Our Grand Western Adventure

by

Xenalicious


Being under the scorching sun wasn't all that bad.  Yes, I was sweating under all the leather and flannel, and adding years to my face with all the squinting, but I could take it.  I'm a lesbian after all, I ought to be able to pretend to be tough.

 

Riding wasn't too unbearable either, though I would never have imagined rocking back and forth against a solid object between my slick thighs could actually be unpleasant.  Then again, I never did spend any time on a chafing saddle before, and sweat is not the best lubricant to have.

 

Drinking warm water, eating beef jerky and listening to short grunts that passed for inane chatting with this group - all manageable.

 

But having to crouch in the sand in order to pee, in broad daylight, with all of them failing miserably to pretend not to watch was just too damn much.

 

"Okay, I'm serious, I see anyone's eye so much as dart in this direction, I'll eat it out of their skull with a spoon!  I'm not kidding!  I'm European!  I know how to do that!" 

 

Better, now all I could see were four sets of behinds facing me.  "Fuckin'-A.  I'll show them who the - Ack!"  A sand-spider slithered between my feet, and burrowed in the sand.  As fast as the jeans and leather chaps bunched around my ankles allowed, I turned around, scanning the sand behind me to see if there any more crawly beasts about. 

 

As if it weren't bad enough I was doomed to spending three days in this god-forsaken dried out patch of Arizona with a woman whom I can't stand at work, and can't stop dreaming about in X-rated detail at night I have to bear having her watch me pee?  And not only she, but also Larry, Curly, and Moe who are supposed to be playing our trail-guides on this bonding mission from hell.  Now who the fuck came up with such a mind-bogglingly stupid idea as a 'team-building retreat' anyway?  How did someone come to the conclusion that all that two people who couldn't stand each other in the air-conditioned, sterile comfort of the office on a good day, needed in order to suddenly get along and work well together is three days in the desert with nothing to do but glare at each other the whole day?  Who?  Huh?  I'd really like to know whose idea is responsible for sticking me in hell with miss congeniality there.

 

Speaking of tall, beautiful and obnoxious, Randy will never let me forget this.  I can just hear her back in the office 'We always used to wonder what crawled up her ass and died, but now I guess we know...' Speaking of which...

 

I turned around quickly, but I still only saw four flannel-shirt clad backs turned to me.  It looked innocent enough until I saw that the broad shoulders of my co-worker were shaking with what seemed to be restrained laughter. 

 

I sighed and squatted again, trying to make this as short as possible.  It's not like I could claim to have a lot of dignity left after agreeing to this... this little excursion.  It's amazing what people would do to keep their job.  But I guess I should explain what is going on. 

 

Michael, my bloody mentor of five years, had decided a few months ago that his publishing company had become 'a true vessel of staunch capitalism and a cold, calculating corporation'.  Which, mind you, went a long way to explain why our revenues were so good and we had three authors on the New York best seller list.  Granted, they were all self-help books, but so what?

 

Well, according to dear Michael though, we paid no heed to the 'little people' anymore, to true stories, great tragedies and 'against-all-odds' love stories.  There was no passion in our business anymore.  No humanity, no pizzazz.  Never mind the fact that it was his drive and direction that got the company to where it was one of the most prestigious mid-sized publishing corporations in the country.  Now he wanted passion?  Humanity?  Normal men hit middle age and got a toupee and a tiny red car, but here was Michael, trying to be a better person and pushing it on us.

 

So what did he do?  He went ahead, without so much as consulting his right-hand of five years, his bloody protégé, and hired this granola, wet behind the ears, Great Mother-loving, corporate-suit wearing, gorgeous bloody great-looking, 'we all need to love each other', annoying ass-wipe of a woman to work with me on improving the way we conduct business. 

 

Randy Thompson.  Even her name was annoying.  When he first introduced us I thought that was Michael's penchant for giving his friends unique birthday gifts again.  I mean, he knows how I feel about short black skirts and long suit-jackets on tall brunettes.  God.  And that body...  Even now if I closed my eyes I could imagine her stretched out, long and curvy, like a race track at Le Mann - promising a wild ride.  And it's not my fault the only words that registered as Michael was introducing us were "Randy will work under you until you teach her the ropes."  Under me?  Ropes?  After an introduction like that, was I seriously supposed to register the "...and after that she'll be instituted as a VP of publishing right alongside of you, so I hope the two of you will work well together."  All I recall after that introduction is she licking her lips...

 

Whatever.  So that was some three months ago.  And after that first, minor incident in my office, we were just not able to establish a proper rapport with each other.  To put it mildly.  I mean, cut me some bloody slack, was I supposed to take seriously all that blathering about 'social issues' and 'minority authors'.  That's not where the money was, and everybody knew it.  Which is why it's still beyond me why I got the shit-end of the stick after I told her to take her New Age, tree-hugging ideas and shove them up her...

 

"Yo Logan, you camping out there or what?  We still have another thirty miles to cover before sunset, pack it up!"  It was John, the not-so-annoying trail leader. 

 

I stood up, glad that the drip'n'dry process didn't take long at all in the middle of sand and rocks 'r' us bum-fuck Arizona.  One good thing about the hot wind, I guess.  Buckling up, I took another look at the group that made our 'friends for life or dead' program.  Another brilliant idea by Michaelonly he would figure that corporate bonding a la City Slickers will solve all problems.  Maybe I *should* have given my notice after all.  Too late now.  Making sure all my buttons and buckles were in order I made my way over towards them.

 

There was John, the illustrious leader, battered white Stetson obscuring his eyes.  Except for Randy, I had no idea what color the eyes or the hair of the other three that were with us is.  I wondered if they took those damned cowboy hats to bed with them.  John was tolerable only in the fact that he took fancy to Randy the moment he laid his eyes on her, and has kept up his chivalrous attempts at flirting.  I loved watching her squirm and try to deflect his smiles and his offers to 'help her giddy up'.  What Johnny boy didn't know is that Randy was as queer as they bloody came.  Not that I knew how she comes.  Man I wish I knew how she comes.  Frowning, I looked to his two helpers.  Roger and Tobias.  Again, if it weren't for the different-colored Stetsons, I wouldn't be able to distinguish between the two of them.  As it was, I knew them as Dumb (blue hat) and Dumber (gray).  The fact that they were our trail-guides seemed like such an oxymoron.  They all wore grease-covered chaps and leather vests over worn-in jeans and flannel shirts. 

 

Then there was Randy.  I swear, she'd be much more bearable if she just weren't such a drop dead knock-out.  Long black hair in a braid down her back, black Stetson drawn down over her forehead, blue flannel shirt bringing out the color of those incredible eyes and those jeans...  Those had to have been sewn onto her.  The black chaps might have covered her front adequately, but as she was standing facing away from me, the black leather ties around her thighs only outlined her ass that much better.  I swear she did it on purpose, looking so butch and hot and not corporate. 

Not that I cared.  Not anymore.  You can only try to jump one woman so many times, even if only in your dreams...

 

"Well, now that everyone's been properly relieved, how's about we skeedadle out of here?" It was the Blue Hat.  Tobias.  Or something.  I grabbed my saddle horn and swung in the saddle, throwing a sidelong glance at Randy.  She quirked a smile at me and winked, but we both refrained from commenting.  We rode in the middle, with Dumb and Dumber flanking us and John a safe distance ahead of us.  Early on we discovered that silence was the best idea in this group.  Not that the two of us had much to say to each other anyway.

 

It didn't help.  Dumb had spoken, so Dumber had to chime in as well.  "Yeap, Toby here's right.  We can never be too careful in these parts, what with the Injuns and all."

 

We were moving at a canter at that point, but Randy pulled up her horse short, making all of us stop.  "Excuse me?  Did you just say In-juns?"

 

The Gray Hat brought his horse about, shaking his head with condescension.  "Nooo.  I didn't say In-juns.  I said Injuns.  But come along now, we have to keep up."

 

I had been able to keep my surly appearance well enough for the past few hours - I imagine riding in the middle of the Arizona desert would do that to one - but I had to smile at this.  She could be downright adorable in her righteous PC-ness sometimes.

 

"So, if you don't mind me asking, what would In-j...," she stopped and cleared her throat, nudging her horse closer to Travis was it?  Roger?  Rovis?, "...Native Americans be doing around here that we should have to be wary of them?  Uh-oh.  I've seen those nostrils twitch before, in the conference room after a particularly juicy remark I made.  This could turn very... civil.  Maybe because we subjugated their peoples and took away their lands and confined the poor remnants of what used to be a proud nation to this... this..., Now she was at a loss for words, never a good sign, ...Gods-forsaken dust-bowl in the armpit of... of nowhere!

 

The Gray Hat shot me a questioning look, a plea to help him out here, but I could not concentrate on him.  Randy was ablaze, standing in her stirrups, leaning on the saddle horn and by God she was giving him the look!  My mouth went dry, but my jeans were getting wet, and I wasn't talking sweat this time.

 

Dumber was not paying attention to her righteous beauty however, his eyes were fixed on her strong, long fingered hand which was unconsciously gripping the pommel of the long black whip coiled around Randy's saddle.  My eyes followed his gaze and had I not been on a horse, my knees would have buckled.  So, yeah, I've been on the receiving end on such a stare many a time, but I was usually able to cover the effect it had on me most often by another well placed jab at her liberal disposition to be polite and act as an adult in every situation.

 

But, by all that's sacred to a girl like me, she was grasping a whip now.  An honest-to-God whip!  And she was wearing leather!  Maybe good ole Mikey had an idea here after all...

 

Never one to let men have the fun when I can step in, I nudged my horse forward and placed what I hoped to be a calming hand on Randy's forearm.  Um, Randy, sweetheart, I know you like to get upset about historical injustices and such, but can't you tell Tirolia here is just being in character?  After all, we are on a, exaggerated air quote, 'Wild West' kind of bonding trip here, you know. 

 

A beat.  Those eyes, when they turned towards me, matched the color and intensity of the mid-day desert sky.  I blinked realizing that was part of the reason I could not stand this woman most of the time her mere presence invoked sudden and highly embarrassing moments of maudlin poetics on my part.

 

Her hand flexed around the whip one more time, and then she dropped her gaze with a sheepish smile and slowly lowered herself back in the saddle again.  Yeah, you're right, That statement gave us a moment of pause, both of us realizing that was the first time such words were uttered between us.  She smiled again, and continued, I guess I did overreact a bit, but people saying stuff like that just makes me really upset.

 

*That* was an understatement of the century, coming from the tall, dressed in black and ready to whip, but I let it slide.  I just squeezed her forearm again (realizing my hand was there the whole time) and did my nod and smile routine knowing it'd piss her off. 

 

Sensing he was on somewhat safer ground, Ranger there cleared his throat self-importantly, wiped his nose on his sleeve, adjusted his hat and finally came up with, "Yeah, anyway, like I said, with us carrying black powder and fire water, not to mention two such fine-lookin' ladies, we have to be careful.  They'd just be a-waiting for..."

I perked up again.  "Um, Troger is it, hold up a second here."  Oh, the possibilities one large desert, two snippy women, one long night and one fiiine bottle of liquor.  "Did you just say you had fire water?  I wonder if P.C. cheerleader here ever played spin the bottle...

 

*****************

 

Figures.  Here we are in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by sand and three simpletons and more sand, nowhere to go and nothing to do but talk to each other, and what does Logan do?  First she leaves me alone with Don John here, as if I couldn't see her smirk every time he tried to woo me with his knowledge of knot tying, and now she's trying to score alcohol from poor Roger there.

 

The boy doesn't stand the chance in hell.  Goddess knows once Logan turns the charm on, no one does.  Cocks her head slightly and makes you look down at those half-lidded devil's eyes, dimples surrounding perfect little pouty-lips...  She'll have his whole stash before he can say something stupid and offensive. 

 

I look over and sure enough, there she is, beaming up at him.  Oh, she just scrunched her nose!  Yep, there it goes, one bottle from Roger to a happy looking Logan.  Wait, did I just hear her giggle? Logan?  Oh.  I see.  Now she has his flask as well.  Amazing.  Oh, well, that's okay.  I'll just have to work with that.  Make sure she doesn't get too drunk tonight. 

 

After all, the point of the trip is for us to work out our disagreements through teamwork and discussion.  Which is why the boys will be camping away from us.  So there would be no impedance to our interaction.  They'll help us set up, and then they'll camp out of sight from us but close enough to hear any tell-tale sounds of two people pummeling each other to death.

 

Not that that would happen, really.  Yes, Logan and I get confrontational with each other quite often, but I feel most of the time it's for show.  Our department more or less expects it from us now, it's like a whole new season of Dynasty every time we all file into the conference room.  Oooh, who will get the verbal bitch-slap today, Randy or Logan?.  I'd venture so far as to say we even enjoy our squabbles, not that we'd ever admit to that. 

 

No, there is no fear of us getting physical with each other.  Not like that, anyway.  Not since...

 

 

Three months earlier

 

"...and now I just have to introduce you to my right-hand, Logan Morissey.  She'll be teaching you how things work around here until you feel comfortable enough to start off on your own."  Michael stopped in front of a closed door, and after knocking briefly he poked his head in.  "Ah, she's in, let's go."

 

I followed him in and saw Logan standing behind her desk, looking questioningly at us.  I can't tell with certainty, but if I am to extrapolate from my personal experience, I'd have to say neither of us really heard what Michael was saying as he introduced us, nor did we notice when he left, closing the door behind him. 

 

I just know I had my eyes on one of the most attractive women I have ever seen, and I could read the look in her eyes all too well.  Okay, so maybe me licking my lips as I took her in, again, and unbuttoning my blazer so I could put my hands on my hips *might* have been construed differently, but I wasn't aware I was doing it.  There I was, just looking at Logan at one moment - all five foot five of her, dressed in black slacks and this extremely flattering pale green silk-knit blouse that clung to every nicely defined curve without being too tight, short blonde hair tousled and highlighted by the sun coming in from the windows behind her - and the next, her tongue was in my mouth, my back was against the door to her office, and her hand was reaching under my skirt. 

 

So, okay, it took me a few moments to realize that my hands were pulling her against me instead of pushing her away, and the sounds I was making were not stating a clear rebuttal of her attention, but who could blame me?  I mean, I was clearly shook up and not thinking clearly.  If I were, Logan wouldn't have had a chance to give me a hickey right below my ear.  Or another one near my collarbone.  As it was, only after her hand cupped me below my skirt, and my head jerked back in response and hit the door behind me did I gather my senses enough to halt her advances.

 

I still had to hold her by the shoulders at arm length as I repeated, three times, that I was hired as a new VP of publishing and we would have to develop a very close working relationship, but not that kind of work and not *that* close, before she subsided. 

 

"You mean, you were not a gift?  Not like in the "Days of Thunder"?"  She was incredulous, and then embarrassed, and then she covered it up by gruffness.  She did apologize, though, and I was all too hasty to accept it, before scampering out of her office.  You can imagine, a start like that did not bode too well for our working relationship. Logan would avoid me as much as possible around the office, but whenever she couldn't avoid me - almost exclusively during weekly office meetings - she would always oppose my suggestions for new projects.  I honestly don't think she even listened to what I was saying before disagreeing with me.

 

I couldn't really be angry with her because she was so damn cute - I could see she was still embarrassed and horrified by what had happened in her office that first day, and this was her way with dealing with it.  It was almost endearing. 

 

And poor Michael did try, he really did, to smooth things out between us, but it didn't work.  I think that horrible gift exchange episode before Christmas was what broke the camel's back.  After that fiasco, he booked us on this trip and told us to either go and return mellifluous', or not come to work at all.  And so we're here.  I am not sure what, if anything will happen in the time before we go back.  We are to make an appearance at the company's New Year's party after we come back, to let Michael know if this worked out.  The truth is, we have the potential to work very well together.  I have ideas that Michael wants to see put to action, and Logan is the one who has the business acumen to make them happen. 

 

Now, if we could just get past this big boulder of sexual attraction pulsating between us, things would be so much easier for everyone involved.  If we sat down and talked about what did and did not happen three months ago, maybe we'd get somewhere.  Then again, maybe talking is not the thing to do after all, every time we talked to each other in the past three months it escalated into a verbal conflagration.  Well, if talking is not the activity we should be engaging in tonight, maybe me packing my pink nightie, just in case, was not such a bad idea after all...

 

 

*********

 

Then again, my choice of bedtime wear seems to have been one of the stupider things I've done recently.  The desert, and it appears this was quite obvious to everyone but me, is a cold, cold place once the sun sets.  A frilly bit of pink lace I brought with me in hopes of... seduction I suppose, would do me no good if all pertinent body parts are frozen due to sub-freezing temperatures outside our tent.

 

Oh, yes.  Our tent.  All three square feet of it.  Aside from lying diagonally in it, I am having serious doubts that I will be able to fit into it at all.  Then again, if I *were* to lie diagonally, Logan would have to lie on top of me if she were going to fit in as well.  Hmmm...

 

You know, with the money I imagine Michael is paying these howdy-doodys, the least they could do is help us set up before high-tailing it on us!  It's Logan, and from the inside of the tent I can see her silhouette painted against the waterproof canvas.  She has been able to get a small campfire going outside and is now busy arranging our saddles around the fire pit.

 

She sounds nervous and disgruntled.  I guess she really did hope the boys would stay with us so as to we wouldn't have to interact with each other.  Here I am, thinking that all we needed to do was to get away from the office and the trappings that went along with it, the shame of what happened on my first day, and the specter of what shouldn't happen between two co-workers despite how much it was obvious they are attracted to each other, and she...  She would rather spend the night listening to bean-induced flatulation of our trail-guides than spend some time alone with me.  Which, again, points out to the stupidity of me bringing my pink nightie along.  How obvious would it be that I was hoping something would happen tonight?  I might as well have written "Take me!" across my forehead.

 

No, better that I pretend not to have brought sleepwear all together.  With that thought I scuttled over to where we dropped off our saddlebags and took out the garment.  I will just hide it somewhere so that it doesn't pop up as I'm pretending to rifle through the bags later looking for my forgotten' pajamas.

 

And, wouldn't you know it, just as I was buckling up the saddlebag with the nightie between my teeth, Logan decided to make an appearance.

 

Hey, Randy-girl, anything to eat here besides scorpio..., she pauses at the entrance with the flap raised, and as I stare at her, I wonder if she'll mention the fact I have a piece of see-through pink lingerie dangling from my mouth, ...ns.  What *is* that?

 

I guess so.

 

Nothing.  I take the slip and fold it with exaggerated care before opening the saddlebag again and putting it away.  I can feel her eyes on me the whole time and for some reason I almost feel like I'm stripping before her though I am fully clothed.

 

I look up and she's smirking, that same damned expression she has on her face every time she knows her remarks during department meetings upset me no matter how hard I try to hide it.  I won't give her the satisfaction this time. 

 

 

*********

 

 

Well.  This is new.  She's being quiet and icily courteous, and not even nagging me about drinking before dinner as I imagined she might do, and I'm actually wishing she were?  I *want* her to argue with me?

 

I steal another glance at her as I tip the flask and take another sip of the god-awful cheap bourbon.  She's sitting not even five feet away, on the opposite side of the campfire, slouched against the saddle I laid down, legs bent at the knees, feet firmly planted apart, and long-fingered hands absently tracing patterns in the sand between her feet.  Her hair is loose now and blends with the darkness behind her, but the brim of the black Stetson is hiding the blue of her eyes. 

 

I don't really need to see them.  The flash of hurt in them right before she left the tent, brushing past me, is still very fresh in my mind.  I am not sure what it is I did this time to cause it, but after that first time she looked at me like that I promised myself I'd do something to make it up to her.  Like grow a pair of balls and apologize properly.  Or tell her how I really felt about her.  And here we are now, a chance to sit down and talk to each other like human beings, for the first time since we met each other really, and I've already managed to fuck it up somehow.  Shit.

 

Another pull from the flask, and I realize it'll take quite a few more before the taste becomes slightly more bearable.  But even that is better than this silence.  If I only knew what I did this time.  Hell, I was so nervous about being alone with her, I probably babbled out something stupid or inconsiderate.  Then again, nothing could really be more inconsiderate than what I already did...

 

Five days earlier

 

"...and before you all hit the Solstice Punch Bowl, lushes, first let's give out the 'secret non-denominational holiday gift-giver' presents!"  Michael, resplendent in his red and gold vest and tipped Santa hat, had already taken a dip or seven in the punch bowl himself.  Which is why he loved any and all occasion to throw an office party.  "Well, kiddies, you'll all be getting your gifts from me, except for our resident fightin' cocks, Logan and Randy, who have been instructed by me to exclusively buy presents for each other." Logan rolled her eyes, arms crossed and exuding the bored air of someone who *so* had something better to do.  Randy, peacefully lounging in an armchair, just gave him an indulgent smile.

 

"See, I just wanted to see if the two of them could be nice to each other under direct order from their supervisor and during this most merry of the seasons.  And since I'm sure you've all had bets going for the last week, I'll make them go first.  Randy, why don't you start?"

 

Rising, Randy picked up a small gift bag and carried it over to Logan before turning back and seating herself again.  Looking suspicious, Logan reached in with exaggeratedly cautious movement and took out a cylindrical black lacquer box, about nine inches long and an inch in diameter.  Raising her eyebrow, she held it up for everyone in the room to see.  Guffaws and catcalls broke out, their co-workers calling out.

 

"Hey, Logan, does it tick?"

 

"Yeah, yeah, you sure you want to open it here with all these innocent bystanders around you?"

 

"Randy, did you include batteries with it?"

 

During all that, Randy just sat quietly, a small smile playing on her lips, eyes not leaving Logan's face.  Slightly unnerved by the quiet scrutiny, the blonde woman returned her attention to the gift in her hands. 

 

Lifting the lid, she took in the contents for a long moment before taking them out and laying them out on the table before her.  A rolled up blank scroll, clearly hand made, a beautiful hand-blown Venetian glass ink pen, a small inkbottle and a folded note.  She opened the note, ignoring muted conversations of her office-mates and bet money exchanging hands, and read those few simple lines: "I heard you are considering a writing career again.  The ancient ones said the right tools were half the job.  I hope your dreams come true.  Happy holidays, R."

 

She looked up, straight into the eyes so gentle she forgot for a second where they were and what they were doing.

 

"Well, that's nice.  Rudimentary, but nice, don't you think so folks?"  Michael seemed pleased.  "Well, your turn now Logan.  Let's see what you got."

 

Even then she could have stopped, claimed not to have brought a gift, pleaded amnesia, anything, but she didn't.  Instead, followed by "Come on Log, I got money riding on this" and "No more Mr. Nice Guy" from her co-workers, she got up and walked over to Randy, handing her a thin envelope.

 

Looking up at her questioningly, but without suspicion, the brunette opened the envelope and pulled out a slip of paper.  When she looked up at Logan again, the look of hurt and disappointment was visible for the briefest moment before being replaced by an amused smile.

 

"Well?"  Michael was impatient as ever.  Maybe this will have worked after all.  Someone just had to knock some sense into those two.

 

"Well," Randy drawled, giving the slip of paper to Michael, "I guess you need to give me some vacation time before my six-month mark since I am holding a confirmation of a one-way ticket to Zimbabwe in my name."

 

Among the claps on the back and hollers of laughter from her office-mates Logan watched Randy carefully fold the piece of paper and put it in her pocket.  Though outwardly taking it in stride and laughing at good-natured jabs from her co-workers, the tall woman carefully avoided looking in Logan's direction for the remainder of the party. Logan, on the other hand, spent her evening casting furtive glances toward Randy, her gift carefully cradled in her hands.

 

Michael, sober and silently observing from the wings, took everything in.

 

 

********

 

 

"I have something that could warm you right up, you know."  Oookay, well if that look that she's giving me right now is any indication, that indeed sounded as bad as I thought.  "I wasn't talking about the booze, Randy."

 

This earned me another icy stare from across the campfire and a frosty, "I didn't think you were, Logan", and I just couldn't figure out how is it possible that *everything* I say to that woman manages to piss her off.  After all, it wasn't like I was offering... oh.  Oh!

 

"No, no, that's not what I meant!  I was going to tell you that I have some Ramen packets.  To make noodles.  You know.  A stew.  If you're cold..."  She was looking at me oddly again.  "What?"

 

"You brought Ramen packets with you to the middle of the Sonoma desert?"

 

Um, yeah?  "Yes, I did.  They're light-weight, and though not very nutritious," a snort from the tall and granola-happy, "they *do* make a nice hot stew easily.  And the sodium content alone should satisfy even your PMS cravings."  Okay, so I could have muttered the last part a bit more unintelligibly, but screw her.  At least I wasn't bringing up that slinky little pink thing I caught her with.

 

She was looking at me full on and though not hostile, the gleam of morbid fascination in her eyes wasn't all too comforting either.  "How is it possible that, at 32, you *still* subsist on Ramen?"

 

I frowned.  Because I didn't like to cook for myself?  Because I had no one in my life who would care enough to point out the benefits of healthy nutrition?  Because it just didn't matter.  I shrugged in response.  I had no desire to get into this with her.  "Never mind.  I thought you might want to some, you've been shivering for the last fifteen minutes.  Forget it."

 

"No, no, I apologize.  I do appreciate the offer, but I think I'll pass."  She smiled and it hit me again how absolutely breath-taking this woman was.  It took me a couple of weeks of heavy bribing, but finding out that she was single was worth it.  It was almost a sin, though, a woman like that should be making someone happy.  "I wouldn't mind a sip or two from your flask however."

 

"Oh, you can sip from my flask whenever, sweetie!"  It was out before I had a chance to even register the thought and I slapped my free hand over my mouth, holding out the flask for her with my other hand.

 

She just chuckled, rising up and dusting off her jeans before walking over to my side of the fire and flopping gracelessly next to me.  She plucked the flask from my hand and took a long pull.  I watched the long line of her throat move with the swallow before dropping my gaze to my boots.  She was sitting all too close to me.

 

"I'm sorry," I offered partly as a means of distracting myself from the warmth of her next to me, and partly because I had to say it.

 

She waved me off, taking another sip.  Apparently she had no reservations when it came to bad liquor.  "Oh, please.  A day without an off-color remark by you and I get worried."

 

I took the flask she handed back to me and took a moment to notice the wetness left by her lips before bringing it up to mine.  The bourbon might have been cheap, but it was doing its job.  My head already felt just a little bit fuzzy.  "Well, I'm sorry for that too, but that's not what I meant."  She was looking at me now, I could see her out of the corner of my eye, but I couldn't face her just yet.  "I never did get to apologize to you for the Christmas party..."

 

She started to wave me off, but I wouldn't let her.  Turning to face her this time, I continued.  "No, I mean it.  I'm sorry I gave you a one-way ticket to Zimbabwe."

 

She chuckled again, and this time she was the one who wouldn't look at me.  "Yeah, I have to say that was pretty funny."

 

"No, Randy, I..." but she still wouldn't meet my eyes so I reached out and lifted her chin with my fingers, "It wasn't funny because I hurt you."  Her skin was soft under my fingertips and her eyes seemed deeper, warmer than ever before.  "I didn't mean to hurt you.  And I'm sorry for that.  And," I let go of her, not being able to keep my eyes on her now, "thank you for the present.  That was very thoughtful and I like it a great deal."

 

My eyes were focused on the leather tie peeking under the saddle I was leaning on, flickering of the flames throwing grotesque shadows in the sand around us.  She was quiet for a moment and then I saw her legs move as she shifted so she could kneel before me.  Her voice was soft, barely carrying over the crackling of the fire.

 

"Before I say you're forgiven and you're welcome, there is another thing you need to do."

 

I peered up at her questioningly.  The hat was gone, and her hair was falling loosely around her shoulders, eyes glistening in the firelight.  "What's that?"

 

She offered me a hand, laying the other on the horn of the saddle to steady herself.  "Kiss me."

 

I took her hand, and it was cold, and then I rose to my knees facing her and I kissed her and her mouth was warm and soft.  I pulled back, not sure what she wanted me to do.  I had already made too many harsh assumptions with this woman, I wouldn't do that again.  "Randy?"

 

She drew me back in, her large hand cupping the back of my head.  This time the kiss wasn't soft or inquisitive.  She pressed me against her, demanding me to open up for her and I did and she kissed me like I imagined she would.  Then her lips left mine and she whispered, "You're forgiven," before kissing down the length of my neck.  I grasped her head, the feel of her lips on my skin unraveling me as she made her way toward the other ear.  The warmth of her breath against my skin would have been bad enough, but then she spoke again.  "And you're welcome and now," a nibble and I moaned, "now I want you to take me to the tent and make love to me."

 

Well.

 

Why don't you twist my arm a bit?

 

 

*************

 

She had taken my hand and led me to the tent where she unzipped both of our sleeping bags placing one on the bottom and using the other one as a cover before sitting me down on them.  There she kneeled before me and her hands were shaking as she pulled my boots off, but they were warm against my skin as she pushed me down and undid all the ties and buckles, relieving me off my chaps and jeans. 

 

Only the hazy light of the fire outside filtered in and I couldn't see her eyes clearly, but I could tell she was watching my face intently as she helped me discard each article of clothing.  Her blonde hair was disheveled and her breathing had taken the impatient tempo of arousal, but she still held back for the fear I'd... what? - change my mind?  Push her away again?  Finally out of my jeans, I impatiently threw off my jacket before lying down fully and extending my arms to her in an invitation.

 

It took her a moment but then she got out of her boots and jacket and crawled on top of me, pulling the top sleeping bag over us.  Her shirt and the rough denim of her jeans were cold against my body and I shuddered, but then her heat started seeping through them and into me.  Still uncertain, she braced herself against her elbows above me, looking at me attentively.  "Randy?"

 

"Shhh," I said, circling my arms around her and admiring at how petite she really was, "just kiss me."

 

And then she did.  There was hunger behind those kisses, the kind that you didn't know you had until you tasted what you were missing for the first time, and I could tell she was surprised by it.  But I had known.  Somehow, all this time I had known it could be like this between us.  There was alcohol on her breath and the smell of wood smoke in her hair and there was a chill in the air, but when her hands touched my bare skin for the first time, the physical pleasure of it eclipsed everything else.  She was gentle and forceful and hungry and patient and giving and absolutely possessive in her claim to bring me pleasure.  Only after I clawed my release into the ground below us for the second time did she seem content at simply holding me.

 

At which point I realized she had all together too many clothes on.

 

 

*************

 

"Oooh.  Dear...  god...  Wh... wow."  I honestly couldn't tell the last time, if ever, I've gone for so long without being able to make a complete sentence, and judging from the big smirk on Randy's face as she propped herself against her elbow next to me, she took it for the good sign that it was.

"Satisfied?"  Oh, no, not cocky at all, was she?  But then again, she had good reason to be.  And she was so awfully adorable when she gloated.

 

"Mmmm..."  I tried to cup her cheek with my palm, but only after the third attempt was I able to raise my floppy arm high enough to do it.  She took pity on me and held it there with her hand as she gazed down at me.  "Yes, yes I am and you very well damn know it."  I wanted to cuddle up to her and after a couple of weak headbuts against her shoulder she got the hint and lowered herself down, gathering me in her arms.  "Aahh, better.  Now if only you would tell me how you were able to get me out of my clothes and into heaven so fast, I'd be even happier."

 

She chuckled, making my head bounce against her chest and I sneaked my arm around her pulling her in closer.  "Well, what can I tell you, I have many skills."

 

I groaned before raising up to look at her.  "You're kidding me.  You, for one, would be the person I'd expect to hate that show."

 

"Why would I hate it, it's funny, it's entertaining, and most importantly, the actresses are babes."

 

I raised my eyebrow at her and she laughed.  Lowering myself on top of her again, I felt her arms pull me in before tucking the sleeping bags around us.  The sex had been all-together unexpected and excellent.  Still, literally up until I was calling out her name to the night creatures at large, I expected something to go wrong or for her to pull back.  But here we were, sated and sticking to each other.  I guess the question now was whether we'd stick *with* each other.

 

"Hey Randy?"

 

"Hey Logan."  Her hand was massaging my temples and making it all too difficult to remember what it was I wanted to ask her.

 

"Do you-ummmmm, thas' nice...  do you think we'll be able to work well together now?"

 

The hand stopped and retreated.  "Oh, I don't know.  Having great sex in the desert does not necessarily translate into a good working relationship.  I think we'll need to...," the hand reappeared in a more southerly region and this time it's movements were most definitely not putting me to sleep, "...make sure we work...," Oh!,"...on it really hard...," Oh, my...,"...until we come to any definite...," Oh, yes!, "...conclusion."

 

And who could argue with that?

 

 

**********

 

You know, celebrating our three-year anniversary, in most ways, really is an enormously rewarding experience.  I mean, we've been through a lot together, a death of a parent, a cancer scare, even a period where we thought we'd be better off without each other, but we've *always* come through more committed to each other and our relationship, and it's special we can celebrate that.

 

I love Logan with all that I am.  Most of the time I don't dare tell her exactly how much because it'd be difficult to use sexual manipulation to get my way if she knew.  But I'm sure she knows more than she lets on.  How else would she get me to agree, year after year, to spend our anniversary at the place where it all 'came to', pun intended?  I mean, do you have any idea how rewarding trips to the Sonoma desert in the end of December are?  Please.

 

And yet, three years in a row, she's been able to persuade me to come out here again, and camp out, reliving our first night together.  At least we have a bigger tent now, though it's a bitch to put up.  Not to mention the cold - there really is not a whole lot you can do about the cold in the middle of the desert.  And the sand *does* get everywhere, don't let anyone tell you differently.  Not to mention those crawly little...

 

"Raaaandy?  Ooh, Randy?  I've been a bad, bad cowgirl and I played with your whi-iip.  Raaaandy?"

 

...Then again...

 

 

 

The End


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