Reflections of Passion

by Chariots of Fire

Disclaimers/Thanks:

This is a work of Xena uber alternative fiction. Be warned it contains consensual relations between two women. If it is illegal where you live, I suggest you move. If you canít deal with it, I suggest you build a bridge and get the hell over it. If you CAN deal with it, read on.

Thanks to my editors, FA and CB, your help was invaluable. Love ya. Thanks also to a few other friends who read this and gave me their opinion.

A very special thanks to Yanni, whose music has been inspiring.

Feedback is appreciated, but any nasty ones will be obliterated. E-mail me at chariotsoffire82@go.com


"Did it hurt?" the young woman asked timidly.

Faithís emerald eyes sparkled. "Not really. There was a little sharpness and then some pressure, but pain, no. When I saw it, I knew I had to have it."

Laine shook her head at Faithís bravery, "I donít think I could ever do it."

"Oh, youíd be surprised," said Faith, replacing the strap of her tank top. "A tattoo can be a great conversation starter."

"Iím sure," she chuckled, "and the eyes of the mask are almost crystal-like; they seem to look right through you."

"The artist said it was cerulean, the lightest, yet brightest he had." What Faith didnít tell Laine was that she knew those eyes were her destiny. When she saw the tattoo and how Kevin had colored it, she knew it was perfect.

Later, as they were walking down the street to a bar, Laine grumbled, "Leave it to me to attend grad school in a Ďdryí village."

"Oh, come on, the rep alone is enough. It only took us twenty minutes to get here - not a problem."

"Yeah, Faith, and when you drive, probably quicker!" Laine laughed.

"Smart ass!" Faith laughed, too.

They were within a block of the bar when Laine asked Faith how sheíd heard of the bar. "I asked around campus where the best food, drinks, music - hell, the best Ďatmosphereí could be found. Everyone said The Rock." Her attention was drawn to the side of the curb, "Oh, my God, that is swe-e-et." She was staring at a fender tip that read "Live to Ride, Ride to Live".

Laine looked at the bike parked at the curb in front of the bar and then at Faith who looked almost ready to faint. "Itís a motorcycle, Faith; sure, itís pretty, but-"

Faith cut her off as she popped her softly on the arm, "Itís not Ďjustí a motorcycle, Laine, itís a Harley! Plus itís a Road King Classic. Violet Pearl, too! I love the color!"

"Thatís good, huh?"

Trying to forgive her friendís ignorance, Faith smiled kindly, "Yeah, thatís very good. Iíve loved bikes all my life, but could never afford a dream like this."

A strange voice brought her out of her reverie. "Randi doesnít let anyone touch her bike." Faith whirled around and gazed at the young man who was coming out of The Rock. She narrowed her emerald green eyes at him, "Excuse me?"

"I said --"

"I know what you said," fire sparkled in her eyes, "I didnít touch it; but why am I telling you this? Is it yours?"

"Uh -- no...."

"Then what concern is it of yours ?!" Faithís voice began to rise and Laine softly touched her shoulder. "What?!"

Laine narrowed her own eyes, "Donít bite my head off, my friend! Letís get that drink, shall we?" Faith took a deep breath, released it slowly, and nodded. "Sorry." She stared at the fellow who had set her off as he walked away from them. "Asshole," she muttered.

A few heads turned as they walked into the bar, checking out the new faces. Faith and Laine smiled as they looked around at the two-story bar; plenty of space, light, and music. "This is great! All this light, I hate dark bars!", said Laine. Faith concurred, "Definitely, and this seems to be a killer sound system, too. And the music so far is great, filled with the classics I like." Meat Loafís "Bat Out of Hell" was finishing, and the opening strains of "Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through" was beginning to roll through the house at a comfortable, though thundering level.

"Get me a Rolling Rock, will you, Faith? Iím going to find the restroom."

Faith chuckled. "As usual! Iíll meet you at the end of the bar somewhere."

"OK, I wonít be long."

As Faith turned for the bar, she gasped and decided the evening was looking even better. The incident with the fellow earlier quickly left her mind at the sight behind the bar. Muscles rippled underneath a burgundy silk blouse that was tucked in black leather pants, outlining every curve. She kept her eyes glued to the enticing form as she approached the bar. The bartender turned towards her just as she ran her tongue across her top lip....sheíd been caught. A flush crept into her cheeks and deepened when she saw the burgundy blouse tied above a flat, toned, tan stomach. The bartender arched one eyebrow while a little grin crept across her lips.

"Welcome, what can I do for you?"

Faith was momentarily stunned as she gazed into crystal blue eyes that looked to be peering into her soul. "Oh, what you could do for me," she thought. "Whoa, get a grip here, girl." Clearing her throat she said, "A Rolling Rock and a Jack and Coke, please."

"OK, you have an ID?"

Chuckling, Faith dug in her pocket. "Yeah, thanks."

"Thanks? For carding you?", the bartender chuckled, "Why?"

Faith felt a redness creep into her cheeks again, "Youíll think itís silly, but it helps to remind me that Iím not as old as I feel."

"Really, itís not silly at all." Smiling a dazzling white smile that made Faithís blush deepen, the bartender checked her ID, returned it to her, and walked away to fill her order.

"Get her number yet?" Faith jumped as Laine spoke to her.

"What? Sh-h, sheíll hear you - and, no, I didnít, smart ass."

"Youíre getting slow, Faith," Laine laughed as the bartender approached with their drinks. She set the drinks down, said, "Cheers, Faith" and walked away. Laine nudged Faith, "She called you by name!"

"Yeah, she checked my ID. No big deal."

"Oh, come on! All these people and all those IDís and she calls you by name? Sounds like something to me."

"You are a romantic, arenít you, Laine?"

"So are you, but you try to hide it with cynicism."

"OK, Laine, Psych class doesnít start for two weeks; donít go jumping the gun and analyzing me." Faith smiled at her friend to take the bite from her words.

As they continued to look around the bar, they knew this place would become a regular stop of theirs. Faith stood up, "Iím going to go check out the jukebox."

Laine saw the bartender turn her head and watch her friendís form as she moved across the bar to the jukebox. "Well, what have we here? Interest?" Laine knew Faith had to have noticed the color of the bartenderís eyes and the match of them to the eyes of her tattoo. The opening strains of Meat Loafís "Iíd Do Anything for Love" began to play as Faith returned to her stool with a triumphant smile on her face. "Laine, theyíve got all my favorites on there. I knew I liked this place!"

"Oh? Is that the only reason, Faith, the music?", Laine teased.

"No, of course not; itís close to college, the apartment, I like the looks...."

"And? She wouldnít have anything to do with it, would she?" Laine tilted her head towards the bartender, who began to move towards them.

"I donít have the foggiest idea what you mean."

"Yeah, ri-i-ight, keep talking, Faith."

The bartender interrupted their conversation, "You ladies ready for another round?"

Faith slid money across the bar, smiling brightly at the bartender, "Please. Hereís for both rounds." She felt Laine nudge her leg, when she looked at her, Laine wiggled her eyebrows. "Stop it!"

"What?"

"You know what!" Faith laughed, knowing her friend had pegged her interest in the bartender. When she saw the bartender start towards her with her change, she waved her off, "Keep it." The bartender looked shocked, but smiled and said, "Thanks."

"Told ya."

"Now what?!"

"That was a very generous tip, Faith."

"Hey, I know what itís like to work for tips, and I appreciate good service."

"Uh-huh, it may also help her to remember you...."

"Maybe." They both sat back on the stools, laughing.

The bar filled rapidly as the night wore on. Laine and Faith recognized some faces from the college, but The Rock seemed to attract a wide variety of people and ages. Faith watched as the bartender kept up with the flow of customers without a stumble. She marveled at her ability to fill orders as she took them. She watched as she seemed to glide effortlessly up and down the bar, grabbing empties as she replaced them with full bottles or glasses.

"She looks as though sheís done this awhile, huh, Faith?"

"Yeah, sheís good."

Laine chuckled, "Down, girl."

"Will you stop? Iíve behaved myself."

"True....for now, but youíve watched her closely all evening."

"Whatís wrong with that? Sheís gorgeous." Faith said this as the bartender blew by on one of her trips down the bar. She hesitated briefly and glanced at Faith from the corner of her eye. Faith broke out in a cold sweat and dropped her head as the bartender continued to the end of the bar. "Oh, shit! She heard me!" Laine laughed and patted her shoulder, "It didnít seem to faze her. Besides, Iím sure sheís heard it before."

"But from how many females?"

Laine sighed, "Will you relax? She didnít deck you or freak out, so sheís cool with it. Think about it, Faith, sheís an experienced bartender, so thereís probably very little she hasnít heard."

"I hope to hell youíre right, my friend."

"Well, here she comes; check it out." The bartender was approaching them, and they noticed she was smiling. "Refills, ladies?" Faith wouldnít look at her, so Laine nodded, "Yep, one more time, thanks." She took one step away and then returned, "Faith?" She waited until Faith was forced to look at her. Faith saw a twinkle in her eye and felt a warmth on her hand as the bartender placed her hand lightly upon hers. "Thanks for the compliment." She barely squeezed Faithís hand and walked away to get their drinks. Faith was quiet as she watched her walk away while Laine thumped her in the leg, "Ha! Told ya! I love it!"

Faith looked at her friend, "She only thanked me for the compliment, nothing else."

"God, you are such a cynic! She acknowledged it! She couldíve ignored it."

"I hope youíre right, but Iím definitely watching what I say from now on!" Faith clinked her glass with Laineís bottle and smiled.

After they finished their drinks, they decided to call it a night. As they reached the opposite end of the bar, Faith said, "Hang on a sec, Laine." Laine paused and watched her friend approach the bar and get the bartenderís attention. She came over to Faith wiping her hands on a towel, "Whatcha need, Faith?"

"Nothing. Weíre calling it a night and I wanted to thank you for taking such good care of us. We enjoyed it."

"Iím glad, hope youíll come back again."

"Oh, I will...I mean, we will." She smiled brightly. "Good night."

"Good night, Faith."

Once outside, Laine threw her arm around her friend, "Well?"

"What do you mean?" She said smiling.

"What did you say to her?"

"I just thanked her for taking care of us and told her weíd enjoyed ourselves."

"And that youíd be back?"

"Well....yeah," Faith grinned, "so when do you want to come back?"

Laine laughed and hugged her friend, "Letís give it a few days." Seeing her friendís pout she said, "Well, you could always make a solo appearance, you know."

"Hm-m, thatís an idea."

"Hey, look, the bikeís still here."

"Oh, yeah. Thereís my dream...maybe someday. Iíd love to ride that."

"Well, find out who owns it and ask."

"Boy, you make it sound so simple."

"Look, the idiot earlier said Randi doesnít let anyone touch her bike, so that means the owner is a woman, right? How many women were inside tonight...twenty?"

"Probably, but Iím not about to ride, let alone ask someone for a ride that I donít know."

"Good point, ok, Iíll work on it."

"Yeah, you do that, Laine."

Two days later, Faith had come to town to do some shopping for her apartment when she decided to grab some lunch. As she was looking around for a cafe, she saw The Rockís sign down the block and remembered they had a kitchen. "Why not? Even if sheís not there, I still need to eat." she thought. As she approached the bar, she saw the Road King Classic parked in the same spot. "Well, maybe I can kill two birds with one stone." she said to herself. When she walked in, she noticed all the tables were full and half of them were women. "Damn! Shoots the idea of finding out who the owner of the bike is, since I remember a few of those faces from the other night."

"Excuse me?"

She started and looked up, not realizing sheís spoken out loud as she looked towards a stool at the bar. Deep brown eyes were looking down at her. "What? Oh, sorry, just talking to myself."

"You from the college?"

Faith looked at him warily, "Yes, any reason youíre asking?"

"Iím sorry, my name is James, Iím a student there myself. I was just curious. No offense meant."

"None taken."

"Well, youíre a new face...." As he continued talking, Faith saw the bartender looking at her, angling her head to the side of the bar. She nodded and focused on James again as he finished, "Would you like some company for lunch, Miss - ?"

"Uh, Iím Faith, and thanks, but Iím just here for a quick bite. Nice meeting you, James." She turned and moved to a single seat separated from the rest of the bar. She smiled as the bartender approached her, "Hi, whatís up?"

"Was he bothering you?"

"Who? Oh, James? No, I was talking to myself when I came in and I guess he thought I was talking to him."

"Yeah, Iím sure he was hoping." The bartender muttered.

"What? Why?"

"He hangs here a lot, goes for the new faces..."

"And you were just looking out for me, huh?"

It was the bartenderís turn to blush, "Uh - yeah, I -"

Faith put her hand on top of the bartenderís and squeezed it tightly, feeling the electricity run up her arm, "Hey, itís okay, I appreciate it. Being new around here, itís nice to know who to avoid. Thanks."

"I donít know anything specific about him, Faith, but I trust my gut and he gives me the creeps."

"Again, I appreciate it, but it does remind me of something."

"Whatís that ?"

"I know you got my name from my license, but I donít know yours."

"Good point," she said as she extended her hand, "Iím Randi."

A look of surprise came over Faithís face as she shook her hand, "Youíre Randi?"

"Yeah, why do you say it like that?"

"Uh-h, itís nothing really," Faith suddenly felt shy as she gazed into the sparkling blue eyes. "Oh, man, this is embarrassing, but it helped solve a mystery."

Randi was intrigued by this small -framed woman with the emerald eyes. "A mystery?"

"Yeah, the bike outside."

"Yes? Why is it a mystery?"

Faith sighed, "Got a minute? Itís almost a long story."

Randi glanced down the bar and around the room, seeing everyone was taken care of, she nodded, "Sure." She leaned against the walkway through the bar which put her thigh against Faithís. "OK, give."

Faith proceeded to tell her the story of her first visit and her encounter with the fellow about the bike, but left out the part about Laineís idea of how to get a ride. When she finished, Randi threw back her head and laughed a deep, throaty laugh. Faith followed the line of her jaw down her throat, "God, sheís got a delicious looking neck," she thought as a shiver ran down her spine.

"That fellow was Tim; heís a regular and tends to be pretty protective of me."

"Oh....boyfriend?"

"No! Besides being too young...."

"I didnít mean to pry."

"You werenít. Heís barely old enough to be in here, besides the fact that Iím a woman."

"Oh, you are definitely that," Faith said softly to herself and then hoped Randi hadnít heard her. When Randi raised an eyebrow and looked down at her, Faith stammered and said, "Uh-h, oh, so heís gay."

"Exactly."

Hoping to change the subject and help her forget what sheíd blurted out, Faith said, "So how long have you been bartending?"

"Almost twenty years, why do you ask?"

"Well, the other night, it got busy and you kept up without breaking a sweat - it was amazing."

"Thanks, itís been busier. Gotta go - new customers. Would you like a drink?"

"No, but could I order some food?"

"Sure, check out the menu and Iíll be right back, OK?" She handed Faith a menu and walked away.

Business picked up in the bar and they were unable to talk anymore except for Faith telling her thanks when she gave her the salad plate. After eating, Faith laid money by her plate and waved at Randi as she left.

Faithís phone was ringing as she entered her apartment. She dropped her bags and grabbed it. "Hello?"

"Hey, girl, itís Laine. You up for a road trip tonight? I ran into some friends and we were thinking of going out for awhile."

"Whoís up to going?"

"Me, you - I hope, Richard and Penny."

"Sounds like fun. Should we all ride together or do you want me to meet you there?"

"We hadnít thought of a place yet, do you have a place in mind - as if I had to ask!" Laine laughed as her friend sputtered.

"I -! You are such a smart ass! If a place hasnít been decided on, why not The Rock, itís a good place."

"True and the "scenery" isnít bad, either, huh?"

"Oh, shut up. You are so bad! What time?"

"Letís catch part of happy hour. How Ďbout 5:30?"

"Sounds good - see you then."

"Does that give you enough time to find something sexy to wear?"

"What? Oh, you - ! Bye, Laine."

Through her friendís laughter, Faith heard her say goodbye and hung up. As she headed to the shower, she thought about what her friend had said, "Sexy, huh? Well, maybe." She shook her head, chuckling, and stepped into the bathroom.

When Faith walked to their table, Richard whistled, Pennyís eyes got wide and Laine said, "Damn, woman, I said sexy, not slutty! You really look fine!"

"Thanks, just something I threw on."

Richard erupted in laughter, "Oh, yeah, girl! But I think you missed a few buttons in the throwing. Laineís right, you look great! Why do I get the feeling that you didnít dress for us tonight, but someone else?"

Faith batted her eyes and said, "Whatever do you mean?" while putting her hand to her chest.

Richard put his hand up, "Donít even try the innocent act, sister. Letís look at the facts, shall we? One - the luxurious reddish blonde hair is fluffed and brushed to a brilliant shine; two - a little larger-than-you manís white cotton dress shirt unbuttoned mid-way, tucked in gracefully; three - skin tight jeans that look painted on; four - black boots shined to a gleam; and five - make up lightly done, but enabling those awesome emeralds to sparkle. Did I miss anything? Oh, yes, six - your entrance was noticed by quite a few heads that turned when you came in, but I only saw one person hold her breath and lick her lips while her eyes followed you over here. Now - did I miss anything?"

All of them began to laugh, Faith included, as she put her arms around Richard and kissed his forehead. "Youíre good! No, I donít think you missed a thing." She looked up as the waiter set a drink in front of her. "From Randi," he said when she looked at him questioningly. Three faces pinned her with their eyes as they leaned in and said, in unison, "Whoís Randi?"

Laine added, "Yeah, do we know yet?"

"Well, uh, yeah, I found out today."

"Today? How?"

Faith put her head down while Laine brought Richard and Penny up-to-date. Once sheíd finished, Penny took the lead and said, "Cool. Now give. Howíd you find out?"

"I was in town today shopping for my apartment and had lunch -"

"Here, of course, right?" asked Richard.

"Yeah, and during the course of conversation I found out who Randi is."

"And that is?", asked Laine.

"Youíll never believe it, sheís - " Faith paused as she felt eyes staring at her back. She didnít have to turn around to know who it was.

"I know who it is," said Richard. Heíd noticed Faith stiffening as she paused and looked to find the reason. The cobalt blue eyes he found staring at his friend solved the mystery when he remembered her reaction to Faithís entrance earlier.

Penny and Laine looked at them. "Well, dammit, one of you tell us!"

Richard sat quietly with a Cheshire cat smile on his face. Faith picked up her glass, turned to the bartender, and raised her glass. Randi nodded a Ď youíre welcomeí at her Ďthank you,í and then went back to work. Both Penny and Laineís jaws hit the table. "Oh my God!", said Penny.

"Youíre kidding!" said Laine.

"Nope, I introduced myself today and asked her name. I almost swallowed my tongue when she told me."

Richard grinned evilly when he said, "Bet it was hers you wanted to swallow!"

"Richard!" Faith slapped him on the shoulder. "You slut!"

"Look whoís talking!"

Faith suddenly got a worried look on her face as she asked them, "Are you sure I didnít go over the line tonight? I donít want to scare her off or appear too forward."

They all shook their heads, but Penny jumped in first, "Wipe the worry off your face, Faith. You look great, you found just the right mix - cool and hot. Donít you think you ought to give her a proper thank you for your drink?"

"Thatís right, you should." Laine agreed.

"Ya think?"

Everyone nodded their heads. Faith took a deep breath and let it out slowly, "OK, here goes! Wish me luck."

Richard smiled, "Girl, you donít need it."

Faith smiled and got up. She felt them watching as she approached the solitary end of the bar where sheíd been earlier that day. She stood in the opening where Randi had been. After she had finished with a customer, Randi saw movement in the corner of her eye. As she turned she lost her breath the way she had when Faith had walked in, "My God, what sheís doing to me!"

As Randi walked towards her, Faith saw her eyes move up and down her body appreciatively, taking in every part of her. Faith felt a warmth start at her toes and flow throughout her body, coming out on her face as a film of sweat broke out above her lip. She took a couple of deep breaths and let them out quickly as she tried to lower her body temperature. "Iíve never had anyone affect me this way; what she does to me!" She saw the pointed tips of black boots stop in front of her, a husky voice said, "Hi."

Her eyes took in black boots, black jeans, a violet blouse tied at the waist that covered full breasts, a tan neck and blue eyes that were boring into hers.

"Hi there. Iím back."

The eyes crinkled as she smiled, "So I see. You look awesome."

"Thanks and thank you for the drink."

"Youíre welcome. Your friends seemed anxious for your arrival."

"I had some trouble with my car and Laine had already left when I tried to call her."

"You arenít roommates?"

"No, we knew each other as undergrads and we both transferred here to complete our masterís. Sheís a good friend."

"Oh, I see. Are the other two students also?"

"Yep, weíre all slogging through the next couple of years together."

"Thatís good that youíve got a support group."

"Come meet everyone." Faith took her hand and felt Randi squeeze it, "Maybe later, Iíve got more customers so Iíve got to go."

"Oh, sorry, I didnít mean to keep you away from your job so long."

"I didnít mind. Iíll come over when thereís a lull in the action," Randi noticed she hadnít let go of her hand so she squeezed it again and drew hers back, "Gotta go."

"OK. Hope you get a chance later to meet my friends."

Faith headed back to her friends who had watched the conversation with great interest. "So howíd it go?", they asked.

Faith smiled, "Iím walking on air! Sheís going to try to come over and meet you guys if she gets a chance." She looked at Laine, "Would you trade me seats?"

"Yeah, sure, but - oh, never mind, you like the view from my chair, huh?"

Faithís smile grew wider, "Well, you know I donít like having my back to a door, but Iíd really like to be able to see the bar."

"Bullshit, the bar. You want to see her."

Sheepishly, she admitted, "Well, yeah. What can I say?"

They traded seats and Faith saw Randi flying up and down the bar. The happy hour crowd was thirsty and seemed to be trying to drink The Rock dry. She had her raven hair tied loosely into a ponytail at the base of her neck, and it was lifting off her neck with the speed of her movement.

Around 8:30, The Rock was practically empty except for a couple of customers at the bar and Faithís group at the table. Randi was almost to their table before Faith saw her. She grinned and said, "Hi, glad you got a chance to come over. Can you join us for a bit?" Randi grabbed a chair from a nearby table and pulled it between Faith and Richard; when she sat down her thigh was pressed against Faithís thigh. Faith introduced her to everyone and as she finished pointing at each person, she let her hand drift to Randiís thigh. Randi tensed her thigh slightly and relaxed it, "I like this - almost too much -what am I saying? No such thing as Ďtooí much!" she thought.

Richard and Penny were comparing schedules to work out riding together while Faith and Laine were talking to Randi. She was telling them that the second wave would arrive in about thirty minutes, "and then Iíll be flying until last call." As she spoke, Faith moved her hand to the mid-point of her thigh. Randi put her hand on top of hers to stop any further movement; her body was feeling the heat of her hand through her jeans and she wasnít sure how much more contact she could stand. Faith heard "Analysis of Brit Lit" and she perked up, "Whoís taking Analysis of Brit Lit?"

"I am," Richard answered.

"So am I. What time?" she asked.

"The 10:00."

"Me too! Great, itíll be fun!"

"Donít get too excited. Have you heard about the professor - Dr. Suzanne? Sheís the only one who teaches it."

"OK, so whatís the problem?"

"While I was registering, the guy in front of me almost passed out when he was told who the prof was. Apparently, heís having to take the class again - he said sheís the hardest prof on campus."

"Maybe he expected to skate. I reserve judgment until the first class. Why did you believe him - oh wait - was he cute?"

Richard gave a half-grin, "Well, he did have a nice ass."

Everyone, including Randi, began to laugh as a blush crept up Richardís neck. "We shouldíve known!" roared Penny. The laughter slowly died down, and Randi noticed the time.

"Iíve enjoyed the break, guys, but Iíve got to get going. The second wave is about to hit. Iíll send one of the guys over with another round - on the house."

"Hey, no, thatís not necessary," said Laine.

"Iíd like to; besides, I know the owner. She wonít have a problem with it." Randi squeezed Faithís shoulder and leaned down to whisper in Faithís ear, "Will you come over later if you get the chance?"

Faith smiled up at her, Randiís breath caught as she looked into fire bright emeralds, "Sure."

After sheíd left, Laine leaned over the table, "Whatíd she say to you?"

"She asked me to come over to the bar later if I got the chance."

"Well, donít let us stop you," Penny teased.

Later, as she was returning from the ladies room, Faith saw the three of them with their heads together. They were nodding and then looked at Randi....more nodding. As she approached the table, she heard Penny say, "Sounds like a plan."

"What plan?" she asked.

They all jumped a little at the sound of her voice, "What? Oh - uh - we were just, uh-h, planning some car pooling for classes," Laine explained.

"Really? Laine, why did the sight of you three with your heads together strike fear in my heart? Why do I get the feeling you guys are up to no good?" She grinned at the trying-to-look-innocent trio. "Keep trying, you guys; youíll look innocent some day!"

Things really began to jump in the bar about thirty minutes later, the dance floor was filling and the noise level had increased, but was not uncomfortable. Richard asked Faith to dance as Celine Dionís "River Deep, Mountain High" began to play. He had requested it because he knew it was one Faith liked to dance to and he needed to get her away from the table. Penny and Laine saw Randi watch them get on the dance floor.

"Boy, she doesnít miss much, does she?", Penny said.

"Nope, but not only where Faith is concerned. Did you see her with those two drunks that walked in earlier? She had Ďem stopped before they were two steps in the door! Sheís definitely a pro at this," Laine said admiringly.

Penny grinned and wiggled her eyebrows. "Really?"

"Oh, no, donít get that look on your face, Penny," Laine laughed, "besides the fact that Iím into guys, Iíd never do such a thing to my best friend. I just appreciate someone who excels at their job - makes me envious."

"I know, I was just yanking your chain, honí. Weíd better get this plan into action before they come back. You want to talk to her or shall I?"

"Letís both do it, you act as lookout while I talk to Randi."

"Good idea."

On the dance floor, Faith saw Randi watching her in between customers. On those occasions, sheíd make sure her moves looked as sensuous as possible and saw an arched eyebrow from Randi when she did. "Youíre bad." Richard whispered in her ear. At the questioning look from her, he smiled and said, "I see what youíre doing, and I see what itís doing to her."

"Hey, whatíre Laine and Penny doing at the bar?"

"Probably getting drinks." Richard turned away after answering. When he saw them heading back to the table, with drinks, he grinned. The plan had started.

They came back to the table, red and breathless. Faith saw shot glasses and knew why theyíd been to the bar. "Oh, my God, weíre not going to go crazy with shooters, are we?" Faith groaned.

"No, donít worry, those of us driving need to keep our heads. We thought two split four ways would be okay, though." Penny explained.

"What is it?" Richard asked.

"Itís called a "tumbler", Randi said it was the house special." Laine said.

"OK, so do you want to toast?" Richard asked.

"Sure," they all agreed, "To what?"

Richard had a gleam in his eye when he said, "To a plan coming together....and good friends, of course."

Faith looked at him, not really understanding the first part, but raised her glass. They clinked glasses and threw back the shooters.

"Excellent!" they said and then their attention was drawn to the waiter standing by Faithís chair. He handed her a note and said, "I was asked to wait for an answer."

She unfolded it and read:

Faith,

Since your carís on the blink, would you like that ride

on a Harley?

R.

"How did she know? I never told her that part," she thought. Suddenly, she understood the first part of Richardís toast and knew what her friendsí plan had been. Looking at them with a mischievous grin, she said to the patient waiter, "The answer is - thanks, Iíd love to. And thank you for delivering this." She fixed the waiter with a dazzling smile and pressed a bill into his hand. He bent down to whisper in her ear, "All of us here would do anything for Randi. In all these years, youíre the first sheís shown an interest in. Please donít hurt her."

"I have no intention of doing anything like that, I assure you." He could tell by the honesty in her green eyes that she meant it and smiled at her. "Good luck." He left to deliver her answer and she turned to her friends.

"OK, so which one of you sneaks came up with this little Ďplaní?"

They looked at each other and Penny asked, "Why? Are you going to kick their ass?"

"Hell, no, Iíll probably kiss Ďem," she said smiling.

Laine answered, "Actually, we all did. I was telling Richard and Penny the story about the bike while you were up talking to Randi, how youíd ended up taking a cab here and so one thing led to another...."

"Uh, Iím sure it did. I told you that the sight of the three of you with your heads together was trouble."

"Are you sorry?"

"No!"

The three of them laughed at her instantaneously adamant answer. Penny said, "That wasnít just a NO, that was a HELL NO!"

"You got that right, girl!" Richard added a "Z" snap to that and all of them laughed.

Laine, Richard, and Penny stayed until 11:00, but had stopped drinking earlier since they were all driving. They said their good-byes to Faith. She hugged them all and said thanks to Laine.

"You sure youíre going to be okay?"

"Iím sure."

"Well, have fun."

"Iím sure of that, too."

As she disappeared out the door, she hollered to Faith, "Call me tomorrow!" Faith smiled and waved her out. She spotted the same empty chair at the far end of the bar. She had just settled into the chair, when a familiar, yet unwanted, voice assailed her ears.

"Thatís Randiís chair...."

She spun around in the chair quickly, "Let me guess, and she doesnít allow anyone to sit here." She narrowed her eyes at him, "Believe me, Tim, if she wants me to move, I will." About that time, Randi arrived. Quickly taking in the situation, she addressed Tim.

"Sheís a friend of mine, Tim. Stop it...NOW."

Faith saw his Adamís apple move up and down as he swallowed, "Sorry." He moved away and Randi looked at Faith, "Sorry Ďbout that. Can I get you something?"

"No need to apologize. I think I shocked him that I knew his name, but thanks for what you said, it was very nice. Um - how Ďíbout a Pepsi?"

"I meant it.... You are a friend. Be right back."

Randi was back quickly, but when she set the glass down, Randi said, "This is from him."

Faith followed her nod down the bar and saw James raising a glass to her. She pushed the drink back to Randi. "Tell him thanks, but no thanks, would you?"

Randi raised one side of her mouth and said, "With pleasure."

Faith saw her return the drink and deliver her message. James turned red, said something to Randi and stormed out of the bar. Randi dumped the drink in the sink, waited on some customers, and made her way back to Faith.

"Well, he wasnít happy, as you saw. You sure you donít mind waiting on me?"

"Are you kidding? For a chance to sit behind - uh, I mean, sit on that dream, let alone have a ride with .... no, I donít mind at all." Faith mentally slapped herself in the head, "Youíre rambling and you almost put your foot in it - again! Slow down, girl; keep it cool."

Randi smiled at her and said, " Itíll be over soon, gotta go, be back when I can." She returned quickly and set a Pepsi down in front of Faith, smiled, and went back to her customers.

Faith saw the workings of the bar through the night. She was able to watch Randi as much as she wanted; she continued to marvel at her expertise. When she saw her switch out kegs in her tap, she sucked in her breath as she watched the muscles throughout her back and shoulders ripple. "No wonder she can handle the bike, God, she is awesome." She let out a breath and glanced around the slowly emptying bar.

Half an hour later, Randi strolled down to her and said, "Things are slowing down sooner than expected, so weíll probably close early. Would you like to go to breakfast before I take you home?"

"You wouldnít be too tired?"

"No, it always takes me a good couple of hours to unwind after work; longer if itís been a really busy night. So would you let me take you to breakfast?"

"No, I donít think so...."

Randi looked shocked and stammered, "Uh, ok, I didnít mean -" She stopped when Faith put a hand on her waist. "No, hey, what I meant was Iíll take you to breakfast. Itís only fair, since Iím inconveniencing you for a ride."

The smile Randi gave Faith made her breath catch in her throat, "Itís not an inconvenience. I offered."

"Well, you had a little help. Those three nuts could talk an Eskimo into buying an icemaker."

"Iím happy to help. I was going to offer earlier, but I thought one of your friends would give you a ride, I didnít want to intrude."

"It wouldnít have been an intrusion, and I really appreciate it."

"My pleasure. Gotta go."

"OK."

Randi gave last call fifteen minutes later, there was a little grumbling, but the regulars knew enough not to argue with her. They appreciated her because she took care of them, knew what they drank and would cut them off for their own good if necessary. The customers, in turn, took care of her. Her tip jars were jammed with bills and change.

After she locked the door, the waiters started to clean up and put the chairs upside down on the tables. Randi stopped by Faith with a case of beer in her hands, "Let me stock my cooler and clean up behind here and Iíll be ready to go."

"Take your time; Iím in no rush."

Randi had almost finished when the last waiter was ready to leave. She threw her keys to Faith, who snatched them out of the air. "Impressive reflexes." Randi thought. Aloud she said, "Would you let him out, Faith? Silver key." Faith relocked the door after the waiter and asked, "Anything I can do to help?"

"No, thanks, Iím just finishing with these glasses and Iím done."

"OK."

Randi walked out of an office marked "Private" with a black leather jacket and helmet.

"Here, you take the helmet," she said as she tucked her hair down the back of her jacket.

"Oh, here are your bar keys." Faith extended her hand to Randiís open palm. As she put the keys in Randiís hand, her nails lightly scratched Randiís palm. Both felt the shiver that went through them as Randi snatched her hand away. They stood staring at each other, not moving. Faith looked into sparkling blue eyes and took a step closer. Randi took a deep breath and softly put her hand to Faithís cheek. Faith looked up at her and stepped closer again, her right hand went to Randiís waist, looping a finger through a belt loop and pulling Randi toward her until their bodies were a hairís breadth from touching. Randi ran her right hand over Faithís blond locks and took another deep breath.

"Um, this is dangerous, I think we need to leave."

"Dangerous?"
"I donít want to go tearing down the road, so to speak."

"Ah-h, yeah; time to slow down, huh?"

"Yep."

"I agree, Iím ready when you are."

Outside, there was no traffic on the street and the moon was shining brightly. Randi flipped down the passenger pegs after she started the motorcycle. Faith climbed on and put her hands around Randiís waist. She felt the warmth of Randiís body seep through her hands and thighs. Randi rode the quiet streets of Gallipolis for about ten minutes. Then she was pulling up in front of a small all-night cafe.

"I stop here occasionally; the coffee is great and the food is better." Randi looked down when she heard a rumble. "Was that you?" she asked with a grin.

Faith felt the redness creep up her face. "Uh, yeah, it gives me away sometimes. Sorry Ďbout that."

"What are you sorry for? Youíre hungry - nothing wrong with that. Come on, letís take care of it." Randi smiled and put her arm around Faithís shoulders.

The cafe was empty except for a waitress reading at the counter. She raised her head at the sound of the door and smiled. "Hey, Randi, long time no see. Coffee?"

"Please, Gloria, two. Thanks."

Randi led Faith to a booth in the back. After they were seated, Gloria arrived with their coffee and two menus. She said sheíd give them a few minutes and walked away.

She returned later, took their orders, refilled their coffee cups, and left them alone.

"So tell me about yourself, Faith."

Faith gave a small smile, "I feel like all Iíve done the last few days, especially tonight, is talk about myself. Surely, youíre bored hearing me talk."

"Not in the least. Actually, youíve a lovely voice. Iíd like to know more about you."

Faith began to glow at the compliment, she looked at her lap and then felt Randiís hand beneath her chin, lifting her face to her eyes. "Whatís wrong?"

"Youíre so complimentary of me. As you can tell, I donít take compliments easily. Iím surprised you donít think red is my true skin tone."

"Have you forgotten all the compliments youíve paid me? I havenít."

"A few of those you werenít supposed to hear," she said sheepishly.

"I know, but I did. They were nice to hear and you blush beautifully...see, just like that." Randi smiled brightly at Faithís red face. "OK, letís change the subject; tell me about your family."

"I grew up in a large family in a small town; not a good combination if you want privacy or are trying to figure out who you are or what you want to be. One of the reasons I went to college was to get away from people with a preconceived notion of who I was supposed to be by comparing me to the rest of my family. Once I got out, I never looked back."

"That bad, huh?"

"Not really my family, but taken along with the town - oh, yeah. I stay in touch and visit occasionally, but things with my mother will never be the same."

"What happened?"

"Sheís not dealing well with my lifestyle."

"I see. What about your father?"

"He died eight years ago. Mother and I had gotten quite close afterwards, we hadnít been when I was a child, and I thought of her as a friend, but that changed when I told her."

Randi could tell that this was an extremely hard story for Faith to tell and wanted to comfort her in some way. She reached across the table and grasped her hand, "Iím sorry."

Faith gave her a little smile, but pulled her hand away as the waitress approached with their food. They were quiet for a few minutes as they began to eat. Faith quietly put her fork down, looked at Randi with unshed tears in her eyes and said, " Iím sorry, Iíve never told anyone that before. I thought I had those feelings locked away and could talk about it in a detached way. Obviously, I was wrong."

"Faith, Iím sorry. I didnít mean to re-open old wounds. Forgive me for asking."

"Nothing to forgive, Randi. I couldíve given you the sanitized version I give anyone else, but something told me not this time. I reinvented myself after that and went along my way."

"Believe me when I say I know how much it hurts when a loved one rejects you because of a choice you make."

Randi saw Faith visibly shake her shoulders, sit up straighter and say, "OK, enough of that - new topic...."

"Whatís that?"

"You."

"Oh God."

Faith chuckled, "Donít worry, Iím not going to ask for your deepest, darkest secret. Tell me about bartending."

"Ah-h, something easy. In twenty years, Iíve worked in just about every kind of place that serves alcohol, from bowling alleys to warehouse size dance clubs. I really like The Rock; itís a good size, good people, and hours that allow me flexibility."

"How many days a week do you work?" Once the subject had changed, they both had begun to eat again and were soon finished. Gloria had kept their cups topped off, but as she approached again, Randi asked for the check.

"Usually, three - four days a week, less if I want or more - depending on my mood. Lately, Iíve been running six days, people are on vacation and I wanted to keep busy."

Faith pulled money from her pocket and laid it on the check. "Iím ready when you are."

"OK, Iím finally unwinding. Thanks for breakfast."

"Youíre welcome. Iíve enjoyed it."

As they left the cafe and approached the bike, Randi asked, "How tired are you?"

"Not very, surprisingly, Iíve gotten my second wind, I think. What did you have in mind?" A familiar glint in her eyes made Randi smile.

"Has anyone ever told you that youíre bad?" Randi ran her hand over Faithís hair.

"Oh hell yes, all the time!"

"And you say it with such pride!" She ruffled her hair lightly. "I wanted to show you something....and get your mind out of the gutter, thatís not what I meant either."

"Damn! You take all the fun out of life." Faith tried to act like she was pouting. Randi ran her finger lightly over Faithís extended bottom lip and stepped up to her. In a husky voice, she said, "Oh, I can be very fun."

Faith looked into sparkling sapphire eyes, "Oh-h, whoís being bad now?"

"I am....I freely admit it," she grabbed Faithís hand, "come on, timeís almost up."

"Weíre on a time schedule?"

"Sort of," Randi got on and started the bike. "Get on and hold on tight." Faith did as she was told, she sat close and gripped Randiís waist tightly.

Randi worked her way out of town as quickly as she could. Once on the open road, she let the bike go, and they went flying down an old state route that connected the city with the university grounds.

Faith leaned in close to Randiís back since her body was acting as a partial wind break. She was still getting a breeze going over her and knew her body was reacting to the chill. Randi felt Faith snuggle closer to her and felt hardened nipples through the back of her jacket. Warmth began in her stomach and spread downwards, she felt herself getting wet. "God, Iíve got to slow this down! How is it she can affect me this way so quickly?", she thought. Faith felt Randiís shiver and wrapped her arms around Randiís middle snugly; she felt tight abs through her shirt and a familiar tingle began in the pit of her stomach.

In about thirty-five minutes, Faith found herself on top of the hill that held the universityís sports facility. Randi drove out a dirt track past the building to the very peak of the hill and stopped the motorcycle. When she shut it down, the silence was deafening, and Faith removed the helmet, shaking her hair out. Randi saw the action out of the corner of her eye. She swung her leg over and leaned against the bike. Faith followed her example and slipped her arm beneath Randiís jacket to snake around her waist. Randi put her arm around Faithís shoulders, pointed at the apex of the mountains just in front of them. "Watch." As she spoke, Faith saw the sky start to lighten and all the colors of the rainbow seemed to erupt from the apex and sides of the mountains.

"Oh, my God, itís beautiful!"

"Itís part of the reflection off the universityís observatory and greenhouse set there on the side of the mountains."

They continued to watch as the colors brightened and the rays of the sun began to bathe them in warmth. Randi allowed her hand to find Faithís ear and softly stroke its curve up and down. Chills ran over Faithís body and she shivered. "Cold?" asked Randi as she felt the shiver and looked down at Faith.

"No."

"You sure?" Faith looked up at her smirk and then followed her gaze down to her chest. "Before you say it, yes, Iím being bad again."

"Yes, you sure are!" Faith reddened and crossed her arms in front of her chest.

"Donít do that on my account, Faith." The husky tone was back in Randiís voice and created another shiver that ran through Faithís body. Randi moved in front of Faith, effectively blocking out the sun, but also at the same time, creating a halo effect around her.

Faith looked up and her breath caught in her throat, "By the gods, you are beautiful," she said. She reached up to stroke Randiís cheek, but stopped when she saw the quizzical expression. "Whatís wrong?"

"What an unusual thing to say...by the gods...where did that come from?"

Faith chuckled uncertainly, embarrassed by her slip, "Iím not really sure, probably from some research I was doing about ancient Greek bards."

"Whoa, light reading, huh?"

Gaining confidence, Faith smiled, "Not exactly, but it was very interesting. Iím a journalism and history - ancient history - major. I guess some of what Iíve read has stuck; that happens sometimes when I read."

"A double major? Iím impressed."

"Donít be, oh...." She tried to stifle a yawn, "my, Iím sorry, guess the hours are catching up to me."

"No, Iím sorry. Iíve really kept you out longer than I intended. Iím sure you have lots to do. Come on, Iíll take you home."

"I donít have too much to do, but I donít want to be falling asleep and then tumbling off the bike."

Randi wrapped her arms around her, inhaling a light floral scent from her hair, "I wouldnít let you fall off, but Iíd say we both need some sleep. Come on." Randi climbed back on, started the bike; the roar seemed even louder in the early dawn. Faith snuggled up close to her and grasped her waist; she felt the thrum of the engine between her legs and it helped move the warmth throughout her body. "Iíll not soon forget this day," she thought.

Randi was having much the same thoughts; she felt captivated by this young, vibrant woman. Never in her life had she had someone affect her this quickly or deeply. It was a bit disconcerting for her, "Just being this close is enough to blow my control. Come on, Randi, regroup! Letís get it together. Keep that control for a while longer." Randi prided herself on being in control. When nothing else had gone right for her, she could always count on controlling herself. This situation with Faith was trying to rob her of this control, and she knew - deep down - she wouldnít allow it.

Faith could feel the storm running through Randiís mind. She felt the muscles of Randiís stomach twitch and harden, they seemed to match the rest of her body language. As much as sheíd enjoyed the time theyíd spent together, she knew that for both of them, in a space of five days, it was going too fast. "Just like a downhill runaway locomotive." She knew it had been a long time since sheíd been attracted to, let alone want to get to know someone, and she got the feeling it was the same for Randi.

The sound of the motorcycle roared through the quiet of Faithís neighborhood. In a village of mostly retirees and college students, she had been lucky enough to find a large, open studio in a carriage house rented to her by one of the long residing retirees. Randi shut off the bike so as to not wake everyone in the neighborhood when she pulled to the side of the carriage house. Faith took hold of her hand after she was off the bike.

"I canít tell you how nice it was to share the sunrise with you. I had a wonderful time tonight....uh, today....hell, you know what I mean!", she felt the glow begin again.

Randi squeezed her hand and used her other hand to stroke her cheek. "I really enjoyed it, too. I want to see you again, if I may."

"Of course, Iíd like that, too."

"Faith?"

"Yes?"

Randi hesitated and the color of nervousness began to darken her tan cheeks, "Iíd like one more thing...."

"Whatís that?"

"Iíd like to kiss you." She let go of Faithís hand and brought her other hand to Faithís face, waiting for an answer.

Faith found herself almost drowning in the sapphire-like eyes that held hers. She bent forward and Randiís lips met hers halfway. Two pairs of soft lips met and caressed, neither taking more than was offered. Both felt the charge of electricity that moved down their spines at the meeting of their lips. Randi drew back and ran her thumb lightly over Faithís bottom lip, "Goodnight, sleep well."

"You, too. Iíll see you soon."

Faith watched as Randi started the motorcycle and backed out of the drive. She waved and unlocked her apartment door. She headed straight to her bedroom, shucking off her clothes as she went. She crawled into bed and she was asleep before her head hit the pillow, her mind spinning with thoughts of sapphire eyes and blue-black hair.

When Faith woke later, she picked up her strewn clothes, threw them in the hamper and sat down to check her e-mail. The blinking of her answering machine caught her eye as she waited for her server to connect. Her messages began to play as she listened.

"Faith? Hey, girl, itís Laine. Not home yet, huh? Itís about 5 AM, Iím going out for a run. Hope youíre having a good time! Give me a call!"

Three more calls, on the half hour, were from Laine. Each one seeming more urgent, until the last. "Faith! Where the hell are you, girl? Itís almost 7AM! Oh, you know, I want all the dirt now! Details, girl, details! Call me!"

She finished checking her e-mail and called Laine. Having no need to identify herself as her friend answered, she said, "So you want details, huh?"

"Faith! So when did you finally get home, you hussy?", her friend said with a laugh.

"A little after your last message. Worried about me?"

"No, I figured you were in good hands. So-o-o, what happened?"

"We had a real nice time." She knew this would drive her friend mad.

"Thatís all youíre going to give me? Come on!"

"Thatís all Iím saying over the phone, you nut! Iíve got to hit the bookstore today. Why donít you meet me and weíll grab some lunch at the Student Center?"

"Sounds great. Iíve got to pick up my books, too. How Ďbout an hour?"

"Good, itíll give me time to shower. I just woke up. Iíll meet you in front of the bookstore at 1:00 then?"

"See ya then."

Faith saw her friendís smile as she approached the bookstore. Laine was pointing to a car in the fire lane.

"I wonder which of the security guys will have the balls to ticket that car? Who on campus would do it? I suppose whoever could afford that, could afford the ticket! You can have Randiís Harley, Iíll take this."

ĎThisí was a metallic black Jaguar XJE with leather interior. Parking in the fire lane, especially on campus, was a major "no-no".

"Hate to break it to you, Laine, but Iíd take that and Randiís Harley!" She laughed as they entered the bookstore. Neither of them saw the cerulean blue eyes that widened and followed their movements across the store. Faith felt a tingle in her spine as if she were being watched, but when she glance about the crowded store, she saw no one she recognized.

As she was picking up her final book, the one for her Analysis of British Literature class, she noticed the author was M. Suzanne and then she heard Slim, the bookstore manager, say, "Iíll get it. Have a good day, Dr. Suzanne." She turned to get a glimpse of her professor, but only saw the door closing. Then she saw legs through the half-window heading for the black Jag. Grabbing her friendís hand, "Laine, look!", she went to the window. She saw well-defined calves in black pumps approach the car. "Wow! Nice legs." Laine, who was standing next to her, slapped her on the shoulder. "Donít you have enough? You are a hussy!"

"Hey, I was just looking. I appreciate beauty, thatís all!"

"Yeah, yeah. So who is it?"

"Dr. Suzanne, my prof for Analysis. She wrote her own textbook."

"Maybe thatís how she affords the car." Laine laughed.

"I donít think so, itís not a required class and itís the cheapest book in my stack!"

"No shit?"

"No shit. Itís also the only one with a coverleaf, so Iíll have a little history. Might help me figure out why that guy told Richard that story."

"Uh-huh, keep talking."

"Oh, stop it. Iím not a monk, but Iím quite happy seeing Randi."

"Which reminds me. Letís get out of here. You owe me details!"

"Owe you? Weíll see!"

Over lunch in the Rathskellar, affectionately called the ĎRat Cellarí by students since it was in the basement of the Student Center, Faith gave her friend an overview of the previous night sheíd had with Randi. Although she didnít go into specific detail, she did share her concerns with her friend of the speed at which the relationship seemed to be growing.

"So what do you want to do?" asked Laine.

"What else can I do? Slow it down somehow," answered Faith.

"How?"

"Now, that is the $64,000 question, my friend."

Laine saw the concern on her face, but was stymied for possible suggestions to help her friend.

Faith gave an exasperated sigh, "I donít want to avoid her. I like The Rock and, God knows, I like her...."

"So? Keep going, just donít make a night of it."

"Thatís an idea, and with classes starting soon, that will keep me busy."

"Sure thing. Have you gotten your grad assignment yet?"

"No, I checked with Mrs. Lowe and she said I should be getting it any day now in the mail. Have you?"

"Yeah, unfortunately. They assigned me to the ĎSecret Squirrelí." Laine grimaced.

"Oh, no! Not him!" Faith commiserated with her friend, the professor known as the ĎSecret Squirrelí was known to be a tyrant to grad assistants, especially if they were female. His beady eyes and little sharp teeth had earned him the moniker, besides the knowledge - unbeknownst to him - everyone had about his haunting gay bars on the weekends, trying to pick up students.

"I donít know why they ever gave that idiot tenure." Laine said.

"Desperation, probably."

"Yeah, or else he has dirt on the board of trustees."

They both laughed as pictures of the distinguished men of the board and what the Ďdirtí may have been played through both their minds. "Yuck!"

"OK, enough of this craziness. Iíve got to get home and start things rolling so Iím ready for class." Faith said.

"Nuts. If youíre going to be so prepared, I guess I will, too."

They walked to their cars and said goodbye.

As Faith drove up to her apartment, she saw her landlady approaching her car. She smiled at the elderly, but still active woman.

"Hi, Mrs. Brown, whatís up?"

"There was a delivery here earlier for you, Faith. Since you werenít home, I signed for them. Just give me a second and Iíll be right back."

Faith swung her backpack onto her shoulder as she wondered what kind of delivery thereíd been and why Mrs. Brown said Ďthemí.

"I was quite taken with them. I believe you have an admirer, Faith, or could it be that lovely young woman on the motorcycle?"

Faith turned as she heard the older womanís voice. Her mouth dropped open when she saw a sky blue crystal vase with a dozen white roses in the old womanís hands. Then her head registered all that the woman said, "My God, theyíre lovely. Iím sorry if we woke you this morning."

"Oh, no, my dear. Iíve always been up with the sun. No worries. So, who do you think sent them?"

"I really donít know..."

Mrs. Brownís eyes sparkled, "So read the card, my dear! Donít keep an old woman in suspense!"

Faith laughed and pulled the card from the envelope, a faint blush began to creep up her neck as she read the card:

Faith,

Couldnít get you out of my mind. I really

enjoyed last night, hope we can do it again.

Love-

Randi

Mrs. Brown could hardly contain herself, "Well, is it she? The lovely one on the motorcycle?"

Not trusting her voice, Faith nodded. The older woman gasped and pulled Faith into a hug. "Thatís marvelous! Now, you go on in and set them where you can enjoy them. They have a lovely scent!" Releasing Faith, she went back to her house.

Faith gripped the vase tightly as she unlocked her door. She smiled as she thought of Mrs. Brownís reaction to Randi. She really liked Mrs. Brown; they had hit it off right away when Faith was apartment hunting. Mrs. Brown immediately offered the carriage house to Faith at the beginning of the summer for as long as she needed it.

Once inside, she put the vase on the center of the dining table. It would be visible from every place in the studio. The sun coming through the windows cut through the crystal, bathing the walls in sky blue rainbows. Faith sat in a chair and looked at the roses, awestruck at their delicate beauty as the scent began to waft through the open spaces of the studio. "Couldnít get me out of her mind, huh?" She wondered if Randi had any idea that she felt the same way, but the intenseness of her feelings scared the hell out of her.

Later that night, as Faith lay on her bed, she saw a moonbeam coming through the skylight illuminate the roses, making them glow in an almost surreal way. She hugged her pillow and fell asleep with the memory of haloed sky blue eyes looking at her.

The next day she was up early so sheíd have the afternoon free. As much as she wanted to go slowly with her budding relationship with Randi, she also wanted to see her. She headed for The Rock in the early afternoon. When she entered the bar, she didnít see Randi, but saw the waiter who had spoken to her the other night. He nodded his head toward the office. She lifted her head in acknowledgment and then headed to the back where sheíd seen a pool table.

She dug quarters from her pocket and put up two sets so sheíd have time to shoot a little practice. Penny, Richard, Laine and she had an ongoing Ďtournament,í each trying to beat the others, but theyíd found they were all pretty evenly matched. She was lining up a combination when a tan arm reached around her and slowly dropped a set of quarters after hers. "Iíll be done here in a mo-...." she said as she turned around and stopped, caught by a half-smirk below crystal blue eyes.

"Care for a challenge game?" Randi said as the smirk turned into a brilliant smile. "Go ahead and finish your shot." Randi took a seat on a stool that was against the wall.

Faith tried to concentrate, but fluffed the shot. She turned around with a frown, "Damn, I never can get that shot."

"You cut it too hard. Otherwise, youíve got a pretty good eye."

"How did you -?" Faith followed Randiís pointing finger to a one way mirror at the other side of the office. Faith noticed the corner situation of the office allowed an unobstructed view of the main bar and back room through two windows, one on each wall.

"You sneak! You were watching me?!"

"We donít have many people back here during the day and then I happened to catch this reddish-blonde head walk by and..."

"Do you watch all the reddish-blondes?"

"No," there was that smirk again, "only the cute ones."

Faith tried to playfully punch Randiís arm, but found her fist caught by a strong, long fingered hand. She felt the heat through her fist and shivered. She lowered her eyes to the floor, took a deep breath and then raised her head again. "Thank you for the flowers, theyíre beautiful."

"They reminded me of you. Maybe I shouldíve sent pink - to match your blush." Randi looked in Faithís eyes and saw endearments of depth she didnít know was possible. "Iíll be right back." Randi walked away and Faith racked the table as she waited. A slow building, driving instrumental began to play through the barís sound system as Randi walked back in the room.

"I know this music," Faith said, "itís Yanniís ĎReflections of Passioní. I didnít see it the first night we were here."

"Itís a new, but old CD we had put on. You have a good ear, you know his music?" Randi seemed pleased.

"Do I ever! The first real concert I ever saw was his, he started his ĎDare to Dreamí tour where I was living at the time. Iíve got most of his music. Youíve got break....challenger."

Randi smiled and took a cue from the rack on the wall. After she sank three on the break and then two more, she missed the next shot and stepped back from the table. Faith looked at her slyly, "Why do I feel Iím in a tank with a shark?"

"Iíve played for a long time, just for fun."

"Uh-huh....for fun, Iíd hate to see you play seriously." Feeling the pressure, but enjoying the competition, Faith eyed the possible shots and sank six in a row. Randi tapped her on the shoulder with the tip of her stick, " And whoís the shark?"

"Nah, Iím lucky."

"Yeah, tell me another one, Iíve been watching, remember?"

"OK, maybe I was inspired." Faith smiled and Randi threw her head back with a throaty laugh which sent chills down Faithís spine. Randi was just over Faithís right shoulder, Faith felt hot breath on her ear, "And just what has been your inspiration?"

About that time, Faith recognized another of her favoriteís on the sound system. She turned her head, which put her lips close to Randiís, "Meatloaf? You donít miss much, do you?"

"I try not to." Randiís breath brushed her lips and they parted slightly. Faith was lost in the rush of fire in the pit of her stomach that was being fanned by her closeness to this magnificent, and very observant, woman. "So what else did you notice that night?"

"You mean besides how sweetly you blush?" Randiís eyes roamed Faithís face, embedding every part into her mind, settling on her lips. She took a step closer, Faith turned her body and took a step back, which put her against the table.

"I blush too damn much for my liking."

Randi stroked Faithís cheek with the back of her hand, "Youíre beautiful when you blush. I donít think weíre going to finish this game, are we?"

"I donít know, did you have something else in mind?"

"Maybe...." Randi brought her lips down to softly brush against Faithís and pulled back.

Faith put her hand at the back of Randiís neck, twining her fingers in the soft hair there. "Oh, no, you donít." She pulled Randiís lips back to hers. Faith parted her lips slightly as she pressed against Randiís; her tongue traced the outline of Randiís lips. She felt Randi wrap her arms around her and pull her close. Faith put her other hand on Randiís hip and drew her hips firmly against her own. They both sighed when the kiss was broken; Faith felt her control slipping and pulled back. She shuddered and put her forehead against Randiís chest. Randi stroked her back softly and heard Faith murmur, "Iíll give you an hour to stop that." Randi chuckled softly and put her finger under Faithís chin, "You make me wish I didnít have to work tonight, but Iíve got no one else who can. Iíd like the opportunity to rub your back for an hour....or longer." It was Faithís turn to chuckle and then she sighed as she looked into Randiís eyes, "Why do we do this? My timing sucks."

"Your timing? Faith, you havenít been alone here."

"I know, but I only wanted...." Faithís words died on her lips as Randi trailed her finger down her jaw line.

"Only wanted what?"

"Do that again," as Randi complied by trailing her finger down her jaw again, "I only wanted to see you. I thought if I came here early, I wouldnít be tempted."

"So Iím a temptation?" Randi teased as she locked her fingers at the base of Faithís spine and leaned back.

"Oh, if you only knew."

Randi softly touched the curve of Faithís ear with her lips, "Tell me."

"God....you tempt me with your beauty, your eyes, your body, your hands, and, oh God, your lips. Iíve never felt this way before, Randi, and it scares the hell out of me."

"That makes two of us."

"What? You --? Really?"

"Faith, itís been a very long time since Iíve been attracted to someone and I have never felt this way this deeply or this quickly. So, yes, I do understand....the fear is unreal."

"So what do we do?"

"Iím not sure, I want to say go with it, but not let it get away from us."

"Iíd like to try. I donít want to stop this feeling, but right now...."

"Right now is not the time or place for anything else."

"Exactly, I hope your boss hasnít been watching us all this time."

"Uh - Faith....actually, she has been."

"What?!" Faith pulled away from Randi, going to the other side of the pool table.

"Faith, calm down. Itís not a problem...."

"Not a problem?! Iím not an exhibitionist, Randi! What must she think?"

"Sheís thinks youíre beautiful," Randi moved around the table and put a hand on Faithís shoulder. "Itís not a problem, because I own the place."

Faith shook her head, not sure if she heard correctly, "You - own this place?"

"Yes. Itís not something thatís common knowledge, but I wanted to reassure you that having you in my arms wasnít seen."

Faith put her hand on top of Randiís, "Well, I am relieved. When you first said sheíd been watching....I freaked. I didnít want you, um.... compromised."

"Thatís sweet, dearheart."

Faith shivered at the endearment, "I donít care who sees me. I was enjoying myself immensely; sorry I freaked on you."

"Itís understandable. Donít worry about it. Now," she put her arms around Faith again and drew her close, "where were we?"

"Oh, no, weíre going to finish this game."

"OK, care for a little side bet?"

"And what might that be?"

"If I win, I get to kiss you again."

"What if I win?"

Randi appeared to think, "Then....you get to kiss me again."

"So either way, we both win, huh?"

"Just trying to be fair." Randi smiled and Faith gave her a quick peck on the cheek.

"Oh, by all means, letís be fair." She said smiling. "I think itís your shot."

Randi cleared her remaining balls and called her shot for the eight ball in the far corner. Faith leaned the tops of her thighs on either side of the pocket, Randi swallowed hard when she saw her, but grinned. "Are you trying to distract me, Faith?"

"Who? Me? No, the thought never crossed my mind, Randi."

"Uh-huh." Randi drew a deep breath and concentrated on her shot, trying to block the view of Faithís thighs from her mind.

Faith knew she was teasing Randi unmercifully, but she couldnít help herself. Her body was on fire and she knew she wanted this woman. The pocket vibrated by her thighs as Randi sank the eight ball without scratching.

Randi smiled, threw her cue on the table and stalked towards Faith like a lioness after prey. Faith began to back up, but Randi grabbed her waist and pulled her into her arms. "Going somewhere?", Randi purred in Faithís ear. Faith felt her mouth suddenly go dry as Randi enclosed her earlobe with her lips. Her knees threatened to buckle before she felt the wall behind her back. Randiís lips were soft, yet insistent, urging her lips to part. Faith heard another purr, "Let me in....please." As their tongues met tenderly, Randi ran her hands down the sides of Faithís body and dragged her nails back up her thighs and waist. A moan escaped from Faithís throat followed by one from Randi.

After long minutes of pressing their bodies and lips tightly together, they reluctantly broke apart for need of air. Randi, panting with the realization of intense emotion coursing through her body, laid her cheek against the top of Faithís head. Faith had her head resting against the rise of Randiís breast. Once their breathing had calmed, Randi said, "So what do you have planned for the rest of the week?"

"My classes start in three days. Iím getting things ready for that, and Iím waiting on my grad assignment."

"Sounds like youíre going to be very busy for awhile."

"Like I said, my timing sucks."

"Donít say that, Faith. Youíre fine - weíll be fine. What kind of schedule are you running?"

"Monday to Thursday I go from ten to four, on Friday I finish at two. I tried to keep Fridays open so I could have a long weekend, but a couple of my required classes meet five days a week."

"Starting at ten, huh? Not a morning person, are you?"

"Not really. Iíve always been a night owl...."

"The silence, the dark and then the sunrise making everything seem new and alive again."

"Thatís exactly it; how did you know?"

"Because Iím a night owl, too. I like the mornings okay, if I can start them at my leisure and donít have to hit the ground running."

Faith couldnít believe her ears, it was as though Randi had read her mind. She rubbed her cheek against the curve of Randiís breast and heard a sharp gasp. Her hands moved down her back and settled against the cheeks of Randiís derriere. At the same time she squeezed Randiís glutes, she brushed her mouth against the fullness of Randiís right breast. Faith felt the nipple harden and again heard a gasp. When she looked up, she saw Randiís eyes had closed. Removing her left hand from Randiís tempting and taut backside, she brushed a fingertip over her eyebrows and down to her cheekbone. Randiís breath came out in a rush, "Youíre not playing fair."

"Thatís because Iím not playing, Randi."

Randi opened her eyes and gazed at the shining emeralds looking into her soul. She saw a fire of desire reflected from deep within them. "My God, do you know what youíre doing to me?"

Faith smiled as she stroked a finger across Randiís lips, "Probably the same thing youíve been doing to me since you looked at me the first time I was here." Randi nipped at the finger stroking her lips, she caught it with her teeth and languorously ran her tongue the length of it. Faith pulled her close again and whispered, "Donít....stop." Randi took hold of the hand of the finger in her mouth and caressed it with her thumbs, "Do you really want me to stop?"

"God, no, of course not," Faith let out a breath she didnít know she was holding, "but if you donít Iím going to really lose it and you donít want me doing that."

"I donít?" Randi grinned mischievously.

Faith smiled, "Not here, you donít."

"Ah-h, I see your point. Dammit! Iíd forgotten for minute there."

"OK, as much as I hate to say this, you need to go back to work and I should leave."

"Please, donít....not yet. Come keep me company - at least until happy hour starts, ok? Itís totally selfish of me, but I would rather be busy when I have to say goodbye."

"There will never be a goodbye with us." Faith, herself, was shocked by what sheíd let slip out. She extricated herself from Randiís arms.

"Faith, whatís wrong?" Randi touched her back.

"Iím sorry, I shouldnít have said that. It was presumptuous of me."

"No, it wasnít. Not in the least. Come on, keep me company for awhile." Randi held out her hand.

Faith took her hand and Randi interlaced her fingers with Faithís and held her hand tightly as they went to the main bar.

As asked, Faith kept Randi company until happy hour got busy. While talking, they had avoided discussing their relationship any further. They both felt the unspoken passion lurking beneath their words and looks.

The waiters had noticed them coming out of the pool room flushed and holding hands. They exchanged knowing looks and traded what little information they had about Faith as they passed each other in the room. "Sheís a grad student," said one. "Sheís a looker and dresses well," said another. Cody, the one who delivered the note to Faith, said, "Randi likes her and thatís all that matters."

Faith kissed her fingertips and touched Randiís hand as she said goodbye - for now. Randi watched her walk away, speak quickly to Cody, and leave The Rock.

Randi had been busier than usual for a weeknight and was glad when it was time for last call. The evening had gone quickly and she hadnít had much time to think of Faith. As she was finishing her clean up, she noticed Cody glancing through the front windows occasionally. After about twenty minutes, she saw him look and his jaw drop, "Everything ok, Cody?"

"What? Yeah, just thought I saw someone I knew."

Cody and Randi were the last ones to leave that night. Cody stayed behind her as she locked the door. He stepped to the side to watch her face as she turned around. If her jaw had not been attached to her body, he was sure it wouldíve hit the sidewalk. Her eyes widened and she gaped, not believing her eyes. Cody smiled widely when he saw her reaction.

"What the hell?!" She walked slowly towards her bike which was covered with a blanket of white miniature roses.

"Randi, I think someone is trying to send you a message," said Cody.

She turned on him with raised eyebrows, "You knew about this?"

"No, not really...."

"What the hell does that mean?"

"All I did was supply our closing time, I didnít know that this was the plan. Come on, Randi, you canít be mad."

"No, Iím not. Iím flabbergasted."

"She got one up on you, huh?"

"You could say that. Wait a minute. Thatís why you kept looking out the window, wasnít it? What did she say to you?", she arched an eyebrow.

"She asked what time we usually closed and said sheíd be back. As it got later, I started to worry."

Randi shook her head in wonder, "What am I going to do now?"

"Be happy?"

She hugged him and began to laugh, "Yeah, I guess I am that."

When Faith got back to her apartment, she was too keyed up to sleep. She wondered what Randi thought of her surprise. Sheíd wanted to stick around and watch, but hadnít trusted herself to just sit and watch. She knew she lost all sense of reason when around the tall, dark, and intriguing woman that was capturing her heart and soul.

She gathered her books together, deciding to review them quickly and get a sense of the classes to come. She saved the Analysis of Brit Lit book for last since it had a coverleaf. When she flipped to the back of it, she found a listing of the professorís degrees.

"Princeton and Oxford...multiple degrees...damn, sheís got it going on," she thought as she read and then skimmed the book.

Always up for a challenge, she began to look forward to the class, it was to be her first of the new semester.

She jumped in her chair when she heard a motorcycle roar through her neighborhood, "Nah, couldnít be. It was definitely the sound of a Harley....nah, it wasnít - " Her thoughts were broken as the sound of the motorcycle came back down her street and faded away, then she knew it had to have been Randi, "Guess she found my little surprise." She smiled to herself and headed to bed.

The following day, she went to see Mrs. Lowe because she still had not received her grad assignment. Mrs. Lowe apologized and explained theyíd had to reorganize due to some problems with professors and students. "We wonít have everything done until after the tenth day of classes due to the drop/add timeframe. Iím sorry, Faith." She had assured the woman it was not a problem, sheíd just wanted to make sure they hadnít forgotten her interest in being a grad assistant.

"Youíre one of the persistent ones, Faith, I wonít forget and Iíll make sure you get a good professor."

Faith smiled at the woman who reminded her of what she and her own mother used to have, "I know youíll take care of me. Thanks, Mrs. Lowe; I appreciate it." Faith seemed to forget all the help sheíd given Mrs. Lowe and her office throughout the summer - filling in for missing people, running errands, and being an all-around jack-of-all-trades. For not having been on campus that long, during the summer months, she had acquired a reputation of one who would jump in to help in any office or situation. She had fans all over the college campus she didnít know about.

Her phone was ringing as she got home. Catching it while out of breath, she heard the sports facility secretary asking if she was free later. "We had a lifeguard cancel on us and weíve got a private group coming up. Would you mind?"

"Sure, P.F., Iíll be there."

"Thanks Faith, I owe you one."

Later that evening, as she watched kids cavorting in the shallow end of the pool, her ears picked up the thrum of a motorcycle engine. She stiffened, listening closely as her eyes kept moving amongst the kids, alert for any dangers. She heard the bike pass the building and knew who it was and where she was going.

She had finished locking the pool entrances and headed up the road on the off chance she was still there. She saw Randi lying on a blanket on the top of the hill.

Randi had her head on her folded arms with her eyes closed; a breeze was caressing her body. Then she felt a brush across her forehead. Attributing it to the wind, she didnít pay attention to it until she felt it again. This time the brush across her forehead was persistent and centered at the middle of her head. She opened her eyes and saw glistening sea green eyes looking at her; then a drop of water landed on her head directly between her eyes. "Whoops! Sorry, Randi," Faith said as she sat back on her haunches. Randi rolled over to her stomach and looked at Faith.

"Youíre....wet," She said with a leering smile on her face.

The sound of Randiís voice alone made Faith break out in a cold sweat. She laughed hesitantly as she stammered, "Uh-h, yeah, I....uh, I got called to guard." She grinned as she saw Randi smile at her reaction. "Iím not going to say it! Oh, hell, yes I am, you are bad! Damn!"

Randi chuckled, rolled to her back and said, "Care to join me?"

Faith lay on the blanket beside Randi. They were quiet, watching the sky as it finished darkening and the stars began to shine. Faith reached out and took Randiís hand, interlacing her fingers with the long tan ones and pulled the joined hands on top of her stomach.

They had lain there, silently, about fifteen minutes, when Faith rolled to her side and looked at Randi, "So what brought you up here?"

"Had some thinking to do - needed the open spaces."

"Are you okay?"

Randi sighed, "Yeah. My bike got trashed last night."

Faith looked shocked, "It did? When?" She glanced at the motorcycle.

"Iím not sure." Randi rolled to her side to face Faith. "Mustíve been close to two AM, I left The Rock and saw a blanket of white covering my bike - white roses."

"Really?" Faith had a now familiar twinkle in her green eyes.

"Yep. Took my breath away, just like kissing you does."

"Really?"

Randi grinned, "Must be an echo around here."

"I wonder who wouldíve done something like that."

Randi leaned closer, smelling the chlorine that had dried on Faithís skin. "Yeah, I wonder. They mustíve had some vast resources at that hour."

"Really. Sounds like it was a good plan. Did it surprise you?"

"Most definitely. I wish I knew who did it so I could thank them." Faith recognized the smirk on her face.

"What would you say?"

Randi moved even closer to Faith, her eyes pinned on Faithís as her lips skimmed Faithís bottom lip, "This." Randiís lips covered Faithís passionately as she pulled her body to her. Their bodies pressed against each other, filling each curve and space as they fit together like two jigsaw puzzle pieces.

Faith laid her head on Randiís shoulder afterwards, feeling Randi stroke her shoulder. "Thank you, Faith." she whispered.

"Welcome." Faith felt relaxed and protected. She drifted to sleep slowly.

Randi heard her even breathing and held her as she slept. She knew the next couple of days would be busy for them both and wanted to prolong this closeness because she was afraid it would end once Faith started her classes.

Randi dropped Faith off at her apartment the next morning. Both had been surprised that theyíd slept the night through on top of the hill. Randi hadnít remembered falling asleep, but had awakened with the sun, still with Faith in her arms. Mrs. Brown was in her yard as they drove up, she smiled at them when Faith kissed Randi. Randi cast a sideways glance at Mrs. Brown when Faith kissed her. "Donít worry, she thinks youíre a lovely young woman," Faith assured her, smiling. Randi smiled and tipped her head to Mrs. Brown in salute, "Morning, maíam." Mrs. Brownís smile widened as she beamed, "Good morning, my dear." Faith caressed Randiís cheek with her hand. "Lady killer. Drive safely, ok? Iíll see you."

"Yeah, see you."

Faith watched her ride away, took a deep breath, smiled at Mrs. Brown, and went to her apartment.

Before Faith knew it, the day was done, and she was having trouble getting to sleep because of classes starting the next day. She was always anxious before classes began, but was excited to finally be beginning.

The next morning, she met Richard outside Anniversary Hall and they mingled in the hallway with the rest of the students. Richard saw the fellow from registration and pointed him out to Faith. When the guy looked at the door and stiffened, they followed his gaze. Both their mouths dropped open as they stared and then looked at each other with questions in their eyes. Dr. Suzanne was a gorgeous woman - the exact image of Randi. Dressed in a black linen skirt and matching jacket over a cream colored silk tank that set off her crystal-like blue eyes. Her hair was in a French twist and her height was increased by three inch black pumps. She nodded at various students as she walked through them, leading with her briefcase. Richard was the first to find his voice.

"My God! You know who that has got to be, donít you?"

"I know who it looks like - she could be her damned twin!"

"This is too bizarre. Come on, letís find some seats."

Both gravitated towards the back of the room and watched the professor as she prepared for class. When she opened her mouth to welcome everyone to the class, they looked at each other again. The British accent in their ears was melodious, but, obviously, not Randi.

"Good morning. Iím Dr. Miranda Suzanne and this is Analysis of British Literature 755." As she passed out the syllabus, Faith leaned over to Richard.

" OK, she must have a twin....this is damned spooky."

"Well, they say we all have a twin, I guess we just met Randiís."

Faith shook her head as she repeated "Too damned spooky."

As class ended, Richard and Faith lingered, watching her interactions with students that had approached her with questions, yet she seemed to take no special notice of them. Faith saw her blue eyes sparkle as she answered questions about a subject she obviously knew very well and enjoyed. Dr. Suzanneís eyes briefly met Faithís and looked away quickly as another student gained her attention. Faith grabbed Richardís arm and said, "Come on, we have some research to do."

"What?"

"Just come on."

They headed for the library and its reference section. Richard had his hands on his hips as he whispered, "What are we doing here?"

"I know something isnít right, Richard. Before we left, she glanced at me briefly - I know those eyes. I could swear to it; it was fleeting, but when our eyes met, I felt something."

"Wishful thinking, Faith."

She grimaced and shook her head, "I donít think so....honestly, but the accent is seriously throwing me."

"OK, what do you want me to do?"

"Check the college bulletins and see how long sheís been listed. Iíll hit the computer and see what I can find."

Richard was back in fifteen minutes with a puzzled expression on his face, "Sheís not listed anywhere, Faith. I wonder why?"

"That is strange. The only thing Iíve found here is pretty much the same as her book. Lists some awards, international honor societies and such. Sheís most definitely not a stupid woman, but would she also be a bartender?"

"Why not? Youíve never done anything for shits and giggles?"

"Sure I have. OK, what about the accent?"

"It was legit, but I suppose if someone could "put-on" a British accent, someone could certainly "put-on" an American one. Look at foreign actors/actresses that seem to drop their accents at will."

"Thanks, Richard. I think I knew, but I needed someone to convince me I wasnít imagining things or hoping."

"I donít think you are. Talking it out like this helped me, too. I thought I was hallucinating for a while there."

"Now the question is .... how do I find out for sure?"

They had arranged to meet Penny and Laine for lunch to discuss what their classes were like so far. Their eyes were filled with disbelief as Richard and Faith related the happenings of their first class.

"You have got to be shittiní me!" Laine exclaimed.

Richardís eyes were on the door, "There she is. Now you tell us....are we shitting you?"

All eyes from their table swung to the door and gaped as the woman in question walked up to the front counter to order.

"My God," said Penny, "the resemblance is unbelievable! Has a British accent though, huh?"

"Yep, but we already figured that out. Sheís studied some languages, has a degree or two in them, so carrying off an American accent shouldnít be a problem."

Dr. Suzanne accepted her take-out order and headed back to the door. She was stopped at the door by a riotous group meeting up outside and trying to enter as one body. Their momentum pushed her back through the door and as she backpedaled, her knee was caught by a chair that hadnít been pushed all the way under a table.

Faith was moving before her mind had registered it. Sheíd seen the accident happening and crossed the Rathskellar at a run. She caught Dr. Suzanne just before she hit the floor, wrapping her arms around her waist and planting her legs solidly. As she lifted, the group realized what theyíd almost done and were full of apologies to the faculty member.

She waved them off, smiled, and said, "No harm done. Iím okay, thanks to -." Then she turned and saw whoíd saved her and all breath rushed from her body. She gazed into emerald eyes and finally was able to speak. "Faith."

Not willing to misspeak, in case she was wrong, Faith smiled, "You okay, Doc?" She removed her hands from the professorís body.

"Yes, thanks to you. Thank you again."

"Youíre welcome. See you in class tomorrow."

Dr. Suzanne nodded and walked quickly out the door.

Faith was deep in thought when she sat down. Laine shook her hand in front of Faithís face.

"Earth to Faith! Yo! Are you in there?"

"What? Oh, hey! Sorry guys, just thinking."

"So we could tell. Whatís up?" Penny asked.

"She has a tat."

"A what?"

"A tattoo....on the upper left quadrant of her chest. I only got a glimpse as she turned around, but I think it was an AIDS ribbon."

"Does Randi have a tattoo?" Laine asked.

"I donít know."

"You donít?" Richard said incredulously.

"No. Weíve yet to...."

"Gotcha. No need to say anymore."

The table quieted as her friends realized Faith was again deep in thought. As each left for class, they gave her a squeeze on her shoulder to let her know they were there if she needed them. Only Laine knew what an AIDS ribbon meant to Faith. Laine had held her friend through that night the previous year when her brother died. Faith had been the keeper of her brotherís secret from her family, and it broke her heart when she had been unable to say goodbye to him before his untimely death.

Faith was functioning on automatic pilot the rest of the day. She attended her classes, but her mind was on the near certainty that Randi and Dr. Suzanne were one and the same, and the memories that the tattoo she had glimpsed had initiated.

The next morning, Faith was up early to go running. Physical activity had allowed her to rebalance herself in the past and she needed it now. Memories of her brother played through her mind as well as the time sheíd spent with Randi. As she came out of her reverie, she found herself on top of the hill of the sports facility. Winded but relaxed, she slowed to a walk and thought of how she needed to proceed with her questions of Randi and Dr. Suzanne. The memory of the tattoo she had glimpsed brought her brother back to the forefront of her mind. As she gazed over the mountains, tears ran down her cheeks and dripped off her chin. Anger she had not felt in a long time ran through her body, and she screamed the one question that she could not face.

"WHY?!" Her scream echoed off the mountains and was heard throughout the village stilled by the chilling pain heard in the waking of a new day.

Faith ran full out back to her apartment, ignoring the pain in her legs which was overwhelmed by the pain in her heart. Mrs. Brown was startled by Faith as she blew by without any acknowledgment at all and rushed into her apartment. Faith collapsed into a chair, curling herself into a ball with her arms locked around her legs. Her body was wracked by deep sobs as she finally ran out of tears.

The ringing of her phone jolted her back to reality. Laineís exuberant voice rang in her ears when she finally picked up the receiver.

"Hey, Faith! Thought we were meeting for breakfast? You still in bed?"

"No."

Something about the one syllable answer and her tone worried Laine. "Faith, are you okay?" she asked softly.

"No."

"What can I do?"

"Get hold of Richard, tell him to cover me in class."

"Want me to come over?"

"Iíll be fine - just need some time. Thanks."

"Take care, honí. Remember, weíre all here if you need us."

"I know." Faith dropped the receiver and closed her eyes.

Richard grumbled as his hand shot out from under the covers to still the ringing telephone. "What?!" he growled.

"Up and at Ďem, boy. I need you to do me a favor."

"Do you know what time it is, Laine?" He hoped the phone had not bothered his companion in the bed.

"I know itís early for you, but some of us enjoy the day as well as the night."

"Yeah, yeah, smart ass. Iím up now. Whatís the favor?"

"I need you to cover this morningís class with Suzanne for Faith."

Richard rubbed his eyes and sat up quickly, "Whatís wrong?"

"Iím not really sure of all of it. I know yesterday had something to do with it."

"You mean class?"

"That started it, but itís not the number one priority in her mind anymore."

"So what is?" At her silence, Richard bristled. "Laine, dammit, sheís my friend, too. What the hell is going on?"

Richard watched as she scanned the faces in the classroom. Her eyes lingered on Faithís empty chair and settled on him and she arched an eyebrow in question. He didnít attempt to answer her unspoken question; he needed her to come to him. Richard felt certain that if she did, then she and Randi were the same person.

She started the discussion of what would be acceptable as research topics, and her eyes fell on the empty desk next to Richard. Miranda paced the aisles as she answered questions and gave encouragement. When she got to Richardís seat, she leaned down and said, "Could I speak with you after class, please?" She saw a flash of anger in his eyes and then he nodded.

It wasnít what he expected, but it was close enough for him. He would play it by ear when she spoke with her, but he knew the topic would be Faithís absence.

She dismissed class once everyone had chosen their topics and hoped theyíd head for the library to begin their research. She took a deep breath and saw that Richard had not moved from his seat. He wasnít going to make this easy for her. She leaned against the seat in front of his.

"Where is she?"

Again, she saw the momentary flash of anger, but also saw concern. "Whatís wrong, Richard? Is she all right?"

"Sure you want to know, Dr. Suzanne?"

"Of course, I do."

"Itís now or never," thought Richard. "Is this Randi asking, or Dr. Suzanne who wants to know?" His tone carried a hard edge.

"Both. Please tell me whatís going on."

"Well, you had her - all of us - in a quandary yesterday after class, but it all apparently came to a head in the Rathskellar."

"How?"

"She saw your tattoo."

Instinctively, Randiís hand came to the area where the tattoo lay. "I donít understand."

"It brought back memories sheís never really dealt with." He saw the puzzled look, "Her brother died of AIDS last year."

"Oh, my God."

"Laine told me she sounded as though sheís shutting down - totally withdrawing into herself."

"I need to see her."

Richard brightened, "I was hoping youíd say that. Considering her feelings for you, Iíd say you may be the only one who might be able to reach her."

Randi looked troubled, "Her feelings for me? I just hope sheíll listen to me. I care for her a lot, Richard."

"I could tell. We left here yesterday on a mission of discovery and found out nothing. Your mystery remains deep, Doc. She was so sure it was you, but when we found nothing, I think she began to doubt it."

"Itís a long story, Richard; one I feel she should hear first."

"Thatís fine, sheís probably the only one who needs to hear it."

"Thank you, Richard." She touched his hand and he saw her eyes glistening with unshed tears. She walked to her desk, grabbed her briefcase, and left.

When she pulled into the driveway of Faithís apartment, she didnít see Faithís car, but Mrs. Brown was tending her flower garden. Mrs. Brown had a surprised look on her face as she watched her approach.

"Mrs. Brown? Do you remember me?"

"I think so, my dear, but you look different than last time."

Randi cast her eyes to the ground, "Yes, maíam. Have you seen Faith?"

When she hesitated, Randi removed her sunglasses and touched the old womanís hand as her plaintive eyes touched her heart. "Please Mrs. Brown, I need to find her."

"She left here almost two hours ago, my dear. She had her swimsuit on, but she doesnít usually drive to the sports facility, she may have gone to the lake."

Randi squeezed the womanís hand again, "Thank you so much."

"Wait....here, take this," she said and handed Randi a white rose from her garden. Randi thanked her and headed to her car. She laid the flower on the passenger seat and pointed her car to the sports facility.

She recognized Faithís car as she parked in front of it. She crossed the gymnasium and mounted the stairs to the observation deck. The pool was empty except for Faith. Her heart went out to the young woman; she saw how she was driving herself as she swam lap after lap. "Has she been doing this since she left her place?" Randi wondered. She watched Faith begin to slow her laps and then struggle to climb out of the pool When Randi was sure sheíd made it and had headed to the locker room, Randi went outside to wait.

While waiting, she called The Rock and told Cody he was tending bar that night. "Actually, Cody, plan on tending bar a lot, until further notice, OK?"

"You okay, Randi?"

"I am, but Faithís not."

"Take care of her. Weíll hold down the fort here."

"Iím going to try. Thanks."

She next called the registrarís office and told them to hang a postponement of class sign on her assigned classroom. Mrs. Lowe didnít question it when her secretary transferred the call. Dr. Suzanne rarely took time off and she knew she wouldnít do it if it wasnít necessary.

"Two or three days should be sufficient. Iíll call you if more time is needed."

"Of course, Miranda; Iíll take care of it."

"Thanks so much."

She waited nervously for Faith to appear.

Faith stood under the hot shower as long as she could. The water washed away her tears as they fell. When she again felt in control, she shut off the shower and stepped out. Sheíd rinsed out her suit earlier, rolled it in her damp towel and shoved them into her bag. She planned to go back to her apartment and crawl back into the chair sheíd spent the morning in. The blue vase of flowers had caught her attention earlier and she couldnít even face them, so sheíd headed to the pool. Intent on exhausting herself even more, sheíd swum more laps than sheíd needed in the past. Pulling a tank top over her head, she grabbed her bag, locked the pool door, and left the building. Faith kept her eyes down as she passed some students entering the building for class. She was putting on her sunglasses as she turned the corner of the building and stopped dead in her tracks.

"God, how did she find me?" she thought.

Randi was leaning against the trunk of her car, watching her. Faith seemed to struggle over whether or not to approach her. Sheíd stopped and hesitated a few moments before taking a deep breath and continuing to walk to her car. She stopped a couple of feet from Randi and looked at her. Randi felt the tension emanating from her body and brought the rose up to her from where it had been dangling, unseen, in her hand at her side.

Faith reached up and removed Randiís reflective sunglasses so she could see her eyes. She saw pain and concern. "It is you, isnít it?"

"Yes."

Randi continued to hold out the rose. As Faith moved to take it, Randi gripped her hand in her own and pulled Faith into her arms. Faith melted in the embrace, allowing Randi to enfold her in a protective, but loving hug.

Murmuring soft words and stroking her back, Randi tried to ease the shaking of Faithís body. "Will you come with me? We need to talk."

"Iím not very good company right now, Randi."

"Please? I want to tell you a story."

Faithís curiosity was piqued. She nodded her head as she stepped back from Randiís body. Randi took her hand and led her to her car. As Faith turned to enter the car, Randi saw part of Faithís tattoo peeking out the tank strap of her right shoulder. Her hand brushed the strap off her shoulder as Faith turned to look at her. She saw the look of shock on Randiís face as her fingers grazed the outline of the tattoo.

"The eyes...my God...theyíre ..." Randi was unable to finish for all breath had left her body.

"Theyíre yours."

Randi looked at Faith. She felt shaken to her core, the eyes of the tattoo were like looking into a mirror. She ran her hand over it again and pulled herself together.

As she got into the car, Faith was afforded a view of long, tan, very muscular legs that began a new fire within her body. She kept her eyes on Randi as they drove away from the campus.

"Where are we going?" Faith asked as Randi signaled a right turn at the bottom of a hill that looked like a small mountain. The steep driveway seemed to disappear at the top.

"My home," Randi said as she expertly maneuvered the Jag up the steep and winding drive. As they came over the top of the final rise, Faith was stunned at the house before her. A large, wide driveway separated the house from an inground pool and a pool house. There were large windows everywhere and a deck on half of the second story provided shade for the deck on the first level that faced the direction from which theyíd just come. A forest surrounded the back of the house as the sunís broken beams came through the trees.

Faith got out of the car and looked around her in awe. "I canít believe this....beautiful doesnít begin to describe it."

A small, embarrassed smile crept onto Randiís face, "Thank you. Itís my haven. Please, come inside."

The inside of the house was as wondrous as the outside. It was bathed in soft sunlight that came through the many windows, casting mini-rainbows across the hardwood floors.

The door they entered opened into a large room with an overstuffed chair and couch in front of a stone fireplace that made a natural barrier between it and the kitchen. The other half of the room held a neat but very used work center with desk, computer, and file cabinets built into the light sandalwood walls.

Randi unbuttoned her suit jacket, but she stopped herself from removing it because it would reveal her tattoo and she didnít want to do that before they were settled and ready to talk.

"Would you like something to drink?"

"Coffee would be great, if itís not too much trouble."

"Not at all. Feel free to look around if you like."

"Thanks."

Randi mounted the three steps from the Ďcomfyí room to the kitchen, while Faith began to make a circuit of the room she was in. Watercolors of nature scenes were on one wall, along with what looked like family photos. She stopped and studied one of Randi astride a tan palomino with an older woman standing beside horse and rider. She noticed the woman was in each photograph, but only the first one had both women in it.

She heard Randiís voice behind her, "How do you take your coffee?"

"Cream and sugar, please." Faith moved to the windows opposite the wall sheíd been perusing and again was awestruck by the view. Slow- moving barges and personal watercraft peacefully shared the water. A steaming cup came around her right shoulder. "Ready to sit down?"

"Actually, if you wouldnít mind, Iíd like to see the rest of this wonderful place."

"I donít mind at all."

Taking their coffee with them, Randi showed her the rest of her home. A formal dining room and living room lined the front of the house, while the back side - next to the forest - consisted of two bedrooms with a shared bath between them, and a room holding various weights, bags and other training equipment. Photographs of English thatched-roof cottages and city lights lined the hallways.

"So you really are British."

"Originally, but I consider this my home now."

"Do you ever go back?"

"Every now and again. Thereís nothing there for me anymore." Randi looked sad, and Faith was sorry sheíd asked.

"Come on, letís go sit down."

"Whatís upstairs?"

"Uh - my bedroom."

"The whole second story is the master bedroom?"

"Yes, I had some changes made before I moved in."

"Obviously!" Faith smiled and Randi took her hand, leading her back to the room in which they had begun. Faith sat on the edge of the couch and Randi settled in the chair. She looked apprehensive. Randi wasnít sure where to start.

"I owe you an apology."

"Whatever for?"

"For causing you such pain."

"What? Pain? What are you talking about?" Faith was truly puzzled, unaware of the knowledge of her past that Randi had.

Randi took a deep breath and began to remove her jacket. "This," she said as her tattoo was fully exposed. The thin strap of the silk shell ran across it, and Randi slid it off her shoulder so the tattoo was visible with no breaks. Just below her collarbone was a blood red rose with droplets of blood dripping from flower to leaf to form an AIDS ribbon over her heart.

Faithís eyes widened and filled with tears. "Oh, Christ....I only saw part of it the other day."

"Iím sorry about that."

"Please, donít apologize, thereís no need."

"Yes there is. The darkness that pulled you in after you saw it, driving you to swim laps until you were exhausted, withdrawing from everyone...."

Faith cocked her head slightly sideways, "What do you know?"

"I know the pain, Faith." Randi moved to the wall and removed the picture of herself and the woman. Handing it to her, she said, "Iíd like to tell you about my mother. Actually, she was my aunt, but she raised me from a baby. I never knew my mother."

Faith saw the tears forming in Randiís eyes, took her hand, and pulled Randi onto the couch beside her. "Iíd like to hear about her."

Randi took a deep breath and sighed, "Her name was Melinda...." and so began the story of a strong, wonderful woman intent on rearing an orphan when a single, unmarried parent was unheard of. Her mother had not always been alone, but her lover had died suddenly in an accident that had almost claimed her life, as well. "This was before they tested blood for the HIV virus. She was given tainted blood during surgery."

Faith saw Randi wipe away her tears. "She died in my arms. She wasnít afraid to die; she was anxious to reunite with her lover. I left England two months later and have been here ever since. A month or so after I arrived, I met a body artist. He created this for me when I told him what I wanted."

"Itís very well done - such detail. Heís very talented."

"Yes, he is. Kevin even signed the drawing for me. I used it as a background for my auntís panel on the International AIDS Quilt. Itís also framed and hanging in my bedroom."

"The artist....Kevin....close cut blond hair, glasses?"

"Yes."

"I thought so. Couldnít be two of him out there. He created my tattoo also."

"Really?" Randi was pleased and surprised; their lives seemed to have similarities neither knew about.

They were both quiet, each lost to their own thoughts and memories. Faith went to stand by the French doors that led to the deck. Eventually, she turned to look at Randi who was watching her closely.

"Why the mystery and deception?"

"I wondered when that would come up. My mother was well-off, she was the benefactress of a couple of universities here. This is where she met Janice, her lover. After her death, the role of benefactress fell to me. Iíve always kept my two lives separate. The college has been agreeable to keeping my name out of the bulletins, and my bio only lists degrees and such."

Faith interrupted, "So I found out."

"Very few people know of my role Ďbehind the scenes;í only those with the absolute need to know. My mother paid a terrible price by raising me with Janice, and then when she became infected, it just got worse. I have jealously guarded my privacy ever since. Youíre the first one to cross the barrier between my lives."

Randi came up behind Faith and put her arms around her, praying she would not walk away from her. She sighed with relief when Faith wrapped her hands around the ones at her stomach and leaned back into Randiís body.

"Anything else you would like to know?"

"I donít know. Any other mysteries I should know about? Such as, why didnít you say anything when you found out Iíd be taking your class?"

"At that time, I was so shocked, I really didnít know how to tell you....and part of me wanted to surprise you."

"Well, you sure as shit did that! Both Richard and I didnít know what to think, and then you showed up at lunch, had your near accident, and then...." Faith went quiet as she remembered the rest in her mind. She suddenly had a frightening thought, "Just how did you find me - and why?"

Randi was hesitant, "You missed class."

"Yeah, happens all the time - so?"

"I thought you were angry with me. So I asked Richard where you were."

Faith felt like she was pulling teeth, "And?"

Randi released her hold on Faith and tried to walk away, but Faith grabbed her by the arm and jumped around in front of her. Silent tears were running down Randiís face. "Oh, God, you know, donít you?"

"Faith, please understand. I would never intentionally hurt you. Richard raked me over the coals before telling me youíd seen my tattoo. I didnít understand why seeing it wouldíve upset you....until he filled me in. I was worried about you. I went to your apartment, but your car was gone. I was concerned about you driving when you were upset, but when Mrs. Brown said youíd had your suit on, I hoped to find you at the sports building."

"You talked to Mrs. Brown, too?!"

"I only told her I needed to find you. I think perhaps she thought weíd had a fight. She gave me the rose I gave you." Randi smiled uncertainly and stroked her cheek. "Please donít be angry."

Faith trembled at the touch. "Randi, Iím not upset with you - I donít think I could ever be. Iím angry at myself and the memories."

"Why? You loved him, didnít you? You supported him?"

"Yes, but -"

"But what?"

"I didnít get to say GOODBYE !!" Faith fell sobbing into her arms. Her body shook with soul-wrenching heartache. Randi tightened her hold on Faith, trying to get her as close as possible so she would feel her strength. She kicked off her pumps so she was not towering over her any more. Faithís fingers dug into her back as she gripped Randi tightly. Randi kissed her hair and made soothing noises until Faith began to calm down again. Faith raised her head up to capture Randiís lips. Randi gasped at the unexpected touch. Faith moved her right hand to the back of Randiís head and pulled her lips harder upon hers. Her left hand tugged the bottom of the shell from the waistband of the skirt. Slipping her hand beneath it, she caressed the warm flesh of Randiís back. Sensations, old and new, flowed through Randiís body at Faithís demanding touch.

Faith ran her tongue across Randiís top lip and then darted it between Randiís parted lips. She continued to slip her tongue in and out of Randiís mouth until she heard her moan. Moving her kiss to Randiís cheek and jaw line, she stopped by her ear, "I want you," she said and sucked the earlobe into her mouth and then moved to her neck. Randi shuddered when she moved the strap of the shell and traced the outline of the rose with her tongue. Randi arched her back as the caresses became even more forceful. Faith moved the other strap from her shoulder and found her hand gripped tightly in Randiís. She looked in Randiís eyes and saw desire mixed with pain.

"Faith....stop."

"What?!"

"This isnít what you want."

"Thatís what you think. Iíve never wanted anyone more." There was fire in Faithís eyes, she met Randiís gaze and Randi was momentarily taken aback by the fierceness she saw.

"Faith, listen to me. This isnít what you really want or need, right now. God knows I want to make love with you, but when itís right. Right now youíre hurting to your very soul. I wonít allow that to be taken advantage of - by either of us."

Faith slumped against her, all energy gone from her body. She buried her face in the cleft of Randiís breasts and began to quietly cry again. Randi shifted and picked Faith up into her arms. She carried her upstairs to the master bedroom and laid her on the bed. As she moved to get a blanket, Faith reached out.

"Donít leave me....please." She spoke in a soft voice.

"Sh-h, just getting a blanket. Iím not going anywhere."

Randi returned with the blanket, covered Faith and then lay down on the other side of her. Faith rolled over close to her, draping an arm over her stomach, a leg over Randiís thighs, as her head nestled into the crook of her shoulder. Randi felt her breath on the side of her breast and then heard it even out as sleep claimed her.

The next morning, Faith woke up alone. Sunlight streaming through French doors cut a path directly across her eyes. She sat up with a start before realizing where she was. She glanced around the room decorated in different hues of blue. Above the dresser, across from the bed, Faith saw the original drawing of Randiís tattoo. She felt a momentary sadness for Randiís mother and her brother, but no tears came and no agony cut through her like a knife.

She saw a robe laid on a chair by the doors. Looking down, she saw she was nude. Her stomach realized she smelled food and rumbled loudly. Laughing lightly, she got out of the bed and put on the robe.

Instrumental music was playing through the house as she went downstairs and into the kitchen, the smells enticing her. Randi, dressed in a short robe also, had her back to her as she entered the kitchen. Faith grinned mischievously and padded up silently behind Randi. She reached out to grab Randiís bare leg.

"Ah, ah, ah. I wouldnít do that to the chef, who happens to have a knife in her hand."

"How did you know I was there?"

Randi looked over her shoulder with a smirk, "I have many skills."

Faith looked surprised, "Do you remember that research I told you Iíd done on the ancient Greek bards?"

"Yes, why?"

"There was a quote from a scroll that was exactly what you said."

"Probably the Xena scrolls."

Faith was even more puzzled, "Yeah, but how did you know that?"

"Who do you think found them? Iíve heard them since I was a child. My mother translated them after she and her lover found them all over Europe."

"No shit?"

Randi chuckled, turned and kissed Faithís forehead, "No shit."

"Thatís awesome!"

Randi chuckled again and noticed how the robe hung below her knees. She cleared her throat, trying not to laugh, "Sorry the robe is so big on you. Ready for breakfast?"

"Definitely! Iím starved!" Faith smiled at Randi warmly. She felt pulled to this woman whoíd allowed her access to her life and home. The fact that she filled out the other robe in just the right places wasnít lost on her either. She watched Randiís tan, muscular legs as they went to a table set up on the lower deck. The morning silence broken only by an occasional barge horn and the music playing throughout the house, even on the deck.

Before she sat down and after Faith was seated, Randi took her hand in hers and moved the blonde hair behind her shoulders, "How are you feeling?"

"Better, thanks to you." Faith reached out her hand to grasp Randiís thigh in a totally non-sexual way. "How can I ever repay you for what you did?"

Feeling embarrassed, Randi sat down opposite Faith and said, "I didnít do anything you ever need repay."

"You stopped me from behaving like a fool last night."

"No, I didnít. I held you as you needed."

"Youíre just not going to let me beat myself up over it, are you?"

"No....eat."

Faith smiled again, "Yes, maíam." Her stomach rumbled as she looked at her plate of mushroom and cheese omelet, fruit, and hashbrowns.

"Itís not too much, is it? I split it between us."

"Oh no, it looks wonderful....as you heard my stomach tell you."

They both laughed and began to eat. Faith insisted on going after the coffee pot to refill their cups. "But youíre a guest, " Randi tried to protest.

"Too bad. Stay put. Be right back."

After she filled Randiís cup, Faith laughed.

"Whatís so funny?"

"Oh, I was almost taken over by the evil of my brother-in-law."

"What?"

"If you let him refill any drink, he fills it to the absolute top. I donít know how, but it almost goes above the rim, but doesnít overflow. He has a very steady hand."

Randi laughed, "He sounds like quite a character."

"Thatís putting it mildly."

Faith carried their empty plates into the house, again over Randiís protests. "Will you stop all this guest stuff? Itís no big deal." As she set the plates by the sink, a new song came on with a vocal over the moving instrumental. Faith heard another voice join softly as she exited the house, she stopped and looked at Randi. She had moved her chair to face the river, stretched out her legs, leaned her head back and closed her eyes. The coffee cup was held on her stomach by one hand, as the other Ďconductedí the music she sang. Faith felt the urge to applaud when the song finished.

"You know itís impolite to stare?"

"Damn! I wasnít even close! You have a lovely voice."

"Thank you, every now and then, I get Ďinspired,í with the right song, of course."

"What was it?"

Randi opened her eyes and looked at Faith, who was struck by the whirling flashes of passion deep in the cerulean blue eyes that seemed to stare into her very soul. " ĎLove Is Allí. "

Faith held her hand out when she was in front of Randi. Her eyes skimmed over the body before her, and her breath quickened.

"Whatís up, Faith?"

Faith wouldnít answer and only shook her hand. Randi took it and was pulled from her chair. Faith brushed her lips softly and quickly kissed down her throat and stepped back, leading Randi into the house. She stopped by the controls of the sound system sheíd spotted earlier, hit the repeat button and flipped a switch marked ĎMaster BRí. When they reached the stairs, Randi stopped.

"Faith...." She was stopped by the fire blazing in Faithís eyes. Faith pulled at her hand again and climbed the stairs.

Once inside the bedroom, she let go of Randiís hand and went to open the French doors, allowing a soft breeze to circulate through the room. She stopped in front of Randi and began to untie the sash of her robe. Randi took hold of her hands and said, "No. Let me."

She untied Faithís sash and let the robe hang open. Her eyes started at Faithís neck and moved down to soft skin alluding to the curve of a breast, across a flat belly to a close cropped covering of hair between her legs, down to toned legs showing muscles.

Their breathing had quickened. Faith felt her legs tremble, threatening to collapse on her as she reached out shaking hands to untie the sash holding Randiís robe closed. The passion building in her came out in her hands. She concentrated, stopped the shaking, and pulled the sash. The robe came open and Faith died.

She thought she had, for it felt as though every molecule in her body had imploded when she looked at Randiís body. She ran her eyes over the well-muscled bronze body. Her breath caught at the swell of breasts, well-defined abdomen, and the longest legs Faith had ever seen.

"By the gods!"

Randiís tan cheeks darkened slightly, "Faith, I ...." Faithís slowly outreaching hand stopped her words in her throat. She steeled herself for Faithís touch, but nothing could have prepared her for the bolt of electricity that ran through her body in every direction. She gasped and came up onto her toes. Faith looked quickly to her face, saw eyes closed, lips forming an ĎOí, and hair hanging straight down her back.

"Randi....thank you," she whispered. Faith had never felt so alive. Her senses were heightened, her ears could hear the blood pounding through her veins. Heat flowed out her hand, and she smelled the excitement building in Randi. Both of them trembled as Faith took a step closer and put her arm around Randiís waist and prepared to pull their bodies together to experience flesh-to-flesh-to-silk blending for the first time. Tremors shook them both as their bodies touched. Not moving, they stood there for a few minutes, savoring the feel and the taste of the otherís skin. Randi put her arm around Faithís waist and moaned with pleasure as she pulled them tighter.

Randiís lips found Faithís and eagerly joined them with hers. A moan in the back of Faithís throat vibrated into Randiís lips and she slipped her tongue in, in search of Faithís. Their tongues touched and tickled, exploring every part of each otherís mouth.

Randi felt Faithís legs start to give out and held her up next to her even tighter, causing another thunderbolt to wrack their bodies. Her legs were beginning to send their own signals, so she walked them to the bed. Faith sat down when she felt the bed against her legs; she pulled Randi with her, not willing to relinquish her lips.

Faith felt her pull away as she pushed herself onto her hands which were on either side of Faithís shoulders. Randi smiled as she looked into Faithís eyes. Faith saw red, well-kissed lips and ached to touch them again. "Come back here," she said, with a raspy sound in her voice.

"Weíre going to do this and weíre going to do it right," said Randi as she slipped the robe from her body, dropping it to the floor and reaching for Faithís. Another robe hit the floor, and Randi lowered herself onto Faith a bit at a time from the ankles up. A fire was burning its way up Faithís body as she came into contact with Randiís so very slowly. The last parts to join were their breasts and lips.

They began to move their bodies in an unspoken rhythm. Each pleasing, and being pleased, by the heat generating from their bodies. Both were covered by a thin, glistening sheen of sweat before either felt the need to go further.

Faith moved her hands to Randiís derriere and pulled her hips closer, forcing a pleasant jolt as their mounds rubbed together. "Make love to me, Randi. PLEASE." Randi slowed her kisses and the movement of her body. "No need to say Ďpleaseí, dearheart." She moved a hand to Faithís shoulder and slowly ran her fingertips lightly down her body. Faith trembled and began to stroke Randiís back, her fingers nimbly tracing the moving muscles, causing Randi to groan with pleasure.

At the middle of Faithís thigh, Randiís fingertips began a return trip. She stopped at the top of Faithís leg and ran her fingers through the moist, blond hair. Faith arched her back, inviting Randi to enjoy the rest of her body. Randi stroked the lips that quivered with need.

Faith saw the pulse throb in Randiís neck and attached her lips to it, periodically biting down as spasm after spasm ran through her body caused by Randiís simple stroking touch. She screamed when Randi entered her and began to stroke slowly, but firmly, back and forth. "Randi....by....," Her words ended suddenly as every nerve in her body came alive all at once. She bit down hard on Randiís throat as the feeling claimed her, and she screamed Randiís name.

Randi had felt Faithís inner muscles begin to tighten around her, she slowed, hoping to prolong Faithís pleasure. The tightening continued until it was out of control. Randi felt Faithís teeth on her and smiled at it. It pleased her that she could give so much enjoyment to Faith. She was balancing on the precipice of bliss, herself. Pulling away, she pushed herself up, arching her back, driving her button against Faithís pubic bone, as Faithís hands and mouth covered her breasts. The double stimulation pushed Randi over the precipice, "Faith! The gods!"

Faith smiled, "....are certainly smiling down on us." She laughed and kissed Randi deeply.

They made love through the day and into the night. Each gaining knowledge of the other until, totally exhausted, they fell asleep, intertwined, as one.

TBC (probably)

finished 11PM 5/6/00

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