Please see part 1 for all disclaimers and copyright information.
Dane relaxed behind Kyle on the large cycle as they moved effortlessly down the highway. The wind felt good in her face, as did the softness of Kyle's leather jacket under her hands. She wasn't thinking about anything, and it was a surprising change not to have to. She was content to let Kyle lead the way. They turned up a gravel-covered side road into the woods. As they rounded a turn, Dane was startled to see a house tucked unobtrusively into the hillside. There was a second smaller building behind the first, with a neatly stacked pile of firewood under the sloping side roof. Kyle pulled her bike under the shelter of the overhanging eaves.
"This is home," she said simply.
"It's beautiful," Dane said.
Kyle smiled shyly. "Thanks."
"Have you lived here long?" Dane asked as she lifted one denim-clad leg over the bike.
"Seven years. But I didn't finish building it until four years ago. I moved from room to room as I built."
Dane looked at her with admiration. "It's great."
Kyle turned to unlock the side door and said over her shoulder, "Can you build a fire? It gets cold up here when the sun goes down."
Dane looked up at the sky and realized for the first time that the sun had nearly set.
"I can manage."
"Good. There's wood by the fireplace. Start it up while I get us a drink."
Dane followed Kyle into a spacious living area that seemed much larger than it really was, primarily due to a large wall of glass which looked out over the hillside below. The living room was down several steps and centered on a large natural stone fire pit. Several oversized chairs and a low table of finely crafted wood created a comfortable sitting area before it. She got the fire going easily and settled herself into a comfortable leather chair. She was amazed at how relaxed she felt, and how unconcerned she was at being there. For once, she didn't have to do anything. She liked the change.
Kyle came in quietly and handed her a glass. "Brandy okay?"
Dane nodded silently and took the heavy glass filled with dark, swirling liquid.
Kyle settled herself in front of Dane on a large cushion on the floor, her back lightly resting against Dane's knee.
"As soon as I unwind a little, I'll fix us some food. Hope you like simple cooking," she said as she stretched her legs toward the warmth of the fire.
Dane looked down at Kyle's face, in profile to her. The dancing flames made little changing patterns of shadow across Kyle's boldly planed face, blending softly into the waves of her tousled hair.
"No rush. I like the fire."
Kyle nodded and settled herself a little more firmly against Dane's leg.
"I'm glad you came," she said after a while.
"Are you?" Dane murmured, mesmerized by the reddish glow of the fire and the warmth of Kyle's back against her leg.
"Uh-huh." Kyle reached up her right arm and curled it softly over Dane's thigh. The brandy was relaxing her, and she didn't want to lose contact with Dane's presence. She replenished their glasses from a bottle by her side, and they sat in companionable silence.
Dane stretched her legs out a little. Kyle pushed her back up against the chair, her head coming to rest gently against Dane's inner thigh. Dane reached down almost without thinking and curled her fingers softly in Kyle's thick hair. She leaned her head back against the worn leather and closed her eyes. She may have drifted for a while in the soothing heat from the fire and the warmth of Kyle's body against hers. She was startled to feel a soft caress on her neck. She opened her eyes to find Kyle kneeling upright between her outstretched legs, looking down at her.
"Did I wake you?"
Dane smiled up at Kyle, not moving. "Wasn't sleeping, just drifting."
Kyle smiled gently then, also. "Good. Close your eyes again."
Dane did as Kyle wished, feeling as if she were hypnotized. Kyle's hands gently traced Dane’s face and throat, warming her wherever Kyle touched. Kyle leaned into her a little as she stroked her face, the heat from her body penetrating the denim covering Dane’s thighs. Dane stopped herself from reaching out to draw Kyle close, so exquisite was the slow rise of her desire. She didn't want to hurry. Still, when Kyle tugged Dane’s shirt out of her jeans and gently loosened the buttons over her breasts, Dane couldn't prevent herself from sliding her hands along Kyle's hips to pull her against her own body. She opened her eyes to see Kyle's eyes upon her, cloudy with desire.
Kyle smiled slightly and shook her head. "Close your eyes."
Dane stared at her for an instant, her need clearly showing in her face. Still, she did as she was bidden. She wouldn’t have done it for anyone else. There was no one she trusted that much.
Kyle pushed Dane's shirt down off her shoulders, tethering her arms in the tightly stretched sleeves. Dane knew she could free herself if she tried, but the effect of being restrained was not unwelcome.
"Oh," she moaned, as Kyle brought her lips gently to Dane's exposed breast. Dane's senses swirled as Kyle's tongue made intricate fiery designs over the sensitive skin of her nipples. Her back arched as she sought to push more of herself against Kyle's warm mouth. Even as Kyle's lips and tongue worked her nipples, she could feel Kyle reach between their bodies to pull open the buttons on her jeans. She lay quietly as Kyle slipped an arm under her to raise her hips enough to push her jeans down. The warmth of the fire caressed Dane's thighs as Kyle lay gently down upon her again. The denim of Kyle's jeans was rough against her skin and as Kyle insinuated herself more firmly between Dane's legs, Dane gasped at the contact of the material against her swollen flesh. She couldn't prevent herself from pushing up against Kyle, seeking even more contact. A cry escaped her as Kyle quickly pulled back from her, breaking the exquisitely tormenting pressure.
"Oh god, Kyle, don't stop," Dane gasped hoarsely. She started to lift her head, but Kyle held her back with one hand firmly in the hair at the base of her neck.
"Wait, Dane--wait," she whispered as she softly slipped her free hand up between Dane's legs.
Dane cried out, strangling on her own desire, as Kyle's fingers, feather-light, stroked her, drawing all of her passion out in a flood upon her hand.
"I can't. Oh, please, I can't," Dane moaned, her hips writhing upward, seeking to bring Kyle inside of her. Her breath caught in her throat as she felt Kyle enter her fully, the weight of Kyle's body resting upon her. Her lips sought Kyle's hungrily. Kyle entered her mouth as deeply as she filled her body, and Dane cleaved to her as her mind and body fused in the explosion that rippled through her.
When Dane's breathing quieted and her body ceased to quiver, Kyle gently slipped her hand out of Dane's moist depths, drawing a soft moan from Dane. She lay her head down on Dane's chest and sighed contentedly. Dane pulled her arms free of her shirtsleeves and wrapped them tightly around Kyle's body. They lay together wordlessly until the room began to chill.
"Fire's almost out," Dane whispered into Kyle's hair.
"Yours or mine," Kyle murmured against Dane's skin.
Dane laughed and pushed herself up on her elbows. "Ours. Needs more wood."
Kyle looked around and got up with a sigh. "I'll get it."
Dane watched her as she bent to throw more logs on the fire, wanting her close again.
"So where did you learn to do that?" she asked finally.
Kyle turned to look down at her, a satisfied smile on her face. "What, make love?"
Dane shook her head. "Not that. Take control so easily. If I didn’t know better I’d say you just topped me."
Kyle lay down beside her in the large chair and pulled Dane near.
"Some things I come by naturally."
Dane laughed and fitted her body more closely to Kyle's. As they slept, the fire burned brightly.
Kyle hummed softly to herself as she rubbed the coarse wire brush over the surface of the oak table. She smiled as she recalled Dane's reaction to her shop. They had awakened still wrapped about each other in the big chair. Kyle had insisted on feeding Dane before she brought her back to town, and as she cooked, Dane wandered about the house.
"What's out back?" Dane called as she stood by the large windows overlooking the valley below.
"My shop," Kyle called from the kitchen.
"Can I see?"
"Uh-huh. I'll give you a tour after breakfast." Kyle carried plates into the adjoining dining area. Dane's hair was still damp from the shower, and she wore one of Kyle's old shirts. Despite the fact that it was too big for her, it didn't hide the fine lines of her shoulders and back. Kyle suddenly wanted her with an urgency which surprised her. She cleared her throat.
Dane turned toward her, smiling, her eyes clear. She looked somehow younger today.
"Will you please come over here and eat? Because if you don't, I'm coming over there and the eggs will get cold."
Dane grinned and stood still. "I love cold eggs."
They came together in the sunlight streaming through the windows, grappling furiously on the soft carpet. Hands pulled at buttons, legs tangled, lips sought taut nipples and sweet flesh. Murmurs of pleasure, soft cries of surprise, satisfied sighs filled the air about them. In another moment they lay gasping in a heap on the floor, exhausted by the intensity of their encounter.
Suddenly, Kyle began to laugh. She pushed Dane away from her and leaned up on one elbow. "You're wonderful-- but I'm still hungry!"
Dane grinned at her. "I doubt the food had time to cool off!"
After breakfast, Kyle brought her back to the shop. Dane exclaimed over some of the old pieces, now partially restored.
"How could people cover this beautiful wood with paint?" she asked as she ran her hand over the dark grain of a table top Kyle had just finished stripping.
"It's easier than maintaining it naturally, I guess. I'll never understand it."
"So, this is what you do, huh?" Dane said as she leaned back against the counter. "You bring things back to life."
Kyle looked at her quickly, struck by the seriousness in Dane's usually light voice. Dane's eyes, usually so inscrutable, appeared wounded and vulnerable. Propelled by a wave of tenderness, Kyle lay her head gently against Dane's shoulder, her arms lightly around her waist. For an instant Kyle glimpsed the fragile woman beneath the impenetrable exterior.
"If I'm lucky, sometimes I find a treasure just waiting for someone to look beneath the surface. It doesn't always happen, but when it does, it's like a gift."
Dane kissed her hair gently, and sighed.
"What if there's so much of a barrier built up over the years--that the heart is gone?" She said this so softly that Kyle could barely hear her.
Kyle didn't raise her head but pressed her lips gently into the hollow at the base of Dane's slender throat.
"The heart can always be found if you work slowly and carefully. And I'm very patient."
Dane lifted Kyle's chin with her hand, kissing her tenderly on the lips.
"How can you be sure?"
" I can feel it."
The door to the shop burst open and Nancy flew in, shattering her reverie.
"Hi!" Nancy called, flinging her sweater over a chair.
Kyle looked up from the table and grinned.
"You look wonderful today. How come?" Nancy said as she pulled coveralls over her expensive designer jeans and skin tight tee shirt.
"What, do I usually look like a troll?"
"No, you just don't usually look so content. Did you have a good weekend?"
Kyle nodded. "Uh-huh."
"And it was nice," Kyle said, returning to the bench.
"I hate it when you keep secrets," Nancy pouted. She began to arrange her brushes and paints, looking over at Kyle slyly. "I had a nice weekend, too."
"Brad says 'hello.'"
Kyle stopped in mid-stroke and turned to her friend in astonishment. "When did you see her?"
"At the bar, of course. Did you think I had her out to the house for dinner?"
Kyle couldn't believe it. "You went to the bar? Where was Roger?"
"Home. I told him I was coming over here."
"Damn it, Nancy," Kyle exploded, "what if he had called here?"
Nancy smiled sweetly at Kyle. "You would have thought of something."
Kyle stared at her, half outraged and half ready to laugh. "I can't believe you! Why?"
"Why what?" Nancy asked, purposely being obtuse.
"Why did you go there?" Kyle persisted.
"I don't know, really," Nancy answered seriously. "I just wanted to. It's different and exciting, and I felt like having fun. Brad is a lot of fun."
"Oh, sure," Kyle said sarcastically, recalling her own encounters with Brad. "I don't trust her."
When Nancy didn't respond, Kyle looked at her with sudden suspicion. "Did you sleep with her?"
Nancy was silent for a long moment, then she sighed. "No, but I'm pretty sure I could have. She's a little hard to figure. I felt like if I had wanted to she would have been willing, but she never pushed. It's not like with men—they're so single-minded sometimes. So easy."
"Nancy," Kyle began, aware of a deep unease where Brad was concerned. "I don't think you know what you're getting into here. Brad is no one to fool with. She's into some very heavy sexual trips. I'm not so sure it's safe."
Nancy snorted. "Oh, come on! You know I can handle myself. Do you think I've never had any experience with kinky sex?"
"It's not the same, and you know it! Promise me you won't get into anything with her without talking to me about it first, okay?" Kyle was unaccountably alarmed by the thought of Nancy and Brad together.
Nancy laughed, "Yes, Mom!"
Kyle still felt uncomfortable, but she decided she would just have to trust her friend to be sensible.
Dane slipped out the door to watch Caroline and Anne in the training run. Anne was handling one of the dogs they were getting ready to show. Dane nodded in appreciation as Anne took the dog smoothly through his routine, showing his good points to advantage and down playing his few faults.
Caroline watched her lover with a critical eye. "Don't stretch him out quite so much—he's long enough as it is. And keep his head up—it shows his shoulders off more."
Dane observed for a few more moments and then walked down to join her friends.
"Who's watching the desk?" she asked.
Anne looked over at her and smiled. "I plugged the phone in out in the back room and left a note at the front desk for anyone who came in."
Dane laughed. "All bases covered. You look good, too. There's only one problem."
Both of them looked at her with concern.
"What?" Caroline asked, ready to defend Anne.
"Who's going to take care of things around here when you both go off to a show? You know I can't be trusted. I'll have all of our appointments screwed up in no time."
"Well, actually," Anne began, "I have this friend who needs a job. I thought maybe I could teach her the desk, and she could help out cleaning the runs and things."
Dane arched her brows and looked from Anne's expectant face over to Caroline.
"I guess she's got it all figured out."
Caroline shrugged. "Looks that way."
Dane smiled. "Tell her to come see me. We can talk about it."
"Great!" Anne exclaimed. "I'll go call her."
As she rushed off, Dane laughed. "Getting to be quite the business woman!"
"Getting to be quite a woman, period," Caroline replied, her face glowing. She led the dog into his run and returned to join Dane on the rear steps.
"I haven't seen much of you since the show last week." She studied Dane's profile for a moment, noting that she looked more rested and relaxed than she had in a long time. When Dane remained silent, Caroline could no longer contain herself. "Oh come on! Tell me what happened!"
"When?" Dane asked, as she fished about in her jacket for a light. Her hand came upon a small object in the inside pocket of her denim jacket, and she pulled out Kyle's lighter. She stared at it for a moment, a slow smile playing over her face. Kyle must have put it there the night Dane spent with her.
Caroline followed Dane's gaze and asked in a puzzled voice, "Present?"
"Nope, a souvenir."
Caroline looked exasperated. "Dane, you're being dense! What happened after the show?"
"I told you. I went to Kyle's for dinner."
"And we ended up having breakfast, okay?"
"Okay!" Caroline felt like dancing. "So are you seeing her again?"
Dane nodded slowly. "She's coming into town this weekend. I told her I'd meet her at the bar."
"Progress at last," Caroline exclaimed.
Dane turned to look at her, her eyes solemn. "Don't jump to any conclusions, Caroline. We're just going to have a drink. I told you before I don't want anything serious like that again. Besides, I don't really know how she feels about all of this yet. She may decide it's not right for her."
Caroline knew she had to go slowly with Dane over the issue of her sexual preferences. It was Dane's most touchy spot. "Dane," she began carefully, "you've changed a lot in the last few years, we all have. You're more flexible than you used to be."
"What do you mean?" Dane asked, suddenly wary.
"I mean that none of us is strictly power-oriented all the time. Sexually maybe, but not in all the aspects of our lives."
"It's still important!" Dane said defensively. "The needs are still there, it still has to be dealt with, especially for me."
"What makes you think Kyle can't deal with it, that she doesn't feel those things, too? Is she into vanilla sex or what?"
Dane laughed. "Hardly. She's subtle, but it's there. She surprised me the other night."
"Oh?" Caroline asked expectantly.
"She brought me back to her house, she set the scene, she—" Dane hesitated, "she carried it off very well."
Caroline sighed. "I suppose that's all you're going to tell me."
"Yep," Dane replied.
"So, where's the problem?"
"I'm still not convinced it's an important issue for her."
"God, you're stubborn. The woman shows up at Leathers on her own, because she's interested. She comes to the discussion groups regularly because she's interested. She goes home with you, she makes love to you. Besides that, she's gorgeous. What more do you want?"
Dane's face looked set. "I don't know. I keep trying to find out, but I still don't know."
Kyle dressed especially carefully that night. She wanted to look just right, and she laughed at herself. She felt like a teenager getting ready for a date. Well, she was getting ready for a date! She pulled out her jeans, and then discarded them for her black leather pants. She had them on and then couldn't decide on a shirt. Finally she took everything off and settled on a pair of black jeans and a loose white silk shirt. She pulled on her boots and grabbed her leather jacket on the way out.
The ride to town was exhilarating, both because of the beauty of the shore road at night and her own anticipation at seeing Dane again. She must have daydreamed half the way because before she knew it, she was pulling her bike into line with several others in front of the bar. She was surprised to see that the room was already crowded. When she finally made her way up to the bar, the bartender came over to her immediately and handed her a glass of brandy. Kyle stared at her.
"From a friend."
Kyle took the glass and sipped from it slowly, turning unhurriedly to survey the room. She saw her then, against the wall by the jukebox. She was standing much as she had been the first time Kyle had seen her, half in shadow. Her slender figure was encased in soft leather, and Kyle could make out the swath of black around her left wrist as her hands moved slowly while she talked. Kyle's heart pounded, but she forced herself to look away and scan the room. No one there stirred her the way Dane did. She doubted any one ever would. She knew she should wait.
The brandy warmed her even as the air seemed to glow with the excitement and the sexual energy of the women around her. She felt herself fuse and meld with the charged atmosphere as real time slipped away. Hours passed, or it might have been minutes, as her anticipation slowly eclipsed her perceptions. The suspense of waiting was finally broken by a voice at her side.
"You look good tonight," Dane's cool voice murmured in her ear.
Kyle started. She had not seen her approach. "I'm glad you like it."
"I do." Dane moved closer to her, shifting in the crowd so that her slender legs straddled Kyle from the side. She pressed her hand against the soft curve of Kyle's back.
"You left something of yours behind the other day," Dane said.
Kyle looked up at Dane in surprise, unable to read anything in Dane's blue eyes. As she started to protest, Dane handed her a small lighter, gold with black edges, exactly the opposite of her own old favorite.
Kyle closed her fingers around it. "Thank you."
Dane nodded and turned to the bar. "Sandy," she called.
The bartender, hurriedly mixing drinks, looked over at her.
"A bottle of brandy, please. And another glass." She filled her glass and poured more into Kyle's. "We should have a fire."
Kyle looked into Dane's face, her own features flushed. "We don't need one."
Dane smiled then, her gaze softening. "Dance?"
Kyle nodded, following Dane's lead through the crowd. The music was fast, pulsating with a rhythm that seemed to reflect her own internal fires. When the songs slowed, she moved into Dane's arms easily, slipping her fingers into the hair above Dane's collar. Dane's body fit into every curve of her own. Dane's hands were possessive on her back, sliding firmly to her hips. She pulled Kyle tightly against her as they moved sensuously together. When they finally parted, they were both shaking. Wordlessly, Dane led her back to the bar.
Dane handed Kyle her brandy and raised her glass in a quick salute.
"It's time to leave," Dane said, watching Kyle carefully. "We'll take the brandy."
Kyle's reply was interrupted by a voice beside them.
"Very nice scene, Dane," Brad said sarcastically.
Kyle saw Dane stiffen and reached out without thought to touch her arm. Dane pulled quickly away and turned to Brad.
"Leave it alone, Brad," Dane said, her eyes like stone.
Kyle wanted to take Dane's hand and pull her away, but she feared Dane's reaction. Something was happening that she didn't understand.
"I don't think so," Brad said just as quickly. "You seem to have something I want."
"No," Dane said tightly. "Not this time."
Brad grasped Dane's left arm in a vice-like grip. "Do you want me to show you how it should be done?" She forced Dane off balance with the strength of her hold on her. "Or do you still remember?"
Dane stared at Brad's hand on her arm, suddenly back in another room, in another time. She shook her head, feeling her throat constrict.
"No," she murmured, so softly that Kyle could barely hear her. "There's nothing you can do to me now."
"I can still do it, Dane. Because you still want me to," Brad replied, her eyes fixed on Dane's tense features. "I can, and I will--if you don't leave."
Dane looked at Kyle, her eyes clouded with anguish. "Kyle," she whispered, "I'm sorry."
Dane turned quickly and pushed her way to the door. Kyle stared dumbly at her retreating back for a second, then bolted after her.
"Dane," she called as she finally reached the street, only to see Dane pull away in her grey Camaro. Kyle stared up the street after the fading headlights, stunned. Finally she unhooked her helmet from her bike and straddled the wide tank. As she rose to kick-start the engine, Brad came up beside her.
"You're not leaving, I hope."
Kyle stared at her, her eyes blazing. "I don't know what hold you have on her, or what you've done to her. But you're nothing compared to her."
Brad's laughter followed her as she roared away.
Dane raced through the streets, riddled with pain. She could still feel Brad's hand on her arm, searing her flesh. She could see Kyle's eyes on her, confused and questioning. She wanted to be done of it; she wanted to bury her pain and expunge her fear. She pulled quickly to a stop behind a line of cars and strode across the street in a fury. Her knock was answered at once.
The woman stared out at her, her smile cruel. This time she said nothing, merely stepping back to allow Dane entrance.
Dane slipped inside, shedding her jacket on the bench beside the door.
"Let me have something," she said tersely.
The woman studied her for a moment, then nodded.
"Go upstairs. It's open."
Dane climbed the stairs, her mind closed to all thought except her need to escape. She entered the warm room and methodically began to remove her clothes. When the woman returned, she was naked.
"Give me your arm," the woman commanded.
Dane stared at her for a second, then held out her left arm. The strap was tight where it wrapped around her upper arm. She flinched at the sharp point of pain that pierced her skin. She looked away. Her chest burned before the soothing calm overtook her. Her mind began to drift and she had to strain to hear the voice beside her.
"Are you ready?"
Dane nodded mutely and allowed herself to be led again to the scaffold against the wall. She waited calmly in a haze of shifting light, slowly disconnecting from her physical self. When the first blow came, she felt the pain, but it seemed to be happening to someone else. As the lash cut swatches of fire across her back, she acknowledged them with a slight shudder. Still, the pain failed to penetrate to her core. She could still see Brad's face, hear her voice—where was Kyle? She searched the blackness around her, but she couldn't find Kyle. She felt then the vice-like grip of Brad's hand on her arm. Something hurt her, somewhere inside, and she knew it must be Brad - tearing at her soul. No! She wouldn't let her do it again, she wouldn't be broken again. She wouldn't ask her to stop--not this time. Brad would never do that to her again! She heard the snap of the cat, far away, and wondered whom Brad was disciplining now. She felt something tremble inside, but it didn't hurt. It didn't hurt anymore. It was someone else! She laughed as she realized she was free--no one could touch her anymore! She sighed and closed her mind to the sound of the lash, grateful at last for the peace.
The woman lowered her aching arm. The room was quiet. The red glow of the lights reflected off Dane's naked back and streamed to the floor. As she stared at Dane uncomprehendingly, she realized she had lost herself in the frenzy of her strokes. She took a step forward, instantly returning to reality.
"Dane," she whispered fearfully. Quickly she released the restraints. She caught Dane's limp body before she could slump to the floor. Her hand on Dane's back came away damp. She pressed her fingers gently against Dane's neck, finding the rapid, thready pulse. She covered her with a blanket from behind the bar and closed the door behind her.
Continue on to Part 7
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