Poetry In Motion

© by J. 'Harley' Elmore, 2000 — 2003

See Chapter One for disclaimers


Chapter Twenty Three, Part 1

With the grace of a seasoned rider, Deven guided her motorcycle around Rhian's truck and into the garage. The distinctive tone of the Harley's engine stopped abruptly as she turned the key in the ignition, and in the ensuing quiet that filled the space, the martial artist removed her helmet and took a moment to reflect on why she was home this early in the evening. The invitation from Rhian had been unexpected but pleasantly so. And once accepted, Deven had taken little time in clearing her schedule for the rest of the evening.

The landscaper had provided no information other than to say that in no uncertain terms Deven was to get her butt home. Rhian summons you and you nearly trip all over yourself trying to get out of the school. What an absolute wuss you've become. But even as she mildly chastised herself for her adolescent type behavior, she had to admit that it felt kind of good.

Stepping to the doorway, she automatically activated the switch to lower the garage door before entering the residence. She'd taken three steps into the house before she stopped abruptly. The kitchen was darkened save for the last remnants of daylight filtering in from the sunroom and a few strategically placed candles. One of her favorite classical CDs was playing softly in the background and Deven felt her noise tickled by the aroma of something that smelled like rosemary. There was also another spicy scent in the air that she presumed was from the candles.

The whole scene roused her senses, and she found that though she was intrigued, it made her somewhat jittery. The implication was one of romance, but Deven couldn't quite grasp what it was that Rhian wanted from her. Were they just friends? Were they dating? The puzzle of their relationship remained unsolved, and therefore, frustrating to the martial artist. Further, the idea of dating someone was so alien to her that she didn't know what to think or how to act whenever the landscaper was nearby.

Pushing aside the agitation for the time being, she walked further into the room where her attention was drawn to the table in the sunroom. Candlelight cast a faint glow on the set table, and her sight settled on a large vase of roses placed at the table's center. The scene was reminiscent of the last time they'd dined like this, and despite her confusion and reticence over her relationship with the younger woman, she smiled at the memory. Speaking of which, where is she? "Rhian?"

"Get yourself something to drink and join me," the landscaper called out from the sunroom. "There's a bottle of Zinfandel in the refrigerator if you'd like some of that."

Deven crossed the room and poured herself a glass of the chilled wine before walking over and stepping out into the sunroom. Her casual gait was halted suddenly as her eyes caught a glimpse of the other woman. Rhian was sitting on the loveseat, her bare legs curled up under her and she was dressed in a white silk shirt that appeared to have come from Deven's closet. From the angle at which she was viewing the woman, Deven couldn't be certain that Rhian was wearing anything under the shirt and that thought was sufficient to give her censored libido an unsolicited kick-start.

Looking up, Rhian beckoned the martial artist by patting the vacant spot on the love seat. "Hi. Have a seat."

Okay, Deven, be cool. It's not like you haven't seen her legs before. Just walk over there and sit down. No biggie. You've been walking and sitting for most of your life, so this shouldn't be a problem. Right? And whatever you do, do not touch her! She cleared her throat before attempting to speak but even then she could hear the uncharacteristic strain in her voice. "Uh, you've been awfully busy. Everything is beautiful." Oh, that was pretty lame, Masterson. You sound like an adolescent boy whose voice has just started to change.

"Are you okay?" Rhian asked.

"Sure. Just a little tickle in my throat," Deven responded while walking over and sitting next to the woman. That was smooth. Moron!

"Okay. Well, I figured I owed you dinner since our last date turned out to be at the hospital."

Even as she attempted to appear uninterested, Deven's eyes scanned the landscaper from head to foot. What are you wearing under there? "Is this a formal affair?" she inquired, hoping her mounting attraction wasn't evident.

Rhian laughed easily before taking a sip of her wine. "Do you mind?" she rejoined over the rim of her glass. "You said I could wear whatever I could find."

"That I did, and no, I don't mind at all. It looks better on you than it ever looked on me."

"I seriously doubt that." Leaning forward until their lips were almost touching, Rhian spoke softly. "Welcome home."

Not even trying to resist the pull, Deven closed the distance and they shared a tender kiss. "Thank you," she replied as they parted. "How do you feel?"

"Good," Rhian answered as she sat back. "Everything is pretty much normal physically. It's just." She stopped and chewed on her lower lip.

Deven raised an eyebrow in question when the woman didn't finish the thought. "It's just what?"

Rhian set her wineglass down. "Do you remember I told you that I had some things I wanted to discuss with you?"

The martial artist nodded. The apprehension caused a tightening in her belly and the wine suddenly tasted bitter on her tongue.

"Well," she drawled out. "I figured we'd do that tonight."

"Okay." Deven took in a mouthful of the wine and then gazed pensively out the windows.

"Go get cleaned up, and I'll get dinner on the table," the landscaper said, oblivious to the martial artist's growing discomfort.

But Deven didn't move. At that moment she couldn't bring herself to pretend that everything was fine and that her guts weren't threatening to crawl up her throat and tickle the back of her tongue. Her focus remained on the twilight sky as she tried to appear noncommittal, but internally her heart was pounding against her rib cage so hard she wondered if the landscaper could hear it. "Rhian?"

The slight narrowing of Deven's eyes and the furrow on her brow combined with the woman's mournful tone, did cause the landscaper to become concerned. "Yes?"

"If this is bad news, I'd rather skip dinner."

"Bad news? Why would?" Rhian reached out and caressed the martial artist's cheek. "No. It isn't bad. At least I don't think it's bad, and I'm hoping you'll see it as good." Using the tips of her fingers, she gently turned Deven's face towards her and waited until the woman's eyes met hers. "I love you."

Deven sighed partly from relief and partly because she realized she'd been holding her breath. "I love you, too."

Rhian brushed her thumb across the prominent cheekbone beneath her hand. "Good. Now go get ready for dinner."

Relieved far more than she cared to admit the martial artist eagerly accepted the opportunity to leave the room and pull the bits and pieces of her dignity back together. "Okay," she said as she stood. "Back in a few."

By the time Deven returned to the sunroom, dinner was on the table and waiting for her. "Wow. It looks and smells great."

The landscaper smiled happily at the praise. "Come on. Dig in."

Deven sat down and took a moment to just savor the aromas, the sights, and the presence of the woman next to her. No one had ever done anything like this for her before. Of course, she hadn't wanted it. It denoted a sense of commitment she'd never been willing to explore.

They ate while discussing a variety of things. Rhian described her latest designs and Deven talked about her more problematic students. The conversation was light and playful, and the meal progressed in comfortable companionship, which would have probably bemused the martial artist had she stopped to consider it. But she didn't, and finishing the last of her dinner, Deven sighed contentedly. "You feed me like this too often, and I'll have to double my training. That was excellent. Thank you."

"You're most welcome. You ready for dessert?"

Deven shook her head while patting her stomach. "Not just yet." Rhian picked up her plate and stood. She reached for Deven's but the martial artist stopped her. "Leave them. I'll take care of them in a minute. It's only fair. You cooked. I clean up."

Rhian moved to sit back down but changed her mind. Come on, Rhian. Don't chicken out now. She stepped closer to Deven and sat on her lap while wrapping an arm around the woman's shoulders.

Okay. Candlelight. Flowers on the table. Silk shirt. Dinner. Now sitting on my lap. What do you want, Rhian? "Why, Ms. McKenna, are you trying to seduce me?" she teased the younger woman.

Rhian smiled coyly and ignored the faint blush that was warming the base of her neck. "Actually," she said as she ran a finger down the side of Deven's face. "I was kind of hoping you'd seduce me."

Uncertain what to make of the current situation, the martial artist sat very still. "I thought you wanted to talk."

The younger woman's expression turned somber and she started to rise, but Deven held her in place. "Stay," she said.

Grateful to have the continued contact, Rhian remained where she was. She became contemplative as her thoughts focused inward, and turning her head, she stared into the candlelight. "When we were on the way to the hospital, I realized some things. Most of them I already knew but I'd managed to push them into the background or just took them for granted. You know the idea that tomorrow is just another day. Well, not always." She glanced back at Deven and saw the uncertainty on her face, and felt the tension building in the woman's shoulders. I'm scaring her. "Relax, Champ."

"Sorry." The martial artist flexed her neck and shoulders releasing as much of the stress as she could.

"Anyway, I lay in the hospital after you left and wondered why I didn't go through a reflective stage the first two times that I faced death. The first time I was stung, a few years ago, there was so much confusion over what was happening that I didn't have that much time to think. Afterwards, everything was focused on learning about the allergy and the fact that I had a baby to care for. I never thought that much on what had happened.

"When I was in the accident with Sean, I didn't have time to think then either. I went from trying to avoid the crash to waking up in the hospital a widow. From the time I woke up, I had to deal with healing, my child and burying Sean. I think the guilt took precedence over everything else. But this time...this time I knew what was happening to me, and I had time to consider it. I knew I was dying, and I didn't want to leave. There are so many things I haven't done in my life because I was afraid of one thing or another. Mostly I've been afraid of failing or disappointing people. My parents. Sean. You."

"Rhian, I." Deven began but was silenced with a brief but heartfelt kiss.

"I know, Deven. You've never pressured me. Just hear me out, okay?"

The martial artist nodded even though what she really wanted was for this particular conversation to be at an end. Images of those few hours had repeatedly flashed in Deven's mind despite all her efforts to force them from her memory, and knowing that she'd been utterly powerless to help Rhian still didn't set well with her. The last thing she wanted to do was to revisit just how close she'd actually come to losing the woman who was nestled in her arms. Or the fact that she felt so much for this woman in the first place.

"Afterwards, when they had me stabilized, I had a lot of time to think and reflect on my life. I wanted to be an artist, you know? But I needed to be a designer. So, I gave up my art classes and concentrated on landscaping. Not that I don't like what I do, it's just that I wanted something else. But I didn't want to disappoint my parents. They spent years building up the business, and I've always known I belonged there."

"You are an artist, Rhian. And if you want to pursue it, you still can," Deven assured her.

A small sad smile tugged at the younger woman's lips. "I almost didn't have that option." She took a deep shuddering breath and released it slowly. "I thought about Seana and how much of her life I wasn't going to be a part of. She's so young. Her whole life lies before her, and I wasn't going to share any of it. I knew she would be well cared for and loved, but I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to care for her. I wanted to love her. I wanted to watch her grow into a woman."

Tears slowly began to trickle down the smooth surface of Rhian's face, and the feeling of abject inadequacy reemerged as Deven sat silently watching them.

"When it finally dawned on me that I was actually going to die, I looked over at you, and I was struck by how much I didn't want to leave you. I love you so much, Deven. It seems impossible at times," Rhian said. Her voice was beginning to sound strained from the rising emotions. "I was going to lose you. I thought about your smile and laughter. About how good it feels to have your arms around me. I remember thinking that it was very cruel that you'd just come into my life and I was going to have to leave you behind. That I was never going to know what it was like to be with you. I was going to lose so much and there was nothing I could do to stop it." Unable to contain the emotional ache anymore, Rhian began to cry softly. Acquiescing to the pain, she rested her head on Deven's shoulder and finally released the sorrow that had gripped her that day.

The martial artist held the weeping woman, caressing her back, seeking to provide whatever comfort she could. Even now there was a certain rawness left by the events of that day. The horror of it remained with her and having it dredged up now was making it difficult to sustain her own composure. There were moments, such as this one, in which she actually fancied that she could open up to this woman. That she could stop being so guarded, but a lifetime of hard-learned lessons wouldn't give her that freedom.

And so, they sat that way for some time, Rhian releasing her emotions and Deven containing hers, and as the tears slowed, the younger woman whispered, "I'm sorry. I'm being such a baby."

"No, you aren't." Sometimes I think you're a hell of a lot stronger than I am.

"I've thought a lot over the past few days, but I haven't really dealt with the emotions of it all," Rhian said as she lifted her head and reached for a napkin off the table. She wiped her face and then timidly looked at Deven. Their eyes locked, and they stared at each other as if they were both searching for something that neither one of them could clearly define.

With every day that passed, they continued to connect on new levels bringing greater depth to their growing relationship. Each new discovery and shared moment seemed more intimate than the previous, and as they sat there now sharing the painful emotions of Rhian's near death experience, another thread of their lives seemed to entwine and then merge.

With the tip of a finger, Deven slowly brushed away a stray tear and unable to resist the temptation, she placed feather like kisses on each eyelid, each cheek, and the tip of the landscaper's nose. "You've changed my life, Rhian. You've helped me to change. You've helped me see things differently. Every thing about you is a new experience, and I don't want to give you up. A part of me knows that is totally selfish and unfair to you. But I will fight to keep you in my life even if it means fighting death itself."

Not waiting for a reply from the younger woman, Deven sealed her declaration with a kiss that began as a chaste confirmation but quickly deepened from a surge of raw emotion. Loving someone was so much better and so much more frightening than she'd thought possible. It was almost consuming and that sent warning bells off in her head. And still she was unable to stop herself. With the utmost care, she moved her exploration to the sensitive skin of Rhian's neck, tasting and nipping the smooth flesh until she felt the woman shudder in her arms.

A surge of excitement shot right to Deven's groin and moisture begin to pool between her legs. "I do love you," she said as she pushed her arousal to subside.

With her eyes closed, Rhian strove to make sense of all she was feeling. Her love for the martial artist was stronger and more all encompassing than any emotion she'd ever known. This woman dominated her thoughts and dreams. But that wasn't all. There was a need that was drawing her closer to Deven.

Standing up, she turned and then sat back down, straddling Deven's lap as she ran her fingers through the woman's thick dark hair. There was an ache she'd never known before that permeated her body. A longing was awakening somewhere deep inside, and it was pushing her towards a moment of profound personal truth. "You are the most amazing person I've ever known," she whispered before bringing her lips to Deven's and kissing the woman with every ounce of her burgeoning passion. Her body pressed forward against the martial artist and she became very aware of the warmth beginning to build in her lower belly, the tingling between her legs, and the swelling of her breasts.

The kiss took Deven by surprise, but she willingly opened to the younger woman. She found Rhian's slow and tentative exploration to be sweetly erotic, and it took a great deal of thought to push her naturally dominating personality to the side and allow the landscaper the time and freedom to explore.

Desperate to breathe, Rhian sat back, keeping her eyes locked on the other woman. She wanted to take this further. She wanted Deven to take charge and free her of the fear that still threatened to overwhelm her, but she could actually feel the martial artist's reserve.

Deliberately shifting her mind away from the uncertainty, she lowered her hands to the buttons on the silk shirt and never breaking eye contact with the woman, she unfastened the first two buttons. But as she moved to the third, the martial artist stilled her hands.

Even as her body screamed to take control and lay Rhian out right there on the dinner table, Deven refused to give in to the craving. "You don't have to do this."

Rhian paused as her insecurities warred with her longing to be loved. "I know, and I thank you for that." She unbuttoned the rest of the shirt and left it to hang slightly open. Then placing her hands on the woman's broad shoulders, she silently signaled her surrender.

As if she had nothing to say in the matter, Deven's gaze was drawn downward. The shirt hung provocatively on Rhian's chest, and reaching out, she ran the tip of her forefinger along the exposed flesh from Rhian's chin to the top of the satin panties the woman was wearing. She tried to still her hands even as they lifted the shirt, opening it to fully reveal the woman's upper body. Exhaling slowly, Deven marveled at the sight as her eyes caressed the naked flesh.

Beginning at the collarbone, Deven ran her fingertips across and down Rhian's chest, around her full breasts before taking one in each hand and lifting. She circled the pink areolas with her thumbs just barely skimming the nipples. The flesh pebbled and rose up at her touch, and Deven was at a loss to describe what she was feeling at that moment. There was lust most certainly. But there was also something more that was making it difficult for her to breathe. "You're beautiful," Deven said, her voice coming out low and husky.

The younger woman's eyes fluttered open and glancing down at her exposed body, she blushed. "I thought maybe you'd be bothered by the scar."

"What scar?" Deven replied, a small smile reassuring the younger woman. Leaning down, she kissed the blemish before placing a kiss on each breast. The hue of Rhian's skin deepened, and Deven could feel the heat radiating from it. Seeking to be certain of where they were going, she lifted her hands and cupped Rhian's face, then kissed her slowly and with a deepening intensity. She felt a slight tremble and wasn't certain if it was coming from within herself or from Rhian. "What do you want?" she asked, her breath brushing across the landscaper's lips.

Before her resolve could fade, Rhian hugged the martial artist fiercely and then stood up. Taking Deven's hand, she gave her a gentle tug. Deven rose and allowed the younger woman to lead her towards the stairs. The landscaper's intentions were obvious and triggered within the older woman a moment of doubt. What if I can't fulfill her expectations? This amazingly gentle woman has never known physical love. Well, neither have I but at least I've known physical pleasure.

Her heart began to pound erratically as they climbed the stairs. What if I can't do this? What if I can't reach her? She could never remember a time she'd doubted herself when it came to sex. That's the problem, you moron! This isn't about sex. This is about something more and I haven't got any idea how to do that.

It wasn't until they were in the bedroom that Rhian released her hand, and absently drying her palms on the front of her jeans, Deven watched silently as the younger woman lit several candles around the room. Now how in the hell did I miss seeing those earlier? You're mind was on other things. Like the fact that she still loves you. She loves me. What if I totally screw this up?

When the last of the candles had been lit and the bedside lamp turned off, Rhian returned to stand in front of the martial artist. Reaching out with shaky hands, she started to unfasten Deven's belt. The trembling increased slightly, and Deven took both of Rhian's hands in hers. She kissed the back of first one and then the other, and as if uncertain of what to do next, she hesitated and just stood there.

"What's wrong?" Rhian asked, her insecurities rising up with a vengeance.

Deven gave the woman a lopsided grin that immediately subdued the anxiety. "I've never felt like this before. I'm nervous." Placing Rhian's palm flat against her chest, she asked. "Feel that?"

The heart beneath her hand was beating rapidly, and Rhian appeared astonished by the revelation. "I thought it was just me." She looked up at the martial artist and smiled.

"No." The landscaper's trusting gaze captivated Deven, and she knew she was in a place she'd never been before. Her desire for Rhian was stronger than ever, but so was her love for the woman.

She'd never believed there was a difference between having sex and making love. Sex was sex. The only reasons people called it making love were because they were too embarrassed to say the word sex, or because they were too embarrassed to acknowledge that they'd done it, or because their partner was lousy but they could overlook that in the name of love.

But standing there now on the threshold of making love for the first time in her life, Deven began to grasp that there was a world of difference between seducing someone for the purpose of physical gratification and sharing this ultimate intimacy with them. She remembered that she'd told Rhian once that she wanted to give her something not take something from her, and kissing the younger woman again, she whispered, "I want to make love to you."


It wasn't clear to Rhian whether it was the timbre of Deven's voice or the words she spoke that caused her stomach to flutter. Whichever it was, it created a rush of heat that began in her lower belly and then fanned out through her body. Deven released her hands and reached out to remove the silk shirt, but in an instant of modesty, Rhian stopped her. "You first," she said.

"Huh? I don't understand. Me first what?"

Rhian looked away bashfully. "You're clothes."

"Oh. Gotcha." Guiding the woman to the side of the bed, Deven said, "Get comfortable." She watched as Rhian scooted to the center of the bed and under the covers, and barely repressed a smile, because the younger woman's shyness was yet another thing that the martial artist found charming about her.

And that thought was enough to remind Deven of the vast difference between what she was about to do and how she'd approached sex in the past. Her energies had always been put into the seduction not the sex that followed. It wasn't necessary. By the time she got her conquests to bed, they were more than ready for her. The fucking was easy. The seduction was the work. It was an intricate game of strategy and maneuvering. Like chess. When I proclaim checkmate, they're mine for the taking.

She glanced at the beautiful woman in her bed. But you're different, and this is scary as hell. Bringing her thoughts to the matter at hand she began to remove her clothes. Modesty had never been an issue for her, and soon she stood naked before the other woman, wondering if Rhian would think this was a mistake and bolt from the room. But soft green eyes traced her from head to foot.

"You're so beautiful," Rhian whispered.

Deven stepped over to the bed, and then slowly knelt next to the woman. "Are you afraid?"

The younger woman nervously looked away. "Yes."

"Would you rather not do this?"

Rhian considered the offer while trying hard not to stare at Deven's body. She was feeling so many things both physically and emotionally. Her doubts warred with the new sensations her body was experiencing. She never knew she could be aroused like this, but at this moment it was as if every fiber of her being was humming with anticipation and want. "I don't want you to stop."

Deven chuckled. "No?"

"No." She reached out and took the martial artist's hand. "Please, Deven. Help me move past this."

The martial artist's expression gentled and Rhian thought she might cry from the depth of love she saw there. "Do you remember when we flew with Eagle?" Deven asked.

Rhian smiled at the memory. "Yes."

"Do you know why you were able to do it?" The landscaper shook her head. "Because you believed you could. And because you believed in the possibility, your imagination took off. You were able to leave these earthly bonds and fly."

The martial artist spoke in a hushed tone, seeking to relieve Rhian's anxiety. "I want you to do that now. Think of this as a journey that you and I will take together. There is no one else in the world. Just us. There is no past only what you and I are doing right here, right now.

"Let yourself imagine all of your desires being fulfilled. Don't concentrate on where you think you should end up but on the journey to get there. Take pleasure from each sensation. Each touch, sound, and kiss. Believe in that, and the rest will happen."

Deven guided Rhian to lie down. Pulling back the covers, she stretched out along the younger woman's body. "I know that you are a beautifully sensual woman who just hasn't had an opportunity to explore that part of your personality." She slowly opened the shirt exposing Rhian's breasts and watched the nipples rise up. "I know that there is nothing wrong with you, because you react to my touch." She lightly trailed her fingers along the contours of Rhian's chest and stomach, smiling as small bumps rose up on the flesh.

She leaned forward and captured Rhian's lips, and then pulling back slightly, she stared into the woman's eyes. "What do you want?"

Rhian's mind sought out the dreams she'd had of Deven loving her and how she'd imagined in her mind that things could be. Can it be like that? She stared into eyes darkened with desire and love for her. And what if I fail? What if I truly am lousy? "Deven?"


"If I can't. If I don't."

"Relax." Deven took a moment to collect her thoughts and chose her words carefully. "I'm convinced that you're more than capable of doing this, and I believe you want to. I know that I love you." She smiled reassuringly. "Don't be afraid, little bird. You can fly. You can soar. And even if you don't this time, I swear to you that it won't change my love for you."

Rhian lay there considering the older woman's words. "You won't be disappointed?"

Deven released a sigh. Truth? "A part of me will be disappointed but not in you. In me for failing you. For not bringing you the pleasure you deserve."

A small voice inside the landscaper pushed her to call it quits right now and run. But something much larger and stronger demanded that she stay right where she was. "Will you teach me?"

"I can't teach it all," the martial artist answered. The young woman looked hurt and Deven quickly explained. "This is about you learning about yourself. What your desires are. What you find pleasurable. It's about you learning to feel and accept your sexuality. I can't teach you that."

Her fingers continued to explore the soft flesh, tracing the planes and curves of Rhian's body with a feather like touch. "I can help you figure it out, and I will happily do that, little bird." She placed small kisses along Rhian's collarbone and down her chest.

"We won't figure everything out in one night. It's going to take a long time to learn it all. Something I truly look forward to." That thought brought Deven up short. She had rarely slept with anyone more than once, and yet here she was already pondering making love with Rhian repeatedly. A small smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. "We can certainly make a lot of head way tonight if you want."

Deven's fingertips lightly brushed over the woman's taut nipples, and Rhian was unable to completely contain the moan of pleasure. The landscaper wasn't sure what surprised her more, her body's reaction or that she had actually made a sound. Before she could ponder that, her thoughts shifted to how quickly her life had almost ended, taking away any opportunity she might have had to know this. She'd been afraid of her feelings for this woman. She'd been afraid of this intimacy. She was still afraid of failing. And what if you die tomorrow? "Make love to me."

"As." Deven flicked her tongue across Rhian's upper lip. "You." She nibbled the lower lip. "Wish." She captured both of Rhian's lips with her own and pressed firmly. And when the landscaper opened for her, she explored the moist warmth of Rhian's mouth, grazing the younger woman's tongue with her own. Teasing it with motions that mimicked what she intended to soon do to other parts of this woman's flesh.


Their tongues began a slow dance in prelude to what was to come, and Deven felt her desire rising rapidly. Breaking the kiss she sought to restrain her cravings. She was trembling from the longing to reach down past the golden curls and fuck Rhian senseless. It had been months since she'd had sex with anyone and her pent up desires were struggling to be freed all at once.

She felt her self-control slipping, something that had never happened to her in bed. For her sex had always been about dominance. It centered on her ability to control her actions and everything her partner did. She stared at Rhian's face and knew that she had no wish to dominate this woman. Taking several deep breaths, she stilled her rapidly beating heart.

As a fighter her senses had been finely honed to feel, hear, and smell her opponent's fear. To read and react to their next move before they registered what they were doing. Using that skill now, she opened up her senses to Rhian - taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the woman's blossoming arousal. She kissed her slowly, sensually, building the fervency of her exploration, and then taking her time she caressed and kissed the younger woman's face, neck and shoulders.

Closing her eyes, Rhian tried to concentrate on what Deven was doing to her. She wanted to remember everything but soon found it impossible. Initially she was aware of everywhere Deven's hands and mouth touched her, but soon each caress and kiss, bite and lick melded together creating a myriad of sensation.

Never before had she felt so sensorial. The craving didn't seem to have a beginning or an end. It wasn't specific to any one part of her body but moved through her system in waves of fluctuating ardor. Deven's mouth closed around one of her nipples and as the martial artist increased the pressure, the muscles in Rhian's buttocks and thighs tightened, lifting her hips up off the bed.

Deven shifted her weight, and Rhian felt the woman's fingers as they curled around the elastic of her panties. She hadn't realized how or when she'd moved away from the apprehension. She knew there was no where in the world she was safer than with this woman. She'd never trusted anyone as she did Deven, especially in such a vulnerable way, and so she lifted her hips allowing the removal of the last physical barrier between them. She now lay bare before the martial artist, not only in body, but also in her heart and soul as well as her love for Deven rose above all else.

Settling most of her body over Rhian's, Deven rested her weight on her forearms. Gently coaxing the younger woman to open for her, she placed a thigh between the landscaper's legs while her mouth lavished attention on Rhian's breasts. She explored them completely, gently at first and then gradually building the pressure concurrent with her escalating ardor.

The younger woman couldn't stop the pull Deven's attentions were creating between her legs. Her hips moved up of their own volition, seeking something, anything and finding it as her clitoris brushed against the martial artist's firm thigh. She gasped at the shock the contact created. Instinctively, she moved her hips, rubbing her swelling sex against the muscled leg and was rewarded when Deven pressed against her, increasing the contact.

"That's it, baby," Deven said as she bit down on Rhian's neck causing the woman to buck harder.

Rhian's arousal was inciting Deven's lust. She could hear it, smell it, feel it. The small moans and whimpers the woman was making were coming more often and they fed Deven's need, as did the flush of her skin and the smell of her excitement. Taking a deep breath, she moved her thigh out of Rhian's reach and listened as the younger woman whimpered more loudly. "Not yet," she said. She smiled at the dampness that coated her thigh. "You're very wet."

Rhian's eyes opened. "I am? I don't. I never. Before, I couldn't."

The martial artist silenced her with a kiss. "Before doesn't matter, because you're very wet for me." She reached a hand down between their bodies and slowly ran a finger along the length of Rhian's swollen labia. Bringing it back up, she showed the glistening digit to the blonde woman before licking every drop of moisture from it.

Rhian's eyes opened wider. "You just."

"Yes, I did. And I plan to do a lot more. You're yummy by the way." She was rewarded with a deep blush, and then moving down Rhian's body, she tasted and teased the flesh as she traveled towards her prize.

As an understanding of Deven's intentions completely dawned on her, Rhian tensed. She knew where Deven was going, and she feared what the woman might find. She reluctantly parted her legs under the martial artist's gentle insistence and waited while the woman examined her. She'll find something wrong. She'll see me as a mutant or something.

"You're beautiful, baby."

She felt Deven's breath brush across her overheated sex causing a shiver to undulate up her spine. The words washed over her like a healing balm. "Deven?"

"Yes, baby?"


"What? Do you want me to stop?"


"Do you want more?"


"As you wish." Closing her eyes for a second, she felt the relief that Rhian wanted to continue because despite all her bravado to the contrary, Deven wasn't certain she could stop. She inhaled deeply and then looked back at the woman's center. Tracing the inner and outer lips, she followed each peak and valley, leisurely exploring the engorged tissues.

She had believed that taking things this slow would kill her desire, but she was wrong. Her focus was not on the act, but on this woman who held her heart. Making love was so much more than she'd imagined. The fundamentals remained the same, but it was so very different. And she realized it was in a large part because she was involved. She wasn't doing Rhian. She was loving her. Giving what she felt for the woman physical expression. And with that realization, she felt her heart seemingly expand in her chest and her passion surge forward.

"Do you want to fly, little bird?" she whispered against Rhian's sex as her lips and tongue sought to know this woman completely. Rhian's reply was to moan louder and that fed Deven's need. She explored the swollen flesh savoring the textures and taste, listening to the sounds of rising excitement that the younger woman was releasing with more frequency. She pressed her tongue forward into the woman, eliciting a sound somewhere between a groan and a hum.

"Deven, please."

"What baby? What do you want?"

"I don't know!" The yearning was evident in Rhian's voice.

"It's okay." She lowered her mouth again, languidly running her tongue from the woman's center to her clitoris, flicking it with the tip of her tongue and causing the landscaper's hips to jerk upward. Deven closed her lips around the sensitive nub while poising a finger at Rhian's entrance and gently pressed forward.

Rhian was losing herself in what this woman was doing to her. She'd hadn't believed she could feel so much and so strongly, but Deven was driving her to the edge of a sexual tension she'd never dreamed herself capable of. She felt a slow burning fire consuming her whole body and almost didn't notice when Deven entered her. But her body reacted, constricting in rebellion against the invasion, and the humiliation crashed down upon her.

Deven felt Rhian's internal muscles clamp down on her finger, seeking to halt its progress, and she looked up at Rhian's face. The younger woman's eyes were tightly closed, and a lone tear ran down the side of her cheek. The sight threatened to break her heart.

Lying still, Deven considered what she should do. She could stop completely, but Rhian had definitely been excited. On the other hand, Deven knew that if she pushed the woman too far, Rhian might never allow this to happen again.

Remaining inside but stilling her movements, she kissed her way back up the younger woman's smaller frame until she was able to look her in the eye. "Rhian, look at me."

Pain filled eyes fluttered open and quickly brimmed with tears. "I'm so sorry," she choked out.

Deven saw the anguish and kissed the woman softly. "No. You have nothing to be sorry about. You're fine. Believe, baby. That's all you have to do. Believe in me. Believe in my love for you."

Rhian struggled with the memories of her previous sexual experiences. Staring into Deven's eyes, she willed her body to calm. Her gaze stayed locked on the martial artist's face as she felt Deven moving slowly and gently inside her. The motions were circular, and she realized that Deven was massaging the taught muscles urging them to yield. There wasn't any pain. There wasn't any discomfort. In fact, she found it was beginning to feel pleasant.

Keeping an almost leisurely pace, Deven alternated between massaging and short slow strokes, and eventually she felt Rhian's rebellious muscles loosen giving her more freedom of movement. Taking her time, she kissed the woman slowly seeking to rebuild the passion that still simmered beneath the surface.

She watched Rhian closely, prepared to stop immediately if it should become necessary. She could feel the woman opening up in small increments, expanding the confines that caged her desires and allowing herself to experience the carnal side of her personality. "Believe," she whispered.

Rhian's eyes closed again, but Deven could feel her relaxing. Keeping the tempo of her thrusts unhurried, she lengthened them, gradually reaching deeper into the woman's tight womb. "You feel so good, Rhian. So soft. So warm and wet. I love the way you feel. I love the way you respond to me."

Rhian tried not to think about the details of how her body was reacting. It wasn't like before where her body had sought to repel the penetration, but more that she was trying to grip the woman and hold her inside. Spreading her legs further apart, she opened herself up completely to Deven. Experimentally, she raised her hips slightly as Deven moved in and found the feeling gratifying, if a little intense.

Never had it felt like this. Not even remotely this good, and continuing to move her hips, she sought to match the martial artist's movements. Her eyes opened, and she looked directly into Deven's darkened irises and smiled shyly.

Deven thought her heart would burst with delight at that smile. Slowly easing a second finger into the woman, she watched for any indications of discomfort or pain. Finding none as they continued to move together, she once again brought her mouth to Rhian's flesh, consuming every part of the woman's body she could reach. Carefully, she extended her thumb and pressed against the landscaper's swollen clitoris.

Rhian heard Deven's voice. "Soar, little bird." She didn't know if it was real or in her head. The last of her fear shattered, and she felt truly free for the first time in her life. She wrapped her arms around Deven's strong back, pulling them tighter together. "Kiss me," she said, and hungrily sucked on Deven's lips and tongue.

The fervor between them was rising rapidly to its crescendo now, and Deven became fully aware of her own overly stimulated flesh. No longer denying the desire, she increased the frequency of her thrusts. She wanted to crawl up inside this woman. She'd never felt this way before, and her control waned in the heat of her passion. Shifting her hips once again she tried to contact her aroused sex against Rhian's thigh, but it eluded her and she let out a frustrated growl.

Every sound, every smell, every taste fed Deven's hunger, and yet they left her starving for more. With her thumb she pressed harder and immediately felt Rhian's body clamping down around her fingers signaling her orgasm was nearing. As if in sympathy, her own sex constricted.

The tension was building to what seemed like an impossible level but instead of retreating from it, Rhian embraced it. Her fingers pressed hard into Deven's shoulder blades as her back arched pushing her body upward against the martial artist. Her eyes opened as she perched on the apex of her orgasm.

"It's okay, little bird. Soar."

She spoke the martial artist's name repeatedly as she tumbled over into a pleasure that went beyond her expectations. Her whole body seemed to tense and bending one leg, she planted her heel against the bed's surface as she tried to increase the contact with the other woman.

Deven growled as Rhian's leg connected with her oversensitive clitoris, and in response, she sucked harder on a hardened nipple causing the younger woman to buck again. Moving her hips, Deven rubbed against Rhian's thigh once, twice and a third time sending her over the edge into her own climax.

The tension was slow to leave Rhian's body. Collapsing back against the bed, she lay quietly trying to catch her breath and still her heart. She was in sensory overload. Her whole body felt stimulated and her center continued to convulse around Deven's fingers. At that moment, she felt so much that she couldn't contain the emotions and began to weep softly.

Deven slowed her breathing while savoring the tremors that stroked her fingers. At first she wasn't aware that Rhian was crying, but opening her eyes she caught sight of the tears. Oh God, what did I do? "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you."

"No." Rhian forced out as she clung to the martial artist.

Deven slowly pulled out creating another wave of aftershocks that caused the woman to gasp and then cry harder. Rolling over onto her back she took Rhian with her, settling the woman securely in her arms. "Baby, please talk to me. I'm so sorry."

"I just feel so much." She struggled to get the emotions under control. "I always thought it was me. That it was all my fault."

"Oh, Rhian." Deven hugged her tighter and held her while she cried. "It wasn't you. There isn't anything wrong with you. You're a sensual woman, and I'm going to do everything I can to make you feel that about yourself."

The security of Deven's embrace and the gentleness of her words calmed Rhian. She felt Deven's hand caressing her back and allowed herself to float on the aftereffects of what she'd just experienced. She had never felt so loved or desired.

Deven lay there with her eyes closed while images of the love they'd just made filled her head. She felt better than she could ever remember in her life. Rhian completed her in ways she hadn't believed were feasible. She'd heard all the love stories and dismissed them as sentimental bull - even when she'd witnessed it first hand with her grandparents. But the reality was that this woman was healing her battered soul. She placed a kiss on Rhian's head and hugged her tighter.

The landscaper's body completely relaxed and sleepiness tried to claim her. But she didn't want to fall asleep yet. She wanted to make love to Deven but wasn't certain how to accomplish it. "What about you?" She raised herself up so she could look at the woman's face. "I want to love you, Deven. I just...I don't know what to do for you."

The martial artist heard the desire tinged with frustration in the woman's voice. "I'm great, baby. I really am. That was the most incredible experience."

Rhian lowered her eyes and slowly shook her head. "How can that be? I'm nothing compared to the lover's you've had."

Deven took Rhian's chin in her fingers and lifted. "Look at me!" Her sharp tone caused the younger woman to look up. "Don't you ever say that again. You understand? You're everything. You're most definitely the best thing that has ever happened to me. I don't deserve you, Rhian. I don't know that I ever will. Why you are here with me now is a mystery, but I am grateful for your presence in my life."

Tears welled in Rhian's eyes and Deven softened her tone. "Before tonight I'd never made love with someone. I told you that before. You have to believe me. There is no comparison between having sex with a stranger and making love to someone that holds your heart. I didn't believe that myself until tonight, but it's true. Making love with you is better than anything I've ever experienced."

Rhian closed her eyes releasing a tear from each. The martial artist reached up and gently wiped them away. "You know, if you're going to cry every time we make love, I'm going to have to make sure you're always well hydrated." She felt Rhian chuckling softly and smiled. "Now, you have to let me get up for a minute. I'll be right back."

"Where are you going?"

"To make sure the house doesn't burn down." Rhian's brow creased in confusion. "The candles."

"Oh. I can go."

Deven silenced the younger woman by placing two fingers against her lips. "I'll be right back." She slipped out of the bed and crossed the room aware that Rhian was watching her. Reaching the sunroom, she stood quietly looking at the table. Without a doubt, this had been the best night of her life. She was truly loved for the first time in her life and felt a greater depth of love for the woman upstairs than she ever believed she had the ability to.

She put their dishes in the sink, blew out all the candles and made sure the house was secure. Returning to the bedroom she extinguished the candles there, before sliding back under the covers.

Rhian rolled towards her sleepily and molded her body against the martial artist's side, using a broad shoulder for her pillow. Deven wrapped her arms protectively around the landscaper, content and happy for the first time in a long time. Perhaps for the first time ever.

"I do love you, Deven. All of you."

"I love you, too, little bird." She felt Rhian smile against her neck. Looking out the window at the rising moon, she thought about her grandparents. Is this what they'd felt? Grandmother, did Grandfather hold you at night? Deven thought about the times she and her grandfather had gotten into trouble, and how no matter how angry her grandmother might get, she always looked at them with love.

I found love, Grandmother. She's a spitfire who doesn't let me get away with anything. She has a beautiful spirit. I know you'd love her. I'm sorry I never came back. I'm sorry for a lot of things. I hope that you've forgiven me. She swallowed against the lump in her throat. I love you. Rhian stirred in her arms, and she kissed her gently on the head. "I love you, too." Closing her eyes, she listened to the silent house before sinking down into the depths of a peaceful sleep.

Part 2

Her eyes closed against the impending daylight, Deven lay quite still, listening to the landscaper's slow and even breathing. She could feel Rhian's steady heartbeat and the woman's soft exhalations as they drifted across her chest, and when she inhaled deeply, she smelled the remnants of the previous night's sex. It was more than sex. It was. What the hell was it?

The word escaped her for several seconds before it perched on the tip of her tongue. "Passionate," she said. "What a great word." Before last night you didn't really know what that meant, did you, Masterson? Before last night, I didn't know a lot of things. But I think we'll keep that to ourselves.

Gradually opening her eyes, she gazed out the window at the clear early morning sky and debated whether or not she needed to get up. Normally, she wouldn't have even debated that question because she would have already been up and working out. But this morning her preference was to remain right where she was. There was no where she needed to be for hours yet, and it felt too good to move. Except for one little thing, Masterson. Rhian has to go to work. With a sigh of resignation, Deven slowly extricated herself from the woman's embrace and slid out of bed.

Deciding to let Rhian sleep as long as possible, she slipped on boxers and a tee shirt before padding downstairs and starting the coffee dripping. Their dinner dishes had been taken care of the night before, and it only took her a moment to finish clearing off the table. The vase of roses she left right where they were, and while the coffee finished brewing, she set about cleaning up the kitchen. That task done and with a mug of the aromatic beverage in her hand, she leaned a hip against the counter and gazed out the window, watching the world come to life.

Inevitably her thoughts drifted to the previous evening. Last night had been incredible for her, and she hoped the same was true for Rhian. While she was receptive to everything that had happened between them, her wary nature pushed her to consider some less than promising possibilities. Okay hotshot, what if Rhian wakes up this morning and thinks that last night was a mistake? What if she has regrets about the whole thing? Oh no. We aren't going there. Last night she didn't give any indication that she regretted anything. True, but things could look very different to her this morning.

She remembered Rhian's smile as the younger woman finally let her desire go, and Deven smirked at her prowess in having been responsible for it. Regrets? I don't think so. So what, Masterson? She found out she enjoyed sex. That doesn't mean she wants to make you her one and only. You may have just opened the door for her, and she'll go off to find another lover or lovers.

I'll beat the crap out of anyone who touches her. Big talk there, hotshot. Consider this, okay? What if Rhian wants to play around? What if she wants to experiment? What if she enjoyed your company but finds you way too much trouble? And besides, you've certainly done it long enough. Why shouldn't she have an opportunity to experience the same things?

Deven slammed her mug down on the counter, sloshing the hot liquid across the back of her hand. Because I don't want her to, that's why! She could hear the petulant tone in her head but didn't feel compelled to silence it. I don't want anyone touching her, damn it! And I sure as hell don't want her wanting someone else to...to. Damn!

She ran cold water across her hand, soothing the reddened skin. Is this how Rhian felt when she thought that I was sleeping with Kelly? She shook her head. And here's another thought for you, Masterson? You don't want her to see anyone, so are you willing to do the same? You've never been monogamous with anyone. What makes you think you can now?

Her earlier euphoria now lay in pieces, and she angrily shut the water off. "You don't know what you're talking about, so just shut the fuck up!" She poured coffee into another mug and doctored it up the way Rhian liked it. "And, Deven? Quit talking to yourself!" Her sight settled once more on the vase of roses and walking over she selected a white one trimmed in pale pink. With the stem of the rose clinched in her teeth, she picked up both cups of coffee and headed back upstairs, hoping that none of her pessimistic thoughts would become reality.

After setting her cup down on the dresser, she crossed over to the bed and set the second mug on the nightstand. Sitting down on the bed next to the sleeping figure, she lightly brushed the rose across the woman's lips, which twitched slightly. "Rhian?" She got no response, but then she hadn't really expected one. She ran the flower down Rhian's cheek and under her chin. "You need to wake up."


Holding the rose still, the sweet fragrance was easily discernable and sleepy eyes fluttered open. "It reminded me of you," Deven said before leaning forward and placing a kiss on the landscaper's forehead.

Taking the flower and holding it up to her nose, Rhian inhaled deeply. "Thank you."

"You're welcome. And I brought you coffee."

"Oh, you are the bomb!" the woman exclaimed happily.

"You are so easy to please." Their eyes met for a second before Deven shifted her sight out the window, not wanting Rhian to see the shadows created by her earlier thoughts. "Listen, I'm going to take a shower, and then I'll get us breakfast. Make yourself at home. You can watch the TV. Drink your coffee. Whatever."

Rhian took a sip of the hot liquid while trying not to let her feelings enter dangerous waters. She'd slept with Deven of her own volition, and she knew how she felt about what had transpired between them. But she also knew Deven's reputation and her emotional reticence, and a small part of the landscaper couldn't help but wonder if she'd just become a statistic to the other woman. "I should go clean up the mess downstairs," she finally responded.

"Already done. Just relax for a little bit," Deven said as she started to rise.

Rhian reached out a hand to stop her. "Don't I get a morning kiss? Or now that you've had you're way with me, I don't even rate that?"

The martial artist froze at the implications of that question. What did you expect, Masterson? Isn't that how you usually treat your conquests? Her eyes narrowed slightly. "Is that what you think?"

Oh boy, that hit a nerve. Rhian could feel the tension in the forearm beneath her hand and set her mug down. "No," she answered softly. Don't you? Lay it out there and see what happens. "Last night was very important to me and." She shrugged slightly. "Special."

Deven's head bowed for a second as she looked at Rhian's hand where it still rested on her arm. Taking a deep breath, she looked back up sheepishly. "Sorry. I, um, I guess I was concerned that you'd think the worst. Last night was very special to me, too." Leaning forward, she brushed her lips against Rhian's. "Morning," she whispered against their softness.

Wrapping her arms tightly around the woman, Rhian gave her a solid hug. "Morning, Champ. I'm sorry, too. I didn't mean to get all insecure on you."

Each relaxed into the embrace as some of the uncertainties were vanquished. The martial artist slowly moved her hands over the back of the silk shirt Rhian still wore, and as the seconds ticked by, she became very aware of the feel of Rhian's nipples as they pressed into her own chest. The contact was arousing, and as much as she wanted to go with it, Deven wasn't sure if the feeling was mutual. "Uh, Rhian, you need to let me go so I can take my shower."

"What if I don't want to?"

"Well," she drawled, "I could take you with me."

Rhian's heartbeat rose at the possibility of pleasure, but so did some of her doubts. Being naked in front of the other woman in the dim light of candles was one thing, but being so exposed in broad daylight was something else completely. She'd never slept unclothed in her life until last night. She'd never felt comfortable enough to do it. Okay, so I wasn't completely nude. I had the shirt on, but it was open all night, and I could feel her skin against mine. Rhian sighed at the memory of the contact.

Still, she might not like what she sees in the light of day. Rhian's hands had moved under the back of Deven's short tee shirt, and she stroked the bare flesh as what she now recognized as desire began a slow burn in her lower belly. Her mind returned to the bliss of the previous night, and her body rapidly responded to the memories. But still, she couldn't quite shake off the timidity and released her hold on the martial artist. "Go on. But you better save me some hot water."

A smirk claimed the martial artist's lips. "No problem there. I'll be taking a cold shower."

The landscaper laughed in relief that Deven still seemed to be attracted to her, and as the woman stood and walked to the bathroom, Rhian watched her move away. Her eyes scanned the physique, solid and yet curvaceous in all the right places. Toned muscles rippled under taut skin, and her eyes settled on the movement of the martial artist's butt. Now that is poetry in motion.

Collapsing back against the pillows, she groaned out in frustration. I don't want it be morning yet. Morning means I have to get up and go to work soon. And quite frankly, I just don't want to leave. I want it to be night, and I want her back in bed.

Her eyes shifted to the window. Out there I'm the same person I was yesterday. I'm Mac and Kate's daughter. Michael's sister. Seana's mother. Nicole's best friend. And while of those are still true, I know that I'm a different person. Today, I feel like I'm so much more. I'm hopelessly in love with a woman. Not just any woman, oh no, I'm hopelessly in love with Deven Masterson.

Last night had been unbelievable. The burden she'd carried all those years had lifted and left her feeling alive. But then a thought occurred to her and she sat back up. What if it was all a fluke? Is that possible? She twirled the rose and eyed the bathroom door.

What does she want? Me? Thank you for playing, Ms. McKenna. Here's your lovely departing gift. She held up the rose and eyed it while taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly. Cute, Rhian. Really cute. I don't know what she wants, but I do know that I'm sure not going to find out sitting here. Yeah, but I just can't go in there. Why not? Because, well, because maybe she likes her privacy. She's a very private person. Right. That's why she walks around the house as naked as the day she was born. I said she was private — not modest! Oh come on, Rhian, I thought you were over being a coward. I never said I was over that. I just. Stop already! Too much mental rambling for this time of the morning!

Her head filled with thoughts and images from the prior night, and she felt a delightful tightening in her groin. Looking down at her partially clad body, she could easily see the erect nipples pushing against the silk. She has such a nice body. Solid and yet so soft. Closing her eyes, she could feel her fingers pressing firmly into the martial artist's back and Deven's breasts pressing into hers.

Moisture pooled between her legs and caused her to wonder at how easily her body came awake just thinking about the woman. What do you want, Rhian? I want a repeat of last nigh, but not just that. I want to touch her. I want to make her feel what she makes me feel. Her eyes opened and she looked back at the bathroom door. Well, it ain't gonna happen with you here and her in there.

She rose from the bed, set the flower aside, and moved towards what she hoped was not a mistake. But as her hand reached for the doorknob, she hesitated allowing her insecurities to cease the motion, and then turning away, she headed to the bathroom down the hall.

Part 3

Wrapped in a towel, Rhian stepped out of the bathroom and turned towards Deven's bedroom to get her gear bag. She'd left it in the closet just in case things had worked out though she hadn't quite figured out how she was going to explain it to Deven if the situation had turned out differently. Walking down the hallway she was well aware of the tingling of her skin and while the shower had been refreshing, it hadn't helped diminish the over sensitivity of her body. Instead, the simple act of washing herself had increased the stimulation.

All the new feelings and desires she was experiencing were fascinating to her, and she wondered if everyone in love experienced this kind of euphoria. While contemplating that thought, she stepped into the bedroom and almost collided with the martial artist. Uncertain of where she was supposed to be looking and unable to stop herself, she quickly scanned the woman's naked form. Finally reaching the beautiful face, her eyes avoided making contact with Deven's. "I'm sorry," she managed to stammer out. "I shouldn't have just barged in."

"Hey. It's okay." Deven observed the reddening that crept slowly across the woman's chest and up her neck. "It doesn't bother me, Rhian. In fact, you inspire my nudity."

The blush made its way up the younger woman's cheeks. "I do?"

"Oh yeah," Deven purred seductively. "Most definitely." What are you doing? Her shower had done nothing to improve her mood, and the mild teasing was only making it worse. Her mind had remained on the younger woman the whole time, hoping that at any second Rhian would join her. When that hadn't happened, she'd begun to imagine the worst.

Looking closely at the landscaper now, Deven found the woman's expression indiscernible, and the awkwardness between them made her uneasy. "What? You don't like the view? If this is a problem, I can certainly cover up."

"No." Rhian cleared her throat. "I like the view just fine."

"Than what's wrong?" she asked more harshly than she'd intended.

"I think I like the view too much," the younger woman responded barely above a whisper.

"Huh?" Cocking her head slightly, Deven regarded the woman, which wasn't an easy task given that Rhian avoided making eye contact. Still she could see that the irises were definitely a deeper shade of green, and the pupils were enlarged. She'd attributed the flushing of Rhian's skin to embarrassment, but now she considered there might be more to it.

Reaching out, Deven traced a finger along Rhian's collarbone and smiled when the woman closed her eyes. The inner gloominess lifted as she began to understand the landscaper's predicament, and stepping closer, she nuzzled the soft skin just below the ear. "All you have to do is ask?" she whispered.

"What?" Rhian managed to choke out.

Cupping the woman's face, Deven kissed her softly. "If you want to make love, all you have to do is let me know."

"I, uh, well." Rhian was silenced as Deven's lips took possession of hers and felt the towel removed from her body. It didn't take much for her to react as the martial artist's warm hands trailed across her cool skin. Wrapping her arms around the taller woman's waist, she pulled them together, eliminating the space between their bodies.

She quickly became lost in the sensual haze that Deven created. Her hands roamed down the martial artist's back and kneaded the flesh of her firm behind before the world suddenly shifted as Deven lifted her up and carried her to the bed.

After laying Rhian down on the bed's rumpled surface, Deven languidly covered the smaller frame with her own and began to slowly make love again. Giving special attention to those areas she'd already learned were sensitive and seeking out more, she touched Rhian's body with a tenderness that belied the torrent of passion that coursed through her system. She needed this, wanted this, and craved this. She yearned to heal and be healed. To connect with this woman on a level deeper then any they'd discovered thus far.

Deven had thought it couldn't get any better then last night, but once again she was learning how little she knew about making love. She sensed some hesitancy in the other woman, but not like it had been the night before and soon Rhian's hands moved across her flesh in gentle exploration. The landscaper's hands caressed her with a touch as light as a feather, sending waves of pleasure throughout her body. A burning desire to become one with this woman flowed through her veins, and she knew without a doubt that it could not be denied.

Rhian felt Deven's mouth becoming insistent against her skin and welcomed the possession. Running her fingers through the dark hair, she urged the martial artist to move lower to where her breasts ached for attention. Her body, inflamed by Deven's attentions, yearned to be touched everywhere, and as her need grew so did her desire to love this woman. She tried to concentrate. She tried to memorize everything that was being done to her so she could in turn do them to Deven, but her mind refused to cooperate as she was being submerged into a pool of sensuous delight.

She stroked the martial artist's back, causing the muscles to quiver beneath her hands and her mouth closed on Deven's neck and bit down slightly, causing the woman to thrust her hips forward. Wrapping her arms around the Deven's shoulders, Rhian spread her legs sending a quiet entreaty.

The martial artist quickly accepted the unspoken invitation and settling her hips against the landscaper, Deven began to slowly grind against the sensitive flesh. A teasing motion intended to hint of the pleasure yet to come.

Wrapping her legs around the woman, Rhian moved with her, seeking to increase the contact but quickly found it wasn't enough. Frustrated, she reached down and grazed her short nails along the flesh of Deven's firm backside extracting a primal growl from the woman. She felt the sound as it vibrated through the martial artist's chest, and it stirred something within her. "Wait," Rhian panted.

Deven lifted her head and gazed at the woman from lust filled eyes. "What?"

"Deven, I want to make love to you."

"Later." She attempted to kiss Rhian again but was stopped when the younger woman avoided her lips. "Patience," Deven said. Her need was so strong she didn't believe it possible to stop. She caressed, squeezed, kissed, licked and nipped Rhian's flesh. Never staying in one place long but seeking to consume her entirely. Taking possession of what was hers. No one will ever know her like this. Ever!

Succumbing to the pleasure, Rhian moved her hips meeting Deven thrust for thrust and embracing the fervor as her hands caressed Deven's skin. One moment her fingertips brushed lightly across soft skin and the next her hands kneaded hard, seeking somehow to impart the depth of her yearning.

Deven looked directly into the landscaper, piercing the younger woman with the intensity of her gaze. "What do you want?"

Rhian stared into eyes darkened with desire...for me. What do I want? Everything. Spreading her legs wider, she opened herself completely. "I need to know. I need to know if last night was real."

No further questions were needed as Deven understood and reaching down between their bodies, she traced Rhian's slick folds reverently, adding fuel to her own arousal with the moans and sighs coming from the younger woman. She teased the hardened bundle of nerves, causing a deep moan of pleasure from this woman who had somehow become the center of her world.

Maintaining a weak hold on her rising fervor, Deven repeated the sensual torture again and again, and she felt Rhian's fingers pressing repeatedly into her back as they inched lower. The hands gripped the flesh of her ass and squeezed hard, sending a jolt to her aching sex and causing her hips to buck forward.

Placing her finger at Rhian's entrance, Deven kissed her tenderly and asked, "Are you sure?"

"Yes," the aroused woman hissed in reply, her need so great now she didn't think it possible to deny anything Deven might have chosen to do to her.

"Believe," Deven whispered as she gently entered the landscaper. There was only a brief second in which the muscles sought to restrain her before they yielded and opened to take her in. The look of rapture on Rhian's face spoke volumes to the martial artist, and she bit her lip to stop the sudden onslaught of emotions.

Lifting her hips as she had the night before, Rhian began a slow carnal dance with Deven, matching her movements. Without skipping a beat, the martial artist added a second finger, and they moved together in harmony, rising as one on the escalating tension.

It all felt so good that Rhian smiled at the absolute pleasure Deven gave her, but she also felt a yearning for something more. Moving her hand down, she pressed it against the martial artist's sex, discovering the moist heat for the first time. She grazed the curls before moving further down and running her fingers between the soft wet folds.

The contact was unexpected but pleasantly so, and shifting to straddle Rhian's thigh, Deven opened herself up to the woman's touch. With the utmost care, Rhian traced the essence soaked skin, freely exploring the contours, and she almost laughed with delight when she accidentally discovered Deven's clitoris.

The martial artist hissed as Rhian's fingers brushed over her hardened flesh, sending shocks through her groin. "Oh, yes, Rhian," she moaned. She'd had some good sex in her life but nothing compared to what she was experiencing at this moment. A blend of love, desire and pure lust merged with overpowering need and want. Her response to Rhian's touch only served to make her cravings stronger, and the more the landscaper touched her the more she needed to possess the woman.

Rhian found that her insecurities were being lost in the place Deven was taking her, and she allowed herself to experience the carnal beauty of touching a female. With more confidence, she stroked the swollen flesh, teasing the woman and savoring the effect her contact was creating. Deven moved against her fingers, and she no longer knew what was more pleasurable as the movement of the Deven's sex against her hand mirrored the martial artist's thrusts inside of her.

Emboldened by the woman's response, Rhian increased the pressure. She brushed across Deven's center, wondering what she should do next, but the martial artist answered that for her. Moving her hips forward, Deven captured Rhian's fingers pulling them into her body.

"That's good, baby," Deven growled against her neck. "So good."

The younger woman held her hand still as the martial artist thrust against her and discovered that watching Deven move was the most erotic thing she'd ever seen.

"More, Rhian," Deven whispered against her throat.

Deven bit down on the sensitive skin and Rhian gasped. "I don't understand."

"Another finger, baby. Please."

Uncertain but eager to please, Rhian cautiously added a third finger and felt Deven's muscles clamp down hard. The pace of Deven's thrusts increased, and Rhian felt a light coating of perspiration cover the woman's skin. She could taste the slight saltiness on her tongue. The low sounds of passion falling from the martial artist's lips might as well have been as loud as thunder. They reverberated through her. And the sights, the sounds, the taste all fed her developing hunger.

The heat was beginning to fan outwards from her groin now, and she knew it wouldn't be much longer. She stared at Deven through eyes hooded in passion and moaned loudly as her body moved upwards toward the pinnacle. Impossibly, she seemed to hang suspended as if her body was waiting for her orgasm to catch up from where it hovered deep inside. Deven pressed against her clitoris and the concussion caused her to cry out as her climax shot outwards throughout her body. Increasing her grip on the martial artist, she gave into the pleasure and sailed over the edge, a chorus of "I love you" falling from her lips.

Not missing a beat, Deven continued to move against her, and Rhian felt the muscles clamping down like a vise around her fingers. "Oh, fuck, Rhian," Deven groaned as her head fell back and her eyes closed. Her muscles convulsed repeatedly, and Rhian felt her body responding again. The two women rose up and rode the crest of their orgasms together.

Several seconds passed before Deven lowered her head and opened her eyes. The women remained where they were, delighting in the connection between them and what they'd just shared. Neither of them had ever felt so much - so much love, so much desire. Deven brushed her lips softly against the landscaper's, and the love that seemed to reach out to her from Rhian's gaze touched her deeply, causing tears to brim in her eyes. So much.

Smiling, Rhian reached up with her free hand and caressed the martial artist's cheek. She wasn't certain that she could move, but irregardless of that, she lay still enjoying the sensations that still rippled through her body and the gentle constrictions that pulsed against where her fingers still rested within the woman's warmth. "I guess I got my answer."

Deven returned the smile before kissing Rhian deeply. "Last night was very real," she said as they parted. "For me, too."

They lay there in silence until their hearts had slowed and the tremors had waned, and then shifting her weight, Deven slowly pulled out of the younger woman. "Rhian, you can let go now."

"I don't want to."

Deven nuzzled her neck. "Unless you intend to stay like this, which would be very hard to explain to people, I think you need to reconsider that." A small wave of aftershocks moved through her groin as Rhian slowly withdrew. Rolling onto her side, Deven stretched out facing the woman, her hand lazily stroking Rhian's flesh as her eyes drank in the sight of her lover's body.

The landscaper's eyes closed, and her breathing slowed. "Hey, don't be falling back to sleep," Deven said as she slowly shook the woman.

Rhian rolled onto her side and cuddled up against the martial artist's body. "Why not?"

She gently stroked Rhian's hair and kissed her softly below the ear. "I wish we could stay here all day, but you need to get up for work." The sound of a large truck pulling up the driveway reached the bedroom. "I think you're crew just arrived."

Rhian groaned as she found that she truly resented the intrusion. Before she could ponder that thought, Deven playfully slapped her backside causing her to yelp in surprise. "Ouch! That wasn't nice."

Sitting up, the martial artist examined the mark her hand had made and then leaning forward slowly kissed and licked the spot.

"Hmm," Rhian hummed. I will not think about how much that is turning me on. She lay still for several moments before a soft chuckle caused her to glance around at what Deven was doing. "What's so funny?"

"Nothing," Deven looked at her innocently. "Just marking what's mine."

"Marking? Yours?" Her eyes widened in surprise. "Did you just put a hickey on my butt?"

"Uh huh. Come on. Get cleaned up, and I'll make you a quick breakfast."

Hers? I'm hers? Unquestionably, Rhian felt like crying at that moment. "I don't want to get up."

"I know, baby." Deven ran her fingertips gently across Rhian's cheek. "I love you," she said, her voice sounding husky from the sudden well of emotion.

"I know," the landscaper murmured happily.

With natural grace, Deven rose rapidly, pulling the startled up woman with her.

The sudden motion left Rhian a little dizzy, and she quickly gripped the martial artist's forearms to steady herself. "Whoa. Head rush."

"Well sure," Deven drawled out. "All the blood rushed out of your head and went to your."

"Jeez," the landscaper said as her hand rose quickly and covered the woman's mouth. "Yes it did, but that doesn't mean you have to be so...so...uncouth about it. "

Reaching up to hold the hand in place, the martial artist kissed Rhian's sensitive palm several times before gently pulling it away. "Go on before I have no choice but to do this again," she said, her voice dropping in timbre.

"And that would be bad because?"

Deven's rich laughter filled the room. "I've awakened the sleeping beast."

Despite the blush that heated the skin on her chest and neck, Rhian smiled and even managed to dig up a bit of false bravado. "Oh yeah. You best keep up your training, because you're going to need the stamina." The modicum of daring began to fade as Deven's gaze scanned her nude body slowly from head to toe and back again. But then their eyes met and the look of unveiled desire she saw fed her confidence. With a small smirk, she turned and sauntered into the bathroom taking pleasure in the knowledge that Deven was watching her every move.

To Be Continued In Chapter Twenty Four

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