Island of Fantasies
Clang! Clang! Clang!
"The boat! The boat!"
"Hurry up, Tattoo! You will miss the arrival of our guests."
"How many times have I told you my name is not Tattoo. It's Henry!"
"Details, details. We have guests to meet."
Standing on the dock in their ever colorful Hawaiian shirts and white pants, the older gentleman by the name of O'Rourke and his ever faithful employee watched as the guests slowly made their way off the boat.
"So, Boss man, what's the story on this sad looking lot of folk?"
"Now Tattoo, these people are not sad in the least. They have merely lost their way for the moment."
"Whatever. Now get on with the stories. I have things to do while you laze around making small talk with the girls on the beach."
"Our first guest is a salesman from Kansas City by the name of Jim Peterson. He has lost all confidence in himself to make a sale. He has been on a streak of losing contracts and he has come here thinking maybe a vacation will do him some good."
"Yeah, maybe while he is on this vacation he will realize he needs a new occupation"
"How many times have I told you my name is not Tattoo, Herve Villechaize or anything remotely close to that??"
Rolling his eyes, he said, "Okay Boss man, who is the next loser please?"
"Ah my dear Tattoo, our next guest is Juliana Brady, and she has not had an easy time of late. Seems her partner left her, her dog died and her car was stolen."
"If it had been a truck, she would be a living country song."
"Quit 'Now Tattooing' me. You know I'm right. Sheesh!"
"Umm, well okay. You may have a point about the country song part. Want to hear a funny joke?"
"Not on your life, old man."
Mr. O'Rourke appeared petulant. "Oh come on, I'll call you Henry the rest of the day."
The shorter man sighed indulgently. "Your jokes stink, but not to be called Tattoo today will be worth it. Go ahead." Henry braced himself as he watched bikini and sarong clad young women take leis and flutes filled with champagne to the guests on the dock.
"Did you hear about the midget psychic who escaped from prison?" O'Rourke asked.
"No, but I'm sure you're going to tell me."
"It seems there is a short medium at large." Henry rolled his eyes as the taller man began chuckling. "Short...medium·heh heh." He was still chuckling when their champagne arrived. He sobered and raised his glass to the two guests still standing there looking around at the lush tropical environment.
"My dear guests, welcome to the Isle of Fantasies!"
It would have been an understatement to say it had been a horrible six months for Juliana Brady. It started with finding out her girlfriend of almost a year was sleeping around on her. When the petite blonde confronted her with it, Maureen had merely said, "We're only dating, we're not joined at the hip." Only dating! Apparently Maureen's many professions of love were echoed in the apartments and houses of several other women as well as Juliana.
She had never run into a player before, but that was exactly the term for Maureen. It wasn't long before the player left, preferring to continue her life of unfettered short-term relationships. Juliana was upset by the break-up, but she was even more upset by losing the Alley Cat. It was the cozy bar where they had met and it was where Maureen still cruised looking for women as gullible as she had been. Juliana avoided it now and Sacramento wasn't that large a city for her not to feel the loss.
She had started staying home more, catching up on her television watching and book reading. It was just she and Bosco then. At least Bosco was faithful to her; he was the best dog she'd ever owned. His parentage was unknown, but she had fallen in love with the brown shaggy little beast the second she'd seen him at the shelter. They were meant to be a family and, after a $75 fee for shots and neutering, they were.
Juliana was happy with her memories, but then reality slammed back in. Bosco was dead. The owner of the pit bull couldn't understand how he had slipped out of the backyard. All Juliana knew was that it was a nightmare seeing the snarling dog rush up to her, teeth bared and barking. Bosco had gone into protective mode and snapped back in a feisty way at the much larger dog. Before she could pull him back with the leash, the pit bull was on him and the small dog hadn't stood a chance.
Juliana was determined not to start crying again and she blinked the tears back from her emerald green eyes. She focused on the man called O'Rourke and his diminutive sidekick. They were indicating she should follow the others toward their transportation up to the large white Victorian mansion situated up the road from the docks. More information awaited her there. It was then she really started noticing her surroundings; the lush tropical paradise was exactly as advertised.
The petite blonde was a frequent sight walking the streets in the days following Bosco's death. She walked a lot more then as her ancient Toyota had been stolen from where it had been parked on Sacramento's tree lined streets the week before. Passing the park where she and Bosco had frequently played, she skirted a crew trimming trees and came unexpectedly upon Miracle Travel. It was strange that she hadn't noticed the business before, it was almost as if it had popped up overnight.
Miracle Travel was much like any other travel agency, but it was the poster in the front window that caught her eye. It showed the very same Victorian mansion she was headed for now, but in the foreground was a woman staring up at it. The face was hidden but the body was tall and strong and the long black hair was stirring in a gentle breeze. Something about the figure compelled her attention and she stared at it for several minutes before her eyes drifted down the poster to its caption.
"Your wish, our command," it read, along with "Isle of Fantasies".
Isle of Fantasies. The name intrigued her and she went inside to find out more. A persuasive sales pitch, the flash of an American Express card and here she was on a tropical getaway. She didn't care what activities were planned; she just knew she had to be on this island.
The transportation, which seemed to be large golf carts, stopped silently in front of the mansion. Mr. O'Rourke and Henry joined their guests just as they reached the large porch at the front.
"Mr. Peterson, Ms. Brady, I hope you had a pleasant journey here and that you enjoy the events we have planned for you. We have taken the utmost care to tailor your visit to your particular needs. Please go inside. You will be directed to your rooms and given time to refresh yourselves before we dine." Jim and Juliana thanked him and moved up the steps. As she reached the top one, the blonde's step faltered and she came to an abrupt stop. At the far end of the porch, sitting in a large fan chair, was the woman from the poster.
She wore dark sunglasses and a white baseball cap kept the ebony hair in place, but Juliana was sure it was the same person. She sat sipping from a tall glass of amber liquid while slowly leafing through a newspaper. Juliana grabbed a passing porter.
"Who is that?" she asked, indicating the woman at the end of the porch.
She's another guest, Miss, a Doctor Morgan from Los Angeles. She arrived last night." Juliana thanked the porter as he moved inside with a suitcase. She stared at the woman for a moment longer before Dr. Morgan's head turned in her direction. She said nothing, but Juliana felt the woman's gaze, like a pair of velvet-gloved hands, upon her body. The woman from Sacramento blushed deeply and went inside the mansion.
"So, Boss, what do you have in mind this time?" Henry asked as they sat on O'Rourke's office.
"Well, Tat·I mean Henry," he said with a nod in his companion's direction, "Mr. Peterson is easy. All he lacks is self-confidence. Tomorrow he will go on a simple fishing trip here at the Isle of Fantasies. There he will meet someone who will change his point of view about himself and I'll wager by the end of the day he will be able to sell socks to snakes."
"I see, so that's why you had me arrange for Donald Trump to spend some time on the island. Very clever, Boss."
"Thank you, Henry. Now, as for Ms. Brady·well, I'm sure she can be helped by a certain tall, dark-haired woman."
"I hope so, Boss, because getting her here wasn't easy. That woman doesn't take many vacations!" Henry said.
O'Rourke appeared confused. "I'm not sure I know what you mean. Why wasn't it a simple matter to get a woman such as I described?"
Henry ticked off the requirements on his fingers. "Tall, black hair, good looking, intelligent and a cardio-thoracic surgeon. That was a big order!"
Mr. O'Rourke appeared no less confused. "Cardio-thoracic surgeon? I don't remember asking for that."
"But Boss," Henry argued, "You said Juliana Brady needs her heart mended. That's when I got·" He stopped mid-sentence. "Uh-oh. I suppose there's no way you meant that literally, is there?"
O'Rourke let slip an almost exasperated sigh. "That's all right, Henry. Maybe this will work out anyway. It may well be that a doctor will be exactly what is needed when the pair confront the ultimate threat." Henry knew enough about O'Rourke's mysterious tone to not ask many questions about his plan. It would unfold soon enough.
"Let us join our guests," O'Rourke said as he rose from his chair. "By the way, Henry, why did the lollipop cross the road?"
Henry clenched his jaw, but knew his mistake meant he would have to listen to O'Rourke's lame jokes for the rest of the night. "I don't know, Boss. Why?"
"Because it was stuck to the chicken!"
"God help me," Henry said as they left the office.
Juliana was completely overwhelmed and it had been but a single day.
The first morning after she arrived on the Isle of Fantasies, she had been summoned to the porch along with the other two guests. Jim Peterson was dispatched on a fishing trip with someone who looked suspiciously like a certain New York real estate and casino mogul.
It couldn't be Juliana thought. Could it? In her work as a Certified Public Accountant, she was certainly familiar with prominent business figures, but she never thought she'd actually see one. Seeing "The Donald" was almost as stunning as seeing Dr. Morgan emerge out onto the porch.
The leggy brunette was breathtaking! She wore a tight fitting white sleeveless t-shirt and khaki shorts that showed off her tan body to perfection. The dark sunglasses were back and once again hid the woman's eyes, but as before Juliana felt she was being observed.
Mr. O'Rourke and Henry turned to Juliana and Dr Morgan. "Ah ladies, now I'm sure we have something of interest to you both." At the word "both", Juliana's hopes rose.
Wow, we're going to do something together! Maybe this will give us a chance to get better acquainted and I can find out if it really was her on that poster. Juliana gave her complete attention to Mr. O'Rourke.
"First, Ms Juliana Brady, please meet Dr. Frances Morgan. You are going to be partners in our activity." Dr. Morgan nodded at Juliana and the blonde returned the acknowledgement. The man in the white suit continued, "As per your request for a truly difficult challenge, we have arranged something to take you to the very limits of your endurance. You will need all your intelligence, ingenuity and skills."
Juliana's head whipped around at his words. Very limits of your endurance? What the heck is this? I was sort of hoping to learn windsurfing or something. She looked over at Dr. Morgan who appeared to be smiling in anticipation. Ooh, nice smile, the blonde thought.
"And so, my dear guests, you will be transported to the far side of the island. You will leave immediately by boat for there is no direct route from there to here by land. You will spend the next seven days living off the land. There will be no food, no shelter and no comforts except that you find, catch or make. Oh, I should warn you, the dangers are diverse and very, very real."
Now the accountant was concerned. "Wait a second! What do you mean no food and no shelter? And what's all this stuff about danger?"
Henry stepped forward. "Did you see the movie 'Castaway'?" Juliana nodded slowly. "Well, it's like that but without the volleyball!"
Juliana was about to make a spirited plea for a less rigorous activity, but Frances Morgan chose that very moment to remove her sunglasses. Speech was no longer possible for the accountant as she encountered the most incredible blue eyes she had ever seen. It was the color of the sky she had seen once while passing through Montana. The sun had been shining brightly and there hadn't been a cloud in sight. The warmth of that sunny day passed through Juliana as she stood on the porch staring at the doctor.
"Sounds like an adventure! I am so ready for this!" Doctor Morgan said. "You ready to use your skills?" she asked Juliana, training her blindingly blue eyes directly on her.
Juliana could only nod mutely, completely and totally enraptured.
"Excellent!" Mr. O'Rourke exclaimed. "You may take one change of clothing and one discretionary item each on your person. You leave in ten minutes. Oh, and please remember my warnings about the dangers to be found on that side of the island. I do not minimize the hazards to be found there, but perhaps not all things that threaten us come from without." He turned then and left without further comment.
Frances Morgan reached a hand out to Juliana's then and shook the appendage of the stunned woman. "My name is Frankie, nobody calls me Frances except my mother."
Juliana recovered a little and managed a weak half smile. "I'm Juli.."
"Okay, that's cool," the doctor interrupted. It's nice to meet you, Juli. Listen, we better get a move on. We've got less than ten minutes now. Go get your swimsuit and clothes and I'll meet you on the dock. Don't forget to get something we can use for your personal item." With that, Frankie Morgan headed off.
Juliana wasted 4 more minutes trying to figure out what had happened and then scrambled to catch up. She laughed a little at herself. I'm on vacation. How rough can it be?
Twelve hours later she knew how rough it could be.
She was sunburned, near drowned and exhausted. The boat that delivered them to the other side of the island couldn't pull all the way into shore because of rough shoals near the shoreline. Juliana had been looking up at wind carved cliffs a short way behind the beach. That was the main barrier to the inhabited side of the island. The ocean's current striking the corners of the island created dangerous riptides. The beach itself was safe but they precluded swimming to the main part of the island. They would be well and truly isolated.
"Here's where we go ashore," Frankie said as the captain set the engine to idle and gave them the signal. She jumped overboard into chest high water and began wading toward the shore while holding her small bag of belongings over her head.
"Right behind you," Juliana called as she followed Frankie into the water. She forgot the difference in their heights and didn't count on hitting a drop off. She went under just as the word "you" left her mouth. The surprise of going under while getting a mouth full of sea water caused her to panic and she began thrashing and kicking under the waves. She had nearly resurfaced when a strong hand grabbed her shirt and yanked her up.
"Gotcha!" Frankie said as she hauled the accountant toward shore. An embarrassed blonde eventually got her breath back and pulled out of the doctor's grasp.
"I'm fine! I can make it on my own!" she yelled, more to cover her humiliation than in anger.
"Okay," Frankie said, raising her hands in mock surrender. Juliana started stalking toward the beach again. "But you better watch out for·" The petite blonde disappeared under the water again. "The sand bar," Frankie finished.
A completely drenched Juliana re-appeared a moment later, blonde bangs in her eyes and a piece of seaweed hanging from one ear. It didn't help that Frankie started laughing at her bedraggled appearance.
"You let me do that on purpose!" Juliana accused.
"Get a grip, woman, I tried to warn you! Let's just get to the beach, okay?" Frankie headed off toward the shore. A more wary Juliana followed the brunette's steps exactly.
The rest of the day went about as well as that initial episode. Shelter was Frankie's first priority and Juliana could agree with that. They made a fairly sturdy lean-to by working together. The only difference was that Juliana insisted on working in the sun in her swimsuit as her clothes, both sets, dried out. Frankie's advice about tropical sun was ignored and the result was a painful sunburn. Any sympathy Juliana might have counted on from the doctor was gone when they revealed what they had brought with them as their personal item.
Frankie had chosen a Swiss Army knife with about 30 attachments, the only one of which Juliana was familiar with was the corkscrew. Sheepishly, Juliana pulled out a fifth of tequila. Frankie was furious.
"You are damn well joking me! Didn't you listen to Mr. O'Rourke? This isn't a game."
"I didn't think it would be a nasty version of Survivor!" Juliana shot back. "I was never even a Girl Scout! For Pete's sake, I'm an accountant. If we run into something dangerous, the most I'll be able to do to it will be to do its taxes!"
Frankie had to laugh at that remark and the ice between them was broken. "Look Juli, maybe we'll get some use out of that Tequila yet. Maybe we could marinate some fish or use it for first aid or·save it to get totally blitzed one night?" she suggested.
Juliana was starting to get used to being called Juli and coming from the very attractive brunette, she was sure she could get to love it. Juliana was very interested in the woman who had been stranded with her and when they turned in on that first evening, a very tired Juliana's dreams were filled with the blue-eyed doctor.
Things remained difficult the next day even though the women were getting along better. It was hard work catching fish from the ocean and small shellfish in the shoals with nets they made from palm fronds. In the afternoon they labored together picking the fruit that seemed to be abundant in the area. They swam and laughed, enjoying each other's company and getting to know one another. The day was hot and sunny and the night became clear and balmy.
Juliana marveled at how approachable the doctor was. She had always had the impression that physicians were serious and brainy. While Frankie was obviously very intelligent, she could also be playful and spontaneous.
In the evening of the second day on the island, Juliana returned from using the area they had designated as "the facilities". Frankie was turning the fish in leaves she was cooking over hot rocks and glanced up as the accountant approached.
"I can see the appeal of camping out, but a lack of indoor plumbing is never going to be something I'm completely comfortable with."
Frankie chuckled at the words. "I suppose you want to put a Motel 6 in every national park, huh?"
"No, but I wouldn't mind one of those upscale bathrooms you find in all the fancy restaurants. You know the ones where they have an attendant to hand you a paper towel, bowls of potpourri are on the sink and the two ply soft toilet paper is abundant?" She let out a wistful sigh. "Anything but those damn wide leaves! They almost feel fuzzy for some reason."
Frankie looked up at her in alarm. "You didn't use those wide green and yellow leaves on the right hand side of where we put the latrine, did you?"
Juliana's eyes grew round and she swallowed hard. "Um, yeah, I did. Is there a problem?'
"Juli, now don't get excited. Those fuzzy leaves are known as "tropical cribs" because they're a breeding ground for most of these island's insects. That fuzzy sensation isn't the leaves, it's the tiny caterpillars living there."
Juliana started sputtering, "Oh my God, oh my God! I've got insects on my ass? Please tell me your joking; you are joking, right?"
Without missing a beat, Frankie shrugged and said, "Okay, I'm joking."
Juliana was in a quandary. She couldn't tell if the doctor was kidding or not and the mere thought that she might not be was making her itch. Deciding to take no chances, she took off down the beach and jumped into the warm salty water. When she surfaced she could hear Frankie laughing. Her temper rose and fell just as quickly as she joined the doctor in the laughter.
"Just remember, Frankie," she called from the gently lapping waves, "Paybacks are a bitch!"
Frankie was made to believe that little fact when a sand crab was slipped down the back of her tank top later that evening.
The next day dawned cloudy and blustery. Frankie and Juliana decided to find better shelter than the lean-to they had been sleeping under the previous nights. A rocky overhang was chosen for its protection from the heavy rain that had started toward mid-morning. The women were comfortable under their stone canopy with a cheerful fire blazing. They sat, shoulder to shoulder, in their dry, toasty haven.
"So, what do you want to do?" Juliana asked. "Did you bring the Monopoly board?"
"No, but I used to read fortunes at parties in college," Frankie replied. "It was a lot of baloney, but it made me some spending money that the scholarships and student loans didn't cover."
"Really? What did you use? Tea leaves, tarot cards or·"
"Nope, I was pre-Med, remember? Nothing but human flesh for me! I always read palms," the brunette said.
Juliana thrust her hand out, palm up. "Do me," she demanded and then blushed as she realized her words could be misinterpreted. Frankie didn't seem to pick up on her embarrassment though. Taking the smaller hand in hers, Frankie studied it intently.
"Okay, you you've got a long life line. I'd say the planet will be graced with your presence a good long time. Your health line looks good, too. Of course I'd need to schedule you for an appointment to be totally sure," Frankie joked.
"I'll call your office," Juliana pledged lightly. "You're only a six hour drive from me."
"That's so convenient!" Frankie bantered back. "But back to the important stuff. Now, this is your heart line." The doctor traced a line across Juliana's palm that left a tiny trail of fire in its wake. The accountant was enjoying the feel of how carefully the doctor was cradling her hand.
"Hmm, this is interesting," Frankie said as she peered down at the appendage. "It looks like you've had your heart broken a time or two."
"That's an understatement," Juliana said as she pulled her palm back from Frankie's warm hand. "You could see that, huh?"
"The Great Morgan never fails! Actually it's all part of the act."
Juliana smiled, but sobered quickly. "It's true though. My girlfriend decided she wanted to be a player and not a partner. C'est la vie, I guess."
Frankie looked at her sympathetically. "At least you've had your heart out there. I've never given that last cookie out of my jar. I think it's great that you have."
The doctor's words made Juliana feel better. "You'll get there, Frankie. You just need to find the right person. You'll see, that will make all the difference."
"Maybe it will," Frankie said in a tone that didn't sound convinced. She looked into Juliana's eyes for a few moments, and then stood abruptly.
"It looks like this little squall has just about blown itself out." Juliana looked to see the line of darkest gray clouds had indeed passed by and the sky was lightening up considerably with a small band of blue at the horizon. "Guess I'll see if anything interesting got caught in my net," Frankie said as she moved toward the tide pools.
Just me, Juliana thought as she watched her go.
Day four came without a trace of the brief storm of the day before. Frankie found the nest of a shorebird and they were treated to fresh eggs that the doctor poached in coconut shells.
"No hollandaise sauce, but not bad," Juliana said as she finished the breakfast treat. "So what's on the agenda for today?"
"Let's see," Frankie mused. "I suppose we'll be forced to enjoy the sunshine, swim, fish and generally do tropical things."
"If we must, we must," Juliana sighed in agreement. "Do you think you could ever really live like this? On a deserted island, I mean?"
Frankie brought her knees up as she sat on the sand and pondered the question. "Probably not. My work is important to me and I'll confess to liking my creature comforts. I have a need for a minimal number of electrical outlets. It's nice to know I could do this if I had to though. That's the reason I came on this adventure. Isn't that why you did too?"
Juliana had to laugh at herself. "Not exactly. When they said this would be a return to a much simpler time, I thought that meant I wouldn't have to do my own laundry!" They laughed together then, enjoying the warm morning. "Wouldn't you just kill for a latte about now?"
Frankie nodded enthusiastically. "I'd trade my spleen for one!" They chatted a little more, finding the companionship, camaraderie and attraction growing between them.
"What the hell?" Frankie said, suddenly sitting upright and gazing out over the ocean. Juliana craned her neck to see what had captured the brunette's attention. They were equal part amazement and amusement as the smallest paddleboat either woman had ever seen came around the rocky jetty at the far end of the beach. Pedaling easily was Henry.
He continued on a course parallel to the beach. When he came directly in front of the women he stopped pedaling and tossed a small bottle into the water. Giving them a brief wave he continued on his way. His appearance had so surprised the women they nearly forgot the bottle bobbing gently in the waves.
"Race ya!" Juliana challenged as she jumped up and took off for the water. By virtue of her longer legs, Frankie wasn't far behind her by the time they dove into the waves and easily beat her to the bottle. She waited until Juliana caught up to her to open the container though. Uncorking the pale blue bottle, Frankie pulled out a piece of paper and handed the bottle to Juliana. She floated lazily in the waves as she read the message she found there.
"Glad to know you are both surviving. Your pick-up boat will arrive two days hence, precisely at mid-day. Do not let down your guard before then. O'Rourke," Frankie read. "That was nice of him to let us know."
"This is nicer," Juliana observed as she brought a smaller and more crumpled piece of paper from the bottle. The note read, "Civilization is good too. Henry." Taped to the note were two small Hershey Kisses.
"Chocolate!" they screamed in unison.
"Possession in ninety-five percent of the law!" Juliana yelled as she moved back toward the beach with both Kisses.
"Give me my half of that chocolate or suffer the consequences!" Frankie menaced playfully.
"Make me!" Juliana returned with as much dignity as she could muster while using the vernacular of a third grader.
"I'm not kidding, Juli. Give me that chocolate and nobody gets hurt. These healing hands of a surgeon aren't above spanking your butt for my fair share," the doctor said with a laugh. Juliana moved out of the water, dangling the Kisses by their small white paper strips.
"Come and get 'em, tough girl!" she taunted as she continued backing away.
A flash of movement and Frankie closed the distance between them. She grabbed Juliana as she turned to run and pulled the accountant back against her body as she reached for the chocolate.
"Give..me..my..Kiss!" Frankie laughed as they struggled good-naturedly on the sand.
Juliana turned her head suddenly and gave Frankie what she asked for, a short kiss directly on the lips. Frankie stopped struggling in her surprise.
Juliana broke the kiss and pulled back suddenly. "Oh Frankie, I'm sorry. I was just playing around and it got out of hand. I didn't mean·"
"Don't worry about it, Juli," Frankie said nonchalantly. "I can't say I hated it!" She took one of the Hershey Kisses from the slack-jawed woman, unwrapped it and popped it in her mouth. "Sweet Jesus, that's good!" She then turned and ambled up the beach humming happily under her breath.
Juliana could only stare after her in wonder. Okay, that was confusing. Is she attracted to me or not?
Juliana didn't have to wait long to find out the answer to that question. It became patently clear on the afternoon of the fifth day that they were on the island when she was retrieving hollowed out coconuts full of water from the small spring they had found.
She had finished with her task and didn't hear Frankie enter the small glade where the spring tumbled down from a point high on the cliffs. Juliana had decided to quickly wash the residual salt from her skin that remained after an earlier ocean swim with the doctor. Frankie had found a plant resembling soap root that they had been using to wash with and Juliana took some of this into the shallow pool and began cleansing her skin.
She thought about the previous few days as she washed. She had become used to waking up near the doctor and spending almost every free moment with her. She watched Frankie at work and play and came to the inescapable conclusion that she wanted to get to know her in a much more intimate way than as the friends they had surely become. The mere thought of knowing the brunette had her lingering over areas where the salt had long since vanished.
As she turned to allow the water to rinse her hair, she saw Frankie staring at her with frank hunger in her eyes. Juliana stood completely still as shivers passed across her skin that had nothing to do with the relatively cool water cascading over her. For a moment she saw Frankie's muscles tense as if she would move forward into the water with her, but Juliana was slightly relieved and more than slightly disappointed when the brunette turned and left the glade.
Juliana released the breath she had been holding and turned again to gulp down water into her suddenly parched throat. The healing sunburn had never scorched her skin the way Frankie's gaze had done. At that moment, Juliana came to a decision.
I've never been the assertive type, but tonight that's going to change. If I don't touch her or get her to touch me, I'm going to spontaneously combust!
Evening came and Frankie and Juliana were seated around the brightly burning fire on the beach. Juliana was still amazed at how the old trick of rubbing two sticks together to make fire actually worked. Frankie's bronzed skin glowed in the reflection of the golden-red flames and Juliana knew she had never seen anything more erotic.
Reaching into the bag she had brought to the island, Juliana brought out the bottle of Tequila. "Just a day left here after today, we might as well not let this go to waste."
"I'll second that," Frankie said as she tossed out the last of the water remaining in the coconut cups. No mixes though, think you can handle shots, Juli?"
"Just try me!" Juliana said in response to the challenge. Frankie mumbled something that sounded like, "I intend to," but the blonde thought she might have been wrong about that.
"What do you say we have a little Isle of Fantasies' drinking game?" Frankie suggested. "How about one shot every twenty waves that hit the shore? Unless that's a little too much for you."
"You'd be surprised the things I can handle," Juliana replied. "Shall we start with one now and go from here?"
"You're on," Frankie agreed. She moved closer to the blonde and allowed a generous shot to be poured into her makeshift cup. "Here's looking up your old address!" They clunked the cups together and downed the shots simultaneously. Lowering her cup, Frankie said, "You're the accountant; you count the waves and I'll pour."
"Okay, one·two·three·" Juliana tilted her head to listen as the waves kissed the shoreline.
"Are you seeing anybody back home now, Juli?" Frankie asked as she poured the next shot.
The question surprised Juliana and it momentarily threw her count off. "Damn. Let's see, maybe it's ten·eleven·no, by the way I'm not·twelve·"
"Me neither," Frankie said wistfully as she listened to the count. "I regret I haven't made the time to find somebody. I've let my work take over my life."
"Nineteen·twenty!" Juliana announced. They downed the shots and the count began again. "You know," she observed, "when you haven't had a drink in a while, this stuff kind of gives you a little buzz. Fourteen·fifteen·"
"Hey, what happened to one through thirteen?" Frankie asked.
"Who's doing the counting here? I believe I'm the professional. When I want my sacroiliac or something removed, I'll call you. When you need waves counted, you'll have to rely on me."
"Do you even know what a sacroiliac is?" the brunette asked.
"No. Twenty!" Juliana downed the shot. Frankie just laughed and drank hers as well. She was just refilling the shots when Juliana decided to count the waves by twos.
"Two·four·six·" she counted.
"If you only want to drink, just say so," Frankie laughed.
"It's not all I want to do, but it's a start!" the blonde exclaimed. Frankie stopped laughing.
She pinned the accountant with a heated look. "What else do you want to do, Juli?"
Juliana took up her coconut and downed the contents. She took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. She lifted her head and gazed boldly back into Frankie's eyes. "I want to kiss you. God, how I want to kiss you!"
Frankie hesitated only a moment before leaning over and gently pressing her lips to Juliana's. The kiss was sweeter than any either of them had experienced before and there was no way one would ever be enough. They moved closer together as the kiss deepened. Frankie leaned into Juliana and guided them both down onto the sand as her kisses moved across the blonde's face and down to her neck. They were rapidly moving to the point of no return and they both recognized that fact.
Though she was breathing heavily and her lust was more than evident, Frankie lifted her head and gazed down at Juliana. "Juli, are you sure this is what you want?"
Juliana smiled through her sensual haze. "It's just what the doctor ordered," she said as she pulled Frankie back down to her waiting lips.
Shooting stars were the only witnesses to the passion of the two women on the beach that night.
The last day on the survival adventure dawned as most of the previous five had, with blue skies, warm sunshine and a gentle breeze. The difference this morning was that two very naked women held each other while slumbering around the smoldering remains of the beach fire pit. Juliana stirred in Frankie's arms. She snuggled closer and felt calm and peaceful in the presence of the beautiful doctor.
"You sound like a contented kitten," Frankie murmured as she placed a small kiss on Juliana's head.
"Well, 'contented' isn't the word I would use. "Well-satisfied' might be a better description for what I am," the accountant said quietly.
Frankie moved back a little and tipped Juliana's head up. "How about 'in love', Juli? Would that be an accurate description for you too? It is for me, I can tell you. I waited a very long time to meet someone as special as you. Your openness, your sense of humor, your sweet nature, your·God I don't know·everything! I love everything about you! You're the one, Juli, I know it in my heart and I've got to know how you feel about me." Blue eyes searched for the truth in Juliana's face.
Juliana looked inside herself and found something she hadn't seen there before, not even with Maureen. Deeply entwined with passion and respect was a new and most welcome emotion. There was no doubt she was in completely in love for the very first time.
Returning Frankie's open gaze she said simply. "I love you. Wow, I really do love you." The amazement in her voice was mirrored on the doctor's face. The brunette leaned in and gave a kiss of commitment to the blonde woman in her arms. As tender and sensuous as the kiss was, after a few seconds Juliana began to laugh.
"Okay, that's an interesting reaction to my kiss," Frankie observed as the exchange ended.
"Sorry," Juliana said. "I was just thinking about how happy my mom is going to be. I'm in love with a doctor." She laughed softly at the vision of her mother hitting up Frankie for free medical advice.
"I'll do anything I can to make your mom happy," Frankie assured her. "As a matter of fact, I'd like to do a few things to make her daughter happy right now." She reached out and drew Juliana to her and began a very thorough kissing of the ecstatic blonde. Frankie moved over the accountant and began mapping her body with her hands.
"Ugh! God Frankie, I've got sand in areas that don't really need to have sand in them. I love this and I love you, but I've got to wash some of this stuff out and off." Frankie groaned and drop her head to Juliana's breast.
"As much as I don't want to interrupt this, I know what you mean," she said. "I'm feeling a little gritty myself." She knew the words were more than true when Juliana reached down and brushed grains of sand from her buttocks. "Have you ever done it in the ocean?" the doctor asked.
"Not yet, but are you busy for the next hour or so?" the accountant replied.
"Maybe, but I'll clear my schedule for you anytime. Tell you what, let me build the fire up before it goes out completely and I'll meet you down on the beach in about five minutes." Frankie moved off the woman beneath her and stood. Juliana's eyes wandered up and down the doctor's naked flesh.
"That's a date doctor, but don't keep me waiting. I think I need a very thorough physical exam by you."
Frankie felt her skin warm under the openly admiring inspection. "Go. Go now before I take you right here and right now, sand be damned," she growled. She reached a hand down and assisted Juliana to her feet. "You have five minutes, Juli. Don't waste them because you'll be very busy after that."
"Yes, Doctor Morgan. I'll see you in the water, Doctor Morgan." She moved down the beach toward the water. "I love you, Doctor Morgan."
Frankie laughed, moved to the fire pit and began coaxing the fire back to life. Juliana reached the shoreline and let the warm water caress her feet before moving further into the ocean. She floated a bit and felt the sand being washed from her body. Lifting her head, Juliana felt the warm rays of sunshine caress her face. Isle of Fantasies? More like Isle of Fantasies Come True. It doesn't get any better than this.
As that thought filtered through her mind, she suddenly felt a sharp sensation on her right calf. Reaching down to her leg she felt another painful stinging on her forearm. Peering into the water, she saw what appeared to be pieces of plastic floating there. A third stinging attacked her right side. The excruciating pain pushed her to get out of the water as fast as she could. It wasn't easy as her limbs throbbed and she felt as though it was becoming difficult to catch her breath. Calm down, you're just panicking, she thought.
She staggered to the beach and called out, "Frankie!" The doctor looked up from her work and saw the blonde struggling from the water. She raced down the beach and reached Juliana just as she collapsed completely to the sand.
"What the hell? Juli, what happened?" Frankie asked as her eyes scanned the blonde's body and saw large red welts rising up on the areas that had been stung. "Oh, baby," Frankie said as Juliana started crying with the pain. Frankie looked to the water. "Fuck!" Juliana followed her line of sight to the shoreline and saw it was slowly becoming covered in a gelatinous substance.
"Jellyfish! Thousands of them!" Frankie said in a horrified voice. Her anxious gaze returned to Juliana when she heard a wheezing breath escape blonde.
"Frankie?" Juliana was crying now and the sound came out as a low keening. The pain was overwhelming and it was becoming increasingly difficult to draw a breath. "What's happening?" she gasped.
"I think it's some kind of allergic reaction to the jellyfish stings. God, why didn't I bring my medical bag? Juli, try to stay calm and just breathe. Easy, deep breaths now," she encouraged.
Juliana felt her throat tighten even more and her respirations were shallow and rapid. "I'm scared," she choked out.
"I know, baby. I've got you." Frankie held Juliana as tightly as she could while trying to avoid putting pressure on the area of the injuries. As a doctor she knew the blonde was in serious trouble.
"My·chest·hurts." Juliana wheezed. "Frankie·" Her view of the doctor decreased as darkness crept in at the sides of her vision. "No·"
Frankie noticed the change in her lover. "Juli, stay with me, okay? I love you, so you better stay with me. Keep focusing on your breathing, baby!"
Juliana felt a calmness pass over her. She could tell her body was struggling to pull air in, but the panic had diminished. The darkness increased as she tried to keep her eyes on the face she loved and those incredible blue eyes. She could see Frankie speaking, but could no longer hear her. As her breathing stopped the darkness closed in on her completely.
The darkness receded and the deep blue eyes came back into view. Juliana's breathing seemed unaffected now and she reached up to the brunette who had captured her heart. Pulling her down, she tenderly kissed the woman who obviously had saved her life in more ways than one.
Lifting away from Juliana, the brunette said, "That was really nice, lady, but what was it for?"
Juliana was confused and was even more so as she looked around her. The beach, the island and even the ocean were gone. She recognized the familiar streets of Sacramento, but didn't know what she was doing lying on them.
"You okay, lady?" the woman holding her asked. "You've got a nasty lump there." Gentle fingers touched a bump on the back of Juliana's head.
"You're a doctor, right?" Juliana asked, no longer certain of anything.
"Ha! Not likely unless you count a tree surgeon as a real doctor." The brunette moved back a little to let Juliana see the side of a battered white pick-up truck. The sign on the door read, "Frances M. Hart, Horticultural and Arboreal Services".
"My crew and I were trimming trees for the travel agency here and one of the two new guys misjudged where the limb would land. It knocked you out for a few minutes I'm afraid. You're not a lawyer, are you?" she joked.
"No, a CPA, I think," Juliana said. She looked over to the building the brunette had indicated. Miracle Travel was just as she remembered it right down to the poster for the Isle of Fantasies in the window. Wait, it isn't exactly the same. The woman is gone from the picture on the poster, she thought. The figure of the brunette was indeed missing from the photograph. Juliana moved to sit up, but felt a little dizzy as she did so and the brunette reached to assist her.
"I'm okay, Frankie," the blonde said.
"How did you know I go by Frankie?" the taller woman asked as she helped the accountant stand up.
"Huh? Oh, um·lucky guess I suppose."
Frankie shrugged it off, but continued to be concerned about the injured woman. "Listen, the guys were working for me so I'm responsible. Do you need to go to the hospital or go home or anything? I'd be happy to take you wherever you need to go."
Juliana brightened. "No, it's just a bump on the head. I could use a cup of coffee though if you have the time."
Frankie smiled at the other woman. "Well, yeah. I'd love to take you for a cup of coffee, Miss·"
"Juli, right. I like that name. Um, aren't you forgetting something?" Juliana was back to being confused. "Your dog. This guy belongs to you, doesn't he?" Frankie held up the end of a leash that was attached to the best pet Juliana had ever had.
"Bosco!" she cried and knelt down to take the scruffy brown dog in her arms. "But you were·I saw you·I don't understand," she sniffed, "but I love it!"
"He stayed right by you the whole time," Frankie told her. "That's a great dog. Hey, you want to go get that coffee now?"
"God yes, I'm really sure I need it now," Juliana said.
"Hey guys, I'm out of here!" Frankie called over her shoulder to her crew. "Clean up what we've gotten done so far and knock off early. We'll finish up tomorrow."
"Right, Ms. Hart," the tiny man said. He looked over to the taller man next to him. "Good work, Boss."
"Thank you, Tattoo·I mean, Henry."
Walking toward the truck, Juliana asked, "The 'M' of your middle name wouldn't stand for Morgan, would it?" She laughed as Frankie's jaw dropped in amazement. "Come on, it's a long story."
The women and the dog got in the truck and rumbled off down the street together. Back outside the travel agency, Mr. O'Rourke and Henry gave each other a high five.
"Hey Henry, want to hear a joke?"