"Jo, I'd like to try out your bed to see if it's softer than this queen-sized one," Shannon said. "You don't mind, do you?" She got up and swiftly moved over to Jo's bed and sat down beside her.
"Oh, this is really nice!" she exclaimed, bouncing up and down, her voice husky. She stopped and took Jo's hand and then brought it to her lips and started kissing her fingers. She put one finger in her mouth. Jo began to tremble with excitement.
"I've wanted to do this," Shannon said, "but I didn't dare do anything on the plane. I think you know what I mean, don't you?" She began breathing rapidly and then started kissing Jo's palm. "I noticed you were having a hard time dealing with it, too. You can only do so much in public—on an airplane—and you can only get so close—"
She leaned closer, her chest now heaving with desire, and slid an arm around Jo's neck and her other hand under Jo's shirt. "It was all I could do to contain myself."
Jo was speechless, and her heart starting pounding. Her eyes closed in response. Shannon pushed Jo down on the pillow, at the same time raising her shirt and bra. She heard Jo's quick intake of breath. Her next mumblings were lost in translation as she brought her mouth down to one of Jo's nipples gently kissing and rolling her tongue over the tip. She moved over to lie on top of her.
"Oh, God, Shannon, I can't believe this is happening," Jo muttered, finally regaining her speech. Her eyes were still closed and her back was arching. "You must have been reading my mind."
Shannon 's hand moved down and her head moved up, as she began to fumble with the buttons on Jo's cargo pants and kiss her tenderly at the same time. The kiss soon progressed into increasing passion as Jo's mouth opened to take her tongue inside.
Jo muttered in between lips that parted and came together again, "You know...just where...to go...with...a woman…don't you?" She pulled her mouth away and tried to take Shannon's shirt off over her head, pulling Shannon 's hand away from the buttons on her cargo pants at the same time. "You don't waste any time."
Shannon could hardly contain the arousal that was causing her thighs to throb. I don't know if I can wait much longer—
"I don't have much time," she said jaggedly. "I may be here only one night before I have to go somewhere on a photo shoot. I don't how long I might be gone at one time. So I want to make good use of the time now ."
She was breathless and Jo was struggling with trying to take her shirt off. It seemed to be stuck going over her head. So Shannon hurriedly undid her shirt buttons. As her shirt came off, Jo noted she didn't have a bra on. She immediately brought her hands to Shannon 's breasts and took one nipple into her mouth and started sucking gently, her tongue working at the same time. She felt, rather than heard, Shannon 's heartbeat accelerating. She felt as if she were about to explode, when Shannon spoke again.
"Oh, God, Jo—I need you down here ," she said, taking Jo's hand and bringing it to her pants, which she had started to unbutton, "in the worst way." She leaned back on her hands, straddling Jo, while Jo undid some more buttons and slid her hand inside Shannon 's panties where she found her already soaking wet center of desire.
It was Rose. "Hey, you two! Davie should be coming back up from the bungalow soon. Come on into the kitchen and have a bite to eat."
"Damn!" Shannon and Jo whispered at the same time.
"Be right there, Rose," Jo hollered, in what she hoped was a normal voice. She held her breath for the longest time until she heard Rose's footsteps recede.
"You can't stop now, Jo," Shannon said softly. "You have to finish this. I'll be a wreck if you don't." She gripped Jo's hand in place to keep it from moving away.
"I'm not about to stop," Jo said, breathlessly, though her own arousal was sadly decreasing due to Rose's untimely interruption. She pulled Shannon down beside her and moved her fingers around in Shannon 's wet until she found her clit and then moved up and down on that jewel hard and fast. With her mouth glued to Shannon 's, she found the hole where the soft, silky wetness was coming from. She inserted two fingers and began to move in and out, deeper with each stroke, her thumb still stroking up and down on her clit. "Hnnn...hnnn...hnnn...hnnn," Shannon said around Jo's mouth as she rocked her thighs back and forth in rhythm to Jo's probing fingers.
"You really like that, don't you?" Jo said, taking her mouth away from Shannon 's. Shannon murmured something unintelligible, her eyes closed. Then she tensed and arched her back and started shuddering while Jo hung on with her fingers continuing to move, giving Shannon all she wanted to complete her climax. Shannon gave one last shudder, and her feet kicked against the wall with a loud thud. Jo eased her fingers out of Shannon as she went limp.
"Oh, God, baby, that was so good," Shannon said finally, after regaining her breath, resting her head on Jo's breasts. "I needed that so much."
"So did I," Jo responded, trembling. "I wish we had more time, but Rose is expecting us in the kitchen, so we better go."
"I'll get to you later," Shannon said. She kissed her tenderly and then brazenly brushed her breasts against Jo's face as she straddled her briefly before she swung her legs over the side of Jo's bed and sat up.
"I'll hold you to that," Jo said, kissing a breast in passing. She took a deep breath to calm herself down. They hurriedly pulled their clothes back together in some semblance of composure and then started laughing at what had just happened.
"I don't usually do things like this with a woman I've just met, Jo," Shannon said. "I hope you understand that."
"Oh, sure. I understand," Jo replied. "I don't usually hit on a woman right off the bat, either. But we couldn't help it, could we?"
They laughed some more. Jo grabbed Shannon and pushed her back down on her bed, began kissing her again and then decided she better stop. "I guess we'll have to go back into the kitchen and visit with Rose," Jo said, getting up as Shannon moved to her own bed. "I said that, didn't I? We better go before Rose decides to open our door and see why we haven't put in an appearance yet. Rose is the pen pal I told you about."
"I figured she was," Shannon responded, laughing at Jo's inept and stumbling effort to communicate. "Should we tell them we know each other from the plane trip over from Sydney ?"
"No, I don't think that's necessary, do you?"
Shannon shook her head. "Not really," she said. She got up and opened the bedroom door and looked across to the bathroom.
"I think I'll just stay here for a little while, Jo. I'm going to take an Advil and lie down. I have a slight headache. Do you need to use the bathroom? I thought I'd take a shower first. I'm pretty sticky from sitting outside in the hot sun down in town before Fred came and picked us up." Then she added with a wink, "as well as from what just happened." Then she broke out in a broad grin.
Jo responded with a comical grin and said, "I'll take a shower later, before I go to bed. But I really need to wash my hands." She looked down at them, and Shannon burst out laughing.
Jo really did feel better, now that she had arrived at her destination and knew she wouldn't be boarding another plane for a while. Seeing Shannon again had boosted her spirits as well. And after what just happened....WOW! She didn't think anything she did right now would make her feel much better than that.
"Will you make my apologies to our hosts?" Shannon asked. She was more tired from her trip than she realized.
"Sure. See you in a little bit then," Jo responded. She leaned over and kissed Shannon tenderly and walked out of the bedroom. After using the bathroom, she strode confidently down the hallway.
* * * * * *
Shannon sat on her bed for a while after Jo left, thinking how she couldn't have stopped what was happening between them if she had tried. It seemed so right . She reached in her tote bag for an Advil. She saw a covered pitcher of water with two glasses beside it on the nightstand between the two beds and took a long drink of water as she swallowed her pain reliever.
After rummaging around in one of her suitcases for some clean clothes, she grabbed her toothbrush and toothpaste and went into the bathroom. She noticed the shower stall in the corner and the separate bathtub along the opposite end of the room—just as it had been eons ago, it seemed. There was the mirror over the sink that she remembered having to step on her tippy-toes to see into because the prior owners were quite tall and had put up the mirror for themselves . The bathroom looked basically the same as it did when she was last here. Nothing had changed, except for the soap dish on the side of the bathtub. She thought of running water in the tub and soaking, but decided a shower would suffice.
The water hadn't heated up yet when she stepped in the shower stall, so the shower was very brief out of necessity. She didn't want to spend a lot of time under cold water. When she was finished, she walked back into the bedroom and looked around again.
The room was so familiar to her, even though she hadn't been here for ten years. The colors of the room had been changed from the peach tones she remembered, to the blue colors. And there had been only the queen-sized bed then—the one she had shared with Kim. There was an additional smaller bed now and a small dresser. There were two fans going in the room, and the cross-breeze was quite relaxing. She knew the old house was well-insulated. Cool in the hot summer—like it was now—and warm in the winter when she and Kim were here.
She ran her hand over the quilt on the bed and thought how beautiful it was with its intricate designs. Another quilt covered the other bed as well. Rose must do quilting , she thought, admiring the handiwork.
She closed the bedroom door and lay down on the bed with her head on the pillow—straddling on her stomach, arms outstretched, remembering the past. Tears came to her eyes.
I should be over Kim after all these years. But seeing this place again, and being in the same room we shared, brings it all back. I should never have come here, not even because of the massive amount of money I'm making. But I couldn't help myself. I had to come back. I just had to.
She allowed herself to drift back into her memories while her tears made her pillow wet. She finally fell asleep, shutting out the muffled conversation coming from the kitchen.
Jo walked into the kitchen just as Rose was setting food on the table. She gave her Shannon 's apology, saying, "She was going to take a shower and then lie down for a while. She has kind of a headache."
"What was that thud I heard just before you came out here?" Rose said. "It sounded like something hit the wall."
Jo could feel her face turning red, and rather than look directly at Rose, she turned around and joined Fred at the counter. She remembered Shannon had kicked the wall when she had an orgasm.
"Oh, Shannon went to pick up her suitcase and it came open. Everything fell out and she dropped it then." She thought that was a plausible explanation. "That must have been what you heard."
Changing the subject, she began talking with her hosts about her adventure of getting her luggage out of the airport, the dog sniffing her backpack, and showing her declarations card over and over. She hadn't had a chance to talk about things coming up from Melbourne , because Rose and Fred monopolized the conversation. And she had fallen asleep, also.
Davie entered the kitchen to the buzz of conversation. He supposed the three of them were getting acquainted. They were talking like they'd known each other for ages. He didn't know Jo and Rosalie had been pen pals for years through e-mails.
"Well, here's our young man, Davie ," Fred exclaimed, looking up. "Did you find everything all right down at the bungalow?"
"Yes, sir. Thank you so much," Davie replied, leaning on the counter. "It's very nice."
"Jo said Shannon wouldn't be joining us for the meal," Rose said. "Is she just worn out from her trip?" She was fishing for information from Davie , since he had been traveling with her. Davie unwittingly took the bait.
"Actually, she had an allergic reaction to some seafood night before last," Davie chimed in, "and she might not be over the effects of that."
Jo looked up abruptly. This was the first she'd heard of that. Why hadn't Shannon mentioned something to her? They'd talked a lot on the plane, but that subject had never come up.
"Oh, the poor dear!" Rose exclaimed. "Did the doctors do anything for her?"
"The doctor on call at her hotel gave her a shot, which helped her to breathe again—and the rash went away after a short while. She seemed to be all right. I guess she's probably worn out now in addition to that."
Suddenly Davie realized that he probably shouldn't have said anything about what happened to Shannon . If Mr. Bannister finds out about this—
He wished he could have taken back everything he'd just said. But maybe Rose will forget about it, he rationalized.
Of course, being so young and innocent in the ways of the world, Davie was not aware that people who managed B&B s seldom forgot anything.
"Mum is coming for dinner this evening," Rose continued. "Fred will pick her up, as she doesn't drive. She's bringing some Aussie pies to add to our meal. There's no way she can eat all of them. She was the cook over here at the hospital for 27 years—when there was a hospital. It's a clinic now. She's never gotten used to cutting down her recipes after cooking for so many people. Anyway, here's a little bit of something to eat to tide you over till then."
She put the finishing touches on the meal by setting out glasses and a huge pitcher of iced tea on the table. "Let's all sit over here at the kitchen table now."
They looked at what Rose called a "little bit of something to eat," and Jo thought what Rose had set on the table could have substituted quite well for dinner. It was much more than she normally ate at home at dinnertime. There were large croissant rolls, fresh from the bakery, slathered with rich creamery butter. Slabs of cold pork with thick slices of cheese beckoned to be put on the rolls. To add to that was fresh lettuce and huge tomato slices. A potato salad and side dishes of pickled onions and beets rounded out the meal.
Jo bit into the cheese and couldn't quite place the taste. A little like cheddar, and somewhat like Colby, but not really either one. Whatever it was, it was delicious ! She all of a sudden found an appetite after the bite of cheese and looking at the feast set before them.
After the meal was well under way, Rose brought out a fresh rhubarb pie and sat it on the counter. She'd baked it the day before when the weather was cooler.
"Save room for pie," she said and then sat back down at the table.
She went on to explain that she had tubs of frozen rhubarb in the freezer down in the bungalow that they harvested from their rhubarb patch next to the garage. She made pies and sauces and breads with it throughout the year until the rhubarb grew back and was ready to harvest again. "Can't seem to use it up fast enough."
Jo loved rhubarb and remembered her mother's patch and the fresh strawberries she cooked in with it for a scrumptious sauce. She savored Rose's rhubarb pie from the very first bite, while she and Davie handed out compliments to Rose for the umpteenth time about her culinary skills.
After they finished eating, Davie excused himself and rose from the table and walked over and picked up the house phone in the kitchen. "Mrs. Hamus, do you mind if I use your phone to call my boss? My mobile doesn't seem to be working."
Rose looked under her eyebrows at him and said it would cost extra. The only time she got free long-distance calling was from 10 to 10:30 in the morning.
"Well, I can pay extra," Davie responded nonchalantly. His finger was already on the touchtone buttons. "I really need to call Mr. Bannister."
Rose nodded and then got up and started clearing the table. Jo rose to help her, but she waved her back down.
"Hello, Mr. Bannister," Davie said. "Just wanted to let you know Shannon and I arrived in Clunes all right. We're at the Willowbranch B&B , and Shannon is settled in and taking a nap right now."
Only one side of the conversation was heard by the others, but everyone listened intently, nevertheless, to what Davie was saying to his boss. He turned his head away and tried to talk softer, but Mr. Bannister told him to speak louder, as the reception wasn't very good.
"Did she take some pictures of the town?" Mr. Bannister asked.
Davie wondered why his boss would ask that. They hadn't even started working yet. "Yes sir, I can say that with certainty. Not many, but a few." He determined to keep their conversation as brief and noncommittal as possible at his end of the line.
"Good. We'll probably have her take more later on. Tomorrow make sure she takes some pictures of the B&B . A lot of pictures."
"Yes sir, I'll pass that information on to her." Again, he wondered why Mr. Bannister wanted Shannon to use her camera before they officially started working—which wasn't going to happen until Mr. Bannister arrived in Clunes. "By the way, Shannon is expecting her friend in two days."
"Yes, I know. You told me the other day, but I didn't know her full name, so I've been unable to locate her."
"Do you want me to ask?"
"That's okay, Davie . I'll take care of it when the time comes. That's for me to worry about. Your job is to keep an eye on Ms. Brooks. Have you been able to make arrangements for us to stay there at the B&B like I asked you to, or do we need to find lodging elsewhere?"
"The Hamuses are letting out the small bungalow just below the main house, and there is plenty of room. So we'll both be able to stay here."
"All right then. That makes it even better for what I have in mind. I'll be arriving there late tomorrow afternoon. I'm renting a car here and will be driving up. I want you to go ahead and pay the Hamuses for both of us staying there a couple of weeks. Write them a check from our business account. You did remember to bring the checkbook, didn't you?"
"Yes sir. It's in my suit coat."
"When you write the check, put in a little extra—like a couple hundred dollars—because it's kind of an on the spur-of-the-moment thing. Got that? We want to keep our hosts happy and contented."
Yes sir, I'll do that right now. I'll be expecting you tomorrow afternoon then."
With those final words, Davie hung up the phone and turned to his hosts. "I probably should have checked with you first , but my employer, Mr. Bannister, will be here tomorrow afternoon so we can get a start on our photo shoot. I hope you won't mind having an extra guest. He can stay with me in the bungalow. I'd like to pay you right now for two week's lodging, if that's all right with you, that is. If you're expecting someone else, we could find somewhere else to stay—" He left the sentence hanging.
Davie was usually the paragon of politeness. Mr. Bannister was teaching him that rudeness and aggressiveness had no place in dealing with people. They could usually see right through that façade, anyway. But kindness and politeness went a long way toward building good relationships. He hoped he sounded congenial enough.
"Oh, no worries, Davie boy," Fred said. "You blokes can stay as long as you want to. I'm glad we have the room. We wouldn't put any other guest in with you in the bungalow, anyway."
"Thank you. I'll just go down to the bungalow and get my checkbook." He went out the door and was back in a flash.
As he handed the check to Fred, he could almost hear the wheels spinning in Fred's head. He watched Fred's eyes grow wide when he saw the amount of money on the check. He guessed Fred was counting up the extra money they'd be making that they hadn't planned on. Not just one extra guest, but now two .
Fred was thinking how he and Rose could certainly use the money. This B&B they had purchased five years ago hadn't turned out to be the lucrative money-making venture they had envisioned. But they had dreamed all of their married lives of having a B&B . So they counted on their guests to spread the word of how well they were treated and hoped other people would choose to stay with them. They had had minimal responses so far through their recently developed web site.
Maybe these photography people would bring in more guests. And as far as he knew, all of these people would be staying for two weeks, except for Rosalie's pen pal. She would be here for three weeks. Shannon had paid in advance for a place to sleep for herself and her friend, and now Davie had just given him money for himself and his employer, so he wouldn't be out any money if no one stayed as long as they had intended. It was their policy not to give refunds, anyway.
Fred didn't want to charge Jo anything for staying here because of his wife's friendship with her. But while Davie was down at the bungalow getting his checkbook, Jo insisted on giving Rose at least half of what they would charge someone else. Rose started to say no, but after looking over at Fred—who was nodding his head—she accepted Jo's check. She beamed when she saw the amount in American dollars, as that would amount to even more Australian dollars with the current exchange rate. That was additional money they never expected.
Things were definitely looking up! With Christmas only a few days away, now they wouldn't have to scrabble for money to buy Christmas gifts for their many children and grandchildren.
"I'm going back down to the bungalow and rest," Davie said, and left. Why did Mr. Bannister say staying here makes it even better for what he has in mind? And what does he have in mind? He didn't want to question his boss over the phone about it. He didn't really want to question him about anything , as Mr. Bannister was the boss.
He wouldn't have minded staying at another B&B . But after he and Shannon had waited in town for Fred to pick them up, he realized there was no other transportation to be found so that he could drive himself around to even look for another B&B . Except for Tunney's of Clunes, probably. He didn't know for sure, though, that it was a B&B. And it was a long way to walk from the Willowbranch. So it was a good thing the Hamuses had plenty of room.
Jo excused herself, also, and walked down the hallway to the bathroom. She stopped in front of the blue room. The door was closed, and she opened it quietly. Looking in, she saw Shannon straddled across the bed on her stomach, arms outstretched, seemingly dead to the world.
She wondered again why Shannon hadn't said anything about her allergic reaction to what she'd eaten. She stood in the open doorway and watched her slow and even breathing for a while and then closed the door softly and continued on to the bathroom.
She didn't know why she was so attracted to this beautiful and mysterious woman. Shannon seemed attracted to her as well.
G'day, mum," Rosalie said, hugging her mother when Fred handed her in from the veranda. He then disappeared out the back gate to the garage, muttering something about his chooks .
Jo wondered what chooks were and found out later they were chickens. She was surprised they had about three dozen chickens and sold eggs on the side to supplement their income.
Rose took the foil-wrapped pan of Aussie pies her mother held out to her and set it on the counter.
"I was just visiting with me pen pal,” she said. “A young man is staying with us, too, and he went down to the bungalow to take a nap a couple of hours ago. Our other guest is sleeping a bit. Poor girl—her name is Shannon—she got a touch of an allergic reaction in Sydney when she ate some seafood that didn't agree with her. So we've just been letting her stay down for a while. It's the best thing for her."
It was almost 5 o'clock, and Jo was also about to conk out. But she didn't want to duck out on her friend, especially now that her friend's mother had put in an appearance.
It was only during her earlier conversation with Rose and Fred that Jo realized how much the Hamuses were completely family-oriented. Almost everything they talked about were their six children—the four sons and two daughters who were grown now—plus the grandchildren, Rose's brothers, her mum and Fred's brothers. Jo was happy to see such a close-knit family. But Rose also talked now about disappointments with children when they were younger, and how her brother had been sick and her mother had been ailing. "She's 90 years old, you know," Rose said.
Jo didn't ever remember Rose discussing much in her e-mails concerning family things like she was doing now. She realized family was very important to the Hamuses. Since Jo herself had no family left except an older brother, she couldn't contribute much to the conversation. So she mostly listened. Now and then her eyelids would droop, and she could very easily have fallen asleep at the table like she had done in the car on the ride up from Melbourne . She forced herself to stay awake.
Rose's mother, however, livened up things. She was definitely not ailing now . She was spry and intelligent and showed no symptoms of senility or anything else debilitating to others of her age. Jo was surprised when she was introduced and reached her hand out, that mum pulled her in close and gave her a hearty hug every bit as bear-like as Rose's hugs!
There was a knock on the back door when they were sitting at the kitchen table talking. Rose opened it to a friend of hers named Bertie, who came by with a small quilt she was making for a six-weeks-old great-grandson for Christmas. She had almost completed it and wanted Rosalie's advice on how to embroider his name, the placement of the name on the quilt, and different colors to use. Rose was glad to help her out, as she was the quilting expert in Clunes.
Jo secretly thought that the reason Bertie just dropped in was to see Rose's mysterious friend from America . Word gets around in Clunes pretty quick , she thought.
She politely smiled after introductions and then listened to Bertie and Rose talk back and forth about the quilt. Bertie glanced at Jo every now and then, and mum added her two cent's worth to the conversation.
Bertie left around six, and Fred returned to the house. He washed up at the sink in the washroom and then came into the kitchen, sat down at the table and started reading the daily newspaper. Davie made his appearance shortly thereafter looking very refreshed. After being introduced to Rose's mum, he also sat down at the table.
"I brought up some fresh eggs so you'll have enough to make that quiche you were going to, Rose," Fred said, peering over the top of his newspaper.
"Thank you, love. You're a sweetheart," Rose responded. "I'll get started on that right now."
She immediately gathered up the other ingredients she would need, along with mixing bowls and utensils. Within fifteen minutes the quiche was in the oven to bake for an hour.
A half hour later, Shannon appeared. Jo smiled broadly, and thought how rested she looked now. And after her shower, her skin is glowing! It made Jo realize just how grungy she herself was, and she was looking forward to a shower later.
Shannon eyes captured and connected with Jo's—her arousal plainly showing. She was suddenly aware that everyone was staring at her. She embarrassingly dropped her gaze and sat down next to Rose's mother at the table, sandwiching herself between her and Davie . Jo was sitting across from her. Rose lost no time in introducing Shannon to her mum.
"How are you feeling, dear?" Rose asked. " Davie tells me you had a touch of a bad reaction to some seafood."
Shannon looked over at Davie and then looked at Jo, who raised her eyebrows questioningly.
"Oh, he did? Well, I'm fine. I think I was just overly tired from the long trip. I needed to sleep for a while."
Mum reached over and patted Shannon on the hand. "You poor dear," she said, smiling.
"Let me fix you a ‘cuppa'," Rose said. "Sometimes a spot of tea will cure most anything."
She pulled a cup from the cupboard under the counter, immediately dropped in a tea bag and poured hot water over it. Shannon thanked her—wishing they all wouldn't be so concerned. She got up from the table and sat down at the counter where Rose had placed the steaming brew.
Jo thought how down home the atmosphere was as she listened to the activity surrounding her. Reminiscences from her own childhood came to her mind of similar activities. She was suddenly very glad her pen pal asked her to come and visit. Thoughts of Paige retreated further from her mind.
They sat down to the evening meal at 7:30 p.m. It could have been called a banquet! The main dishes consisted of mum's warmed-over Aussie pies with their very flaky crust and Rose's quiche. Different kinds of steamed veggies, sliced tomatoes again, and fresh dinner rolls were in abundance. To drink, they had a choice of milk, iced apple cider, beer, or just plain water. Davie and Fred each had a beer, and the four women decided to have apple cider. For dessert there was vanilla ice cream with fruit compote.
There was enough room at the kitchen table for the six of them. If there had been more guests, they would have sat at the formal dining table in the dining room, which seated ten. Outside of visiting parents of the local high school who came for various school events during the year, the Hamuses rarely had that many guests in their B&B .
Most guests usually stayed one night, ate breakfast and left. But once in a while some stayed more than one night and came back for supper—so that it became more of a room-and-board arrangement.
Rose loved to prepare food for her guests, especially evening meals where she could strut out her favorite dishes. She was pleased as punch when she thought of all the evening meals she would be cooking for the guests she had now.
They all ate heartily, and there was no lack of conversation around the table.
Davie directed his attention to Shannon . "Oh, by the way, Shannon , Mr. Bannister wanted me to tell you he'd like a lot of pictures taken of the B&B . Could you do that?"
"Oh, you've talked to Mr. Bannister since we got here?" Shannon inquired.
"Yes, after we had our afternoon snack, Mrs. Hamus let me use her phone," Davie replied. "Mine wasn't working. He'll be here late tomorrow afternoon."
What in the world is going on? Shannon thought. I was led to believe I was going to be taking photos of small towns. Why does Mr. Bannister want photos of this B&B? Maybe Davie knows. Actually, I haven't officially started work yet, either.
" Davie ," Shannon said, speaking directly to him, "why does Mr. Bannister want me to take a lot of photos of the Willowbranch ? What does that have to do with photographing small towns?"
"I really don't know, Shannon . Maybe he wants to see some of your work before you officially start on the assignment." He shrugged his shoulders.
That's a strange answer, Shannon thought. He's already seen my work in the States, or he never would have hired me. But maybe Davie just doesn't know why.
Her thoughts were interrupted when she realized Davie had said something else. "I'm sorry, Davie , what did you say?"
"I said—you will be able to take pictures of the B&B , won't you?"
Shannon responded, "It's getting kind of late now and the light just isn't right for any good pictures of the B&B . I can do that in the morning. But Mr. Bannister won't be able to view them till I can get to a bank and get some money exchanged so I can buy an adapter for my computer. So if I don't do that before he gets here, he'll just have to wait."
"I guess that will have to do then," Davie said, disappointed for Mr. Bannister's sake. He wondered what his boss was going to say about not being able to see any pictures Shannon took of the B&B before he arrived, if she didn't get an adapter before then.
"He also thought you might be able to take some more pictures of Clunes later, too. I told him you'd already taken a few."
Pictures of Clunes? What does that have to do with anything? Shannon thought. This is getting stranger and stranger.
"As far as pictures of downtown Clunes are concerned," Shannon said, "those are my own private photos, not for Mr. Bannister. I hope you will convey that to him. And unless he is including Clunes on his list of small towns to photograph, I won't be taking any more pictures here except for myself. I am not officially working yet, and what I do before I start working is my own business. That also holds for the pictures I take of the B&B . They're mine."
Davie looked bewildered. Oh, boy , he thought. How am I going to explain all this to my boss?
Our shooting was going to take place in a certain time frame, Shannon thought, and Mr. Bannister has changed his mind so many times already. And now he wants pictures of the B&B ? And of Clunes? Well, he's going to be here tomorrow and I can get this mess straightened out. I'm not handing out freebies to him. If he really wants photos outside of my job, he'll have to pay for them.
"By the way," she addressed Rose and Fred, "is there anywhere around here I can rent a car? I would like to get out and explore some of the countryside on my own."
Fred and Rose looked at each other. Rose stopped in the middle of a bite and spoke up, "I'm sorry, but we don't have any place like that here that lets cars. And we only have one bus a day that comes through town. Usually people who stay at our B&B have their own vehicle."
"You mean there's no way a person can get around in this place unless they walk ? Or have someone else drive them?" Shannon was astonished.
"We could take you anywhere you'd be wanting to go," Rose offered, "as long as it isn't too far away from the B&B . We don't want to be away too long because you never know when someone might drop by unexpectedly or call on the phone or even contact us on our web site. We just assumed you would have your own vehicle."
She thought for a moment and then said with a quizzical expression on her face, "But I guess if you took the bus from Melbourne to here, you wouldn't have a car, would you?" Her face brightened. "But Mr. Bannister is coming tomorrow and he'll be driving, won't he? You would have a car then—" Her voice trailed away.
"Oh, God," Shannon muttered under her breath, all of a sudden losing her appetite. She dropped her spoon in the dish of ice cream. She was horrified to learn that she would be without any transportation except for the good graces of her hosts. If she wanted to go anywhere, she would have to ask them to drive her. And she wasn't about to wait for Mr. Bannister to arrive with a car. She wanted to be out on the road without anybody. He probably wouldn't let her drive the car, anyway.
What had she gotten into? Her stomach did flip-flops when she realized there were no options now. Here she was—stranded! I can't even go off by myself, or with Carly. I really wanted to do some exploring on my own.
She racked her brain and then remembered that she and Kim had rented a car when they stayed here years ago. She knew they had traveled to different towns. Since there was no car rental in Clunes, where had they gotten the car?
"I'm so sorry," Rose said when she saw the disappointment on Shannon 's face.
Fred spoke up then. "I have to drive into Ballarat tomorrow to get some feed for me chooks. If you want to ride along, I can drop you off, if you'd like, at some place where they let vehicles."
"Alfred, you're a lifesaver!" Shannon broke out in a broad smile. "Of course, I'd like to ride along. What time will you be leaving?"
"Early, around 7 in the morning."
"Okay. I think I can get up then."
"I'll come along, too," Davie said.
" Davie , there's no reason for you to come," Shannon said, glaring at him. "I'm going to be stopping and taking pictures on the way back, and you really need to be here in case Mr. Bannister shows up earlier than he planned. Don't you think so? He might be a little upset if there was no one here to greet him."
She didn't want Davie to come. Although she didn't say so out loud, she needed some time to herself, to do a little thinking on her own without unwanted interruptions.
"Well, when you put it that way—" Davie said. "You'll be all right, won't you?"
" Davie , what could possibly happen to me way out here? Of course I'll be all right. It isn't as if I was in danger of being attacked by a wild animal or something!" She wondered why Davie was so insistent in keeping an eye on her.
"Would it be all right if I come along?" Jo asked, lifting her eyebrows hopefully as she looked at Shannon .
Shannon looked across the table at her. This was an unexpected and delicious twist in her plans. She thought Jo would want to spend all of her time with her pen pal. Thoughts of being by herself fled by the wayside as she answered, "Sure! If Rose doesn't mind, that is." She looked at Rose questioningly.
"You girls go ahead. I have plenty to do around here," Rose said. "And since Jo is going to be with us longer than you and Davie , we'll have plenty of time to visit. She may as well get out, too, and explore the countryside."
Shannon looked at Davie and then said to him. "Now that would give me double protection, Davie , so you wouldn't be so worried about me." She picked up her spoon again and dug heartily into her dish of ice cream.
Davie never heard her. He was deep in thought, wondering what Mr. Bannister was going to say if he arrived and Shannon was not around.
"Well, that's settled then," Fred said. "I'll expect the both of you up bright and early."
Jo and Shannon exchanged glances one more time before the conversation veered off in another direction. They saw in each other's eyes much more than just a casual agreement.
Fred rose from the table when he finished eating and immediately started clearing the dishes off while Rose rinsed them and loaded them into the dishwasher. The rest of them started to help and Rose shooed them away, saying they were guests, not the hired help. She told them to go make themselves comfortable in the living room and turn on the tele if they wanted to. After Fred did all Rose would let him do, he excused himself and said he had to take mum home.
After warm good-byes, Jo turned to her friend. "Rose, would you mind if I used your computer? I'd like to send a couple of messages back home.”
"Of course not, dear," Rose responded. "It's right over there in the corner below the little tele in the kitchen. Let me dry me hands and I'll show you how to log on."
Shannon and Davie were sitting in front of the TV in the living room watching McLeod's Daughters , the hit Australian drama, while Jo sat at the computer. She didn't want to write to any of her yoga students, but dropped a short note to her friend who was taking over her classes so she could pass on a hello to her students. She remembered she'd told Paige before she left the States that Paige could write to her if she wanted to, but felt she should let her know she had arrived safe and sound. Paige might never send her a letter.
Dear Paige, she wrote . It's me, Jo. Here I am in Australia . Wish you were here. You'd love the open spaces and this nice B&B I'm staying in. My pen pal Rose is really nice, and so is her husband Alfred. There are two other guests staying here. One of them is a woman—her name is Shannon . I met her on the plane from Sydney to Melbourne . The other guest is a young man who is supposed to be looking out for Shannon till their employer gets here tomorrow. Shannon is on a photo shoot over here from the States to take pictures of small towns. In addition, Shannon has a friend meeting her here day after tomorrow. So there'll be two more guests. We've had to double up on sleeping space, so I'm sleeping in the same room as Shannon .
I wonder if you've given any thought about what we were talking about recently, and have you had a change of mind? If you want to write anything to me, you can e-mail me here at the B&B , using the e-mail address shown above. I'll be here for three weeks. I just wanted to touch base with you and let you know I'm here and having fun so far.
Miss you --- Jo
Well, so much for that, Jo thought, as she sent her e-mail. She probably won't even answer. And she wasn't sure if she was really interested anymore, even if Paige turned out to be the lesbian Jo believed she was.
She walked back into the living room and announced, "Hey, guys, I'm going to take a shower and go to bed. I didn't get that nap the both of you had, and I'm really tired. So see you in the morning?"
Davie vaguely answered “Okay,” all caught up in the TV program. Shannon looked up at her and said, "I'll be there shortly. Don't forget we have to get up early."
Jo nodded. "I'll set my alarm," she said. She started down the short hallway and told Rose goodnight as she passed the kitchen.
"Have a good rest, dear," Rose said. "See you in the morning. And I'll fix breakfast for the three of you before you leave. Or four—if Davie happens to be up at the same time."
* * * * * *
Jo was out like a light the minute she hit the pillow after her shower. She wore just her panties and sleeveless T-shirt to bed because even though the fans were humming steadily at 9 o'clock in the evening, it was still quite warm. She covered up with only a sheet. Jo never noticed when Shannon came quietly to bed.
"Sweetie, come here."
Jo opened her eyes with a start. Had she heard someone, or was she dreaming? Was someone in the room that shouldn't be there?
"Come over here, sweetie."
The voice again. Jo sat up. She looked at her alarm clock—1 a.m.
"Reach over here and give me your hand, Jo," the voice said pleadingly.
Jo realized then, that the voice was Shannon 's. Jo sat on the edge of her bed and reached her hand over to Shannon 's bed, a mere four feet from her. Shannon 's hand was there and she took hold of Jo's hand gently. "Come and sit beside me," she said.
Jo got up and sat down on the edge of Shannon 's bed. She looked down and saw by the veranda light that Shannon had not pulled the covers up over herself. In fact, she had nothing over her and was completely naked. Jo looked down lower on Shannon's body and saw the thatch of hair between her legs and thought that Shannon was going to hold true to what she said earlier about 'Jo's turn.' Jo was shaking with excitement.
"Please, sweetie, take your clothes off and lay down next to me. I want you close."
Jo hurriedly stripped herself of her panties and T-shirt and stretched out beside Shannon, who immediately threw her arm over Jo's stomach. Oh, God , Jo thought. Shannon knew exactly what she was doing. Her hand began to rub her stomach, around and around, and then moved up to her breasts and began fondling them, which quickly aroused Jo. She put her own hand over on Shannon 's stomach.
Shannon whispered, "I need you, Jo. I need you. Please help me."
Jo was beside herself with desire, and she bent over Shannon and began nuzzling Shannon 's breasts. Her nipples were full and puckered with arousal. She moved up to her neck and throat and then came to her face and started kissing her chin, her cheeks, her nose, and finally her mouth. She kept fondling Shannon 's breasts at the same time, saying, "Is this what you want? Does that feel good?" Shannon had taken her hand off Jo's breasts and was now yielding to every little thing Jo was doing to her. She was returning Jo's kisses with wild abandon, causing Jo to become even more aroused.
Then Shannon took Jo's hand and brought it down to her pubic hair and laid it there. She bent her knees and spread her thighs wide open.
"Right there, sweetie. It's all for you. I need you so much."
Jo began circling her hand on Shannon's Mons , and gradually her fingers found their way down to her clitoris. She began to rub up and down with her middle finger, gradually increasing the speed and intensity as she felt the clit start to swell up. She pulled up more of Shannon's milky wetness on her finger and began to rub harder, while Shannon made little moaning sounds and moved rhythmically to Jo's finger.
Jo was trying her best to give Shannon pleasure. As her tongue and lips found Shannon's nipples, she felt the swollenness of Shannon's clit and wondered what Shannon would do if she went down on her. But she wondered and waited a little too long. Shannon all of a sudden reached a climax, stiffening her body and arching her back and shuddered from head to toe as she came to orgasm, muttering unintelligible sounds.
Jo wasn't ready to stop what she was doing then, though she had to. Shannon had carefully reached down for her hand and brought it back up and placed it on her stomach.
"Are you sensitive on the tip of your clit?" Jo asked. I've heard it's that way with some women, Jo thought, though this is the first time I've encountered that.
"No, Jo. It's just that I'm so tired, and you are so wonderful to me. I just need to rest for a bit," Shannon said.
"All right, sweetheart," Jo responded. "You don't mind if I just lie here next to you for a while, do you?"
"No, of course not," Shannon replied.
Jo began to softly rub Shannon's stomach, with her head on Shannon 's shoulder. She thought how much she wanted a repeat performance, but with Shannon doing some of the performing on her! She could smell Shannon 's strong female scent on her fingers, and it was driving her wild!
"Oh, God, Shannon, I want you!" she whispered.
But she waited—silently and breathlessly. Moments passed, and Jo sensed that Shannon had fallen asleep. She could hear her regular breathing now and was reluctant to disturb her, even though her thighs were throbbing with unfulfilled passion. She must really be tired, she thought, sadly. I can't take advantage of her when she's like this.
She gently disentangled herself from Shannon and moved to sit on the edge of her own bed. She put her panties and T-shirt back on and then turned her face to the wall and tried to go to sleep.
A few minutes passed, and out of the darkness she heard Shannon mutter something in barely a whisper, but loud enough that Jo clearly understood. "I'm so glad you're here with me, my darling Kim."
Jo raised her head. Kim? Kim? Who the hell is Kim? she thought. Shannon must be dreaming. Dreaming about a former lover or something and talking in her sleep. What the hell is going on?
She got out of bed, stood over Shannon 's bed and noted she was still sleeping soundly. She leaned over and pulled the sheet up over Shannon 's nude body. When she got back in bed, she thought of Shannon 's softness, and how she had yielded to everything Jo had done to her—welcoming it, in fact.
Who the hell is Kim? she thought again. And how do I figure into this? Was Kim a former lover who broke her heart? What a jerk to give up someone like Shannon .
But as she laid there in the dark, other things entered her mind and anger began to surface. What if Shannon was just playing her for a fool? What if it all was a charade? She didn't really know anything about Shannon except the little things they had talked about on the plane.It took her a long time to go back to sleep. Her mind kept swirling around the same thoughts, trying to wrap itself around this new revelation of someone named Kim—with nothing concrete to go on but the name.
To be continued...
Return to the Academy