In anticipation of the weekend and the Festival, the next few days seemed to fly by. Wednesday being the least busiest of the three and Thursday turning out to be the most hectic.
Wednesday was spent mostly with Samantha overseeing the painting and papering of the rooms upstairs and talking to a few of the contract therapists who wanted to know if they could come and see the clinic before the open house. She set appointments to meet with them and personally show them around in the coming week. Alex continued to work with the crews and took care of the little details that still needed looking after. Everything was coming together quickly and the anticipated date was drawing close.
The evening was spent quietly taking a walk on the beach after dinner which seemed to have turned into a nightly routine. The walk afforded them the luxury of a little exercise while they talked about the time spent apart during the day. If the walk didn't wear them down enough to sleep well during the night the passionate antics directly before sleep did. Exploration was still the theme in their sex life and Samantha was definitely a quick study. She loved touching Alex and took great satisfaction in being able to break down what others saw as the tough veneer of her lover. To others Alex always seemed so in control and on top of everything. Samantha got to see a side to Alex that others never did and she loved that part of her lover. She saw the Alex who could melt at a touch and weep at a feeling. Deep down inside she was thrilled that Alex didn't show her tender side to everyone, it made her feel special to know that she alone could bring out this tender, caring side to her lover.
Alex had called one of her favorite restaurants on Wednesday to set up the catered luncheon for Thursday and like everything else Alex did for Samantha, it was a huge success. Alex had ordered lobster, shrimp and crab platters with assorted veggies on the side and a dessert tray that would have put extra pounds on anyone just by looking at it. Alex was her most pleasant of selves and charmed Suzanne with smiles and small talk. Samantha was very impressed and that evening she made sure that her lover was well rewarded for showing her friend such a good time.
Furniture had begun arriving on Thursday as well and part of the crew spent most of the afternoon arranging and rearranging pieces in the parental suite and in Samantha's "bedroom." Samantha had originally had a layout for each and every room, but as she saw the furniture being placed she, of course, tended to occasionally change her mind, as was her prerogative. The men on the other end of the heavy pieces were, naturally, of a different mind set but they were, after all being paid no matter what it was they were doing. There was very little complaining and all went fairly smoothly.
"So, my little decorator," Alex smiled at Samantha, "how are the projects coming along?" She looked around the living room in the suite and smiled. "I think my Mom will really like this room. Actually, Samantha, I think your taste is similar to Mom's." She walked over and gave the small blonde a hug. "Show me around."
Samantha was feeling quite proud of her accomplishment. It was the first time she ever had the opportunity to decorate an entire suite and she was having the time of her life. "Well, as you can see the living room is all finished. I think the light furniture we decided on goes really well with the openness of the rooms. Alex, I just love the little waterfall you had delivered." They walked from room to room and Alex complimented Samantha on the way the rooms seemed to flow into one another.
"Tomorrow Suzanne and I are going to do some shopping for small things like the silverware, dishes, glasses and the bathroom items -- you know -- towels, soap dishes, stuff like that." Samantha smiled up at Alex with a twinkle in her eyes. "You're more than welcome to come with us if you want."
"I think I'll pass," came the reply from the dark-haired beauty smiling down at Samantha. "You girls go and have a good time. This place is really coming into its own, Samantha. It looks great."
As they walked over to the apartment Alex suggested that they go out to dinner instead of cooking. "What do you say we call it a day? The crews are gone and we are finally alone. I think you deserve a nice dinner out."
"Sounds great, where did you have in mind?" Samantha asked.
"There's a small restaurant off the Coast Highway with a great view and a beautiful rose garden, I thought we might give it a try. I'll call for reservations." Alex headed for the phone while Samantha went in to start filling the Jacuzzi.
If we're going to make an evening of it, we might as well start with a nice bubbling bath. She thought as she poured in the foaming liquid. "Are you coming or am I going to have this entire tub to myself?"
"Not on your life," came the response as Alex entered the bathroom and stripped, joining Samantha in the warm bubbles. "Don't you ever let it be known how much I enjoy these bubbles, you hear me? It will totally ruin my reputation." The taller woman smiled as she inched over closer to her lover.
"We wouldn't want that, now would we," came the answer from Samantha as she lathered up a bath puff and proceeded to soap Alex up. "I won't let it be known that you enjoy being pampered either." She smiled up at her lover, stretched up and kissed her firmly on the lips.
"I really want to thank you, Alex, for the lovely lunch you put on for Suzanne. It really made her feel important and she got to see your very best side." Samantha gave her lover a wet hug as she continued washing Alex.
"I enjoyed doing it, honey. Anything to make you happy. It was a little weird though, being the center of attention for the entire hour and a half she was here. She seems like a really nice person, Samantha. I'm glad you have someone you can relate to and I'll always be grateful to her for bringing you down to Laguna. If it wasn't for your friend, we might never have met. But then again there's that Destiny thing isn't there?" Alex smiled down at Samantha and took the puff from her to reciprocate the washing.
"Hey, just wash like I did. No fair getting frisky! We have a dinner to go to, remember?" Samantha squealed as she pulled away from the puff that was doing more than just washing her skin. She grinned and directed a splash at the perpetrator holding the puff.
"Okay, okay!" Alex smiled holding up her hands, "You can't fault a gal for trying." She smiled at Samantha as she began rinsing the other woman off. "Dinner first, dessert later tonight!"
Dinner was elegant with a view that almost matched the one at the apartment. The lovers decided that a walk around the small town afterward would be interesting. They window shopped and Alex was glad that most of the shops were already closed as Samantha would have spent a small fortune with the things she pointed out that she absolutely loved.
"Remind me Not to bring you down here when the shops are open." Alex laughed as she steered Samantha away from a window containing all varieties of fairies and gnomes.
"Alex, I'm just saying what I like, that doesn't mean I would buy it all. Don't you know that window shopping is half the fun?"
"I guess I don't. I usually purchase that which catches my eye." Alex responded to the question. "You about ready to go home?"
"Just about, I would love to have a waffle ice cream cone before we do, how 'bout you?" Samantha looked pleadingly at Alex.
"Sure, why not." Alex gave in.
Because the ice cream shop was right on the Coast Highway they walked across the street and sat on the beach to eat their ice cream.
"I talked to my Mom this afternoon, Alex." Samantha began. "She said they'll be down the week following the open house. They'll be staying from Friday to Monday. Do you think you'll be able to take a four-day visit?"
"I'm sure I'll survive. How taxing can it be; they're your parents." Alex smiled in the direction of her lover.
"Oh, Alex -- they are nothing like me! Except maybe my sister. Mom is really anxious to meet you. She can't believe that a single woman would be the owner of an establishment such as Alternative Paradise and be able to function totally on her own without a man around to help." Samantha cringed a little at the completion of the last statement.
"Well, then, she'll be a challenge for me won't she?" Alex put her arm around her lover and drew her closer. "We'll manage fine. Don't worry about it ahead of time, you'll just make the situation more than it really is. Didn't you learn anything from Mom's tapes?" Alex smiled and gave Samantha a kiss on the cheek.
"Yes, actually I did learn that and I need to remember to keep up my affirmations and positive thinking! It's just that I have never kept anything from my parents before, especially not something as life changing as You." Samantha buried her head in Alex's chest and received a hug and kiss on the top of her head. "I guess I'm a little scared, Alex. I can't seem to help it," she murmured into the taller woman's chest.
"Samantha, we'll get through this with flying colors. Have a little faith in us and in your parents, too. You know they love you. Come on now, shake it off -- that's an order!" Alex held Samantha out from her and stared into scared green eyes. "Samantha -- I don't know what else to say, honey. All I can suggest is that you try to put it out of your mind until they get here and we will deal with it then." Alex was totally at a loss, she was not used to feeling so helpless and did not like it one bit.
Samantha looked up into sapphire orbs that showed great concern. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't be getting you all upset over this. You're right, no sense worrying about it. I will just have to deal with it when they get here. Let's go home."
The ride home was short and quiet, as was the ride up in the elevator. It seemed that each of the women was lost in her own thoughts with only an occasional burst from Samantha about something she had forgotten to tell Alex that had happened earlier in the day.
When they reached the living room Alex turned around to face Samantha. "Guess it's time for dessert," she said with a twinkle in her blue eyes.
"What do you mean dessert? We just finished a huge waffle cone, did you forget already?" came the reply from the blonde now in her arms.
"No, I didn't forget -- but it seems you did. Before we left for dinner, in the tub, remember?"
"Oh, yeah." Samantha said with a twinkle in her eyes. "I do seem to recall something being said about dessert after dinner but . . ."
"No buts about it, little lady. I still have a craving that needs some attention . . . of course I could go looking elsewhere for dessert . . ."
"Over my dead body," the smaller woman responded before the sentence had a chance to be finished. "The only dessert you'll ever need is standing directly in front of you." She reached up and kissed Alex passionately, letting her hands wander over the taller woman's body.
Alex picked Samantha up and tenderly carried her into the bedroom where they took turns undressing one another, stopping only long enough for a kiss here and a caress there. They made love without the enhancement of candles and without the soft tones of music. Music and candles were mere trimmings, background mood setters, reinforcements when planned out in advance but unnecessary trappings to accompany the almost magical act of making love. The two lovers required nothing to intensify the moment, they brought with them all that was needed . . . their bodies, their lips, their hands. All they desired to be to each other was wrapped up in the person each of them was, and no outside stimulus was necessary to enjoy the love that was growing with every passing day. Soft murmurs of passion gave way to exclamations of euphoria and finally to the soft rhythmical breathing of two lovers asleep in each other's arms, totally drained and completely satisfied.
Friday was spent with Alex in the Clinic and Samantha out spending money on incidentals needed for the finishing touches on the suite, the bathrooms and the extra bedroom. She and Suzanne had quite a day buying things that they usually only window shopped for. Occasionally Samantha would get a twinge of guilt for spending so much money all at one time but then she would remember Alex's words . . . Get whatever you think will make the suite a home away from home and fix the extra bedroom up just the way you would like to have it if it were really your room -- spare no expense, Samantha and have a good time. They came home laden with goods. Samantha was a natural-born bargain shopper so they ended up spending less money for more products.
Sam and Suz spent the rest of the afternoon putting all the stuff on, in and around where it belonged. They made the beds, put up curtains, put away dishes and silverware, decorated the baths and just generally put the finishing touches on all the rooms. The time flew by and at seven o'clock Alex came into the suite, pizza box in one hand, six pack of beer in the other.
"I thought maybe you two decorators would like to take a break and eat. I'm surprised that Samantha isn't passed out on the floor famished!" She smiled over at her lover and raised the pizza box and beer.
"Alex, how thoughtful . . ." Samantha exclaimed.
"Thoughtful had nothing to do with it, self-preservation did -- I'm hungry!" Alex laughed as she put the box and carton down on the kitchen table. "Why don't we just christen this suite right now with its first dinner?"
"Great idea," Suzanne chimed in. "Now that I've stopped for a minute, I can feel my stomach acting like my throat has been cut. It must have been almost seven hours ago since we last ate." She walked over to the counter and got a handful of napkins. "Anyone want a plate and a glass or shall we rough it?"
"Let's just rough it tonight," Samantha answered. "No sense making more of a mess than we need to." She turned to Alex and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "We're just about finished here. I think we really got a lot accomplished today. We'll give you the full tour after we eat."
Alex opened a beer for each of them and raised her bottle to toast. "Here's to a successfully finished project."
"Here, here," came the reply from the other two women sitting at the table with her.
It didn't take long for the three of them to make short work of the meal and Samantha filled Alex in on all they had done during the day. Alex oooo'd and ahhhh'd in all the right places as Samantha and Suzanne took her around each of the rooms they had so painstakingly decorated.
"Looks like all is a go up here on the third floor," she finally acknowledged. "The first and second floors are pretty much squared away, also."
"Listen, I think I'll get going," Suzanne interjected during a moment of silence. "It's been a really busy day for me. I had a great time, Samantha. Anytime you want to spend money again, you know where to find me."
"You betcha!" Samantha smiled at her friend.
"Thanks for dinner, Alex." Suzanne looked over at the dark-haired woman and smiled.
"You're more than welcome. Thanks for keeping Samantha company and helping her get everything in its place."
They walked Suzanne to the front door and watched her leave.
"So, you up to a swim this evening?" Alex asked Samantha as Suzanne's car drove out of sight.
"Yeah, that sounds like fun, we haven't been swimming for a while. Suits though, okay?" Samantha giggled at Alex.
"If you insist," came the reply from her lover.
By the time they got down to the shoreline it was close to nine o'clock and the temperature had dropped quite a bit. It was a little chilly to be swimming so they settled for a long walk along the beach with the water lapping at their ankles. Samantha began to shiver as the wind picked up, causing the waves to break at a faster speed. Alex held her closer and suggested it was time to turn around and go back to the house. When they were about 300 yards from the stairs Alex turned around staring in the direction they had just come from.
"What's the matter, Alex?"
"I don't know, probably nothing. It's just the feeling that someone is watching us. Sounds crazy, doesn't it?" Alex gave Samantha a gentle squeeze. "Nothing to worry about, just my imagination running overtime."
"But if you get the feeling . . ." Samantha stammered.
"Forget it, Samantha. The feeling's gone now anyway. But, I do have a surprise waiting for you back up at the apartment." She quickened her pace and Samantha did her best to keep up.
"You'll see when we get there."
"Alex . . ."
"When we get there."
With the anticipation of a surprise the trip back to the apartment did not take very long. All the while Samantha tried to get what the surprise was out of Alex -- to no avail.
Samantha stood in the middle of the living room, hands on her hips, directly in front of Alex, "Okay, here we are -- where's the surprise."
"Damn Samantha, I probably should have kept my mouth shut until we got here, it really is not as big a deal as it seems to have gotten blown into." Alex walked over to the counter in the kitchen and picked up a folder. She walked back over to Samantha and handed it to her.
Samantha gave Alex a questioning look as she took the folder from her lover and began to open it. The top sheet of paper was an exact duplicate of the front doors. Each sheet following contained a definition of one of the designs on the door.
"You kept bugging me about the designs on the doors and I kept putting you off until I had a chance to track down the initial layout. I didn't want you to think that I had forgotten about it. It's just that we have been so busy up to this point and . . ."
"Thank you, Alex." Samantha opened the folder and began looking through the designs. "I hadn't forgotten about the doors either, I just didn't want to keep pestering you about them. Will you sit down with me and go over these?"
Alex walked into the kitchen and got down two goblets, "Sure, want a glass a wine?"
"Yes, please." Samantha sat down and thumbed through the papers on her lap while waiting for Alex to come back into the room.
"So, what I really wanted to know was why you chose the symbols you did and just a little about the ones I am unfamiliar with." Samantha began as Alex sat down next to her on the couch.
"Hey, this is nice -- sitting on something other than the floor for a change, what'd ya think?"
"Very comfortable," the small blonde smiled up at her lover, "hopefully we can find a couple tables tomorrow at the Festival." She flipped the papers back to the beginning and pointed at the first symbol.
"Okay, I definitely know this one -- it's the ying/yang, symbol of cosmic balance, good/evil and all that, right?"
Alex took the paper and began to explain in depth the thoughts behind the door. "Yes, Samantha, that's right but what I was really trying to do with the doors was show more than one of the ancient universal symbols of unity, balance and harmony -- finding a similar symbol in more than one culture. I used the ying/yang as the basic design because it was the symbol I most relate to." She pointed to the pentagram next. "This stands for all the elements, air, fire, water and earth as well as spirit and some feel the symbol is the sign of new beginnings which is exactly what Alternative Paradise is for me and now for you, too." Flipping over the pages Alex came to the crosses. "There are a variety of crosses on the door, the Magen David or star of David, the Christian cross and the Triskelion which is of the Drudic age and stands for good fortune, rolling eternally on swift feet."
"You put quite a bit of thought into this door. It seems like it's a kind of protector, a shield against any negativity entering the building and thus your life." Samantha pondered as she studied the symbols Alex pointed out and explained.
"That's exactly what I was hoping for when I designed it," Alex agreed with her lover. "Look here, this is the symbol for the ancient sound of Om. It is the sound of primal energy, the sound of the universe unto itself. Some say that Om is the Sanskrit symbol of enlightenment, so I felt it belonged on the doors as well."
"Okay, Alex, I think we've covered just about everything except for the two ladies -- and they are?" She snuggled closer to Alex and pointed at the two female figures, one on each of the doors.
"This one is the Goddess Isis, of Egyptian history. I was always fascinated by her because she seemed to be a woman of great power and she was a great magician. Also, on the figure of the Goddess is the Isis knot which reminds me of the ankh symbolizing life and welfare." She pointed on the paper to the other door. "The Goddess on this door is the Greek Goddess Artemis. When you stop to think about it, these two Goddesses compliment each other." Samantha looked again at the drawing of the doors, and Alex went on to explain the ying/yang of the two Goddesses.
"You see, Samantha," Alex continued, "Artemis is the Goddess of the Moon, Stars and the Hunt while Isis is the maker of the sunrise, the light-giver of heaven. That way I had the entire day taken care of with one on one door and one on the other." She smiled at Samantha and gave her a hug. "This may sound a little silly but do you remember watching Wonder Woman when you were growing up?"
"I don't think I watched her a lot, but I do remember seeing the show on occasion, why?"
"If I remember correctly, I think Wonder Woman was somehow connected to Isis and I think that must have stuck with me. I always loved the show. I just didn't like the idea that she always tried to make that stupid Steve seem so smart. Thank the Goddess the heroines of today's shows have come into their own." She laughed as she looked down at the drawing of the two Goddesses.
"Well, you seem to have covered all aspects of life, love and wealth and you have two very strong female protectors." Samantha added. "If I remember my history correctly, Isis was also known as the lady of abundance and renewed wealth."
"That's right and to top everything off Artemis was also the protector of women and bearer of justice. I am also partial to her Labrys (double-bladed ax) as it was originally used by the Scythian Amazon warriors and I have always been fascinated by stories of the Amazons."
"Well, those are very busy doors and they certainly have their work cut out for them," Samantha smiled at Alex and closed the folder on her lap. "I'm glad I finally got to have my curiosity satisfied with explanations of all the figures. Thanks Alex."
Looking at her watch Alex told Samantha she was glad they found the time to go over the doors. It was fun going back over the reasons why she had chosen the symbols and figures. She then mentioned that they had an extremely busy day ahead of them tomorrow. She had all intentions of waking Samantha up when she woke up and if that was going to happen, they had best be getting some sleep.
The combination of shopping, putting goods away, beach walking and wine had totally exhausted Samantha and she was asleep before Alex got through in the bathroom and into bed. Alex climbed in next to the rhythmically breathing woman and wrapped her arm around her. She had gotten used to sleeping intertwined with the small figure lying beside her and it made her feel secure. She thought back on the conversation of the evening and the two Goddesses two floors below them protecting them from harm and embracing their femininity. She smiled to herself and silently thanked her Mom and Kelley for raising her to be a strong woman. She was blessed and as she looked out and gazed at the slowly descending moon she also thought back to the ancient times of the Amazons and gave thanks to Artemis for letting the moon shine down upon her and for protecting her home.
"No, no, no," came the ranting from the disheveled blonde on the bed as she pulled the covers up over her head. "It can't be time to get up yet, the sun isn't even up."
"Sure it is," came the reply from the raven-haired beauty standing over her getting ready to once again pull the covers back. "The sun is up on the other side of the building, but take my word for it, it is up. Now, you come on and get up, too!"
"Alex, it's Saturday!" The plea was lost on deaf ears.
"I don't care, if you want to get to the Festival before the crowd is unmanageable, we had best leave within the hour." Alex tried reasoning with the small figure curled up in a ball in the bed.
"I don't care if the crowd is unmanageable," came the response.
"Well, I do. Come on, Samantha -- you've had enough sleep. Please get up." The taller woman leaned over the bed, pulled the covers down just enough to unveil an ear and whispered into it, "I will definitely make it worth your while this evening if you get your butt out of bed right this minute." She finished her sentence and accentuated the promise with kisses as her tongue drew little circles around the exposed ear.
"Okay -- you've definitely got my attention and now more areas of my body are standing up than I would care to account for." Samantha pushed off the spread and threw her arms around Alex's neck, drawing her down onto the bed with her. "Do you want to make good on your promise Before we go?" Samantha asked with an impish grin.
Alex breathed a heavy sigh and forced herself to answer in the negative. "No, my darling -- Festival first -- Samantha later."
Samantha just smiled and got out of bed. Within the hour they were ready to walk out the door.
"Now you promise there will be food there?" Samantha quizzed her lover. "Do you know how dangerous it is to take me out of the house hungry?"
"I can just imagine," came the reply, "but it's really a very short trip and then you can nibble to your heart's desire, I promise."
"In that case," the small blonde responded, "I'm ready, let's go."
True to her word, it was a short trip to the Festival Grounds where activity was already in full gear.
"Oh, look," Samantha exclaimed, "it's like a little village."
"Yeah, they build it anew every year so it's never the same two years in a row."
They began walking down the path between the buildings and the eucalyptus trees. Samantha insisted on stopping at each of the displays to examine each new artist's talent. It wasn't long before they passed by a food booth and the morning was complete.
Alex got Samantha's attention as she held up a flower wreath, "Look at this Samantha. It looks like it was made by your favorite little people. Here, try it on." She put the wreath on the flaxen head of her lover and stood back to admire the way it looked. "You look like a fairy queen."
"That's me, Queen Samantha," Samantha made a gesture indicating that Alex should bow.
"I wouldn't go quite that far," Alex smiled as she paid for the wreath. "Come on, want to try your hand at some of the "hands on" workshops?"
"That sounds like a lot of fun!" Samantha agreed with enthusiasm.
They made tee-shirts, tried their skill at carving and even did a sand art project. Alex had to buy a bag just to carry around the little stuff they had made. Aurora had definitely been right about bringing Samantha here; it was a huge success. They stopped for lunch and sat by the waterfall that graced the 3-acre affair as they watched jugglers and magicians entertain the passers by.
"Alex this is great, and I'm glad we got here early." She smiled over at her lover and then gave her a hug. "Thanks for bringing me."
"You're very welcome, but we still need to look around for some tables. I know there are some stained glass booths and some table artisans here, there always are, we just need to continue looking. Let's try up in this direction."
Alex began walking up the path with Samantha lagging slightly behind, continuing to look into each booth as she passed and letting Alex get further and further ahead of her, unaware that her fair-haired lover was falling behind.
Sam couldn't resist stepping into a booth with fired clay candleholders that looked like tree trunks with faces. She found a particular female character labeled The Heroine of Niguel and she just could not do without it. The holder was both rustic and regal at the same time and held a votive in the center. The figure had sapphire glass eyes that reminded Samantha of Alex's and the light from the candle would shine through the eyes creating a great atmosphere.
Coming out of the booth Samantha seemed to trip over a tree root. Just as she was about to land with both hands outstretched on the ground she was caught by two strong arms that prevented her from reaching her destination. She immediately thought it was Alex and began to respond but found she was far from right when she looked up into twinkling brown eyes that held a glint of menace behind the smile on the pleasant face. "Oops, gotta watch the footwork little lady. Here, let me give you a hand."
"Why, thank you -- I feel so . . ." Samantha was regaining her composure and a strong sense of recognition told her that she had seen this person before. "I know you," she said then rephrased her statement, "Well, I don't really Know you, but I've seen you before. Who are you? You keep showing up in very strange places."
"Me?" The tall blonde pointed to herself, looking taken back by the statement of familiarity-- "I don't think we've ever met, but that could be rectified very easily." Again she gave the menacing smile that Samantha was having a hard time reading.
"No!" Samantha insisted, "I've seen you before. Are you following me for some reason?"
"Well, aren't we the paranoid one?" Came the snide reply. "What makes you think I would want to follow a complete stranger around?"
Samantha was about to make another comment when she looked around the stranger and spotted a not too happy Alex coming back in her direction.
The tall brown-eyed woman with the intimidating smile caught Samantha's glance and quickly looked in the same direction. "Oh, well, you know I would love to stay . . . but . . . gotta go!" Before Samantha could say another word the tall blonde stranger had disappeared again as quickly as she had arrived.
"What do you think you're doing?" was the first thing out of Alex's mouth, actually before she even completely reached Samantha.
"Right now, I'm resettling myself from an almost disastrous fall," came the response from the small framed woman as she picked up her package and examined it for any damage.
"You scared the Hell out of me. I thought I'd lost you." Alex continued, "What do you mean an almost disastrous fall?"
"I'm sorry, Alex. I stopped for a minute in this shop here and coming out I tripped. I almost landed on the ground but this stranger caught me."
"What stranger?" The dark-haired woman standing in front of her wanted to know as she looked around at nothing but strangers.
"She's gone!" Samantha replied.
Alex surveyed the area and saw no single female who looked as if she might have just finished helping Samantha from a fall. "She?" was the only word that came out of Alex's mouth.
"Yes, she!" Samantha said almost bitterly. "I've seen her before and . . ." she looked around to find the tree root she had tripped over and found none in sight. "if I wanted to really sound paranoid, I would swear that she tripped me before catching my fall. There's nothing to trip over here." Samantha looked up at Alex totally confused. "I thought I tripped over a tree root."
"Why would a complete stranger want to trip you, Samantha? I mean I heard of some smooth ways of trying to get someone's attention, but tripping them and then saving them from a fall . . . that's going a little far, even for your imagination, don't ya think?" Alex smiled in Samantha's direction.
Samantha would have none of the levity. "No, Alex! I don't think this is funny. I've seen that woman before. She followed me home from your place on the first night we met and I think she's the same woman I saw up in San Francisco at that bar when you left me alone."
"You never said anything about a woman following you." Alex responded. "Nor did you say anything about a woman at the bar. Why didn't you tell me this before, Samantha?"
"Maybe because I didn't think it was any big deal," came the response from the small blonde. "I wasn't even sure until just now that it was the same woman."
Standing in front of her lover with her hands on Samantha's shoulders she asked what the stranger looked like, fearing what the answer would be.
"She was about your height and slender with blonde hair and brown eyes that almost seem threatening when you look into them," came the answer from the smaller woman.
"Damn!" was the only reply from Alex as she searched the area for a trace of the woman Samantha just finished describing.
"What?" Samantha queried.
"Never mind. Come on, let's stay together for the rest of the afternoon, shall we?" Alex put her arm around Samantha's shoulder and began walking back up the way she had come.
For the first time ever, Samantha moved her shoulders away from the arm draped over them. "Alex -- don't."
"Don't what?" came the innocent question.
"Don't treat me like a child. Do you know who the woman was?" Green eyes stared into blue not flinching as she demanded an answer to her question.
"Samantha, I think I know who it was and I need to take care of her myself," came the solemn retort from the taller woman.
"Why do you feel it's your job to take care of everything? I can take care of myself, you know. I did it for quite a while before I met you." Samantha's Irish was acting up and she was beginning to lose control of her temper.
"If it's who I think it is, you are only a target because of me, so that makes it my responsibility to settle the situation."
"Alex, I'm not going another step with you until we have this settled between us. Who do you think this person is and why do you think she's shadowing me?" Samantha held her ground, hands on her hips, legs slightly apart in the stance of a stubborn child."
Alex almost laughed at her lover but didn't want to aggravate the smaller woman anymore than she already was. "Samantha, I think the person you keep running into or seeing is Nikki. I thought we were done with all this nonsense but it seems that she's started up with it again and I'm the only one who can stop it."
"Nikki -- is that what Nikki looks like? Well, I'm impressed! But . . . why would she be trying to frighten me?" Samantha wanted to know.
"It may just be her way of getting to me, Samantha. I really need to take care of this without involving you. Please try to understand that this is something I have to do by myself." She stepped over to Samantha and put her arms around the smaller woman's waist. "Please, Honey, let's not fight. Do you realize this is the first time we have had words with each other? I really don't like the way it makes me feel." She bent down and kissed Samantha gently on the lips. "Samantha, please. Don't let Nikki ruin this day for us. I'll call her later and take care of everything -- I promise."
The sun shining on Alex's face made her eyes seem the color of the afternoon sky as they twinkled and promised her lover to take care of the situation. Samantha could not resist smiling back at Alex and returning her kiss. She could not bring herself to remain angry with the tall dark-haired beauty standing in front of her almost pouting like a disappointed child. "Okay, Alex. You take care of the situation, I trust you."
"Good," Alex smiled and once again placed her arm around her lover's shoulders as she marched her in the direction of the table people she had found further up the path.
The rest of the afternoon was uneventful except for the fact that they did find tables for the living room. Glass topped, just as Samantha had envisioned, with carved images of dolphins done in driftwood for the large table and otters that held up the two smaller tables for either side of the couch. Samantha was thrilled and Alex beamed with pride at seeing that she had found just what her lover wanted. Alex made arrangements to have the tables delivered on Monday morning. The living room would be complete before her Mother arrived on Thursday. Before leaving the Festival grounds they stopped and listened to some of the musicians, watched a few more of the magicians and of course decided on having dinner out in the open under the eucalyptus trees. All in all, except for the one incident, the day was marvelous and a complete success.
"I'm going to call Nikki and see if I can meet with her. Will you be okay here alone?" Alex asked with concern in her tone.
"Of course I will Alex -- are you sure you don't want me to go with you? I can just sit in the car and wait?" The question was as much a plea to tag along as it was just an attempt to be there as support for Alex. She wasn't sure she liked the idea of Alex meeting with Nikki alone. It was a new emotion for her but what she thought she might be feeling was a slight tinge of jealousy. What if Nikki made a pass at Alex and . . . Get a Grip, girl! You've got to be able to trust Alex or this will never work!
"No, Honey." Alex kneeled before Samantha as she sat on the couch. "This will go much easier and quicker if it's just Nikki and me. I'll be back as soon as I can." She got up and walked over to the kitchen phone and dialed the number she knew better than her own. Two rings and the all too familiar voice of her ex-lover came through the phone line.
"Hello, Nikki. It's me, Alex."
The voice on the other end of the line paused momentarily and then resumed with . . . "Hi, Alex -- long time no hear. What's up?"
"Nikki, do you think the two of us might be able to get together in a little while? There's something I want to discuss with you." Alex tried her best to keep her composure so as not to alarm the woman on the other end of the line.
"Yeah, sure. I've nothing better to do tonight. Want to give me a hint as to what this little meeting is all about?" Nikki asked.
"No -- I'd just like to talk to you, in person," came the ambivalent response.
"Well, Alex" Nikki concluded, "You know where I live. I'll have the Dos Equis waiting." The phone line went dead.
Alex replaced the receiver on the cradle and walked into the living room to Samantha. She sat down beside the smaller woman and took her in her arms. "I'll only be gone a short time. You lock up as soon as I leave. I love you Samantha." She gave Samantha a hug and a kiss and got up to leave.
Samantha grabbed Alex's hand as she stood up from the couch and stood herself, looking deep into the eyes that had captured her heart from the very beginning. "Please be careful tonight, Alex and remember that I love you, too." She looked toward the ocean to keep from letting Alex see the fear in her eyes that Alex may still find a spark of desire for her ex-lover when she went back into familiar surroundings.
Alex sensed that something more than just her leaving was bothering Samantha and she tried to vanquish any fears that her new lover might have about her going to visit Nikki. "Samantha -- it's been over between Nikki and me for a very long time. There is nothing between us. She could never take your place." She tilted the smaller woman's face so she could look into the misty emerald eyes. "Samantha, no one will ever take your place. I love you. You have to trust me, My Destiny. This is just something I have to do." She held the blonde close and kissed her on the top of her head. "I'll be home to you as soon as I can." Samantha felt the strong arms that made her feel so secure release their hold on her and she turned back around to the window and watched through the reflection as Alex walked out the door.
Alex pulled into the driveway and got out of the car. Before she even had a chance to knock on the door, it was opened and Nikki stood looking back at her.
"Come on in, stranger." Nikki motioned for Alex to pass her and enter the house.
"This is not a social visit, Nikki," Alex began.
"Oh, Alex -- I've so missed your social graces." Nikki said turning to follow Alex into the room. "If this isn't a 'social visit' just what kind of a visit is it?"
"Listen, Nikki -- I don't want to play cat and mouse with you. I just want you to leave Samantha alone. It's a real simple request. I thought we had been all through this and you promised that you would leave me alone and let me get on with my life and now this . . ."
"Now What?" questioned a very confused looking Nikki. "What the Hell are you rambling on about, and who is S-a-m-a-n-t-h-a?"
Alex was trying her damnedest to keep from letting her temper get the best of her but little by little it was slipping into a dangerous zone. She walked closer to the slender blonde and gently pushed her back.
"Nikki -- I don't want this to end up in a fight between the two of us but you know perfectly well who Samantha is. She's my new lover. She said you followed her the first night we met and I have a really bad feeling that it was you who vandalized her car when we left for San Francisco . . ."
"Hold on, HOLD ON!" Nikki screamed at Alex as she pushed the tall dark-haired woman back away from her. "I have no idea what you are talking about. And I would suggest that you keep that nasty little temper of yours in check while you're in my house."
"Nikki, why can't we just settle this like adults?" Alex wanted to know.
"Because I don't know what you're talking about, Alex. I've never seen this little Samantha of yours. What's she like -- can she give you a go for your money like I could?"
"Nikki -- we were at the Sawdust Festival today. She said you may have tripped her, she wasn't sure of that but it was you who helped her before she hit the ground. She described you to a tee." Alex looked at Nikki and noted the confused look on the tall blonde's face.
"Listen, Alex," Nikki confessed, "I would probably be more than happy to have been the one to have tripped your little friend -- it was probably quite an amusing little incident -- and I hate to disappoint you -- but, It Wasn't Me! Now if that's all you came here for, I suggest you take your sorry ass back to that sniveling brat who tells tales out of school and keep it there." Nikki walked to the front door and opened it, motioning to Alex that the conversation was finished and that she could leave.
Alex had a feeling that if Nikki had been the person she was looking for that she would have gloated about getting away with the vandalism and about scaring the hell out of Samantha. She never was one to deny any of her nasty deeds before. What was puzzling Alex was that if it wasn't Nikki -- who was it? She couldn't think of anyone else who would have any reason to act the way this stranger had been acting.
"Okay, Nikki," Alex finally gave in, "I'll go and you know what? I'll even take your word that it isn't you who's following Samantha. But if I find out that you've lied to me, I will be all over you in a heartbeat -- do you understand that?" She shook her finger in Nikki's face as she passed her on the way out the door.
"Yeah, Alex and I love you, too!" was the only response she got from the slender blonde as she slammed the front door behind Alex.
Nikki turned around and walked back into the living room, picked up the open Dos Equis she had taken out of the refrigerator for Alex and downed it. She then turned and looked at the picture of Alex she still had sitting on the end table in the living room, a devilish smile crossing her face as she picked up the silver frame. "Oh, you do have your troubles now don't you, my hot headed Greek? Your new little vixen may be in for quite a surprise."
Alex kept mulling the facts over and over in her mind on the way home. Nikki was very convincing that it was not she who was causing the problems, but if not Nikki -- then who? Was there another tall, slender blonde with brown eyes who had a quarrel to pick with her? It hardly seemed possible, but then Nikki was not one to deny her involvement in a situation, no matter what type of situation it was. She was a lot of things -- spoiled, head strong, quick tempered, jealous -- but Alex had never known her to be a liar. No, it must have been someone else Samantha saw. Someone who looked an awful lot like Nikki. She would give her ex-lover the benefit of the doubt this time, but if things became more complicated the next visit to Nikki might not end as amicably.
Exiting the elevator she turned and set the security for the floors below then quietly opened the door to the living area. The lights were low and there was no sounds coming from inside. She was caught between calling out Samantha's name and waking her up or being quiet and frightening her if she was awake. She decided that it was too quiet for Samantha to be awake and opted for the silent approach into the living room. In seconds she saw that she had made the right decision. Samantha was slumped over on the couch a pad of some sort in her hand and a pen that had dropped to the floor when the small blonde could no longer keep her eyes open.
Alex tiptoed over and retrieved the pen from the floor and then gently took the pad from her lover's hands. Samantha just settled herself deeper into the couch with a dreamy smile upon her face. Alex looked down at the pad and saw that Samantha had been writing. There hadn't been much free time in the past couple of days and Alex made a mental note to be sure to give Samantha enough private time for her writing. She looked down at the pad and read what turned out to be a poem written in the almost calligraphic handwriting of her lover:
IN THE QUIET
In the quiet of the morn, you come to me with schemes
Through the quiet of the night, your presence brings sweet dreams
But the quiet of the hour, just before you're near
Has me caught,
So very caught,
In the quiet - Dear.
Alex placed the pad on the tray they were using until the tables arrived along with the pen and then knelt down in front of Samantha. She was looking into the face of a sleeping angel, her angel. She bent forward and gently kissed Samantha on the lips then whispered in the sleeping woman's ear. "I love you more than you will ever know."
A smile graced the face in front of her as arms reached out and engulfed Alex. "I'm glad you're home, I missed you," Samantha murmured as she batted her eyes and opened them slightly.
"How'd your meeting go? Is everything taken care of?" Samantha wanted to know.
"Pretty much, my love. But let's not go into that tonight. We can discuss that in the morning. Right now I want to make good on a promise I made this morning."
Samantha opened her eyes wide, "You made a promise this morning? I don't remember a promise this morning."
"Remember when I told you Festival first -- Samantha later? Well, Samantha -- it's later." Alex smiled as she picked Samantha up off the couch and carried her into the bedroom where she deposited her on the bed. "Of course if you're too tired . . ."
Her answer was two arms that reached out and found their way under her shirt. Soft fingers played her back like a fine instrument as she placed her body on top of the smaller one lying on the bed. Samantha was already in a nightshirt so disposal of that was easy. Alex stood back up momentarily and dispensed of her garments as well then rejoined her lover on the bed.
"Alex, don't you think we ought to talk about . . ."
"No, Samantha -- all I want to do right now is to make love to you. No talk, no discussion, no one else in the world right now but the two of us." Softly, she let her lips barely touch the skin on her lover's face. Alex relished in the fact that she could produce love bumps so quickly on the smooth, pale skin.
The raven-haired seductress continued to shower the smaller woman with kisses over her entire body. Seeing Nikki again tonight had brought back memories. Some had been good but most had been those she had tried to push down into the recesses of her mind, never to be retrieved again. She was thankful that Samantha was nothing like the person she had left an hour ago. Alex was also thankful that being with Samantha had given her a new outlook on life. "You really are related to the Little People aren't you, my Irish imp? You have the magic that transforms. I know you have transformed me into a better person."
The small blonde attempted to retort but was quieted as silken lips covered hers, turning words into nothing more than sensual utterances.
In Alex's mind Samantha was a gift to be treasured. Samantha would have blushed if she knew just how high a pedestal she had been placed on by the woman lying beside her in bed.
Alex immersed herself in the moment, "I want to make you the happiest woman on earth, Samantha. Tell me what you want." Hands traveled adeptly across the soft white skin, stopping along the way to tantalize certain areas on their way to the soft mound of flaxen hair between the thighs of the smaller woman.
Words were not readily available from the small blonde. As the long slender fingers of her lover strayed down her thighs and played in the warm moist area between, searching now familiar territory, two words only escaped Samantha's lips. "Alex, please!"
"Please what, my love?" came the question as the taller woman positioned her body lower down the bed, her lips lingering where fingers still played, a smile gracing her face. "Tell me what you want, Samantha."
"You, Alex -- I just want you. Do whatever you desire . . . just touch me . . . kiss me . . . love me. Alex -- just love me!"
Go on to Chapter Fourteen
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