By Melissa Good
The golf cart snaked its way down the sidewalk, startling several peacocks on its way to the docks. It pulled to a halt next to the water, alongside a 54-foot Bertram bobbing in the light chop of the waves.
It was sunny, but cool, a gorgeous crisp day, and the carts occupant stopped to admire that fact as she got out and stretched. Appropriate to the weather, she was dressed in sturdy cotton shorts and a one-piece bathing suit, with a light tank top over it. Her medium length blond hair was pulled back in a tail, currently poked through the rear of a bright blue baseball cap with a small, embroidered Dogbert on the front.
Wow. Kerry Stuart stated, with a grin. Perfect weather. She turned and hoisted up a crate of supplies, hugging it to her as she made her way up the gangway propped against the side of the Bertram and boarded the boat. It rocked under her as she stepped off onto the deck and she found herself rolling with the motion.
Yo ho, Yo ho, A pirates life for me. Kerry warbled softly, nudging the door to the cabin open and stepping down inside. She walked over to the small galley and put the supplies down, then busied herself tucking the fresh foods into the little refrigerator.
Milk, of course. Cream for coffee, butter and a nice piece of Swiss cheese along with honey ham for sandwiches. Peach and Tangerine yogurt for snacks, and a dozen eggs for breakfast A loaf of cinnamon raisin bread followed, and a box of frosted strawberry Pop Tarts. Kerry regarded the Pop Tarts bemusedly, and then tossed a package of miniature carrots in next to them.
It was the last of the things they had to load before they set off, and she hummed as she worked, hardly believing it was finally the day they were leaving.
Shed meant to take off a few days before they went on this trip, but one thing after another kept happening at work, and finally itd just been easier for her to go and take care of stuff rather than let it sit and fester, or worse.
But starting today, her office had strict orders that any call to her cell phone had to refer to complete catastrophe, and she was expecting her staff to handle everything else without her presence.
It was, after all, the holidays, near the end of the year, and if there was any time she could just disappear for a week, this was it.
Kerry straightened and opened the cabinet above the refrigerator, stocking some essential groceries in it. Cant sail without those. She shook the box of frosted flakes gently. Or those. Cans of soup followed, for quick snacks after night dives. She tended to come up chilled, and the cold fruit Dar was partial to didnt quite fit the bill for her.
The pop open cans of pineapple and oranges went up next to the soup along with a couple of jars of jam and one large one of peanut butter.
Finished, she rested her elbows on the counter and gazed around the boat in appreciation. To one side there was a small eating area, with sea green and navy fabric seats around it in a semi-circle. On the other side of the cabin was a working/living section with a television and VCR, and built in storage for their hobby gear. Her book bag was already nestled in one of the chairs shed decided to work on some longhand poetry on the trip, and Dar had stashed a painfully intricate ship model in a drawer to occupy idle moments.
The boat rocked gently, and another set of footsteps sounded on deck, soft and muffled as though the newcomer was barefoot.
Which, of course, they were. Kerry glanced up as Dar entered the cabin, ducking her head to clear the low entrance and giving her a rakish grin as she tossed a duffel bag onto the table on the other side of the galley
Her partner was dressed in a pair of denim cutoffs that were just barely legal there were more threads and rips than fabric with a ribbed, white tank top tucked into them. Hey there, gorgeous. She greeted Dar. That the last of it?
Lock, stock, barrel and body wash. Dar confirmed. Were ready to take off on outta here.
Ooo Kerry did a little happy dance. I am so ready for this.
Dar walked around the edge of the couch and encircled Kerry in her arms, pulling her into a close hug. Me too. She agreed. Mom and Dad are waiting for us to pull out. Theyre going to pull into our slip while were gone.
Cool. Kerry was busy sucking in lungfuls of delightfully cocoanutty smelling Dar. Im glad theyre staying with Chino. She loves Dad.
Mm. Dar murmured. I think hes trying to sucker my mother into getting them one.
Kerrys brow crinkled. I thought she was allergic to dogs?
Dar released her, but slid an arm over her shoulders as they walked towards the cabin door. She claims to have grown out of it. They emerged onto the deck.
Ill leave the cart for them there, then. Kerry commented. Ready for me to cast off the lines?
Dar trotted up the stairs to the bridge and perched on the leather-covered seat. Let me get the engines spooled up, then yeah, let er loose.
Kerry willingly went to work, drawing up the gangway and lashing it into place, then hopping off onto the dock as the low thrum of the twin diesels rumbled to life. She went to the stern line and released it, then did the same with the bow, tossing the ropes onto the deck before she leaped after them.
They were free. Kerry felt like bouncing and letting out a yell, but it was early yet and there were people who slept on board their boats docked in the Islands marina so she regretfully stifled the impulse. Instead, she dutifully walked around the perimeter of the deck, checking over the side for debris or errant lines from other boats. Clear! She called up to Dar.
Dar nodded, her pale blue eyes alert as she carefully backed the large boat out of its slip. Radio the dockmaster, would you?
Aye, aye, capn. Kerry chortled, ducking inside the cabin to grab the radio mic. Dockmaster, dockmaster.
A soft crackling sound came from the speaker, then Island dockmaster, go ahead.
This is Dixieland Yankee, leaving the dock. We have a float plan filed for the American Virgin Islands. Kerry had to grin at the newly re-christened boat name, the most dignified of the possible choices theyd come up with. Dars aunt, whom shed inherited the craft from, had declined to name the motor yacht, merely referring to it by its registration number when needed.
The radio digested this for a moment. Roger that, Dixieland Yankee, have a good trip.
Kerry clipped the mic onto its holder, then she slipped back outside and watched the concrete and wooden dock recede as Dar skillfully handled the big boat. They backed into the relatively narrow throughway, then Dar nudged the throttles from reverse to forward and swung the bow towards the dock entrance, keeping the speed just above idle.
Once they were clear of the pylons, she climbed up the ladder to the flying bridge and joined Dar. The boat was moving slowly, but there already was a nice breeze, and it was mussing Dars dark hair and getting it into her eyes. Want me to braid this? Kerry tugged at a lock.
Sure. Dar set her bare feet on the console bars and leaned back. She felt Kerrys fingers slide across her scalp and that, combined with the gorgeous weather, and the fact that they were headed out for a solid week of vacation together made it just about a perfect moment.
A week. No cell phones, no laptops, no PDAs, no pagers. Dar flexed her hands on the throttles, feeling the stainless steel smooth under her fingertips.
Just a week of sun, sea, diving, and the two of them.
Whats that grin for? Kerry asked, resting her chin on Dars shoulder, having finished her task.
Dar wiggled her toes. Im trying to figure out what to do first. She admitted. We could stop on the way down to the cabin for a quick dive, or pull into Largo for lunch or
Both. Kerry broke in. We can stop at Pennekamp and do a little reef, then to go that little dockside crab shack that always looks like it was made for a horror movie.
Sounds like a plan. Dar agreed, notching the throttles ahead just a bit as they cleared the dock complex. They pulled out into the main channel warily, watching for speedboat traffic. As they turned into the cut, the wind picked up and their speed increased, the seas soft chopping rustling against the bow of the boat.
Kerry seemed content to lean against her, one arm draped over her shoulders and her chin still resting on Dars shoulder as they passed a couple of small sailing boats. Dar, is that woman naked?
Dars eyes shifted. Yeah, and boy, is that gonna be a painful sunburn. She shook her head. Some people just have no sense.
Kerry clucked her tongue. Im going to go put away the last of our stuff, see if we need to pick anything up in Largo.
She gave Dar a kiss on the cheek then climbed down the ladder, disappearing into the cabin.
Dar picked up the water bottle out of its swinging holder and sucked at it, then put it back. Then she opened the small cabinet under the bridge console and selected a CD, allowing the player to suck it in, then adjusting the volume as the music started.
As the land receded behind them, she felt the tensions and pressures of their life doing the same.
The wind now blew against her skin, feeling cool and wonderful. She cleared the inner buoy and opened up the engines a little, sending the bow up as she hummed along to the music.
Diving. Rustic but romantic dinner. An overnight stay at their new cabin, then the long trip out to the islands. Dar exhaled in utter satisfaction. Life just didnt get any better than this.
Kerry walked past the portholes, tucking back the drapes to let the sun into the cabin. She unlocked the catches and propped the small, round windows open, enjoying the nice breeze their motion created.
With a satisfied nod, she then retrieved Dars duffel and carried it into the cabins compact bedroom, setting it onto the bed before she unzipped it.
She took a moment to open the hatch down here as well; grinning as a tiny bit of spray hit her. The bedroom had drawers built into the bulkheads and under the bed to save space every square inch of room was thriftily used for something.
Kerry patted the bed. It wasnt as comfortable as the waterbed in their condo, but she suspected after a long day of diving, swimming, and other activities, that shed be able to sleep on the deck itself.
And, I have. Kerry reminded herself. She removed Dars extra shirts and bathing suits, folding them neatly and putting them in one of the drawers. Hey... wonder if I can talk Dar into getting a hammock for the deck.. we can sleep out there one night.
Kerry gathered their bathroom sundries and carried them into the tiny head, finding spots for the various bottles and jars. They would, she realized, be seriously bumping into each other in here both were used to the much larger confines of the condo where they each had their own bathroom.
Kerry cast an eye at the bitty shower and wondered if they could both fit into it.
An eyebrow quirked. Might be interesting to try.
Past the master suite there had been two more small bedrooms. One they'd left with its double decker bunk, but the third, up in the very bow of the boat, they'd stripped the beds out of and kitted out for storage for their diving gear, and Kerry's underwater photography equipment. She stuck her head inside and gave the BC's and regulators a quick once over, then out of habit checked the valves on the strapped down tanks to make sure they were closed tight.
The boat was fitted out with a desalinator, which would take in seawater and produce both potable drinking water and stuff to clean things with.
Kerry felt reassured about that running out of water on the ocean wasnt funny, and it was very easy to become dehydrated out here, since the wind was almost as constant as the sun.
In addition, on the outside deck, Dar had installed a small air fill pressurizer, so they could do their own tank fills while they were out on the water, and a rinse sink to toss their gear into. It made the boat a very comfortable place to be and Kerry suspected that even the extended length of time they'd spend on it this trip wouldn't be too much of a hardship.
She took the duffel bag and folded it, then tucked it away in a drawer under the bed. Wandering back up the short flight of steps into the main cabin, she snagged a bottle of water and made her way back out onto the deck. The city was falling away behind them buildings crisply defined in the clear air. She could see the huge cranes of Port of Miami loading freighters, and in the distance the outline of a moving cruise ship made its stately way through Government Cut.
It was a pretty view, but Kerry knew where a prettier one was, and she hauled herself back up the ladder and took possession of the second chair in back of the engine console. Now all she could see was sun, water, and Dar. She wriggled into a comfortable position and relaxed, content to let the salt air wash over her as they headed out to sea. Dar had a Jimmy Buffett CD playing and she rocked hr head back and forth to the upbeat tune. Hey."
Dar shifted in her seat and looked over. One dark eyebrow lifted in inquiry.
"You ready for a totally rocking week?"
Dar propped a bare foot up against the console and leaned against her leg, surveying the almost endless horizon in front of them. "Oh, yeah." A grin split her face. "I sure am . Hope the company is."
Kerry grunted in acknowledgment. "Im sure they'll manage to muddle through for a week, Dar. What could happen in seven measly days?"
"Yeah." Dar agreed. "Im sure they'll be fine."
They both listened to the music for a few moments, contemplating the clear blue sky and the rich, green sea before them. Then two heads turned and they regarded each other.
"Let's not think about it." Kerry grinned. "We'll just jinx them."
Dar merely waggled her eyebrows in answer, and gave the engines a little more gas.
It was almost dusk by the time Dar shifted the diesels into reverse and idled them into the much smaller dock outside their cabin. She maneuvered the Bertram carefully, sliding into place and holding until Kerry could leap off onto the wood and secure the lines to the cleats onshore.
When shed first come into Aunt Mays estate, shed been a little wary of driving the large yacht. After all, other than some clandestine ventures on government issue vessels most of her piloting had been done on much smaller boats.
However, shed been working on the water since she was four, and it hadnt taken her long to master the big boats powerful engines and imposing size, and she sort of enjoyed taking the vessel out after that. Pulling up to some out of the way shrimp shack in the thing and sauntering off to get a coke in front of a legion of goggling guys tickled her sometimes dark sense of humor. Now, she handled the throttles with a masters touch as she held her ground while they were tied.
The boat bumped gently against the pylons, buffered by the large rubber bumpers Kerry had tossed over the edge of the dock and she shut the engines down, flexing her hands as she removed them from the throttles.
As the sound died, the peacefulness of the place surrounded her, and Dar spent a moment just gazing at their little piece of paradise before she took her sunburned self down the stairs. It wasnt a big lot, just large enough for the cabin, the sandy ground that lead down to the dock on one side and to a small beach on the other, and on the far side of the cabin a winding driveway up to the road.
It was shaded though, with a thick stand of trees and surrounded by patches of foliage on either side so the effect was of snug isolation on this little point of the key. It was calm, almost sleepy, and Dar liked it. Equally as important, she thought Kerry really liked it too.
And so far, it had been a great day. The quick dive stop had turned into a deep wreck excursion, followed by lunch under a tiki hut, followed by a very nice reef dive in the late afternoon. They hadnt been doing that much diving lately, and Dar felt pleasantly tired and a little embarrassed that shed forgotten to put on enough sunscreen and mildly toasted herself.
Ah well. She stretched, hopping up onto the edge of the boat and stepping off onto the dock. Kerry was coming back from opening up the cabin, a splash of pink making her fair lashes stand out vividly. Everything okay?
Looks like it. Kerry waited for her on the end of the dock, then fell into step beside her as they walked up the short path. The cabin had evolved greatly since theyd first purchased it starting out as a ramshackle old barn from a larger house that had once stood nearby. Theyd ripped most of it down and rebuilt using native stone for its foundation.
In the front, facing the water, was a small porch. They walked up the two broad steps up to it and crossed to the door, the new planks squeaking a tiny bit under their weight. Someday, Dar wanted maybe a padded bench, maybe one of the swing chairs like they had at the condo out here, but right now it was just an empty space.
Kerry pushed the door open and the entered, the strong scent of fresh wood and varnish washing against them. Inside, theyd chosen to keep the wooden walls and stone floors natural, and the large room in front would have comfortable chairs to sit in and look out the big picture windows at the great view.
Behind that, a small kitchen was tucked into one corner, and a hallway lead back to the master bedroom in the other. Two more doors extended past that, an office for each of them complete with high speed network access, printers, and everything else theyd ever need to run things from here if they wanted to. Dar was particularly proud of the gigabit Ethernet hub and cabling shed spent one weekend installing. Werent too many rustic cabins, Kerry acknowledged, that could claim their own Fractional T1 and Cisco router.
They were still missing the living area furniture, some of the kitchen appliances, and a lot of other trimmings like rugs and stuff for the walls, but already the place was taking on a certain personality of its own, a reflection of both of theirs. Looking good in here. Kerry remarked, as she closed the door behind them. The air was cool and dry, evidence of the newly installed air conditioning unit.
Definitely. Dar grinned. The ceiling arced up to a skylight that let even more sun into the living room and leant a sense of lightness to the rich wood interior. I really like it.
Kerry glanced up at her. Me too. She admitted. Its She turned around and surveyed their little castle. Dont get me wrong, Dar. An idiot would have to complain about where we live, but this place is kinda special.
Dar nodded. Its ours. She replied simply. We designed it. We made it. Hell, we helped build it. A not quite stifled yawn interrupted her speech. Whoa.
Teach you to chase flounder. Kerry chuckled, slipping an arm around Dars waist. I got some great pictures of you doing that, you know.
Oh great, more bathroom wall fodder. Dar replied drolly.
Hmm Kerry mused in mock speculation. Yeah, that would work with the silver and blue fixtures in there. She glanced into their bedroom, starkly empty save a neatly folded inflatable bed in the center. It was a large room, with two polarized floor to ceiling dormer windows on either side of where the bed was. A door in the rear led to a bathroom that had a stall shower and a large, completely decadent spa tub. Around the top of the room ran a wooden ledge, common throughout the cabin, and Dar had already threatened to install a train set that made its way around the place on top of it.
They were like a couple of kids, Kerry had to admit privately, furnishing their first tree house. She half expected to come out and find a tire hanging from one of the banyans outside one day.
Of course it would be a high technological tire, with three hanging points and a custom molded interior ring. What was it that Dar had referred to their place as once? Microsoft Rustic?
True. Kerry smiled. But they both liked their comforts, were used to the gadgets, and they could afford it. So why not? How about something cold for dinner, and a pot of coffee? She suggested.
Dar considered. Tell you what you start the coffee, and Ill walk down to the corner and get the something cold. She nibbled Kerrys nose. We need cream anyway.
Mm. Kerry leaned into the kiss, her fingers trailing over Dars bare arm. Boy, youre warm.
Dar chuckled softly under her breath. Gimme a minute and Ill be even warmer. She cupped Kerrys chin and kissed her again, catching lingering traces of the tangerine yogurt theyd shared not long before. You got a little burned, too.
Oh. Kerry murmured. Is that why I have chills? She felt Dars arms fold around her. Funny, theyre getting worse maybe you should hold me tighter.
Dar chuckled. Hedonist.
Mmhm. Kerry let her hands slide over Dars back as she continued exploring with her lips. Then she exhaled, and nuzzled Dars neck, reveling in the peace, the quiet, and the fact that it was just the two of them.
Think youd better blow the bed up. Dar whispered in her ear.
Yeah. Dar replied. Cause I need to take care of those chills. Dont want you catching cold.
Kerry rested a hand on Dars hip. Sweetie, youre the one causing the chills. She ducked hr head and nipped at Dars breast.
And because its the only furniture in the place. Dar teased. I figure we can inaugurate that spa tub, then have dinner in bed.
Or dinner, and bed. Kerry replied, her eyes twinkling. Sounds great to me either way. She kissed Dar again, then nudged her belly. You go, Ill blow.
Both of Dars eyebrows hiked up.
Careful, theyll stick like that. Kerry reached up and yanked an eyebrow down. Wont you look silly?
Dar stuck her tongue out. Youre in a mood. She remarked. I like it. She gave Kerry a tickle across her ribs, then headed down the hallway to what they though of as the back door to the cabin.
It was, of course, the front door, but since they tended to arrive by boat, they didnt often enter that way. Dar passed the small utility room with bare connections for the washer and dryer that hadnt been delivered yet and entered the plain open space near the outer door to the cabin. She turned the lock and let herself out, then closed the door behind her.
They had put a porch in front too, but smaller a sturdy wooden flower box that was hip high on Dar surrounded it, with a gate flanked by two wrought iron coach type lights. Dar opened the gate and walked through, heading down the neat, rock defined path up to the road.
The yard was more sand and scrub than grass, typical of the keys, and was bordered by a Chinese cherry hedge. Dar broke into a jog as she cleared it, and ran lightly down the road towards the small, what Kerry called charmingly rustic market just on the next crossroads.
She made the trip without bumping into another soul until she pushed the door to the market open and walked inside. The shop had well stocked shelves, a respectable collection of fresh fruits and vegetables, and best of all, a very fresh seafood counter in the back. Dar headed for it, examining the choices laid out on ice in the cold case.
Well, hello there, young lady.
The cheerful voice almost made her jump. Dar looked up to see the grocery owner standing behind the fish case, wiping his hands on a towel. Evening.
Got some great looking crabs today.
Dars eyes twinkled. Not today, thanks. Gimme a pound of the shrimp and two of the tails. She watched contentedly as the man wrapped up the chilled, already cooked seafood. Thanks. She accepted the package and went towards the dairy case, not really paying attention when the market door opened.
Assuming the salutation didnt include her, Dar studied her choices in milk, cocking half an ear behind her mostly because the rough voice that had spoken had set off her trouble instincts.
What can I do for you? The market owner replied.
Got any shotgun shells?
After a moments pause, the owner answered, chuckling. Son, this is a grocery, not a Wal-Mart. He said. We dont sell no guns here.
Aw, man, you mean I gotta go up to the city? That sucks! Why dont you get them stuff here? You got all kinds of other crap!
Well, you gotta get a license, for one thing
So? Go get one! The voice was getting belligerent. Youre supposed to get what people need, right?
Dar set her package down, and replaced the milk shed been contemplating. Then she circled the row of canned goods and examined the noisy newcomer. It was, as shed suspected, a boy in his late teens, dressed in jeans with patches consisting of Confederate flags and an NRA T-Shirt. Oh, look. Dar muttered under her breath. Walking stereotype. Wonder where his pickups parked.
So get off yer ass and get us some service here! The boy demanded.
Now, look, son
Dont you call me that, you old jackass!
Dar walked over. Excuse me.
The boy turned, irritation switching to lechery in the blink of a hormone as his eyes took in Dars suntanned, mostly exposed body. Hey, baby! What cn I do for ya?
Dars nose twitched, detecting fermented malt. Stop breathing.
He blinked. Huh?
You go to the hardware store for bread? Dar abandoned that tack.
So why come here for gun supplies?
The boy didnt seem to mind the questions, his eyes busy taking in Dars athletic form. Cause its closern hauling my ass up to Florida City. He grinned suddenly. You wanna ride in my truck?
No. Dar replied. What are you shooting?
Youre buying shotgun shells.
What are you going to shoot them at?
Signs. The boy replied amiably. Or them little deers, or whatever.
For what? Dar frowned.
Fer fun. The boy said. You wanna come? I got me a box of shells, just wanted some more in case I find me some gators or something. You up for some fun, baby?
Dar stared at him for a moment, then felt the wash of adrenaline and anger sweep through her. Sure. She grinned. I love fun. She moved in a blur, drawing her right hand back and cocking it, then letting loose and cracking the now really smirking boy across the chops. He spun away from her and fell over a stack of beer cases, slamming his head against the door post.
That was fun. Dar stalked after him intently. Cmere, you little brainless punk. She grabbed him and yanked him to his feet, shoving him against the wall. You think hurting animals is funny? I think this is funny. She nailed him in the groin with her knee, then tossed him against the door.
Hey! Hey!!! The boy scrambled to his feet. Ow! Son of a bitch! Ow! He bolted for the door, his nose dripping blood behind him and got through it a moment before Dar latched onto him. He raced for the pickup parked outside and jumped in, starting the engine and roaring off while Dar glared at him from the doorway.
She waited for the taillights to disappear around the first bend, then she stepped back inside the store and dusted her hands off, shaking her head in disgust. Another example why stupid humans shouldnt breed.
The grocer was laughing as Dar walked back over. Maam, I think you made an impression on that kid.
Dar retrieved her package, and her milk, then added a few other things before she plunked it all down on the counter and dug out her wallet. You get much of that here?
Not a lot. The owner rang up her purchases. You new in the area He glanced at the credit card Dar handed him. Ms Roberts? Thought Id seen you around once or twice.
Dar leaned against the counter. Not exactly. She allowed. I grew up on the Navy base. But Ive been living up in Miami for a while. Bought the old Potter place last year.
He looked up at her, honestly surprised. You did? Interest kindled. Now, I was hearing some big shot computer executive bought that place.
Dar tipped her sunglasses down and regarded him with some amusement. That would be me.
The man gaped a moment, then burst into laughter. Well, kick mah ass. He managed to get out. You sure dont look like a Bill Gates, now do you?
Lucky me. Dar grinned in wry acknowledgment.
Been talking about all the work going on up there, you pretty much just built the whole thing all over again, didnt cha?
Pretty much. Dar agreed, signing the slip for her groceries. Just getting the last stuff done.
Well, then. The man took the slip and tucked it into the drawer, then held a hand out. Welcome to the neighborhood, Ms. Roberts. Hope to see more of ya.
Dar returned the clasp. Careful what you ask for. She drawled, giving him a wry wink before she picked up her bag and sauntered out, content with her brief entrance on the sleepy towns unsuspecting stage.
Kerry spent a moment wandering around the cabin after Dar left. She walked over to the wall and laid her hands flat on its surface, basking in a sense of ownership she found almost intoxicating.
Kerry turned and leaned against the wall, letting her eyes roam around the room. When she had put her name on the title next to Dars, this cabin had become the very first real thing she could call her own, and she felt very differently about it than she did about the condo.
She turned and peeked into the kitchen, at the sleek, well fitted appliances shed picked herself, and the pretty marble countertop that provided a place to sit and have breakfast.
It was cute, and cozy. Kerry smiled, and walked over to the bedroom, rubbing her fingers against the wooden doorjamb as she entered. It was her favorite room in the cabin, and not just because of the obvious. She knelt and started the small motor that would inflate the Aerobed, then walked over and inspected the bathroom, approving the neat work around the sunken spa tub. One corner of the space was a glassed in shower, the other was the tub, and between lay a large vanity flanked by not one, but two toilets.
Kerry liked that. She and Dar had pondered over the notion for quite a while before theyd decided to have it done. She opened the cabinet, idly looking at the bare bones supplies theyd kept here. This would only be the third night theyd spent at the cabin, and she found herself looking forward to the time when all the furniture would be there, and the place gained a sense of home.
She left the bed to inflate and walked back to their dual offices, now just empty spaces waiting for the custom made desks theyd ordered to be delivered. Both rooms had nice, big windows and skylights. Once the furniture was in, they could easily plug into the company network as if they were at the condo. Or at the office.
She was looking forward to spending time here.
The pump cut off, and she returned to the bedroom, picking up the sheet set and shaking it out over the queen size, double height air mattress. She tucked the fabric in, then unfolded the comforter shed brought with her from Michigan and settled it over the bed, tossing their pillows up to the head of it when she finished.
Then she walked back into the living room and retrieved the overnight bag theyd brought in from the boat. She zipped it open, smiling as familiar scents were released from the clothing and other sundries inside. Two towels were on top; she removed them and put them in the bathroom, then took out the shirts they both liked to wear before bed.
It had taken her a little while to get used to sleeping in the nude, but once she had, shed become almost addicted to the primal comfort of snuggling under the covers with Dar, and she found she slept like an absolute rock once shed tucked herself around her partners body.
Her ears perked up as she heard the back door to the cabin open, and Dars rhythmic footsteps approached.
In here. Kerry replied, turning as a dark head poked itself into the bedroom. Just getting stuff out.
Dar held up a brown paper wrapped package invitingly. Dinner?
Kerry held up her shirt. Shower first?
One of Dars eyebrows quirked. Ill stick this in the fridge. She remarked, with a knowing smirk, disappearing in the direction of the kitchen.
Kerry chuckled softly to herself. Heh. She dropped the shirts onto the bed and eased the light cotton blouse she had on off her shoulders, wincing slightly at the sting of a mild sunburn. Ouch.
Uh huh. Dar had returned, bearing a small blue jar. Figured we both could use this. She held up the cold cream. With aloe.
You rock. Kerry held a hand out and led her to the bathroom, opening the shower door and reaching in to start the water running. The first time theyd stayed in the cabin, the electricity hadnt even been on yet, and after bravely bearing the oppressive heat inside the half finished building, they finally admitted defeat and curled up together out on the beach, hoping against hope theyd escape both crabs and foul weather.
They had, but Kerry had found tiny, suspicious red marks on her neck that had worried her a lot until Dar rather sheepishly admitted to having made them with some overenthusiastic nibbling.
Ah, love. Kerry turned to see Dar with her disintegrating shorts unbuttoned and her tank top half over her head. She reached over and tickled her belly button, watching Dars abdominals contract as she chuckled in reaction. Blue eyes emerged a moment later as Dar got her shirt off, and shook a finger at her in mock remonstrance.
Kerry relented as she pulled off her own shirt, feeling a light tickle as Dar unhooked her bra. They finished getting undressed and tumbled into the shower together. Ooo. Kerry hissed slightly, as her sunburned skin protested the pressure of the hot water. A moment later, the pressure ceased as Dar stepped between her and the spray.
Hang on. Dar adjusted the water a little cooler and lessened the force. There. She dropped her arms around Kerry and pulled her closer, rubbing her back gently. Better?
Much. Kerry nuzzled Dar between her breasts. That wreck today was awesome. The visibility was incredible.
Yeah. Dar squeezed out some coconut body wash and started rubbing it over Kerrys skin. Did you get a shot of that sand shark?
The one that was fascinated by your flippers? You bet. Kerry lathered up a handful of soap and started washing Dar. I thought it was going to start munching on you for a minute there.
Dar squirted some shampoo on her partners damp head and worked it in with her fingers, massaging Kerrys scalp as she got the salt water and sand out of it. I did too. She confessed. Did you see me grab my knife?
Kerry was busy scrubbing Dars thigh. Yep. That was the best picture. That wreck in the background, all that white sand in front of it, and you and the shark facing off. Perfect.
Uh oh. I sense more bathroom art. Dar mock sighed. If you put it up in the office, youll have to answer which ones the shark? every ten minutes.
Kerry snickered , her shoulders shaking as she patted Dars side. She caught Dars right hand and rubbed her thumb over the top of it affectionately, then stopped and examined the skin more closely. The knuckles were slightly swollen, and a scrape marred the second one. Her eyes lifted to meet Dars in question.
Dar continued rinsing Kerrys hair with her free hand. I ran into a brain cell deficient organism at the market. She grinned rakishly. Some punk who thought bullying old men and shooting animals was a good time.
Ah. Kerry brought the knuckle up and kissed it. I love when your Robin Hood streak comes out. Did you really hurt him?
Nah. I hit him in the head and the nuts. Dar turned and got them both under the spray, rinsing off the coconut body wash. She started to lather shampoo in her hair, but found Kerry tugging her down, and gracefully lowered herself to her knees, giving her shorter partner access to her head.
She slid her hands up Kerrys strong thighs and playfully nibbled her navel as Kerry washed her hair. She felt the surface under her lips move a little more strongly as Kerry took a deeper breath. Slowly, she worked her way up, past the curving arch of Kerrys ribs to her breasts, feeling the fingers tangled in her hair move with a suddenly insistent rhythm.
Teasingly, she nipped at the underside of one breast, then heard Kerrys ragged intake even over the water as she went a little higher. With a smile, she released Kerrys nipple and eased to her feet, planting kisses up the center of her partners breastbone until she reached the lips waiting for her.
Kerrys body slid against hers and she felt her hand slide up the inside of her thigh. The water washed the shampoo from her hair down both of them as they kissed and exchanged more intimate touches. Dar fumbled behind her and shut the faucet off, then booted the door open as they eased out of the shower and reached for towels.
The slightly rough surface of the terrycloth was like an explosion of sensation against her already tingling skin, and Dar found her own breathing growing short as Kerry dried her off and she did the same to her. They managed to find their way through the still unfamiliar confines of the cabins bath and the short distance to the bed, falling into it and rolling as the air mattress bucked with unexpected motion.
Used to the waterbed. Kerry chuckled softly, as she recaptured Dars lower lip in her teeth.
Ungh. Dar stretched out, then wrapped her body around Kerrys, claiming possession of every inch of her. She slid a leg between Kerrys and felt her partners body lean against hers, a rush of warmth after the cool air of the room. Kerrys hand cupped her breast and an almost primal growl emerged from her.
Before thought wasnt credible, she did briefly hope they wouldnt forget this bed had no retaining bumpers. Damn floor didnt have any padding and neither of them really bounced well.
Rrr.. Kerry burred, as their lips once again tasted each other. Dar stroked her delicately and the sound deepened to a groan.
She stopped worrying about the floor.
Kerry pulled to a stop at the corner and waited, allowing a car to pass before she gently eased the throttle up a little and turned onto the main and only street that went through the town. She settled her weight on the motorcycle and enjoyed the breeze as it blew against her, gaining a guilty pleasure from the fact that shed shucked the long sleeve leather jacket tucked into the back of the bike for her short trip up the road.
It was early, the sun just easing over the trees, and the weather was crisp and cool and shed taken the calculated risk that her growing mastery of the relatively sedate motorcycle wouldnt make her regret it. She was, after all, wearing her jeans and boots, and her helmet, so leaving her upper body exposed was hopefully just a limited exposure.
So to speak.
Dar was getting the boat ready, so shed volunteered to make the short run up to the nearest Wal- Mart for a few things theyd realized theyd forgotten before they started off. Dar had laughed and accused her of just making an excuse to take the bike out, but since she liked to ride it as much as Kerry did, the accusation was specious at best.
Vroom, vroom. Kerry glanced down at the Honda Shadow Spirit, then quickly put her eyes back on the road. Since there wasnt much traffic down here, theyd decided to purchase the bike for local errands, especially since they usually did arrive by water.
It had taken a few weeks practice, of course, but she was really enjoying the bike. There was a bit of wildness attached to it that she found appealing, and she always felt a little rebellious when she took the motorcycle out.
She passed through the quiet, empty stretch of scrub and trees, completely alone on the road. The peacefulness appealed to her, and reminded her just a little of some of the areas where shed been born, where you could drive for an hour or so and not see any habitation around you.
After another few minutes, she was entering civilization again, a cluster of buildings and crossroads that were fairly new in appearance. She pulled into a left turn lane, then swept through the green light into the parking lot of the twenty four hour Wal-Mart.
There were several cars already there, but Kerry pulled up to the very front and smoothly stopped, setting the kick stand down and securing the bike as she got off. She pulled her helmet off and ran her fingers through her hair, then strapped the helmet to the back seat. A brief glance at her reflection in the front store windows made her grin. Kerrison Stuart, biker chick. She shook her head. No one in my family would believe this.
An advertisement caught her eye. The blond brow over it quirked.
Squaring her shoulders, she confronted the door and pushed her way through it.
Dar walked around the boat, making a last minute inspection before they cast off. Today she was wearing her swimsuit, with a pair of cotton surfer shorts and a bright blue T-shirt over it. She tucked her hair up under a baseball cap and poked her head inside the diesel chamber, checking the engines with a knowledgeable eye. Satisfied, she pulled herself slowly up the ladder to the bridge, favoring the shoulder shed hurt not that long ago.
It annoyed her that she was still bothered by it, but not enough for her to break down and go back to the therapist. She was slowly getting her normal range of motion back again, and she figured maybe this long week of swimming and relaxing might do the trick so she could put the injury behind her.
Dar rechecked the global positioning system and the radio, then spent a moment with her eyes closed going over the safety equipment she had on board. She wasnt paranoid, but this was the first time she was taking the boat across wide water and if anyone knew how much respect the sea was due, this sailors kid surely knew more.
Okay. Dar nodded, satisfied with her preparations. She climbed back down the ladder and dusted her hands off, then spotted motion near the cabin and walked to the side of the boat, peering around the pylon. A tall, husky man in a police uniform was walking towards her, and for a chilling moment, she thought about Kerry heading out on the bike. She leaped ashore as the man came closer, watching his face intently.
Help you with something? She asked, as he came to a halt.
He had sandy hair, and a moderately good looking face. Well, maybe. He glanced at a small notepad. Would you be a Ms. Roberts?
Yes. Dar heard her own voice come out clipped and no nonsense.
However, it didnt seem to faze him. He nodded, and tucked the notepad away. Old Bill Vickerson told me I might find you here. Had a little dust up by his place last night, didncha?
Dar relaxed, confident at least that whatever this was didnt involved Kerry. Something like that. She didnt see much point in denying it and wondered briefly if her temper hadnt gotten her into something very inconveniently sticky this time. Whats this all about, Officer Brewer?
The police officer studied her. Fella you whumped up on was my little brother.
Oh boy. Dar put years of boardroom practice into effect, and merely raised an eyebrow. And?
Officer Brewer chewed the toothpick he had in his mouth for a minute, then chuckled. Youre a cool one, arent you? He asked. City lady like you, here by yourself in the boonies, faced with a cop with a family reason to slap cuffs on ya.
Dar snorted, chuckling dryly.
Now his eyebrows lifted. No dice, huh? He asked, waiting a moment, then chuckling as well. Cool customer, thats for sure. Unexpectedly, he held a hand out. Ms. Roberts, you done me a good deed, and I wanted to say thanks.
Knocked a little off balance, Dar nevertheless took the hand, and returned the strong grip with one of her own. Im not really sure I understand. She admitted. But it beats handcuffs.
The police officer gave her a wry grin. My brothers a jackass. He told her straightforwardly. Dyou know what kind of a pain in my butt it is to have to arrest family? I done it six times now. Kid never learns.
Ah. Dar nodded a little.
Bunch of his deadbeat friends went looking for trouble up near Big Pine last night, racing and shooting at each other. They ran their asses off the road and wrapped themselves round a tree. The policeman said. We took four body bags full of burnt parts to the morgue.
Woulda been five. Officer Brewer said. But because my jackass brother was nursing a sore jaw and a lump on his nuts, his sorry ass lived to get me in yet more trouble. The man sighed. So, thanks, Ms. Big city slicker computer big shot. I owe you one.
It took a moment to sort out the various sentiments, but Dar eventually decided things had turned out well. Dont mention it.
A rumble caught their attention, and the policeman turned as a motorcycle and rider came right up the side path and practically onto the dock before it rolled to a halt and the rider jumped off. The cycle came to rest on its kickstand as Kerry pulled her helmet off and strode towards them, her boots sounding loud on the wooden planks.
Well now. Officer Brewer studied the oncoming woman. What do we got here? You travel with one of them radical liberal revolutionary types?
What? Kerry stopped, took off her sunglasses, and regarded him. Im a Republican, thank you. She snorted, turning her attention to Dar. Whats going on?
Dar gazed fondly at her. Officer Brewer just stopped by to welcome us to the neighborhood.
Oh. Kerry relaxed, giving the officer one of her more charming smiles. Thats really nice of you. Thanks.
The officer chuckled. Well, I wont keep you ladies. Have yourself a nice trip, yhear? He turned and walked off the dock, circling the motorcycle and pausing to admire it. Then he kept going down the path and out of sight.
Kerry watched him go, then turned. Welcome wagon at seven am?
Dar put an arm around her shoulders. Lets get loaded up and get out of here before the town mothers show up with cookies. She walked Kerry over to the bike. Ill tell you the rest when we get out of the dock.
Uh oh. Kerry lifted the packages shed gotten off the vehicle and hefted them. Ill get this on board if you want to stash the bike.. then were outta here.
Dar poked her finger at a bag. Are those what I think they are?
Guess youll have to wait and find out. Kerry shooed her. Cmon. I hear stingrays calling my name. She made her way down the dock to the boat, hopping on board and disappearing.
Dar reviewed the start of her day, and decided it augured well for a far more peaceful end to it. Good thing, she chuckled to herself, as she pushed the motorcycle into the small garage and securely locked it. Because her plans for the evening definitely frowned on any interruption.
She checked the doors to the cabin one more time, then set the alarm and walked back to the boat. She released the front line, then the rear one and tossed them onboard, jumping on herself as the boat started to drift slightly in the outgoing tide.
The breeze was rising as Dar started up the engines and slowly reversed them away from the harbor, making sure she was well out before she nudged the throttles into forward and swung the bow around, pointing it out towards the endless blue horizon. She settled her bare feet against the console and gave the engines gas, feeling the surge of power as they headed outbound.
Kerry let herself drift on the slight underwater current, watching the slanting rays of the sun filter down and touch the reef she was swimming over. A small school of bright blue and yellow fish went sweeping by, wheeling and pausing for some unknown fish reason but giving her an excellent photo opportunity, which she took immediate advantage of.
The pale sand and darker coral outlined the colorful fish as they swirled around her, finding another patch of ground to explore and leaving her behind. Kerry watched them swim off, rolling over onto her back and relaxing in the light green sea as she examined the reef for more wildlife.
One thing that had always surprised her was how noisy it was underwater. In a pool, or in the lakes of her birthplace the sounds were absent or muted. But here in the ocean nearly everything made a racket. Lobsters and other crustaceans clicked against the coral, shells tumbled in the underwater current, rattling along even the sand made a swishing sound as it was moved.
Their regulators were the loudest, though. The bubbles created a low rumbling sound and each intake of breath brought to mind nothing less than Darth Vader.
Kerry exchanged her regulator for the smaller one clipped to her vest and took a sip of water, rinsing it around her mouth before she swallowed. A clown fish approached her warily, inspecting the edge of her fin before it darted off. Then a tiny cuttlefish, almost transparent, floated in front of her mask, its fins almost brushing her nose. Her eyes focused on it, on a structure so intricate it seemed almost like the finest blown glass.
The perfection of the universe brought its own awe, Kerry had found, and its own peace.
A soft knocking caught her attention and she looked around, spotting Dar nearby hovering over a coral outcropping, gesturing her over. She flipped lazily to horizontal and flexed her thighs, waving her fins to propel her through the water. Dar reached out and snagged a strap on her BC as she neared and she drifted, looking where her partner was pointing.
Oomfp. The sound of surprise came out around a burst of bubbles. A large sea turtle was huddled behind the rock, watching them warily. A piece of seaweed hung out of its mouth, drifting in the current, and Kerry quickly brought her camera up and focused it.
Just as she opened the shutter, the animal released the seaweed, poking its tongue out at Kerry as it was captured on film. She heard the faint sound of Dar laughing as she drifted back, and they watched the turtle return to its feeding. Then Dar checked her dive computer, pointing at the time on it.
Kerry nodded in understanding. It was a shallow dive; if she looked up the boat would only be twenty feet or so above her head, but it was their second dive of the day and she knew Dar preferred to stay on the cautious side when it came to bottom time. She covered the lens on her camera and clipped it to its holders on her vest, then followed Dar towards the anchor line of the boat.
They paused out of long habit at ten feet, where the wave action overhead started to make itself felt. The seas were fairly calm, but there was enough of a chop to keep the boat at a steady rock, and Kerry could see the dive ladder moving up and down at the back of the stern.
Like flying a plane, where the takeoffs and landings were the trickiest, in diving it was getting in and out of the water that usually presented the most difficulty. Once you were in, and down, things were usually a breeze. Kerry watched Dar release the line and head for the ladder, her hands reaching down to detach her fins as she reached it. She waited for her partner to grab the moving ladder and toss the fins out with her other hand before she let go of the line herself and followed.
Dar waited for the stern to dip down to get her feet on the bottom step of the ladder, then she reached up to the upper rung and hung on, letting the wave action pick her right up out of the water and into the late afternoon sunlight. She stepped up into the boat and shucked her tank and vest, clipping them to holders before she turned around and reached out, grabbing the back of Kerrys air tank as she emerged from the sea.
Kerry was no weakling, but pulling yourself and forty pounds of equipment out of the water onto a pitching boat after a long days diving was a lot to ask, and Dar saw the quick look of appreciation she got as she pulled her partner on board. Here.. give me that. She reached over and unsnapped the catches that held the vest across Kerrys chest and loosened the inner waist strap as she removed the tank.
Ugh. Thanks. Kerry pulled her mask off and scrubbed her hand over her face. She could taste salt and the rubber from her regulator on her tongue, and what she really wanted was Ah. I love you. Her hand closed around the plastic bottle of Gatorade as she loosened her weight belt and let it drop to the deck.
Your welcome. Dar chuckled. She dunked Kerrys camera in the fresh water bucket next to the ladder, and tossed their masks and snorkels in as well. Can you grab me some oranges?
You got it. Kerry patted her face dry with a towel, then ran it quickly over her body before she went down the stairs into the boats cabin. She sucked on the Gatorade as she opened the refrigerator, removing a pop top can of mandarin oranges. She took it, a spoon, and a packet of crackers and peanut butter and returned to the deck.
Dar had unhooked the tanks and put them into the cradles next to the compressor, and hosed down the BCs that were already hanging next to it. She was standing, rinsing Kerrys regulator in careful hands when Kerry eased up next to her, bumping her lightly with one hip. With a quick grin, she put the regulator down next to hers on the counter and took the can of fruit.
They sat down in the two comfortable camp chairs on the back deck and relaxed, putting their feet up in the attached footrests as the boat rocked gently in the waves. That was nice. Dar commented, removing the top on her can. Not much current down there either.
Nmpf. Kerry shook her head, her mouth full of cracker and peanut butter. Gorf. Sorry. She swallowed down the mouthful and chased it with some Gatorade. Yeah, it felt so great just to be down there. Her eyes swept the horizon, then she got up and looked around to the front of the boat. Especially out here, where its just us, the sky, and the water.
Dar nodded. Were still in the straits we could just stay anchored here for tonight.
Kerry faced into the wind, listening to the rhythm of the waves. Or?
Or we could head south.
Is there a prettier place down south?
Dar sucked on an orange. Not that I know of.
Here sounds perfect to me, then. Kerry wandered back over and sat down again. How about we have a snack up front and watch the sun set?
Sounds perfect to me. Dar echoed her, with a grin. Then her head cocked, and she glanced off into the distance. Looks like we have company. Her ears identified the sound of engines. They grew louder and louder, until a speck resolved itself into a massive yacht, half again as large as theirs, cleaving the water at top speed as it headed south.
Well. Kerry observed the solid black hull, with red and silver piping. Hows that for posh. The ship was flying several colorful pennants, and its brass fittings shone brightly in the sun. Who do you think it is, Dar? She wondered. Some really rich Northern type?
With no taste? Dar grinned wryly. Foreigner, maybe.
The boat roared past, its wake making their own rock back and forth vigorously for several moments. It headed towards the horizon, several figures visible on its stern deck.
Better watch that draft. Were in shallows. Dar frowned, getting up and reaching for the radio. She keyed it. Black and red Giarenno, headed south through the straits, do you copy?
She released the mic, and heard only static. Her brow contracted. Black and red Giarenno, headed through the straights southbound, do you copy?
More static. Then a sharp crackling. This is Cordons Empire. Are you calling this vessel? The voice was abrupt and impatient.
Dar keyed the mic. Roger that, Cordons Empire. This is Dixieland Yankee. You just passed on my port side. Be advised you have less than ten to fifteen feet to bottom in the area.
There was a moment of silence. We do not need the advice. Please do not contact this vessel again.
The sound of the transmission cutting off was very close to being an arrogant slap, and Dar spent a few outraged breaths just glaring at the radio before she turned and delivered a murderous look at the retreating yacht. Youre welcome and kiss my ass, Cordons Empire. She replied, hanging the mic up and returning to her comfortable chair with a snort of disgust. Jackass.
Mm. Kerry licked a bit of peanut butter off her thumb. Bet he didnt know who he was talking to.
Dar bit an orange slice in half and snapped it up, doing her best wild animal snarl. Id say I hope he bottomed, but its not worth the damage to the reef.
Kerry finished her crackers. Youre right. She agreed. Tell you what if you get the deck pad, Ill bring a bottle of something cold and we can let Mother Nature do her thing.
Dar dismissed the rude boater, and turned her mind to more pleasant things willingly. She got up and rinsed her can out, then put it into the plastic recycling container after squashing it in her hands. Then she opened the storage benches and pulled out the large, double pad they liked to sit on up front and slung it over her shoulder while Kerry ducked back into the cabin.
There were layers of light clouds on the horizon, and Dar imagined it would be a gorgeous sunset. She mused happily on that as she made her way around to the front of the boat, settling the pad down and going to the very front of the bow.
Kerry took a bottle of chilled Riesling out and inspected two glasses, setting them down while she put together a bowl of finger foods, cubes of cheese and pieces of fruit tossing in a handful of chocolate kisses and a few carrots just for color and balance. Whistling softly, she picked everything up and carried it up the stairs, bumping the button on the sound system just before she came up on deck.
Soft strains of music emerged as she balanced along the edge of the boat, climbing up on the bow as Dar turned and spotted her. A smile appeared on Kerrys face as she took in the sight of her lover outlined in burnished golden sunlight and it only broadened as Dar came to her side, dropping down on the pad and taking the bowl from her.
Kerry settled down cross-legged and opened the bottle, while Dar stretched out to full length, resting on one elbow and crossing her long legs at the ankles. A soft pop rewarded her efforts, and she put the cork with its puller down, pouring Dar a glass of wine with a casually expert motion. She handed the glass over and poured her own, then accepted Dars invitation and sat in the circle of her arm as Dar rolled over onto her back and they leaned against the slope of the boats bow.
The sun began to slip behind the clouds, sending spears of russet through them and Kerry found herself very content to just watch, lulled by the gentle motion of the waves and a feeling of comfortable tiredness from their diving. She sipped her wine, rolling the sweet richness in her mouth, and nibbled on some cheese.
She was starting to feel an emotional weight lift off her shoulders. The stress of the past month seemed to lose its grip on her, and she let her head rest against Dar, soaking in the peace like a bit of sea sponge.
My mother once painted a sky like this. Dar said. I remember it when I was still in grade school. She had it hanging over the couch in the living room.
Mm. Kerry tilted her head a little, amazed at the vividness of the color. Its so rich. Why is that, Dar?
Angle of inclination. Dar exhaled. And the moisture in the air.
Kerry took a sip of her wine as she gazed at the sky. Or maybe Gods just in a great mood. She murmured. I know I sure am. Her eyes drifted from the sunset for a moment. Thank you, for having this incredible idea.
Dar lifted her glass and touched its rim against Kerrys. Heres to us. She took a mouthful, and waited for Kerry to do the same, then she gracefully inclined her head and they kissed, exchanging a little wine and a lot of affection.
The breeze lifted a little and tangled their hair together as they settled down to watch the days ending.
Dar waited until the sky was completely dark, and the canopy of stars fit over them from horizon to horizon. It was an amazing sensation hearing the rustle of the waves, and seeing nothing but flat blackness that extended to a sparkling blanket seemingly rising out of nothing.
Kerry was curled up next to her, fast asleep. After their long day of diving and sun, that wasnt surprising really, but Dar was glad to see her partner getting some much needed rest. Her fathers death, and the stress of the last month had taken a lot out of her and Dar intended their little trip to be as relaxing as possible. She lifted her hand and combed her fingers through Kerrys hair, brushing it back from her face.
Kerrys eyelids trembled, just a little, and she stirred, snuggling closer to Dar and sliding an arm over her stomach. She then relaxed again, a puff of exhaled breath warming Dars skin.
Atta girl. Dar murmured, watching the slow rise and fall of her lovers ribcage. You just take it easy. No getting sick. Kerry had an appointment with their family doctor on their return, to redo tests that had shown a dangerous rise in her blood pressure among other things not that long ago.
To hell with the company. Both of them leaving at once was throwing the place into chaos but she could care less.
Dar readily acknowledged the hypocritical nature of her wanting Kerry to put herself before work, given her own behavior but its what she wanted nonetheless and she refused to apologize for it. She idly twirled a bit of Kerrys pale hair around her finger, admiring its softness. Already two days in the sun seemed to have lightened it, or maybe Kerrys deepening tan just provided a greater contrast.
Whatever. Dar watched Kerrys jaw muscles move a little, then her eyes fluttered open and the tip of her pink tongue appeared. Hey, sleepy. She ran the tips of her fingers over Kerrys back as the smaller woman stretched.
Mmmm Kerry rolled over and gazed up at the night sky. Oh, thats gorgeous. She murmured. Look at those stars there must be a zillion of them.
Mmhm. Dar agreed, easing onto her side and wrapping her arms around Kerry. She put her head down and gazed at Kerrys profile. Beautiful.
Kerry felt the attention, and turned to meet Dars eyes. She still felt sleepy, and a little bemused at having dozed off over their little snack, and she had no real desire to do much about it other than snuggle back up against Dars warm body and return to her dreams. She lifted a hand and stifled a yawn. Think I overdid it today.
Me, too. Dar added in wry, silent agreement. How about a shower, and an early bedtime. She suggested.
Ooo.. Kerry found the idea very appealing. Yeah, I like that. She laced her fingers with Dars. We could have some hot chocolate its a little chilly out here.
With a smile, Dar lifted herself to her feet and offered Kerry a hand up. They walked together single file around the side of the cabin and down into the stern. Dar turned on the outside lights and reviewed their gear. Im going to pull in the buoy. Meet you inside?
Kerry unexpectedly circled her with both arms, and gave her a big hug. Me and some hot chocolatell be waiting. She released Dar and gave her a pat on the side, then eased through the cabin door.
Dar chuckled softly to herself as she walked to the side of the boat and pulled in the buoy line, securing the orange buoy to the side of the boat and removing the upright, flexible pole that held their divers flag. The flag indicated to anyone passing by that there were divers under the water, possibly near the surface, and theoretically the boaters should give the spot a wide berth.
However, as in coastal areas where manatees lived, and signs were posted, adherence to the rules varied from ship captain to ship captain and if you were in an area that a lot of pleasure boaters used, you took a risk. Dar herself had a small scar on her back from a miscast shark hook when she was younger, that snagged her and almost pulled her air hose from her first stage.
Out here, there wasnt much chance of that kind of problem. Dar fastened the flag into its catches, and cast her eye around the stern, checking to make sure everything was in its place. Then she nodded in satisfaction and entered the cabin, closing the door behind her. Kerry was in the small galley, busy with the cocoa tin, her dark purple swimsuit outlining her body nicely. They had the hatches open, so the night breeze was blowing through, cooling the place off without them having to actually run the small air conditioning unit the boat was equipped with.
Everything shipshape, Capn? Kerry asked, looking up at her with a mischievous grin.
Ar. Dar made a quasi pirate noise. Ill duck in the shower first.
Kerry continued her task. We could try getting in there together.
Not even if we were Barbie dolls. Dar snorted, shaking her head. She entered the head and flipped the light on, stripping out of her suit and hanging it on one of the hooks on the back of the door. They had gotten tubes of body soap, conveniently able to also hang on hooks and she squeezed a handful of apricot scented wash as she turned the water on and stepped under it.
It felt very good to scrub the salt spray off her skin. Swimming in the sea was interesting, and often refreshing, but the minerals the water held made a shower something she always looked forward to afterwards.
It also helped prevent sea lice. Dar loved marine life in all its forms, but she drew the line at providing a home for it on her person.
Dar rinsed her hair out, then stepped out from under the shower and toweled herself off. She opened the tiny medicine cabinet and removed a glass bottle, opening it and pulling out the dropper and filling it. She tilted her head and let several drops fall into her right ear, then did the same with her left. Ear infections werent something she much liked either, and the drops would dry out her inner ear and help prevent them.
She tucked the towel around her body and sauntered back out into the cabin. Next. She traded places with Kerry, who slipped past with a grin. Dar relaxed against the counter as she waited for the water to boil, reaching up and turning on the marine radio to listen to the weather reports.
Funny, how the crackling of the radio and the sound of the shower were so similar.
The water kettle hissed. Dar turned and picked it up, pouring it over the cocoa mix in the cups on the counter. The scent of chocolate enveloped her, and she grinned, stirring the foamy liquid with a spoon to make sure it all dissolved. Then she retrieved the milk from the refrigerator and put a little in each cup. She was just adding an artistic dollop of whipped cream when Kerry emerged and wandered over, the fresh scent of apricot rising from her skin.
They changed into T-shirts and sat down together on the couch in the living area, putting their feet up on the bolted down table.
Kerry sipped her chocolate as they listened to the waves for a bit, then she turned to Dar. You know, I was just thinking. Its really funny.
Dar eyed her. Yeah? She waited for the punchline.
We never really talk to each other. Kerry watched the expressive face across from her. Dar blinked, and put her cup down, her eyebrows contracting. See?
Both eyebrows went up. Huh? Dar gave her an unfeigned look of bewilderment. Are you saying we have trouble communicating?
No. Kerry shook her head. We communicate perfectly. We just never talk. She stifled a grin. What I mean is, like when I just said that. You didnt have to say anything to me, I knew what you were thinking.
You did? Dar relaxed.
Sure. What the hell is she talking about? Kerry dropped her voice a little lower in mimicry. I can tell by your face, by how you move, almost, what youre feeling.
Dar considered that thoughtfully. Well, we do spend a lot of time with each other. She allowed.
True. And its hard to have good, vigorous debates with someone who you agree with most of the time. Kerry said. We havent had a fight in a long time.
A dark eyebrow crawled up Dars forehead. You want to have a fight?
Actually, I was listening to a radio program the other day on the way to the Kendall office. They had this guy on who was saying how it was the sign of a healthy relationship when you had fights, because you didnt repress anything.
Dars other eyebrow joined its mate. Are you repressing something?
Kerry pointed at her own chest. Me?
No. Are you?
Dar frowned. Not that I know of. She apparently caught the humor of the situation. We could invent something to repress, then have a fight about it, though, if you really want to test the theory.
We could do that. Kerry leaned over and kissed her. Or we could just do this, which is a heck of a lot more fun.
Dar chuckled, cupping Kerrys cheek and removing the chocolate from her lips. Then she rested her forehead against Kerrys, and her face grew more thoughtful. I think people start fighting when they stop communicating. She said. Or if they never could to begin with.
Is that what happened to you before? Kerry asked.
Dar nodded silently.
I was thinking about that when I was listening to that guy. Kerry took a sip of her cocoa, and offered her cup to Dar. He said its easy to fall in love with someone, but its a lot harder to learn to like and live with them. She reached over and moved a bit of Dars hair out of her face.
Dar licked her lips. I like you. She smiled. I think I said that the first time we had dinner together.
Kerry smiled back. Yes, you did, and so did I. She studied Dars face. I really liked you, and I wanted to be friends with you before I figured out I was head over heels in love.
They looked into each others eyes for a long moment. Finally Dar took a breath. Kerry?
A pucker appeared between Dars eyebrows. Why are we having this conversation?
Well. Kerry squiggled closer. I didnt want to save it for a dusty hospital stairwell, and its late, and Im wasted, and it beats me reciting my brothers latest attempted at poetry. She kissed Dar gently. We have to have these angsty, soulful, heart to heart talks sometimes, Dar or else well get cootie points in Love Court or something.
Dar grinned. Wanna hear a secret?
I have been repressing something.
Green eyes opened wider. Really?
Yeah. Dar took the mostly empty cup from her and set it down. The desire to take you off to bed. Cmon. She held her hands out, and pulled Kerry to her feet when the blond woman took them. She pulled Kerry into her arms and gave her a hug. Ker?
Mm? Kerry murmured.
If you ever think were not communicating Dar looked at her seriously. Talk to me.
Kerry blinked, then nodded. Ditto. She replied.
Dar carried the cups to the sink and ran water into them, then accompanied Kerry to the bedroom. Kerry pulled the down comforter back and they crawled into bed, snuggling together as Dar put out the bedside lamp. With the hatches open, they could hear the sea, and a nice breeze puffed around the cabin, lessening the enclosed feeling.
The sounds were different, Kerry thought. The boat creaked a little, and the rocking motion soothed her. She felt her eyes closing and let the wave of sleepiness in, already looking forward to the morning. Stifling a yawn, she drew in a breath of warm, Dar scented air and dropped off to sleep.
Dar pored over the chart clipped to the console in front of her, marking out a route with a big purple marker on the plastic sheet. She checked the GPS against the chart and grunted, satisfied with their progress and with her navigating skills.
She nudged the throttles forward a little and rested her elbows on either side of them, gazing out at the horizon with a slight grin. Hands on had always been something shed enjoyed, right from the very start of her career. It was one thing to sit in some boardroom with a pad of paper and argue about how to do things, but a very different thing to be able to put your hands on the technology and actually do it yourself.
Its what had set her apart from the rest of the management at ILS. Dar had fought very hard to keep her skills current and she was very, very proud of the fact that she could go into their state of the art ops center and run every piece of technology inside it. It wasnt always easy her position kept her very busy and the tech changed every day, it seemed. But Dar had decided she never wanted to be in a place where her staff knew more about what they were doing than she did, so she put in the long nights, bought the new manuals, and occasionally even took things home so she could take them apart and play with them.
So being able to captain her ship across the sea had been just another challenge, and again shed put in the time to brush up on her charting and diesel skills. Her peripheral vision caught a change in the depth meter and she studied it, then altered their course just a little, into a deeper channel. Then she picked up the pencil next to the notepad and started idly sketching.
At first she doodled in the horizon, and the boats bow, but that got boring, so she started looking around for something else to draw. She leaned back and looked down, then grinned. Ah. Her pencil moved against the paper as she located a new inspiration.
Kerry put her pen down for the nth time and let her head rest against the chair. She was ostensibly working on poetry, but the sun, the mild drone of the engines, and the sweet sea air were combining to subvert her creative intentions in favor of some lazy daydreaming.
It was mid afternoon already, and theyd been making good time so far. After an early morning romp in the sea, Dar had fired up the boats engines and headed southeast, crossing the ruffled blue green Caribbean sea as the sun tracked steadily overhead.
Kerry wiggled her bare toes contentedly. Dar had promised a twilight dive when they neared the Virgin Islands, then dinner at a small place shed last visited just before theyd met. Fresh conch chowder. Kerry licked her lips thoughtfully. Sounds great, just so long as you dont think too much about what a conch actually looks like.
You say something? Dar called down from the bridge.
No, sweetie. Kerry replied. Just mumbling to myself. She worried a grape off its stem from the bowl next to her and popped it into her mouth. Whatcha doing?
Driving the boat.
That all? Kerry asked, tipping her head back and looking up, one hand shading her eyes.
Yeah? What this time?
Nothing youd wanna see. Dar remarked, with an easy grin. Hows the writing coming?
Intrigued, Kerry tucked her book into the side pocket of the deck chair and put her fruit bowl down. Its not. She admitted, getting up and walking to the ladder, stretching out her body as she did. Sad to say, Im too lazy to even write today. She climbed up onto the bridge and circled Dar with her arms, gazing down at the pad in front of her.
Then she blinked. Yikes.
Dar snickered. Toldja.
Sort of, yeah. Dar agreed.
Kerry eyed the sketch, which showed a reasonable rendering of the boats stern, with her sprawled in the chair. Youre getting pretty good at this, you know that?
A shrug. Depends on what Im drawing.
Kerry gave her a kiss on the top of her head. Ill take that as a compliment. She told her, as a memory floated into her minds eye.
Another day, another meeting. Kerry carried her notes into the big conference room and paused, seeing most of the table already full up. That left the end seat which was always Dars, and empty ones on either side of it. Hm. Kerry walked around to the left hand side and sat down in the chair on that side of Dars. I should come late more often.
Then she had an excuse to sit next to her boss, and not have anyone think it was strange.
Dar entered, and as she circled the table she raised her eyebrows just a trifle at Kerrys choice of seats, but her lips quirked into a tiny grin at the same time, making Kerrys guts warm as their eyes met.
She felt herself blush, and studied her notes instead, trying not to show the unsteady confusion pulsing through her body, reacting to Dars very near presence as the woman sat down and their forearms brushed each other.
Dar leaned back in her chair and balanced her pad on her denim clad knee as she asked for the weekly report. They were in casual wear today and Kerry found herself wanting to reach over and touch the soft cotton Dar was wearing.
She folded her hands together and sternly told her body to behave, hardly believing how out of control she felt around her new lover. Especially since the more experienced Dar was seemingly quite unaffected by it all, breezing through their workday as though nothing at all had changed between them.
Kerry, on the other hand, felt like she had Im with her! tattooed on her forehead. She sighed and picked up her water glass, taking a long sip of it as the operations staff started their recitations. It didnt help much. She was almost hyper sensitively aware of Dars every motion, every sound, from the faint shifts of her clothing on the leather chair when she moved, to the light scrape of the pencil lead she was doodling with.
Lucky Dar. Kerry snuck a look at her boss, who looked relaxed as she glanced up from her doodling as each staff member spoke. Dar seemed almost bored, or a least borderline inattentive, giving the speakers a brief nod as she accepted their reports.
Next. Dar kept her eyes on her pad. Did you get those servers?
Mark had to report in the negative. Not yet, boss. Two more days.
Kerry looked at him, seeing the wince as he waited for Dars reaction, along with the rest of the staff.
Okay. Dar nodded. What else?
Everyone around the table looked at each other in surprise.
Um. Mark wasnt one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Weve.. uh.. got some problems in Canada.. two big pipes down and theyre complaining.
And? Dar continued her sketching, cocking her head to one side a little. Can we fix them?
Not without digging up some fiber.
Guess theyll have to wait then. Dar replied. Tell our fiber contractor up there to call me with an estimate when he gets a chance.
Another round of looks circled the table.
Uh.. okay. Mark said. Thats all for me.
Anyone else? Dars gaze sharpened, and she scoured the group with her ice blue eyes. No? Good. She stood up, casually ripping off the top sheet of her pad and tossing it over to Kerry before she picked up her coffee cup and headed for the door. Budgets are due next week. Dont be late.
The door closed behind her, and everyone relaxed. Whoo. Mark mock wiped his brow. Got of lucky this week!
Yeah, I thought she was going to roast your butt.. howd you do that, Mark?
Right time, right place. Got her in a good mood.
The one time this year. Go figure. Charlene rolled her eyes. What cause that, I wonder? She get to fire someone this week?
Kerry didnt hear any of it. Her eyes were on the casually tossed sheet in her hands as she stared at the neatly shaded sketch in the center of it. Her own image looked back at her, a very creditable rendering outlined in a roughly shaped heart, with Dars initials on the bottom.
Maybe it was because she got to cancel that planning contract shes always hated that guys guts.
Nah, I bet she denied that Sales request again.
Kerry very carefully opened her folder and put the loose sheet inside.
Kerry looked up. Yes?
Whats the deal? You know whats got big D in such a mellow mood?
Yes. Matter of fact, I do. Kerry exhaled, biting off a grin as she stood up and pushed her chair in. See you guys tomorrow. She walked out with a jaunty step, closing the door behind her.
All this pretty scenery, and you have to draw me? Kerry ruffled Dars hair.
All those pretty fish, and you have to take my picture? Dar countered drolly, circling Kerrys leg with one arm. Well be at the dive site in an hour. You up for that, or you want to give it a miss and just go to dinner?
Kerry leaned against the captains chair and let her head rest on Dars shoulder. Does my utter laziness show that badly? She complained. I fell asleep twice down there. I dont know whats wrong with me.
Were on vacation. Youre supposed to be lazy. Dar stated, her eyes scanning the horizon again. We can go straight in.
Kerry chewed her lower lip, then shook her head. No, Im going to go make some coffee. I really want to see that old wreck, Dar. You made it sound really cool. She straightened up and put her hands on Dars shoulders, massaging them lightly. Lets go for it.
You sure? Dar relaxed, enjoying the strong kneading.
Positive. Kerry gave her a kiss on the back of the neck. Take me to the galleon, Capn Dar.
Aye, aye, matey. Dar replied promptly. Who knows? Maybe well find us some pieces of eight.
Kerry chuckled, resuming her position draped over Dars shoulders. With our luck, all well find is some jellyfish or a cranky moray eel.
Or a pile of tin cans.
They both laughed, a sound muffled by the spray of the boats wake on either side of them.
Kerry adjusted her mask, holding her hand over it and her regulator as she stepped to the back of the boat and paused, then took a big step off and plunged into the water.
It was always a bit of a shock, going from the light and breezy air into the dense, blue water. She sucked in her first breath off her tank, feeling her body adjust as the familiar above water weight of herself, and her equipment moderated in the waters buoyancy.
Kerry held onto the anchor rope with one hand, and tightened the straps on her BC with the other while she waited for Dar. Her ears popped a little, and she gently pinched her nose closed and blew out a little, clearing her middle ears. Just then, the water was disrupted by Dars entrance into it, her tall figure in a whirl of bubbles that cleared as she made her way over to where Kerry was waiting.
Dars eyes flicked over her, Kerry noticed, checking her gear out of endearing habit. She endured the scrutiny, and in return she snugged Dars tank a little tighter and pulled her hair out from under her BC. Dar winked at her, and pointed down, and she nodded.
They started down the anchor rope, descending slowly through the water towards the ocean floor sixty feet below. Diving deep was different than reef diving, Kerry had discovered. You encountered a lot of sensations you didnt get in the shallows like thermoclines.
Layers of colder water that crept up and enveloped you unexpectedly as you descended and the awareness of the sea pressure slowly growing against you. Breathing was just a little tougher, and the sense of being a part of the ocean was greater down here since you tended to look down more than up, and the surface was much further away.
They reached the bottom, a patch of soft, creamy white sand that had a few, odd stalks of seaweed poking up through it. Dar checked her dive computer, then motioned Kerry to follow her, and started off.
Kerry obliged, staying to one side out of the draft of Dars fins. Her partners leg kicks were a little slower than her own, but more powerful and she put some effort into keeping up against the light current. They approached a rock escarpment, and as they did, Dar half turned and made a motion near her mask, as though she were snapping a picture.
Obligingly, Kerry unclipped her camera and adjusted it, then swam after Dar as they crested the escarpment and could look over it.
Wow. Kerrys eyes widened, and she quickly focused on the scene. Forty feet below them was a valley of white sand, and half buried in the sand was the reef encrusted remains of an old, wooden ship. The visibility was incredible, even at this distance, and she kept snapping as they descended towards it.
Schools of fish darted among what was left of half broken spars, and one whole side of the front of the ship was gone, a huge hole big enough to admit the largest of the fish swimming around it. Kerry clipped her camera to her vest and just enjoyed the moment, stretching her arms out and releasing some of her buoyancy. She fell through the water in a glide very much like slow motion flying, twisting her body to change angles as she approached the wreck.
Bits of the ship were spread out across the bottom, where theyd scattered when she went down or in the storms afterward. Kerry spotted lumps of metal and she swam over to investigate, reaching out with a gloved hand to touch metal links half the length of her arm. Anchor chain, she realized.
She left the chain and headed towards the tilted, coral encrusted deck, surprising a school of grouper that scattered when she drifted over them. A grumpy looking barracuda remained, however, glaring at her from between a hatch and a piece of collapsed spar. Kerry slowly lifted her camera and drifted down to eye level with it, focusing on the fishs intimidating jaw. She snapped the shutter, then moved away, watching the cuda watch her as she entered a school of angel fish.
They poured over her and she rotated onto her back, looking up at them outlined against the surface like a far off mirror above her. Then she inhaled in surprise as a small squid jetted by, almost within her grasp, its tentacles trailing behind it and brushing her arm.
It was still so amazing to her, even after a year, this sensation of floating in an alien world. She twisted and looked around, finding Dar floating nearby, her hands clasped on her stomach and her fins crossed as she watched. Kerry grinned, and gave her a thumbs up. Dar grinned back, then pointed towards the hole in the side of the ship and raised her brows in question, visible even over her mask.
Ah! A new adventure. Kerry nodded, following readily as Dar lead the way towards the interior of the boat, her underwater lamp clasped in one hand. As they reached it, she turned it on and edged inside, carefully examining the space before she continued, motioning Kerry after her.
Kerry did a quick check of her BC, making sure all her hoses were tucked in their holders and nothing was dangling before she followed Dar inside the ship. She pulled out her own light and turned it on, illuminating a ghostly world of algae incrusted wood. The structure inside was heavily damaged, but not enough so that her imagination was unable to fill in the pieces.
Long ago, this ship had held dreams. She could imagine the sailors who lived here, and the cargo they carried across the warm basin of the Caribbean. Now all that remained where ghosts, and the flash of odd eyes as her flashlight skimmed over the interior.
For a bare moment, the thought crossed her mind that the eyes belonged to those lost souls who went down with the ship, still here after all these years.
Then a lobster scuttled by her, waving its claws menacingly, and Kerry jumped, almost cracking her head against the wood above her. Okay. She told her imagination sternly. Save it for topside. With a shake of her head, she drifted down towards the bottom of the hold. Tiny fish swirled around her curiously and she peered closer, as her light flashed off something unidentifiable.
Dar approached, lifting her dive computer and displaying the time they had remaining. Kerry nodded, then pointed with her light, catching the flash again. They both swam closer, peering under the collapsed ribs and time encrusted cases piled on the bottom, resting against what had once been the side of the ship.
Dar tried to edge closer on one side, but her bulk kept her from getting any closer. Frowning, she motioned Kerry over, but even Kerrys smaller form was too wide to fit through with her tank on. Dar considered a moment, then she turned Kerry around and unclasped her tank from her BC, holding it in one hand and moving it to one side.
Kerry grasped the spar and pulled herself down, now just able to get between the wood and the side of the ship. She could see the shining something, and as she squiggled closer and her motion brushed a collection of algae off it, it resolved itself into a flat surface. She felt Dars hand on her hip in a reassuring pat, and she edged a little further, now able to put her hand on whatever it was.
Then she just about died when an eel suddenly erupted from around the object, squirming right past her neck towards Dar and giving her a lash with its tail on the way out. A muffled burst of noise came from Kerrys throat, sending a stream of bubbles upward, but after a jerk behind her as Dar got out of the eels way, the comforting pat returned.
Jesus. Kerry flexed her hand and reached a little further, getting her fingers around the surface and tugging. It resisted her pull, but she persisted, and with the faintest crackling as she freed it from the growing coral it came loose and she brought it closer to her mask.
It was a box, and the shine had been hammered metal, which covered it though corrosion had mostly obscured the design. Kerry started backwards, glad of the grip on her belt guiding her out of the tight spot. Dar peered over her shoulder as she reattached her tank and they both gazed at her find curiously.
A buried treasure. Kerry blinked delightedly. Even if it was, as it appeared to be, just an old box, still the box held history and it fascinated her. She clutched it as they made their way out of the hold and into the open sea, which seemed brilliantly lit by sunlight now that they were out of the darkness of the ship.
Dar gave her a big thumbs up, and Kerry grinned around her regulator, returning it. They made their leisurely way back to the anchor line, carried now by the drift current going in the opposite direction. Kerry tucked her treasure away in her BC pocket as she gripped the line, ready to just watch the show around her as they slowly made their way out of one world, and back to their own.
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