Deciphering The Scrolls

part 5

by Azurenon & Savanna Mac

Please see part one for all disclaimers.


Chapter 8

 

While washing her hands, Mel gazed at her reflection in the medicine cabinet mirror. "Who are you?" she murmured. "You donít know, do you?"

Mel saw her own head move back and forth in response. It feels good being with Janice, she thought. Flirting with her is fun... exciting. Her eyes now scanned her reflection wondering what Janice saw when she looked at her.

What do you want her to see? her mind queried.

Me, she answered.

Then just be yourself, Mel.

How can I? she thought. When I donít even know who I am. So much of my appearance.. my thoughts... my feelings are... what Iíve been taught.

Deep down inside, you know who you are, Mel. You know what feels right to you. Stop holding yourself down. You once suggested to Janice that the two of you should step out of your fatherís shadows and show the world what you could do. So, remove the harness your parents and society has placed upon you. This is one horse who still has spirit. Set that spirit free. Explore the possibilities of your true nature. Follow your heart, Mel. Let it show you who you really are.

Mel watched the tall brunette staring back at her, as she unbuttoned the shortwaisted black jacket, exposing the white blouse beneath. She saw the two top buttons of the blouse being released from their moorings, as well. With her middle finger, the brunette touched the now exposed light bronze skin of her chest. Mel remembered reading Gabrielleís account of how it felt when Xena touched her breast for the first time. She felt her own fingers inching across the thin fabric of her blouse and wondered what it would feel like if these belonged to Janice. The memory of the strong, slightly rough fingers, which had caressed her neck and shoulders so gently, passed through her mind.

Her heartbeat quickened as this memory was suddenly replaced with the one of their accidental kiss. Was she truly only scared? she wondered. Was that why she had such an overwhelming reaction to it? Or was their more than that? She stared at her own lips, wondering what it would feel like to kiss Janice again. Would she feel the same way? She had the distinct feeling she would. For, even thinking about it was causing her stomach muscles to tighten.

I have to know, she thought, still staring at her reflection and yet mentally seeing Janiceís image before her. The tender expression in those blue-green depths had captured her attention and held it numerous times over the course of the day. Janice feels the same way I do, she thought. I just know she does. Itís in her eyes. Oh... but what... what do I do now? Iím so afraid of... all that I donít know and understand.

Janice had already prepared both drinks, putting Melís on her side table, and was placing another log on the fire, wondering what was taking her friend so long.

She caught me staring at her, she thought. That was a mistake. I shouldna done that. "Get a grip," she mumbled, reaching for the poker.

Youíre reading her all wrong, her mind interjected. Youíre seeing what you want to see. Mel was not flirting with you and you know it.

Oh, but it sure seemed that way, she countered. The way she was looking at me. The way she... touched my fingers and held onto that glass. The way she smiled....

Better stop thinking about it, her mind warned. Youíre only deluding yourself. Getting all worked up over nothing.

Yeah, probably so, she agreed, using the poker now to rearrange the logs. Besides what could someone like her possibly see in... "OWCH!" she yelped aloud, as an ember from the fire popped out and struck her just above the right eye. "Damn!" she cursed, feeling ashes flutter down into her eye. She involuntarily reached up and rubbed it.

"Janice, whatís wrong?" Mel asked, approaching her friend at a rapid pace, the concern evident in her voice.

"Ash... from the fire," Janice grumbled.

"In your eye?" Mel queried, coming closer. "Oh goodness... well, donít.. rub it!" she reprimanded, grabbing Janiceís hand and pulling it away. "Youíre only gonna make it worse by doing that. Here... let me... well, no... come over here and sit down in your chair by the light," she directed.

Although her eye was stinging and burning, and her hand itching to rub it, Janice complied with Melís request and allowed herself to be lead over to her chair where she sat down. Mel quickly moved in front of her, placing a hand on each cheek and turning her face toward the light.

"Okay now... hold still," Mel suggested, gently placing one hand above Janiceís eye and the other below. Then with the thumb of the former and index finger of the latter, she opened Janiceís eye, pulling the upper lid back. She saw the red irritated veins first and then beneath the top lid, a large speck of ash. "Hold your eye open like this," she instructed, as she backed up. "And donít move your eye around. I need to find something to get that... out... with," she added, glancing around in search of a tissue box.

"Hurry up," Janice grumbled.

"I donít see any tissue in here, Iíll have to go..."

"Iíll use my shirt," Janice interrupted.

"No, no, you canít see it, youíll only scratch your eye," Mel objected. "Oh-h here..." She snatched her own blouse out of her pants and started undoing the bottom buttons to free up the tail. "Iíll use this. Letís see if... ah, damn!" she cursed, realizing the short jacket was going to hinder her movements. She quickly peeled the jacket off and slung it over in her chair. "Hold still now. I donít want to hurt you," she added, finally able to get back to the task at hand.

Janice could smell Melís powdery perfume on the shirttail, as her friend brought it toward her eyes. She could also sense the warmth of Melís body close to her face. Then suddenly her cheek was pressed against warm, smooth flesh, when Mel turned her head towards the light again and pulled her closer.

Bracing Janiceís head against her body, to keep her from moving, Mel then used her shirttail to remove the offending bits of ash, as she found them.

"Just one more little piece," Mel announced. "There," she added, easing her grip on Janiceís head. "Howís that?"

Janice blinked several times, her eye still stinging a bit, but not as bad as before. Her good eye, however, was straining itself, taking in the partially open blouse and the smooth bronze skin her face had so recently been pressed against. She longed to return to that positon and press her lips to Melís skin, inhaling her sweet, enticing aroma.

"Hmm, looks like I missed a piece," Mel observed, seeing a dark speck suddenly appear in the inner corner of Janiceís eye.

Once again, Mel lifted the shirttail, the scent of her perfume filling the air around them. Janice longed to reach out and pull Mel close; to release those remaining buttons and gaze upon what she assumed would be a very beautiful sight indeed. But, she couldnít. There was no way she was going to open herself up to that kind of rejection again.

"Howís that?" Mel asked, easing back.

"Much better," Janice answered, her hand automatically moving towards her eye to rub it.

Mel grabbed her hand. "No, donít do that! Let your eye clean itself. If thereís anymore left, itíll only scratch it, if you rub it."

"But it... itches," Janice whined.

Mel squeezed her hand. "Be patient. Let nature take care of the rest, hmm?"

Janice had to admit she liked the feel of Melís hand on hers. Matter of fact, she wanted to be able to hold this hand in her own and intertwine their fingers. Instead, however, she caught herself merely rubbing her thumb over the outside of her friendís long, slender appendages. Realizing what she was doing, she glanced up to see if Mel had noticed. With her uninjured eye, Janice could see her friend staring down at her, a slight smile on her face. My God, you are beautiful, Janice thought, her good eye riveted to one of Melís intense blue ones. She then felt a thumb rubbing the back of her own hand. Do you feel what I do? Janice asked mentally, wishing for that one moment, that the tall brunette could read her mind.

I love the way your hands feel, Mel thought, as she eased down on the ottoman. The thought even crossed her mind to lead Janiceís hand to her open blouse. But would Janice want to touch her? she wondered. Her eyes said yes, but could Mel be seeing only what she wanted to see?

Janiceís good eye followed Melís movements, while her injured one remained cloudy and blinked intermittently. She longed to rub and clear it, so she could focus all her attention on Mel, yet the latter had a grip on her hand and she didnít want to lose this contact.

For several moments, the two sat in silence, staring at one another. I need to know if she feels the same way, Mel thought. I want to know what it would feel like if she touched me. And soon she found herself pulling Janiceís hand towards her. Suddenly feeling scared, she abruptly paused and rested it near her knee. Her heart was pounding rapidly now, as she stared into Janiceís good eye, thinking of what sheíd almost done.

Whatís she doing? Janice wondered, as Mel rubbed the back of her fingers with her thumb. Does she want me to touch her? Or am I just imagining things?

Melís gaze shifted to the hand she held on her leg. She was scared. Afraid she was moving too fast for her own good. What if Janice did feel the same way? What if sheíd even been with a woman before? Was she ready for what could happen between them?

No, itís too soon, she decided.

What happened to letting yourself be free? her mind queried.

I donít even know if Iím ready to be truly free, Mel thought. Itís all happening so fast. Iím... frightened of my own feelings.

With her good eye, Janice saw the expressions on Melís face as they changed. In her opinion, her friend seemed to be having some inner conversation with herself. Janice knew how that felt, sheíd had enough of those with her own self here lately.

"Ah-ah-ah," Mel said, reaching out and taking hold of Janiceís other hand, which the latter hadnít even been aware was moving towards her eye.

Mel now had both of Janiceís hands encased in her own. What do I do with them? she wondered, bringing them together near her knees. Slowly, she ran her thumb over the backs of each one, noticing the soft, fine blonde hairs scattered across the surface, as well as a few minute freckles. "You have... strong hands," she noted.

Janice grunted. "Large is more like it. Too big for my frame, Iím told."

"No, theyíre not," Mel countered, her hands moving beneath Janiceís in such a way that the latterís fingers were soon displayed across her palm. "I think theyíre... rather nice, myself. Your fingernails are so round across the top."

Yep, Janice thought, definitely something going on in her mind, if she can find anything good to say about those hands. Then she said, "Didnít do a very good job cleaning my nails, did I?"

Mel shrugged. "Canít get every little speck," she said, rubbing Janiceís fingers with her thumb.

Oh yeah, not even willing to agree Iíve got dirty nails, Janice thought, but then said, "You have a nice touch."

"Thank you," Mel responded, acting a bit embarrassed.

"Your fingers are so smooth and soft," Janice added, her own voice taking on a very soft tone.

"I donít work hard like you do," Mel reminded, as she glanced up.

"Yes, you do. Just not with your hands."

Mel shrugged, her gaze returning to Janiceís hands. "Havenít worked much lately."

"Neither one of us has."

Mel merely nodded

Janice cleared her throat. "I know Iím probably looking a gift horse in the mouth, but..." She paused as Mel looked up at her. "how long does it take nature to... um... do itís thing, Ďcause... I kinda got an... urgent nature thing going on somewhere else, which I need to take care of." When Mel frowned slightly, she added, "My back teeth are floatiní."

Mel smile and squeezed her fingers. "Donít rub your eye, promise?"

"Um, yesímam," Janice responded.

"Alright then," Mel said, sounding just like someoneís mother, as she let go of her hands.

Janice stood up and paused for a moment, watching Melís eyes travel slowly up her body. When their gazes met, Janice smiled knowingly. Of itís own accord, her right hand started reaching out towards Melís face. The latter saw it, for Janice noticed a spark of fear in her eyes. She quickly halted her handís forward movement. "Thank you," she said, as she shoved her errant hand in her pants pocket and quickly turned to walk away.

Mel cleared her throat. "Youíre welcome."

Janice suddenly spun around. "Look Ma, no hands," she said, in a childish voice, displaying both hands in her pants pockets now.

Mel smiled and shook her head. "Cute," she called after her friend, who had already turned back around, headed for the bathroom.

Mel breathed a sigh of relief, laced heavily with disappointment. She was almost sure Janice was going to touch her face... and yet... sheíd pulled back. Why? Perhaps Janice didnít feel the same way? she thought. Or maybe sheís never been involved with another woman before, either.

Mel got up from the ottoman, her legs feeling weak and trembly. She walked over and eased down into her own chair. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the full glass on the side table. She picked it up and took several healthy swallows. There were so many thoughts careening around in her brain that she could not concentrate on any one thing.

Taking yet another healthy swig, she leaned back in the chair and put her feet up on the ottoman. Attempting to cross her ankles, her boots collided with one another. All other thoughts were relegated to the back burner, as she centered her attention on this one safe, spur of the moment decision to take her boots off and get comfortable.

When Janice returned, both eyes functioning properly now, the first thing she noticed was Melís bare feet on the ottoman. That sounds like a good idea to me, she thought; for, she was afraid to even consider any of the notions spinning around inside that grey mass of confusion called her brain.

Sitting down in her chair, she began unlacing her boots, trying to think of something to say.

Mel was the one to break the silence, however. "Howís your eye?" she inquired.

"Better. Well, much better actually, thank you," Janice answered.

"What happened?" Mel further queried. When Janice glanced up, a quizzical expression on her face, she added, "Howíd you get ashes in your eye?"

Janice then explained about the log moving and how the ember popped out and hit her above the eye. She then sat back, after removing her boots and socks and took a swig of her drink.

The silence that followed was thick with all that was left unsaid between them. Both women felt it and alternated staring into the fire, with stealing glances in one anotherís direction. Each looking away quickly if caught by the other.

"Howís your drink?" Janice finally inquired.

Mel held up the glass. "Nearly gone," she answered quietly. She then glanced over at Janice and they both chuckled softly.

"Beginning to acquire a taste for hard liquor, are you?" Janice teased.

"It would seem that way," Mel answered softly, raising the glass to her lips again and draining the last of it.

"Here, Iíll get you another," Janice offered, raising up and removing her feet from the ottoman.

"No, I can do it," Mel countered, as she too raised up, putting her feet on the floor.

"Itís the least I can do for you taking care of my eye," Janice commented, rising up out of her chair.

"You donít owe me anything for that," Mel assured, getting up from her own chair.

Both women were so intent upon their own pursuits and thoughts that they had not paid attention to what the other was doing. And it wasnít until they both looked up and found themselves face to face, with only the ottoman between them, that they took note of one another. And then their gazes locked and held.

Janice finally had the presence of mind to extend her hand towards Mel for her glass. The latter saw this out of the corner of her eye and slowly handed it over. Their fingers touched once again. Both glanced down at their hands, then back up at one other.

The air in the room was once again heavy with all the thoughts that neither had the courage to verbalize. The anticipation that been building was now almost a living, breathing entity; the energy from it drawing them together like moths to a flame.

Mel eased her fingers closer to Janiceís, inching them in between the latterís, enjoying their slightly rough texture.

Janice reached over with her other hand and grabbed the glass, removing the obstacle so that their fingers were now free to overlap.

Mel broke eye contact long enough to glance down at their hands, which were slowly coming together fully.

Janice took this opportunity to set the glass on the table behind her. When she turned back around Mel was staring at her once again.

Everything that had been left unsaid, was now evident in each womanís eyes. Both were gazing at the other so intently, each felt as if they were actually touching in a more intimate way than just their hands.

Slowly, Janice manuevered around the ottoman, without breaking eye or hand contact. She then reached out for Melís other hand, as she sat down on the ottoman.

Mel obliged and followed Janiceís lead, by sitting back down in her chair.

Janice then brought her friendís hands together in front of herself. Gently, she disengaged their fingers from their intertwined embrace and took hold of Melís hands. Slowly, she brought them up to her face and placed a light kiss on each set of knuckles. Glancing up at Mel briefly, she then rubbed her cheek against the left one, placing a moist kiss inside the palm.

Melís heartbeat quickened and her ears began to burn. Never, in her entire life, had she experienced anything so pleasureable, so tender nor so sensual. The fingers of her left hand caressed the side of Janiceís cheek, as the latter glanced up at her once again. Mel could now see the longing in those blue-green depths and something else, as well. Fear, perhaps? she wondered, which only intensified the tender longings of her own heart. Iím not the only one whoís afraid, she thought.

Mel placed her right hand against Janiceís other cheek, her heart beating like a drum as she considered what she was about to do. Gently she began coaxing her friendís face towards her own. Then suddenly, a log on the fire shifted, the embers popping loudly, making them both jump. Each one acted like a child whoíd been caught doing something they shouldnít, by pulling away from the other.

"Hmph. Guess I should... take care of that," Janice said, realizing this was the same log sheíd had trouble with before.

Melís hands dropped into her lap like dead weights. She knew the moment had passed; the spell had been broken, as she watched her friend move towards the fire.

"Be careful," she cautioned, when Janice snatched up the poker.

The latter merely grunted.

Mel turned to get her drink and found it wasnít there. Then she remembered Janice had taken it from her. That moment of anticipation and electricity washed over her once again, as she spotted her glass on Janiceís table. She needed that drink now, more than ever.

Janice poked at the log, cursing it in her mind. My God, Mel had come so close to kissing her. At least, she assumed that was what she was going to do. What else could she have intended? Janice sighed heavily and slowly pushed the log further back into the fireplace. If I had an axe handy, Iíd chop you into little tiny pieces, she thought, directing this at the half burned log. Jesus H. Christ, it was going so well. Iíve never wanted anyone so much in all my life, she thought. She could see herself kissing Melís palm, as the memory meandered through her mind. Iíve never done anything like that before. Good Lord, it almost felt like... I wasnít doing it. Like someone or... some thing had taken me over. Then again.... I know I wanted to do it. I mean, it all felt so... right... so tender... so-o... damn sen-sual, she thought and felt that spark of desire igniting in the pit of her stomach. At least it was going great, until you fell, she added, poking at the log. Lord, how do you ever recreate a moment like that?

You canít, her mind answered. So, just let it be, Janice. Just let the moment stand for itself. Go on like nothing happened. Mel is.

Janice glanced around now, hearing Mel mixing herself another drink. The one she was supposed to have fixed for her.

Let Mel lead the way, Janice. Let her show you what sheís ready for. You never know, she may have been about to tell you, in a nice way, that she didnít want any part of this.

No, Janice countered, I could see that look in her eyes. She wanted it. She made the first move.

And you should let her make the next one, if... there is a next one. You have to remember Melís still a virgin, in every since of the word, or so she says. You need to be very careful here. Just be patient, Janice. And let her lead the way. That is... if she even wants to go there.

Janice sighed heavily and got to her feet. Yes, Mel should be the one to make the first moves, she agreed, Iíll just sit back and follow her lead. She sighed again. Yeah, right, Iíve never sat back and followed anyoneís lead, she thought, disagreeing with her own self. Well... I guess I should try. Ah, dammit all, whereís that drink I had. I sure hope it ainít gone, Ďcause Iím thirsty as hell.

Mel turned around with her drink in her hand, just as Janice flopped down in her chair. Yes, the moment has definitely passed, she thought. And the worst part is, I donít know how to get it back. She leaned her hip against the liquor cabinet, as she took a swallow of her drink and wondered what in the world they could possibly talk about now.

She saw Janice working on draining her own glass. "Need me to mix you another while Iím up?" she asked, thinking this was as good a place as any to begin, since it was where things had started before.

"I can get it," Janice finally answered.

"Oh, let me," Mel urged. "I could use the practice."

Janice then drained the glass and held it out at armís length. "Okay."

Mel turned and sat her own glass down, then proceeded over to her friend. Janice glanced up briefly as Mel reached for the glass. "Make it stronger," she said, then turned away, as she handed the glass off so quickly there wasnít even a chance of their fingertips brushing against one another.

Mel was caught off guard by her friendís actions and very disappointed by them, as well. For, sheíd wanted to try and recreate what had happened before - the touching of their fingers and the eye contact - but, Janice didnít seem interested in either one.

Mel glanced over her shoulder at her friend, as she made her way back to the cabinet. What happened? she wondered, watching Janice stare into the fire, crossing her arms over her chest. Whereís the tenderness of a few moments ago? Janice is acting as if sheís angry. Is it possible that she hadnít been trying to seduce me? Had she merely been preparing to nicely... turn me down?

This thought struck heavy and hard, shaking Melís ego nearly to the core. Sheíd never been turned down. At least, not in situations like this. Sheíd always been the one to push the man away (and hope he listened), not the other way round. What is going on here? she wondered, mixing Janiceís drink only a little stronger than sheíd been shown, because she didnít want her getting drunk. I was almost sure she was... seducing me, Mel thought. The way she kissed my fingers and nuzzled her cheek against my hand... How the devil did I read that wrong? she wondered, stirring the drink now.

Calm down, Mel, her mind cautioned. Remember that look of fear you thought you saw in Janiceís eyes? Well, that may be exactly what it was. Janice may be just as afraid, if not more so, than you are. Just because she doesnít seem to be a stranger to these relationships, doesnít mean sheís been involved in one herself. And who knows what her dealings with men have been like.

Mel turned and looked at her friend, as her mind continued, Janice didnít grow up like you did. The men around her may well have been... quite rough. You, yourself were often afraid of getting into trouble, remember? Even though you picked your dates carefully, from the best families, whose reputations you felt you could trust. Janice may not have had that luxury. Remember how hard and callus she seemed about the subject of sex, in general? Accusing you of lying about being a virgin? There may well be a reason for that. Janice puts up a hard front, carrying that gun and whip, which she knows how to use. Donít you think she learned those things for a reason? She may well have been around the block a few times, but that doesnít mean sheís not just as frightened of what waits around the corner, as you are. Maybe... even more so.

But, Iíd never hurt Janice, she has to know that, Mel thought.

Oh really? Were you ready for all that might have happened if that log hadnít fallen? What if she had kissed you and come on a little strong, hmm? Were you prepared for that?

Mel shook her head sadly.

Be patient, Mel. Thereís a lot you both need to think about... before you act in haste.

Mel nodded and picked up both drinks. Yes, there was a lot she needed to consider here. This was not a teenage fling. Neither one of them could take off to their separate houses, they had to live together. And most of all... sleep together. If anything happened between them, it would more than likely... take them "all the way". Right into the bedroom, she thought, glancing at the hall doorway. And Mel wasnít sure she was ready for that. Not tonight at any rate.

"Your eye... still bothering you?" Mel inquired, handing Janiceís drink off to her.

"No, not much," Janice answered softly, glancing up at her briefly this time.

Mel noticed her black jacket crumpled in her chair, where sheíd already sat on it once. She reached down and picked it up, draping it across the chair arm.

Janice cleared her throat. "So, your dad loved horses," she said. "Did you live on a farm or have a stable or something?"

Mel eased back in her chair, putting her feet up on the ottoman. She realized Janice must have been thinking along the same lines as herself : something to talk about. And Melís past, where she had lived and how she had lived, had not been a subject sheíd shared much about yet.

"Itís an old plantation," Mel responded, using the present tense, because it now belonged to her, as sole heir. "Passed down through the generations. Daddy had to sell off quite a bit of land over the years. But yes, he had a stable of horses. They were his pride and joy."

"You had one of your own, I assume?" Janice queried.

"Yes. A mare named Olive."

"Olive?" Janice raised one light brown eyebrow.

Mel smiled. "Yeah, I know, odd name, but... she just loved olives, from the time she was a mere filly. And she also had these skinny little knobby legs, when she was a yearling. She looked like Olive from the Popeye cartoon." She chuckled. "It was hard to believe they would hold her up, much less carry her that fast."

"She was real fast?"

"Oh, not in the sense of a race horse, no. She was prissy though. Had this wonderful gait, as she grew older. Sheís what they call a ĎRackerí because of the way she moves. Itís almost as smooth as riding a rockiní horse. Matter of fact, sheís the one who won those trophies. It wasnít anything I did. She was a real sight to behold when she was in the ring. She lo-oved performing. I remember this one time...."

Janice listened intently as Mel warmed to her subject and continued her story about Olive. She was relieved to have her friend talking again and the intense silence between them broken. She had wondered if they could carry on as if nothing had happened and now she had her answer. Although, she wasnít exactly sure what this meant in terms of where their relationship was heading. If indeed, it was headed anywhere.

Chapter 9

 

Their glasses were empty, their tongues were tired and theyíd long since run out of things to say. Janice was staring into the fire, when she happened to wonder what time it was. She pulled out her pocket watch.

"Good grief, do you know itís two thirty?" she asked.

Mel offered no response whatsoever.

Janice glanced over at her friend, who was slumped down in her chair, her head lying on her own shoulder. She looked much the same as the morning sheíd stayed up reading.

"Hey, sleepy head," Janice called, tapping her foot against Melís, which sheíd just realized was propped up against her own on the ottoman; how long it had been there, she didnít know.

"Umph," Mel grunted, her eyes still closed.

"Mel," Janice said, a bit louder.

"Umph." Mel grunted again and opened one eye. "Hmm?" she asked, as this eye slowly closed.

Janice started to tap her foot again, then decided instead to rub it with her own. "We need to... go to bed," she said softly.

"Umph," Mel grunted. "Thaís nice."

Janice rubbed Melís foot a moment longer, taking in the long toes and high arch of the slim appendage. Her gaze then roamed up the tall brunetteís body. She noticed Melís hand dangling from the chair arm. She admired the long slim fingers, which she knew from experience were soft to the touch. She could almost feel them on her face now, as the memory gingerly traversed her mental pathways.

She sighed heavily, getting up from her chair. "Umph, shouldna tolí her to mix that one so strong," she murmured, as she swayed on her feet. "Hmph." She stood there for a moment until the room stopped moving.

When she felt more in control of herself, she moved towards Melís chair. "Okay, sleepy head, letís get you to bed," she said, reaching out and taking her friendís hand in hers and shaking it.

Melís finger gripped her own, as her friendís eyes fluttered open. "Umf," she grunted.

"Get up," Janice urged, pulling on Melís hand.

"O-kay," Mel murmured, very slowly getting to her feet. She then started to sway and blink.

"Uh-oh," Janice groaned. "Looks like Iím not the only one," she added, quickly turning towards Mel and putting her arm around her friendís waist.

Mel glanced down at her and said, "Hi-i,. ..Jan-nish."

Janice shook her head. "Watch the boots," she cautioned, leading Mel away from her chair. Despite her warning, her friend stumbled over the boots anyway. "Been here, done this," Janice muttered, as Melís arm went around her neck and her head slumped over on her shoulder. "Come on now, you gotta move your feet," she urged.

"Wher-r we... goiní?" Mel asked, her breath soft and warm against Janiceís left ear.

"To bed," Janice answered.

"Hmm, that... soonds... goot," Mel commented, nuzzling her cheek against Janiceís hair.

"Uh... huh," Janice acknowledged. "Youíre... gone."

"Gone? Whe-ere?" Mel asked, as she stumbled along beside Janice.

"Where... all drunks... go," Janice grunted in response, while manuevering them through the hall doorway. "To... bed."

" ĎAtís ni-ice," Mel murmured. "Wo-ong as yur whiff me."

Janice wasnít exactly sure what sheíd said, but knew better than to worry about it. Mel was drunk and wouldnít remember a thing she said in the morning. Janice wasnít even sure sheíd remember it herself.

She led Mel around the end of the bed to her usual side and sat her down. Then she grabbed one of Melís nightgowns and a T-shirt for herself, out of their shared drawer. "Here, put this on," she said, extending the nightgown towards Mel. "Hey..." she said, a bit louder, when her friend did not take it from her. "Mel... look at me."

"Huh?" her friend said, glancing up now.

"Your nightgown." Janice took Melís left hand and placed the garment in it. "You can put this on, right?"

Mel glanced down at her hand. "Been doiní it fer years," she announced proudly.

"Uh-huh, well good," Janice commented. "Wouldnít want you sleeping in your pants. Okay, you stay here and put this on. Iím gonna change in the bathroom. Iíll be right back."

"Uh-kay," Mel muttered, placing the nightgown across her lap, as Janice walked away. "Hmph," she grunted, wondering where to begin. "Doní sleep in my panís," she mumbled, as she stood up to unbutton them. She fumbled with the buttons a moment, then finally pulled them down over her hips. "Wish the woom would stay still," she muttered, sitting back down on the bed, her pants falling around her ankles.

"Slipíry Ďittle thinís," Mel mumbled, fumbling with the buttons on her blouse now. "Umph," she grunted, shrugging the blouse off her shoulders. "Leígo," she grunted, shaking her right arm to free it from the sleeve caught on her hand. "I saií leígo," she added, using her left hand to free her right, the blouse fluttering to the floor.

Turning her attention to her bra now, she slipped the straps over her shoulders and breathed a sigh of relief as her breasts sprang free from their imprisonment. She then slipped the bra around her torso and unhooked it in front. This small bit of feminine torture landed next to her blouse.

"Umph," Mel grunted, searching around for the nightgown. "I knoí I jusí had you," she muttered. "Now, wíered you go, hmm?" It took a moment for her to remember that sheíd laid it across her lap. "Umph, musí be down there," she said, looking at the floor in front of her. "Hmph, caní see a bresísed thinídown here," she added, bending over and starting to search around with her hand.

"There you are," Mel muttered, grasping a smooth thin garment and holding it up. "Hmph. Thaís not you," she countered, realizing she was holding her blouse. "Musí be down there somewíeres," she mumbled, dropping the blouse, as she returned to her search.

She bent over further this time, searching around with her right hand. "Whoa, Nellie," she mumbled, feeling as if she were losing her balance. She immediately tried to compensate by throwing out her right leg, but it was still trapped by the pants around her ankles. "Uh-oh," she uttered, as the floor came up to meet her hands and knees. "Uff," she grunted, shaking her head to clear it. "Leasí Iím quoíser now. Iíll finí you yet, you wittle wascal."

When Janice walked back into the room, Mel was nowhere to be seen. But, she could hear her mumbling to herself. "Jusí waitía I get my hanís on you. Wíere in tarn-nation can you be?"

Slowly Janice moved into the room, wondering who in the world Mel was talking to. "Gotta be sumwíeres over... Ummph!"

Janice heard a thud and knew her friend had obviously bumped into something. "Mel, what in the world are you doing?" she asked, as she turned on the bedside lamp.

"Ooo," Mel grunted, shielding her eyes.

Oh lord, Janice thought, seeing her friend hunched over in the floor, the smooth bronze skin of her bare back an intriguing sight.

"Lookiní for thaí... thiní," Mel replied, as she sat back on her haunches.

"What... thiní?"

"Oh... you know that... thiní I sle-ep in," Mel answered, as she glanced around herself. "Ah-ha, there you are," she announced, dropping down on all fours now. "I gotcha now," she added, as her head popped up above the side of the bed.

Janice could do nothing but watch in awe, as her friend pulled herself up off the floor; Melís bare chest slowly materializing from behind the bed.

Holy shit, Janice thought, seeing the rather firm round mounds, with their dark centers. My god, sheís more beautiful than I even envisioned. Oh no, donít do that, she wanted to say, as Mel turned around and sat down on the bed, her back to her now.

"Geí back here," Mel mumbled, as she fumbled with the nightgown, which appeared to be rather slippery. "If I can jusí finí the bottom of this thiní."

Janice merely stood admiring the contours of Melís back and shoulders, as the tall brunette fumbled with the silky nightgown. She wanted so bad to be able to reach out and touch this smooth looking skin; to feel it against her own. Will that ever actually happen? she wondered.

"When dií you... shrink up?" Mel mumbled, as she tried to pull the nightgown over her head.

"Uh... Mel... thatís... thatís the armhole," Janice commented, biting her lip to suppress a giggle.

"Huh?" Mel queried, her head turning towards Janice with the nightgown covering her face.

"Youíre... trying... to put your head... through the armhole," Janice answered, turning away for a moment, because the sight before her was so hilarious. Melís big head pressed against the confines of the small armhole.

"Umph, no woníer it didní wanna fit," the brunette mumbled, pulling the nightgown off her head. "Uh-h shi-it," she grumbled, as the errant garment slipped from her hands and onto the floor.

Janice was doing all she could not to laugh out loud. She wanted to help Mel, but she wasnít sure her resistance was that strong. Being close to Mel right now, would be a challenge.

Mel leaned over and picked up the nightgown once again and began fumbling with the silky material. Then suddenly she stopped and said, "Jan-nish... I thouít you were my friení."

"Well... I am," Janice countered.

"Then why doní you come helí me. Caní you see Iím haviní trumble?

"Uh... yeah, well... Okay," Janice stammered, taking a deep breath, trying to shore up her resolve. You can do this. Just... keep your eyes on... the task at hand. And for god sakes, keep your hands to yourself. Yeah, I can do this, she told herself, as she rounded the end of the bed. When Mel glanced up at her, however, Janice felt her resolve melt right out the end of her toes. Oh heaven help me, she prayed, trying to avert her eyes from staring at the tantalizing body before her.

Mel eyes rolled around in their sockets, as she handed the nightgown to Janice. "I neeí help," she said, sounding like a child.

"Uh-huh," Janice murmured, taking the silky garment and searching for the neck opening. Been a long time since I put on one of these. Much less... put one on someone else. Matter of fact, I canít ever remember doing that. "Hmph," she grunted, trying to decide how to go about this. "O-kay," she announced, gathering up the body of the garment in her hands, so that she could offer Mel only the holes to put her arms and head through. "I think I got it. Now... give me your left arm."

Mel swayed a moment, then held out one arm. "No, youíre other left," Janice corrected. "Uh-huh, thatís it. Now... the right one... thatís it. Now, your head."

"Ooo, your hanís are colí," Mel announced, the nightgown sliding down over her face.

"Uh... sorry," Janice mumbled, her eyes falling to Melís breast, as the brunette lifted her arms over her head. The nightgown slid down her arms and over her shoulders, the hem of one side catching on an erect nipple, for a brief moment, on its way by, then continuing on down and settling around Melís hips.

"Umph, okay." Janice took a step back, trying not to look Mel in the eye. "Oops, wait a minute," she continued, noticing the pants still around her friendís ankles. "You need to stand up and step out of those," she added, taking Melís hand in order to help her to her feet. The tall brunette swayed a moment. "On second thought, sit back down."

"Staní up, sií down... maí up your miní," Mel slurred, as she dropped back down on the bed.

"Here, just... lay back on the bed," Janice suggested, which Mel did, without hesitation. "Uh... well, no..." she corrected. "I meant this way... like you were going to sleep. No, wait... let me turn down this cover down while youíre here."

"I wisí youíd maíe up youí miní," Mel grumbled, as Janice raised her back up, then turned her body around.

"Okay, now let me get these off," Janice grunted, struggling with the tapered legs of the pants, trying to get them over Melís feet. "Alright," she said, finally tossing them aside and breathing a sigh of relief. Glancing up at her friend, she saw Melís eyes were already closed. "Guess I can get you in here myself," she added, lifting her friendís long legs so that she could pull the cover down and get them under it.

Mel opened her eyes, when Janice pulled the sheet up to her chin. "Um, this reminís me of when I was a wittle girl. My Nana use to tuck me in aí nighí."

"Your Nana?" Janice queried, gazing down at the beautiful brunette, whose face now bore the sweetest of smiles.

"Um-hmm. Nana took gooí care oí me. Jusí like you." Mel blinked several times. "Aícourse you look nothiní lií my Nana."

"Oh and what did she look like?" Janice prodded, curious about this woman that had taken such good care of her friend.

"Likí... cream-mee cof-fee," Mel muttered. "Aní sweeí as sug-gaí."

"Your Nana was colored?" Janice surmised.

"Uh-uh," Mel corrected. "In-nian."

"Indian?" Janice prodded. "Your Nana was Indian?"

"Yuchi," Mel mumbled.

"What?"

"E-u-chee," Mel answered pronouncing the syllables slowly.

What the hell is she saying? Janice wondered. Must be east Indian or something. But, of course, it didnít matter really. She could ask her about it later.

"Thaní you, Jan-nish," Mel mumbled, as she rolled over on her side.

"Youíre welcome."

"Sweeí dweams," Mel uttered.

Janice longed to lean down and kiss Melís cheek, yet contented herself with merely touching her friends shoulder, as she softly said, "Sweet dreams, yourself."

Indian Nana? Janice thought, heading back to her side of the bed. Thought Southerners hired colored folks for those kinda jobs. Hmph, shows what little this Yankee knows about the south, she concluded, turning off the lamp and crawling into bed.

Lord have mercy, but sheís beautiful, she thought, as the memory of Melís body danced across the landscape of her mind. Um-um-um, better think about something else, she suggested.

Yet, the memory would not leave her alone. It replayed over and over in her mind, each time with the addition of another version of Janiceís own fantasies about what might have been. And she finally drifted off to sleep; her conscious fantasies creeping slowly into the unconscious land of dreams.

 

The next morning, Janice awoke to find herself curled up in her usual position, but with two exceptions: one of Melís long arms was around her waist and the latterís body was molded against the backside of her own. Her first thought was how nice and snug and warm she felt. Her second was that they shouldnít be laying like this, especially with Mel so close behind her. When she attempted to scoot away, however, Mel grumbled near her ear and abruptly pulled her back against her. Her hand also slipped beneath Janiceís other side.

"Hmph," Janice grunted, feeling smooth warm thighs against the backside of her own. Mel groaned again, her feet now pressing against the bottom of Janiceís. They were quite cool to the touch. On instinct, Janice wrapped her own around them to warm them. Mel then snuggled closer against the back of her neck, moaning softly.

A shiver traveled down Janiceís spine. Heaven help me, she thought, this feels so-o good. Umm... Iíd like to lay like this forever. We fit together so well. Janiceís eyes closed, as she savored this moment. Then suddenly they sprang back open. What time is it? she wondered, glancing up at the clock. The hands read 8:12. Oh good Lord, Iíve gotta get to the dig site. The men will already be there and... not a one ofíem can find their ass with both hands unless somebody shows it toíem.

Gently, so as not to wake up Mel - albeit reluctantly - Janice extricated herself from her friendís embrace. Mel instantly began curling up into a tighter ball. And as Janiceís feet touched the floor, she knew why. The temperature had obviously dropped during the night. No wonder you were up next to me, she thought, glancing back at Mel.

"Ooo Ooo Ooo," she said softly, wrapping her arms around her chest and tiptoeing to the end of the bed, where she slowly opened her old cedar chest. The hinges creaked and Mel grumbled. Janice quickly reached in and grabbed a quilt her grandmother had given her years ago. Closing the lid softly, she gently spread the quilt over her sleeping friendís form.

"Sleep well," she said softly, staring down at the beautiful brunette. She then quickly leaned over and placed a light kiss on her friendís cheek.

Mel mumbled and a slight smile turned up the corners of her mouth. Janice smiled to herself, then took off to get dressed.

As she put on her jacket at the door, Janice eyed her hat. She hadnít worn it the day before, because it was so battered and stained. Too much so to wear into town. But today...

"What the hell..." she grumbled, "...itís my lucky hat." She grabbed it up and plopped it on her head. "Still feels good," she added, feeling as if life was back to normal. Well, semi-normal, she corrected, as she opened the door and stepped out into the very chilly morning air.

Chapter 10

When Janice returned home, after a very hard day, she stepped into a nice warm cottage, filled with the intermingled aromas of cleaning solution and baking bread. Removing her hat and jacket, she glanced around in search of Mel.

"Hmph, looks like someoneís been busy today," she called out, hoping for some kind of response. But there was only silence. "Umm... something sure smells good," she said a bit louder, thinking Mel might be in the bathroom and didnít hear her. Still nothing.

She shrugged, assuming her friend would be out any moment. Wonder whatís cooking? she thought, headed towards the kitchen. There were several pots on the wood stove with the lids on them. Her nose detected lima beans, sweet potatoes, biscuits and something else... pot roast perhaps? She grabbed a potholder and slowly opened the oven door, hoping there wasnít a cake inside. Um, just as I suspected... pot roast, with carrots and pearl onions... umph, my favorite. She eased the door shut and hung the potholder back in its place. Hmph, better wash these hands, she thought, noticing the dirt under her nails and on the backsides.

"Boy, youíve been busy, huh?" she called out once again, coming back through the living room now. Still there was no response. "Hey, Mel... where you at?"

When she peeked into the hall, she saw the bathroom door was open and the interior dark. She then proceeded into the bedroom. A smile crept onto her face as she noticed the bed was neatly made; the quilt she had laid over Mel this morning was spread out on top. But there was still no sign of her friend. Disappointment pulled the smile right back off her face.

"Where the devil can she be?" she asked aloud, as disappointment quickly turned to concern.

In two quick strides Janice flung open her closet door. Relief flooded over her when she saw that Melís clothes were still inside.

Slowly, she walked back into the living room. "The truck is here," she murmured. So, she didnít go to town. And... I canít see her going for a walk and leaving the roast and biscuits in the oven. Where in the... She paused, hearing a noise from behind the cottage. Thud, thud, Whack. "What the hell?" she asked aloud and took off towards the front door, grabbing her hat on the way by.

Rounding the side of the cottage at a rapid clip, she came to an abrupt halt, as her eyes focused on an unexpected sight. Mel was standing several feet away, her back to Janice. She was dressed in her riding boots, the skirt sheíd ripped up the sides, several days before, as well as, the blouse that went with it, which Janice could see still had bloodstains on the inside right sleeve, as Mel raised the axe in her hands. The tall brunette then brought the axe head down and buried it in one of the round logs they used in the fireplace. Janice inched slowly around to get a better view, as her friend lifted the axe again, with the log still attached to the head and brought it back down on the chopping block, not once but twice. Thud, thud, Whack! The log cracked open into two neat halves.

Mel then leaned over, the ripped skirt parting, exposing one smooth upper thigh and a thin slice of light pink underwear, as she picked up the two halves and tossed them onto a pile of a dozen or more just like it. Janice could only gawk, as she watched her friend pick up another round log and start the process all over. Shoomp... Thud, thud, Whack. Two more neat halves fell to the ground.

As Mel leaned over to pick these up, Janice finally found her voice. "Whereíd you learn that?" she asked, crossing her arms over her chest.

Mel flinched and glanced up rather quickly. Janice noticed the skirt part even further this time, as her friend lingered in this position. "My grandfather taught me," she finally responded, slowly picking up the two pieces.

"Hmph," Janice grunted.

"He wasnít the... chauvinist my father was," Mel explained, tossing the pieces on the pile.

"Apparently not," Janice mumbled, moving towards her friend now. "Wanna tell me why-y youíre doing this, though?"

Mel leaned her weight on the axe, which she was holding down by her side now and wiped her brow with the rolled up sleeve of her blouse. "We needed wood for the stove and... I noticed how pieces like this stacked better, so... I thought maybe we could avoid... more logs nearly rolling out of the fireplace."

"Hmph," Janice grunted. "All you had to do was tell me, Mel. I would have taken care of this."

"Why?" Mel queried, looking over at her. "When I can do it myself?"

The two women stared at one another. Janice offered no response.

"You really believe I donít know a thing, doníchu?" Mel prodded, sounding miffed now.

Janice still offered no response, as she reached out for the axe at her friendís side.

Mel snatched it up and handed it off to her right hand, keeping it from Janiceís grasp. "Youíre still treating me as if Iím right off the olí plantation." Mel stated, her anger growing. "You still think of me as a spoiled rich girl, doníchu? Well, Janice Covington, Iíve got news for you!" she growled, raising the axe with only one hand. "Looks can be deceiving. And believe you-me, thereís more to Mel Pappas than meets the eye!" she exclaimed, bringing the axe head down and sinking it into the chopping block

Janice took a step back, reeling from Melís verbal explosion. She squinted up at her tall friend, a slow smile creeping onto her face. "Well... I guess I deserved that," she said, taking her hat off and fanning her face with it, feeling a bit embarrassed, as well as, in awe of Melís outburst. "And good for you, Mel Pappas, for giving as good as you got," she continued, turning her hat around in her hands. "Well, would it... be alright if ...I help you carry those inside? ĎCause something smells mi-ighty good in there and Iíd sure hate to see it burn."She plopped her hat back on her head.

"Oh-h... the biscuits!" Mel gasped. "I completely for...got... about..." Her voice trailed off as she sprinted across the yard towards the cottage.

"Umph," Janice grunted. She told you off, didnít she? You and your chavunistic attitude. The archaeologist shook her head at her own actions. Sheíd treated Mel just like a man would have treated her. Better shape up, she told herself, walking over to the pile of wood Mel had chopped. "That womanís just full of surprises," she murmured, gathering up the neat halves in her arms. And every day, I fall a little bit harder and a little bit deeper...

"Umm... I could get used to this," Janice uttered, as she stretched out her legs on the ottoman and patted her fully belly. "That was delicious, Mel."

"Thanks," the tall brunette said, as she sat down in her own chair and began taking off her riding boots.

Janice was about to ask where Mel learned to cook like that, when she noticed her friendís long skirt parting over a smooth thigh. Every other thought, but watching Mel, completely vanished then.

Once Mel had removed her boots, she put her feet up on the ottoman, the skirt still parted over her thighs, the long front portion, caught between them.

"Like your... get up," Janice said, reaching into her shirt pocket for her cigar.

Mel glanced up and saw Janiceís gaze riveted to her legs. "Oh, you mean..." She glanced down at herself now and quickly tried to rearrange her skirt over her legs. "Hmph," she grunted, seemingly realizing she could not pull the sides together and contenting herself with merely covering the front of her legs. "I didnít want to... ruin any of my other clothes," she added.

Janice nodded and reached in her pants pocket for her lighter. "Too bad weíre not the same size." She paused and lit her cigar. "Or you could wear some of mine," she concluded, smoke drifting out of her mouth.

"I guess, I just... need to get myself some more appropriate clothes," Mel suggested.

"Um-hm. We can go into town this weekend."

"Okay," Mel intoned. "And weíll get you a new hat."

"Umph, maybe," Janice responded. "That oneís still okay."

"Itís seen better days," Mel muttered.

"Havenít we all," Janice added, wiggling her shoulders slightly. "I know I have."

"Hard day?"

"Oh yeah. Moving all those rocks and debris." Janice grunted, stretching out her right arm.

"Howís it going?"

"Slow," Janice responded with a heavy sigh. "Ve-ery slow," she added, raising her right hand to her temple and frowning.

"Something wrong?" Mel questioned.

"Nawh, itís just gonna be pretty slow going is all." Janice pressed her finger to her temple.

"No," Mel corrected. "I mean with you. Youíre frowning like... have you got a headache?"

"Slight one."

"Iíll get you an aspirin," Mel offered, starting to get up.

"No, no, sit still. Iíll be fine," Janice countered. "It was just a hard day. And I havenít had one of those in a while."

Mel continued to watch her friend in silence, wanting to do something for her, but not knowing what.

"Maybe a drink would help," Janice muttered, raising up.

"No!" Mel said, jumping up. "You sit right there, Iíll get it."

"Make it a strong one," Janice called after her.

Mel glanced around, seeing her friend settle back in her chair, rubbing her right shoulder and the back of her neck.

Pay back time, Mel thought, remembering how Janice had helped relieve her neckache. Only problem is... talking that hardheaded woman into letting me take care of her. Hmm, wonder if I mixed this strong enough would she loosen up a bit? Nawh, she had three or four last night and still put me to bed. Oh well, guess youíll just have to turn on the charm, Mel and... not take no for an answer. Or I could go get the axe and threaten her with it. Mel smiled at her own errant thought. I think I did get her attention, though. And it felt good too, I have to admit. Standing up for myself feels... great. Hmm... I think I might just like this new freedom a lot. I kinda like exploring who I am and what I can really do. Yeah... look out world, Mel Pappas is coming outta her shell. And I owe most of this to that woman sitting right over there, she concluded, glancing back at Janice. If she hadnít taken me on as her partner Iíd be... right back in South Carílina in that dreary old empty mansion.

Mel sighed heavily and turned back to the drink she was preparing. None for me, she thought, stirring the drink. Nope, Iím staying clear headed tonight. She then turned around with the drink her hand. And look out Janice Covington, Ďcause Mel Pappas owes you a debt and... she always pays.

"No, Mel, really," Janice objected, as she sat down on the edge of the bed. "Iím fine. You donít need to rub my shoulders. A good nightís sleep is all...." Janice paused, feeling the bed move and hearing the springs squeak.

She then saw Mel out of the corner of her eye, as she crawled across the bed at a rather rapid pace, saying, "Janice Covington... shut the hell up!"

Janice was turning slowly, unable to believe what she had just heard. Her mouth was open about to ask, "What did you say?" when two long legs suddenly straddled her hips and an arm went around her waist. Janice grunted at the impact, that would have knocked her off the bed, had Mel not had her arm around her.

"Not one word," Mel admonished, placing her index finger to Janiceís lips. "Jesus, youíd think I was gonna pull your teeth or something," she added, glaring at Janice over the latterís shoulder. Then slowly her expression changed, as did the tone of her voice. "Please..." she added, "...just let me do this for you, okay? Just relax, you might enjoy it."

Oh I know Iíll enjoy it, Janice thought. Enjoying it too much is what Iím afraid of.

"Iíll try not to hurt you," Mel said softly, removing her finger from Janiceís lips and gently brushing the latterís hair back from her shoulders. "If I do, then Iíll quit. Deal?"

Janice reluctantly nodded, since she apparently had no other choice. She was tired and sore and had put Mel off all evening about this. She thought sheíd succeeded, when they both got dressed for bed, Mel ahead of her, since she needed to take care of the fire. She had assumed Mel would be asleep when she came to bed. But no, she was sitting up - dressed in that pretty blue nightgown Janice had helped her into the night before - with a determined look on her face. Janice didnít know what this was about until Mel started in on her again and... now, here she was, right where she didnít need to be, but had wanted to be: between Melís thighs. Of course, this wasnít exactly her fantasy, but... Why look another gift horse in the mouth? she thought.

"Umph," Janice grunted, as Melís long and surprisingly strong fingers massaged her sore shoulders. "Oh yeah," she involuntarily mumbled, when Mel found the truly sore muscle. "Ah-h... um-m-m..."

"So, does that mean it feels good or... am I killing you?" Mel asked softly, leaning close.

Janice felt her friendís warm breath on the nape of her neck. "Umm, no, it... feels gre-eat," she heard herself admit, feeling her shoulders begin to relax. "Um-hm... oh yeah, right there... ummm."

Mel smiled to herself, wondering why in the world Janice had been so reluctant to let her do this, since she was obviously enjoying it. Was she just not used to someone wanting to take care of her? Was she embarrassed to let someone do so? Or was there more to it than that? Was Janice possibly afraid of getting this close to her? But, why? Theyíd been very close last night. And Janice had been so tender; rubbing her cheek against her hand; kissing her palm. The scene was so seductive and tender that it still sent a shiver down Melís spine just thinking about it. No one had ever tried to seduce her like that. Men were always so aggressive; so eager to go from hands to lips in the blink of an eye. But Janice hadnít done that.

No, Janice had not been aggressive at all, Mel thought, remembering the night before and the look in Janiceís eyes. Matter of fact... it seemed more like she... wanted me to come to her. Hmm... and I was... before that log fell and...

"Little to the right," Janice directed, breaking in on Melís reverie.

"Here?"

"Down just a... oh yeah, uh-huh, right there. Umm... you know youíre... very good at this," Janice commented. "Whereíd you learn this?"

"From you," Mel answered softly.

"Me?" Janice asked incredulously.

"Um-hm," Mel agreed. "Sometimes you only need to show a person something once for them to learn it."

"Uh-huh," Janice commented, taking this in a different way than Mel meant it she was sure. "Oh-h," she groaned, as her friend squeezed her right deltoid muscle.

Mel jerked her hand away. "Oh, Iím sorry, I didnít mean to..."

"No, donít stop," Janice admonished. "Itís just real sore is all. Continue."

"Arms sore too, huh?" Mel commented.

"Some of that debris is pretty heavy," Janice admitted.

"Then why not let the men do the heavy stuff?"

"Because itíll go faster if I help."

Mel grunted, knowing Janice well enough not to argue with her. "Well, then... turn around this way," she said, gesturing to her right. "So, I can get to your whole arm." She then scooted back on the bed, pulling her legs up in front of her and crossing them Indian style, to get them out of Janiceís way, so that the latter could put her own legs up on the bed.

"Ooo Ooo," Janice squeaked, as Mel squeezed her bicep. The latter paused. "No, no, donít mind me. Keep going," she urged, pulling her own legs up and crossing them like Melís. "Ah-ah-ah," she gasped, as Mel started up again. "No, donít stop. I just... I didnít know I was so sore," she added, glancing up at her friend.

"Hmph, funny," Mel commented. "First you didnít want me to do this. And now... you donít want me to stop."

Janice raised one light brown eyebrow and smirked, as Mel glanced up at her. "Thisíll teach you to start somethiní with me, hmm?"

Mel flashed a slightly embarrassed smile of her own, as she quicky returned her gaze to her ministrations. She knew Janice was referring to the fact that sheíd been flirting with her all evening; trying her best to get her friend to let her do exactly what she was doing now.

Oh good lord, you are so very beautiful when you smile, Janice was thinking. Show you something once, huh? You just donít know how much Iíd like to.

Mel was having a few thoughts of her own: Am I ready for where this could lead? she wondered, sensing the sexual tension that had been building between them since the previous night. I know I wanna kiss her, she thought, and touch her like this and... have her touch me. Uh-huh, but... Iím so frightened of what... comes next. Not afraid of Janice, just afraid... of not knowing what to do.

"So, tell me, howíd you learn to cook like that?" Janice queried, hoping to relieve the tension filled silence between them, as Mel continued down her arm. "I thought you had a maid or something to do that for you?"

"My Nana did the cooking. She taught me," Mel responded.

"Who was she exactly?" Janice questioned. "You mentioned her last night."

"I did?" Mel glanced up and frowned.

"Yeah, you said she used to tuck you in at night."

"She did," Mel admitted, looking back down now. "Nana took care of me when I was growing up."

Mel then went on to explain that her Nana, whose real named was Annabelle had lived in the house with them, not in the servants quarters, but upstairs with the rest of the family. She did all the cooking, as well as, looking after Mel and her mother. An actual live-in maid stayed downstairs and did the cleaning, the laundry, the ironing and anything else Nana didnít have time for. Annabelle, in Melís opinion, had not been a servant, but more like a member of the family. Which somehow didnít fit with Janiceís impression of her father. And Mel soon confirmed this by saying, "Sheís the only woman I ever saw my father treat with even a hint of respect."

"So what happened to her?" Janice inquired, as Mel sat staring off into space, absently stroking the formerís hand.

"Well... Daddy never would tell me the whole story. I only know that around the time I graduated from college, she and my Daddy were having trouble getting along. And one day they had this terrible row, according to him. When I came home that afternoon, Nana was packing her bags. Aícourse, this wasnít nothiní that unusual, sheíd done it before several times and she and my Daddy always... came to some sorta compromise. Usually she compromised," Mel added. "So, I didnít take it too seriously, until... the next morning when I got up... she was gone," she concluded rather sadly.

"Iím... sorry," Janice offered.

"She left me a note saying sheíd be back one day, but..." Mel sighed heavily, staring off into space now. "...she never showed up."

"Well... maybe one day she will," Janice suggested.

"I doubt it," Mel said with a shrug. "Whatís there to come back to? I donít have a job for her."

Janice felt like a grade A number one heel for inquiring about such a sad subject. Of course, she had no way of knowing Mel would be far sadder about this than her own parents deaths. But, looking inside her own heart now, Janice realized that the "not knowing" could be as bad, if not worse than "the knowing". For, she often wondered about her own mother. Why she had left? Where she had gone? What she was doing now? Or if she was even still alive?

They sat in silence for a few more moments, as Mel idly played with Janiceís hand, which sheíd been doing for some time now.

"Iím sorry for... making you sad," Janice finally apologized.

"Thatís okay." Mel shrugged, as she glanced up briefly.

Seeing the oh so sad expression in her friendís eyes, Janice longed to comfort her; to reach out and touch that beautiful face; replace that sad frown with one of the lovely brunetteís beatific smiles. And yet, she contented herself with merely squeezing Melís fingers.

"Thank you," Janice said, and smiled when her friend looked up. "I feel much better now." Mel returned the gesture. "Well, guess we should get some sleep, huh?" Janice queried, attempting to disengage her hand from Melís, but the latter held onto it.

When their gazes met once again, they locked and held this time; Janice unable to force her eyes away from what she saw lurking beneath the surface of Melís. And she could only watch in awe, as Mel slowly drew her hand up to her face and nuzzled against her palm, as she, herself, had done the night before.

Oh lord, Janice thought, whatís gonna fall, break or explode this time? Oh Mel, she nearly said aloud, as moist, soft lips pressed against her palm. If you knew what this was doing to me, you wouldnít be... Oh Jes-sus, I think Iím gonna be the thing that explodes this time, she concluded, seeing the longing in those blue depths now, as Mel looked up at her.

"My god, you donít know how much I wanna kiss you," she heard herself murmur, as she leaned towards her friend.

She was quite surprised when Mel met her halfway. Their lips came together briefly in a light kiss.

"Oh swee-eet Jes-sus," Mel gasped, easing back and reaching up to her trembling lips with her other hand.

Janice sat back, as well, her hand dropping slowly from Melís face and onto her own thigh. Her gaze followed this movement. "Iím s-sorry," she apologized, turning away and starting to get up, when a hand suddenly landed on her arm.

"No, please, donít... donít leave," Mel said, holding onto her friendís forearm. The latter turned back around. "And... donít be sorry, I... I just...." She glanced down at her hand on Janiceís arm, then back up again; blue eyes meeting sea-green ones. "Iíve just never..." She paused again and swallowed audibly, her gaze falling to Janiceís lips. "Iíve never felt this way before and... it scares me... a little."

A quaint smile formed at the corners of Janiceís mouth. "I understand," she said simply.

Melís gaze met her friendís once again. "Youíve done this... before, havenít you?"

Janice nodded slightly, placing her hand over the one still on her arm, without breaking eye contact. "I canít say I know exactly how you feel, but... believe me, I do understand," she said softly, the slight smile still in place.

"I... I think I knew that." Once again Melís gaze fell to her friendís lips. The memory of how these had felt against her own, washed over her like warm gentle waves. She found herself drawn to them, desiring to experience those sensations that were at once so frightening and yet so enticing.

Her friend met her halfway, their lips connecting briefly, over and over again. The moist, feather light touch of Janiceís lips sent wave after delicious wave flowing down Melís body. Never had she experienced anything so gentle, so tender and so very exciting. She longed for a more intimate contact; craving the sweet taste of her friendís mouth. And before she knew it, her hand was on Janiceís face, fingers sliding back towards her ear.

Janice took this as the cue she assumed it to be; her light kisses taking on a more prolonged contact. Their noses touched; she felt her friendís breath warm and heavy, mingling with her own. Melís mouth opened ever so slightly, offering Janice the opportunity sheíd been waiting for. Tentatively, she brushed the tip of her tongue across the brunetteís lips, eliciting a reaction from her friend she had not expected. Mel moaned and gripped the back of her head, her mouth opening even further, her bottom lip massaging Janiceís, as if demanding more. The latter did not hesitate to accept the open invitation.

Mel whimpered when their tongues touched. She moaned as Janiceís caressed her own, coaxing it into a dance that sent shivers down her spine.

Janice was quite surprised at how quickly their tongues sorted out the rhythm of that most intimate waltz. It was as if they had done this many times before, falling into a preordained and natural tempo.

"Oh Jan-nice," Mel gasped, when she finally came up for much needed air.

"I know," Janice breathed against her cheek, her breath hot and heavy to Melís overly sensitive skin.

"Iíve never felt... like this before... about anyone," Mel murmured.

Janice swallowed hard, then kissed her friendís cheek. "Neither have I," she admitted.

"My heart is... beating so fast," Mel whispered. "Itís... frightening."

"I know," Janice murmured against her friendís face, then eased back and reached up for Melís hand. She led the latter to her lips where she kissed the palm, while staring at her friend. "I understand... and itís okay," she said softly, reaching up to caress Melís cheek with her other hand. "Perhaps we should... sleep on this, hmm? I wouldnít want to... push you into doing anything that... youíre not comfortable with."

Mel closed her eyes and nuzzled her face against Janiceís hand. She moaned deep in her throat as the latter planted another moist kiss in her palm, then slowly let go of her hand. Melís eyes sprang open. "Janice, Iím sor..." Her friendís thumb quickly moved to cover her lips.

"Sh-h," Janice admonished lightly rubbing her thumb across the pliable, moist membranes. "Sleep on it," she said softly, then leaned over and gently replaced her thumb with her lips. "Goodnight Mel," she murmured against her friendís mouth, slowly backing away.

"Good... night," Mel whispered, her lips still trembling from the sensual contact, while she watched Janice lay back, then roll over towards the lamp and turn it off.

Mel lay awake for quite awhile after Janice extinguished the light. She could tell her bed mate was not asleep either; for, her breathing was not steady and even. She wondered if her friend was having the same thoughts she was. Had Janice liked kissing her? she wondered. I know I sure liked it, she admitted to herself. No, not just liked it... I loved it, she corrected; her heart beginning to race once again at the mere memory of how this had felt. My word, what is it that feels like an explosion going off inside of me? It goes straight down my body and right to that one spot where... She moaned uncontrollably, as this same sensation traveled down her body and detonated in her lower abdomen once again. My lord, Iíve never felt anything so scary and yet so... absolutely wonderful, she thought, involuntarily licking her lips. My word, itís almost like... Iím hungry. Itís like... tasting ice cream for the first time... you canít help but want more!

Janice was curled up on her side, in her usual sleeping position, her muscles taunt and aching from the tension. Iíll never get to sleep, she thought, not with Mel lying so close. Oh Lord, Iíve never wanted anyone so much in my entire life! I donít know how in this world I had the presence of mind to stop when I did. Or even why I did stop. It felt like the right thing to do, but... heaven help me, I want her so badly. Her lips are so soft. And the way she kisses... her bottom lip caressing mine... no oneís ever kissed me like that before and yet... it feels so-o familiar. I wanna do it again and again... She squeezed her legs closer together, as the arrow of desire hit its mark in her lower abdomen. God, how much I wanted to touch her. To rip that gown off her... feast my eyes on that beautiful body. I wanna make love to her. Hear her moan and whimper... call out my name...

Yet another arrow struck her lower abdomen and her stomach muscles tightened into a knot of pain. I gotta quit thinking about this! I need to get to sleep, she admonished herself. I need to concentrate on the dig. Thereís so much work that needs to be done. Thatís where my thoughts should be. Iíve got to stay on top of... wanna be naked on top of... Oh, Jesus, I canít stop thinking about her, she conceded, her toes tingling from the previous imagery of lying naked with Mel. Great Zeus, but itís hot in here, she added, easing the quilt down off her shoulders and maneuvering her right foot over the side of the bed and out from under the cover, entirely. Ah-h, thatís better. Now maybe I can get some... Her thoughts were interrupted when she felt Mel roll over behind her.

The tall brunette moaned, presumably in her sleep. And suddenly a hand slid around Janiceís waist. Hmph, no sleep for me, tonight, the latter thought, feeling the front of her friendís thighs settling against the back of her own. Lord... give me strength! she prayed.

Continue to Part 6

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