finger, then blinked. "I guess so." She sounded less than confident.
"Do you hear that?" Dru hadn't realized she had been hearing a new noise, and, for a moment couldn't determine what it was. When she recognized the sound the blood drained from her face. The sudden alarm in Iggy's face told her that her expression betrayed her own fear.
"Quick!" Dru grabbed Iggy's arm and pulled, moving towards the wall. "We've got to get up there." She indicated a ledge some twenty feet above her head.
Disbelief registered in the publisher's eyes, but she nodded. Not hesitating, Dru threw herself at the wall, hoping Iggy was doing the same. The thunder was growing louder, and the writer prayed they would have enough time to reach the, rock ledge. It was their only hope. Sharp edges cut at her hands as she found handholds to haul herself up the wall. The publisher was following suit. They were within a few feet of the safety of the ledge when the thunder broke into the tunnel, washing boulders the size of small cars into the cavern. White foam glowed in the beams of light from their hard hats. The force of the water hit the far wall, slapping it with a crack of force that echoed in Dru's ears. She coiled her legs and leaped upward, catching the edge of the precipice and pulling herself up and over onto its flat surface. Turning, she leaned over as far as she could and offered her hand to Iggy. The publisher reached up but was still a hands-length away from Dru's outstretched arm. Iggy struggled upward. Her foot slipped when the rock on which she was perched crumbled under her weight. The woman dangled from her handhold. A wave of foam was headed directly at them. Dru leaned even farther, ignoring the threat below them.
"C'mon! You can do it!" Dru encouraged. Strain shook the platinum blonde's arms. "Don't give up! Give me your hand!" Dru funneled her force of will into her voice and yelled, "Now!" Iggy gathered the will from somewhere and reached up with one hand while holding on to the ledge with the other. Their fingers touched, and Dru stretched into it, using every bit of her brute strength to haul the woman up. Iggy climbed over the edge just as a wave of ice water slammed into them. Dru held on with every ounce of energy she could muster, maneuvering Iggy between her body and the rock wall. The frigid water took her breath away. Dru leaned into Iggy, gripping the hand holds tightly to keep them from being swept away by the raging current. Then it was gone, and Iggy and Dru remained perched on the ledge wet and shivering as they looked down at the fast flowing river cascading below them.
Iggy tracked the muscular figure walking in front of her. They had been winding their way over and around sharp rocks, trying to find the easiest way out of the mine back to the entrance, or, hopefully, their missing companions. It was apparent that Dru wasn't going to leave without the proofreader, and, grudgingly, Iggy didn't blame her. If she loved someone as much as Dru seemed to love Kasey, she would move heaven and earth to find her.
Waking up in the horrible nightmare aftermath of the cave in had almost the publisher sick. Bile was thick in her throat, though she didn't let on to Dru, and, hopefully, the other woman didn't realize how frightened Iggy really was. Hell, she didn't even want to admit it to herself. The first attack of fear hit when she thought she was all alone. She hated being alone, but to think she might die alone in the dark scared her more than she wanted to admit. Hearing Dru's voice sent a surge of relief coursing through her. Obviously she didn't have a chance with the writer, and she was beginning to realize something about herself that she had tried to ignore for years. The knowledge she had lusted after Dru wasn't because she really wanted the woman. Oh, she would have jumped at the chance to romp through ecstasy with the tall, tanned body, but, in reality, she was shock to realize that she primarily had used Dru to keep everyone else at arm's length. All her life, she had been stopping everyone from getting close to her. Now, after Robby's illness and this cave in, parts of her life became clearer. She was an impostor. A downright fraud. She had lied so much that she believed the lie herself. All this time she thought she was in love with Dru, and to realize now it was all a sham. She definitely could fall in love with the woman trudging ahead of her, but she had to agree with Dru, they were too much alike. Sooner or later they would butt heads, and the subsequent fireworks wouldn't be pretty. Iggy was finding that she liked the woman as a friend, a real friend. The only friend in her life had been her sister. It would be nice to add the writer to that select group.
When she heard the thunderous rumble echo down the tunnel, growing louder with each moment, Iggy looked to Dru for an explanation. Instead, the look she found was one of calculation and determination. She followed the dark woman, jumping rocks and dodging obstacles. They hit the wall when she heard the first crashing sounds. Dru's strong fingers and legs gripped their way up the wall. Iggy placed her hands in the holds left by the taller woman. They were almost to a ledge the writer was heading for. She sure hoped that it was large enough for both of them. From where she was, it didn't look like more than a small deformation in the wall surface. Dru disappeared over the top and then offered her hand to Iggy. The vibration of tons of water heading in their direction ran up her body. The next handhold broke off in her hand, and adrenaline charged through the publisher. Dru yelled. It was her only chance. She didn't even know where she found the strength, but she heaved her body up towards Dru's beckoning hand. Strong fingers wrapped around her hand and pulled her steadily upward, then over the ledge. Suddenly, a wall of ice water hit both of them. Iggy found herself forced against the wall with Dru's body protecting her from the brunt of the water. The taller woman's body was like another wall she was sandwiched between. Iggy had a fleeting thought. She hoped Carla was safe. Then the water was gone, leaving her breathless and cold. Dru let her go, and they slid down to their knees, trying hard to catch their breath.
"Jesus, what was all that?" Iggy asked, while pulling her wet blouse closer around her. The thought she had of Carla kept haunting her. Had she real affection for the woman? All the time the secretary worked for her, Iggy tried to keep her at arm's length. She didn't want anyone to have the ability to hurt her. The idea of giving someone that power over her emotions was frightening. It wasn't only that, however. To need someone that much would be admitting that she was vulnerable.
"There must have been a river, and the cave in probably diverted its flow," Dru reasoned. "Whatever happened, we're lucky to be alive." The writer leaned against the wall. "We'll get moving as soon as I can catch my breath."
Iggy sat staring out over the rushing water below them, her mind fraught with questions. What was all that about Carla earlier? She really couldn't have feelings for the woman, could she? But if she was being honest with herself, which she tried often not to be because much of what she would learn were things she didn't want to know about, Iggy would have to admit that, all this time, she had been avoiding the obvious feelings she had for Carla. She exhaled loudly.
"You ok?" Dru asked.
"Oh yeah, hunky dory." The publisher informed her. Dru's vision narrowed on the platinum blonde.
"C'mon. We need to keep moving. It'll help warm us up." Dru stood and began climbing again. Iggy groaned but followed suit.
There was something going on in the publisher's mind. Dru could sense it. Whatever it was, it was causing the woman to get testy and quiet. She had her own ideas as to what it might be and smiled to herself. Dru knew exactly how she felt. The same thing happened to her when she realized how she felt about Kasey. Now, Iggy was faced with the same decision. Is she going to follow her heart or ignore it? It was going to be interesting to see what would happen.
Dru's next hand hold went into nothingness. The writer felt around with her hand and then pulled herself into the opening. There was a small hole the width of her shoulders that led off in a level direction. Her heart began to race because, if she was right, this was the same level they had fallen from. Kasey could be here. Iggy bumped into the now stationary back of the writer.
"What's up?" Iggy asked.
"I think we're almost there," replied Dru. She didn't have to explain. Iggy's gasp said it all.
"Well, what are you waiting for?" Iggy urged.
Rocks and pebbles had taken their toll on Dru's hands, and she now crawled on her hands and knees. She had to stop and wrap strips of cloth around them. Still, the sharp edges tore through to sensitive skin.
There appeared to be a dim fleeting glow at the end of the tunnel. Dru finally reached the opening and dropped standing into a larger chamber. She looked up to see two emerald eyes looking at her with joy, love, and relief. The writer didn't even know she was moving until the distance between her and Kasey vanished. The smaller woman hurled herself at the taller woman, clinging to her. Dru found two lips waiting. Relief soared through her as she held Kasey close.
End of Chapter Four
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