Chapter XII

 

Leigh rolled over in RJís warm embrace, allowing her eyes to sweep over her loverís face. She looked different, Leigh decided, when she was asleep. Those beautiful, alert emerald eyes always seemed so at odds with RJís easy-going personality. Their gaze flicking impatiently from thing to thing, taking in the world as though she was seeing it for the first time. So pretty. The look on Leighís face softened further. So young even though you sometimes act like a weird old soul.

RJ threw her arm across her companionís waist, shifting a little and pulling her closer. She sighed happily, comforted, even in sleep, by Leighís solid presence.

They couldnít have been asleep for more than a few hours. The room was still cast in deep, silvery shadows, the scent of warm skin and fresh sheets hanging heavily in the air.

RJís breathing was slow and steady and Leigh could see the faint movement of her eyes, under closed lids. I wonder what sheís dreaming about.

The corners of RJís lips held just the barest hint of a smile.

Leigh reached out to push away a dark tangle of hair that had fallen across RJís forehead.

She stopped mid-motion and stared at her hand, which was shaking. Everything about this was so frightening, so foreign; it felt like a fist closing over her heart.

She swallowed hard. Címon, Leigh, you chickenshit. Stubbornly, she steadied her hand, determined to finish the simple act sheíd started and push back that lock of disobedient hair. Once she had, she drew her fingertips lightly over RJís face, barely tracing the soft, swollen skin around RJís black eye before trailing down her cheek.

The tall woman twitched slightly at the featherlight touch.

Leigh smiled tensely, her brow furrowing. God, what am I doing? I donít want this, her mind hissed. I donít want to fall in love with her. I canít fall in love with anyone and make it work! I wonít. But even as she thought them, Leigh couldnít make herself believe the words. She had shamelessly lied many times her life. But even when it threatened to turn her world upside down, and several times it had, she tried to never lie to herself. Until this week.

Tonight, even through the haze of her sleep-fogged brain, sheíd heard RJís sweet words. Felt their quiet whisper against her skin and the corresponding tug on her heart. And in that place between sleep and wakefulness theyíd caused only a moment of unease, of raw fear, before she was able to push the words away and allow her eyes to drift shut. But now that she was awake, they seemed all too real. It was too much to handle.

Leigh carefully slid out from under the bedding. Tenderly, she pulled the sheet up over RJís shoulders, watching the even rise and fall of her chest for several long moments as she tried desperately to fight off the anxiety welling in her chest. She couldnít do it. And she moved to the foot of the bed where she retrieved a rumpled blanket that had fallen to the floor.

Her thoughts began to pile on top of each other, filling her head with things she didnít want, visions sheíd never allow herself to have. A panic began to build within her, and she shivered as she wrapped the blanket tightly around herself, barely registering its slight roughness against her naked skin. She fled the room without shutting the door, quickly padding to the balcony, her feet moving faster with every step. When she reached the sliding glass door she threw it open, sucking in a huge lungful of cool night air like a drowning woman just breaking through the surface, her fear so real she could taste it in the back of her throat.

Leigh closed her eyes as she exhaled slowly, letting the chilly wind that rolled in off the sea beat against her, sending her already sleep-tousled hair into further disarray. She stepped all the way outside, ignoring the sudden shock of the cold pavement against her bare feet. She let out a sigh of utter relief; the room inside had started to close in on her. Now she could breathe.

Her gaze turned out toward Puget Sound and the twinkling harbor lights. "Itís just sex," she told herself firmly as she began to pace.

"Okay, so itís great sex. And fun. More fun than Iíve ever had with anybody else. Even when weíre just shopping or not doing anything at all. But thatís it. Thereís nothing more to it. But when she looks at me my knees go weak and I have to keep from swooning like a pathetic teenager. And when she cries, it rips my heart out. Shit. Shit. Shit!" She closed her eyes in frustration. "Okay, so there is a little more than sex."

Leigh continued to babble to herself. "So what if she loves me?" She shrugged ruthlessly, as though that didnít matter at all. As though she didnít matter at all. "That happens sometimes. Itís not my fault." Her eyes welled with unexpected tears. "I didnít encourage it." She swallowed hard, her throat closing.

She swung back around and looked through the darkened hotel suite toward the kitchen. "Dammit! I donít even have any more glasses to break." Leighís tone vacillated wildly between anger and panic. "Iím down to coffee mugs and I hate cleaning up ceramic!" She gave a passing thought to trying dishes but decided her bill this month was already going to be ridiculous. Maybe they wonít notice the dents in the living room wall. Maybe sheíll forget about what she said. Maybe I will. And about how I feel when Iím with her. Argh!

Dejected, Leigh turned back around and leaned against the railing. What am I going to do? What do I want to do? Her mind mocked her with the answer. She wanted to pack her bags and slink out into the night like the skunk that she really was. Jump in her red truck, even if her mother was still plastered naked on its side, and drive east just as fast as those eighteen wheels could take her. But just the thought caused her stomach to drop.

Her hand snaked out from behind the blanket, and she wiped her eyes, the cold spring breeze already drying her cheeks. "Or, I could not run away, march back into the suite and take things one day at a time with RJ. I could have a relationship like a normal person. So what if Iíve never been able to do it before?" Leigh scowled. Everything doesnít have to be neat and easy. "I could be a real girlfriend." There was a long pause, where all she heard was the sound of her own heart and the whistling of the wind. Her shoulders sagged and her eyes turned downward. "Yeah," she snorted, "like the odds of me not screwing that up arenít a gazillion to one."

"Screwing what up?"

Leigh whirled around to find RJ standing in the doorway, her body silhouetted by soft moonlight. She was wrapped in a thin sheet and already shivering. "What are you doing out here?" Leigh asked, her voice tight with emotion.

RJ put one hand on her hip and spoke in a motherly tone. "The real question is why are you standing out in this wind? Youíre going to catch your death." But despite her words, and without the smallest bit of hesitation, she stepped out onto the porch to join her friend.

"Iím just thinking out loud," Leigh announced quietly, looking down at her toes. "I spend a lot time alone in the truck and unless I want to get on the radio it's just me for company."

A pained expression worked its way onto RJís face.

Leigh shrugged. "So, I talk to myself. Itís nothing to worry about. Iím not cracked or anything." Flustered, she peeked up at RJ from behind pale lashes. "Itís not so strange." At least not to me. Her eyes darted away again as she fumbled for a quick change of subject. "Did I wake you? I Ö ah Ö I didnít think I was mumbling that loud."

"You didnít wake me." It was mostly true. The cool, empty space next to her in bed was what woke her. RJ had discovered over the past few days that she liked having a bedmate; it struck a chord somewhere deep inside her, soothing a place she hadnít even known existed. At night she was already reaching out for Leighís presence. And that was a dangerous thing. But her mind simply refused to go there. Not tonight. Not yet.

"Youíre cold?" Leigh announced. Without thought, she opened her blanket, inviting RJ to step forward into its comfort and warmth.

The chilly sheet that was wrapped around RJ tickled the blondeís chest for just a second before RJ let it fall to the ground and returned Leighís tender embrace. Blue eyes fluttered shut as their bodies came together in an explosion of sensation. God, I donít think I can stop myself with you, RJ. I think itís too late to even try.

The taller woman sighed and her voice dropped. "Leigh," she growled, loving the feeling of their bodies nestled tightly together. She pressed her face against Leighís head, her breath lightly scattering the tousled golden locks resting against her lips. "This is so nice."

Leigh nodded, helpless to do anything but agree. "It is." She leaned forward a little and kissed the lightly freckled skin on RJ's throat, feeling the wildly fluttering pulse against her mouth. "Mmm Ö" Greedily, Leigh drew in a deep breath, burying her nose in the crook of RJís neck. "You smell so damn good." How can I want you this badly? I shouldnít need you like this. But Leigh pushed away any thought that didnít revolve around the here and now, wanting to drown in the sensation of RJ melting in her arms. Of holding and being held, needing and being needed.

RJ sucked in a quick breath at the feeling of soft lips against her cool skin. She reached up and threaded her fingers in Leighís thick golden hair, tilting the smaller womanís head way back, bracing her with her other arm. She peered into Leighís eyes and saw her own rising passion mirrored back at her.

The world around them began to fade away.

RJ ducked her head and their lips meet in a deep, languid kiss that stole her breath away.

Leigh groaned softly as she felt her position adjusted by RJ so that she was leaning against the balcony railing. She was still holding the blanket around herself and her lover, her breasts nestled firmly beneath RJís. Their lips barely separated. "Do you want this?" For a moment Leigh wasnít sure whether she asked the question out loud or merely thought the words or whether she meant much more than necking on the balcony.

The taller womanís hands slid down Leighís back to capture firm buttocks. She drew their bodies closer together and her lips slid to Leighís ear where she gently traced its wind-chilled edge with her tongue. Fire raced through her veins as the weight of her own arousal came crashing on her. "Yes," she whispered harshly, drawing the delicate earlobe into her mouth and sucking, earning a tiny gasp. Dropping her head further, she indulged in her loverís tender throat, unable to stop her teeth from closing gently around a sensitive fold of skin. "Yes, I want this."

Leigh moaned, very aware of the increasing moisture between her legs and the firm nipples that slid lightly across her chest every time RJ took a breath. Her skin tingled in the wake of RJís touch and her heart began beating faster. She wanted to bring RJís lips back to hers, but she couldnít move her hands without exposing RJís naked body to the cold night air. It took her several seconds of mounting frustration before she realized she could simply ask. Her tongue appeared and moistened her lips. "Kiss me on the mouth, RJ."

RJís head snapped up and she crushed her mouth against Leighís, responding instantly to the desire and desperation in the plea. Hot and wet, their tongues swirled around each other, warring for dominance in a demanding, primal kiss.

Panting, RJ sank to her knees, allowing them to rest on the sheet still pooled beneath her. There was a shifting of movement and shadows before her world went black and she was completely engulfed by the blanket as Leighís arms moved with her, covering her, though she was far from cold. The fragrance of Leighís skin and sweat and arousal was stronger here, and she moaned as it washed over her senses. "Leigh," she breathed thickly. She had been so wrong before, for all these years.

This was heaven.

She kissed the soft underside of a breast, barely touching the skin, its salty dampness sending a flood of heated blood low in her belly. Nipping and licking she drew a stream of incomprehensible sounds from Leighís throat.

Leigh closed her eyes as the sensation sent a shot of pure, pulsing desire to her groin. She felt as though she was being devoured. When lips closed around her nipple and bit softly, giving it a firm tug, she groaned loudly, and eyes dilated by arousal snapped wide. "God, yes," she hissed, giving in to the urge to pull RJís head closer, feeling silky, thick hair tangle with her fingers as she tried to maintain her grip on the blanket. She was already feeling the first stirrings of climax and they had barely begun. What is she doing to me?

Deciding she would die if she had to go another second without touching RJ, Leigh grasped the ends of the blanket in one hand. Its edges were barely hanging on her shoulders as she raked her fingers through RJís silken tresses, caressing her scalp.

The gentle movement caused RJ to stop what she was doing and look up just as Leigh lowered the blanket, dropping it from her shoulders to her biceps and shifting so that RJís head was once again exposed to the nightís breeze. Their gazes locked and Leigh could read every emotion on RJís startlingly open face, every thought and desire. It was love, staring unflinchingly up at her, begging her to respond in kind and tugging at her spirit. Leighís heart clenched painfully and she found herself helpless under its spell. Her spell. She opened her mouth to say something, but no words would come. She blinked and was suddenly looking at RJ through a haze of shimmering tears.

Leigh gently cupped RJís chin and, with a tiny tug, sent her rising to her feet. The blanket nearly slipped from her grasp, but she caught it just as they moved back into a loose embrace.

"What?" RJ whispered.

Leigh shook her head, unable to answer. She looked away.

RJ frowned a little and drew a single finger up between Leighís breasts, along the side of her throat, and behind her earlobe where she paused and gave it a gentle tug. "Do you want me to stop?" she asked raggedly, consciously tamping down the excitement that was making her body hum and her heart thunder. "Because I will, lass." A tiny but serious smile worked its way across her face. "But Iíd rather you let me have you completely."

There was a white flash of teeth as a smile edged with affection, desire and a raw want made Leigh gasp with fear and need. She felt the low-husked words rumble right through her, and she managed her own tiny smile in return, wondering if the soul-deep fear she felt shone clearly in her eyes. She swallowed and let herself fall a little further and impossibly deeper.

RJís warm palm cupped the side of her face and her thumb slid lightly over her cheekbone in a gentle, affectionate move that stole Leighís very heart.

The blonde woman abandoned herself to the touch and to RJ, offering herself up completely in every way she had to give. It was time. "I donít want you to stop. I donít want to stop," she said heavily as her blue eyes slid shut and she surged upward to capture RJís lips in a wet, hungry kiss.

RJ growled deep in her chest, reacting unconsciously to Leighís surrendering of her heart and body. Their kisses went from fiery to frantic as their excitement reached a fever pitch and the blanket fell away from RJís back. They surged together, groping and needy. This time when RJ dropped to her knees she didnít stop her progression down Leighís body until her nose, then tongue were brushing through damp, fragrant curls. She groaned loudly and her hands convulsively clenched Leighís hips, roughly pulling her closer.

"Jesus!" Leigh threw her head back and wide eyes gazed unseeing into a million bright stars. Her thighs began to tremble and the blanket fell away from both their bodies, though it remained clenched in one fist. Cool air swept across hot skin, heightening every sensation. Leigh was truly surprised when steam didnít rise from their bodies. Another surge of RJís tongue and her knees nearly gave out.

RJ lifted one of Leighís legs over her shoulder and pushed her back harder against the balcony railing as she supported most of her weight. She gave in to her every impulse to possess and consume and love completely as she feasted on Leigh. She had been wrong before.

This was heaven.

"God," Leigh hissed as her painfully coiled body released with so much force she was completely swept away. Her drawn out, rapturous climax was howled into the cool spring night.

RJ carefully lowered Leighís leg from her shoulder, making sure her arms were still wrapped tightly around the blonde, who was already swaying.

Leigh had just enough presence of mind to weakly swing the blanket around RJís shoulders. She still felt like she was on fire and didnít even spare a thought for covering herself.

The auburn-haired woman rested her cheek against Leighís heaving chest. She tilted her head upward when she thought she heard Leigh say her name.

Leighís jaw worked, but she couldnít make the words come. They had time. Later, her mind whispered. Thereíll be time later. She let out a shuddering breath. "Never mind."

***

The clerk at the front desk of the Piedmont Suites Hotel hung up the phone and scratched his jaw, a puzzled look putting a deep crease in his forehead.

The night manager poked his head out of his office and, yawning, addressed the young man. "Another phone call?" Theyíd never had so many calls in the middle of the night.

"Yeah, itís weird. Half the rooms on the eighth floor, but only on the side with balconies facing the Puget Sound, just extended their stay for the rest of the week. One man started crying when I told him weíd already booked his room to someone else for tomorrow night."

***

"Waaaahh!"

"Itíll grow back," she muttered half-heartedly for at least the hundredth time.

"When?" His lower lip poked out. "Can you tell me when?" The male squirrel burst into body-wracking sobs again. "Wahhh. Wahahahahaha!"

"Not soon enough for me. Iím never walking behind you," she grimaced, "or in front of you again." She plopped down next to her bald mate, wondering if female humans understood that Nair was simply antifreeze in disguise. She cringed when her beady black gaze drifted upward toward his head. As white human males had discovered, you really had to have a good head to be completely bald. Otherwise you just look stupid.

He buried his face in his arms and continued to wail. "Eternity! Iím going to spend eternity looking like a naked mole rat." Oh, the humiliation!

"It could be worse," the female offered helpfully, kicking her feet out in front of her as she leaned back against their bed. They were safely hidden away from Flea in their nest.

"How? How could it be worse?" He sniffed pathetically.

"I dunno." She shrugged and smiled toothily. "I was lying to try and make you feel better."

Whoever said that females were the more nurturing sex was clearly a whipped male squirrel trying to get laid. There could be no other explanation. "Waahahahahaahaha!"

"Oh, stop. At least youíre sort of alive. I thought you were a goner when you tipped over face first into the antifreeze. Your bottle cap chest plate made you sink right to the bottom."

He wiped his tears away on a leaf. "You saved me?" His eyes were round with wonderment. "You? Youíre nothing but a fat lazy sloth! You wouldnít save me!"

True, she conceded mentally, surprised by her mateís moment of insight. She had just let the antifreeze puddle soak into the ground before poking him awake with a stick.

"Iím the master of this couple from now on. All the future plans will be mine," he declared boldly.

 

The female just smiled placidly. She would tell him later that the leaf heíd just used to wipe his cheeks wasnít their normal toweling, but a poison oak leaf sheíd collected for their war against Flea. Much later. Okay, never.

Just then the male grabbed the leaf and vigorously rubbed it against his butt. "Dang, being bald is itchy!"

"Iím sure it is." She nodded gleefully. Call me fat Ö "In fact, Iíd imagine that when the wind brushes against delicate body parts that have never really seen the light of day, it makes them tingle."

"Tingle?" Nothing was really tingling now that heíd relieved his itch, but he liked the idea of tingling. Unconsciously, he crossed his legs.

"Oh, yes." She nodded. "Iíll bet delicate places not usually exposed to the elements would tingle as the cool air brushed over them, caressing them."

The male squirmed a little. "DelĖ " He paused and gulped, his mouth going a little dry. "Delicate places?" Caressing?

The female nodded again, her voice taking on that sensual squirrel quality that called to her mate on a subconscious, primal level. "Very delicate, highly sensitive places." She glanced around casually. "Canít you just feel the light breeze whistling through this place?"

The male instantly rubbed the leaf between his legs using quick, furious motions to relieve the insidious itch that came out of nowhere. "Youíre right! I can feel it!"

"No. But you will later."

"What?" Something was vaguely unsettling about seeing that sweet cherub-like smile on his wifeís face.

"Oh, nothing important."

***

Leigh laughed, trying to hang onto all the little stuffed bears that threatened to tumble from her arms. "Good God, RJ, I canít hold them all!" And true to her word, one of the bears plopped onto the cement beneath her sneakers.

The air was filled with the sound of laughing children, obnoxious teenagers, and game barkers. Better still was the delicious aroma of sugar, salt and grease that could only be found at a carnival. RJ was hard-pressed to think of a better way to spend an afternoon.

"Hey, watch it." RJ shot a little boy a grumpy look as she bent to retrieve the bear heíd almost stepped on. "Well then, lass, let me see Ö" she looked around at the various booths and stands to see if any of the vendors might have a bag for the twenty or so small, bedraggled-looking brown teddy bears sheíd won for Leigh while playing games on the fairway. One stand had neon pink bags covered with pictures of some boy band hanging from its canvas roof. RJ cringed; she had planned on offering to carry the bears for the rest of the day, but there was no way in hell sheíd be caught dead carrying around one of those big, ugly, hot pink tote bags. I have my pride, she thought a little indignantly. She was about to give up when she spied exactly what they needed. "Címon, and weíll get a knapsack for all your furry little friends."

"Not all of them," Leigh chuckled softly, moving away from RJís prodding hands. She placed a quick kiss on RJís chin and allowed her gaze to slowly draw a line down the center of RJís body. "My favorite furry friend is in your Ė"

"Leigh Matthews!"

"Hand," the blonde finished sweetly, snatching the lone black bear away. She winked at her companion.

"Watch your mouth, young lady," RJ warned playfully, "or Iíll be forced to watch it for you."

Leigh looked to the bundle in her arms. "Can't we just pass them out to the people who were too pathetic to win them on their own?" Except for the black one, heís all mine. She made sure her voice was just loud enough for all the people standing around the game, where RJ had just cleaned house, to hear. Leigh smirked at several young menís petulant grumbles and curses.

"Wimps," she added for good measure.

"Youíre evil." RJ smiled, her grassy-green eyes shining in the afternoon sun. "You should be ashamed."

"Ashamed, thatís me. Iím known far and wide for my hypersensitive conscience and over-developed sense of guilt."

"Uh huh. Sure." RJ maneuvered them alongside a platform with a padded metal block sitting squarely in its center. It was attached to a metal pole with a large silver bell on top.

"One swing, one ring, you get a prize! Only to-eeeew dollars," the barker sang out rhythmically as he swung the large wooden hammer.

RJ stripped off her jacket and after a secondís consideration, her short-sleeved denim shirt, leaving her clad in her usual undershirt.

Leigh blinked. "Uh Ö You are going to leave at least something on, arenít you? Not that I mind, but I didnít bring enough cash to bail you out of jail."

The barker gave a low, appreciative whistle at the sight of RJís underdressed body.

Leighís head swung around and she practically snarled at the man, causing him to take a giant step backwards.

RJ rolled her eyes. "Iím gonna win a bag. And I need to be able to swing to do it." She scoffed at the puny hammer the man held out for her and marched behind him to a selection of slightly larger ones. She chose the biggest hammer they had.

Leigh laughed and gathered RJís wrinkled clothes in her hands, still wrestling to keep the bears in her arms. "This is too butch, RJ, even for you." She quirked an eyebrow. "Is the spitting contest next?" But even as she continued to tease, her head was cocked slightly to the side as she openly admired RJ's broad shoulders and lean, muscular arms.

"I couldnít very well just let you fumble around with all those little beggers." RJ gestured to the stuffed animals, then rubbed her palms on her jeans as she prepared to heft the hammer for the first blow.

"We could just find a garbage sack," Leigh offered. She knew good and well RJ had already set her mind on another prize, but was enjoying needling her lover.

"Nah." RJ stood up straight and put one hand on her hip. She pinned Leigh with a glare more playful than withering. "Are you trying to spoil my fun?"

"Would I do that?"

RJ only snorted.

"Have at it then. But you promise youíre going to pick the bag and not that enormous snake when you win, right?" It didnít even occur to the trucker to think that RJ wouldnít ring the bell.

"I think youíll look better toting around the knapsack." RJ lifted the hammer. She took two practice swings, exhaling slowly as she readied herself for the blow.

A small crowd had gathered. This game was strictly for the big boys and no one believed the woman would be able to move the weight even halfway up the scale. Catcalls rang out, along with a few, mostly good-natured, taunts.

"Ten bucks says the dyke canít do it," grumbled a scrawny young man, who looked like he needed a break from his job at the state roadside sanitation department. Leigh wondered who was scraping up all the dead raccoons today.

"Make it twenty and youíre on." His buddy spit in his hand and stuck it out for roadkill boy to shake, which he did after spitting in his own hand.

Leigh grimaced, not understanding why every woman on the planet wasnít a lesbian.

RJ rolled her shoulders one more time. Then, with a look of solid concentration, she swung the hammer, bringing it down with vicious force. The weight exploded up the pole as though a charge of gunpowder had gone off beneath it, causing a deafening ring of the bell before plunging back to the base.

Most of the crowd laughed and applauded when the pilot put the hammer down, gesturing to the bag that hung on the hook. The carny pulled down the large navy canvas bag and tossed it to the tall woman. RJ unzipped the bag and presented it to Leigh with flourish, holding it open so she could deposit her booty inside.

Once Leigh had stuffed the bears in the bag, RJ zipped it up and handed it to the blonde.

"There you go. One bag of bears." She wiggled her eyebrows, quite proud of herself.

"You are disgustingly happy with yourself right now, arenít you?" Leigh smiled back; she couldnít help it. RJís relaxed demeanor made this kind of thing more fun than she ever thought it could be.

"Pretty much." RJ smirked.

Leigh was actually feeling like a woman who might be able to enjoy having a serious relationship. It still scared her, but the smile on RJís face was helplessly leading her places sheíd never gone. At least successfully. "I think you deserve a kiss."

Without allowing her the chance to answer, Leigh dropped the bag on the ground at her feet and grabbed the front of RJís undershirt in one hand to pull her down for a passionate kiss that left roadkill boy and his friend staring wide-eyed. God, Leigh enjoyed torturing the straight people.

"Mmm." RJ licked her lips as they separated. "How about something to eat?"

Leigh bit her tongue to keep from saying the first thing that popped into her mind. "I dunno." She grinned wickedly. "What are you hungry for?"

After a lifetime of being the aggressor, RJ still was still thrown off balance by Leighís forwardness. She blushed, despite herself, easily reading the sudden fire in that had erupted in those clear blue eyes. "Iím thinking maybe a steak sandwich or something. With a nice cold beer." A really cold beer. And maybe a bucket of ice to dunk my head in too. She leaned in, whispering her loverís ear, "But Iíll have you for dessert later."

"Life is short, RJ." Leigh held up the soft denim shirt for her to slip into. "We could always start with dessert and end with the beef?" She produced her best wishing look as she draped RJís jacket over her arm and retrieved the bag.

RJ growled inwardly. "We could at that, lass." She looked around for a moment, then eyed the perfect spot. "How about the Ferris wheel? Iíll pay the fella extra to leave us at the top for a few extra minutes," she tempted, mostly to see what would happen.

Leighís gaze swung toward the big wheel; she didnít especially appreciate heights. On the other hand, she did appreciate the idea of getting a few moments in the sun in semi-privacy with RJ. "Okay. Youíre on."

The pilot lifted her brows, realizing it was a little late in the relationship to be surprised by something as tame as this. Not after the balcony at the hotel Ö Lord have mercy. She grasped Leighís hand and led her through the crowd. The line moved pretty quickly, and soon they were standing at the gate to the ride entrance. RJ dug into her pocket, then slapped a bill in the attendantís hand while whispering in his ear.

He looked down at Leigh and grinned broadly. Shaking his head, he opened the gate and lifted the bar positioned over the seat for them.

Leigh gestured to the duffel bag full of stuffed toys. "Should we take these too?"

"Sure. You might need something soft to hold onto. Or maybe even to bite down on."

"Promises, promises." Leigh sat down and tucked the large bag securely under her feet. "Have I mentioned that I really don't care for heights?"

"Then just close your eyes." RJ settled down next to the trucker. She put her arm around her shoulder and pulled her close.

Leigh smiled and snuggled closer, already feeling more comfortable with RJís arm around her. "This is nice." She felt the ride start, taking them upward and had just started to relax when she felt RJís thumb graze her nipple. "Behave!"

RJ moved to pull her hand away, looking surprised.

Leigh grabbed it and winked. "Just until we get to the top."

Both women began to laugh.

***

 

Leigh flipped the lid open on the pizza box, humming to herself as the smell of pepperoni and extra cheese wafted upward. She began to salivate. "Oooo, this is going to be so good." She absently passed RJ a plate and a napkin with one hand while she fixed hers with her other.

RJ scooted forward on the couch and eagerly took the plate. She glanced over at the trucker, who was tearing apart a gooey piece of pizza. "Did you have a good time today?"

"Absolutely," Leigh affirmed, closing her eyes and sinking her teeth into the pizza. She instantly burned the roof of her mouth. "Aww Ö shit!" The blonde spit her bite out into her napkin.

RJ tried not to laugh too hard as she passed Leigh a bottle of cold beer. "Donít you hate it when that happens?" Green eyes twinkled. "Youíd think that civilized man would have learned by now not to bite into hot cheese."

Leigh narrowed her watering eyes and took a deep swallow before saying, "No one, civilized or not, can resist the call of pizza." The air of authority in her voice made it clear that this was not mere opinion. This was fact. "Itís positively primal." She took another bite and winced. "And far too good to wait for."

"That could be said for a lot of things in this room." RJ winked, then plucked a piece of pizza from the box. Youíd be worth waiting for, lass. I wish we had a chance. Iím sorry that it has to end so soon.

Leighís brows drew together at the sudden look of worry that chased across RJís face. "Whatís wrong? Youíre not going to be sick again, are you?" She leaned back out of the way. Just in case.

"No, lass, Iím fine," RJ grumbled. "Get sick once and youíre tagged for life." She sipped her beer. "I was just thinking about the fact that weíll be starting back soon." Try as she might, she couldnít quite stifle a heartfelt sigh. "Wishing we had a little more time, thatís all."

"It has been fun, hasnít it?" Leigh questioned awkwardly, trying not to sound too eager for RJís answer.

The pilot smiled at her friend. "It certainly has. Iíve had a wonderful time. Youíre a very special woman, Leigh Matthews."

"Thanks, RJ," Leigh answered softly. She closed her eyes and scrubbed at what she was certain was a light blush. "I um ... Youíre great too. And, well ..."

Say it.

No! She hasnít said it again. What if she changed her mind?

So? You still know how you feel.

RJ waited patiently for Leigh continue. She tore at a piece of embedded pepperoni as she intently watched a myriad of emotions wash over Leighís face.

"Itís been nice and Ė" Leigh bit her lip, sorry sheíd started down this path. Candy-ass chicken. Youíve never had trouble talking to women before, her inner voice mocked.

"Quiet," Leigh hissed tightly. Oh, damn. By the way sheís looking at me, I have a feeling I said that last part out loud.

RJ pulled back a bit, her brows coming together tight over the bridge of her nose. "Iím sorry." She shifted uncomfortably, thinking her wish for more time together had put Leigh on the spot. "I didnít mean to upset you."

"No, no, no." Leigh shook her head wildly. "Donít worry about it." When RJís expression didnít change, she added, "You remember the cartoon where this kid had a good fairy on one shoulder and an evil fairy on the other, tempting him?"

RJ stared at her blankly.

"Figures." Leigh sighed. "Letís just say that one of nasty fairies has been talking too much lately." She thinks Iím insane. Sheíd be right. Very funny. "Iím fine. Are you all packed?" Bright blue eyes begged RJ to allow the change in subjects.

RJ nodded slowly. This was just a fling. Donít go blaming this woman because you let your foolish heart get the best of you and start craving something thatíll never be yours. "Yeah, Iím all set." She mustered a watery grin. "Youíll probably be glad to be rid of me." The tease was weak at best. She already knew it would break her heart to have Leigh confirm her words, yet she morbidly decided to probe the painful spot.

"Yeah, you are so hard to live with," Leigh said dryly. "Itís been real chore."

RJ actually chuckled before biting into her pizza. "Then maybe itís a good thing weíre headed back. Youíve got such a high opinion of me right now, Iíd hate to see it go up in a glorious puff of smoke when you find out what a pain I really am to be around on a full time basis. Just ask my mother, sheíll tell you."

Leigh cringed at the mention of RJís mother. Sheíd only seen her a couple of times, but that was more than enough for her get the idea that the strapping Irishwoman did not like her. "I think Iíll avoid your mom, if itís all the same to you." She looks at me as though Iím a walking advertisement for decadence and debauchery. God, how could she know me so well without even talking to me?

RJ nodded and sipped her beer again. "My mother, God bless her, is a force to be reckoned with." She looked to Leigh and licked her lips. Itís time to figure out how youíre going to end this when you get home, because you know good and well that to keep seeing her is only going to make the want more and the hurt worse. "But just so thereís no doubt in your mind, lass, Iíve had the best time of my life these past few days. Thank you for asking me along." She began picking relentlessly at her beerís label.

"My pleasure, RJ." Leigh pushed away her pizza. There was something else in the room whose call she found irresistible. She stood up and extended her hand to RJ.

RJ looked up in surprise. "Arenít you hungry, lass?"

"Yes."

RJ swallowed.

"You havenít seen what I bought at Victoriaís Secret yet, RJ." A sexy grin twitched at the corners of Leighís mouth. "Arenít you curious?"

RJís eyes went a little wide. Am I curious? What kind of stupid question was that? She sat her bottle down and took Leighís hand as she got up from the couch. "Absolutely. I have a feeling this is going to be a night to remember for a long time."

"It should last you a lifetime," the trucker grinned mischievously as she led RJ to the bedroom.

Chapter 13

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