Laguna Nights

by Carole Giorgio

Chapter 8

Friday morning arrived, and it seemed as thought San Francisco was going to show another side of its weather as Alex looked out the window and gazed at a slightly overcast sky. She was hoping that by the time they were finished at the gym the California sun would once again be shining brightly.

Originally, the gals had decided to go to Sausalito for the afternoon, but Sonny begged and pleaded and looked downright pitiful as he asked the two of them to wait until Saturday to visit the small city on the other side of the bridge so that he and Ray could go with them. Sam stood there smiling through his entire performance and then simply told him that all he would have had to do was ask. She had never been in the area before so everything was new to her. She really didn't care where they went or what she saw first and saving Sausalito until Saturday was just fine with her.

The business discussion in Sonny's office was minimal because most of the paperwork had been finished the day before. Samantha ended up spending less time on the computer and was finished in a short period of time. Ray and Alex again went up to the wall so Ray could see first hand how the holds were placed and how to rearrange them for new climbing paths. Alex wanted to personally make sure there would be no mess ups on this wall and that all the ropes, anchors and holds were checked and in proper working order.

After Samantha finished up the little paperwork that was left she asked Sonny to show her around the rest of the gym. All she had gotten to see so far was the front desk area and the office. He was, of course, more than happy to oblige and gave her the Queen's tour of the place he and Ray had spent the past eight years putting together. It was one of the largest gyms in the area and the clientele was almost exclusively gay and lesbian. After they had finished with the first floor, he took her up to the second and they ended up in front of the newly completed climbing wall. Ray was on one end of the wall with one of the workers. Sonny pointed out to Sam that Alex was on the other end and the two friends made off in opposite directions.

Samantha walked over behind Alex and put her arms around her. "Making sure everything is as it should be this time?"

"Yes, I am." Alex turned around and looked at her lover, remembering that it had only been a couple nights ago when she had caught a falling Samantha in her arms and turned what started out as a friendship into a blossoming love affair. She put voice to her thoughts as she whispered in her lover's ear. "You know, Samantha, if it hadn't been for that faulty anchor, we would probably still be just friends trying to figure out how to take the relationship further." She gave the smaller woman a kiss on the cheek and a quick hug.

"It just adds fuel to the idea that all things happen for the greater good, doesn't it? At least for our greater good in this case." Samantha smiled up into Alex's face, thinking of how lucky she was that she did take that fall. "So, how's it coming along here. Gonna be done by noon?" Samantha wanted to know.

"We just about have everything squared away. Ray knows how to change the paths of the holds, not that he will be the one doing it, and everything has been properly checked out. He's now comfortable with the entire operation. I assured him that adding this element to the gym was a sound business move, so he is feeling really good about the decision."

Alex grabbed the blonde's hand and started walking toward Ray and Sonny. "Actually, Samantha, I believe we are finished here as of right now. Are you ready to turn this trip into a vacation?"

"The entire trip's been a vacation for me," came the reply from the smaller woman as she smiled and tried to keep up with her partner. "Take it easy, Alex. We're not going to run through the rest of the weekend, are we?" Samantha laughed as she pulled on her lover's hand attempting to slow her down.

"I'm sorry, Sam. I guess I'm not used to having someone trying to keep up with me. Either I'm going to have to learn to walk slower, or you are going to have to grow a couple inches." She laughed then told Samantha she was only kidding and that she was perfect just the size she was.

"Uh, huh," was the reply from the blonde, "Sure. You're already making fun of my being vertically challenged, what's next?"

Alex shook her head. "I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that," she grinned as she kept walking toward the guys.

When they got to the other end of the room, Ray and Sonny were standing there looking up at the huge new addition to their gym.

"It's quite a work of art," Samantha noted as she, too, looked up at the wall. "I hope it brings you all the luck that Alex's brought me . . . without having to have anyone fall off, of course." She smiled at the two guys and then up at Alex.

"We're going to call it a day here and get some sightseeing done while the sun's still out," Alex told their friends. "We may even take a trip over to Berkeley now that we aren't going to Sausalito until tomorrow." She glanced at Sonny and smiled and then turned to face Ray. "Do you think you can handle everything else?"

"Yes, thanks again, Alex. You do realize that you won't be getting rid of us as clients for a long time to come, don't you?" Ray smiled at his friend. "Just because you'll be running your own operation doesn't mean you don't have to keep us up on all the new stuff as it comes out. I'm not about to lose my expert."

"I have agreed to keep a few of my favorite people and of course you and Sonny are at the top of a very short list." Alex gave her friend a hug. "Even if you don't need me for the business, we will always be friends," she said as she looked at one and then the other of the two men.

She had been with them since the inception of their dream or at least from the point at which they were starting to make it come true. It had been a learning experience for all of them and the beginning of an ever evolving friendship. As the gym expanded and grew, so did their ties to each other.

A long time ago Alex had vowed to herself that she would always be there for these two guys as she knew they would always be there for her. Good friendships were a rare commodity in today's world and she was not about to let this one slip through her fingers.

Ray and Sonny had been there with her when she first met Nikki, through the turbulent relationship and finally through the entire breakup. Sonny had even "butched" it up occasionally to give her a solid shoulder to lean on when things were beginning to get out of hand in her relationship and she had no one else to turn to for a sympathetic ear. They had been pillars for her when she made the final break from the woman who had become impossible to live with. Alex had always been strong and pretty much of a loner but when she needed someone to be there as support she knew she could count on the two men she was now standing in front of.

Remembering back, she knew that Sonny could have given her an 'I told you so,' about Nikki, but he never did. It turned out that he had been a better judge of character than she had when it came to Nikki, as he never did really like the woman. She was hoping that his intuitiveness would be right again this time as he and Samantha seemed to hit it off immediately.

"Shall we set a time to meet on Saturday?" Sonny asked as he turned toward Samantha, snapping Alex out of her reverie.

Looking at Sam and Sonny, it was as if they were the ones who had been friends for years instead of having been strangers just two days ago. Alex beamed as she realized how well her friend and her lover were getting along.

"We don't expect to make tonight a really late evening, so why don't you meet us at the hotel at . . . say . . . 9:00 and we'll all go to breakfast and then off to the little city?" Samantha said as she looked over at Alex and received a nod of approval.

Ray also gave a nod, very similar to the one Alex gave.

It's funny, Samantha thought to herself, how much alike Alex and Ray really are. Does that mean I'm like Sonny? NO! She dismissed the thought with a small smile.

"Okay. 9:00 it is then. Until tomorrow, ladies." Sonny gave Sam a hug and kiss and as the women turned to go he called after them. "I just can't wait -- we are going to have such a good time! I'll have everything planned."


The gals stepped out into the now sunny afternoon as Alex's wish had come true and it once again was a beautiful California day. Alex turned to Samantha, "Okay, sunshine, where shall we start, now that Sausalito has been postponed until tomorrow?"

"This isn't my city, Ms. Dorian," Samantha replied trying to keep a straight face. "Where do you think we should go. I know we won't be able to see everything of interest, so pick out what you think I would most enjoy. I trust you, remember?" She winked at her lover which elicited a crooked smile and a raised eyebrow.

"Since you put it that way, let's get something quick to eat and then go up to Twin Peaks. You have an option -- we can either drive up and go directly to the vista point or we can take the scenic route and go for a hike. The hike will take about 20 minutes each way." Alex looked at Samantha waiting for her decision.

Samantha thought for a minute and then answered. "You know the walk sounds intriguing. The only other thing I really want to see before going home is that crookedest street . . . Lombard, I think is the name of it."

"Lombard's right and it's practically around the corner from the hotel, we can either do that on the way back tonight or on the way out in the morning. It will take all of ten minutes to drive," Alex told her.

As they approached the car Alex continued, "Come on, we'll drive on over to 24th and Grand View Avenue and go from there."

"So, these Twin Peaks . . ." Samantha began.

"The original name was of Spanish decent. They were called Los Pechos de la Choca which means 'breasts of the Indian maiden,'" Alex explained.

"That's interesting in and of itself," Samantha giggled. "I'm sorry, go on."

"The south peak is the second highest summit in San Francisco and the north peak is the third," Alex continued to inform Samantha. "Here, let's stop and get some fish and chips, okay?"

"Sounds good to me," the small blonde answered, "I'm getting really hungry and hiking on a full stomach would be a lot better than on an empty one."

They decided to go in and eat rather than do the take out scene and when they were finished Alex drove directly to the intersection of Grand View and 24th and found a parking place. She led the way to an underpass and then up some stairs.

As they walked Alex filled Sam in on bits of San Francisco trivia she had accumulated over the years. They also talked a little more about themselves with Samantha doing most of the talking when it came to the personal stuff. Alex found out that Sam's dad had always been rather domineering and had wanted a son but had gotten two daughters instead. He was against Samantha going to college, believing that all she needed to do was settle down and give him a grandson. He had been trying for the past five years to get her married off. Sam's mom was a housewife who never made a decision without first clearing it with her husband. Alex thought to herself that it was strange that such a strongly independent woman could come out of an environment such as the one Sam was describing. She wasn't looking forward to the day when she would meet the rest of the Riley clan.

Samantha was not homesick for her folks. She loved them but she was happy to be out from under the controlling hand of her dad. The person she did miss from home was her younger sister, Sally. It seemed that the two girls were only a couple years apart and were very close. Alex also learned that Samantha had traded the lake and the woods for the ocean and the beach. It seemed like a fair trade to her and she hoped that Sam wouldn't ever be sorry for the decision. Of course as her mind drifted during the conversation she put on the back burner to begin looking for a piece of wooded land near a lake just in case Samantha ever needed a change.

They walked through a small residential area and Samantha marveled at some of the spectacular views of the Bay and the city. It didn't take long before they reached the base of the peaks and nature reared her head in all her splendor. It was hard to believe that they were still so close to a thriving city when they were standing in a meadow of low-lying shrubbery surrounded with pampas grass, wild mustard and agapanthus.

"Look over there, Samantha," Alex pointed in the direction of a wild mint-flavored plant native to the area known as yerba buena. "Before the city was called San Francisco, it was known as Yerba Buena Village, this area is still dense with the plant. By the way a lot of my trivia is gained from my mom who's a trivia 'nut'," Alex threw in for clarification. "A little farther to go and we'll reach the vista," Alex encouraged Samantha as they continued on an upward slope.

When they finally did reach the top, it was quite clear to Samantha that this had been a excellent choice out of all the places they could have gone for the afternoon. Luckily for them most of the other tourists were down in the city amidst all the cable cars and traffic. At this moment the vista was void of people except for them. They looked down on all the hustle and bustle of the city and were happy that they were up in the clouds with the wild birds and flowers.

Alex draped her arm over Samantha's shoulders as they looked out over the panorama. Looking to the west they could see as far as the Farallon Islands. When they turned to the north, Angel Island, Alcatraz and of course the Golden Gate Bridge were all in view. Alex pointed out the Bay Bridge and Berkeley's Campanile Tower. She also pointed out St. Paul's Church and informed Samantha that the movie "Sister Act" had been filmed there.

After hearing about the movie set Samantha started off on another of her tangents. She told Alex that someday they would have to go up to Hollywood and take in all the tinsel and razzle dazzle. Alex promised it would definitely be a weekender in the not too distant future. She loved the way Samantha's eyes lit up when she spoke of going places with her and she wanted to take the easily excitable woman wherever it was she desired. After the clinic was in full gear and running smoothly they would be able to go anywhere they wanted and Alex was even more anxious now to get everything rolling and set in place.

Alex felt Samantha shiver and realized that even though it was summer, the altitude they were at kept the breeze rather cool.

"Have you seen enough of the city from here?" she asked and received an affirmative nod.

"Let's go back down and see what we can find to occupy the early part of the evening." Alex held Samantha's hand as they took one last look out toward the Bridge and spotted a hawk gracefully gliding on the wind.

"Isn't that beautiful, Alex?" Samantha asked looking up at her lover.

"Not as beautiful as you are," Alex responded as she leaned down and kissed Samantha tenderly.

"That just goes to show that beauty's in the eye of the beholder," Sam chuckled as she pulled away blushing, "I'm not used to being kissed in public, Alex. Aren't you afraid of what people might say or do?"

"Not here I'm not. Besides, if anyone gives us any problems, I can take care of the both of us, no doubt about it." Alex took her hand again and they started walking back down the way they had come.

"What did you have in mind for dinner, Alex? I know we'll be hungry by the time we get back down and to the car."

"Samantha, I don't think I will ever get used to how large an appetite you have for the size of you," Alex answered the blonde. "Listen, I know we promised to do Sausalito tomorrow with the boys, but what do you say to you and I taking the ferry over after we go get some warmer clothes on. I know Sonny will want to drive over the Bridge tomorrow. We can ride over on the water and just have dinner; we won't do any shopping or looking around. I know this really nice seafood restaurant where we can dine outside, after all we won't be staying in Sausalito for dinner tomorrow night. What do you think?" She smiled at her lover and waited for Samantha's response.

"I guess just taking the ferry over for dinner is not like spending the afternoon there. It sounds romantic, a cruise across the water as a prelude to dinner. Yeah, let's go. I know Sonny will understand and I won't look at anything but the restaurant." Samantha hugged Alex and the two of them continued walking back down from the Peaks to the car.


Less than two hours later the two women were getting out of the car. Alex parked it in a lot near Pier 41 where they would board the ferry. The walk would not have been a long one but time was of the essence and the car would be needed when they arrived back from Sausalito. They had changed into slacks and carried light jackets to protect against the bay breeze. Even if the plan had been to look around, there would only be a couple hours to spend over in Sausalito as the last ferry back to the pier left at 8:00. Since they were only going over for dinner that was no problem. The plan was to take the ferry across, eat and come directly back to the city. With sunsets starting close to eight in the summer evenings the trip back would be a very colorful one.

It was the middle of the day but Samantha still viewed the half-hour ride across the bay as a romantic excursion. Of course, everything they did together was romantic; after all, the honeymoon period of their relationship had barely begun. Alex ushered Samantha to a good viewing spot near the front of the ferry and the trip began.

Standing behind Samantha, Alex put her arms around her lover and drew her close. "You were born to be surrounded by beautiful things," she whispered in Sam's ear.

"As long as you're beside me, I am surrounded by beauty," was the unexpected retort from her lover as she leaned back into Alex's embrace and looked up into vibrant blue eyes.

Alex began pointing out the landmarks as they came close, first of course was the Golden Gate Bridge on their left and then Alcatraz on the right followed by Angel Island. She told Samantha that the name Sausalito was derived from a European name which meant "Little Grove of Willows" because there were so many willow trees around the area. She asked if she knew that Jack London had written The Sea Wolf there and had been told, that of course she knew about Jack London, all writers knew that bit of trivia. To change the topic she asked if Samantha knew about Valhalla and the former San Francisco madam, Sally Stranford. Sam admitted to not knowing that much about her but said that she did remember hearing the name. She thought it was even mentioned in her high school history class.

The water was smooth and the trip was a quick, pleasant one. Before they left the hotel Alex had gotten the number of a taxi service in Sausalito and she telephoned from the ferry to have a cab waiting for them when they arrived. The restaurant they were going to, was only about a mile and a half from the dock but she didn't want to waste the time walking. There would be plenty of walking to do tomorrow when they were taking in the sights of the small city.

As was anticipated the taxi was waiting with the meter already ticking, it was the only way the company would sit and wait for such a short trip. In less than 5 minutes they were standing in front of an unpretentious seafood shanty on a side street in the northern part of town, away from the tourist area.

Samantha gave Alex a questioning look. "I know, it doesn't look like much but you will love the atmosphere and the food's delicious," Alex assured the now hungry blonde.

As usual, Alex was right in the choice she had made, the meal was excellent and the atmosphere delightful. They were seated at a small table on the outdoor patio. In the middle of the patio was a huge willow tree decorated with small white, twinkling lights that gave the illusion of fairies dancing in the tree. The tables were scattered at distances that gave the diners all a measure of privacy. Each table was adorned with an already lit candle and the addition of soft music from the speakers hidden high in the tree added a lovely romantic touch to the ambiance. The two women decided on different dishes so they could share. As luck would have it, tonight the chef was serving an indoor clambake, a dish that was only occasionally on the menu, yet one that was very popular with the diners who frequented the small restaurant. Alex ordered the clambake which included lobster, clams, crabs, mussels, corn and potatoes. Samantha ordered a prawns entree. The prawns were sauteed with tequila and garnished with black beans and salsa. The portions were so large that even Samantha didn't have room for dessert. "Perhaps later," Alex smiled at her as she paid the tab. "The evening is still very young and knowing you, hunger will creep into the conversation long before bedtime."

Alex had the waiter call for a cab after he placed the check on the table. She didn't want them to miss the last ferry back to San Francisco. The taxi again was waiting at the door and the ride back to the ferry was a quick couple of minutes.

Back on the boat Samantha turned to Alex and thanked her for a lovely dinner. "It really starts to get chilly around here, even in the summer, once the sun starts to go down, doesn't it, Alex?"

"Chilly, windy, foggy and sometimes down right cold. That's another reason why I chose to put my roots down in Laguna. San Francisco weather is not always to my liking," the taller woman replied. "Now come on over here and I'll keep you warm on the trip back to the city. Look at the Bridge, it really does look golden this time of the evening."

Samantha didn't need to be told twice, she snuggled closer to Alex and looked over toward the Golden Gate. "It's absolutely beautiful. Pictures don't do it justice, Alex. I glad you suggested doing this. Look at those colors," she pointed toward the horizon. "They're as spectacular here as they are in Laguna."

"So, which view would you rather?" Alex was curious to know if Samantha was totally happy living in the Laguna area.

Samantha could feel her lover's arms around her tighten slightly and realized that this was an important question. "Oh, Alex. There's no choice when it comes to actually living in the place. Laguna's small and comfortable; this city can be very intimidating. I love the beach and the temperature is warmer in Laguna." She turned around and smiled up at Alex. Samantha could see in the other woman's expression that her answer was the one Alex had been hoping for. "I love Laguna, and I love you. I hope we can make a life together there."

There she had said it. She had totally committed herself. In her mind there would have been no better place to make such a commitment than out in the middle of the bay while watching the sun set just beyond the famous Golden Gate Bridge. She truly meant what she had said. She intended to spend the rest of her life with Alex, she only hoped that Alex wanted to make the same kind of commitment to her.

Alex bent over and kissed her on the forehead, "I love you, too, Samantha. Living with you for the rest of my life in Laguna would be the answer to a lifelong dream." Alex held her lover close and contemplated the words she had just spoken. Please, don't fail me Samantha. I'm putting my trust in you. I had just about given up on people. I was never going to commit again, but I can't help myself when I'm with you. Her eyes moistened slightly and she blamed it on the ocean breeze. The sun had now receded below the water and the sky was beginning to darken. The short trip back to the city was over and the ferry docked back into Pier 41.

"So, would you like to see a little of the lesbian nightlife in this city, Sam? I know Sonny will have a totally different agenda tomorrow night."

"Lead the way. You're the expert. I'm just along for the ride." Samantha smiled and put her arm around Alex's waist as they departed the boat and walked back onto the Pier.

"Okay, then. Let's get the car and see what kind of fun this town affords its people. Stick close though, I don't want to be having to fight someone over you tonight."

"What do you mean, fighting over me?" Samantha wanted to know.

"If you don't stay close, someone might think you're alone and hit on you and then I'd have to kill 'em!" Alex said with only a slight hint of humor in her voice.

"You won't have anything to worry about. Guaranteed I will not leave your side," Samantha retorted as she sped up to keep abreast of the long-legged woman by her side. "Unless, that is, you keep on walking like I'm almost six feet tall." She laughed as she grabbed onto Alex's arm.

"I'm sorry -- again. You may have to pull on me occasionally until walking slower becomes a habit," Alex responded with a smile. "You want to do elegant, raunchy, or somewhere in between?"

"The in between would probably be the best bet. I don't want to have to be afraid to walk into any of the places," Samantha answered.

"Don't worry, hon. You don't have to be afraid even in the bad part of town. I can take care of myself and you, too." Alex seemed very sure of herself and if she was that confident, Samantha knew there was nothing for her to worry about.

Alex told Sam that although San Francisco seemed to be populated mostly by the males, that the lesbians had been laying groundwork for years and had quiet a few establishments of their own.

"We can start out with club closest to the hotel," she told Samantha as she opened the car door and waited for her to slide in. "It used to be a speakeasy but now it's San Francisco's only women's cabaret. I'm not sure what nights they do the shows anymore; it's been a while since I've been there."

"Sounds as good a place as any to start. I've never been to a lesbian bar so I certainly wouldn't know one from the other. When I was in college I was kind of backward in the social skills department. I hung around with some of the gay guys but never ventured into any of the bars. I was always afraid my folks would find out and hit the roof. They were paying for school and I didn't want to jeopardize that. Guess I was kind of a geek." Samantha smiled over at her lover, unsure of the response she would get from her last statement.

"I don't think you were a 'geek', Samantha. I think that's sweet that you kept your parents' feelings in mind."

"It wasn't their feelings, Alex. I was afraid my dad would hit the ceiling and pull me out of school. It was more fear than sweetness."

"Whatever it was, it kept you innocent and away from all the vultures out there. If you had gone to some of the clubs, you might not be sitting beside me right now." Alex reached over and put her hand on Samantha's knee. "I sure would be the sorry one if that had been the case." She began pulling the car over to the curb. "Here we are."

"I think I'd still be here even if I had been a little wilder. I told you before that I believe we were destined to be together," Samantha said while Alex was parking the car.

"Oh, yeah - Destiny. I almost forgot." Alex said as she finished parking and got out of the vehicle.

"That was really fast. It seems like we're not five minutes from anywhere we want to go in this city. I thought San Francisco was big?" Samantha exclaimed.

"It is big, but most of the bars and restaurants we want to visit are all in the same area, and we're not far from any of them. I think the farthest from us is Wild Side West and that's only about seven miles from the hotel. So we will have a lot of little trips tonight. Ready to go play with the big girls?" She got out and started around to open the door for Samantha. Sam, not being used to that kind of attention was already half way out by the time Alex got there.

"Alex, you don't have to open doors for me. I thought that kind of chivalry went out with the Women's Movement."

"I was just trying to be polite. I like pampering you. It's been a long time since I've felt protective over anyone and the feeling's nice. Besides, I 'm a woman so I can still open the door for you if I want to." Alex smiled down at Samantha and took her hand. "Come on, let's go have some fun."

The atmosphere of the club was exciting and intimate at the same time. They first walked through a cozy lounge area where women were just sitting around quietly talking. The lights were dimmed and there was a fireplace in the corner and soft music being piped in from somewhere else. Some of the women were sitting on the soft, overstuffed furniture, others were crossed legged on the floor and others were doubling up, sitting on someone else's lap. The scene was not one Samantha was was used to seeing. She felt like she had just entered a different dimension, a different world, a place very alien to the one she grew up in. Ironically, she felt very much at home in this world of women. It did, however, feel a little odd to have women turning their heads to stare at her as she walked by. This part of her initiation was slightly unsettling and she moved a little closer to her lover. Alex must have sensed her trepidation because she put an arm around Sam's shoulders and drew her close.

"They're more bark than bite, I promise. Eye candy's one of the reasons women come to establishments like this. Most just like to look over the new competition as it comes through the door." She gave Samantha a kiss on her forehead and kept walking toward the music.

"Watch as we walk by and see how they latch onto the girl them came in with. If someone doesn't have someone else on their arm, that's the one to be wary of." Alex smiled at the look of uncertainty on her lover's face. "Sam, lighten up. We're here to have a good time and so are they."

They had just about reached the dance floor and the mood of the room they were entering was very different from the one they had just left. There was a huge dance floor with women of all sizes and shapes dancing with each other. They were dancing in couples, in trios and in groups as well as the occasional lone dancer who didn't seem to need a partner at all. The band up on stage was entirely women. There were small tables on the perimeter and bar stools around the the semi-circular bar off to one side -- most of the chairs and stools were occupied and there was not a male in sight.

Alex searched around, found a table for them and sat Samantha down. "I'm going over to get us something to drink. Heaven only knows how long it will take to have someone come over to take an order.What would you like? I don't even know your tastes yet."

"No one would expect you to, Alex. This is our first night out on the town, remember? I think maybe a Long Island Ice Tea would be nice."

"You got it. Be right back." Alex headed off toward the bar leaving Sam to sit and look around in awe.

There were so many things she had not thought about when she realized that she had fallen in love with Alex. Her whole world was now changed; there would be no going back to the person she had been before, and actually she was glad about that. She looked around her, surveying just a small part of her new world. Not since she had lived in the dorm had she seen so many women gathered in one place with not a male face to be sighted. She was looking forward to her new life. The little girl who never belonged anywhere, looked around this room full of females and for the first time in her life didn't feel like an outcast.

Alex was back in no time with their drinks and the two of them sat watching the dancers and talking. Finally the band played a slow song and Alex asked her if she wanted to dance.

By the Gods, she thought to herself, another first. She could feel her face flush as she looked into eyes that smiled gently at her and a hand that was held out in anticipation of her taking it. She swallowed hard and tried to make the words that were having a difficult time coming out sound natural.

"Sure. I'd love to dance," she said as she got up from her chair.

The band had been playing a variety of songs fluctuating between the 70's and the 90's. When they played "I Need A Hero" Samantha had looked at Alex, smiled and began singing some of the words. She thought she might have seen the dark-haired beauty actually begin to blush. Now they were playing a Savage Garden song that Samantha had always liked, but it had never had a special meaning for her. It certainly would after tonight. From this moment on it would always be 'their song.' She was glad Alex had waited for just the right song before asking her to dance. What she didn't know was that while Alex was up getting their drinks she had put in a song request and had been patiently sitting at the table waiting for the band to play it.

They walked out onto the dance floor and Alex put her arms around Samantha's waist, bending slightly so the smaller woman could place her arms around her neck. The lead singer had a beautiful voice and the words brought tears to Samantha's eyes that she batted back so she wouldn't look like such a silly romantic. The singer continued and Alex sang softly into Samantha's ear, changing the words slightly, "You'll be my dream. You'll be my wish. You'll be my fantasy. You'll be my hope. You'll be my love. Be everything that I need. I'll love you more with every breathe Truly, Madly, Deeply . . . "

Samantha held her tighter and kissed her on the neck.

"I love you, Samantha," Alex whispered.

"I love you, Alex," Samantha whispered back.

They kissed right there on the dance floor, oblivious to the rest of the people around them. Samantha looked up into Alex's eyes and mouthed the words as the singer continued, "I want to live like this forever, until the sky falls down on me." The song ended and the two lovers walked slowly hand in hand back to the table and their drinks.

"You're a great dancer, Alex." Samantha complimented her lover when they sat down.

"You're pretty good yourself." Alex smiled.

"I thought you said you weren't much of a romantic? But you are romantic and you can sing and dance, too!" Samantha grinned at a very embarrassed Alex.

"Those were not words I made up. Anyone can be romantic if the right words are available -- other people's words. They just happened to have written exactly what I feel." She finished drinking her beer and looked over at Sam.

The waitress made her way to their table and Alex ordered another round. They talked a little more and danced, with Samantha quickly learning how to follow Alex's moves. Samantha imagined that a lot of Alex's gracefulness probably came from her martial arts training. She enjoyed being in the taller woman's arms with the music guiding their movements. Sam felt a twinge of jealously for the women who had been in Alex's arms before her. Jealously was not an emotion she was familiar with and she wasn't sure she liked the way it made her feel. Dancing had never been one of her favorite things to do. She had liked it well enough but decided the reason she wasn't overly fond of it was because she had never had the right partner before. She tried to get Alex to do some of the faster dances, but Alex turned her down saying that slow was as fast as she got. She said she didn't go in for all the gyrating around the dance floor. It was almost 11:30 when Alex asked if she was ready to move on.

"There's at least one other place I'd like to take you to tonight, but if you'd rather stay put we will." Alex raised a questioning eyebrow, "I can always go get another drink."

"No. If there's another place, I'm game." Samantha finished her drink and placed the glass back on the table. "There, all ready. Where to?"

"Earlier I had thought about going to the Dollhouse, but we can do that another time. Do you play pool Sam?"

"No, can't say that I do. But I could watch you play. That'd be fun." Samantha answered.

"No, I want to do something we both can do. Come on," she said as she stood up and offered her hand to Samantha. "We'll take a walk on the Wild Side. It's a nice little place not far from here."

Alex gave Samantha a little bit of the history of the bar they were traveling to as she drove. It was a throw-back bar where they still played songs from the sixties and occasionally mixed in a few new tunes here and there. It was in one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. The bar was very popular with the local residents. Janis Joplin had been one of the bar's regulars when she was still alive and living in the area.

They walked in and the place was packed. It was after all a Friday night and the bar scene in San Francisco was still going strong. Samantha couldn't get over how these bars were more than just bars. They took on the demeanor of someone's home to a certain extent and the women all seemed friendly to one another, almost like family.

"Their friendly enough now," Alex confided when Samantha had made the comment. "You just have to be careful who you talk to and sometimes even who you look at. Lesbians can let loose with some really bad tempers when they've had too much to drink."

They passed the pool table and Samantha tried to talk Alex into putting her name on the board for one of the upcoming games, but Alex would have no part of it tonight.

"We'll do that some other time," was all she would comment. "Come on, there's something I want to show you." They continued walking and she opened a door to the outside. "Have a look at this. They occasionally change it but it always fascinates me." Alex escorted Samantha out the door into the yard where the garden sculptures were decorated with lights. "Isn't this something?"

Samantha's eyes widened as she took in all the lighted topiary. "This is great. A lot of work that goes into something like this." They walked from one sculptured shrub to the next. With Samantha ahhhing and ooooing every step of the way.

"Look at this Alex," she said pointing to one of the larger figures. "It looks like two women in an embrace. Let's get one of these for the warehouse." She laughed as Alex just stood there smiling and shaking her head.

"You want another drink or are you ready to call it a night?" Alex asked the blonde as she slowly led her back to the building.

"I don't care, your call." Samantha answered her.

"There's one thing I want to do before we leave, some people I want to me you." Alex looked around the lounge area for an empty table or chair. "Here, let me get you seated, I want to see if the owner's around tonight. She and her lover are old friends of mine." They found a table in the corner and Alex went and got their drinks. She put Samantha's drink on the table and kept hers in her hand. "You be okay here for a minute or two?" she asked Sam.

Samantha nodded an affirmative and smiled, "Go find your friends, I'll be fine."

"Don't talk to strangers," Alex whispered as she kissed Samantha on the ear. "I'll be right back."

"Don't you trust me, Alex?" Samantha

"It's not you I don't trust, it's the sharks that swim on land and circle around all the bait. You're the bait, sweetheart." Alex smiled and then took off across the room.

Alex was only gone a few minutes, but it seemed much longer. Samantha did the 'friendly smile' and nod to two or three women who smiled and nodded to her first as they walked by. She also politely refused one, 'Can I buy you a drink" -- one, "Would you like to go inside and dance?" and answered "Yes," to a question of -- 'Is this seat taken.'

She became anxious about Alex being gone when a tall, thin, blonde with dark, haunting brown eyes approached the small table and sat down in Alex's chair.

"I'm sorry," Samantha smiled at the stranger. "That chair is taken; I'm just waiting for my date to return."

"Oh?" The stranger looked at Samantha in an almost menacing way. She seemed to be studying the small blonde who had just a second ago been sitting alone. "So, your date," she seemed to almost spit the word date, "has abandoned you, huh?"

"No," Samantha replied. "I didn't say that -- she went looking for some friends. She'll be back any minute now. If you don't mind I would rather wait for her alone." Samantha looked at the woman with as strong a look as she could muster. This stranger made her feel panicked for some reason and so she concentrated on Alex coming back.

"Well, we wouldn't want your date to get the wrong impression, seeing me sitting here with you, now would we?"

"There would be no wrong impression," Samantha replied. "There would be no reason for any impression at all. I would appreciate it if you would just leave."

The tall blonde stood up as if to go and then leaned back down and whispered in Samantha's ear. "Be careful who you bed, Brat. Many people have horrible skeletons in their bedroom closets." She gave a spine chilling laugh and sauntered away and back into the bar area.

Samantha sat there dumfounded for a few minutes staring in the wake of the stranger's footsteps. She wondered what in Tartarus the woman could have been talking about.

Finally, she saw Alex come through the doorway and breathed a sigh of relief. She decided at that very moment not to get her riled by telling her she had been 'hit on.' Everyone had been exceedingly polite except for the tall blonde, so she decided just to forget the passes, the offers and the strange conversation, even though it puzzled her.

"The owners are out of town for the weekend," Alex told Samantha. "We'll just have to come back up some other time and I'll introduce you to them." She put her empty bottle on the table and suggested they call it a night.

"We might get into bed before the sun comes up if we leave now. You look like you might be getting tired, Samantha."

"Whatever gave you that idea?" Samantha began, going on one of her now anticipated monologues. "We get up at the crack of dawn, go over to the gym, walk up the mountain and back down again, go on a boat ride, which in and of itself is tiring, and then traipse all over the city drinking alcohol. Why would anyone think I'd be tired. Hungry, maybe -- but tired?" She laughed and put her head on the table. She looked up to see a stunned look on her lover's face.

"Alex -- I was kidding. I had a marvelous day. I've seen more in one day than . . . I don't know when . . . it's been great. But -- you're right, I am starting to get a little tired. I don't think I even realized it until you left me sitting here and I started going over the entire day in my mind. I'm thoroughly, but very pleasantly exhausted. Going back to the hotel sounds great." She smiled up at Alex and saw that the frown had disappeared and was replaced once more by the crooked smile she had already learned to love.

Alex lifted an eyebrow and very seductively said, "Then . . . let's go home."

The ladies walked out of the bar and back toward where they had parked the car. Because of the late hour of their arrival, parking -- which is always a problem in the city, was even more so. They had to walk two blocks but neither of them minded that, they never seemed to run out of conversational topics.

The street was not very well lit but Alex was familiar with the neighborhood and felt quite secure. She put her arm around Samantha as they walked. After they had gone about a block, Alex had the distinct feeling that someone was watching them. She had learned a long time ago to trust her feelings. She slowed their pace to listen more intently and heard barely audible voices coming from just behind them.

Samantha felt the tightening of Alex's arm around her shoulders and sensed that it was not romance that prompted the change in pressure. "What's the matter, Alex," she asked her partner.

"Shhh . . . just listen," came the response from the taller woman as she turned her head slightly to hear behind her.

It was at this point that the distraction made itself known. Three punks came almost running at them from behind. At first Alex thought they would just go past but as soon as she was able to see the looks on their faces, she realized that that was not to be the case.

The first hoodlum came up in front of Alex, the second in front of Sam and the third stepped behind the two women.

"What do you want?" Alex asked straightening up to her full height and holding Samantha close.

"Just a little fun," said the punk standing in front of her, "Right, Bud?"

"Yeah, just some fun. Wanna play with us dyke?" the one called Bud asked.

"Not particularly, and I don't think you really want to mess with me, either," was Alex's answer to the ribbing.

"We could just play with your girlfriend then," the third ruffian uttered in a depraved tone.

"You . . . don't . . . even . . . want . . . to go . . . there," Alex said very slowly and quietly.

Samantha looked up and the expression on her lover's face made her blood chill. She had never seen Alex look so menacing.

"What'a ya gonna do about it - Dyke?" the ugly one with the spiked hair glared at Alex. "We just want to show Blondie here what she's missing." And he made a vulgar gesture grabbing at himself.

The veins in Alex's neck tightened, and her eyes became daggers. Samantha could tell that it was all she could do to keep from going after the three creeps. But three against two didn't leave them very good odds in Samantha's estimation.

"Please . . . leave us alone," Samantha quietly pleaded.

"Shhh, Samantha," Alex whispered in her ear, "Let me handle this."

"We're going to keep walking and you're going to get out of the way and let us pass." Alex spat at the so-called leader of the little group. "Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." Alex pulled Samantha even closer as they attempted to walk past the obstacles blocking their way.

"Oh, you think so -- big, bad butch?" the ringleader spouted. "This bitch is really scaring me, how about you guys?" He looked at his friends and laughed then put his hand into his pocket and brought out a switchblade.

"Come on, bitch, I need some excitement," he sneered as he stepped closer to Alex with his arm extended, knife blade out.

"Wrong move, baby boy," Alex said as she grabbed the outstretched arm and twisted it. At almost the same instance she brought her right leg up and kicked him in the chest still holding onto to his hand. When he went down she lifted her left leg and brought it down on the taunt twisted elbow. There was an audible crack, a scream of pain and the clink of steel as the knife hit the pavement.

The punk behind her assessed what was happening and thought he could take her out while she was still occupied with his friend.

Wrong move.

She caught his motion out of the corner of her eye, turned and did a little jump, scissored her legs in the air and kicked him squarely in the face.

That was all the third culprit needed to see. With his two companions rolling in agony on the ground, the coward high-tailed it away from the angered woman as quickly as he legs would carry him.

Alex turned back around to Samantha. "You okay, honey?" She grabbed the stunned woman and pulled her close. "No one will harm you as long as I'm around. You got that?" Still shaking, Samantha just nodded her head and wrapped her arms around her lover as they walked into the street to avoid stepping over the two bodies lying in anguish on the sidewalk and lawn.

Alex pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and started to dial 911, thought better of it and closed the phone back up. The bully with the broken elbow was making his way over to his friend who was on his knees holding his face in both hands and crying like a baby. She was sure they would be long gone before the police would have arrived. She thought about staying around and making sure they got to say hello to San Francisco's finest, but decided that taking Samantha away from the area as soon as possible was a better idea. "Lucky creeps," she mumbled to herself as they continued to walk away from the scene.

"You'd think someone would have come out to help us," Samantha said when she finally found her voice.

"No, people are too afraid to get involved these days. It's late and most of these folks around here are in bed. Anyway, I had it all under control." She smiled at Samantha and kissed her on the head. "Come on, let's go home."

The ride back to the hotel was a short and quiet one, each of the women lost in her own thoughts.

Alex broke the silence as they turned into the hotel parking garage. "I'm sorry that had to happen to you tonight, Samantha. There are crazies everywhere and I don't think it would have mattered if we were just two straight women walking home. Those guys were out for trouble tonight, any kind of trouble. We just happened to be the ones who walked by. Unfortunately for them, though, they found me."

"Maybe they'll think twice about attacking women on the street from now on. You really know how to handle yourself, Alex. I only I hope I never see that side of you going against me . . ."

"Don't be silly," Alex interrupted. "I don't want to hear you talk like that, ever. I would never do anything to hurt you, Samantha. What we just finished with was a life and death-type situation. I'm sorry if I scared you, but there was no other way to handle those creeps." Alex's face took on a look of contrition.

"I . . . didn't . . . I don't . . . mean it that way. Yeah -- you scared me, but I now know there's a dark side to you, a side that I hadn't seen before. I guess I just didn't know you could be so . . . aggressive. But Alex, again you were my hero." Her green eyes sparkled as she looked over at the woman who had just battled unfair odds for her honor.

"Don't look so down. I'm trying to say thank you," Samantha finished.

"You don't have to do that. I feel it's my job now to look after you and see that nothing harms you. You don't have to thank me for protecting someone I love. Come on. Let's get up to the rooms it's almost 1:30 and you set an early morning rendevous with out little friends." Alex turned off the car and they proceeded up to the rooms.

Back in the suite, Alex double locked the doors, went into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of wine. "Samantha, you want a glass of wine with me?" she asked downing half of hers and refilling it.

"That'd be nice," came the reply from the bathroom. "I'll be right there."

"Before all that mess happened I was going to ask if we could go for a midnight snack somewhere, but that little confrontation actually squelched my appetite. Nothing ever does that!" She walked over to where Alex was standing and took the wine that was held out to her.

"It had been quite a good day before that happened, hadn't it?" Alex asked her lover.

"It's still been quite a good day. I won't let that unpleasantness spoil these last couple of days for us. Are you okay, Alex?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Want to take a shower with me? I need to get the stench of those miscreants off my body."

"Shower, sure. Just what the doctor ordered," she answered as she walked toward the bathroom behind the taller woman.

Alex got in first and stood under the hot running water. Samantha joined her and stood in front of Alex letting the water run on both of them. She grabbed the washcloth on the rail and lathered it up then turned around and faced her lover. "Here, let me wash you. You just stand there and let the water run on you. She began at the neck, slowly and gently sudsing her lover from top to bottom then stepped out of the way so Alex could rinse. She lathered herself while Alex was getting the soap off her body and then stepped back in front of Alex to rinse herself off.

"There all trace of the bad guys is gone," Samantha told her lover as she faced her once again and wrapped her arms around the body she was beginning to know almost as well as her own. "I love you Alex. I don't think what happened tonight happened because of who we are but because we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Alex looked down into eyes that obviously worshiped her and a tear of relief fell and mingled with the water as she bent down and passionately kissed her lover. She knew in her heart that this small person she now held in her arms was hers to protect. Anyone trying to harm Samantha was going to have to go through her to do it and that would not be an easy accomplishment.

Minutes later the two women were side by side in bed, too tired to think of anything other than sleep. The day ahead was going to be a busy one and knowing Sonny it was going to be a day to go down in their memory books.

Alex turned out the light on the nightstand and held Samantha close. She tenderly kissed her good night. "You're my world now, Samantha. No one is going to harm my world."

End of Chapter Eight

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