Violence Warning/Disclaimer: This story depicts scenes of some violence, but not a lot.

Love/Sex Warning/Disclaimer: This story is about love and an explicit sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age, if lesbian relationships offend you or if this type of story is illegal in the state, province or country in which you live, please do not go any further. Go back to making cookies, go play with your toys or go visit the Disney site but do not read this story.

Standard Disclaimer: I really don't need a disclaimer because these gals belong to me. This is an Uber story so the physical appearance of the main characters will probably be very familiar to the reader. The main setting is Laguna Beach, Calif. and most of the places depicted are real. It is a present time love story.

Kudos: To my lover (who spent/spends many hours by herself while this was/is being written). Thanks to my friends and editors, Jeanne, Pat and Loki for catching little mistakes I otherwise would have let slip onto the pages you will be reading, thus keeping me from embarrassing myself and to my daughter, Nicole, for constant encouragement. Thanks to you for reading it.

Laguna Nights

by Carole Giorgio

Chapter 1

Alex sat on the beach, curled up in a large beach towel, for what seemed like an eternity. Dusk had been a while in the painting and she was happy to be back on familiar grounds watching the creation. The sea air was clean and slightly crisp and there was just enough of a breeze to make interesting white caps dance on top of the water. The gulls keep endlessly busy swooping here and there catching whatever was available within their beak's reach. Alex found herself mesmerized as she regarded the scenario being played out before her. She observed the sea deposit a clam shell here, a bit of seaweed there and some piece of discarded plastic somewhere else along the long expanse of sand. Then she watched in awe as the sea decided not to leave all those gifts on the beach and swept in again reclaiming half of her treasures. Yes, Alex decided, the sea is a selfish lover, she only leaves bits and pieces of herself on the shore and even at that tends to renege on her offerings as she tidies up again by taking what was originally hers back into her depths before the trinkets have a chance to be confiscated and adored by anyone else. She watched as the sky turned from a pale blue matching the color of her eyes to a soft peach and finally to a bright crimson mixed with lavender. Then the sun began its daily decent to kiss the sea goodnight. Alex never tired of watching this play out as the sun, shimmering with tentacles reached downward approaching her lover, the sea, for their evening ritual. One could almost hear the sizzle as the celestial body and the earthly mass came within touching distance of each other. If you looked closely, you could see the sea reaching up as the sun was reaching down. You could see the heat that generated between the two and then, with a quickness that seemed to come all too soon, the brief encounter would be over and the sea would be alone again until the next sunset. Alex gazed into the area where the sunset had just played and she felt a small twinge of melancholy.

She felt akin to the sea in many respects. She was a loner and had been for a very long time. There were times she had reached for the comfort of another's touch or for the look in the eyes of another that would start her creative juices flowing and let her forget the cares of the everyday world. But those times were few and far between and for the past three years she had totally shut herself off from any kind of emotional entanglement, even if it were only a brief encounter. As the old saying went, once bitten, twice shy. She had had the bite and didn't intend to relive the pain in any near future. She would be quite content working on her dreams alone. The vision had started alone and she would see it through to the end.

She loved sitting on the beach, watching the walkers, the runners, the volleyball players and even the lovers as they all enjoyed the hospitality of the sand and the sea. But this stretch of beach was different. It was much more secluded than the beaches a little north of here or a little south. This was her own private cove and very few ventured here. She liked it that way. The seclusion suited her. Occasionally, someone would come for a swim, a walk or to surf, but usually the beach was deserted. As she looked out toward the water, she did notice several people had found their way to her beach this evening. There was a couple out for a jog along the ocean's edge followed by what she assumed to be their dog. There were even a few surfers still catching the medium height waves that seemed to regularly grace this part of the beach and which she, in happier years, would have been glad to have jumped in and rode with them. Surfing had always been one of her favorite sports, right up there with beach volleyball which she was quite good at because of her lithe body and exceptional height. She had to admit to herself that these recreations were part of what kept her young and kept her coming back to California. The tall athletic woman had realized years ago that being raised a California beach brat made it extremely difficult for her to fit into more stringent areas for more than a month or two at a stretch. She always yearned to get out of the rigid and back to the beach. Out of the power suit and back to the bathing suit or cutoffs. Nothing ever felt as good on her feet as nothing or if she had to, Burkenstocks or Reeboks.

Again her eyes drifted onto the area closest to the water and there she saw two women with a small pail between them seemingly digging for clams. The young women had first caught her attention when she heard one of them let out a squeal of joy at the prospect of her first find. From that point on Alex had found it hard to tear her eyes away from the odd couple. One of the women was thin and very frail looking, clad in designer cutoffs and a midi-blouse. She actually looked rather out of place handling the small shovel, digging in the wet sand and yet trying to keep from getting sandy, as if that were an option when one was clamming. The wind had only slightly messed up her coiffed hair and she looked more like a model who had come onto the beach for a photo shoot than someone digging for their dinner. Her companion, on the other hand, seemed to be very much at home with the chore at hand and had no trouble throwing down her small garden hoe, as her foot found what it had been so painstakingly wiggling and searching for in the sand. She had more the look of the girl next door, someone who would be easy to get to know and willing to become friends with new neighbors. She also seemed to be having a really good time playing in the sand. All of a sudden she was kneeling down on the wet beach using her hands to finish her final descent on the solitary clam.

"I know what I'm having for dinner," Alex heard her say as her words were carried on the breeze.

There was a childlike quality in her voice that touched a spot deep within Alex as she continued to study the two friends from a safe distance. The young woman waved the clam like a victory flag high above her head before relinquishing it to the pail. Then she wiggled her feet in the sand again, searching for her next victim. The successful clammer had worn white cutoffs to the beach so this had to be a new experience for her and perhaps that atoned for the enthusiasm. Her shorts were now taking on an ashen tone, none to the dismay of the wearer. Even from this distance Alex could see the pure joy on the face of the young woman. Watching the playful expressions dart across the woman's face, Alex continued to stare at the two friends and found herself wishing she had a friend to share that kind of happiness with.

The sky was beginning to darken but there was a full moon coming into plain view and it was scattering rays of light that danced on the woman's hair making it sparkle like gold. It had been a long time since someone's voice had turned Alex's head and she was content to pull her towel up closer around her and simply watch them play. Perhaps, she thought to herself, I could walk innocently by and see how they were doing with their . . . NOT . . . she decided. I'll just sit and watch from a distance, it's much safer. She watched the two until the blonde woman seemed to have had her fill of playing and the bucket held enough clams to make a small feast for two. As they walked away from the shore line and toward the place where she was sitting, Alex felt her breath catch in a short quick gasp and she wondered how a stranger could have elicited such an emotion within her. She watched the silhouettes with a heavy heart, as their laughter was being carried on the wind. She turned her head away as they came closer to the spot where she sat and kept it turned even as they passed close enough to have seen the face of the woman who laughed like an angel. After they passed, she gave them enough time to get about half way up the stairs before turning back around to catch another glimpse of the small blonde-haired imp of a woman. She thought she saw the golden head sweep as in a turn, turning back to face the street, as Alex lifted her head toward them and watched their shadows disappear. Alone again, Alex thought, perhaps for the best.


Samantha and Suzanne had decided -- well, it was actually more like Samantha had pulled Suzanne's arm (and her legs and every other part that would take a pulling) to go clam digging on the spur of the moment, simply because the tide was going to be out and the opportunity was there. It had been a hectic day and Samantha really just wanted to unwind a little. The vivacious blonde really liked her job, as much as one could like sitting for up to eight hours a day trying to decipher what inconsiderate dictators decided to pass off as understandable clinic notes. Being a medical transcriptionist she kept telling herself was merely a rung in the ladder she was climbing while working her way up to being a best-selling author. At least it kept her fingers nimble, food on the table and a roof over her head. It also allowed her to live pretty much anywhere she chose and she had just recently chosen Laguna Beach. She knew that artists always had to pay the price of job loathing while striving for the goal of "loving what you do for a living" and this job was really not all that bad. Anyway, here they were on the beach at the end of the day and she was going to make the most of it. There was a beautiful sunset in the distance and she felt blessed to be here with a good friend. She knew full well that Suzanne would have rather gone to dinner and a movie but she wanted to get some fresh air for a change and going clamming sounded like a great idea.

Samantha told Suzanne she had found just the right place for their outing. It was just a little way south of town. They drove to the cliff, got their gear, took off their shoes and starting walking toward the steep wooden steps that lead to the beach. As they passed in front of the old warehouse Sam looked at it in amazement because of the transformation that had taken place in the months since she had last seen the building, even the surrounding grounds were now pruned and manicured.

Samantha's mind began to wander as they began their descent.

"Be careful Suz, these steps are steep and a little rickety," she warned her friend.

"Don't worry. I can manage. I lived here first, remember?" Suzanne answered, smiling.

"Yeah, but I don't think the beach saw much of you," Samantha smiled back.

Samantha had only been in Laguna for a couple months but found the small beach town quite to her liking. The people were friendly but not nosey and you could join in sand activities up near Coast Highway, surf if you knew how or find your own secluded piece of beach and just watch the waves. She had happened upon this cove months ago while visiting Suz and before she had finally made up her mind to move down here and away from family for a while. She had been out walking one evening and fell in love with the serenity of the place. Laguna itself was small and quite most of the time but this was like something out of a fairytale. She had been drawn to the cove because of its privacy. The only bit of civilization other than the stairs leading down to the beach was the huge old warehouse they had just passed up on the cliff. On her first visit to the area she had found nothing but debris scattered all around the building including what was left of hundreds of windows. The palms and shrubs were overgrown like the forest in the Sleeping Beauty story. Now it seemed as though someone else also saw potential on this barren strip of beach because the old warehouse was being turned from an eyesore into what looked like a magic castle --- especially if you were looking through the eyes of someone as romantic as Samantha. Castles in the air -- she thought to herself -- magical castles in the air -- rising from ruins to float above the ocean near a mystical land . . . Ah . . . I could go on and on . . . I love the mystery of this place. Okay, Samantha get your mind back to the real world!

With that she almost tripped on the next to the last step but at least the slight jump she had to make landed her directly into the soft, white sand.

"Come on Suzanne," Samantha chided her friend as she ran through the powder-like sand toward the ocean's edge, "Let's get started. You know how to use the shovel, don't ya?"

"Of course I know How to use the shovel. It's just a question of whether or not I want to. I let you drag me down here but does that mean I have to break a nail and get dirty, too?"

"This is supposed to be fun. Tell me you understand that concept. Keep in mind that I told you I would do all the cooking and all the cleaning up if you would just pretend like you're having fun with me, ok?"

"Yeah, okay, Sammie -- let's see, you find the air bubbles and I'll start digging. Fair enough?"

"Great. Hey, look, here's a whole slew of them, it looks like someone dragged a heavy wagon or something through here so we really shouldn't have to dig too deep. Ohhhhh, look Suzanne, I think I see one actually sticking out of the sand."

The expression in Samantha's voice was so innocent and juvenile. Suzanne loved being around her friend who seemed to find joy in absolutely everything. Samantha seemed to have a way of bringing the sunshine with her even on a gloomy day. That was a rare gift and she was glad they had become friends in college.

Samantha quickly dropped to her knees forgetting all about the shovel and began using her hands as digging tools. The wet sand would separate between her fingers and allow parts of the ocean to fill up the small well she was so desperately making on her way to her prize. In no time she was rewarded with one of the largest clams she had ever seen.

"Thank you Poseidon! Gifts from the sea -- I know what I'm having for dinner!" Samantha giggled with joy.

"Yeah, Sam, but one clam does not a clambake make. You'd better get those happy little fingers of yours digging more." Suzanne laughingly told her friend. "Just be careful not to injure any of those digits, you need them to be in perfect working order within the next couple of weeks. Remember, we're getting that new account from the clinic opening up, actually, that's it right behind you there on the beach," Suzanne said as she pointed toward the cliff and the newly refurbished warehouse.

"Is it opening that soon? That's it? That's the clinic? The old warehouse? Wow!! I thought it was going to be another month before they had everything ready to go. I just hope the new therapists speak English and know how to enunciate. Maybe we should give them all a free lesson in how to dictate, what do you think?"

"I think you'd better just adjust your earphones, Sam, and concentrate. Dictators seem to come in one basic variety -- Conceited. You know -- I do everything right -- what makes you think I can't talk into a silly machine...."

"Yeow -- Suz, forget about 'em for now, here's some more clams. Come on -- help me get these," she said as she smiled up at her friend and pulled at her pant legs. "We are going to have a feast tonight!" Samantha stated.

"Sam, you'd think you never did this before." Suzanne chided her friend.

"I haven't -- I'm a novice -- I've read about clamming and I've eaten clams, but I've never actually dug them up for dinner." Sam retorted.

Suzanne glanced around the beach to find that they were almost entirely alone save for one solitary figure up by the base of the cliff. "Hey, Sam, I think you've gained someone's attention," She whispered as she looked over in the direction of the soon-to-be clinic. "You think you might lower your voice just an octave or two so people won't think we're crazy out here?"

"No, I'm not going to lower my voice." Samantha answered, "I'm on the beach. I'm having a good time. She can come join us if she'd like to or she can sit there and watch. I'd don't care. I don't know her. She doesn't know me. This is a free beach and we Are allowed to laugh!" Samantha looked over in the direction Suzanne had pointed out only to spot one of the most beautiful women she had ever seen. She looked like something out of a romance novel, even sitting on the sand with her arms wrapped around her knees, totally wrapped up in a beach towel. Even with the distance between them Sam could tell that the woman must have been close to six feet tall. Her features were very angular and she had an intensity that seemed almost to be chiseled on her face. She also had a look of melancholy and Sam felt a slight twinge of sympathy for the woman. She looks lost and lonely, Sam thought to herself and for some reason that touched her heart and she had to look away to keep from staring. She quickly placed her attention back to the chore at hand and helped her friend pick up the treasures the sea had so diligently supply them. Oh, boy, steamers, and chowder this is a feast in the making.

"Look over here, Suz, I think I just hit paydirt!" The two friends busied themselves scraping and digging in the sand, Samantha on all fours and Suzanne trying her best not to get too dirty. By the time they were finished their pail was quite full and Sam, at least, was physically spent.

"Come on," Samantha finally stated, "I think we have enough to make quite a meal."

With that the two friends picked up their digging tools and the pail full of dinner. They started their trek back toward the stairs and the cliff. Samantha made sure not to stare at the lone figure as they got closer to her, she didn't want to make the woman feel uncomfortable. Samantha was not the shy type, but for some reason she was afraid of making eye contact with this lonely looking person. They quickly passed the area where the woman was and then when they were half way up the stairs Samantha turned back around and gave a quick glance in the direction of the solitary figure still sitting on the sand. Hair as dark as midnight, she mused to herself, a solitary dark figure cloaked in mystery --- okay Samantha that's enough imagination for one night! As she was turning her head back to face her friend, she had the distinct feeling that the woman on the beach was also looking up the stairs at her. Oh, Samantha, there you go again with that imagination of yours. Silly girl!! Sam shook off the feeling as she caught up with Suzanne -- they were off to make a captain's feast!


Alex had been watching the two women leave her beach as her mind began wandering back to when she first started laying the foundation for what was finally playing out for her in the next week or two.

Her great adventure had begun almost directly out of school. Alex had graduated at the top of her class, summa cum laude and had been offered positions at quite a few clinics and hospitals. Marge Silkton, one of her mother's best friends, owned a company whose main agenda was helping other physical therapy clinics, sports medicine clinics, gyms and doctors' offices grow into multi-million dollar enterprises. Marge knew how good Alex was at organizing, problem solving and getting situations handled. She had watched her since she was a kid organizing the neighborhood children in campaigns like paper drives and aluminum can collections. She told Alex that she needed that kind of enthusiastic new blood in her company. Alex knew that Marge thought of her like a daughter and the woman held a special place in the young woman's heart as well. Knowing that Alex could really make a place for herself in the company, Marge tempted her with the promise of a junior partnership with more money than she could possibly make just working in a clinic, working for a hospital or even starting her own small clinic in the San Diego area. She offered her travel, an expense account and the luxury of having no time clock and no set hours. The benefits were astronomical and any 21-year-old fresh out of college would have been foolish to pass up such an offer. Alex was anything but foolish.

Her parents being quite accomplished people in their own rights wanted to make sure their daughter had all the opportunities they could afford her. Being an only child she had everyone's attention and grew up among a diverse group of her family's friends. She had decided well into high school that she wanted to do something humanitarian for a living and had narrowed it down by the time she applied for USC. She would be a therapist and help those who had trouble helping themselves, she would be a crusader for the sick and weak, helping them to regain whatever it was they had lost. This was a fine and noble idea but she found the opportunity being offered to her by Marge a much easier way to begin her journey. Off she went to conquer the world and make it a better place whenever she could. Such innocent dreams, such high ideals, but she swore to herself that she would not lose track of them while delving into the real world.

Marge didn't throw her to the wolves directly, she took her under wing and slowly showed her the ropes. Beginning with lunches and dinners with the top execs of the various companies Marge had on her unique list of clients. Alex watched, she listened and she learned. She learned how to approach the clients and how to convince them beyond a shadow of a doubt that they needed the equipment or expansion plan she was offering them. She learned how to explain to her patrons that by simply purchasing some new machines, getting their employees extra training and by offering some not so conventional types of treatments that they could increase their businesses ten fold. She was sure to explain to the customers that her company was the best company to handle the job and she made many enemies from among her competition by stealing companies right out from under their noses. Being a quick study, as Marge already knew she was, it wasn't long before Alex was on her own with her own set of clients and the list just kept growing by leaps and bounds.

Of course along the way she continued to increase her own knowledge by continually taking courses, mostly in some of the newer esoteric therapies that were slowly beginning to trickle into the world of sports medicine and physical therapy. Her love had always been delving a little into the occult and the new therapies seemed a good place to indulge her veracious appetite. It was also easy to keep in good shape what with having to not only explain how to operate the new exercise equipment but to show how each piece worked. She was constantly on one machine or another, a Badger knee machine or a Cybex, showing customers how to use the new stationary bikes and treadmills as well as the free weights and of course there was always the newest and biggest Nautilus equipment that needed demonstrating. Being in shape was never a problem working for Have It All (Marge's company).

Alex never minced words with her clients and when she spoke people seemed to listen. She always felt that actions spoke louder than words and let her physical demonstrations of their new items speak for themselves. She made it all look so easy -- "See," she would tell the client, "Anyone can use this." Yeah, she remembered thinking, anyone who has practiced on it for months like I have." Making the machines look good was part of her job and her added benefit was a body that belonged in a sports magazine. She liked teaching the classes, watching people get all excited and wrapped up in a new idea or new discipline. She felt like she was making some small contribution to the world at large and that had always been important to Alex. So what if she spent her days and more than some of her evenings setting up machines, teaching the classes and showing the new therapists or business owners the ins and outs of management as well as just plain old common sense on how to run a healthy, profit making clinic. She was one of the best when it came to convincing some tight wad to go out on a limb. And she was the first to be thanked when their businesses blossomed. The perks became too numerous to count and Alex had always been glad she had taken the offer Marge so graciously had handed her on a silver platter.

But tonight for some strange reason Alex was looking on the darker side of being such an entrepreneur. Sure, Alex thought to herself, I do my job really well. My competition hates me. I get gifts and bonuses up the butt. My clients are loyal and send me more referrals than I could ever handle by myself but I always . . . Always . . . seem to come back to California -- Alone.

The night was in full swing by this time and the moon was cascading light down on the ocean. One last look and it was time to go back up to the clinic. I really need to stop thinking of it as just a clinic. I need to start thinking of it as home. It's everything I've ever wanted. I have the entire top floor with half of my windows looking over the ocean and the other half looking over the streets of Laguna. What a fairyland. I should be the happiest woman in the world. I am happier now. Maybe not the happiest I've ever been or could be, but I am happy. I worked hard for this and spent many nights in cities I didn't want to be in. I spent many nights with people I didn't really want to be around and now I have this, my dream. Goddamn it -- I Am Happy!


"Okay Sam, here's the pail, there's the kitchen. I'm going to go shower first while you start dinner."

"You can't honestly say you didn't have a good time, now can you?" Samantha questioned her friend.

"No, I guess I can't honestly say that. It was different and it was fun, in an earthy kind of way. But I really would have rather gone out to dinner and to a movie."

"Yeah . . . I know you would have but this is going to taste soooooo much better and you can watch a video while I clean up. Such a deal!"

Suzanne felt right at home in Sam's apartment, they had known each other since college and it was good to have Sam here in Laguna with her. They had kept in touch first by phone and mail and then by the Internet. When the doctor Sam had been working for decided that it was better business to bring his dictation into his office, Samantha decided it was time to quit. She hadn't been that fond of the doctor having to see him on a daily basis was not at all appealing. That afforded Suzanne the ideal situation and made it easy for her to talk Sam into moving to California.


"Hey, where'd ya put the towels," Suzanne yelled from the bathroom to the perky blonde in the kitchen.

"Oh, gosh, I forgot to put them away. I did the laundry yesterday and haven't had a chance to put them in the closet. Here, let me get you one."

Samantha waltzed over to the basket in the living room and picked up two towels and two washcloths.

"Here Suz, put mine up, too, okay." Sam laughed at her friend as she threw her the towels. "Go wash your hair -- you look wind blown."

"Oh, yeah, well you smell like fish." Countered her friend with a smile.

"Is that a bad thing?" Samantha chuckled as her friend headed toward the bathroom.

"Is my dinner almost done, Sam?" Suz answered, changing the subject with a giggle.

"NO, what do you think I am a magician. I need time to make a masterpiece you know." Sam bounced back at her, "We artists need time to create."

"Well, Samantha, you had better create in a hurry because I'm starving. I'm not used to catching my dinner you know. I usually have it delivered." With that she shut the bathroom door and proceeded to take her friend's advice.

Samantha turned back to the chore at hand and began cutting up veggies for a salad to go with their steamed clams, corn on the cob and boiled potatoes. She had decided they didn't really need the chowder tonight, especially since her friend was so hungry and wanted to eat right now. She always did like one-pot dishes, anyway, you could really use your imagination on them. Let's see, some Old Bay, a little garlic, a bottle of Corona, lots of water, lime juice and there you have it, instant feast!

Sam starting thinking about her new living arrangements. It was a little strange getting used to having the beach so close at hand, she had always been comfortable with the lake and the dense forest. But the beach was a welcomed change, perhaps one she could readily become accustomed to. Thinking back on the beautiful sunset they had just watched while in the midst of searching for their dinner, Sam's thoughts strayed back to the lone figure sitting on the beach -- just watching. She wondered if the woman was as lonely as she looked. No one should be that lonely she told herself. If Laguna is as small a town as Suz says it is, I'm sure to see that woman again and when I do perhaps I'll just say Hi.

She must have been lost in thought because she didn't even hear the bathroom door open and Suzanne come down the hall.

"Sam -- are you cooking or dreaming?" came a high-pitched voice from the doorway. "Look at that pot, if you don't do something quickly you will have one heck of a mess to clean up. And, I'm not on mess patrol!! What in the world were you thinking about?"

"Oh . . . my mind was just wondering back to the beach . . . It was, uh, such a fun experience." Samantha jumbled.

"And that made you lose all your concentration? Come on, I know you better than that -- what gives?"

"I don't know -- I, well, I . . . "

"You're stammering, Samantha -- What?"

"I was just thinking about that woman you pointed out -- you know -- the one sitting all by herself on the beach. She looked . . . well . . . she looked -- so lonely."

"Oh, for goodness sake Sam -- she was probably just sitting there watching the sunset like dozens of other people do every night. No biggy!! My dinner -- 'bout finished?"

"Yes . . . your dinner's about finished. Let me quickly go jump in the shower. This can all just simmer here until I get back. I've got it low enough that it won't run over again, so no need to worry."

She grinned at her friend as she passed her on the way to the bathroom but her heart skipped a beat as she silently smiled at the stranger in her thoughts. Yeah, I'll bet I see you again, and I'll just say Hi.


Alex stood up and brushed off the sand took one last look at the ocean and inhaled deeply. The warehouse at least was now to the point of being liveable. She had started to purchase some bits and pieces of furniture and was having it delivered as the construction allowed. The equipment she had purchased for the gym and other areas would be the last things to be put into place. As she walked to the main entrance and unlocked the door she felt a wave of just how small one person really is -- actually what she felt at that moment was another pang of loneliness and she knew she needed to stop thinking about that. She was turning a lovely evening into a melodrama.

She walked over to the freight elevator and stepped in, looking back at the mess the construction people had scattered all over the lower floor. I will be soooooo happy when all this is cleaned up and I can actually see my vision instead of what still looks like a nightmare. At least my living quarters are beginning to look more comfortable. One of the first things Alex had put in was a separate lock inside the elevator for the third floor. She didn't want just anyone to be able to get all the way to the penthouse. The electrician arranged it so you could either use a key to continue to the top or use the call box he put in that would release the elevator and allow it to continue up.

As the lift reached the third floor, she heard her phone ringing. She quickened her pace and lifted the receiver, "Hello." Dead silence. "Hello," she tried again. Click. Okay, so it took me a while to answer but you hadn't hung up before I answered -- so why in the Hell did you hang up when I did? She hated when people did that. Why didn't they just say they were sorry that they dialed a wrong number?

She got herself out a quick cup-a-noodles and poured hot water from the dispenser on the sink directly into the styrofoam container. I'm such a cook, she chided herself. That was one thing Nikki had been good for. That's really not fair, Alex -- she scolded herself. There were other good things she could remember about the three year . . . no . . . more like a one-year honeymoon, a one-year Really get to know ya and then the year-long break up from Hades. She still didn't understand how she could have been so wrong in choosing Nikki for a life partner. They had seemed so right for each other in the beginning. They both liked the same kinds of things -- they both surfed and both of them were into martial arts. They would both rather be physically doing something than sitting around watching someone else do it. Had she been looking so hard for a soulmate that she took the first person who seemed to blend into her heart. She had her share of dating and had broken some hearts along the way to finding Nikki. Alex was never one to be without companionship, if and when the mood hit her. Thinking back, the mood didn't hit all that often. She was tired of all the one-night stands and the lack of commitment in her life. She guessed that was why Nikki looked so good to her. Before Nikki she could tell within just a few dates that the relationship would be nowhere bound and had the wherewithal to say goodbye before ties were bound too closely. Then there was always the intuitive nature of her parents -- it seemed they almost always knew, even before she did that this one was not good for her or she was not good for the newest addition to her long list of conquests. But she had more or less given up on the idea of ever finding the one person who would complete her. Yeah, she had had enough of the one-night-stands, the adolescent crushes and the women who would always need someone there to pick them up when they fell. She had dreamed of someone she could protect and love surely, but she also wanted someone who would stand up for her if the situation arose. Nikki was there, but as time went on she became more and more jealous of anyone who so much as glanced in Alex's direction. And the temper that seemed to come from nowhere -- she had hidden that all too well during the initial stages of their relationship. As time went on Alex figured perhaps, they were just a little too much alike to ever last a lifetime. Their fights had become downright dangerous. Nothing like taking two volatile tempers combined with two martial arts experts deciding to fight with each other. Nikki could make her feel like she was a psychopath with lethal combat skills. When Alex finally decided to call the relationship off Nikki had other ideas, she did not want to give Alex up and the final breakup was not a pretty sight to remember.

That's in the past now, Alex, time to move on. She told herself. The opportunity is looking you right in the face. You've made a commitment to your work and that's just the way it's going to be for a long, long time so get used to it!


"Okay, kiddo, I feel like I just lost 10 pounds when I washed away the sand. Are you ready to eat?"

"What do you mean, Am I ready to eat?" Suzanne exclaimed to her squeaky clean friend. "I've been ready to eat since we walked in the door. Are you ready to serve?"

"Pick your poison, TV trays in the living room or here at the table, which will it be?" Sam smiled at her friend.

"Well, since you went through sooooo much trouble as to even go out and catch -- No that would be -- dig up dinner, I think we should sit at a real table to thoroughly enjoy it!" Suzanne answered and Samantha nodded in agreement.

"Great -- I usually plop down in front of the TV or catch up on my e-mail when eating -- this will be a real treat. I actually get to sit at a table and hold a conversation with a real in-my-face person," Sam laughed and started putting the dinner into bowls and plates.

"I don't know how good the conversation is going to be -- I'm famished!!" Suzanne answered her friend.

"Here's the table settings and how 'bout you get the wine, I like the White Zinfandel, do you?" Samantha queried.

"Sure, that sounds like a winner to me," Suzanne answered.

The two friends sat down to the fresh from the sea dinner, corn on the cob, potatoes and a salad. It took less time to consume than it had to acquire and cook but both were quite sated by the time the food was finished. Suzanne's conscience got the best of her and she decided that she should definitely help Sam with the clean up.

"Sam, that dinner was fabulous. You really know how to throw a meal together. How about I help you clean this mess up and then it's my treat to a movie?" The redhead threw out the suggestion to her friend who had already started stacking and moving the dishes from the table to the sink.

"Sounds like a deal to me, Suz. It shouldn't take us anytime at all to clean this up. That's the beauty of a one-pot meal!"

Samantha was right. They were out the door within the hour and off to the theater.

Four hours, one movie and one peppermint green tea from the coffee house later Sam was back in her apartment alone and more than ready to hit the bed. She had had an exhausting yet satisfying day. I'm so glad I have a friend like Suzanne to kick around with. Unfortunately, I know she'll be keeping herself really busy in a month when Danny comes back from his Westpac. At least until then I have someone to kick around with occasionally and by then I should have made a few new friends. If not, I can really dig my heels in and start giving that book of mine the good old college try.

She chided herself slightly for not starting on the book sooner, but quickly let the guilt fade as she turned out the lights, went over to the window and looked at the velvet sky. Laguna was beautiful. Because the town was still small and street lights were minimal you could see all the stars in the night sky. Wishing on them was one of her favorite pastimes. So, Samantha, what will be your wish tonight? Let's see, she pondered, I think I will wish for my pull-apart to stop taking so long in crossing my path, she mused, remembering one of her favorite stories. She always felt that that story had more roots in truth than in fiction. She especially liked the version of there being three sets of people in the world when the world was still young -- three sexes instead of two. Let me think, she mused to herself, Everyone had four arms and four legs and two faces. There were the Children of the Sun who were like two men that had been stuck together by their backs . . . There were the Children of the Moon who looked like two girls also glued together . . . and there were the Children of the Earth who were both male and female but nevertheless just one being . . . If it hadn't been for the jealous Gods throwing down lightening bolts, we would still all be attached to our soul mates and would not have to be spending so much time looking for them.

Samantha liked the idea of the three sexes of people -- that way everyone who loved would be counted and validated and that made her feel good inside. She hated prejudice and bigotry and they were probably the two things in today's society that could really get a rise out of her and make her show her temper. Everything else put aside, thinking of pull-aparts always made her feel as though the day would come when she would meet the person of her dreams. There just had to be someone cut out of the same mold she was, someone who fit her like a glove and vice versa. She knew someday she would find that person, the one who would make her feel the way Danny made Suz feel. She had to believe that she wasn't destined to live her life alone. But she also knew that she was only 26 and she still had time to find that one person in all the world who would complete her and make her totally whole. Geez, Samantha, there you go off again -- make you whole -- you already are whole. Yeah, she argued with herself, but wouldn't it be great to meet someone who made me smile just by walking into the room, who made my skin tingle by their slightest touch, who made my mouth go dry at the thought of saying their name? Wouldn't it be great if you really do get to feel a sense of totality in the arms of another?

"Oh, Samantha," she laughed out loud at herself, "You've had one Hell of a busy day girl, get your butt in bed!"


Well, Alex smiled to herself, that was a satisfying, energizing and totally empty dinner, but I am full and I will treat myself to dessert before I go to bed. She decided to take another look at how everything was falling into place before calling it a night and headed toward the elevator. Just as she was about to get in to go down the phone rang again. I'll be there in a heartbeat this time. With long quick strides she was at the phone before the third ring and answered, "Hello." Again she heard the deafening silence on the other end of the line. "Come on, it's getting too late to be playing games, who is this?" Now she was beginning to let the anger drift into her voice. "Just tell me what you want. You're making me angry and this is childish. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." As she punctuated the last word with a quiet lift to her voice, she heard a sigh on the other end and then the phone went dead. Goddess be Damned!! I hope I don't have to change my number before I even get a chance to memorize it! This is getting ridiculous. She placed the headset back onto the charger. I will not let this get the best of my temper. I will not let this spoil my evening. She chanted these two statements all the way down in the elevator and by the time she reached the first floor she had actually talked herself out of being mad.

She studied the layout of the first floor of her Alternative Paradise, her own brain child, a clinic with a twist that she had never even talked about to any of her clients. She wanted this to be unique and so kept all her ideas secret. Actually keeping a secret was not difficult for Alex it was like second nature to her, a small side that was always hidden from the rest of the world. She liked that part of her, it made her feel secure -- it was where she could hide all her insecurities and no one could harm her there. This clinic would be the fulfillment of her dream. It would be more all-encompassing than any other clinic in the country and she would be the first one to offer such a climate to the waiting public. Hers would be a combination of disciplines all under the same roof. There would be therapy, a spa, a gym, classes and lectures. It would be a life enhancing and life changing encounter. Actually, if she were to really think about it and that seemed to be all she was thinking about lately, this was more a therapist's haven than it was a place for the average public. Her clientele would be as unique as the experience of visiting the clinic -- at least that was all part of the total package.

Therapists could come to learn more, to specialize in other areas of their field and then just relax and use the gym, the climbing wall, the pool, the spa or the beach. They could come and relax while they were learning. All the tools of the trade would be here under her roof. This place would be a smorgasbord for therapists as well as a haven and a working clinic. They could try their hand at all sorts of new equipment before going and purchasing it (from Marge of course) and they could study new techniques and disciplines. People could come here for a class, a lecture or a treatment and end up staying an hour, a day or a week if they chose. It would have all the amenities. The clinic itself faced the ocean, and the entire second floor on the west side had been reconstructed to be solid tempered, tinted glass to take in the breathtaking view at every turn. It had taken painstaking concentration to put out into the universe that she wanted the piece of land the old warehouse had stood on for so many years. She knew if she concentrated hard enough and long enough that the opportunity would arise and she would be there to take advantage of it. Throughout the years she had set up a fund for this project and any extra money -- and there was plenty -- any bonuses were all thrown into the account. She watched it grow as the years went by. Marge had always made sure Alex had more than enough of everything she needed. Her expense account continued to grow and she never had to pay for travel expense's out-of-pocket. Living basically as a vagabond, she really didn't have any real-life expenses to spend her money on except when she had been with Nikki. Her vehicles were all rented in the company name and the company put her up at only the finest of hotels and residence motels all over the country. To top everything off when she had told Marge and her parents about her dream to build this Alternative Paradise, they all insisted on being silent partners and help with the initial expenses. It just proved to her that she had the confidence of those she felt the closest to and that was always a rewarding feeling.

Alex had been overjoyed when finally, the owners of the warehouse and the land it sat on had decided that they were never going to renovate or use the old property and that it was becoming an eyesore in the otherwise pleasant landscape just south of what the locals called The Village. The land and building were situated in a small cove and the view was breathtaking. Laguna, even though a tourist trap during certain seasons of the year, had remained for all intensive purposes a small, artsy, beach town. The surrounding areas had grown slightly but there was still that laid back and comfortable atmosphere to the entire area. Alex wanted to spend the rest of her life here watching the ocean and being at peace. Her dream was unfolding before her eyes. And she had taken an extended leave of absence from Marge's company to pursue this endeavor.

Today she had just been thinking of how thankful she was that the harder parts of starting the clinic were behind her and the fun of building the clientele and expanding her dream were well on their way to fruition. The workers had promised that the construction would be completed in less than two weeks now. Two weeks, that always reminded her of that old Tom Hanks nightmare of a movie about renovating an old house. All the characters in that movie ever got for an answer when they asked the workers how long something was going to take was, "Two Weeks." As their "Two Weeks" stretched into months not only did the house fall apart but so did the relationship between the two stars. Thank goodness she didn't have a relationship to worry about at this point in time. She was just hoping that her ugly duckling forgotten warehouse would turn out to be as lovely a finished product as the house in "The Money Pit." Actually hope had nothing at all to do with it. It all had to do with funds, perseverance and the dream.

For the past nine years she had been traveling all over the country, depositing bits and pieces of herself in other people's clinics, making other people's dreams come to fruition. It was time for a dream of her own. At one time she thought maybe she would share her dream but that part of the vision had died three years ago when she could no longer tolerate the distrust and jealousy that was abounding in her relationship with Nikki.

Again, her thoughts were turning to Nikki and the heartbreak . . .

Alex, you're feeling sorry for yourself again and you know that's not a pretty sight. You've had yourself quite a full day and should probably go back upstairs and go to bed. Don't even stop for ice cream at the refrigerator -- just go to bed. Everything will be fine again in the morning and you will be one day closer to the opening. She thought about the proposed celebration to take place in approximately "two weeks" and laughed at the thought. Then she quickly got back into the elevator for the short trip up to the third floor. Bed certainly does sound appealing, she thought . . . In no time flat she was standing in front of the glass in her bedroom. She stood there in her boxer shorts and tee-shirt and watched as the moon, now high overhead played with the sea, who being fickle had played just so many hours earlier with the sun. The moonlight danced on the beach, making the sand sparkle and giving the illusion of fairies dancing on the water's edge. It was a magical scene and a lovely one to be the last in her thoughts as she laid down on the waterbed and went to sleep.


End of Chapter One

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