Clear Conscience

by Jynaki

Copyright © August 2008 ; 2011

Disclaimer: See Part 1


Part 4



Iocca stared past the open laptop to the surf below. It had been two days since she blew off Ariel's dinner invitation and hadn't brought herself to make contact. She'd avoided the knocks on the door for their early morning run. Spending any extra time on the deck in the open was out of the question for fear Ariel would see her and then she would be forced to explain.

Explain what? It had taken her three long years to tolerate the past. To explain to Ariel that the thought of her made her heart sigh and want to run at the same time. How could she explain it when she didn't understand the dichotomy herself.

Ariel was fascinating, desirable. A smile involuntarily stole across her lips. Ariel was alluring. The smile grew and took a different shape as the sudden realization smothered her breath. She wanted to be with Ariel. Even with Gail, she never felt truly desired. The warmth flooded her chest. She'd written about the butterflies taking flight within her characters but had forgotten how the creatures could truly weaken knees. It both thrilled and scared her.

Her brows furrowed. To give in to those emotions also meant to be vulnerable. It meant trusting your partner did not have some horrible skeleton waiting to spring out of the closet or at the very least would not be the lead story in the next episode of Deceevers.

No, she just wasn't ready for Ariel Claymore.


She shook her head, and fiercely rubbed her eyes with fatigue. Iocca stood and headed to the kitchen for a fresh cup of coffee. As she neared the end of the hall, she heard the sound of her muffled name and familiar raps upon the sliding glass door.


Iocca froze, her back pressed against the wall holding her breath. “Damn!” She whispered. She'd left the drapes open and now had to wait until Ariel was completely gone from sight.


“Iocca, it's me Ariel. Can I talk to you?” Another three raps, “Iocca?” Disappointed, her forehead rested against the warm glass. “Why won't you talk to me?” The softer plea bounced off the tempered glass.


Ariel reached into her back pocket and withdrew the small envelope. She wedged it beneath the citronella candles on the table. Ariel quickly turned and bounded down the steps onto the sand below. Hands shoved deep into the recesses of her pockets, she pushed away dreadful thoughts through the fabric and out onto the ocean. Ariel expected the opposite treatment from the touches they shared two days ago.

Iocca remained petrified long after the footsteps were gone. She waited a few more beats before peering around the corner. Seeing the coast was clear, she stepped from her cowering spot and sighed. Her feet nearly left the ground as she jumped at the pounding upon her front door. “Jeez,” she whispered.

Tip toes cushioned by carpet, she crossed the distance to the door and peered through the peep hole. Her smile broadened and feeling of relief competed with joy as Iocca threw open the front door to her best friend standing on the stoop. “Evelyn, what are you doing here?”

“That's a fine hello for someone who drove four hours to come and see your ass.”

Iocca smiled, “Someone should have called first.”

“So that you can create an excuse for me not to come?” She embraced her friend in a fierce hug. “I haven't seen you in nearly two years and this is how you greet me? I thought we were friends?”

“You are my friend, my best friend extraordinaire.”

“Huh, I don't feel like it. I'm hurt.”

“It's good to see you, my friend Come on in.”

“I'll let you make it up to me, Chica.” Evelyn glanced around the small living room. “Hmm, very nice, very nice. Small and cozy. I like it.” She gasped, “Look at that view.” Arms flung wide, Evelyn briskly crossed the room in dramatic flair and went through the sliding doors.

Iocca laughed. “I know. It's what sold me on the place.” She saw the small white envelope on the table and quickly put it in her pocket.

“Oh Iocca, you've kept this a secret for too long.” Evelyn breathed in the ocean air, her face lifted toward the sun for warmth. “This is heaven. We could have a clam bake or something like in the movies.”

“Hell no! I'm not hosting one of your famous wild parties.”

“Famous back home, not here,” Evelyn grinned.

“The answer's still hell no.”

“Think of the fun we can have here.”

“Fun wasn't the reason I moved here, Evelyn.” Iocca replied.

“Yeah, I know.”

The high pitched shriek of a child blended with the surf and Iocca watched the little girl being chased by her father. He took her to the surf's edge and let her feet dangle in the cool blue water. Their shrieks of laughter reminded Iocca of what was missing from her paradise. The happiness but it never lasts. You couldn't trust it. She'd trusted happiness once and never would again.

With a heavy sigh she said, “You want a drink?”

“I thought you'd never ask.”

Evelyn followed Iocca into the kitchen and sat on the counter stool to wait. She'd been worried about her friend. The countless e-mails, phones calls, all filled with pleas to allow a visit. Each was the one person that the other could count on, always. Lovers and acquaintances come and go, but their friendship had never waivered. That is until Iocca left town for what she thought was recovery, but turned into isolation. So she had waited.

Squinting, Evelyn turned to her friend. “How're you doing? And I want the truth.”

“I'm good.” She poured the bourbon into two rock glasses and faltered under Evelyn's coal black stare.

“Don't lie to me, Chica, you know better.” She emphasized it with her Latino accent.

“Are you trying to be tough?”

“Yeah, and you don't want the Cherokee or Irish side to rear their ugly heads either do you?”

“God no. It's not a pretty sight.”

“Tell me about it. What's going on with you? No bullshit.”

“Have I told you how much I love you and I've missed you?”

“No you haven't and I you. Now quit stalling. I've been worried about you up here all alone.”

“I've been okay.”

“Just okay?”

“Yeah I'm doing okay. That was until a couple of weeks ago.”

“What happened two weeks ago?”

“Gail found me.” Iocca said.


“Gail, she started sending me e-mails.”

“You're kidding me?” What does that bitch want?”

“She wants to know where I am and wants to have a face to face talk.” Iocca shrugged and grabbed the bottle of bourbon.

“Talk? Talk about what? How the hell did she find your e-mail address?” Evelyn followed Iocca to the deck.

“Internet search probably.”

“You didn't answer any of them did you?”

“Deleted them all.”

“Good girl.” Evelyn cheered and raised her glass to Iocca.

They watched the ocean move in rhythm falling quickly under its spell. Evelyn thought of Gail and her grip tightened around her tumbler.

“On a brighter noted,” Iocca said. “I've been writing. That helps more than you can ever imagine.”

“I've read your work. It's very good.”

“Thanks. I'm almost finished with the new novel. It takes a lot of time and concentration these days even while being here is pure inspiration.” Her hands stretched wide to their view.

“For writing. What about for living?” Evelyn said.

“That too.”

“Are you?”

“Am I what?”

“Are you seeing anyone?”

Iocca considered telling her about Ariel. But there really wasn't anything to tell. “You know better than that.”

“You knew I'd ask.”

“Sooner or later you would've.” She sipped her drink. “Stop worrying so much Evelyn, you'll get wrinkles.”

“Ok, no more worrying for the two weeks that I'm here.”

“Two weeks?” Iocca sat upright and stared her mouth gaping. “You're staying for two weeks?”

“Is there a problem old buddy?”

“I love you dearly, but there is no way in hell you're staying with me for two weeks. We tried living together once before remember? We nearly killed each other.”

Evelyn snickered, “That's when I put mash potatoes in your bed wasn't it?”

“And I put flour between your sheets.” They looked at one another and burst into laughter.

“A cloud of flour, Chica.” Evelyn sobered remembering how she had flung back the sheets and the flour exploded into the air covering the room in a thin cloud. “That was a cruel thing to do.”

“You deserved it.”

“Actually I only planned to stay through the weekend and leave on Sunday afternoon. So you only have to put up with me for four days.”

“No leaving food under your bed.”



Ariel sunk heavily onto her couch and threw her head back. Clearly Iocca was avoiding her. Not showing up for their dinner or calling was difficult to accept, but blatant ignoring was another. It had been two days. Ariel rubbed her eyes, how could they talk about the electricity that energized their skins that night, if Iocca wouldn't open her door.


Ariel stepped to the slider door and peered out into the moving surf. She willed it to impart crumbs of wisdom on getting through to Iocca. The woman filled her thoughts incessantly. Memories of her touch repeated in a loop and drummed in her heart. She closed her eyes and let the smile decorate her face.

Then her eyes flew open. Iocca was running frightened from something. Maybe from her. Maybe she'd come on too strong, leaned in too far or for too long. Now she'd chased the woman away before they could know one another.

On second thought maybe it wasn't her at all. Ariel recognized that dilemma of both yearning for something and rebuking it at the same time. That dual fighting desire's urges fearing uncertainty. She was just like Iocca until a relentless Adelia broke through her defenses. Uncertainty gave way to trust and trust showed her a love like she'd never known. If only she had the chance to do the same with Iocca.





Evelyn spent the day on the beach disappointed with the lack of possibilities among the prancing beach bunnies. By late afternoon she'd had enough of the sun, the screaming children, and the macho, shithead young boys vying for her attention, Evelyn returned to Iocca's.

Sun burnt and bored, Evelyn dropped into the corner chair and listened to the constant tapping of the computer key. “Iocca,” She said and waited. Her foot swung back and forth over the armrest of the chair. “Iocca.”

“Go do something Wylie, I'm busy.” Iocca said without breaking her attention from the computer screen.

“You've been busy all day and I've done everything possible by myself.” Evelyn pouted. Several moments passed and she jumped from the chair and paced the room. “Let's go grab a bite in town.”

“You go.”

“Iocca, pay attention to me.”

“You really need a girlfriend.”

“If you had played your cards right in college you could've filled that position.”

“No way.” Iocca chuckled. “You're too high maintenance.”

“I am not!”

“Sometimes you are.”

“I will agree with you at this moment because I need attention and I want to eat. You've been locked in here for hours.”

“It's a writer life.”

“Well you need to add to it.” Evelyn said and spun her friend's chair to face her.

“You're not going to leave me alone are you?”


Iocca finally caved in and drove them into town for something to eat. Evelyn wanted her friend to have a better life. She had less than forty-eight hours to make her realize that a day can consist of more than eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and staring at a computer monitor.

“Oh I love it,” Evelyn said as they parked across the street from The Pub. “Every town has to have a pub. Tell me, are there hand carved wooden tables and chairs?” Evelyn grinned as she saw the wooden shingle hanging just to the side of the door sway in the wind. The giant beer logo flashed red and blue.

“Quit making fun of my town. You wanted to eat and this place has decent food.”

“I'm admiring, girlfriend. There's a relaxed feel about the whole town.”

Evelyn looked up and down the street. Couples walking lazily holding hands, a group of teenagers in shredded jeans roosted on the stoop of a vacant building playing guitars. The local ice cream parlor had a lineup of fifteen or more patrons waiting for service. The world moved much slower in this lakeside town.

“I can see why you've chosen to be the town's lesbian hermit.”

“You're an ass.”

“Ahh, you've said that more than once.”

“I'm not the only lesbian in town.”

“You've said that more than once too. I can't wait to see that for myself.” Evelyn smiled.

“I'm afraid to take you to The Classic.”

“Come on, Chica, we need a night at the local club. Besides you promised.”

Evelyn followed Iocca across the street. She noticed the quaint little shops up and down the main street. The first to catch her eye was the antique store. She made a note to come back tomorrow. Next she saw the Five and Dime store, chuckling that one still existed with a furniture store next door and across the street a collector's card shop, and the guitar shop. There was something old worldly about Crunyon Point. Yes, she could see why Iocca loved it in the small resort town.


The feeling continued as they entered The Pub and the bar girl bid them welcome. The Pub being a bar and grill. However, there was more restaurant than bar. A larger room was filled with log carved wooden tables and chairs. Evelyn snickered looking at the tables surprised they were polished and not rough hewn.

The pair didn't have to wait long before another bar matron appeared to seat them at the last available table. They were served their drinks and told the waitress they would need a few moments.

“I'm telling you Wylie, The Classic isn't that much. It's definitely not what you're used to.”

Evelyn's eyes widened, “What I'm used to? You make me sound like a snob.”

“Sometimes you are.”

“Oh Chica, you wound me. I am most certainly not.”

“You are and I can prove it. That time when we went to Emmeline's for lunch. You even out snobbed yourself at that fiasco.” Iocca smirked and raised her glass of wine in triumph.

“Now hold on there …”

“You caused a scene of immense proportion because they did not have valet parking.”

“We were in Hollywood ! Everyone has valet parking in Hollywood except that overpriced no celebrity visiting roadside truck stop they pass off as an A-List eatery,” Evelyn huffed.

“Feel better now?”

“Yes, yes I do. And you are taking me to The Classic.”

“Fine,” Iocca chuckled. She loved her friend dearly .


The front door chimed and Evelyn turned towards the sound. The elbow she gave Iocca wasn't subtle. “Look at what just walked in.”

“What?” Iocca said annoyed.

“You see her?”

“What about her?” Iocca cleared the nervous tickle from her throat at seeing Ariel.

“She's gorgeous.” Evelyn said incredulously and grinned at the tall, dark haired beauty. The jeans snuggled against every inch of the long legs. From this distance her eyes appeared a light color enhancing the pointed nose and full lips.

“She's my neighbor.” Iocca sipped her drink.

“Lucky you. What's her name?”

“Don't remember.”

“Are you kidding me?”

“Her voice is high pitched and nasally.” Iocca lied.

“Who cares?” Evelyn turned her eyes away long enough to stare at her friend. “You've rolled over and are dead?”

“Sure am.”

“You're the ass not me. Maybe I'll go over tomorrow morning and borrow a cup of her sugar.”

“Leave her alone,” Iocca said with more force than she planned.

“Oh, you have her in your sights?” Evelyn surveyed her friend carefully.

“I thought you were ready to settle down. What happened to that?”

“She could be Ms. Right.”

“I'm warning you.”

“Yeah, yeah. Oh, here she comes. Invite her to join us.”

“No,” Iocca whispered harshly hoping her own excitement was well hidden from her friend. She couldn't bear being teased tonight.


“No,” Iocca hissed.

“Hello,” Ariel said as she stepped up to their table.

“Hi,” Iocca felt her pulse start to race from a simple hello. Iocca admitted it, she'd missed Ariel. But the slight frown upon Ariel's face was new. Guilt heated up her neck and cheeks.

“I'm glad to see that you're alright. I was getting a little worried when you didn't answer the door.”

“Yeah, sorry about that,” Iocca fidgeted. “Got a burr on for this chapter and lost track of everything.”

“Two days to iron out, must have been very difficult.”

Evelyn looked from her friend back to Ariel and back to Iocca. Her friend had been holding out on her. She was not about to let her let an opportunity pass her this time.

“You have to forgive Iocca, she can be one track minded sometimes. She does have that horrible habit of forgetting the world outside when she writes.”

“I'm sure.”

“She can also be horrible with introductions. I'm Evelyn, Best Friend Extraordinaire.”

“Ariel Claymore,” she said shaking the warm palm completely. The waitress stopped at her elbow to say that she had a thirty minute wait for a table.

“Please, join us.” Evelyn invited and received a kick beneath the table.

“I'm sure she has plans Evelyn,” Iocca attempted to warn her friend.

“Nonsense. It's not fair to make her wait a good thirty minutes before she eats when we have plenty of room right here.”

“If you're sure it's not an inconvenience,” Ariel said hoping to spend more time with Iocca in any venue. If only she could put the writer at ease. If she didn't want to talk about what happened between them, if it scares her that much, then she wouldn't mention it.

“I assure you it's not.” Evelyn displayed her best smile in spite of the kick to her ankle again.

“Can you bring her a menu please,” Evelyn said to the waitress, “and something to drink.”

“Oh, I don't need a menu. A grilled chicken salad with fresh spinach and a glass of white wine, thanks.”

“You're eating light this evening. I've found that since I've been here visiting the hermit,” Evelyn accentuated, “the smell of the fresh air makes me famished. Does it affect you the same way Iocca?”

Iocca jumped slightly from the return kick beneath the table, “Yeah.”

Evelyn signaled Iocca with shifting eyes from her to Ariel to continue the conversation. Iocca ignored her friend and sipped from her wine glass instead. Evelyn turned to Ariel with her more pleasant smile and carried on, “Iocca says that you're neighbors.”

“Yes we are. I'm further down the beach.”

“So, Ariel, how long have you been a local?” Evelyn asked again ignoring the signals on her friends face.

“Almost two months.”

“Iocca's been here about three years, right?” Evelyn added.

Their food arrived and Evelyn steered the conversation where her rude friend lapsed into silence. She kept Ariel entertained with stories of their college antics and then with the exoticness of being a dealer of antiquities.

Ariel wasn't too sure on how much she should actually volunteer. She had just met Evelyn and although she appeared friendly enough she could be professionally linked with her mother's social society. Guardedly, she volunteered her love of jazz and recent guitar hobby. Lastly did she mention being on sabbatical from a college in Indiana .

Evelyn watched her friend and silently admonished her for not being friendly. Iocca was a wonderful person with interesting stories and anecdotes to tell, but she sat like an unyielding totem pole divulging very little.

Ariel excused herself and headed for the ladies room. Evelyn pounced on the opportunity.

“She is something else, don't you think?”

“If you say so,” Iocca said.

“Ok, Chica, what gives huh?”

“What are you talking about now, Evelyn.”

“You know damn well. Be friendlier towards her. She obviously likes you.”

Iocca wiped her mouth with more venom than she had intended and peered at her friend. “Why is it so damn important to you that I get tied down? I'm a big girl. I can take care of myself.”

“Because I love you and I can't bear to see you so lonely.”

“I keep telling you that I'm not lonely.” Iocca lowered her eyes.

“Ah so you say. But I know you better than you know yourself. Your words do not match your eyes. They are all over her and just as scared.”

“Now you're a psychiatrist. You really need a girlfriend of your own.”

“Then we can double date. In the meantime, be civil to her and get something going.”

“You want it so bad, you get something going.”

“Ah, now you're talking.”

Iocca sighed in surrender. “I don't want to Evelyn. Gail …”

“Is in the past. Stop hiding behind her.”

Iocca paused unable to hold her friends gaze. For the moment she was right, Evelyn knew her better than she knew herself. “You're a pain in the ass.”

“And that's why you love me and I you, Chica.”


The three of them stood outside the closed restaurant and struggled for something more to say.

“Listen, thanks for inviting me to share your table. I had a wonderful time tonight.” Ariel said and fished her keys from her purse.

“You're very welcome Ariel. Why don't you come with us to the night spot Iocca talked about?”

“I'd love to, but it's late and I still have a few things to do.” She looked directly at Iocca. “A rain check sometime?”

“Yeah, sure.” Iocca replied with a smile.

“Good night then.”

“Goodnight.” Iocca said.

“You're going to miss a great time,” Evelyn called to Ariel's retreating figure. “It's going to be an experience.”

“I'm sure it is. Goodnight Evelyn.” She waved behind her and closed the door on her car. She pulled out of the parking lot headed for home.

“What's wrong with you?” Evelyn stared at her friend.


“Don't what me. She likes you.”

“Get out of here.” Iocca guffawed but secretly felt joyous. She walked towards the car in the vacant parking lot.

“She couldn't keep those smoldering blue eyes off of you through dinner.”

Her ego inflated momentarily before realizing she would never let anything develop further. “You're drunk.”

“And you've become a miserly old celibate hermit.” Evelyn pouted as she dropped into the passenger seat.

“I have not.” Iocca said as she steered the car down the street and to the left.

“Gail really did a number on you, my friend and now you're afraid of every woman that looks your way. I could kick her ass for what she did.”

“I am not afraid,” she said through tight lips.

“I dare you to spend time with Ariel then.”

“That's childish even for you.” She threw the car into park and turned to her friend. “I refuse to be baited like that.”

“I bet you haven't been laid in years.” Evelyn taunted.

“You're full of shit.”

“I bet if a woman in there hits on you, you'd run for cover.”

“They won't let twelve year olds in the bar.” Iocca laughed.

“I bet …”

“Maybe we should go home. You're starting to scare me.”

“I don't scare you, Chica, Ariel does.”

Iocca sighed. She didn't want to admit Evelyn was right. Of course she was right. Best friends were nearly always right. Weren't they? “Aren't you supposed to be my friend?” Iocca paused just outside the door to the bar.

“I am, Chica, I don't want you to be alone. So, I have the right to taunt you until you find a woman who can do it for me.”

“You and you're messed up logic.”

“It works out in the end.”

“Yeah it does. That's what so scary. Hey,” she paused again. “I could say the same thing about you being alone.”

“No, that's different. This is about you, not me.”

“You're so full of shit.”

Evelyn gave her friend a fierce hug then slapped her on the back. “Come on, buy me a drink. I'm safe.”

“No you're not.” Iocca laughed.

“Some lucky lady doesn't know that, yet.”

Evelyn walked into the small bar behind her friend. She smiled at the long wooden bar that was larger than the dance floor. It wouldn't be a bar scene without the multi-colored lights highlighting the entire place. The chest pounding beat from the DJ was familiar as well. Evelyn chuckled, not what she was used to. What was her friend thinking?

“Oh, this is quaint,” Evelyn said settling at the table. They were lucky for the second time tonight. “It's so … so … quaint.”

“You've said that already.” Iocca chuckled and sipped her beer.

“I feel like I am in a Norman Rockwell lesbian painting.”


“Whatever.” Evelyn took her time looking throughout the bar from where they were squeezed in. She wanted to see who was seeing her.

Evelyn found it surprising the different mixture of lesbians packed into the small bar. The young unisex group mingled comfortably with the middle agers. The music seemed to satisfy both as the wooden floor held them dancing together.

Then her eyes spotted the pair of eyes watching her from the other side of the dance floor near the pool tables. An eye brow raised, interest peaked at the stranger with the locks of brunette hair. The light weight bomber jacket was tailored fit for the athletic frame beneath. Evelyn chuckled softly to herself at the cliché. Couldn't have the stereotype without the beer bottle grasped by the neck.

Iocca followed Evelyn's gaze and groaned. “Ut oh,”

“You've got that right.” Evelyn stood and grabbed her drink. “Don't forget the rules. Come and find me in twenty.” Her eyes never left the bomber jacket.

“And no leaving without my knowledge.”

“Deal. Later.”

Iocca raised her beer and watched her friend stride towards a new friend. It was then Iocca made eye contact with a woman seated at the bar. She quickly averted her gaze not because of what Evelyn had said about Gail, but because they weren't the piercing blue eyes that taunted her consciousness.

Her thoughts raced. Since she was confessing, she'd admit her curiosity about Ariel Claymore. Who was she really? Why was she there in simulated paradise alone? Why the black shawl and vacant stares over the ocean? How long had the line around her finger been fading?

Iocca was deep in thought until Evelyn sat down and jarred her from her reverie. Evelyn sizzled as she assured Iocca that what's-her-name would give her a ride home in the morning. Iocca hesitated, and looked openly at the woman in the leather jacket. The woman returned her gaze without faltering, it felt like defiance. Iocca nodded to her committing every feature to memory. She really didn't want her friend to go home with a stranger. Evelyn showed Iocca the cell phone with a full charge and Iocca passed her the house key.


Iocca stepped inside her home and listened. Evelyn was right again, the place was eerily silent. In one day Evelyn had managed to bring more life into her home than she had in the three years of living there. Irritated for letting Evelyn's taunting and irksome logic hold truth, she grabbed the bourbon bottle and headed for the beach.

The crash of the surf and the screech of bats hunting for insects were familiar sounds to her. The half moon was high and gave little light but Iocca had strolled the sandy shores countless times in the midnight hours. She'd spent many sleepless nights surrounded by an emotional numbness those first few weeks in paradise. It was all consuming then as it was tonight.

What wasn't familiar was the silhouette of Ariel facing the sea. She stopped and watched. The surge of melancholy rolling from Ariel was shattering. Her sobs reverberated above the crashing tide.

She took a step forward and yes, the sounds resonated painfully from Ariel. The sound of her tears penetrated the barriers Iocca had erected. Her heart ached. To give comfort, Iocca reached out to touch Ariel on the shoulder.

Startled, Ariel yelled and her body vaulted into defensive action. She wrenched the offending hand from her shoulders, twisted, turned, and flipped Iocca to the sand with a resounding thud. Ariel fled several steps away.

“Ow, Ariel. Shit!” Iocca whined.

“Iocca? “ Ariel stopped and turned. “Iocca, is that you?”

“I need an ambulance,” Iocca said sobering magically.

Ariel quickly ran and knelt by a sprawled eagled Iocca. Her hands started to roam over Iocca checking for injury, unknowing leaving burning trails in her wake. “I didn't know it was you. Oh god, are you okay?”

Iocca grunted. “I think so.” She slowly sat upright. Ariel frantically brushed the sand from her back. Her long fingers raked through Iocca's hair and caused her skin to pebble on a humid night.

“I'm so sorry.”

“Where did you learn to do that?”

“Self defense classes.” Her fingers combed though the short blonde mane once again and her other hand felt Iocca's body tremor. “Are you sure you're alright? Should I really call an ambulance?”

“No.” Iocca slowly got to her feet and tested her back. The soreness will come in the morning. She could hear Evelyn's wise ass remarks about this. That is, if she were to know. “I'm fine, really.” She slowly bent to get the bottle of bourbon that flew out of her hand as she tumbled in the air. “What are you doing out here anyway?”

“Couldn't sleep. You?”

“The same.” Iocca followed Ariel's gaze to the ocean. The blackness of the water shimmered beneath the faded moon was picturesque and trance inducing. She took a long pull from the bottle and offered it to Ariel.

“Oh that's strong stuff,” Ariel said when she caught her breath from the stinging liquor.

“Yup.” She paused searching for something to say. Iocca pull from the bottle and found the courage to ask the question that had annoyed her. “I'm curious.”


“The black shawl, the ritual of being in this spot for hours on end. Why?”

Ariel opened her hand for Iocca to share her bottle once more. After she'd organized the scattered thoughts she said, “The shawl belonged to a good friend. She died a couple years back.”

A strange feeling erupted within Iocca. It wasn't the harsh brewing feel of the liquor. It was something else, something tingly. One piece of the puzzle was solved. Evelyn would be thrilled to know she plays for their team.

“And I like the way the ocean makes me feel. Although, she can change her mood at any given time …”

“Like us women.”

Ariel chuckled. “She can also be gentle and very nurturing.”

“Like your friend?” The woman who's death still had a hold on you. Like the shadow on your finger where the ring she gave you had rested, Iocca thought. She didn't have to ask.

Ariel turned to Iocca with a faint smile and nodded. “Yes, she was like that.” She sighed. “I come here to talk to her. She loved to sail …” the bottle touched her lips cutting her words. She didn't want to spiral into despair.

Iocca knew when a memory was being cut before it caused emotional carnage. She was an expert at doing just that. “It's very relaxing to watch nothing. Very inspiring sometimes.”

“The ocean, she gives you what you need.”

“The ocean can be my muse.”

Iocca felt her concrete walls soften being next to Ariel. Ariel excited her and she allowed the draw to swell. Despite the somberness of the conversation, Iocca let her thoughts wander free from their cage. The more they both drank from the bottle the more relaxed they'd become. Ariel began to giggle uncontrollably and it became infectious for Iocca. Ariel leaned on Iocca for support. Neither knew what was so hilarious. Just as quickly, silence overtook them and they stared into one another's eyes, entranced as if by the ocean.

“This is fun but I should be getting to bed.”

“Yeah, I guess it is late.”

Ariel stood and lost her footing. She fell back into Iocca's lap. “Oopsi a little too much to drink I think.” They giggled.

The laughter faded. Iocca lowered her eyes and watched the lips come closer to her own. Tentative, moist lips touched hers and a bolt of electrical current flashed through her body. It was a chaste kiss and they parted reluctantly.

“I shouldn't have done that,” Iocca whispered, eyes locked on Ariel's lips.

“I didn't mind … really.”

“Good,” Inches away from Ariel's lips, she felt her own heated breath come back to her as she whispered, “I've wanted to do this all evening.”

Beyond her imagination, the lips were tender, sweet, and soft. They were pliant and easily joined the movement of her own. Gently, reverently, they remained inseparable. The sensual groans wanting to escape settled as a grumble below the surface. It was perfect and she couldn't stop herself even if she needed air.

Iocca's arms instinctively wrapped around Ariel to hold her close at the thought of the seal being broken. But air was needed and they parted long enough to shift positions for an even closer embrace. It wasn't frantic, it wasn't rushed, it was a longing fused.

The moment she moved away, Ariel wanted back into the warmth. The draft of coolness pervaded her skin and chilled her instantly. She smiled and placed a softer kiss upon Iocca's bruised ones. “Marvelous”, she whispered and stood.

Ariel cupped Iocca's face between her hands and kissed her once more. The same softness and reverie was there along with the warmth. The passion so fiercely delicate stirred a fire between her legs that wasn't born of urgent need, but of a hunger to be touched and understood. To be engulfed in intimacy.


“Wow?” Ariel repeated.

“I don't know what else to say.” Iocca said breathlessly.

“I do.” Ariel pulled Iocca closer, “Again please.”

Iocca wrapped her in her arms and kissed her as asked.





The sun was just peaking above the horizon when Iocca wobbled through the sliding rear doors. She dropped her shoes to the floor and the empty bourbon bottle on the counter. Her mouth felt like sandpaper and her head throbbed incessantly. She heard the key in the front door just before it opened. Evelyn entered cheerful and whistling an annoying tune.

“Well look what the cat dragged in,” Evelyn said loudly.

“You have room to talk?” Iocca grimaced. “And use your inside voice.”

“I feel a whole lot better than you look, Chica.” She started making coffee.

“That's because I spent the night on the beach.”

“With Ms. Bourbon I see.”

“Ariel helped me.”

“Ariel? You spent the night with Ariel?” Evelyn said.

“Don't get too excited. We fell asleep sitting on the beach.”

“Still it's romantic.”

“Yeah, romantic. Two drunks playing charades.”

“It is.” It wasn't long before Evelyn slid a steaming cup of coffee over to her best friend. “What's on you mind Chica?”

She gingerly sipped the brown liquid. “I kissed her.”

“And that has you sad? It wasn't any good or what?”

She rolled her eyes at Evelyn. “Of course it was good. It was … wow.” She stared off into the distance a smile broadened across her lips. “She smelled of the ocean and roses. Her lips were soft, responsive. She was so warm. For the first time, I know what it means to want to kiss someone all day. I never wanted to stop kissing her. “Gawd, Evelyn, I was so turned on just by kissing her.”

Evelyn grinned over the rim of her coffee. “Go on.”

“There's nothing more to say. She stumbled and fell into my lap so I kissed her.”

“Didn't she want more?”

“It didn't matter. I don't think I could have anyway.”

“You don't think … you said you slept with that little barfly in town.”

“That didn't have any meaning.”

“No meaning? So sleeping with Ariel would have meaning?”

“I don't know.”

“Ok.” But do you want to find out, Evelyn thought. “She obviously must feel the same way.”

“I guess so.”

“Then why the gloomy face, Chica?”

“I don't know.” She sipped her coffee and gazed out of the sliding door. “She frightens me Wylie. She scares the shit right out of me.”

“You can't keep letting the past ruin your happiness.”

“Easier said than done.” She paused. “I loved Gail so much. I was totally for her and she … trampled all over me in the worst possible way, on my own television show for Christ sake.”

“I know. Ariel could be your future if you want her to be.”

‘Evelyn I barely know her. She barely knows me. Then I get angry because I can't make sense of things and then I think about Gail and I'm pissed for letting myself feel again.”

“Stop!” She waited until Iocca faced her with undivided attention. “What do you feel?”

“I want to get a handle on my emotions. I'm tired of the roller coaster ride.”

“Then get off. Go to Ariel and see what happens. You want a guarantee, Chica, and that's not going to happen. I've only known about her for a couple of days and I can see how much you two could be good together. If you're stubborn ass lets her in.”

“And if she hurts me?”

“Then you'll do like you always do. Run away to a new place and start over.”

“I do not.”

“You did with Angela and with Gail. You do.”

“I didn't run away from Angela. We graduated college and never got in touch.”

“She wrote you repeatedly and you ignored her.”

“Aren't you supposed to be my friend?”

“You asked me that already and I told you that I am. Being brutally honest is a privilege of friendship.” She sighed and sipped her coffee. “You're halfway there, you kissed her. Now if you want more, you have to stop being an ass and pushing her away when she's around.”

“Think that would help,” she cracked a tired smile.


“Too much deep thinking so early in the morning. I'm off to bed.” Iocca groaned.

“Goodnight, Chica.”

“Hey, what about your evening.”

“I don't want to make you jealous about the wild hot sex you didn't have.”

“Yeah. Right.” She trudged to her room and closed the door.

“Lily was amazing.” Evelyn sipped more of her coffee and went to peer at the ocean from the deck. Now that her friend was taking the chance, she'd only hope that Ariel felt as strongly. She prayed Ariel wouldn't take Iocca to that vulnerable place just to be hurt again.


Ariel faced the glowing sun, cooled by the misting spray of the surf. Her eyes clenched in memory of the night before, held in Iocca's arms and the kisses promising more. Her arms tingled in anticipation of what more could mean and how soon.

“Hey there.” Evelyn called casting a slight shadow.

“Hello.” Ariel shielded her eyes to look upward until Evelyn dropped to the sand beside her.

“Looks like a storm moving in.”

“Sure does.”

Evelyn falls quiet for a period then turns to Ariel. “She likes you, you know.”

“I like her too.”

“You have her so twisted inside that she doesn't know if she's coming or going.”

Ariel turned a smile towards her, “Wow, direct.”

“She's my best friend, can't be too cautious with something so precious.”

“I understand and I know the feeling. I've been sitting here trying to untwist things for myself.”

“What are you stuck on?”

“How my life could change so drastically in the span of a few days. I mean …” she faded her words and turned to the ocean for strength. “How could I feel so quickly? This wasn't what I planned when I moved here.”

“Why did you move here?”

“Sabbatical.” She answered too quickly.

“Sabbatical,” Evelyn said as she looked to the darkening sky. “The trace of the ring on your finger hasn't gone unnoticed.”

She looked down as her fingers touched the darkening area. “Her name was Adelia. She died a couple of years ago.

“I'm sorry.”

“It's a little easier, now.”

“Iocca isn't a rebound for you is she?”

“Heavens no!”

“Relationships frighten Iocca. But when she stops running, she puts her everything into it. Her heart, her soul, every part of herself she gives to the other person.” The sound of the ocean filled the area for several minutes. “I don't want to see her hurt, Ariel. She's been through too much. I don't want her to go through anything like that again. I wouldn't be too happy if she was.”

“Friendly warning?”

“Something like that.” She shrugged. “I'm giving my seal of approval on the Ariel Claymore that I know. Don't change and make me regret it.”

“You look out for her don't you?”

“Yeah, I do. I love her more than anyone in this world.”

“She's lucky to have you Evelyn.”

“That's what I keep telling her.” The wind picked up and turned a little cooler. “Why don't you come for dinner and celebrate my last night here in paradise.”

“Shouldn't it be okayed with Iocca first.”

“Nah, if she doesn't like it, you can be my date instead.” She stood and dusted the sand from her bottom. “See you around seven.”


Ariel rapped on the slider door just as Evelyn pulled the rolls from the oven. She wiped her hands and ran to let Ariel in. The wind whirled Ariel's hair in fury.

“Come on in.”

“Thanks,” Ariel said and held out the two bottles of wine. “I wasn't sure what we were having so I brought red and white.”

“Good choice. I'm not sure what's for dinner either.”

“That's scary.”

“But what an adventure it will be.” Evelyn laughed.

“Hey Wylie, that …” Iocca rounded the corner from the hall and stopped in her tracks. She looked from her friend to the woman that starred in her dreams.

“I invited Ariel to join us for dinner.” Evelyn said.

“I hope that's alright?” Ariel said.

“Sure. Fine.” Iocca said and turned to Evelyn. “Is there any coffee?”

The temperature of the room went from warm and friendly to a distant coldness when Iocca entered the room “Yeah.” Evelyn shot Iocca a warning look. “Ariel, how about you?”

“Black please.”

She hurried placed two cups of coffee on the counter. She watched Ariel and Iocca stare at everything in the room except one another. Suddenly she felt like the third wheel. “Excuse me a moment will you?”

“About last night …” They said simultaneously then chuckled.

“Sorry, you first,” Iocca said before Ariel could yield.

“I …” She summoned the words to continue. “I enjoyed the time on the beach.”

“Yeah, me too.” Iocca sipped her coffee.

Evelyn had said Iocca runs. No matter, Ariel would keep pace. She wouldn't make it easy for Iocca. “I liked kissing you very much.”

Iocca felt the heat in her face. “Me too.”

The racing of her pulse made her step closer to Iocca. “May I have another?”

She was so close, the scent of roses saturated Iocca's senses. She looked up into the engulfing blue eyes and leaned forward. Soft burning hands circled her waist and pulled her tight against Ariel's body. Ariel saw the wanting in Iocca's eyes peaking from behind the mistrust and uncertainty. Ariel bent her tall frame slightly to reach Iocca's lips mingling their groans in seductive song.

Evelyn entered the room and saw the two locked together. She stepped quietly down the hall and pumped her fist in the air. It was as much of a happy dance as one could do without making noise. She would give them one more moment and then interrupt.

“Okay guys,” she said loudly to let them know she was coming back in. She took baby steps to give them more time. “Everything is cooking in the kitchen,“ She chuckled at her pun, “and should be done any minute.” She stepped around the corner and found them far apart with twin red faces. “You two okay?”

“Yeah, why?” Iocca blurted.

“No reason. Just thought maybe you'd like to take a swim and cool off before dinner.” Evelyn smirked.

“You ass.” Iocca shook her head as Ariel chuckled.

“Only for you, Chica.”

Iocca looked from Ariel to Evelyn. “I uhm, have some characters I need to get back to.” Evelyn's eyebrows knitted angrily and Ariel felt the awkward tension return.

“Wait, dinner is almost ready.” Evelyn said.

“You know how it is once the muse hits and the ideas start to flow.” Iocca shrugged.

“Iocca,” Evelyn warned.

“I'm sorry. I uhm, feel the need to write.” She dashed from the room to the safety of her office.

“What the hell was that?” Evelyn turned to Ariel.

“Maybe I should go.” A clap of thunder shook the house and the rain came down in sheets; a perfect analogy of her emotions. She couldn't have done anything for Iocca to change so rapidly. The kiss they both wanted.

“You're not going anywhere now.” Evelyn pointed to the door. “Make yourself at home.” She frantically removed the apron and slapped it on the counter. “I'll be right back.” Evelyn stomped down the hall and barged through the closed door to find Iocca in front of the window watching the sheeting rain. “What the fuck is your problem.”

“Let it go Evelyn.”

“You were just kissing her and now you're hiding away in here? Help me to understand this would you?”

“There is nothing to understand. I can't do it.”

“Do what?”

“You have dinner with her.”

“You're a real piece of work you know that? What about Ariel? What am I supposed to tell her?”

“I said that I wanted to write.”

Evelyn shook her head disgusted. “Gail did a number on you, but not this. This is your fuck up.” She turned on her heel and left the room.

Iocca jumped at the slamming of the door. Yes, it was her fuck up, one that she wished she could take back. Evelyn was right; she should just turn around and march right back into the fray of things. As she opened the door of her asylum, she heard Evelyn's familiar laughter mixed with a new sing song. They were having a good time without her. Entering now would just make them feel on edge.

Quietly, she closed the door and turned to stare at the blinking cursor on the screen. Iocca clicked on the icon to check her three new e-mail messages. They were all from Gail.





Iocca stood on the deck watching the ocean churn as she had for the past week since her friend left. Evelyn had packed her suitcases early the next morning and was ready to walk out the door when Iocca stumbled from the bedroom. Curt and surly, Evelyn said her goodbye and pulled out of the drive. Iocca had received a text saying that she'd made it home safely. No mention of the night before and her chameleon personality.

Now the house was too quiet. She needed companionship that wouldn't betray her. A companion that would always be happy to see her no matter what and that did not cause heartbreak.

On the drive home from the grocers Iocca saw the cardboard sign nailed to the street post. She detoured and found the house she was looking for. Twenty minutes later, Iocca sat in the local veterinarian's office with her new companion and trusty friend, a three month old red nosed pit bull terrier she named Putnam.

Putnam filled her days with them getting acquainted and the task of house breaking. The dog never wanted for toys. Iocca filled a small basket of them for Putnam to chew on instead of her shoes.

Every morning she and Putnam discovered the opposite end of the beach not wanting to come across Ariel. She thought it odd that her inspiration had left the night she hid in her room. The last time she'd seen Ariel. What would she say if she saw her? Sorry for being a jerk. Sorry for turning tail and running. Sorry for causing a rift I don't know how to repair. Until she found exactly how to do just that, she would stay away from Ariel Claymore.


Iocca sat on her deck typing feverishly in the fading twilight while Putnam chewed her pig's ear in a shaded spot beside her. The orange red skyline inspired her passion as the muse had embraced her once again and hadn't turned her loose for the past week. She had been vigilant, focused, working deep into the night, sleeping a few hours before she was in front of the computer screen once again. She finished the final paragraph and called the manuscript complete, at least for the second draft.

“A toast,” she said aloud to an indifferent Putnam. “To the completion of the latest novel by the incredibly talented writer, Iocca Barnes.” She raised the glass of bourbon high and saluted her laptop. “Cheers my friend. I couldn't have done it without you.” She slammed back the shot and shook her head as the burn spread through her lungs and landed in the growing fireball from the other shots.

Ecstatic, she grabbed her computer and put it inside on the kitchen counter. She reached into the refrigerator and fisted a cold chicken leg. She hungrily tore a bite out of the chicken and grabbed the neck of the bottle of bourbon in the other. Plastic baggie shoved into the side pocket of her cargo pants she headed for the beach.

Cold chicken and bourbon were her celebratory routine for finishing a novel. Her totem for the success of the manuscript. It started with her first novel. After finishing the last paragraph, she grabbed what was in the fridge and her booze and stretched her legs on the sandy shore. It was a smashing success and so was the second. Why tempt fate?

A smile crept to her face as she remembered the first time she'd finished a novel. The feeling of accomplishment was so overwhelming she thought her heart would burst. Because of Gail, she landed in Crunyon Point, she'd written a novel, and her life was forever changed. For that she was thankful.

“Fuck it. Don't go there.” She took a deep swallow from the bottle and belched.

Iocca walked just out of reach of the tide. Her legs grew heavier with each step and the bottle in her right hand grew lighter. The moonless night sky illuminated by the stars was beautiful. Dreams could transform beneath this sky.

“So far away from us infallible mortals.” She said aloud then chuckled, “God that was good. I need to write that shit down.” She patted her multiple pockets and couldn't find anything to write with. Then she saw the spray of yellowish light casting upon the sand from above. Iocca stepped further into the shadows and peered upwards. High on the balcony Ariel Claymore stood like a melody ensnaring its victim. Iocca fell under the instant seduction. Compelled, she watched Ariel sip from the wine glass then stretch her arms high into the air. She'd never seen anything so sensual and alarming.

Eventually Iocca broke the trance and backed away. “That's out of the question. What the fuck am I now, a peeping Tom?” She stumbled to her feet and staggered back to her cottage.


The gentle breeze comforted her skin and the stars wrapped her like a blanket. Ariel's mind swam until thoughts of her moody neighbor invaded. Iocca was frustrating. Just when she thought Iocca was letting her in, she'd push her away, just as Evelyn said. But how many more times could she be the yo-yo?

“Not many.” Ariel said to the ocean. “Maybe I should stop now.”

The morning after Iocca didn't show for their dinner, Ariel had waited on the beach. She'd planned to join Iocca as she jogged by. Then they would talk along the way. Ariel waited long past Iocca's usual time. She waited each morning for a week. Iocca never came by.

If only they hadn't kissed.

“Good God that was something.” Ariel smirked and willed the memory to play for the hundredth time. Ariel closed her eyes and felt Iocca's soft lips meet her own. Instinctively their lips parted the right distance to join together. The moans that escaped their throats as the rhythm of harmonious desire moved like a tsunami within them.

Ariel couldn't stop. Couldn't get enough like anything she'd ever felt before or wanted to again. It was the perfect kiss.

That night the kissing was enough. Now Ariel wanted the secret promises behind the perfect kiss. Since she'd been unable to see or talk to Iocca, Ariel feared those promises were doomed to be unfulfilled.





Ariel pulled her car into a vacant parking spot at the local grocers. She thanked her good fortune to have found a spot close by. As she near the automated doors she heard a familiar voice yelling. Shielding the sun from her eyes, Ariel glanced around the parking lot and spotted where the voice came from. Several rows from the entrance, Iocca's head bobbed between the parked cars.

“Putty get back here! Iocca screamed and reached for something. “Your little brown hide is in big trouble little girl.” Ariel stood watching curiously as to who or what a Putty was. “You are never coming with me again.”

Ariel took a step towards her, and then she saw it. A caramel brown fat puppy waddled between the tires and underside of several cars. The puppy got into the lane and its lanky legs scurried away from its owner. Ariel saw the car coming from the side of the parking lot and immediate stepped into the lane with her hand held out. Thankful the car slowed as the puppy bounded straight to her and climbed up her legs.

“Putty!” Iocca frantically called.

“I have …” Ariel quickly checked, “her.” She called back. Iocca looked her way and a broad smile covered her face. Ariel hoped that such a brilliant smile would have been for her, but she knew it was for the captured puppy. “She yours?” Ariel asked handing over a wiggling Putnam to Iocca.

“Gotcha you little imp.” She snapped the leash on the collars ring “Thanks.” Putnam immediately began to tug and pull on the restraint.

“What's her name?”

“Putnam, Putty for short.”

“I didn't know you had a puppy.”

“For a couple of weeks now.”

“She's adorable and fast,” Ariel said.

“Must be all of the jogging she's been doing with me.”

“She jogs with you?”

“I think I run and she explores then I run after her.” Iocca chuckled.

“I've been replaced,” Ariel said with pause. “That's why I haven't seen you on the beach lately.”

“Ariel …” Iocca wanted to hide again. She hadn't meant it the way Ariel perceived.

“Hey no. I understand.”

Iocca's mouth opened and closed several times unable to speak. Suddenly realizing how she'd come to miss Ariel's smile and twinkling eyes. The pause grew as Putnam fidgeted and tugged.

“Well, I should be getting to it then.” She turned then called over her shoulder, “It was great to see you.” Then she was gone.


Iocca sat on the beach and watched Putnam bite the foam that washed up on the shore. She was cute, her pudgy body waggled about in the orange doggie life preserver. Iocca had purchased the device afraid that Putnam was too small to be swimming without help. Iocca never tossed the ball too far in the water ensuring that Putnam could swim back.

It had been several days since her and Ariel's ships passed at the grocery store. It was a passing that kept her mind reeling with flashes of Ariel wrapped in her arms, the smoothness of her skin and the taste of perfect lips. Her libido sparked to life with the possibility of tasting Ariel's lips, of tasting Ariel.

A deep inhale and heavy sigh carried away the thought of how close she'd come to giving in to Ariel. Letting her in meant the risk of falling in love. It meant a relationship and developing a couple's mentality. It meant a domino effect Iocca wasn't certain she wanted to start.

For three years she walked these shores to heal the near fatal wounds Gail inflicted upon her heart. When she first arrived, there was barely enough blood to supply her body and now it pumped feverishly because of thoughts of another. That she couldn't allow. Could she survive another bludgeoning? She shook her head. This train of thought was unproductive. She needed a new one instead.

“Come on Putty,” She called and dusted the sand from her rump. “Momma's gotta shower and get cleaned up. I think a night out is in order.”


Strobe lights played across the small bar intermittently blinding those unfortunate enough to be looking as it made the rotation. Shoulder to shoulder, women must have been on the same vein of thought as Iocca for getting out of the house on a warm and sticky night.

Iocca shouldered her way to the bar and sat on a stool as soon as the woman had vacated it. She waved her hand to Peg the bartender. In a minute a tall bourbon was placed on a napkin before her.

“Hey stranger,” Peg gave her a smile with uneven teeth.

“Hey. Nobody wanted to stay home tonight?”

“Seems like it.”

“Hello stranger,” Came a voice near her elbow.

“Stranger must be my name tonight.” Iocca said. “Hello Shea.”

“I haven't seen you here in a while.”

“Been busy.”

“Fortunately for me, you took a break.”

“Could be.”

“Dance with me,” Shea said and tugged on Iocca's sleeve.

Iocca hesitated and sipped her drink. Did she want another night with Shea or should she go for the unfamiliar with no ties. “Maybe later,” she decided. “I just got a drink.”

Shea pouted openly at Iocca and Peg chuckled. “Promise?”

“Absolutely,” Iocca said and turned back to the bar effectively dismissing her. She watched the dejected woman make her way through the crowd to the dance floor.

Iocca kept her back to the bar and for two hours watched the happenings through the large mirror. She spied a couple in the front of the bar close and enamored with one another. The one woman's hands had free reign over her partner and they took every advantage of the freedom. Fingers wildly kneaded small breasts as lips attacked an offered neck. The woman's head was thrown back in pleasure and Iocca felt the tightening between her legs.

It took effort to force her eyes to travel elsewhere only to land on the dance floor. A couple gyrated against one another. Thigh placed between each other's legs. Their hips moved imperceptible purposefully creating friction and a promise that would be fulfilled when they were alone and without clothing.

The bourbon raced down her throat and the familiar tingling in her cheeks. Disinhibition was on its way. She signaled Peg for a refill and found Shea's hungry eyes salivating for her in the mirror. A pair of blue eyes filled with pain watched her as well.

Iocca turned on her stool and faced her temptress. Eyes locked in lust; Iocca made her way to Shea's table and stretched out her hand. The other women around the table watched and chided their friend on her luck. Iocca lead them to the dance floor. It was perfect timing of the DJ to slow the music down to a sweet and sensual tune. She pulled Shea tightly against her; no air could seep between their bodies. Arms around Shea's waist she guided the woman to a grinding sway. Shea offered. Iocca was ready to take.

Shea‘s breath quickened with caresses to her face, to a seductive trail of fingers down her neck and over her breasts. Iocca ground her hips deep into Shea and heard the soft moan escape and knew Shea remembered their last time together. Another press and they both remembered the raw passion that heated their sex and caused their screams of momentary ecstasy. Iocca's kiss along the pulse of Shea's neck and her knees weakened.

Iocca pulled back slightly and looked into heavy lidded eyes. She lowered her head and took Shea's lips in heated sensitivity. Her tongue was gradually demanding, tasting the hint of something fruity in Shea's mouth. She tugged gently on Shea's lips with her teeth as they parted.

A smirk on her face Iocca asked, “Do you want to dance some more?”

Shea took Iocca's hand. They stopped at her table. The faces of Shea's friends heightened color visible even under the disco lights. Without a word, Shea snatched her purse and led Iocca towards the door.

At the end of the bar, Ariel turned her head to avoid being seen when the lovers passed.


Inside Shea's apartment, Shea pawed at Iocca's clothing until her body was no longer hidden by any cloth. Shea grinned as she paused long enough to join Iocca in the nude. She leaned Iocca against the wall. She was hungry. A fever born of the touches Iocca teased her with in the club a short while ago. Shea's mouth found Iocca's breast and feasted savagely.

Iocca shook her head. The lips were rough and relentless. She wanted the softness and the tenderness like on the beach.

Yet Iocca couldn't stop the heated rush stoked by Shea's veracity. Ariel crept into her thoughts. She clinched her eyes shut praying those thoughts stay buried, praying that her fire keep burning and not flicker. Iocca willed herself to focus that the acts being committed to her were not being done by the tall, dark headed neighbor.


Her eyes softened as lips enclosed her breast and a tongue circled her nipple. Iocca groaned at the instant hardening and swelling of her clit. Thoughts of Ariel lost their hold. Her knees parted from the light touch upon her thighs.

“Oh girl,” Shea whispered in Iocca's ear. “What you do to me.” Her finger traced a path up Iocca's thigh and she left a trail of nips for kisses on her neck.

Shea's animalistic groans of excitement grew louder as her finger rubbed the triangle between Iocca's legs. “That's what I want,” she said then firmly cupped her hand possessing the area. “It's gonna taste so damn good.” Shea shuddered in anticipation as her hand became drenched in Iocca.

“GAWD!!” Iocca gasp reverberated in the still apartment when two fingers plunged deeply through her folds only stopping until they couldn't go any further. Iocca rose on her tiptoes and dug her fingers into Shea's back at the sudden invasion of her vagina. Her eyes clinched tighter against the drop of water threatening to leak. Iocca hand shot downward grasping Shea's wrist stopping the erratic deep thrusts

That moment was all she had and then was lost. She swirled into a trance, but remained on her feet sandwiched between Shea's body and the wall.

“Oh no, not yet my sweet.” Shea crooned and pulled out and away from her. She traded places with Iocca against the wall and knelt before her. She inhaled deeply, taking Iocca's scent into her nostrils feeling the moisture travel down her own open thighs.

Shea reached between Iocca's legs grasping her buttock in a controlling hold. She pulled Iocca to her and onto her waiting tongue. Iocca's hands slammed against the wall bracing into an assumed position. Shea used one of her hand to keep Iocca perched against her frantic tongue. The other kept an identical rhythm on her own swollen lips.

The ravishing of her most sacred area was forgotten as Iocca's hips betrayed her. They leaned forward seeking more of the hot appendage lapping at her center. She was lost, her head thrust back, Shea was right. It was so fucking good as she floated in the euphoria wanting it to last. Her hips circling in a slow dance, pushing forward for more of Shea's tongue then pulling backward, for just the tip to tickle. She flirted dangerously with remaining too long in that heavenly purgatory. She would implode. Her legs began to spasm and jerk.

The orgasm didn't come. The fire quickly chilled as the lust drained from her groin. This wasn't what she wanted. Suddenly, the suckling noises were annoying and the woman‘s touch was offensive. Iocca gently pushed away from the wall but couldn't dislodge herself from the mouth that suctioned her in place.

“I can't do this.” Iocca's breathed and moistened her dry lips. “Come on let go,” she said and tapped Shea on the head.

“Did I …”

“No Shea.”

“We can go to my bedroom.” Shea quickly got to her feet with a smile.

“I can't do this. I'm so sorry. I made a mistake.” Iocca reached for her pants.

“Hey, don't go.” Shea reached out for Iocca and crossed her legs to stop the throbbing.

Iocca said putting on her shirt and tucking her bra in her jeans pocket. “I … I … I'm just not … here right now. You know what I mean?”

“You seem pretty goddamn here a second ago.” Shea's said and lifted the fingers that had been inside Iocca.

Iocca snatched her belongings and opened the door. “Goodbye Shea.”

Shea's angry explanative followed her as she trotted down the few steps to her car. The engine gunned to life and she sped down the quiet darkened street.


After the skin raw scrubbing shower, Iocca stood on her deck. The spot had become notorious for helping her to sort things through. The breeze from the ocean stirred her hair and thoughts. She ran her thumb across the portable telephone for the millionth time. Tired of hesitating, she dialed the number and waited for it to be answered.



“Iocca? Is that you? What's wrong?” Iocca heard the concern in her friend's voice and found her own lacking volume for several seconds. “Iocca?”

“I couldn't do it,” she said finally.

“Do what?”

Iocca heard an annoyed voice in the background. Evelyn cooing? That couldn't be. “Were you just cooing? Who is that?”

“Yes I was and no smart remarks from you. It's Lily.”

“Lily who?”

“You know. I met her during my visit.”

“Oh, you're seeing her steady like?”

“Don't change the subject. Couldn't do what?”

“I was with someone and we started to … I couldn't.”

“You couldn't with Ariel?”

“Not with Ariel, because of her.” Iocca sighed.

“Oh Chica,” Evelyn said.

“I was with Shea and when she started to … I saw Ariel. I wanted it to be her. I felt so guilty because it wasn't her.”

“Honey go to her.”

“I'm afraid Wylie.”

“I know you are. And you're miserable because of it.”

“I know this. I can't seem to bring myself to do something.”

“Yes you can. It's time to quit whining.”

Iocca hesitated, Evelyn was right. She was always right. “You're asking me to be vulnerable and risk my comfort zone.”

“I'm telling you to start a new life with Ariel.”

Several seconds of dead air fell between them. “Thanks Wylie. Go back to sleep.” She clicked off. “Come on Putnam, time for bed.”


Continued in Part 5

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