Laguna Nights

by Carole Giorgio

Chapter 18

Wednesday arrived far too early for the two lovers who had almost managed to see the sun come up, or not as the case seemed to be. The weather outside was gloomy after such a beautiful evening. There was a gray tint to the entire room which matched the color of the morning sky.

"Wake up, sleepy head," Alex prompted, shifting her position to disengage the arm that was tightly wrapped around her. "Looks like we're gonna beat the sun up today."

Samantha shifted positions, letting loose of her conquest and turning as she continued her sleep, seemingly uninterrupted.

"Come on Samantha, we've got people to see today. You want to be ready when they arrive don't you?"

"Hmm," was the extent of her reply from the sleepy blonde.

"Samantha!" Alex tried the angry approach -- to no avail.

"Samantha. We're going to have to figure out some way to get you out of bed on time without my having to beg you every day."

"Hmmmm, but you beg so nicely," the smaller woman smiled and opened one eye. "My guy's not gonna be here until noon. What time is your ANGEL coming?" she asked sarcastically.

"I'll ignore that tone, because I know you don't mean it," Alex countered. "Angel will be here at about the same time. But, it's not as early as you think. I slept late and the lack of sun is giving you a false impression of early morning. I thought we'd have a nice breakfast before they arrived." She raised an eyebrow, hoping the mention of food would be incentive enough to get the smaller woman awake.

"Breakfast -- now that is enticing. You really know how to get my attention, don't you?" Samantha sat up and grinned at the tall beauty now standing at the entrance to the bathroom.

"I thought you might respond to that," Alex grinned back at the rumpled blonde who was stretching and wiping the sleep from her eyes in an effort to wake up. "I think we'll buy one of those aromatherapy machines and look for an odor called 'breakfast strips and eggs'."

Rolling out of bed, Samantha replied, "I don't think you'll find that odor, but I'm sure it would work for a little while, at least until my stomach realized it was only being fooled." She joined her lover in the bathroom and they began to take a leisurely shower.

"You felt marvelous last night, Samantha," Alex bent her head down and whispered in Samantha's ear after she applied shampoo to the top of the blonde's head.

A sigh of satisfaction came from the smaller woman as Alex vigorously massaged the lathering soap into the golden locks. "Ditto," came the short reply. She turned around to face Alex and placed her arms around the waist of the taller woman. "You felt good making love to me and you felt good when I was making love to you. I think I have a 'win/win' situation here." She squeezed Alex tightly around the waist and nibbled on the breast that was just about mouth level.

Alex let out a short exclamation and scolded that if they were to get through with the shampooing and washing regimens that Samantha had best behave herself.

"Damn! You wake me up from a fantastic dream, escort me into the shower and then tell me I can't have fun. What a party pooper you've turned out to be." She turned her body around so her back was to Alex's front in mock displeasure. With an unseen grin on her face she proceeded to reach her arms behind her back and play with the soft tuft of hair below the taller woman's abdomen.

Alex jumped at the unexpected sensation and spun Samantha back around to face her. "You are an imp and it doesn't matter if it's the last thing at night or the first thing in the morning, you always seem to get your way with me." She quickly rinsed the soap off the shapely body standing in front of her and gently pushed Samantha down onto the corner seat in the shower stall while the water continued to flow over the two of them.

"I always have liked water games," Alex confessed. "Now that you've started my juices flowing, little lady, let's see if you can sit still here on this bench." Getting on her knees in front of the seated woman, Alex ran her long, slender fingers from Samantha's ankles up to the golden mound of hair at the top of her thighs. She parted her lover's legs and began kissing and licking inside the soft inner folds beneath the wet curly hair.

"Alex, you don't really expect me to just sit here and . . . oh . . . oh, Alex . . ." Samantha arched her back and placed her hands on her lover's shoulders.

"You will definitely learn not to start something you don't want me to finish." The water-drenched dark-haired beauty stated, looking up from her position, arching her eyebrow and smiling.

"Hmmmm or maybe . . . I . . . had it all . . . planned out to . . . oh Alex . . . to end this way." She let out a nonverbal exclamation and tightened her grip on the taller woman's shoulders. "By the Gods . . ."

Content that her lover was satisfied Alex lay back on the tiled floor of the stall and allowed the water to wash over her as the small blonde slid to the floor beside her.

"Do you know what you do to me?" Samantha asked, placing her body on top of Alex's and kissing her sweetheart's wet face, as the water continued to shower down on the two of them.

"I certainly hope I have a very good idea," came the immediate reply. "You want to try it again?"

"No, Alex. You said it yourself, we need to get started before our "company" arrives." She kissed Alex tenderly and proceeded to stand up, letting the water flow down her erect body, washing away all traces of the love that had just transpired. With a mischievous grin on her face, she looked down at Alex who was still lying on the floor of the stall. "Well, I guess you don't need any breakfast!" Samantha exclaimed as she hurried from the stall, grabbing a towel on her way out of the bathroom, on her way to the kitchen.

Alex caught up with her before she reached the living room, swooped her up her in her arms and carried her over to the couch. "I surely am glad you're such a smart ass," the blue-eyed siren laughed. "Picking you up and carrying you around is keeping me in shape, now that I don't seem to have the time to work out and use the weights."

"Are you calling me a dumbbell?" came the indignant response from Samantha as she landed unceremoniously on the couch. She picked up and threw a pillow in Alex's direction.

"I wouldn't think of it! Do you resemble the insinuation?"

"No, I do not!" Samantha pouted. "Besides, I've got to be more fun to lift than those stupid metal weights."

"You've got me there," came the quick reply.

"Okay, I'll make you breakfast, if you behave yourself."

"Ah, you want the old Alex to make an appearance?" Alex asked with a questioning look.

"The Gods forbid. From what I understand she wasn't a very likeable person. No, I'll take the Alex I know and love, thank you very much . . . just behave for a little while . . . until after the visitors leave." Samantha blew her mate a kiss on her way into the kitchen.


Angel got out of her 1973 classic candy apple red Mustang and stood in front of the building she hoped would be her new place of employment. She was tired of jumping from place to place and Laguna seemed as good a spot as any to settle. She had decided after her last duty station at Balboa Hospital in San Diego that California was definitely going to be home, but San Diego turned out not to be the paradise she had hoped. Laguna would be a good place for a new start. Alternative Paradise certainly gave a marvelous first impression, even if the size of the building was a little intimidating. As she walked closer to the front doors she couldn't help but notice the array of esoteric designs in the stained glass. Some of the signs were familiar to her, but others most definitely were not. She made a mental note to check all the emblems out at a later time. High up in the right hand corner she spotted a small rainbow sticker and smiled inwardly knowing that at least this employer would be a semi-friendly one. She stood in front of the double doors, trying to decide whether to try the door handle or ring the bell. She settled for the latter, after all she knew the clinic wasn't really open yet. The establishment wouldn't be officially operational until next Monday. She straightened her clothing from the long drive and ran a quick brush through her long dark hair. Taking a huge breath, she rang the doorbell.

A deep sultry voice answered within seconds, "Yes. Can I help you?"

"My name is Angel DeNafrio, I'm here for an interview with Ms. Dorian," Angel spoke into the small box next to the door.

"Hi, Angel. I've been expecting you. I'll be right down."

She stood there waiting, trying to picture her soon to be new employer from the melodious sound of her voice. Behave yourself Angel, this is your first face to face meeting, try to make a good impression. You need this job!

She jumped slightly as the large double doors were opened and there stood one of the most beautiful women she had ever seen. Her mouth must have dropped open because the tall ebony-haired woman standing before her raised a perfectly shaped eyebrow and glanced down at her with a slightly twisted grin. "Good morning, Angel, welcome to Alternative Paradise."

There is was again, Angel thought, that gorgeous voice. Damn, I'd better get a hold of myself and remember I'm here on business!

Alex ushered the new employee into the building with a sweep of her arm and began escorting Angel toward her office. "We can talk in my office first and then, if we agree to agree, I'll give you a tour of the facility."

Angel nodded an affirmative and sped up her pace to keep up with the taller woman's stride.

"It's very unusual of me to hire a new employee without a personal interview, but your qualifications, according to your application, are just the ones I was looking for in a PTA." Alex offered Angel a chair and then went around and sat down in her own behind the desk. She picked up the application that she had lying in front of her. "Angel -- you don't mind if I call you Angel, do you?"

The smaller woman nodded that she didn't and Alex continued.

"I have to say that the specifics that caught my eye on your application were that you got your training in the Navy and ended up working at a of couple independent duty stations." Her piercing blue eyes looked up directly into the dark brown eyes of the prospective new employee. "I need someone who can work on their own without my having to be in the immediate vicinity. Someone who can take initiative" Again she looked over at the younger woman to take in her response. The woman seemed undaunted with the fact that she would not be strictly supervised. The response was a good one, she just sat there waiting for Alex to continue. If she had smiled too broadly, Alex would have anticipated ego problems and had she winced at the thought of working on her own, Alex would have had to bring their association to a speedy end.

Feeling that the tall woman was waiting for a response, Angel volunteered, "Yes, I went into the Navy right out of high school. There was a really cu . . . um . . . good recruiter at our school and I had been lured by the idea of getting my education paid for."

"Why did you decide on being an assistant instead of continuing on and becoming a therapist?"

"At the time I just wanted to get out of the house and the feeling was mutual as far as my stepfather was concerned. We hadn't been getting along for a few years. I was promised physical therapy training by the recruiter if I passed all the tests and she told me they only had the accreditation for PTAs, not for therapists so . . ."

"Okay, I can understand that," Alex replied, curious about the environment that would prompt a young girl to opt for a lesser degree, but seeing that she would have to wait for further information. Angel was obviously just going to give enough of the facts to get herself through the interview and into the position. She had to give her credit for that.

Alex continued. "The other entries that caught my attention were that you've been working in physical therapy clinics or chiropractic clinics since you left the service. That's a definite plus when working in a Center such as this one. People sometimes have trouble orientating to a clinic environment after doing a lot of hospital or convalescent work. The only troubling factor was the length of time you put down as spending at each of these clinics. I didn't want to jump to conclusions and I didn't think that discussing the topic over the telephone was appropriate so . . ." Alex tried to be gentle with the question; she didn't want to sound as though she was interrogating the younger woman, but she did need an answer to base her judgement as to whether or not Angel would be an asset to Alternative Paradise. "Would you please explain to me why the length of employment at each of these clinics was less than a year?" She sat back in her chair awaiting the response.

Angel began to look a bit uncomfortable as she shifted in her seat. Alex could sense the uneasiness, but needed to have the question answered so sat patiently waiting. Angel began to speak, seemingly totally off the subject, "Ah . . ." she cleared her throat, "I noticed that you have a rainbow sticker in the corner of the front door . . ."

The smile faded from Alex's face and her soft blue eyes began turning to ice. She'd have no bigots working for her that's for sure. "Do you have a problem with that?" She asked, her voice a little harsher than she had intended.

"No, not at all, quite the contrary!" came the quick response. "After getting out of the Navy, I went to work for a chiropractor and he kept making passes at me. I didn't want to file sexual harassment charges so I quit." Seeing no change in Alex's face, the younger woman quickly continued, "The next clinic I worked for was a PT clinic and I was fairly happy there until one of the clients started spreading rumors that I was a lesbian and the owners were homophobic so . . ."

She glanced over at Alex but still could not read her stone faced expression. She decided that since Alex hadn't interrupted, it was best to finish. "The last clinic that's listed on the application was also for a chiropractor and I had the same problem as the first. I finally came out and told him that I was a lesbian." (There she had gotten it out in the open and if this place really was Gay friendly then that should be no problem.) He fired me immediately and told me that if I didn't try to file charges, he would allow me to receive unemployment and would give me a good reference but he didn't want a deviate working in his clinic. He said he was sure there were plenty of places in California who would gladly hire an open homosexual but that his clinic was not one of them." She breathed a heavy sigh and glanced back up at Alex's face which had definitely taken on a softer posture. In fact she thought she saw the beginnings of the beautiful smile reappearing.

"If those are the only detriments on your record, then I believe we will get along just fine. Since we talked about salary over the phone I guess that just about concludes the interview. This is a "Family" friendly organization, Angel, and since we are bearing souls, it is also a "Family" owned establishment. Alex's smile became quite wide and genuine as she stood up and walked over to the new employee. She held out her hand, "Welcome to the Family, Angel. We expect a lot from our people but you will find that we are more than fair in all our dealings."

Angel breathed a sigh of relief as she took the older woman's hand. "Happy to be on board, Ms. Dorian."

"You can call me Alex, we're pretty informal here. We're still a small center." Alex smiled at the newest member of her crew.

"Do you know how to dictate progress notes?" Angel's new employer inquired.

"I've done a little, but each clinic is different . . ." she began.

"That's okay, I'll have my partner fill you in on how the machines operate, she's the expert in that area. I'll go over all the forms with you on Monday morning and the process of documentation. I don't know how many actual 'patients' we'll be having in the beginning. I do hope you will be able to be flexible in your scheduling. I may need you occasionally on a Saturday and your hours may vary from day to day for a while until we get settled in. Do you think you can deal with that?

"Yes, I won't have much of a social life at first anyway, moving into a new area. I can spend the extra time down on the beach and just exploring." Angel answered.

"Good, so you'll be moving up here to Laguna? I think you'll find that a wise decision. It's an awfully long commute down to San Diego every evening." Alex commented.

Angel began to explain her living arrangements to Alex, "Oh, I definitely plan on moving up here. I just wanted to solidify the employment before actually looking for an apartment or house. Where I'm living now, I share and we've already talked about my leaving so there's no problem there, it's just finding a place here."

Alex escorted her out of the office and into the gym area. She had promised a tour of the facility and the time had come to fulfill the obligation. They began with the first floor, all the while Alex explaining some of Angel's duties to her. Angel walked along in silence most of the time focusing on Alex's voice, the way she carried herself and her sense of accomplishment that seemed to ooze from her like a beacon. The younger woman became more enamored with Alex the more she spoke. Angel found the tall, dark-haired beauty's voice mesmerizing and was looking forward to having the opportunity to work with her. She had never had a female, let alone a lesbian, boss and found the prospect of it exciting. She anticipated that work might actually be a pleasure instead of a constant chore. Angel wondered, as they passed the climbing gym and juice bar areas, if Alex was attached or single and hoped for the latter. She knew Alex had spoken of a partner, but that could be just a business partner.

They took the elevator up to the second floor and the training areas. There were two people standing on the large mat in the middle of the area, talking. Alex ushered Angel over for introductions.

"Angel, this is my partner, Samantha Riley and this is one of our Tae Kwon Do instructors, Bryan Edwards." Alex looked at the two on the mat and then back to her new protegée. "This is our new employee, Angel DeNafrio."

Bryan immediately extended his hand for shaking, thinking himself a lucky guy to be working around so many beautiful women. What contrasts there were standing in front of him. His boss was a beautiful statuesque woman, close to six feet in height he guessed, with fair skin, short, raven-colored hair and eyes that would make the azure sky jealous. Samantha was of average height, perhaps a little on the short side by today's standards, very cute, with hair as fair as Alex's was dark and eyes the color of emeralds. And now standing before him was a third beauty. This little 'Angel' was close to Samantha in height but the exact opposite in coloring. They looked like Snow White and Rose Red standing next to each other. Angel had lovely olive-colored skin, long ebony hair and eyes to match.

Bryan had just moved to Laguna and it was looking more and more like a good a place to settle and eventually build his own following. At this point though, he merely hoped to have enough clients to make his classes worthwhile.

The women were busy talking amongst themselves as Bryan took notice that none of then wore a wedding band. Looked like a bachelor's paradise from where he stood. Little did he know that not one of the beauties surrounding him would ever have any more interest in him other than learning or sparring with him in Tae Kwon Do.

Angel told Alex that she would have to leave shortly so she could get a local paper and begin looking for an apartment or small house. Then she needed to get started back down to San Diego. She hoped to miss the rush hour traffic, but was afraid she would find herself right in the middle of it if she didn't leave soon. She mentioned that she would be up again before the end of the week to do some serious dwelling hunting, as finding a place by the weekend was her goal.

Bryan asked Angel if she had any idea where she wanted to live in the area and they began conversing among themselves.

Samantha tugged on Alex's arm, and pulled her to the side a few paces away from Angel and Bryan.

"Alex, I suppose we could offer that she stay with us a few days while she was looking for an apartment, that way she wouldn't have to keep bouncing back and forth between here and San Diego. The only problem is that my parents are coming in on Friday afternoon."

"Actually, there's plenty of room. Your parents and sister can all put up in the suite and Angel could stay in the bedroom the guys used when they were here." Alex smiled wickedly.

"Ah, ha. I get where you're going . . . if Angel is staying in "My Room", and my folks and sister are in the suite, then I would be forced to share your living quarters for the weekend." She grinned broadly at her lover, "What an excellent idea. Even Dad would find no fault in giving up a bedroom for a visitor."

"I'll walk Angel back down and give her the invitation and the details of how your parents are not to know about our permanent arrangement." She winked at Samantha and the two turned back to join Bryan and Angel.

Angel said her goodbyes to Bryan and Sam and she and Alex proceeded down the elevator toward her car, Alex filling her in on the conversation she and Samantha had just finished.

"So, Samantha," Bryan started when the two dark-haired beauties were out of sight. "Would you like your first lesson now? I have a little time before I need to get going."

"That sounds great," the small blonde acknowledged. "Let me quickly go change into the dobok Alex bought for me. She ran from the room, heading for the elevator.

Within minutes she was back dressed in her new white uniform and sporting a white belt. "Alex said I could use this until I start getting belts of my own," she explained to Bryan. "So . . . I'm ready when you are." Samantha walked over to the mat and stood solemnly awaiting instructions from the instructor.

"You have quite a friend in Alex," the teacher remarked. "Buying you your first dobok and allowing you to wear one of her belts. I'm sure you'll be a fast study and your belts will come quickly." He smiled and moved closer to Samantha.

"The best place to start is with your posture and stance."



Alex walked Angel out to her car, filling her in on what she and Samantha had discussed. By the time they reached the car, Angel was well aware that Alex was definitely not available for dating and some of the joy went out of her landing the job. But, there was always a chance, as far as she was concerned. One never knew how long these new love affairs would last, after all hers usually lasted about nine months before either she got restless or her partner did. Thinking back, the longest relationship she managed to keep going was 18 months. Of course most of the time in the Navy was a time of experimentation and growing. After she got out she never stayed in one place long enough to keep someone interested or for her to remain monogamous, at least those were the excuses she gave herself. If she stuck around learning all she could about Alex, she still might have a chance with the gorgeous woman walking next to her. She nodded politely as Alex continued to explain the "rules" for staying at the warehouse with Samantha's family coming to visit this weekend.

"I think I might just take you up on your offer. It would be a great relief to be able to find a place before Monday, but being able to stay here with you if I can't will keep me from having to commute between here and San Diego. Thanks a lot, Alex, I really appreciate it. Not many people would invite a total stranger into their home." She looked up at the tall woman and wished she had met her before Samantha ever came into the picture.

"You may be a stranger, but you're also an employee now and you're "family." We need to stick together and help each other whenever we have the opportunity. You're quite welcome for the invitation, but in actuality, it was Samantha's idea. She's the one with the soft heart."

As they reached the Mustang, Angel saw the look of admiration in Alex's eyes. "She's a real beauty isn't she? When I purchased this little baby she was in really poor condition but I had a dream of fixing her up to purr like a kitten and look like a fox." Angel patted the car on the hood.

"It's a beautiful car, Angel. I always liked the style of the Mustang; it's an early '70's right? Maybe '72, '73?"

"'73," Angel chimed in proudly, "She's a classic."

"Yeah," Alex continued, "They always seemed to have a lot of character. She's really sweet. But that color can get you into a lot of trouble if you have a heavy foot on the accelerator," Alex grinned.

Angel had opened the door for her to look inside and Alex placed her hand on the soft leather interior. "Very nice."

"Want to go for a ride?" Angel offered.

"Not today, I've got to get back inside, but thanks for the offer."

Angel got in and Alex closed the door for her. "Well, guess I'd best get started back, I'll pick up a paper on my way out of town and will most likely be back on Friday. I'm pretty packed up already and don't have much to move, anyway. I'm not much of a homebody yet. One U-Haul should do the trick. Do you know if there's a public storage around here somewhere?"

"Yes, there's one on the way out of town, not too far from here and just off Coast Highway. You'll see their sign on the way south."

"Good. Then I'll go talk to them now and set it all up. I'll call before I come over." Angel reached out her hand to shake Alex's. "Thanks for the job and thanks for the place to stay. See ya Friday, Alex."

"Okay, sounds good. You're welcome, again, for the place to stay. You'll earn your job, believe me. Drive carefully and we'll be looking for you sometime on Friday. Remember Samantha's folks and her sister will be coming in on Friday, also, so we won't have a lot of time for visiting. It would be best if you could get here before noon so we can get you settled in before having to deal with family affairs."

"No problem, I'll make it my priority to be here before noon."

"Fine, we'll see you then. Bye Angel."

"Bye," came the response from the small, dark-haired woman as she pulled away from the curb and started on her trip south.

Alex watched her go with a wave of her hand and turned to go back to the clinic. She knew it was really uncalled for but her sense of danger seemed to be working overtime as she spun around in all directions. She could have sworn that someone was watching her but there was no one in eyesight. Shaking it off, she continued back to the building.

Inside the warehouse she headed straight for the training area. As far as she was concerned it was time for Bryan to go home so she could have a quiet evening alone with Samantha. She wondered if she would ever lose the feeling of wanting to have her lover alone to herself. Deep down inside she hoped the desire never lessened. Even though it was a bit selfish of her, it gave her a sense of warmth and home.

For years she had looked forward to opening this Center and having the privilege of working it and watching it grow. Now all she wanted to do was to get the business to a level where she could be a silent owner and then she and Samantha could spend the rest of their days enjoying each other and doing anything they desired. She wanted to show Samantha the world and she hoped Alternative Paradise would be her vehicle. Sure, she had her inheritance from her grandparents and was financially set but Kelley had instilled in her the work ethic of finishing a job begun and she wanted to make Kelley proud. They would, soon enough, have all the time in the world, for now they would have to be content with small trips while the business matured.

She turned the corner, facing the training mat and facing a scene that quickly elevated her blood pressure. Samantha was standing in the middle of the mat in her new dobok, looking absolutely adorable. Then there was Bryan. He was standing close behind Samantha positioning her arms. As she stood there watching, unnoticed. He placed his left hand on Samantha's waist and reached his right hand around to the front of her body and down the inner side of her thigh, moving the thigh in an outward position.

Alex's immediate thoughts were definitely not pleasant ones. He's way too close. There's absolutely no reason for him to be holding her like that. I'm gonna beat the shit out of him!

Feeling herself ready to explode but doing her damnedest to keep her temper under control she started over to the mat. Samantha was the first to catch a glimpse of Alex's image in the windows in front of her. She smiled broadly and turned her head, not at all prepared for the look on her lover's face. The hostility was overwhelming and Samantha lost her smile as well as her balance. She began to fall and her surprised trainer turned around, wondering what had caused Samantha to move so awkwardly. He made immediate eye contact with a rather menacing looking Alex.

"I didn't realize Tae Kwon Do was such a contact sport, Bryan," Alex began her accusation. And it definitely was an accusation.

The trainer realized that he had perhaps overstepped his boundaries when positioning Samantha. The smaller woman was a novice to the art and did whatever he said. Alex, on the other hand was not and probably realized that he could have gotten Sam into the same position simply but telling her what to do or by standing in front of her and moving her arms or legs. He had to admit that holding her felt a lot better but he was now thinking that perhaps he had just screwed this job up royally. The only thing he could not understand was why Alex seemed to be taking it so personally. Must be one of those feminist things that men just don't understand he told himself. He tried smiling at Alex, but could see that it wasn't going to get the response he was looking for.

"I was just trying to get her into the correct Ki Cho Elbo (basic form). She has the Choonbi position down and I thought . . ."

"Oh, is That what you were doing," Alex countered as she walked over closer to the mat. "Why don't I go change and then the two of us can go it one step better and give Samantha a little demonstration of the entire art? Are you up for that, Bryan?"

Not sure what his employer was thinking but seeing that she looked anything but happy, Bryan thought it best not to antagonize the stern woman any further. "Sure, sounds good to me," he answered, glancing over at Samantha for any hint of what was happening.

"Fine," came the indignant response. "I'll be right back down."

Alex turned and headed back toward the elevator. Samantha started to follow but Bryan grabbed her sleeve and pulled her back. "What's Her problem?"

"I'm not really sure, but I hope you're an exceedingly good instructor. I do know that Alex has a lot of belts, including more than one black." Bryan thought he saw pity in her eyes as she tried to describe Alex's level of expertise.

"Without trying to sound conceited, Samantha, I have to admit I'm pretty good at what I do. I've been trained in a variety of martial arts, not just Tae Kwon Do. If she wants to do some gyoroogi which means sparring, then I'm her man." He put on an air of confidence that he really didn't feel and smiled at the pleasant blonde.

They waited in silence for Alex to reappear, each staring out at the ocean lost in his and her own private thoughts.

Samantha couldn't understand what had gotten Alex so angry. She was positive it was anger she had spied in her lover's beautiful face.

Their reverie was broken as Alex announced her arrival with a ki-hop (yell of power). She sauntered into the room dressed in her dobok, black belt tied around her waist and looking intimidating. Without cracking a smile she walked over to the mat and bowed. "Ready for a go round Sah bom nim (head instructor) she queried Bryan.

"Most definitely," came the response as he returned her kyong-ye (bow). The competition began.

Samantha backed off toward the windows to sit on one of the benches and watch as her lover and her instructor began their private challenge.

They merely danced around each other for a few minutes and then Bryan did a kick which totally missed its mark. Alex threw a punch, barely missing his jaw. They danced some more, sizing each other up and then Bryan started with a combination movement that ended up with a round kick which almost threw Alex off balance. She countered with a high jump kick to his face, hitting her mark and sending him spinning backward. He looked confused at first and surprised that she actually got a kick in, then his facial expression went to concentration as he recovered and the dance began again.

A half-hour passed as they spared with each other, taking turns throwing and blocking punches and kicks. Occasionally one of Bryan's kicks or punches would find its mark but Alex would always recover and come back at him even harder. The same went for Alex's movements when they collided with Bryan's body.

After what seemed like an eternity to Samantha, who winced every time Bryan's foot or fist made contact with her lover's body, Alex let out another power yell and in the middle of a high jump kicked Bryan in the chest knocking him off his feet and onto the mat. He got up and started toward her when she yelled again and kicked him in the groin. He went down hard holding his injured area and rolling into a ball.

"That was an illegal kick," he moaned through clenched teeth.

She was about to render a kick in the direction of his face when Samantha yelled out for her to stop -- that the exhibition was over.

With total insincerity, Alex looked down at the fallen instructor, "Oh, I'm sorry. I was aiming higher, are you sure you weren't beginning a jump?"

"You know damn right well, I wasn't!" came the angry reply. "What the Hell's the matter with you? If you have a beef with me, just spit it out."

"Okay, Casanova ~~ I don't like the way you teach," Alex spit the words at him. "Contact like I was privy to when I first entered this room is not professional and if I find you looking that intimate with any of the students who come here for lessons, I will personally have your license revoked. You got that?" If Alex had been capable of it, her words would have been spewed forth accompanied by fire.

"Samantha is not taking her lessons in a class setting . . ." he started to explain, getting an uneasy feeling as to where the entire conversation was leading.

"I mean that especially with Samantha! You had best be on your most professional of behaviors when dealing with her." She glared at the injured man, her eyes as cold as icicles. "She's my lover . . . and you're lucky I didn't just come in and beat the shit out of you before asking any questions."

"Your . . . Damn! Alex . . . why didn't you tell me before? I didn't know you were lesbians." Even in his aching state he cursed the fact that the two beauties in the room with him were totally out of his league.

Steel blue eyes glared in his direction, "Didn't think it was really any of your business, but now that you know, do you have a problem with that, Bryan?"

Samantha started to intervene, but Alex glowered in her direction and she thought better of it and sat quietly back down. She wasn't sure she liked the side to Alex she was seeing right now, it was dark and uncaring and it scared her.

Bryan thought it best to answer the question she posed as quickly as possible, "No . . . I don't have a problem with that . . . none at all . . . I just wish I had known."

Alex's voice remained chilled with a hint of sarcasm, "I guess I didn't realize I was hiring the Valentino of martial arts. We can go two ways from this point. One: You continue working here, holding classes and teaching Samantha without trying to "make" her. Two: You go your own way and I'll find myself another instructor." She scowled at the crumpled figure sitting on the mat, not a trace of regret in her demeanor. "Well?"

Bryan looked at Samantha who again wore the look one gives a wounded puppy at the pound. He had no intention of leaving this job that might catapult him into his dream of owning his own Dojang. Swallowing what little pride Alex had left him, he got to his feet and respectfully bowed in her direction. "I'm sorry if I offended either you or Samantha, I really didn't mean to. I would like to continue here, I think Alternative Paradise will help me to accomplish my dream and I think I will be good for your Center."

Alex's facial features began to slowly soften as she listened to what the man had to say. There was no tone of untruth or prejudice in his voice. She looked over at Samantha who nodded her approval to keep him on at the Center. Slowly she walked over to Bryan and held out her hand. "You're pretty good at what you do. Color within the lines here and we'll get along just fine."

He eagerly took her hand, feeling her strength and confidence in the pressure of the handshake. Alexis Dorian was definitely a woman not to be crossed; he wanted to stay on her good side for the remainder of their working relationship.

The martial arts instructor thanked Samantha for the tour of the building not failing to add, as he looked in Alex's direction, that the establishment was quite impressive and that he was sure their mutual alliance would be profitable for all involved. Bryan looked over at Samantha and said goodbye, promising her another lesson at her convenience while glancing over at Alex with a contrite look on his face.

"I'll just show myself out," he stated, walking toward the front of the building. "See ya on Monday." He gave a slight wave and was out of sight.

Samantha turned to her lover, "Come on, let's get you upstairs and cleaned up," the small blonde insisted as she pushed Alex toward the elevator. You know he could have hurt you."

"Don't be ridiculous, I was just toying with him until I got bored," came the reply.

"But Alex, you downed him with an illegal kick . . ."

For the first time since the incident, Alex showed a small amount of contrition, "I guess that wasn't "fair", but Samantha, he . . ."

"It doesn't really matter what He was doing, Alex. Did you ever stop to think of what I was doing? I was having a private lesson. I wouldn't have let the situation get out of hand. You really need to learn to trust me!" Samantha eyes met her lover's and the beautiful soft blue orbs immediately melted her anger. She threw her arms around the woman in front of her. "I love you and am not going to be swayed by someone putting his hand on my leg. I didn't realize what he was doing was inappropriate or I would have stopped him immediately. If he had gone any further I would have. Trust me Alex." She looked back up into those eyes, her own eyes pleading. "I wouldn't want to see you hurt or see you hurt someone else over something so easily controlled."

"I'm sorry, Samantha. I'll try not to lose my temper so easily again. But, honestly, I thought I was being constructive with it initially -- I could have just decked him when I walked into the gym instead of giving him a fighting chance." The twinkle was back in those baby blues as she bent down and gently kissed the woman of her dreams. "Let's go upstairs and make-up, shall we?"


They attempted to put the happenings of the past hour behind them as they shed their uniforms and Samantha prepared a fragrant bubble bath. She gently lathered her lover's body, noticing a few bruises on her face and some tender areas on her torso. "Guess these squelch any bed gymnastics this evening," she grinned after Alex grimaced when she touched a particularly sore spot.

"It would take more than a few bumps and bruises to keep these hands off that body of yours, little one," Alex replied trailing her long fingers over now familiar breasts. "I'd have to be in pretty critical condition not to want to make love to you." She pulled the smaller woman closer and lifted her onto her lap.

The passion which followed was intense as Alex kept flashing back to the picture of Bryan with his arm around her lover. Each time the vision appeared in her mind's eye, her grip on Samantha became stronger, as if she could bind her hold on her treasure by simply willing it. She realized that she needed to keep her jealously in tow. The look on Samantha's face when she saw that Alex was about to kick Bryan, even though he was already down, was a look she never wanted aimed in her direction again.


Thursday was rather uneventful with a couple of the massage therapists calling to come look at the facility. Other than that they basically just kicked around the apartment.

Alex went down and worked on some business files she had been neglecting and got in touch with a few clients who had been e-mailing her.

Samantha unpacked a few more boxes. Then she made sure the guest room was ready for Angel's arrival and dusted the suite for the last time before her parents would arrive on Friday.

They had an early dinner at home and decided to watch some television. Apprehension of the familial visit was beginning to weigh on Samantha and Alex was not sure how to handle the situation. She had always been eager or if not eager at least happy when her Moms decided to visit, it was always a fun time. She believed that Samantha, on the other hand, would really have preferred that her family not come. She hoped that Samantha was not ashamed of their love for each other, she didn't think that was the case, but there was still that nagging doubt. Not being sure how to breach the situation she decided to simply ignore it and gave Samantha a little space for reflection and quiet time.

Alex stretched out on the sofa with her head on Samantha's lap and within 15 minutes of the start of the Movie of the Week was fast asleep. Samantha found herself to be just as disinterested in the story on TV but she wasn't tired. Carefully lifting Alex's head she placed a small pillow under it and left her lover sleeping peacefully.

She picked up one of her writing logs, grabbed a couple of the large pillows and went to sit quietly in front of the windows. Lost in inspiration, time quickly slipped from early evening to late as she wrote about her trepidation of the coming meeting between her family and Alex. Never before had she been so afraid to tell her family something, yet never before had anything in her life been as important as the beautiful woman slumbering innocently behind her on the couch.

She glanced up from her writing to view her dark angel in the windows before her. Her eyes misted over at the love that caused her heart to race and then to ache when she thought about what she might end up putting her lover through if they didn't carry this weekend out to their expectations.

What she wanted most was for her family to love Alex as much as she did but she knew that her father would never accept Alex on a truthful basis. As a friend he would welcome her but as a lover Samantha was afraid of what he might do.

Turmoil always seemed to produce some of her best writing and she was certain that tonight was no exception. She opened her mind and let her Muse guide her, scribbling notes and then finally a completed entry in her book. By the time she was finished writing, she was mentally exhausted. Rather than awaken the beauty on the couch she decided to curl up with the pillows and sleep with the ocean in front of her and her love within sight behind her. She felt safe and secure here in the ivory tower of her lover's design. With most of her doubts now down on paper and the sight of Alex superimposed on the window, she allowed herself to slip into the world of dreams.


Alex was startled awake by the hum of the "white noise" on television. She rubbed her eyes to clear them of sleep and get her bearings. Looking around the room she spotted Samantha curled up on the floor by the windows, hugging one of the large throw pillows, her writing book open on the floor beside her. Alex smiled inwardly at the sight of her sleeping bard who lay exhausted after an evening of creativity.

The lure of the open book was more than she could endure. Surely Samantha wouldn't mind if she read her newest entry, what's a writer without an audience? On the open page in Samantha's small clear printing was a new poem:

Land of Dreams

I dreamt of flying above the clouds, beyond where the eyes dare go

To a land where the waters were crisp and clear and the air clean as fallen snow.

'Twas a place where love was held most dear, with no societal bans

And lovers of Every Persuasion walked, joyfully holding hands

There were creatures of legend, both old and new ~~

One could watch them romp and roam

And there, my love, were You and I, in a place that we called Home.

With dreams fulfilled and our love avowed, we lived in this World so rare

'Tis such a shame that it's only through dreams that we may venture there!

With unprecedented pride she looked lovingly over at her sleeping beauty and whispered, "You certainly have the gift of Sappho, Samantha." Alex closed the book and placed it on the coffee table then picked up the pen that had also fallen to the floor and put it next to the book. She bent down to pick up the sleeper. As she placed an arm under Samantha's legs and another around her back, the smaller woman instinctively put her arms around Alex's neck. Her eyes fluttered partially open, "Oh, Alex, I was having the most wonderful of dreams." She placed her head back down on her lover's shoulder. "You were carrying me, just like you are now. I think we've done all this before. I loved you then, Alex, as I love you now." A small sigh escaped her lips as she trailed off back to sleep while her hero carried her off to bed.

End of Chapter Eighteen

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