The Homecoming
By Janet Lynne

Part 10

-21-

Additional disclaimer for sexual content: I should have just given this thing an R rating from the beginning, since I keep going there. Apologies. Um, is there such a thing as R+? Also, song lyrics are copyright Joey and Dee Dee Ramone, 1983.

As she descended the stairs with a suitcase in each hand, Ryan slowed as she heard a beautiful melody being gently strummed on an acoustic guitar. She paused at the foot of the stairway and quietly set the bags down.

From where she stood she could see her partner sitting on the loveseat in the family room, playing her guitar. The song was hauntingly beautiful but Janna was even more so. As her right hand expertly plied the strings and the fingers of her left hand danced over the neck of the instrument, she quietly nodded her head to the beat, eyes closed. Her partner's talent struck Ryan deeply and her heart filled with pride. Janna looked serenely beautiful and as if the music had carried her to another realm.

In reality, Janna was feeling very grounded at that moment. The haunting chords of the medieval-era song seemed to evoke ancient, long buried emotions. It reminded her, at a very primal level, of how connected she and Ryan were and of how strong their bond was. Her heart center began thrumming then and she realized that Ryan was nearby, watching her.

As Ryan gazed at her in adoration, a tiny smile crept onto Janna's face and she slowly looked up and opened her eyes, meeting Ryan's gaze. She smiled warmly at her mate and inclined her head, inviting her into the room, as she continued to play.

Ryan joined her mate on the loveseat, leaning back against the arm so that she could observe Janna. Her lover was dressed comfortably in running shorts and a clean white t- shirt, her bare feet up on the coffee table, gently tapping out the beat. Her hair danced lightly on her shoulders as her head swayed to the rhythm of the song.

Ryan relaxed against the upholstery and closed her eyes, letting the lilting melody carry her away. As she listened to the almost melancholy song, she was reminded of a recent dream, forgotten until that moment.

In the dream, she was the warrior woman again. She was aboard a ship and as it slowly made its way out of port, she could see her soul mate on the dock, waving goodbye. She felt an acute sense of loss, and a painful emptiness filled her heart at leaving her friend. The feeling she had as her partner faded from view was that she would never see her again. She felt hot tears slowly travel down her cheeks and a painful lump form in her throat as her heart was gripped by an icy cold. She could feel her mate through their bond and knew that she was feeling the loss just as deeply. Yet, the small blonde's pain was tempered by a glimmer of hope. This glimmer of hope, in turn, warmed the warrior's heart some and lessened the cold constriction infinitesimally.

Ryan swallowed hard as she recalled the dream and experienced the pain that her counterpart had felt. How many times had she and her love parted in that lifetime? She shivered at the remembered pain, feeling it as if it were her own, in this life. As she opened her eyes, she realized that the music had stopped, and Janna was gazing at her, a look of concern in her eyes.

"Ryan, what is it? She asked softly.

Ryan bit her lower lip as her brows knit in confusion. "I'm not quite sure. I was enjoying your beautiful music when I was reminded of another one of those warrior dreams that I had recently. In the dream, I was leaving on a ship, leaving you, and feeling an intense pain because of it. I was in agony, and I could feel your pain too, through the link. Just now I was experiencing the pain again." She shook her head as if to clear it.

"You were leaving me behind?"

"Yes. I had the sense of there being something important that I had to do and that you couldn't help me with it. I don't understand that Janna. I could never leave you like that. Nothing could separate us." She gazed intently at her partner, her brilliant eyes serious.

"It doesn't seem likely, I know, Ryan, but those were very different times. Very dangerous, I think. If you were anything then like you are now, I can imagine that you would do almost anything necessary to protect me. Including separate from me." Janna set her guitar on the floor next to the loveseat and scooted closer to her mate.

Ryan shook her head. "I don't know Janna. It seems to me that I would be best protecting you by staying by your side. I can't believe that there would have been anything more important than staying with you. I really can't. Especially since I've felt how deeply the warrior loved the bard: it's like what I feel for you."

"Well, we must have been reunited, right? Since in another dream you experienced our deaths?" Janna suggested.

"Yeah, that's true. And I guess we had a baby after that too. It's strange...I think the warrior thought she wouldn't be returning, but her mate felt that she would." She leaned forward and pulled her present-day mate into her arms. "I'll bet that little blonde had the warrior wrapped around her little finger just like you do me." Her blue eyes twinkled as her mate's green ones took on a look of disbelief.

"What? Oh boy is that not true!" She poked a firm abdomen.

"Shit, Janna, one look from you and I melt, and you know it. Come on...admit it. And you love it too." She grabbed the offending finger and brought it to her lips.

Janna's lips curved into a warm smile. "I do. And I love you." She stretched up and captured her protector's lips, not releasing them for long minutes.

Breathless, Ryan asked, "Is it time for bed yet?" Her darkened eyes gazed hopefully into her mate's.

"Almost. I just need to finish packing my cameras. Everything else is ready." She looked coyly up into her mate's eyes again. "You wanna help me? I'll be ready for bed sooner if you do."

"Lets go." Ryan was on her feet in one lightning fast movement.

Janna grinned widely as she followed Ryan into the studio. I really do have her wrapped around my finger!

When they reached the studio, Janna pulled open a large cabinet and grabbed three camera bags, two tripods and a monopod, setting them on a worktable.

"Three different cameras, love?"

"Yes. A 35mm for color and one for black and white, and a large format camera." As she checked the contents of the bags she explained, "I like to be prepared." She made sure each bag had plenty of the correct film and that the cameras were packed safely and then closed them up. "Okay, all set. You want to grab those two, hon? I'll get the other bag and the 'pods."

Ryan followed her out of the room and down the hallway, a bag in each hand, and they set them by the front door with their other luggage.

Ryan turned to her partner and said, "Looks like we're all set, baby. All we need to do in the morning is get up and go." Her eyes gained a twinkle as she added, "'Course that's easier said than done for some of us."

Janna took exception to the comment and chased her playmate up the stairs, tackling her on the bed, both of them breathless from laughing. The small blonde soon gained the upper hand as she straddled her larger mate and began tickling her mercilessly.

Ryan finally panted, "Okay, I give...I give! I'm sorry!"

Janna accepted Ryan's apology by leaning down and kissing her. Ryan's arms quickly came up and enfolded her, pulling her down on top of her. Their kiss intensified and within minutes all of their clothes were strewn about the room haphazardly and the two lovers were once again completely lost within each other.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan opened one eye lazily as a pink-tinged shaft of light entered the room through a crooked vane of vertical blind. She frowned and turned her head slightly, gazing at the errant blind to see why it wasn't properly closed, and noted that a shirt lay against it. Near the shirt lay a pair of panties and near them, a bra. She grinned as she remembered the previous night's gymnastics and gazed down lovingly at the small woman sprawled across her.

She decided that if they wanted to get an early start and make it to their destination by mid-morning, she'd better wake up her sleepyhead. She slowly drew the sheet off of her partner's lithe form and ran her hands up along the small body, starting with the backs of her thighs and moving up toward her smooth back. The roaming hands stopped to caress firm, round buttocks on the way. At this, her mate shifted and mumbled something against Ryan's chest.

"Sweetheart...morning...time to wake up. We have a long drive today." Her low voice rumbled pleasantly through Janna but did not have the desired effect.

Okay, on to plan 'B'. She gently rolled her mate off of her body and onto her back, then leaned down and kissed her soundly. As she did so, Ryan reached down with a hand and stroked Janna in a very sensitive place.

At the tender touch, her mate stiffened briefly, then relaxed and returned the kiss, rolling back into Ryan's embrace.

"Mmm, you don't play fair Ryan."

"Just trying to wake you up sweetheart." Ryan grinned as she continued to caress her mate tenderly.

"Well, it worked...now what're you gonna do about it?" Janna asked as she nipped at Ryan's neck.

"How about this?" came the low reply as she pulled Janna more tightly against herself and connected with her, using fingers and mouth simultaneously.

"Mmm" was the only reply that was forthcoming.

They lay together, gently entwined, and passed loving energy to each other through mutually connecting fingers and mouths, creating a closed circuit through which their shared energy could flow. The loving ministrations went no further than that. Their love was reaffirmed in this gentle, loving, ancient method every morning and often did not evolve into more strenuous lovemaking. After about ten minutes of sharing, they kissed again and parted; ready to begin their day.

A long, pleasant shower followed, which, as was usually the case, involved additional loving affirmations. By 8:00 they were on the road in Janna's Jeep, heading toward their beloved mountains, Ryan behind the wheel.

The pounding, chiming guitars blended and rose in a crescendo, creating a fluid, melodic wall of sound. As the singer's New York-inflected voice smoothly delivered the words to one of Janna's favorite songs, she felt as if she were flying, aided by the scenery rushing by.

Sinking into the stars
Diving in for a swim
Soaring like a super hero
Past the end of Disneyland

Through dragon mist
Above alpine peaks
To the cloudy lace
To the highest trails above

I feel so safe
I feel content
Send you all my love...

Every wish comes true
Most desired dreams
Happy endings too
Finally you find love

I feel so safe
Flying on a ray
On the highest trails above...

That song never failed to transport Janna, and now, heading into the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains with her beloved by her side, its magical effect on her was intensified. She sat with her head back against the headrest, bobbing to the beat, eyes closed, her face rapturous and graced with a huge, contented smile. She gave every appearance of being about to leave her body and launch into ecstatic flight.

Ryan glanced at her and grinned. She could feel Janna's joy through heir bond and gained a small measure of understanding of Janna's love for her craft. The song ended and Janna came back to Earth, leaned forward, rewound the tape a ways, and repeated the song.

When it finished playing once again, Ryan said, "I like that, Janna. Who are those guys?"

Janna took a deep breath and sighed, replying, "The Ramones. That's my all-time favorite song of theirs. It absolutely transports me very time I hear it. I'm surprised I haven't worn this tape out yet: I recorded it off of vinyl, must have been more than ten years ago."

"I've heard of them. They haven't had a lot of hits though, have they?"

"Um, no! And I don't think they care all that much...though they really do deserve the recognition. They were the original punk band, in my book. The punk explosion in England in the mid-seventies just happened to take place right after the Ramones toured there. I have every one of their albums, mainly on vinyl." She sighed again.

"I love these guys...they're the masters of three-chord rock and roll. I think they were my biggest single influence, after Joan Jett...from my playing style to my stance to my attitude." She mused silently for a while, then added, "They have inspired so many of today's bands. I used to dream about being the first female Ramone...heck, I used to want to be Johnny Ramone." Janna grinned as she shook her head in remembrance.

Ryan smiled at her mate. She became extremely enthusiastic when she talked about music and it was almost excruciatingly cute.

Ryan glanced over her left shoulder to make a lane change and then looked back at Janna. "Why don't you hit rewind again? I like that song."

Janna grinned widely at her and pushed the button. "Okay, but then we'll listen to some of your favorite music."

"Oh, honey, I don't really have a favorite: just classic rock and some of the lesbian artists. You pick the music. I like hearing the music you love and that inspired you." She favored her partner with a sincere smile.

Janna smiled her thanks and picked up Ryan' s right hand. When the Ramones were finished, she returned to her body and inserted Melissa Etheridge's first album, knowing that Ryan loved it as much as she did. Ryan squeezed her hand in acknowledgment and drove on, enjoying the company and the beautiful landscape rushing by.

As they traveled east, the dry valley slowly gave way to rolling golden foothills dotted with oak trees. As the road rose in elevation, the landscape that it cut across gradually appeared less dry, revealing more and more hints of green. The scrubby, drought tolerant native plants and trees diminished in number, making way for manzanita and pine as the land became increasingly rocky and the soil turned a rich red color.

As the highway climbed toward the clouds, the temperature dropped steadily. At two thousand feet elevation it was a relatively mild eighty degrees, ten degrees cooler than the valley floor.

Ryan smiled as the sun glinted off of her Ray Bans, glad beyond measure that she wasn't working today...it would reach one hundred five degrees by the end of the shift. Poor John. Up near Lake Tahoe, in the cool forest where they would be staying, it might reach seventy-five. If they were lucky, there would be a late-afternoon thunderstorm too. Ryan and Janna both loved summertime rain.

The two lovers shared a simultaneous shiver of delight in anticipation of their little vacation together and both turned toward each other and smiled, then laughed at their synchronicity.

"Jesus, Janna, this link is something else!" Ryan shook her head as she grinned and brought Janna's hand to her lips.

Janna fed her an adoring look and replied, "I know...it's incredible. I've heard of such things, but never imagined it happening to me. We are so blessed Ryan." She brought their linked hands to her lips and returned the kiss.

At the touch of her mate's soft lips, Ryan felt a now very familiar stirring within and asked, "So, uh, what're we doing first when we get there?" She tried to look innocent as she gazed expectantly at her mate.

Janna knew fully what her partner's motivation was, thanks to their link, and after waiting a moment and smiling, replied, "You mean after we make love?"

Ryan looked guilty as she grinned weakly. "Busted huh?"

"So busted babe! But I'm feeling the same way, so don't feel bad." Blue eyes met green yet again in silent communication before Ryan returned her attention to the highway, which was growing increasingly curving as they ascended the mountain.

-22-

Forty-five minutes later Janna exclaimed, "Oh Ryan, look there to the right...that cabin with the green roof was ours." She pointed out the right side window, directly across the highway to a redwood-stained cabin with a metallic green snow roof and a large porch, which sat high above the raging white water of the American River below.

"That belonged to your parents?"

"My grandparents...my mom's parents. I grew up spending my summers here. It was magical. When my grandpa got really sick with cancer they had to sell it. It was just like losing a part of ourselves...for all of us. That was just before I left home." She gazed fondly at the rustic home as they quickly passed by and Ryan squeezed her hand.

"Okay, the Lodge is just a quarter mile or so up the highway at Strawberry, on the right."

Ryan slowed somewhat as they approached a small town...actually not much more than a wide spot in the road. It consisted of a gas station/garage, a general store, a horseback riding and cross country ski business, the lodge and a handful of cabins. Janna instructed Ryan to turn in and park in front of a large rustic-looking building that had a long, covered porch.

As they exited the Jeep they were hit with a breeze of refreshingly cool, pine-scented air and they both stood and breathed deeply of the fresh air.

"Oh, God, Ryan. Smell that air will you?" Janna took another deep lungful as Ryan grabbed her hand and did the same.

"Awesome, babe. Lets go check in," she said and pulled Janna behind her to the front door.

As her mate led her into the inn, Janna nearly giggled at Ryan's impatience to get to their room. They entered a dark but pleasant lobby. The surrounding tall pines, besides adding a beautiful ambiance to the site, also cut down on the available sunlight. The room was done in a tastefully rustic décor, with beautiful knotty pine paneling on the walls, which sported paintings of scenic mountain vistas.

As they approached the front desk, a pleasant older woman greeted them cheerfully, "Welcome to the Strawberry Lodge".

"Hi. It's great to be here. We have a reservation...Norden-Zamora."

The woman took care of their registration, handed Janna a key and directed them down a hallway to their right, but not before wishing them a happy stay with a little wink of her eye. Janna led them down a hallway of the same pine paneling and they stopped at the room at the end, which was set a bit apart from the surrounding rooms.

Janna unlocked the door and opened it into a large, beautiful room with a large picture window looking out over a meadow and the river beyond. Next to the window was a sliding door, which opened onto a deck, complete with a hot tub.

"Shit, Janna, this is a suite!" Ryan gaped wide-eyed at the luxurious suite.

Janna giggled and responded, "Yep...it's the honeymoon suite. I thought it was appropriate."

Ryan blushed and rolled her eyes, groaning, "Oh Christ...that's why the woman winked at us!"

"Oh my God, you're embarrassed! I never thought I'd see that." Janna wrapped her arms around her mate and hugged her.

"I am not embarrassed. I'm just..." she stammered, not completing the sentence.

"What?"

"Shit...I'm gonna go get the bags." Her clearly not-used-to-being-embarrassed partner quickly turned to leave the room.

"I'll help you and we can make it in one trip." She followed Ryan out and locked the door.

After returning with their bags and checking out the rest of the suite, which included a large master bath and a small kitchenette, Ryan commenced their "honeymoon" by picking Janna up and carrying her back to the main room and depositing her on the bed.

She fell onto the bed, straddling her mate, and slowly leaned down to kiss her. Janna's arms went around her neck and pulled her fully down on top of herself.

Ryan laughed, saying, "It looks like you're just as anxious to begin this honeymoon as I am."

"Oh, yeah!" Janna grinned as she pulled Ryan's face back down to meet hers. As she kissed her mate deeply she heard the Ramones singing in her head.

You could make my life complete
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Baby, you're my kind of a girl

~~~~~~~~~~

After a quick, but very intense and satisfying romantic interlude, Ryan and Janna left the lodge and Janna led them through the meadow that surrounded the building. It was just after noon and Ryan carried a backpack with a lunch and one of Janna's camera bags in it. Janna carried the rest of her equipment in her backpack and in a fanny pack. She wore the camera loaded with color film around her neck, anticipating using it the most.

As they walked through the lush green meadow of thigh-high grass, they could smell the wildflowers and sage that were growing liberally in the space. There was still a bit of morning dew on the blades, which tickled and caressed their bare legs as they passed through it.

"Lotta snakes around here Janna?" asked Ryan as she followed her mate on the narrow path.

"Yeah, there are. Several kinds. I've seen garter and king snakes in this meadow and rattlesnakes up on the mountain. Right about now there are probably rattlers sunning themselves on the granite up where we're going.

"Just checking. Glad I brought my snake bite kit." Ryan grinned as she turned to look at her partner.

"Oh, yeah, I never come up here without that." Janna returned the grin and then stopped to point out the peak above them. "Would you like to hike up there tomorrow?" she said as she pointed to the cliff that loomed above the small valley they were in.

Ryan craned her neck to peer up at it. "Sure! How high is that?"

"Well, lets see. We're at about 6500 feet right here and I think up there at the top it's around 8000. It's called Lover's Leap."

Ryan stopped in her tracks and slowly turned to face her lover. "You're kidding, right?"

"Nope. It's from an old Native legend. Apparently a brave and his maiden jumped off together because they weren't allowed to marry."

"Jesus!" remarked Ryan as she gazed at the tremendous height of the craggy face. "How long does it take to get to the top?" She started walking again when Janna put her hand on her back.

"About three hours. It's strenuous in a few places, but overall not a bad hike."

"Sounds cool, babe. I'll bet the view from the top is fantastic."

"Oh, God, yes...it's beautiful." Janna stopped and considered the cliff. "Hold up a minute honey. I think I'll get a few shots here." She swung her pack off of her back and set it on the trail at her feet.

As her partner set up her equipment and started taking pictures, Ryan gazed around at the splendor around them. They were in a cleft between two large peaks that had been cut eons ago by the American River just below them. She could hear the water raging, even this late in the summer and imagined without seeing it that it might make a good rafting trip some time.

Ryan gazed at her partner, who had walked out into the meadow and was snapping pictures. She looked gorgeous in khaki hiking shorts and a white tank top. The sun shining through her hair brought out golden highlights and created almost a halo effect around her head. Am I seeing her aura again? Well, whatever, it's appropriate...she is definitely an angel. My angel. She smiled and was still gazing at Janna with wonder when her mate dropped the camera back down around her neck and approached her.

"See something you like, babe?" her imp asked, and Ryan answered her with a swat on the fanny. "Just checking!" Janna said as she removed the camera from around her neck and handed it to her mate. "Will you hold this for a minute, hon? I want to get some shots with the large format...the light's great right now."

"Sure. Would you mind if I snapped a few of you while you work?" Ryan asked, almost hesitantly.

Janna looked a little perplexed but shrugged and said, "Sure, if you'd like. Um, I'd like to get some of you too while we're up here."

It was Ryan's turn to look perplexed but she shrugged her agreement as well. "How do I work this thing?" she asked as she examined the camera she held.

Janna approached and reached around her to show her the controls. Ryan enjoyed the proximity of her mate and her mind wandered briefly, conjuring up a hot tub scenario for later.

"Ryan, are you listening?"

"What? Oh, sorry. Mind wandered off there for a minute." She grinned and then leaned into her mate and added, "God, you smell good."

"Honey, you are incorrigible." But as she spoke she noticed Ryan's alluring scent as well. Mmm, there's that sweet, spicy musk I love so well.

"Janna, are you listening?"

"Hm, what?" Janna looked up into her mate's grinning face, then scowled as she added, "Alright, so we're both completely lost in each other, so what?" Her half growl only served to turn Ryan on even more and she pulled Janna in for a hug. They enjoyed the closeness, and each other's scents, for a few minutes, relishing their bond and the beauty that surrounded them.

They parted and Janna set up the larger camera and proceeded to take some shots of both the meadow and the mountain that loomed above it. Ryan enjoyed the view from where she stood. She was not looking at either the meadow or the mountain, however.

About an hour later they sat together on a large granite boulder, looking out at the valley below and the peaks that stretched out beyond it. The cool breeze felt good on sun-warmed skin and the lovely sound of the wind in the pines lulled them with its almost musical quality. Janna sat back against Ryan and they both felt both completely at home and completely lost in each other at the same time.

As she rested against her mate, feeling an intense sense of peace and belonging, Janna quietly commented, "I used to come up here and sit for hours. The peace would just envelope me and no matter what was happening in my life at the time, I could regain my equilibrium. I could come up here and feel totally complete and at peace."

Ryan sighed and quietly said, "Baby, for me, this is what life is all about." She kissed the blonde head that rested against her and pulled her lover closer.

Janna sighed as well, before answering. "Yes, love. This is my idea of perfection. It was already one of my favorite spots on the planet, but now, with you here, it's like heaven. Thank you for coming here with me."

"Thank you so much for bringing me. I can't wait to see your other special places."

"Cool, Ryan. This is where I grew up, in the summers. Dan and I owned this mountain! At least we felt like we did. We jokingly called it 'Norden's Mountain'. I don't remember what the actual name is. But the peak across the way over there is Pyramid Peak." She pointed to the beautiful triangular peak to their right. It sat across the highway from the Lodge, now some distance away and lower than they were. "Just down from this ledge is the cabin. We can take a look at it if you'd like."

"Oh, I would like. Can we see the river from there?" Ryan spoke of the river that she could still hear, though now they were high above it.

"Yes, for sure. The cabin sits practically right on it. We can swim in it if you'd like. There's a nice calm area just downstream. It's ice cold, even in the summer, but so refreshing after hiking."

"Oh, so that's why you had me wear my suit under my clothes?" Ryan grinned and kissed the back of her mate's neck.

"Yep! Hey, I'm hungry. Wanna eat?" Janna half turned so she could see her mate.

"Anytime, baby" Ryan drawled and nipped lightly at the spot she had just kissed.

"Yep, you are definitely incorrigible! I'm talking lunch, honey, not me."

"You're dessert."

"If you're good, maybe."

"Mmm, I'm the best."

Janna, knowing she had lost the verbal duel, could only mumble, "Yes, you are", because her lover had captured her lips. They parted after several wonderful minutes, before things could get entirely out of hand.

Ryan stood and reached down for Janna, helping her to her feet and Janna led them back to the tree where they had left their packs. They shared a log under the tree and sat side-by-side enjoying the sandwiches that Janna had made that morning.

"Janna, did you ever notice that sandwiches taste best when you're on a hike?"

"I have! And also at the Lake. I have the best memories of packed lunches up here. I still can't make a salami sandwich at home that tastes like the ones my mom and my grandma used to make up here." She sighed contentedly and took another bite. Overhead, an eagle soared majestically on unseen thermals of air. Hm, what's the message of eagle? I need to remember to look that up when we get home.

Ryan finished her lunch and pulled her mate against her side. Janna munched happily in that position for a few minutes, then cleaned up their trash. They sat and enjoyed the peace and quiet – the only sounds were the wind whispering through the trees and the river rushing below – for several more minutes. Then Janna led them back down the mountainside to the road that curved up its side and in the other direction led down to the tract of summer cabins along the river.

They walked hand-in-hand along a dirt lane. Rustic-looking cabins were spaced sporadically along either side of the road amongst the pine forest. Tall, majestic pine and cedar loomed over them on every side.

Janna looked around as she walked, memories flooding back. She and her brother had played there as children, amongst the rocks and trees, pretending they were Indian braves – never cowboys – always Indians. They had honed their outdoor skills there: hiking, fishing, tracking, climbing, and swimming. It was here that Janna had also felt most at home. She felt a connection to the mountains and the forest that she had never experienced any other place. Later, through her metaphysical studies and journeys, she would learn the reason for that, but as a child she knew simply that she loved it there. More so there than anywhere else she had ever visited.

They approached a lot that had a small brown cabin sitting at the back of it. There were so many pines in front that the cabin could only just be glimpsed through the trees. Janna pulled Ryan toward a pathway leading to the front door.

"This is it. Our cabin. God, how I loved this place." She looked wistfully around the small space of forested land. "I had thought that I would raise my kids here some day."

Ryan instinctively pulled Janna closer and kissed her head.

"It looks like a wonderful place to have grown up sweetheart." She turned Janna toward her and continued, "Maybe we can get a place like it one day. A special place for our own kids."

A tear slid down Janna's cheek and she hugged her mate tightly. "Oh Ryan, that would be wonderful. Lets put some thought into it okay? It would mean a lot of hard work, but I think it would be so worthwhile."

"Sure baby. Lets do that. I love the mountains too. I can't think of a better legacy to present to our children than a home in a place like this." She grinned and rubbed Janna's back, adding, "We can raise a coupla' little environmentalists. Just like their momma."

"Just like both their mommas." She gazed up at her partner, who leaned down and gently captured her lips. They stood there, amongst the Ponderosa and Sugar pines, embracing and kissing for long minutes, their already incredibly strong bond growing stronger still.

Janna pulled back and smiled fondly at her mate. "Come on, I'll show you around and then we'll go down to the river."

They walked, arm-in-arm this time, down a gentle slope toward the river. The ever- present roaring of the river grew louder as they approached it.

"Janna, did the constant roaring of the river take some getting used to?"

"Not that I recall. I guess coming here from birth, before that actually, I was just used to it. Friends occasionally mentioned that it was hard to get used to, especially at night, but they eventually found it as relaxing as we did."

"Hmm, I guess it would be relaxing. They make CD's of this stuff now and sell them for sixteen bucks."

"Yeah, that's right, they do!"

They reached the edge of the rock face and could see the river below, tumbling and coursing over boulders, between the granite walls of the narrow river canyon. Directly in front of the cabin, there was a small, picturesque waterfall, created by boulders that had lodged together, possibly millennia ago. About thirty yards downstream, a massive tree had fallen across the canyon and nearly bridged the river, it's sides covered with moss.

Ryan stopped, stunned, and gasped, "Oh, Janna...this is beautiful! Like something out of a painting, or a postcard." She gazed in awe at the pastoral scene and felt a semblance of the love that her partner felt for the place.

"I know, isn't it? Can you imagine how many photographs I've taken here?" She chuckled. It probably numbered in the thousands, as she had been bitten by the photography bug as a very young girl.

"Sweetheart, I think I can imagine it. I've seen the incredible number of negative books you have!"

Janna grinned and looked quizzically at her. "But you know what I don't have?"

"No, what?" Ryan returned her quizzical look.

"A picture of you here." She looked at her partner matter-of-factly with lifted eyebrows.

"Ah, yes. That would be true. Okay, but can you do one of the both of us too?"

"No problem!" She smiled and grabbed Ryan's arm, leading her to where she wanted her to stand.

"Okay, love...just act naturally...look at the river, then at me...whatever makes you comfortable." She lifted the camera to her eye and Ryan did as she had been instructed. Her beauty in this natural setting took Janna's breath away. Jesus, she could be a model. She's absolutely gorgeous.

Ryan tolerated the attention for as long as she could stand it, but then returned to Janna's side and removed the camera from her hands.

"Okay, now it's your turn."

"Oh, Ryan, I'm the photographer, not the subject."

"Tough. Pose for me", came the gruff reply that was softened by a smile.

Janna scowled but complied, not quite lasting as long as Ryan had however.

"Okay, give it back and I'll put it on a tripod and set the timer."

With the camera set and aimed correctly, she and her partner stood together in several different poses, the river providing a breathtaking backdrop. After that they made their way down the rest of the way to the river, to a small, sandy patch of beach, where they deposited their backpacks and began shedding their clothes.

Janna watched, stunned, as Ryan pulled her shirt off over her head, revealing a black one-piece swimsuit. The dark, form-fitting suit accentuated her hard body and sculpted muscles under bronzed skin. Janna swallowed hard as warmth shot in every direction from the vicinity of her second chakra, setting every nerve ending in her body on fire.

She shook her head and blew out a breath, making her own plans for later that evening. She kicked off her shorts and pulled her own shirt off; unaware of the similar effect she was having on her partner. She wore a pale green bikini that left very little to Ryan's imagination. Ryan was, at that moment, however, imagining removing it from Janna's body. With her teeth.

Janna glanced up to see her partner, desire clouding her blue eyes, advancing on her. Before Janna could react, Ryan had swept her in her arms and pulled her in for a hungry kiss, running her hands sensuously down her sides. Janna returned the kiss just as hungrily but quickly came to her senses and pushed slightly away.

"Honey, it's not exactly private here," she said weakly, her resolve fading as Ryan's hands and lips roamed further.

"I don't give a fuck. I want you, baby," was the half-growled response. Ryan's lips responded further by nipping and sucking a prominent breastbone.

"Oh...God. Ryan, stop. Please."

The seriousness of Janna's voice halted her in her tracks and she looked her mate in the eye, confusion clouding her features. "I...I'm sorry Janna. I...you just turn me on so much. I thought you'd like it here..."

"No, baby, I'm sorry. I just can't make love here. It's not so much that's it's not private...it's my beliefs. Um, I believe it's disrespectful. From a Native American standpoint...they believe it bothers the nature and animal spirits when humans have sex in their realm. I believe it is too. Can we save this for a little later?" She implored Ryan with a look so sincere that it tore at her heart.

"Yes, baby, yes. Of course we'll wait. I'm sorry, Janna. I don't know what happens to me sometimes...I can look at you and have the most primal reaction and it just takes control of me." She brought Janna's hand to her lips and kissed it tenderly. Apology filled her eyes and lined her face.

Janna caressed her cheek saying, "It's okay my love. I understand how you feel, believe me. It took all of my willpower to stop you just now. Lets make it a very special night okay?" Looking coyly into her mate's eyes, she added, "I brought the chocolate."

Ryan closed her eyes and swallowed hard, "Oh, God. Yes...okay, baby...later it is then." She took a deep breath and blew it out. "I don't know about you, but I can really use a dip in this ice cold river right now." She raised her eyebrows expectantly and received the affirmative nod that she had anticipated.

Taking Janna's hand, she led them carefully out into the current, staying where it was relatively shallow.

"Oh, shit, Janna, you weren't kidding. This is like ice!"

"It's snowmelt, babe."

"Jesus! Come 'ere and keep me warm."

"Ryan! You are the most hot-blooded woman I know...you keep me warm!" Ryan gladly met her small mate's demand, pulling her against her body.

They carefully sat on a large rock together, with their legs in the water up to their thighs. The strong current buffeted them, the cold quickly numbing their skin. Hot, tired feet were quickly and thoroughly soothed.

"Well, my libido has been shot to hell, what about yours?" Ryan remarked comically.

"That may be true now Ryan, but I'll bet it doesn't last long," her partner responded wryly.

"I'll bet you're right about that baby," she drawled, presenting her mate with another of her famous rakish grins. Janna's libido returned with a vengeance and she had to look away, clearing her throat.

A few minutes in the icy stream was plenty and they retrieved towels from Ryan's pack, laying them on a large, flat, sunny rock and lying down on them to sun. They lay side-by-side on the rock, enjoying the sound of the river rushing around them as well as the warm sun on their skin.

After only a few minutes, Ryan spoke to Janna and didn't receive an answer. Glancing at her mate, she saw that she had fallen asleep. The term "sleepyhead" doesn't nearly describe her...my little sleeping beauty. Ryan's soul was so filled with warmth and love for her partner that tears filled her eyes. It just keeps getting better. Thank you, God.

~~~~~~~~~~

After a delicious dinner in the inn's dining room, the ladies retired to their suite. Ryan poured champagne into glasses while Janna readied the hot tub on the rear deck.

The deck overlooked the moonlit meadow and as Janna settled down into the warm water, she looked up and saw two deer standing gracefully on the path. They stood stock-still for a minute and then bent their heads to the succulent green grasses. Janna watched them in awe, their beauty and grace captivating her. When she heard Ryan approaching she motioned for her to be quiet and pointed toward the meadow.

"Aren't they beautiful?"

"They are. Looks like a doe and a fawn. God, that's cool, babe." Suddenly, the pair looked up in the direction of the river and as one, bounded out of the meadow.

"Wow, that was awesome." Janna looked after them.

"You know what I think is awesome?" Ryan entered the tub and handed a wine glass to Janna.

"What?"

"You. And me. Here." Ryan's eyes sparkled as she tilted her glass towards Janna's. "Here's to us babe. Happy honeymoon."

Janna grinned and clinked her glass against Ryan's. "Happy honeymoon to you too Ryan. Maybe we can do this once a year or so?"

"I'm there, baby." Ryan slipped in behind her mate and wrapped her arms around her, gently caressing her stomach. They both wore their swimsuits, feeling that the location of the hot tub didn't quite offer the requisite privacy, despite the fact that a roof covered it.

"Mmm. I love it when you do that."

"Then I'll keep doing it. Forever if you want." She kissed Janna's ear.

"Oh, you know I want." Janna took another sip of champagne and set down her glass so that she could cover Ryan's arms with hers.

Ryan brought her legs up and wrapped them around Janna's waist, intertwining them with her legs. She began kissing Janna's neck, starting at the back and working around to each side. While her lips caressed Janna's neck and throat, her hands began an exploration of their own. Her hands and fingers burned trails of fire along Janna's skin.

As her hands met resistant material she mumbled, "This suit has to go, baby. It's in the way."

"Then lets go inside" was the unhesitating response.

Ryan was up out of the water, hand extended down to Janna, seemingly before her mate could blink. Janna grinned in amazement as her partner gently leered at her, and stepped out of the tub. Ryan wrapped a large beach towel around them both and walked her mate inside, closing and locking the door behind them. She didn't close the drapes however, in favor of letting the beautiful silver light of the moon enter the room.

Ryan left the room lights off as she stood in front of her partner and removed the towel from her shoulders. The moonlight was bright enough for them to see by and provided a romantic ambiance. She leaned in and lowered her lips to Janna's, taking them gently, savoring their sweet taste and silky texture. Janna moaned into her mouth and wrapped her arms around Ryan, responding to the kiss more fervently. As they kissed deeply, slowly, Ryan gently pushed the bikini straps off of Janna's shoulders and reached around, undoing the clasp in the back. As the top hung open, Ryan pushed it down off Janna's arms and it fell to the floor.

Still kissing her lover, she then reached long arms down and slipped her hands under the bikini bottom, gently pushing it down over her mate's slim hips, caressing as she did do. As the article of clothing joined its mate on the floor, Ryan's hands cupped Janna's smooth behind, softly kneading. Janna moaned into Ryan's mouth again and moved her hands to Ryan's swimsuit straps. In one smooth motion she pushed the suit down off of Ryan's torso, letting it settle at her waist.

As soon as her mate's lovely breasts were freed, Janna bent to suckle them, first one and then the other. Ryan moaned loudly and brought her hands up behind Janna's head, encouraging the loving contact.

"God, baby, I love that," she moaned. "Your touch feels like fire..."

"Mmm...and I love doing it. You taste so good..." Janna swirled her tongue around a hard nub as she gently rolled its twin between her fingers.

"Fuck, baby..."

"Anything you want love..."

"On the bed, now," came the gentle demand.

Janna backed up and fell onto the bed, pulling Ryan with her. As they lay on their sides, facing each other, Janna pulled Ryan's suit all the way off and gently caressed soft, black curls as she hungrily resumed her attention to her mate's breasts. Ryan arched her back and threw her head back at Janna's intimate touch, the fire within starting to burn uncontrollably. She wrapped her legs around Janna's, forcing their bodies closer together.

"Oh fuck, Janna, please, baby...now." Janna's loving fingers, three of them, complied, stroking and fondling her mate intimately until, just moments later, she cried out her release. Janna continued stroking and Ryan's tremors continued for several more minutes, until she cried Janna's name over and over, ending breathless and spent.

Janna held her for several minutes, until she regained the ability to move and her breath no longer came in ragged gasps. Ryan rolled away from her lover and lay on her back, listless.

"Goddamnsonofabitch, baby. What did you do to me?" she gasped as she glanced over at her partner, who wore a very smug grin and shrugged innocently.

After several minutes, Ryan took a deep breath and pushed herself up onto an elbow, enticing Janna with a luscious close-up view of two gorgeous, dark-nippled breasts. "I hope you're ready baby, 'cause I'm coming for ya'," came the cocky drawl.

"I thought you just did that baby...numerous times." Janna grinned wickedly.

Ryan's response came from her lips, but not in the form of speech. Before Janna knew what was happening, her partner had turned and buried her face between her lover's legs, quickly robbing Janna of intelligent thought and of her ability to speak. Fingers, tongue and lips worked flawlessly as one to bring Janna to an ecstatic release that matched that of her partner and left her similarly listless and spent.

They decided to save the chocolate for the next night.


Part 11

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