All disclaimers may be found in Chapter 1

Sedona Rain

Carole Giorgio:

Chapter 4

Time stood still as Samantha's mind took in the scene set before her. Unable to move, she stood frozen, her face warming as color filled her cheeks. A moist path of happy tears streamed down her cheeks, and Alex's arm became positioned firmly around her shoulders.

"What in Tartarus . . ." were the first words out of the surprised woman's mouth.

"A little pre-birthday party. Didn't seem right to invite them from such distances for one evening, so we thought we'd make a weekend of it." A soft kiss graced flaxen hair before Alex led her lover toward the head of the table. But, there was no way she was going to be seated before greeting each of the guests individually.

Unable to contain himself until the petite blonde reached his seat, Sonny jumped up and met the dazzled woman halfway. "Hi, Sweetness. You didn't think we'd miss your first "family" birthday now did you?" Strong arms engulfed her, squeezing gently as he kissed her hello.

"Oh, Sonny. This is just too much. I never in my wildest . . ."

"Well, of course not, that's why we all got to say 'Surprise.'It wouldn't have been much of one, if you'd been able to figure it out ahead of time, now would it?" Samantha received another hug and a peck on the cheek before he allowed her to move on to the next person.

"Happy Almost Birthday, Samantha," Ray interjected when Sonny relinquished his hold on their friend.

"I'm so happy to see you two." Samantha bent down to give him a welcoming kiss before turning to Suzanne.

"Hi stranger," the redhead greeted her friend. "You've been pretty scarce since moving into Paradise! Guess I have to wait for special occasions to be graced by your company."

"Oh, Suz." Samantha retorted as she turned, then looked at Danny and thanked him for bringing her friend.

Not being much of a conversationalist, Danny acknowledged the statement with a smile and a nod before returning his attention to the menu he had been intently studying.

Samantha hugged her friend again, "I'm so glad you came - this is incredible."

"Couldn't pass up a free weekend in La Jolla now could I?" Suzanne held her friend out at arm's length before passing her down to the only person in the room Sam had yet to greet. "You look marvelous, Sammie, Paradise is obviously good for you."

Finally, Samantha looked toward the end of the table and contact was made with eyes almost identical to her own. Her tears began anew. With arms outstretched the two sisters walked toward each other. Embracing with a grip that almost took their breaths away they stood, tears streaming down their faces, both at an uncharacteristic loss for words.

Alex put one long arm around each of the women and gave them a simultaneous hug, while leaning forward and whispering, "This was meant to be a happy occasion."

Giggling through the tears, Samantha released her hold on Sally. "It is! Oh, Alex, it most definitely is! This is the traditional 'Riley' greeting," she wiped the remainder of the salty drops from her face. "I don't know how to begin . . ."

"Let's try sitting down and looking at a menu," Alex suggested while guiding the sisters over to their prospective seats. She sat down herself and smiled at her parents as she mouthed a silent "Thank you."

The party participants were soon lost in small talk with discussions ranging from how and when everyone arrived, to when they planned on leaving. The topic of how to make the most use of the weekend seemed to rate high on everyone's list.

Throughout the evening, whenever Samantha thought about all the love and labor that went into arranging this little get together, she got flesh bumps and tingled all over. Every so often the small blonde would reach her arm under the table and gently squeeze Alex's leg, and each time she did so the taller woman would glance over at a face full of gratitude.

Entrees were soon ordered, running the gambit from Penne with Portabella, Shiitake, and Porcini mushroom sauce, to Fettucini in a garlic, onion and basil sauce. The house specials of shrimp and scallop dishes were also popular picks. The meals were undeniably gourmet creations. Quite out of character for the restaurant, the small group was served a family style salad, hot bread sticks, and a bottle of Merlot, which Kelley increased by ordering two more bottles.

Earlier in the day, Alex called and informed the chef that Tiramisu was one of Samantha's favorite desserts, and as it happened that very dish was one of his specialties. He informed Alex that he would personally be preparing and serving the piece de resistance to the birthday meal, and true to his word, he lead the small troupe of wait people as they entered the private room to sing Happy Birthday in Italian to their Irish guest.

With the lights dimmed and the dessert ablaze, the chef entered, carrying his masterpiece. He arranged the individual ramekins containing the delicate Tiramisu in a circle, so the small dishes resembled a birthday cake. There was a larger ramekin in the center of the circle and in between each of the small dishes he positioned ladyfingers so as to form an inner border between the small ramekins and the larger one. Candles, protruding from the delicate cakes, lit up the room, while a sparkler flickered brilliantly in the centralized Tiramisu.

Although the celebration was a little premature, Alex explained to her lover that they would not be back here on the actual birthday, and the staff wanted to do a little something special for Aurora and Kelley's new family member.

For the umpteenth time this evening Samantha found her face flushing rose as she watched the chef proudly place his creation in front of her. The singing began and as Samantha bent over to blow out the candles, she did her best to think of a wish to make that had not already been granted.

Over dessert, the consensus was formulated that the weekend would be filled with two of the San Diego area's biggest attractions. Saturday would find the small group at Sea World and they all decided that Sunday would be an excellent opportunity to visit the San Diego Zoo.

It was nearing the witching hour when Aurora suggested they take the party back to the villa for a night cap and a fairly decent retirement time so they would all be at least somewhat rested in the morning. She informed the little troupe that Sea World was not the place to tackle on a scant amount of sleep.

Suz and Danny drove down so they had their own car. Sonny and Ray picked up a rental car at the airport where they stayed and met Sally before bringing her with them to the restaurant. Alex coordinated the flights so the guys had arrived within an hour of Sally's landing. She faxed Sonny a photo of Sam's sister earlier in the week and told him to simply look for a slightly younger rendition of Samantha with long hair. As it turned out he didn't need to look at the photo, his first glance at the young woman left no doubt in Sonny's mind that she was Samantha's sister. The three of them got to know each other on the way up from San Diego and by the time they arrived at the restaurant were fairly good friends. Piling into cars they all headed back to the villa.

Minutes later with everyone mulling around the kitchen area, Kelley proposed a brandy nightcap to relax everyone before she herded them all off to bed. The early morning moon was shining brightly through the glass doors as Kelley led the small group out onto the veranda. Far below, the water was hooded by moonbeams, and the illuminated white caps cast a mystical glow from the vista on the villa deck. As Samantha looked down, the heavenly light cascading across the stretch of land below captured the flecks of sand, causing them to sparkle like millions of diamonds scattered across the beach.

"A penny for your thoughts." A soft contralto voice broke the small blonde's reverie.

Sam looked up into velvet blue eyes. "I was thinking it must be in the genes. Your family seems to have a knack for finding Paradise here on Earth."

"It's a beautiful view, isn't it?"

"Almost as beautiful as the one from our penthouse." Samantha put her arm around Alex's waist and they stood quietly for a minute caught in the magic of the moment, until Sonny approached, breaking the spell. Alex kissed Samantha on the cheek and left the two friends to chat, while she meandered over to join Kelley.

Danny loosened up a little after a glass or two of wine and became fast friends with Ray, as the two stood in the middle of the deck talking. Suz found Aurora fascinating and cornered the older woman for some advice on positive thinking. Sally, who originally was searching for her sister amongst the little group, decided to join the author and her new disciple. She decided that some positive affirmations would be a definite plus to assimilate and take back with her to Washington. Things were not going smoothly at home and she didn't know how she was going to tell Samantha that their parents were on the rockiest of roads and that their relationship was heading for destruction.

When the party began breaking up, Samantha got her chance to take Aurora aside. She wanted to personally thank her hostess for allowing the entire group to call the villa home for the weekend and for making her birthday so special.

"We love doing it, Samantha." Aurora admitted. "This place doesn't see half the excitement it used to. It's a pleasure to hear the rooms come alive with voices other than Kelley's and mine." She kissed the younger woman and shooed her back toward her guests.

It was close to one o'clock by the time Alex and Samantha walked each of the couples and Sally to their perspective accommodations.

At her sister's door Samantha embraced the younger version of herself. "We'll get some time to talk this weekend, I promise. Maybe while we're walking around Sea World or the zoo. I'm so glad you made it down."

Alex motioned that she would meet Sam in their room and the blonde acknowledged that she would be right along. "Take your time, Samantha. Good to see you again, Sally. 'Nite."

"Good night, Alex and thank you again."

"Think nothing of it." The tall, graceful woman turned her back to the sisters and walked quietly away.

"I don't believe Alex did this," Samantha started. "But I couldn't be more pleased. You know it would have been the first birthday ever without you, Mom, and Dad. I guess Alex knew how hard that would have been on me. Isn't she incredible?"

"Yes, Sammie, she is. I believe I told you that when I first met her. You're one lucky leprechaun." She laughed, remembering back to when their mother used to affectionately call them by that name.

"Now you're beginning to sound like Mom," Samantha chuckled, smiling at her little sis. "Listen, Hon, you best get some sleep. I hear that Sea World is huge and we all need to be fresh and awake in the morning. As I said before, we'll talk tomorrow. I'm so glad you're here. Good night, Sally." She kissed her sister on the cheek, still giddy from the surprise hours earlier.

"Good night Sammie - you don't know how good it is to see you and see how happy you are with Alex. You've really found your niche in the world." A slight sadness could be seen in the verdant eyes looking back at Sam's.

Knowing her sister well, Samantha could tell there was a sigh in Sally's voice, an unspoken sadness. "Is every okay at home - other than the fact that I'm gay?"

"Pretty much, Sam. But you're right, we need to get some sleep tonight, or rather this morning, and we can talk some tomorrow. Good night."

Samantha turned and walked away as her sister silently closed the door. A slight damper was put on the feeling she had been enjoying all evening as she glanced back at the closed door wondering where the sadness in her sister's otherwise joy filled eyes came from.

The door to their suite was ajar and she entered to find Alex sprawled across the bed, hands under her head, eyes closed. The tall woman had already changed out of her clothes and into a nightshirt. Samantha stood, staring at a vision of beauty; Alex's thick dark hair when left to its own devices fell fluidly along the curves of her strong angular face creating a portrait of absolute elegance. My beautiful dark Angel she whispered to herself, the sight of the gorgeous brunette warming her heart. Concluding that Alex looked too peaceful to awaken, the small blonde quietly shut the door and began to tiptoe past the bed.

Seconds later she realized that she should have known better than to try to sneak past her dark hero, just as she reached the bathroom door, sapphire eyes jolted open and the sleeper did awaken.

"Since you're awake . . ." Samantha started as she turned back toward the bed; "Sally told me you paid for her round trip flight. And what's with the "free weekend in La Jolla" Suz mentioned? I also noticed no one made a move to help with the dinner tab. Alex, what's going on . . . this is to extravagant for a birthday party."

"Wow . . . back up . . . slow down! This isn't just a party, it's a birthday weekend, and it's your first birthday with me. I want to make it something to remember." She sat up and scooted to the edge of the bed, tucking one long leg under her, while letting the other dangle to the floor.

"You didn't need to do anything to accomplish that, just being with you would have been enough to remember. I'd like to help with Sally's plane fare." Sam stood beside the bed, her leg touching Alex's swaying one.

"No way - don't be ridiculous, Samantha."

"Why is it ridiculous to not want you to have to foot the entire bill for this weekend. Did you pay for Sonny and Ray to come down, too?"

Strong arms surrounded the small waist and Samantha found herself being draw onto the bed next to her lover.

"No, I didn't. Listen, I'll talk business with the guys sometime tomorrow, and they'll rack this one up on their expense account, just like we'll do when we go up there in October. But Sonny wouldn't have missed this for the world even if they couldn't use it as a business expense."

"I don't want you spending this much money on me, Alex. I get uncomfortable."

"Listen Samantha, remember we said we'd talk about money?"


She ran graceful fingers through the soft golden hair of Samantha's head with a gentle massaging motion. "This is not the time. Just take my word for it that this little shindig is not even putting a dent in my allowance." She smiled down at her lover and kissed her gently on the lips. "I want this weekend to be the best, no thoughts of that evil green stuff - okay."

"Did you say Allowance? I haven't received an allowance since I was in high school. Do you have a money tree planted somewhere in this villa or something?"

"Something like that. And I guess I've said allowance since I was in high school - I have a trust fund and get a monthly stipend." Her strong arms wrapped around the small body practically sitting on her lap. "I love you Samantha."

"Must be some Stipend! And . . . I love you, too. But how will I ever be able to thank you for this."

"Hell, that's easy - you could let me make love to you tonight."

"Alex, I told you how I feel about making love in your parent's home."

"And I told you they are at the opposite end of the villa. You want me to try to call them?" She opened her mouth in an attempt to yell.

Small fingers reached up and covered her mouth.

"No! Alex, don't!" Samantha begged.

"But Samantha . . ."

"How would they ever have known if something was wrong in this end of the house if you can't hear from one end to the other?" The blonde queried.

Alex got up and strolled over to the light switch. Samantha noticed for the first time that there was a camouflaged intercom on the wall. "Watch and listen - this place is sound proof." Beginning slowly and softly, but ending in a vibrato crescendo, Alex began to vocalize. "Aaah, ooh, humm, S-a-m-a-n-t-h-a, oh Samantha!!"

The small blonde wanted to crawl under the bed. Feeling the blood rushing to her face, she ran to stop Alex from opening the portal to the rest of the villa, but the larger woman picked her up at the waist, holding her tightly as she proceeded to open the door. While continuing to dangle the flailing Samantha, Alex looked in both directions down the lengthy hallway. Satisfied that no adjacent doors were opening, she set the small woman onto her feet, closed their door and went to the intercom.

"I told you this place is sound proof, and it rambles forever," she smiled.

Before Samantha's small hands could stop her, the dark-haired beauty flicked a switch on the communication device. "Mom!"

Green darts flew from Samantha's eyes as she shook her head at the smiling brunette.

A few seconds later there was a response. "Yes, Alex?"

"Did you just hear me scream?"

"Don't be silly, you know we can't hear anything from your end of the complex. Why were you screaming?"

"Just proving a statement to a certain Doubting Thomas who would want to see Christ's puncture wounds before believing," she chuckled into the intercom.

"And just why would you need to prove such a point," Kelley's voice boomed through.

"Um . . ."

"Never mind, Dear, we don't need to know," her mother giggled as the younger women on the other end of the line could hear her hushing Kelley and shooing her away from the system. Cheerfully she added, "Samantha - for the most part the villa is sound proof - it was purposely done so people could sleep while others were partying . . . have fun, girls, but do get some sleep."

"Nite Mom."

"Good morning, Alexis." The intercom went dead.

"Now look what you've done!" Samantha whined as Alex closed the box.


"You know what!"

"Don't you think they know . . ."

"But you didn't have to let them know that tonight . . ."

The tall beauty grabbed the small blonde and drew her into a passionate embrace. "Don't deny me tonight . . . this morning, Samantha." Running slender fingers through the flaxen hair, the taller woman leaned over and buried her face in the golden silk. "You smell so sweet."

"Alex, my knees are buckling."

"We can rectify that." Gently she lifted the love of her life into arms that showed no strain at the weight. Final destination was the sliding glass door leading out onto a small deck. Without having to reposition her precious cargo, she opened the door and stepped through. "Smell the fresh ocean breeze. Look at this heavenly view. Samantha, you were born to gaze upon such beauty as a daily occurrence. The world is yours to command, Samantha. Anything you want, just ask for it; if it's within my power to get it, it's yours.

"Alex, you can be such a poet when the mood hits. As long as I have you beside me, I can't see that anything else would matter." Putting her small hands on either side of the beautiful face she loved, she drew it down to meet hers, planting a kiss on eager lips, her tongue slowly reaching the inner depths of the moist sanctuary. "I think it's the thought of making love under your parent's roof that's turning you on, my dark-haired beauty . . . not me. It's the temptation of the forbidden fruit in the garden."

"Samantha." Alex objected, "I don't now and never have had the restrictions put upon me that you obviously experienced. I don't find making love under my parent's roof forbidden territory."

Sam squirmed trying to disengage herself from the strong arms that now refused to release their hold. "Oh, so now you're telling me I'm not the first woman you've made love to in this bedroom? Is that supposed to turn me on?" As instantaneous as a flipped switch, the mood was broken and replaced by a defensive feeling, a jealousy for those who had come before her.

Giving the smaller woman her way and loosening her hold, she lowered Samantha until her feet were touching the floor and then followed the now angry woman back into their suite.

"Why do you have to look at everything from such an acute angle. Why not believe instead that you're going to be the last woman I ever have in this bedroom?"

"I don’t think I want to make love in a bed that has been occupied by your former lovers." All of a sudden the conversation turned from one of seduction to one of accusation.

Exasperated, Alex sighed, pulled a reluctant Samantha close and tilted the smaller woman’s face to look up into her own deep blue eyes, quickly meeting troubled emerald orbs. "I’m only going to say this once so listen very carefully. I told Mom to throw the mattress away when I broke up with Nikki. I warned her that if it was still around when I visited that I would set the damn thing on fire. She went one step further and bought a brand new bed. This is one of those new air beds," she grinned at the look on her lover’s face. "Not the Camping store airbed, Samantha. It’s a little more refined than that. Even you should know my Mom by now -- this is called an Air Support Sleep System and," she picked up the control lying on the nightstand, "we each have our very on control so you can adjust your side of the bed. We can christen the bed right now if you want." She grinned again at the dumbfounded look on Samantha’s face.

"Well – that certainly was a change of topic if I’ve ever heard one. Did they ask if you’d do a commercial for them after you tried the bed?"

"No, smart ass - but they did ask Mom if she would." Alex was now displaying a full smile, knowing she had once again gotten her Samantha back and dispersed the green giant that seemed to lie in wake beneath the surface of her lover's heart. "But of course, she refused."

Samantha sat down on the bed and pushed on the mattress. "It really is rather comfortable." A smile also spread across her face as she reached out a beckoning arm, fingers wiggling in the direction of her lover. "Come here, you."

Not needing a second invitation, Alex closed the glass door and pounced onto the bed next to her lover. "I'll bet you were an impossible child. Just when your mom was ready to punish you, you probably turned on that irresistible smile and melted her heart."

"I don't remember it ever happening that way," Samantha smiled as she put her arms around Alex. "Sweetheart, there's nothing I'd like more than to spend the next couple of hours braided around your body, but it's after 1:30 in the morning and the guests you so graciously invited to spend the weekend with us have all gotten a head start on sleep. Between the excitement, the dinner, and the booze, if I don't get some shut eye soon, you will never be able to get me up in the morning . . ."

"Okay, okay, you don't have to draw me a picture. To tell you the truth I'm more than a little tired myself," Samantha's dark angel smiled wickedly as she loosened the hold the smaller woman's arms had on her body, "especially after having to put on a show to convince you that this suite is like a tomb. I'm gonna let you call the shots - for now - but I don't intend to be put off tomorrow evening . . . deal?"

Taking the out offered her Samantha got off the bed and began to slowly undress. "Deal."

With a leering look and a clearing of her throat, Alex gave a warning. "I suggest you go into the bathroom to finish what you're doing, and come out with a nightshirt on if you don't want me to renege on my generosity this morning." The grin on Alex's face, advised Sam that any excuse would be enough to counter her previous statement and continue the course of seduction.

Samantha felt it best to abide by the rule just laid on the table and scurried into the bathroom, coming out a few minutes later, appropriately clothed in a sleeping shirt. She crawled into bed next to Alex and began playing with the bed's firmness control until Alex took it from her.

"I thought you said you were tired. If you can waste your time playing with that silly thing - I can certainly find something better to occupy you."

Samantha smiled as she scooted closer and snuggled into her sleeping position. Sheepishly she looked up into Alex's baby blues. "I was just testing you, I am tired and I know you are, too. I think I'm just excited about going to Sea World tomorrow. I feel like a kid. I've never had a birthday celebration begin three days Before my birthday."

"Well, there's always a first time." Alex kissed the crown of her lover's head as she gently wrapped her arm around the soft body lying beside her. "Are you as excited as you were about coming down here?"

"Pretty close." Samantha answered.

"Does that mean I'm in for a lot of tossing and turning?"

"I don't think so, I think I'll be able to get to sleep. But, I was wondering while I was in the bathroom?"

"Oh, dear, that sounds like trouble!" The tall woman looked down at her lover, her eyebrow arching slightly.

"No . . . no trouble . . . I was just wondering why Aurora didn't use the intercom to wake us up earlier and why you didn't use it to find out where we were going for dinner?"

"If you must know, my little inquisitor, Mom was doing a final check on the guest rooms in this corridor when she woke us up, and I needed to go talk to her and make sure everyone had arrived okay. You wouldn't have wanted us to spoil the surprise now would you?"

"No, I guess I wasn't thinking about that." She snuggled in closer, giving Alex a tender squeeze.

Long fingers caressed Samantha's back, feeling the warmth of the skin beneath the nightshirt increase as she slowly slid her hand up and down the slender body.

"By the Gods that feels marvelous," Samantha cooed. "I'll give you three days to stop."

"And I'll give you ten minutes to be breathing steadily and lost in dreams. If you aren't . . . all bets are off and there will be no sleep until the sun joins us."

Before closing her eyes and drifting off to the land of Nyx, Samantha let her eyes travel to the brightest star shining its light through the glass door. She thought of a wish that was yet to be granted and squeezed her lover tightly one last time before allowing the God of dreams to carry her away.


The direction of the suite was almost due west, and the morning sun did not shower the rooms in first light. Nevertheless, Alex's automatic alarm did not fail to announce the event. She glanced over at the clock and decided another hour would not do anyone any harm. Samantha had experienced some restlessness during the hours they slept and the small blonde ended up a few inches away from but still facing her, one small hand reaching out and keeping contact with Alex's body. The dark-haired beauty looked over at her life partner and smiled. I will love you forever, Samantha. I want you to be the first sight to greet my eyes each morning until the day I'm called to leave this Earth. She kissed her fingers and placed them gently on the forehead of her lover. Sleep a while longer, my Precious, the day is here to do your bidding.

Quietly she rolled over and put her feet on the floor, reaching back to make sure Samantha had a pillow to take her place when she left the comfort of the bed. It was useless to lay there and try to sleep. After using the bathroom she decided to head for the kitchen, almost positive she would find Kelley already there.

The halls were bathed in a soft pink light coming from the skylights that dotted the entire villa. Figuring Ray would also be up and wondering what to do with himself, she tapped softly on the guys’ door as she passed and slowed her pace, giving him time to answer.

"Hey, wait up Alex," he half-whispered as he hurried to catch up. "I was hoping you’d be awake."

"You know your way around, you could have meandered into the kitchen without me."

"Yeah, but it's always better to have company," he confessed as he put an arm around his friend.

"So, how much longer shall we give them to sleep?" Out of the corner of her eye she saw another door crack open slightly. "Come on out, you're not the only one awake," she notified the nonsleeper.

Danny poked his head out about the time they reached the room. "Good morning. You two headed for coffee?"

"I'm a tea drinker, but we have both - join us."

"So," she reiterated, "how much longer?"

"Let's see, Sea World opens at what, 10 o'clock?"


"And it's not the busy season. I'd say let them have another hour. We could have breakfast made by that time, get them up, eat, and then go. What do you think?" He turned his attention first to Danny and then to Alex.

"Suz will probably be up within the hour," was Danny's answer.

"Samantha would sleep all day, and I think her sister has similar sleeping habits, but an hour will be sufficient. Making breakfast is a great idea. Mom's probably still asleep so it will be the four of us cooking. You any good at making toast, Danny."

"My specialty," he grinned up at the woman walking next to him.

"All right, one hour and breakfast it is." Alex brushed her hands together in a 'that's that' gesture and put an arm around the shoulder of each of the men flanking her.

Just as Alex anticipated, when they approached the kitchen area, Kelley was sitting in the breakfast nook already sipping her first cup of tea. She also had a pot of coffee brewing, as she knew Sonny would throw a hissy fit if he awoke and there was no caffeine. The Three Musketeers arrived and filled Kelley in on their plan. She agreed that feeding everyone before going to the park was an excellent idea and the foursome started preparing the morning meal.

Forty-five minutes later, while Danny was completing the table setting and Ray was getting the juice and condiments, it was decided that Alex would be the one to go arouse the sleepers as she could enter all four rooms with no drawbacks.

Within ten minutes Alex returned with four half-awake individuals, all still sporting sleepy expressions.

"My, don't we look bright eyed and bushy tailed?" Kelley addressed the four younger people. She turned to Alex questioningly, "Where's your mother?"

"She'll be here; you know she has to make her entrance." She smiled over at her parent as she pointed Samantha in the direction of the table. "Go . . . sit . . . I'll get you some tea."

"Thanks, Honey." Not much for early discussions the small blonde did as she was bid. Sonny, Sally, and Suzanne followed suit as Ray and Danny began serving.

"These smell wonderful," Sonny announced, as a plate of pancakes was set in front of him. "Isn't anyone else hungry?"

"Mind you manners," Ray scolded. "You have new friends who don't need to find out your bad habits so soon."

"Bad habits," Sonny whined. "It's just that between Samantha and me - there's not enough of these for anyone else." He smiled over at his friend who was more than happy to join in the fun.

"Agreed - I think the two of us could polish these off nicely," Sam smiled as she reached for the plate.

Two strong hands stopped her in mid-reach. "Touch that plate before everyone is seated and the two of you will sit and Watch the rest of us chow down - You got that?" The tone was intimidating but the twinkle in the sparkling blue eyes belied the words.

"Oh, all right," Samantha sighed putting her arms to her sides in mock humility. "We'll share. You'll just have to buy us lunch earlier." She grinned broadly over at Sonny who winked at her before throwing up his hands in feigned surrender.

Aurora arrived just as the last of the meal was being brought to the table and the little group descended upon the bounty with voracious appetites.


Breakfast was devoured with minimal conversation, save to discuss the events they were planning to take in on today's venture. Sam, Sally, Sonny and Suz pulled K.P. while the rest of the group started with showers. There was no way everyone was going to be able to shower at one time and doubling up was not a good idea, as time was becoming of the essence.

Less than two hours later and with only a short 15-minute drive, the van pulled into the Sea World parking lot a little after 10 a.m. Cameras were out and the first pictures of the day were snapped in front of the sign leading into the park.

Discussion on the way to the park established that they were going to take in some of the walk around exhibits early, the water rides during the heat of the day and shows in between. Main attraction for the day was going to be a swim with the Dolphins.

Kelley and Alex went up to the ticket booth while the rest of the entourage waited out front discussing how much fun the day was going to be.

"What do you think is taking them so long," Samantha asked Aurora. "Do you think there's some kind of problem?"

"No. They have to get different tickets for some of the events we called ahead and scheduled. I'm sure Kelley wants to make sure everything has been taken care of before we get there." She smiled over at the young blonde, "So, have you or your sister ever been here before?"

"No, we went to Disneyland once but never here to Sea World - I love the ocean and the animals that live in it - this is really exciting."

"I'm glad you feel that way, Hon. We have an exhausting day planned and we want everyone to come away feeling like today was really special. Unfortunately, with the winter hours already started we have a shorter period of time to do everything. More than likely you and Alex will have to come back down some other time to see what we miss today. Lucky for all of us the Santa Ana is still going strong and bringing in summer weather." She looked over in the direction of the ticket booths. "Here they come, are we all ready?"

A communal "Yes!" greeted her ears. Alex and Kelley smiled at each other, knowing that their private cheerleader was probably rallying the troupe to enhance the mood.

"So, where to first Alex?" An eager Samantha started to link her arm in Alex's, but stopped, remembering they were out in public. Alex caught the trepidation and guilty look on her lover's face and proceeded to place an affectionate arm around Samantha's shoulders. She bent down and whispered, "I'll walk with you however I please, and if we get any odd glances, I'll kiss you and really give them something to gawk at." Samantha smiled up at the one she loved.

"You are something else, Alexis Dorian."

"That's why you love me." Alex squeezed her slightly and let go so they could maneuver through the turnstiles. Park maps in hand, the little group headed toward the Forbidden Reef where they could view hundreds of exotic undersea creatures, including moray eels. Aurora informed them that they only had a half an hour before they were due to meet the dolphins, so it was a rather hurried walk through.

On the way over to the dolphin interaction pool, while Alex was chatting with Sally and Suz and trying to get Suzanne to change her mind about not swimming with the dolphins, Sam overhear Ray and Sonny bickering about not being given the chance to help pay for their involvement. From what she could gather Alex and her parents were footing the entire bill. Doing the math she came up with $360 plus tax just to get in. This was definitely getting to be a very expensive weekend and the small blonde began feeling a little uncomfortable. A discussion was definitely called for before a fortune was spent, but she didn't know how to broach the subject. If she waited until they got back to the villa it would be too late. She promised herself that first chance she could manage she would get Sonny to the side first and see what was going on.

Aurora fixed the first little adventure so that theirs was the only group involved. They gathered in a classroom environment to receive a lesson in dolphin physiology and anatomy, as well as being educated about the bottlenose dolphin's history and reproductive habits. After the chalkboard and video portion of the training was completed it was time to play with the friendly mammals. Unable to coax Suz, Kelley or Aurora into joining them in the water, the daring sextuple disappeared to don their wet suits. They emerged within minutes to join the instructors in the shallow lagoon, while the perpetually dry trio watched the shenanigans from a safe distance on a man-made beach.

"Don't worry," Alex told her little clan, "Wait 'til later, we'll get them all wet!"

"I can't believe we getting to do this," Samantha whispered to her sister.

"Me either, what an adventure."

The remainder of the 90 minutes the six 'happy campers' spent in the water, interacting with the dolphins as the friendly mammals played, swam, and ate. They were even instructed in how some of the training signals worked. Each one of them personally swam with a dolphin and Kelley captured it all on the digital camcorder.

At the end of the 90 minutes the six totally satisfied customers went back into the locker room to change while Suz, Aurora, and Kelley waited in the gift shop.

"Okay kids," Kelley gathered everyone around her, "we've just about enough time to take in the Shipwreck Rapids. I've booked us for lunch at the Shipwreck Reef Caf» where the ride will drop us off and we are scheduled for a tour of the park at 2:15.

"Wow, you have everything on a timetable," Suz blurted out, then covered her mouth, embarrassed at her blurb.

Kelley just smiled and agreed with her, "Yes, we've found if you want to see the most possible and you only have one day, it's best to have a plan. We've been here often enough to know what's the most interesting the first time through. Of course the dolphin pool is rather new and not a lot of people get to experience that particular exhibit.

"I don't know if anything is going to top that experience today," Sonny admitted.

"When are we going to see the Shamu show?" Sally asked to no one in particular.

"Shamu, Baby Shamu, and Namu will be close to last on the list, Hon. You'll understand why later. Of course you won't be in the water with them, but they put on one helluva show" Aurora smiled and put a motherly arm around Sally's waist as they walked toward the fairly new ride.

The early afternoon sun with the help of the Santa Ana had the temperature soaring into an unseasonable 90 degrees, which made the raft-like inner tube ride even more enjoyable. Roaring waterfalls sprayed mist as they floated by after plunging through underground caverns, spinning and splashing through rapids and dodging obstacles along the way. Smiling faces disembarked as they stepped off in view of the five-theme restaurant.

"Where are we dining, Kelley," Alex asked, being the last to leave the raft.

"I thought we'd try the Jungle Garden; it seemed suitable for this little band of misfits." She motioned the direction and Alex with Samantha on her arm, led the way.

"Wow," seemed to be Suzanne's favorite word. "Look at this place, it's huge!"

After giving their name, the group was led by a person, dressed for a safari, to their table overlooking the water. Gleeful shrieks of patrons still aboard the rafts were accented by tropical bird calls and the distinct roar of sea lions. Tropical trees, flowers, and bushes were strategically placed throughout the area making the guests feel like they had just entered a tropical paradise.

"This is so great," Sally told Aurora.

"We think it's pretty special."

"Do you come here often?"

"We have season passes. Sea World is always a good place to bring visitors - so to answer your question - yes. We've been coming to here since Alex was little and have watched it grow right along with her. When she was six hardly any of these large attractions were here. It was mostly animal shows when we first started coming."

"Well, it's a wonderful place for young and old alike. Maybe someday I'll get to bring my Mom down here and we can all do this again."

"That sounds like fun, Sally."

"But we'll do the treating." The young woman smiled into kind sapphire eyes. "You don't know how much I appreciate all that you and Alex and Kelley have done to make Sammie's birthday so special." Tears welled up in emerald eyes and were batted quickly back.

Aurora patted Sally on the shoulder, "Don't you worry yourself about who's paying for what - this is just a special little outing for us. We're having a great time sharing our little part of the world with you kids. Samantha is very dear to us already, she's like a second daughter. You tell your mother that for me, will you?"

"Yes, Aurora, I will - thank you."

"Hey, you two gonna stand there gabbing all day or are you going to join the rest of us and eat?" Kelley interrupted the motherly chat.

"We're coming, Honey. We were just admiring these plants over here." Aurora lied as she gave the young woman time to compose herself.

Lunch was a delectable offering of vegetables, fresh-grilled seafood, meat, salads, stir fry, sandwiches, tropical fruits, and fresh-baked desserts, as chefs cooked on open grills made from salvaged lifeboats. The atmosphere was euphoric and smiles were worn by all.

During lunch Samantha decided to ask Sonny about the expenses that were accumulating and being taken care of by the Dorians alone.

"Sonny," a hushed voice assaulted his ear, as small fingers tugged on his shorts.

He turned and eyed his friend questioningly. "What Samantha, something wrong? Why so quiet?"

"I want to ask you something and I don't want anyone else to hear."

"As if they would, the only way anyone can hear you right now is if you shout. Hey, look at that parrot, Samantha, isn't it beautiful?"

"Sonny, I'm serious."

"Okay, you have my undivided attention. What's bothering that pretty little head of yours?"

"It's all the money Alex, Aurora, and Kelley are spending on this weekend. I'm beginning to feel funny about letting them pay for everything." Concerned eyes stared into gentle ones.

"Listen, Little One, the Dorian family has more money than they could ever imagine spending, believe me. Ray and I were having this discussion earlier because he thought we ought to at least offer to pay for something, but Alex gave us strict instructions before we arrived that the entire weekend was on her. Believe me when I tell you a couple thousand dollars for a day's adventure is noth . . ."

"Did you say a couple thousand?" Her voice rose an octave, but she tried to keep the intensity down. "Just for today?"

"Sure, that little dolphin venture was about $125 a head. Then there was admission and lunc . . . "

Almost choking on a bite of salad she exclaimed, "By the Gods, Sonny - I can't let them do this!" She turned to address her partner.

Grabbing her by the shoulders, he turned her back around, but Alex already sensed something amiss. "Look, Sammie . . . over there." Sonny tried to act nonchalant, ignoring the raised eyebrow and slight frown from the direction of the dark-haired beauty on the other side of Sam.

Playing into his charade, Samantha responded, "Oh my, that is a beautiful bird." Her face was slightly flushed as she turned and spoke to Alex. "Look over there, Honey, what kind of parrot is that."

"Don't know." Alex gave her a questioning look. "If you're really interested we could ask the attendant."

"No, that's okay - it's just so pretty."

"Yeah." She eyed Sonny who had returned to eating his lunch. "You having a good time, Samantha?"

"The best ever, Alex. I can't believe how big this place is."

"It sure has grown since I first came. I think I was about six or seven when the folks brought me here. Half of this stuff wasn't even thought of yet."

"Looks like your mom is almost finished with her meal. Guess I'd better finish, too. I think she probably has the rest of the afternoon planned out."

"I'm sure she does; they've been here so many times she's pretty good at getting the most seen in a short day. Of course the dolphin swim took up a hunk of time and I think she has us scheduled for a private tour after lunch."

"A private tour?"

"Yeah, Mom's something of a local celebrity and it does warrant preferential treatment occasionally. Lucky us, huh?"

"Yeah, lucky us."

"Samantha is everything okay with you? Are you sure you're enjoying yourself." Worried eyes searched the freckled face before them.

"Alex, I'm having the time of my life and so is Sally. It's just that you're spending so much money and not allowing anyone to help."

"I thought we decided not to talk about that today."

"Yeah, whatever."

"Not whatever Samantha. Please - this is the way I want it. Okay."

Squeezing Alex's knee she let her lover know that whatever she wanted was definitely okay with her. "Okay Alex, nuff said." She made a motion of zipping her lips and returned a smile to her face, which in turn lit up her lover's face as well.

Music permeated the air, and throughout the rest of the meal the patrons got treated to exotic animals appearing on small stages with their trainers as castaway characters meandered through the various areas, entertaining everyone they came into contact with.

Looking around the table Aurora announced that the next stop was a behind the scenes walking tour that would help alleviate the stuffed feeling they were all experiencing. Everyone followed along behind the leader and for the next 90 minutes learned about how all the animals were cared for in the different regions of the park including the newer Wild Arctic attraction. They got to go inside the environment of the otters and Danny, Ray, Sonny and Sally got chosen by the guide to feed the sharks. At one point Sonny stated that he felt like he was back in school for a day as the guide informed the group of how beached animals got rescued and the procedures that were involved before releasing them back to their homes. Because it was a VIP tour they were privy to areas not normally shown. When the tour was over, everyone clamored around Aurora begging her to agree to adding the Wild Arctic adventure to her list, before they were to take in the last Shamu show of the day.

"Okay -- it seems to be a group consensus but I have to warn you that you're giving up seeing the Manatee exhibit. We don't have time to do both today and still see the whale show."

Everyone stuck to the idea that they wanted to go back and see the entire Arctic exhibit. The endangered manatees would be saved for a later visit.

The Arctic experience began with a simulated jet helicopter ride that flew the audience over the barren Arctic landscape with breathtaking views of monstrous glaciers and frozen tundra. The deafening sounds of an avalanche had the little group holding hands over ears, and more than one of the friends swore that they felt chilled when the 'copter dove into an ice cave to avoid being caught in the cascading wilderness.

The creatures of this frozen wonderland were absolutely magnificent, starting with the leviathans and ending with the most recent of inhabitants, the Arctic fox pups. Each of the human equivalents found a kindred soul in one or more of the animals, developing their own special bonds as the day slipped into late afternoon. Before leaving the land of ice and snow the guests toured the Base Station, including first hand viewing, touching and learning from research equipment, statistics and little know facts. Return to the 'real world' gave pause to a few moments of silence from the group before the chattering began anew, as they spoke amongst themselves of their Arctic exploration.

Aurora ushered everyone over to Shamu Stadium as they were but minutes from the start of the show. Because of having taken the behind-the-scenes tour earlier, their seating was reserved and in the very first row. After everyone was seated and quieted down a bit Sally noticed that Aurora and Kelley were no where to be seen.

"Hey Sis, where did your new mom's-in-law go?"

Turning around on the bench to scan the back of the stadium Samantha had no luck spotting the missing ladies.

"Alex . . ."

"What, Hon?"

"Where did your parents go?"

Doing a repeat of the motion Samantha performed, Alex also could not spot the two older women.

"Kelley probably wanted something to drink and Mom went with her for company. They've seen this show so many times they could probably lip synch the announcer." Her eyes sparkled as she smiled down at her lover and then over at Sally. "If it will make you feel better, I'll go make sure that's what they're doing."

"You don't have to Alex, you'll miss part of the show if you go."

"That's perfectly okay with me, I've been here almost as many times as my folks. There's not a whole lot you can do to a whale show to change things around for variety." She smiled broadly while getting up, almost as though there was a secret she wasn't revealing. Giving Samantha a quick peck on the cheek, she patted her lover's shoulder and started back up the aisle to the exit.

"Hey, where's Alex going?" Sonny questioned as the dark-haired woman disappeared into the crowd still being seated.

"To go make sure her parents are just getting some refreshments and that there's nothing wrong. They didn't say anything to anyone before taking off."

"Well, we must all make sure to scold them when they do return, you know that's what they would do if the tables were turned." He scooted closer to Samantha, but left room for Alex to sit when she returned. The music began and the so did the show.

About halfway through the performance it became quite apparent to those left seated in the front row why the Dorians had all taken off for places unknown. With a flick of a flipper, patrons in the first 13 or so rows became drenched with tank water, not once, but twice.

"Thank the Gods it's warm!" Samantha grinned as she shook her head, spraying Sonny all over again.

"Wait until I get a hold of your lover," Sonny retorted then laughed when he saw the look on Suzanne's face, forgetting his own sopping clothing.

"Not expecting a bath, huh Suz?" Samantha asked her friend.

"Most definitely not - I think the hostesses all knew this was going to occur. That's why they disappeared and to where? Does anyone know?"

"Somewhere safe and dry you can bet." Ray stated as he looked around searching for the disappearing trio.

Everyone was accepting the fact that wet was part of the entertainment when Shamu did a high leap into the air, splashing them again as gravity did its job, causing whale and water to collide.

Suzanne jumped up this time, turned to Danny and wanted to move back several rows. He shook his head no, pointing out that she was already drenched, there wasn't much use in relocating.

"Besides Suz, you'll be dry in no time. It's 90 some degrees out here. Consider it a free cooling off ."

Within minutes a beaming Alex rejoined her dripping friends.

"Everyone having fun?"

It was then that the friendly fireworks began, starting with Sonny and Sam, followed by Suz and Sally. Ray and Danny refused to join in the pity party, as they considered themselves lucky for having a break from the heat of the day and continued to watch the performance, undaunted by the shenanigans going on all around them. In actuality the rest of the group was glad for the wetting also, it was just fun to give Alex a hard time about the entire ordeal.

By the time the show was finished everyone was almost totally dry; affectionate complaints had been replaced by thank you statements to the three benefactors of the day.

"So we have about an hour left? What's next?" Samantha put her arm around Alex's waist and looked up into the sapphire eyes she loved.

"Are you hungry?" Alex asked.

"Yeah! But I don't want to leave the park before it closes. I can wait until then." She looked around the group. "Does everyone want to stay until the last whistle blows?"

An affirmative all the way around brought a smile to the taller woman's face.

"Tell you what - why don't we meet up with Mom and Kelley around the corner and take it from there." The sparkle in her eyes led Samantha to believe that the rest of the Sea World experience was already planned out.

"Okay." Sam turned to the rest of the entourage. "Let's go kids, follow the leader." Hugging close to Alex she whispered, "You can tell me - where are we going?"

"Let me just say that you will definitely be pleased." The tall woman put a loving arm around the smaller woman's shoulder.

Alex walked to the entrance of an area entitled "Dine with Shamu" and motioned for the group to follow her. Hums and ahs could be heard coming from mouths as gourmet odors titillated nostrils. The park hostess escorted them over to a table already occupied by Kelley and Aurora.

"So," Aurora began, "how did everyone enjoy the whale show."

She received all the accolades on the performance as well as the smiling objections that she, Kelley and Alex got away without getting soaked.

"You all looked so hot and uncomfortable, we thought for sure you'd find the cool water refreshing." Sapphire eyes matching those of her daughter twinkled with mirth as she looked from face to face and received a smile from each of her weekend houseguests. It was more than obvious that the day had been a tremendous success and a poolside buffet dinner with the star of Sea World - what better way was there to end the perfect day?

During the course of the feast, trainers joined the table to answer any questions the group might have formulated throughout the day. True to the fact that they were dining with Shamu, the leviathan made an appearance and even showed off by sliding into the area and allowing some of the patrons a closer look.

Totally sated by food, drink, and fun, it was soon time for them to climb back into the van and head toward La Jolla. No one realized how tiring the day had been until the vehicle pulled out of the parking lot and started back up the highway. Ray and Danny fell asleep, while Sonny, Suz and Sally talked amongst themselves of the wonders they encountered throughout the day.

"Don't be ridiculous," Samantha replied as Alex, her arm wrapped comfortably around her lover, began to apologize for there being no fireworks, laser or ice skating shows because of it being off-season.

"Don't you see how happy everyone is? This was a fantastic day, Alex."

"But you didn't get to see the manatee exhibit, the penguins and shark displays or the California Tide Pool."

"Well, why didn't you have them stay open a few more hours for us so I could have seen all those attractions?" The small blonde smiled up into somber eyes. "By the Gods you are serious."

"I wanted you to see it all."

"Alex the damn place is enormous! No one could see it all in one day - not and do it properly. I do believe we live not to very far from here, correct?"


"And your parents live what, a little over 15 minutes from here, right?"


"Well then, don't you think it might be feasible that we might be able to come back down to this area sometime within the next few years and see the rest of the park?"

"Yes, Samantha, it's just . . ."

"Stop! Today was marvelous. Everyone enjoyed themselves immensely." She called over the seat to the passengers who were still awake.

"Did everyone have fun?"

A unanimous "Yes!" came from every seat that did not contain a sleeping person.

"See?" She turned to her lover, "Everyone had fun - I do believe that was the idea behind the entire day, was it not?"

"Most definitely. Nuff said, Samantha."

"The only thing I did not get to do today was have a heart-to-heart with my sister." She looked over at the younger Riley who had stopped discussing with Sonny and Suz to join Ray and Danny in the land of nod.

"I think something's bothering her and I don't think tonight is a good time to start a lengthy discussion." There was concern written all over Samantha's face.

"Listen, Honey, you're sister, Sonny and Ray are all staying until Monday morning. Suz and Danny are leaving tomorrow night after dinner. Marcy and Von are coming up for dinner tomorrow night. The best time might be to take a little walk by yourselves while we're at the zoo tomorrow."

"Sounds like a good idea." Resting her head on Alex's chest she felt her dark angel kiss her crown. "Thank you and your parents for a birthday weekend I will never forget."

"You're welcome, my Destiny, but the weekend isn't over yet." Anticipation of the days to come caused her stomach to churn, but she was determined to keep the trip to Sedona a secret until the morning of the actual birthday. I love you so much, Samantha. Sedona is a special place and I can't wait to take you there.

"Don't worry about Sally, Honey. Wait until you talk to her; I'm sure she just misses seeing you. You know things have changed at home, but I'm sure the three of them are working things out."

"I hope so, Alex. I hate the feeling that my family is falling apart, and it's all my fault."

"Don't be ridiculous. If there is anyone to blame in your family it's that . . ."

"Alex don't. Please. Not tonight. It's been too good a day to ruin."

"I'm sorry, Samantha . . . look we're home."

It was only eight o'clock but 'dragging butt' would have been the ideal term to describe the condition of the little group that exited the van and entered Cielo en Tierra.

Kelley offered a nightcap at the pool if anyone wanted to take a swim before retiring. The suggestion was met with undisputed approval from all and they dispensed to change into bathing suits.

Samantha and Alex walked Sally as far as her room, then continued on to their own, walking hand in hand down the long corridor leading to their suite.

As Samantha began to undress Alex noticed a slight red tint to her lover's shoulders.

"You got a lot of sun today," she commented, reaching for the aloe vera lotion.

"Lucky me. Look at you - all you do is turn golden! Talk about jealous."

"Here, take off that blouse and let me put a little of this on so you don't peel so badly or sting tonight." Opening the tube she lavished the cooling cream on the burning shoulders.

"Yeah, and I'll have a bunch more freckles in the morning, mark my words. Sally put some sun guard on me this morning, and I put some on her so at least we didn't get burnt to a crisp." Samantha shook her head in counterfeit disgust.

"Have I ever told you that a face without freckles is like a night sans the stars?"

"I don't believe you have, but . . . that's so . . . so bardic Alex." The smaller woman placed her high hands on broad shoulders and gently pushed down, forcing her lover to sit on the bed. She stepped between the long, muscular legs and dangled her arms over similarly powerful shoulders. Because of the height of the bed, emerald eyes stared directly into those of blue velvet. With the mechanics of a slow motion movie, the golden-haired beauty bent forward toward her lover, her lips parting slightly as she made her way to her final destination. The words 'I love you' softly breathed themselves into the atmosphere.

Unable to contain herself, Alex put her arms about the svelte waist before her and brought her destiny closer. "Come here you. You want me to wait all night?"

"Wait for what?" came the teasing reply.

"For this." The torch had been lit and there was no turning back, her mouth closed on Samantha's and she smiled inwardly when she heard the groan from deep within her lover's throat. Agile hands moved swiftly from the waist to manipulate and dispose of the unwanted bra her lover was wearing.

Filled with desire she had no intention of trying to subdue, she maneuvered the smaller woman until she was lying on the bed next to her.

"I am going to devour you this very minute." Within the blink of an eye shoes were disposed of as well as shorts and panties. The fair-haired woman lay naked on the bed, her dark angel standing regally above her drinking in her splendor.

"Alex, take off you clothes, I want to feel your skin next to mine."

"Your wish is my command." Speed was of the essence as they had guests who would have no problem at all teasing a tardy couple when they arrived at the pool.

Changing her approach, she pulled the smaller woman to the edge of the bed, kneeling down as she did so. Draping Samantha's legs, one over each shoulder, she lessened the distance between her mouth and her desire.

A wet kiss to the inside of each thigh, brought love bumps to the soft skin and she again smiled deeply, knowing that her touch was powerful.

"I'm going to feast on you, Samantha." Placing one finger on either side of Samantha's nether lips, she parted the folds and teased the sensitive area with the tip of her tongue. Hot breath mingled with juices that were already freely flowing, and moans could be heard from the top of the bed.

Glancing up she watched Samantha reach for and place the corner of a pillow in her mouth. The raven-haired beauty stretched, taking the muffler from her lover.

"No! Hearing your ecstasy is part of the magic."

"But Alex . . ."

"Been there Done that, Samantha. Thought we settled it last night. I want to hear your desire; I want to drown in the sound of your passion. When I lick you, draw you into my mouth, fill you with my tongue, your reaction intensifies my pleasure." Her hands left the pillow to travel down her lover's face, receiving kisses as she touched Samantha's mouth. Long, slender fingers trailed over rigidly upright nipples, while her mouth entertained itself in the playground beneath the golden mound.

Oblivious to anything that was not Samantha, Alex consumed with gay abandon the voluptuous feast before her. Open mouthed she covered Samantha's area of pleasure and allowed her tongue full reign of the treasure within. Slowly entering and exiting the soft, moist cave with her tongue, a moan begged to be set free but remained trapped deep within her throat as the one she loved surrendered herself to the ecstasy of the moment.

To her lover's satisfaction Samantha could not keep still; she writhed and moved in a rhythmic motion with the ebb and flow of Alex's tongue urging her lover on with the movement of her hips.

"Alex, faster. By the Gods Alex . . . take me . . . oh . . . yes . . . there . . . oh . . . Alex . . . Oh . . . Alex."

The scent of Samantha, her taste, her feel, Alex couldn't get enough, and what was truer was that she didn't want to get enough. She wanted to feast at the banquet before her until the first rays of the morning sun crept through the windows.

Over and over again her tongue found its target as the smaller woman on the bed encouraged her with actions and voice.

She had not intended to enter Samantha after the orgasm but could not or would not contain her passion when the blonde reached her first climax. Alex stood smiling down at the face she loved and the body she could not keep her hands away from. Carefully placing two, then three adept fingers within her lover's moist cavity, she straddled Samantha's leg, her own center aching for contact with the thigh below her. With an almost panicked expression, her eyes opened wide, surprised blue met heated green eyes as she felt Samantha's hand replace the thigh between her legs. Small fingers searched for the opening between her folds and upon finding it, pushed on the tiny erection that was crying out for attention.

Alex scooted herself higher, allowing her lover to reach deep within her passion as Samantha's fingers entered her and they swayed in unison to a music only the two of them could hear.

"I love you Samantha. Come with me." The dance of love continued as the two matched each other's tempo.

"By the Goddess Samantha!" Alex felt the smaller woman begin to spasm, as soft muscles tightened and released around her fingers.

"All . . . I . . . want . . ." Samantha's words etched themselves into the air, slowly and methodically, "Is . . . You!"

Alex's counter-reactions continued at a similar pace and intensity. Their combined breathing became labored, their bodies held together by passion, until the final thrust when Samantha exploded beneath her at the apex of her own rapture. The two lay limp, entangled in each other's arms, unable to contain all the love that poured forth from their union.

"Ooooh . . . Alex . . ." the words were whispered in the wake of their actions. "You make me feel so . . . beautiful. . ." Hot, joyous tears streamed down the sunburned face of the younger woman.

"I had nothing to do with your beauty, my Destiny. You can thank your Gods for that, as I do every day. All I did was fall in love with the face of an angel, only to find my soulmate hiding there waiting for me."

After what seemed like an eternity but in reality was only minutes, Alex whispered softly into Samantha's ear. "I could go out and tell everyone you were fatigued from too much fun and sun, and fell asleep."

"No Alex." The response came as a low whimper. "We can't do that . . . they all came to be with us this weekend the least we can do is be good hostesses."

"Mom's a good hostess." Alex countered.

"No these are our guests, not your mother's, as much as I would like to leave them in her expert hands tonight. The plus side is that I have a feeling no one is going to be up for very much longer; we all had quite an exhausting day."

"Fine, it's your call." Alex untangled from her lover, rolled over and off the bed. "Just remember," a long pointing finger wagged in the direction of Samantha, "they Will tease when we arrive; I can absolutely guarantee that!"

"We'll simply have to weather the consequences," the smaller woman sighed as she, followed her lover's example, rolling over and out of the soft sanctuary.

Quickly donning swimsuits they left their private haven and made for the festivities on the other side of the villa.


"Well, well . . . look who finally decided to show up and grace us with their presence." Sonny turned, eyebrows raised as he spotted the tardy duo coming through the archway.

Sally was over talking to Suzanne and Kelley, Ray and Danny were in the midst of a heated discussion involving the escalating property taxes in California. Sonny had been refreshing his drink and strolled over to his friends as they entered the patio.

"Where's Mom?" Alex asked as she scanned the area.

"Oh, she said her Muse was whispering in her ear and she had to go pound on the computer for a bit." Sonny informed her.

"Sounds like Mom." Alex grinned.

"Wish my Muse would shout at me." Samantha added to the conversation. "If she's whispering, the volume is too low to break through."

"Give it time, Sammie. Aurora didn't become a success overnight, you know. It just seems that way when you see all she has accomplished." The gentle man put an arm around his friend's shoulder.

"I don't think I really give my writing the time it deserves." The small blonde confessed. "What with work and all the new stuff I'm learning," she glanced up at her lover, "and my new social life . . ."

"Hey . . . don't go blaming your lack of imagination or absence of the Muse on me. Huh uh - won't take that rap. I heard it my entire childhood." Creating a mock whining tone she continued, "'Oh Kelley, you never give me enough time to write. Every time I sit down at the typewriter, you find something else for me to do.' Don't even go there Samantha Renee. If you want more time for writing, take it. Work half days if you must but don't blame me when your Muse ignores you."

"Half days? Like I could afford to work only half days! And my Muse is not ignoring me, she's just a little slow sometimes at formulating what I need to address."

A knowing glance was exchanged between Sonny and Alex as Samantha shook her head totally missing the smile on her lover's face.

"Hey, we'll talk about it when we get back home, okay. I'm gonna get us something to drink."

Sonny stepped closer to his friend. "You know, Sweetcakes, Alex is right about spending less time at the Center. I'm sure she's hired plenty of staff to take some of the load off your shoulders and if she hasn't already, she would."

"Sonny, I don't want her to feel that she has to support me - monetarily that is."

"Sammie, Alex started that Center because she's a damn workaholic, not because she needed the money. She's just like Kelley in that respect. I have noticed that since she's hooked up with you, she's begun to relax a lot more, and I know she intends to eventually spend a lot of time away from Alternative Paradise once all is running smoothly. But believe me, Sweetness, you don't have to worry about being a burden or not carrying your weight in the finance department, Alex is a money magnet!"

Samantha didn't get a chance to address the statements her friend had just confided as Sally, Suz, and Alex all commenced joining the two of them.

With a grin that spread across her entire face Sally approached her sister. "Sammie, what took you and Alex so long getting here?"

"Do you really want an answer to that one, Sally?" Suzanne chimed in, clinking her glass on Sonny's.

"Just look at the sweet blush on Sammie's face girls. I don't think any of us really needs an answer to that question, she's just answered it without speaking a word."

"Okay, okay - leave her alone you vultures." Alex interjected, handing Samantha a glass of wine. "Here, Honey, I'm going over and join the 'serious' discussion at the other end of the deck."

"Gods Alex, you're going to leave me alone with these . . . these . . . friends?"

"Yeah, that's what I had in mind." Alex smiled as she gave Sam a quick peck on the cheek.

"Don't be long, I thought we came out here to swim." She watched as the love of her life strolled gracefully over toward the opposite end of the patio.


The next few hours seemed to fly by. Samantha got to visit a little with Suzanne while Sally and Sonny played catch by the pool and Suz caught her up on all the gossip in the transcribing business. Suzanne said she was doing Angel and Alex's dictation and gave Samantha a pat on the back for their training. She also explained that Danny needed to be back at work Monday morning, so the two of them would be leaving tomorrow night. Samantha said she understood completely about having to get back for work and was thrilled that they all got to come down and visit. In the back of her mind she made a note to take time out tomorrow to walk with Sally alone sometime so the two of them could talk.

By the time Samantha finished her wine, Alex was back by her side ready to take the promised swim. After a short game of water volleyball, those who were not exhausted after the Sea World tour, were now very much so and felt that if they didn't go rest soon they would never arise to tackle the zoo trip in the morning.

Kelley begged off early and went to join Aurora in their suite.

En masse the small troupe made their way back to the other end of the villa and to their prospective suites and rooms.

"Breakfast will be served at 9:00 a.m. sharp. Anyone getting up early can come help, anyone up later will go to the zoo hungry." Alex informed everyone as they said goodnight in the hallway.

"Better be up," Samantha added, "she's a stickler and I don't leave leftovers."

"We don't leave leftovers." Sonny corrected her with a hug and kiss goodnight. "See you in the morning Sweetness. Night Alex. Night all."

One by one the guests exchanged evening farewells until Alex sarcastically broke up the little ritual. "Damn, I feel like one of the Waltons - let's just have a group hug and a mass 'goodnight'; this conversation could go 'round in circles for hours and I for one am tired."

"Big baby," Samantha teased as they continued to walk toward their suite. Upon reaching their door, Sam turned and waved at those still left standing in the hall conversing.

Alex waited until Sam entered then closed the door behind them.

"Are you still glad I didn't go out and tell them all that you fell asleep?" Alex queried.

"Yes, I'm glad. It was a nice couple of hours, after I got through the teasing. You could have stayed around and weathered some of that with me, you know." Samantha pinched her lover on the arm.

"Ouch! I told you they'd do that. I didn't want to listen to Sonny gloat." Alex started to reciprocate with a pinch of her own but seeing the anticipated expression on Samantha's face, she reconsidered. "Okay . . . Jacuzzi or shower?"

"Jacuzzi sounds wonderful but I'm afraid I'll fall asleep in the water."

"I'm afraid I'll want a repeat of the incident just before we left for the pool." Alex grinned over at Sam.

"Nooooo, no repeat tonight. If today was any indication of tomorrow's activities, we're going to need some rest. I guess a Quick shower is what we need." Samantha walked toward the bathroom.

"Can we at least take it together?" Alex pleaded, smiling as she took on the whiny tone Samantha used when something wasn't going her way.

"Can you behave?"

"Does a bear shit in the woods?"

"Not the ones in the zoo, as you will see tomorrow."

"Oh, all right, party pooper - shower and on my best behavior." The dark angel finally gave in as she followed the blonde into the bathing area.

Minutes later, a cleaner but still tired duo tumbled into bed.

"Are you enjoying your weekend, Samantha?"

"How could I not be?" The small blonde snuggled closer and looked up, appreciation beamed from her eyes as she stretched to give Alex a thank you kiss. "You're making it difficult for me to think of wishes when I spot the Evening Star. You're granting them all before I have a chance to make them."

"Then I guess you'll just have to start working overtime thinking up new ones. Maybe you should go beyond the scope of the small wish and go more towards the extravagant. They may take more time to grant." She held her love close, basking in the warmth of Samantha's skin. "What do you want for a real gift for your birthday?"

"Alex - you've got to be kidding me!" Samantha pushed up on her elbow so she could look her lover directly in the eyes. "This weekend . . . all the time and money you've put into having our friends and my sister come and spend it with us . . . this is all the birthday present I expect."

The dark-haired woman smiled up into serious green eyes. "Put the twinkle back into those emeralds, Irish. This weekend is Not your birthday; it's only leading up to it. Now, I'll ask you again - what do you want for a real gift?"

Samantha plopped back down on the bed, her head resting in the curve of her lover's arm, eyes staring directly up at the ceiling. "Let's see - what could I possibly want for my birthday?" She paused, placing her hand on her mouth, thinking. After a minute of silence she again resumed her elbow position. "I would like to fly to a lover's paradise, other than the one we already live in, and spend a week with just the two of us."

"That sounds like something I'd wish for."

"Honestly, Alex - I know we'll be spending the rest of the week here with your folks after everyone else leaves and I'm sure we'll be going lots of places. I really don't want anything other than that for my birthday. There is going to be no way in Hades that I can ever match this celebration when your birthday rolls around in February."

"Sure you can, anything you do will be . . ."

"No, Alex. I'll be able to throw you a party or something like that, but nothing compared to what you've already done. Do you know how much money you've spent this weekend already?"

"I believe so." She answered innocently, trying to get away from the serious expression on her lover's face. Alex pulled Samantha closer and gently whispered into her ear. "Don't worry about the money, my Destiny, it's Only money."

"But Alex, I don't have that kind of . . ."

"Do you need a raise, Samantha?"

"You're being ridiculous."

"No, I'm being serious."

"Alex, do you realize that we're getting way off the subject?"

"Yes, but if you need more money so you can spend it on me . . . well then . . . you need a raise."

Finally the dark-haired beauty got the reaction she had been working for. Samantha started laughing. "What in Tartarus Am I going to do with you, Alexis Dorian?"

"You are going to love me Forever, Samantha Riley."

"You bet your sweet ass I am!" Samantha kissed her passionately, beginning to rekindle her own desires as well as those of her dark angel.

Breaking off the kiss she put her head back down on her lover's chest, her fingers tracing circles in the muscular flesh of Alex's exposed stomach. "I'll love you forever, Alex, you can count on that. You fire up the depths of my desire just by looking at me, but for now my darling, for this very minute, we'd better get some rest or as I said before there will be no dealing with me in the morning."

Alex breathed deeply and squeezed her arms around the precious gift, who had come into her life to make her whole. "Sweet dreams, my Destiny."

"Sweet dreams, Alex."

Samantha once again looked out the glass doors, trying to compose a wish for the heavens. The only thing that kept coming to mind was that perhaps someday she would be a famous author like Aurora and then there wouldn't be all these petty discussions about money. She thought back to what Sonny had said about the Dorians having more money than they could ever imagine spending and tried to make herself comfortable with Alex spending so much of her money on this weekend.

I guess if the tables were turned and I was the one with the money, I would be lavishing you with extravagant parties and luxuries. When she thought about it in that respect, everything became a little more palatable. With the conflict settled in her mind, sleep was just a breath away.

The stars twinkled high above in their heavens as the small blonde sighed deeply, her frustrations released for the time being. Sensing that the woman who had captured her heart was already sound asleep she cuddled closer and kissed her gently on the chest. "I love you Alex," she whispered. "You're my hero in more ways than you could ever imagine."

End of Chapter 4

Chapter 5

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