Saggio Amante © 2004


I learned a new word today - 'callipygian'. It's a great word, callipygian. It means
"having shapely buttocks." It's a word that would lend a touch of class to any locker-room conversation … so much smoother than "nice ass."

Hi. My name is Brooke Daniels. I live in Beaver Falls (stop laughing) in a state which
shall remain nameless. Beaver Falls is in the middle of nowhere, two hundred miles from the largest city. If there are lesbians in Beaver Falls, I've never met one. Well, I don't think I have, but my antennae are out of tune from lack of use.

I was sent to this backwater town by my company, Family Petroleum. I'm a geologist. Now before you go all pc on me, take a deep breath and listen. My job is not only to locate dig sites but to be certain that any crude that is extracted is done in such a way that it protects the environment. I know; I wrote the policy. My company is socially responsible, and I'm proud to work for it. Of course, it helps that it was started by my great-grandfather.

I could have had a cushy office job, but I'll leave that to my sister. We're an ideal match - I find it; she sells it; and, as a privately owned company, we share eighty percent of the net profits; the other twenty percent supports a variety of charities. She's in the limelight; I'm in the shadows. It's a great deal all around.

Beaver Falls lies along one of the Great Lakes and has untapped deposits of oil that may turn out to be one of the largest fields discovered in the US to date. Family Petroleum has bought up most of the land in and around Beaver Falls, along with the mineral rights, and I've spent the last three years developing the site. What I do is serious business, and I take it very seriously.

I guess the hardest thing about living in Beaver Falls is the lack of … no, I won't say it. Let' s just say I have a healthy libido, no partner, and lots of fantasies. Every three months I get to fly a puddle jumper over to Bellingham, which is one happening city … not to mention our corporate headquarters. In the meantime, I amuse myself learning new words and perfecting my "art of seduction." A time or two I've even been known to make up words in the heat of the moment. So far, I've never failed to impress. At least that's what I've been told though I'm not sure whether they were talking about my abilities as a wordsmith or a lover. I prefer to think the latter.

It's Thursday, and I'm heading for my quarterly trip to Bellingham. I can't wait. I am so ready for some down time. (Take that comment any way you like.) Friday is a board meeting and then I'm free for one whole week. Watch out ladies, here I come! Well, if we're lucky, we both will. It's been such a long stretch between women that it's taken the word "horny" to new heights. And puhleeze! Don't tell me that Franny Fingers or Rosy Palm is a suitable substitute. The silky skin I want to feel under my palms and fingertips is definitely not my own.

I love the forest smells that assault my nostrils as I guide my bike through the winding roads toward the small airport at Beaver Falls. I'll miss the crisp freshness of the wilderness air and the sounds of the forest fauna that awaken me in the morning and put me to sleep at night. But there is something to be said for the sights and sounds of civilization, too, and for the comfort of human companionship. Living alone has its benefits. It's nice not having to answer to anyone but yourself; yet I think it's even nicer to wake up with a warm body pressed against your own and to satisfy the passions which so often rise with the sun. That's what I'm hoping to find, if only for a brief time, while I'm in Bellingham. God, I can't wait!


Part 1

A hand touches my shoulder, cupping it gently, fingers resting just above the rise of my breast. I moan, wanting to urge the hand that owns those fingers further down to cup not my shoulder but my breast. I reach up and touch the hand touching me and feel … hairy fingers.

My eyes flashed open and I stared up into the eyes of an amused flight attendant. "We're beginning our descent, please fasten your seatbelt," he said. I smiled weakly up at him. Yuck.

By the time I reached the baggage area Paul, our driver, was already there, lifting my bags from the conveyor belt. "Good evening, Ms. Daniels," he said, tipping his hat. "The car's right outside."

"Thanks, Paul." I headed out the door to the waiting limo, leaving him to deal with the bags.
It was unbelievably hot and humid outside, so unlike the weather I had just left. As I entered the car, I pulled off my leather jacket and realized how much I already missed the forest cool. (Before you have a heart attack, it's faux leather. I would never wear an animal, which makes buying work boots pretty damn hard to do, but I manage.)

I heard Paul putting my bags in the trunk. He slid into the front seat and dropped the glass partition separating us. "Where to, Ms. Daniels?" he asked.

"I'll be staying at the Carlton this trip, Paul," I replied.

"Yes, ma'am," he said as the partition moved up and he slipped the car in gear.

I leaned my head back against the soft seat and closed my eyes, waiting for the ride to be over. It was a 30-minute drive from the airport, enough time for me to doze again, and dream of soft flesh responding to my hands and mouth. I couldn't see the face, just the hair - dark, red … full and wavy, fanning out against a white pillow. I love red hair and green eyes. I bent to take a full, firm breast in my mouth and was jarred from my dream as the car came to a stop and the back door opened.

"We're here," Paul announced.

"OK," I mumbled as I slid out of the backseat. A bagboy took my luggage up to the check-in

"Pick me up at 10:30 a.m." I told Paul, knowing that would allow plenty of time to have lunch with my sister in the executive dining room before the board meeting. My sister and I keep in touch by fax and e-mail. I was a little behind in my paperwork, but I was certain I was ready for the next day's meeting which would be pretty much pro-forma. After a half-day devoted to mundane business matters, the rest of the week would be mine. Hallelujah.

I secured my room key at the desk and another bagboy followed me to my suite. I tipped him generously and closed the door behind him, carefully locking it. I removed my boots, then stripped and folded my clothes, placing them neatly on the bench at the end of the bed.

I picked up the phone and called the office. My sister was in a late meeting so I left word with her secretary that I'd meet her at the office the next day at 11 a.m.

The cool of the air conditioning felt wonderful on my wet skin. I laid down on the bed and drifted off immediately.

There she is again … the redhead. I still can't see her face. She has her back turned to me. She's wearing a halter top and tight little shorts that curve over the round of her buttocks. Her legs are perfectly formed … not too muscular, just right. I walk up behind her, slowly, and pull her against me. I feel myself shudder as my bare skin makes contact with the exposed area of her body that lies between the bottom of her halter-top and the waistband of her shorts. I put my arms around her and slide my splayed hands down her abdomen. I feel her lean into me as I use one hand to unzip her shorts and then slide both my hands down into the wetness between her thighs. She begins to grind her buttocks into me and I … awaken to the shrill ring of the phone.

"What!" I screamed, as I answered.

"My, my. Aren't we in a good mood."

I heard my sister's voice and wanted to reach through the phone and strangle her. " Piss off, Sara," I groaned. "I've been up since 4 a.m. I'm in no mood. What do you want? Didn't you get my message?"

"Of course I got it, darling. I have a fund-raiser for the museum tonight. Just wondered if you wanted to tag along."

"You know I hate those things. Geeze. I'd as soon eat dirt."

"Just thought I'd ask. It might be fun, and the Rheinholds will be there. Their daughter, Diane, is gay you know."

"Sara," I sighed. "Quit trying to fix me up. I do all right on my own. And I certainly don't have any interest in Diane Rheinhold. God, she's exceedingly dull and looks anorexic. She's not my type at all."

"Well, what is your type? You never seem to be with anyone longer than one or two dates. I worry about you. It's not healthy. I mean, what do you …. oh, never mind, I really don't want to know."

"If you must know, I like my women full-bodied, with a healthy libido, and at least a modicum of intelligence. That's hard to find in the backwoods. Hell, a lesbian is hard to find in the backwoods. As for what I want in a woman, I want her to …."

I laughed as Sara cut in quickly. "Stop! I have all the information I need."

I knew that would shut her up. She accepts my lesbianism; she just doesn't want the details.

"See you in the morning, Sis. I'm going stay in and get some sleep tonight. Love ya."

"I love you, too, Brooke. I just worry about you. You know?"

"Yeah, I know, but don't. I'm doing just fine."

"Are you ready for the meeting?"

"I'm ready, why?"

"Just wanted to be sure. See you tomorrow. Good night, Brooke."

"Night, Sara."

I hung up the phone and lay there wide awake. 'Oh, hell,' I muttered to myself as I finally got up and headed for the shower. If I wasn't going to be able to sleep, I figured I'd go out, grab a bite to eat, and check out the action at a local club. 'Who knows,' I mused, 'I might even get lucky.' The thought alone brought a smile to my face.

I finished my shower and got dressed, taking much more care with how I looked than I normally would. After all, I was going to be among humans, not wildlife. I've been told that I clean up pretty good, and I was satisfied when I checked myself out in the mirror before heading to Club "L."

I was happy I'd chosen to stay at the Carlton which was only two blocks away from Club "L." I walked down the avenue slowly, window shopping along the way, pausing for longer than necessary to check out the displays. 'Damn, Daniels,' I thought. 'Things must be really tough when even the mannequins in store windows can turn you on.' I mean, how sick is that?

When I got to Club "L", I was happy to see that the line waiting to get in was short. It was all couples though I did get a glance or two sent my way and wondered just how "coupled up" they were. After about fifteen minutes I felt my pager vibrate and stepped up to take my turn. The atmosphere in the club was loud. Several couples were bumping and grinding on the dance floor; others were downing drinks and a few, like me, appeared to be there for dinner.

I decided on a portabella Mahi dish with a house salad and ordered a Rodenbach Grand Cru, a glorious Belgian brew that is a specialty of the house. I surveyed the room as I waited for my meal. There was a lot of eye candy there but it all seemed to be attached at the hip to someone. 'Oh, well,' I thought, 'I'll stop by My Sister's Room later and check out the action there.'

I was in the middle of my meal and half-way through my beer when the lights went down, a spotlight flashed on a small stage, the music started, and a body came sliding out on its knees, stopping mid-center with its back to the audience. I watched as the tuxedoed form rose to its feet. A top hat covered the performer's head. She shook her booty in time to the music, and then reached up to pull the hat from her head. She tipped her head back and her dark red hair fell in long waves down her back.

I dropped my fork as she turned and stared directly at me with piercing blue-green eyes. She tossed her hat into the audience straight at me. I reached and grabbed it mid-air, nodding nonchalantly at her before putting it on my head. Suddenly the food on my plate lost its allure, replaced by a definite interest in the food on the stage.

Just when I thought things couldn't get any better, she slowly unbuttoned the jacket and, in one of those 'how the hell did she do that' moments, she shed the jacket and the tear-away tux pants in one fluid movement and turned to shake her booty once again at a rapt audience. I almost choked on my beer when I saw her outfit - a halter top and tight little shorts that curved over perfectly rounded buttocks. 'I'm a damned psychic' were the first words that crossed my mind; I won't tell you the second.

The bartender tossed her a microphone. She caught it expertly and stepped off the stage. She was so short that I almost lost sight of her in the crowd, but eventually the crowd parted. She held the microphone to her lips, crooning into it in a husky voice that sent desire surging between my thighs.

Staring in a stranger's eyes
Lightning strikes across the room
Feeling heat begin to rise
Wanting you, wanting you

The lyrics were awful, but she milked them for all they were worth, sauntering slowly through the crowd toward me. I slid my chair back from the table as she approached and started to get up. She put her hand against my chest and pushed me back down gently but firmly, and then walked around behind me still crooning into the microphone and my ear. She ran a hand over my shoulder, across my chest, and into the opening of my blouse until she captured me with her forearm and let her fingers come to rest at the top of my breast. It was unbelievably sensual.

The crowd laughed as I fell victim to a deep blush that seemed to rise from the tips of my toes to the crown of my head. I grinned a goofy grin and shrugged my shoulders.

She walked around me until she was in front of me, and then she slung a leg over my legs and sat down straddling my thighs all the while singing, never missing a beat. I watched as her tongue flicked out to lick her lips, wetting them to a glistening shine.

Look here at me baby
Whatcha wanna do

she crooned, staring into my eyes.

"Everything," I whispered, not giving a damn whether anyone heard.

Come on, give it to me, baby
And I'll give it all to you

She winked as she removed the hat from my head and placed it back on her own. She leaned in and brushed her full lips gently against mine as the crowd went wild, whooping and hollering.

She started to pull away, but I reached up behind her head and brought her back to my lips. "Oh no, baby," I said quietly just before I kissed her again. "We aren't done yet."

I stared into her eyes silently demanding that she submit. I felt her resist, pulling back harder against my hand. And then, when I least expected it, she moved into the kiss, parting her lips just enough to give my demanding tongue a moment's touch against her own. This started the crowd again. Suddenly, out of nowhere, we both began to chuckle until we could hold it in no longer and broke out into uproarious laughter.

"Thanks." She winked at me and stepped off my lap.

"My pleasure," I said sincerely as I reluctantly let her go.

She walked across the room and let a couple of customers help her back up on the stage.

'Ladies and gentlemen, let's have a hand for Delilah," the bartender yelled out when she finished her set.

She threw the mike back to the bartender and strutted the length of the stage waving at the applauding crowd until she reached stage left and the spotlight faded.

I waived my waiter over and handed him a ten. "Would you ask Delilah if she'd join me for a drink?" I asked.

"Sure," he agreed, "but don't count on it."

I waited for twenty long and disappointing minutes, but Delilah never showed up. 'My luck, my loss,' I thought as I settled my bill and headed back to the hotel. Rosy Palm and Franny Fingers were sounding better and better. God knows I was ready to explode.


I was about fifteen steps outside the front door of the club when I heard the roar of an engine and watched as a bike came to a halt at the curb next to me. I couldn't see the driver beneath the helmet but there was no denying who the body belonged to. She took off her helmet and shook out her hair. God, that movement sent chills through me.

"Need a ride?" She smiled broadly, and I smiled back matching her tooth for tooth.

"Are you driving?" I teased.

"It's my hog," she replied.

"So it is," I said taking the extra helmet off the back and climbing on behind her.

She sped off down the street going God knows where. I really didn't care as long as I could stay plastered against her. We wound in and out of city streets until she came to a stop in front of a small beach cottage.

"Come on," she said, directing me down a narrow sidewalk, which led to the rear of the house. She pushed the bike to the back, chained it, and then slid French doors open and invited me in.

I followed her into the living room and stood watching as she turned on a small lamp, which gave off just enough glow to light the room without being harsh.

"Go on and sit down," she said. "Would you like a glass of wine or some coffee?"

"Coffee would be fine," I replied, not wanting to drink anything that would dull my senses.

"Good." She sounded relieved at my answer, and I felt like a grade schooler who had just pleased her teacher. She started the coffee, then came into the living room and turned on a CD player. The soft sounds of Johnny Rivers filled the room.

'Nice taste in music,' I thought as she drifted off to the kitchen and came back carrying a tray with two cups of coffee, some sugar, and some cream.

We sat there sipping our coffee. It had been quite a night and despite the heat that was undeniably between us, we were both a little shy. "So, Delilah," I started, "what…."

She burst out laughing.

"What?" I asked, feeling a little confused.

"Delilah's just a stage name," she said, still laughing.

"Thank God!" I responded, which made her laugh even harder. I joined her in the laughter until we both were fighting to catch our breaths. This was the second time tonight that she'd left me nearly breathless.

"OK," I said, gulping in air, "let's start again." I held out my hand. "I'm Brooke."

She held out her hand. "I'm Dana. Nice to meet you."

I took her hand in one of mine; it felt so soft and small. I covered it with my other hand and looked into her eyes. "Look, if this is going too fast for you, that's all right, I'll back off. But I think we both know that something's happening here." I waited expectantly.

"I know," she said. "I feel it too."

I breathed a sigh of relief. "You have such beautiful viridian eyes," I said in my deepest tone, knowing I was going to pull out all the stops with this one.

"Viridian eyes?" She almost giggled. "My eyes are blue-green. Viridian is a little much. Do you always talk that way?"

"No," I said, trying not to sound offended. "Viridian means blue-green."

"I know that," she replied. "It's just that it sounds so … I don't know … formal. I'm glad you like my eyes."

I could see a devilish look in those gorgeous viridian eyes. I waited to see what would happen next.

"You have beautiful …" she paused, smirking slightly. "… adumbral eyes."

"Thank you," I said, wondering what the hell she was talking about. I'd never heard that word in my life, but I'd be looking it up just as soon as I had a chance.

"So what are you doing in Bellingham? I don't think I've seen you at the club before." She curled her feet up under her and reached for her coffee.

"No, I'm just here to visit my sister. I'll be here a week and then I'm off. And you?"

"I live here."

"Been at the club long?"

"No, actually it's just for the summer. I'm a teacher."


"Yes. I'm an adjunct professor at the university."



"Ah … adumbral." I laughed. "You got me on that one," I admitted.

"It means 'dark'," she said. "I had to use something when you came up with viridian."

"I like to fancy myself a bit of a wordsmith, but I have to admit you topped me."

She raised a brow at that remark, and I felt another blush begin to rise. Before I could say anything, she spoke again.

"What do you do for a living?"

"I'm a geologist."

"Do you teach?"

"No, I do mostly field work although I think I might like to teach one day."

Johnny Rivers' warm voice filled the room - "Slow dancin', swayin' to the music, slow dancin' …"

I stood and held out my hand. "Would you like to dance?"

She nodded her head, and I welcomed her into my arms. She was several inches shorter than I but her curves fit against me as though our bodies were made for each other. She laid her head against my shoulder, and we stayed in one spot swaying to the music. When the song was over, we stood there still moving against each other until, finally, she stepped back, took my hand, and led me to her bedroom.

We removed each other's clothing carefully, piece by piece, touching and kissing each spot gently as it was bared and our clothes were dropped to the bedroom floor. When we were naked she led me into her shower, and we washed each other slowly, luxuriating in the feel of the body gel and each other's hands.

I was so sex-starved that I don't know how I kept from ravishing her right then and there. Somehow, the slow ritual of it all seemed perfect, and I knew in my soul that the orgasm that was lingering at every nerve ending of my body would be monumental when it finally arrived.

We moved out of the shower, dried each other off with soft towels, and walked to her bed. I sat on the side of the bed and she stepped between my legs, tangling her fingers in my hair and pulling my face between her breasts. I placed my hands on her hips and moved her away from me, then slid lengthwise onto the bed. I pulled her down on top of me loving every minute of the skin-to-skin contact and then, with one arm around her, I carefully rolled her over onto her back. I propped myself up so that I could look into her eyes before I covered her mouth with mine, rimming her lips with my tongue until I felt her tongue dance back in response.

She started to reach for me. "Don't," I said quietly. "Let me." I needed to touch her, to taste her. She was every fantasy come true, and I couldn't let the moment pass.

I was flooded with warmth and gratitude when I felt her relax and surrender to my request. I rubbed my hands over her body, memorizing every curve and crevice. The silk of her skin beneath my palms made my heart ache, and I wondered if I would ever get enough of her. I kissed her neck and nibbled my way down to her full breasts. I took one in my mouth and heard her gasp as I ran my tongue around her hardened nipple until I felt the areola pebble. God, how erotic it was. I reached between her thighs and slid my fingers into her velvet softness.

I was overwhelmed by the sensation of it all, on such a sensory overload that I thought I was going to come too soon. I wondered if she felt the same. I didn't want her to come … not yet, not until I nestled my head between her thighs and tasted the woman honey flowing there.

I heard her whimper - a small cry of displeasure as I took my mouth from her breast, and I smiled internally when her whimper changed to moans of pleasure as I kissed a trail down her abdomen, stopping only long enough to run my tongue around her navel.

I rose to kneel between her legs and placed both hands beneath her buttocks giving a moan of my own as I felt their fullness against my palms. I pulled her further down on the bed and then slid down to place my head between her thighs, opening her lips with my tongue. How soft and silky she felt; how sweet her nectar tasted. I sucked her clitoris into my mouth, gently, circling its swollen hardness with my tongue. She tangled her fingers in my hair and arched up against me, coming before I even had a chance to enter her.

I lifted my head to look up at her. Her head was flung back, her mouth was slightly open, and she was making soft little sounds like a kitten. I moved up next to her and pulled her against my side, running my hand down her back and over her buttocks. She shifted slightly, placing her arm across my stomach and slipping her fingers into my slick wetness. That touch was all it took for me to explode. I heard some kind of sound. I knew it was coming from me, but it seemed very far away.

"Jesus," she rasped. "Are you always that fast?"

I lay on my back gasping for breath. "No," I joked between gasps. "Usually I'm faster."

"You've got to be kidding!"

"Yes, I'm kidding," I said. "But it's been so long and you made me so hot that I'm amazed I lasted as long as I did." I surprised myself at my honesty. Usually I would have been much less forthcoming, much more glib, but I knew in my bones that honesty was what was called for with her.

I pulled her on top of me, lifting her up until our pubic bones were pressed against each other. I loved the weight of her on top of me, the feel of her breasts pressing into me, the hardness of her against my mound. She felt perfect in my arms. We fit.

The clock on the side table winked at me. It was 2:30 a.m. I wanted to stay but I knew that if I didn't go, I would miss the meeting tomorrow. Tomorrow? Hell, the meeting today. "I've got to go," I whispered into her hair.

"Stay. I'll get you to wherever you need to go later," she said sleepily.

"I can't," I replied. "I've got a business meeting this morning. I need to get some sleep, shower, and get some suitable clothes. Look, I'll call you later. OK?"

She groaned and rolled off me, lying next to me with her legs splayed, breathing deeply. I felt my stomach clutch. 'I've got to get out of here,' I thought as my libido started to switch into high gear again. She was unbelievably sexy and enticing. I leaned over and placed a kiss on her stomach, secretly gloating when I felt her stomach muscles quiver under my lips. It's such a rush when lust goes both ways.

I got up, grabbed my clothes, and headed into the bathroom to dress. When I came out I was surprised to find her fully dressed, waiting for me.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"You can't walk back from here," she said.

"I was going to call a cab."

"Do you know where you are?"

I looked at her dumbfounded. I had no idea where the hell I was.

She smiled. "I thought not. Come on, Stretch, the least I can do is take you home."

I hate nicknames, but I liked the way she called me Stretch. I returned her smile, followed her out of the house, and waited while she unchained her bike.

"Where to?" she asked as we climbed on.


"Hmmm. Fancy. Who would have guessed?" she teased.

The ride back to the hotel seemed much too short. When she pulled to a stop in front of the Carlton, I got off, removed my helmet, and hung it on the back of the bike. She removed her helmet as well and looked up at me with those big blue-green eyes. "Will I see you again?"

"Tonight and as often as you want until I have to leave. I'm free for the rest of the week." I leaned over and brushed her lips gently, jumping back quickly when I felt her bite my lower lip.

"What was that for?" I asked, rubbing my lip and tasting blood.

"Something to remember me by."

"As if I could forget," I said, meaning every word of it.

She touched her finger to my lip. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do that."

"Don't worry about it. You can nurse it later." I wiggled my eyebrows at her, and then reached out to hug her to me. "I've got to go in. I'll call you."

She hugged me around the waist and then let go. "See you, Stretch," she said as she put on her helmet and started her bike.

I watched her speed off down the street and then headed into the hotel.

'Shit! I forgot to get her number. I don't even know her last name,' I berated myself. I've done some stupid things in my life, but this oversight had to be one of the dumbest. I knew that I'd find her, but I resented the time that would be lost in doing it.

I shoved my hands in my pocket and pulled out a piece of paper that I hadn't known was there. 'Dana Barkley. 555-1243,' it said. Hot damn! If I weren't so sure I would fall flat on my face, I would have jumped up in the air and clicked my heels together. Instead, I settled for whistling all the way to my room.


I actually got a few hours sleep and woke up refreshed. The thought of what the rest of the week might hold increased the adrenalin in my system I guess. All I know is I was wide awake and raring to go. I ordered coffee from room service and grabbed a cold shower while I waited.

I pulled out a cream-colored skirted suit, a pale blue silk blouse, heels, and stockings. I hate dressing like that, but once a quarter I guess I can give in to my sister and 'look like a lady' for the board meeting. After all, Sara has to deal with all those pompous asses who, in addition to being on our Board, are big contributors to our charitable foundation.

True to his word, Paul was in front of the hotel at precisely 10:30 a.m. He dropped me off at corporate headquarters at five to eleven, and I headed up to my office. Yes, I do have an office though I never use it. The sign on the door says 'President', and I laugh every time I see it. Sara is Chairman of the Board and CEO of Family Oil; she runs the whole shebang and does it extraordinarily well. If having an unused office with a President plaque on the door makes her happy, so be it. I'll sit behind the desk every three months and make her happy.

Caroline, my secretary, welcomed me back and brought a cup of coffee. "I'll let Ms. Daniels know you're here," she said.

I walked into my office and sat behind the ornate desk. Caroline had several folders lined up neatly on its top. I opened the first, which contained several documents requiring my signature. A post-it on each said that Sara had reviewed the documents and approved. I signed without even reading them. God, this President job is hard.

I made quick work of the rest of the papers on my desk and closed the folders. I sat tapping my fingers on the desk wondering where the hell Sara was and if I should just march over to her office. The thought hardly made it through my mind when the door to my office opened, and Sara walked in.

"Did you read the agenda?" she asked without so much as a hello.

"No, why. It's just the usual stuff, isn't it?"

"Look at Item 2." She plopped herself down in a chair in the front of the desk.

I picked up the agenda and skimmed through it. It was all normal business stuff except for Item 2. - Committee for Social Responsibility/Beaver Falls Project.

"Oh shit!" I groaned.

"Do you want to tell me what that's about?"

"I don't know, Sara, I really don't. We've got all the specs. We're slant drilling to protect the area. We are cutting only the necessary trees. I have all the appropriate permits. Damned if I know what it's about."

"Well, I hope you're on top this project because they are on the agenda, and I suspect they have alerted the press."

"So have security keep the press out."

"You've got to be kidding. That would be a public relations disaster."

"Well why did you wait until now to drop this on me."

"Brooke, read your damn e-mails and our faxes occasionally. I've been sending you information for the last three weeks."

I looked down at my desk. I knew she was right. There was a pile of unread faxes sitting in my living room and a bunch of unopened e-mails on my computer. Christ, I hate this "business" stuff.

"I'm sorry, Sara. Really." And I was, though I knew she wouldn't believe me.

"When pigs fly," she sighed. "Look. Next time, I'll just call you and hope you'll answer your phone for a change. Brooke, I know you'd rather get dirt than ink under your fingernails, but I need you to pay more attention."

I raised my hand, three fingers in the air. "On my honor I will do my duty to Family Oil and my sister," I began.

"Oh, shut up," Sara said, laughing. "Come on, let's go get lunch."

We walked arm in arm to the dining room. Sara and I look a little alike. I mean, there is no denying we're sisters, but she is slim and elegant where I am more …. athletic. Oh hell, let's just say it - butch is a good word. Sara takes after our mother; I take after our father; and that's the way the genes flopped.

Lunch was delicious. The corporate chef outdid himself as usual. Sara and I made small talk, discussed a few business matters, and then headed for the boardroom. The ugly seven were already seated when we arrived. To a man, they rose from their chairs and waited for Sara and I to take ours. Sara had them trained well.

We had just finished discussing the first item on the agenda when the door to the boardroom flew open and a party of three advanced on us. Sara's secretary rushed in behind them trying to stop their progress. "Wait! Wait! You can't go in there until you're called," she yelled.

"We've been cooling our heels for an hour out there. Our time is just as valuable as yours," one of the men said, looking directly at Sara and me. I could only see the first two until they separated, one going to each side of the table and heading toward Sara and me. There were carrying odd-looking briefcases and my heart skipped a beat as I wondered if they were bombs of some sort. The men with the briefcases had my full attention, and at first I didn't even look at the third member of their group.

And then, my mouth dropped and the Board sat stunned as a small, redhead with eyes half-closed and a determined look on her face jumped up on the table and slid its length on her knees, coming to a stop just as she reached Sara and me. She lifted her head defiantly and blue-green eyes glared into mine.

"You!" she said in a shocked tone.

"You!" I echoed with surprise as I felt a wet, slick liquid pour over my head from behind and run down onto the cream of my jacket painting chocolate stripes on the fabric.

Sara had ducked under the table and missed most of the onslaught. "Call security," she screamed to her secretary who stood in the doorway, mouth agape.

I grabbed Dana's wrists and held her fast. I was furious. She was pissed. The Board grappled the two men to the floor and sat on them until security came, followed closely by the police. Apparently someone outside had heard the commotion and called them.

I watched as the police handcuffed the men and Dana and led them away.

By now, Sara had crawled out from under the table, shaken but none the worse for wear. I, on the other hand, looked and smelled like a rusty oil tanker.

"I've got to go clean up. Do you think we can adjourn this meeting?" I deadpanned.

Sara took one look at me and her normally stoic veneer cracked. She started to laugh … well, howl is more like it. "Meeting adjourned," she crowed, slamming her gavel.

The Board hustled out as if their pants were on fire. I'll bet not a one of them had ever attended a board meeting like that before. I wouldn't be surprised if there were a couple of resignations before the day was over.

"Well, Sara," I said, "look at the bright side. No press." No sooner were the words out of my mouth than the boardroom door flew open again, flashbulbs flared, and microphones were stuck in our faces.

I tried to muster all the dignity I could and answer their questions politely. Sara had drummed the words "public relations" into my head too many times for me to over-react to their presence. But, knowing how socially responsible we had always been, I lost it when a mike was shoved in my face and some snot-nosed kid asked me how I felt about the fact that our business damaged the environment, killed innocent animals, and exploited the masses or some such shit. So I reared back and let him have it right between the eyes. …And that was the picture on the front page of every newspaper and the lead story for every TV report of the incident.

(See, Sara, I told you that you should leave me in the woods!)


Part 2

Our driver picked me up and took me back to the hotel. I threw my clothes in a laundry bag and climbed in the shower to get the oil off me. I thought I'd never get either the smell or the oil out of my skin and hair, but I finally rinsed clean, and then lay down on the bed exhausted.

I'm seldom at a loss, but my mind whirled as I tried to figure out what options I should exercise in this situation. I was really, really mad at Dana, but the thought of her behind bars made me
cringe. 'Forget it,' I told myself. 'Some dingbats from that cockamamie organization she was with will bail her out. Besides, what is she to you?'

I rolled over and tried to take a nap but my hyperactive mind wouldn't let me sleep. `What is she to me?' I wondered. You know how you have that feeling that something could be more than it is at the moment. That was the feeling I had with Dana. I had enjoyed the limited time we spent together, and I wanted to get to know her better … in and out of bed. I found her attractive, charming, and intelligent; the fact that she was hot in the sack was icing on the cake.

I reached over and picked up the phone to call Sara. She answered the phone on the first ring.

"Sara? Brooke here. I'm going to bail her out."

"Bail who out?" There was a long pause and then the realization hit her. "Bail HER out? Are you crazy?" Sara was mad, and who could blame her.

"In fact, I might even drop the charges," I continued, fueling her ire even more.

"Brooke Daniels …"

I didn't let her finish. "Listen, if we continue to press charges, things will only heat up worse. If we drop them, it will all eventually die down. I'll talk to her. I think I can work this out."

Sara blew into the phone. I knew that sound; it was a sign of acquiescence.

"OK?" I asked.

There was silence at the other end of the phone, and then, "Brooke, do you know this woman?"

"Well, I wouldn't exactly say I know her."

"Have you met her before?"



"Last night," I whispered.

"What? I can't hear you."

"Last night," I said a little more strongly.

"Oh Christ, Brooke, you didn't." She sounded horrified.

I let my silence answer for me.

Sara sighed. "Well, see what you can do, but keep me informed."

"I will."

I hung up the phone and got dressed. I called the county jail to find out if Dana had been released. She hadn't. I talked to the clerk, learned that bail had been set at five thousand dollars, and then I called the State's Attorney. If I couldn't get him to drop the charges, I'd just bail Dana out.

Luckily, the State's Attorney was an old friend of the family. He reluctantly agreed to drop the charges and said he'd have Dana out in twenty-four hours. I balked and finally convinced him to give me the paperwork and let me walk it through.

I stopped downstairs to rent a car and then headed over to the courthouse. By the time I got upstairs to the State's Attorney's office, he had the paperwork waiting for me. We talked a few minutes and agreed to have dinner the next time I was in town, and then I was on my way downstairs to get a judge's signature on the papers dismissing the charges. The judge seemed happy to clear one more case off his very full docket, and I headed down to county jail to get Dana and her cohorts released.

I don't know if you've ever been in a county jail before but no matter how hard they try, they cannot get rid of the smell of disinfectant and urine and vomit. It is not a place for the faint of heart or week of body. I handed the Sergeant in charge the papers. He asked me for I.D. and I gave it to him. He told me it would take about 45 minutes to process the paperwork and asked me if I wanted to wait. At first, I said no but then I changed my mind. I figured Dana wouldn't have a way home and besides, she and I needed to sit down and have a good talk.

I looked out the window of the waiting room and saw the Desk Sergeant making a call. Every once in a while he would look over at me and nod his head. I assumed he was telling someone I was there to get Dana and her friends out. If I could read lips, I would have been quickly disabused of that notion.

I was alone in the waiting room and hadn't been there ten minutes before two tall, dour-looking men walked in the room. "Ms. Daniels," one said officiously.


The taller one spoke. "I'm Detective Russo. This is Detective Woods."

I looked at them curiously. "Is something wrong?"

"Ms. Daniels, would you stand, please?" Russo asked.

"Wait a minute. What's going on here?"

"Please stand," Woods repeated.

I stood.

"Brooke Daniels, you are under arrest."

"Wait a minute!" I sputtered. "This has to be a mistake. I'm just here to deliver a judge's order and get some other people released."

"It's no mistake, ma'am. You have been charged with assault and battery on one Ralph Jones."

"Who the hell is Ralph Jones?" I demanded.

The two men ignored me. Russo took a card from his pocket and began to read:

"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you at government expense. Do you understand these rights as I have just read them to you?"

As Russo talked, Woods pulled my arms behind my back and snapped cuffs on me.

It took them all of twenty minutes to book me. At least they afforded me my one phone call before hauling me off to a cell.

"Sara!" I screamed at my sister "Get a lawyer down to county jail right now."

"A lawyer? Jesus, Brooke, can't you just bail her out? Do we need to give her a lawyer too?"

"Not her," I yelled. "Me."


"Yes, me. I've been arrested for assault and battery. And find out who the hell Ralph Jones is."

A guard grabbed the phone from my hand and hung it up before I could even finish the conversation. "Your time's up," she said gruffly. "Let's move!"

She pushed me down the hall, past some holding cells and into a larger cellblock. I shivered as I heard steel doors clinking behind me and jeers and whistles as I walked down the aisle. The bulky guard pulled me to a stop and unlocked a cell door. She removed the cuffs, opened the door, and shoved me in, clanging the door shut behind me. I looked up at the back of a figure curled up on the top bunk.

"Oh, shit," I hissed under my breath as I recognized the long red hair. "Dana?"

She rolled over and glared at me. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"I came to get you out."

"Get me out or get yourself in?" she smirked.

"Neither, both … I mean … get you out."

"What did you do? Slug a cop?"

"Nope," I said, the word `slug' setting off a little bell in my head. "I slugged a reporter." Now it all made sense. "Dana, we need to …"

I didn't get to finish the sentence. The incredible hulk returned and yelled, "Barkley!"

Dana flinched but answered. "I'm Dana Barkley."

The guard opened the door to the cell, keeping an eye on me. "Okay, Barkley. You're out. Come with me."

Dana hopped off the top bunk and brushed past me with a big smile. "Thanks, Daniels," she said. "I owe you one."


When the lawyer finally arrived to spring me, I was in a blue funk which was made even bluer by the fact that the judge ordered me not to leave town until we had a hearing. I never wanted to get away from civilization and back to the woods more in my life.

I sat around the hotel for three days before I finally decided to take matters into my own hands. I picked up the phone and called the Bellingham Courier. "Ralph Jones," I said when the operator answered.

"Who's calling please?"

"His sister."

She rang me through.

Jones answered his phone almost immediately. "Who the hell is this? I don't have a sister," he growled.

I took a deep breath. "Brooke Daniels."

There was a long moment of silence. "Stay away from me Ms. Daniels. I have nothing to say to you. I'll see you in court."

The sneer in his voice almost forced me into giving the little shit a piece of my mind. A wiser head prevailed, though, and I took another deep breath. "Look, Jones, I'm sorry I slugged you."

"Tell it to the judge."

"I'd rather tell you," I said. "Listen, let's work this out like adults."

"I'm listening," he said.

"OK. How about this. I'll give you an exclusive on what happened at the board meeting and on the development at Beaver Falls. I'll bring you to the Falls, all expenses paid, and show you what we really do there. You'll have total access; no strings."

"Total access?"


"No strings and no off the record crap?"


"And I can write anything I want?

"You can write anything you want. The only thing I ask is that you be fair and unbiased. Just tell the truth, Jones."

He was quiet for a moment, and I was sure he was weighing the possibilities. "I'll have to run this by my editor."

When I heard that, I knew I had him.

He put me on hold and kept me there for a full five minutes.

'You little weasel,' I thought. 'You're probably on a coffee break.'

When he picked up again, I could almost hear him swallow. "All right, Ms. Daniels, you have a deal. How soon can we leave?"

"Just as soon as you get the charges dropped and the judge lets me leave town."

"I've got two frigging black eyes, you know," he whined.

"Jones." I sighed, "how about I buy you a couple of steaks?"

"OK. OK. I'm on it. Where can I get in touch with you."

I gave him my phone number and waited for the wheels of justice to grind.


The wheels of justice grind slowly. It took twenty-four hours for Jones to work his magic. Dealing with an assault and battery charge is apparently a little more difficult than dealing with trespassing and malicious mischief charges. But Jones kept his promise and I met him at the airport, tickets in hand, to fly back to Beaver Falls.

I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing when he first walked up. The bruises around his eyes were starting to lighten and he looked like a raccoon.

I could tell Jones was nervous, and I decided to keep him that way. My lawyer got a signed full release from him and his paper so I didn't have to worry about being sued, and the criminal charges had been dismissed with prejudice so I was home free. Stupid kid didn't even get our agreement in writing. That gave me the upper hand; I could cut him loose whenever I felt like it. But I am a woman of my word and, unless he did something so totally outrageous that I couldn't ignore it, I would give him the access and exclusive I promised.

I slept most of the way back to Beaver Falls. This trip to Bellingham had been one of the most bizarre and emotionally draining trips of my life. I couldn't wait to get back among the bears and birds. God, I missed my little cabin in the woods.

I felt a tentative shake of my arm and raised an eyelid to look at the offender.

"Sorry, but we're getting ready to land," Jones said.

I grunted a thanks, pulled my seat upright, and buckled my seatbelt. I knew the landing would be bumpy; it always was.

True to form, the plane hit the cement with a bump and continued bumping halfway down the runway before moving into a smooth roll. Jones was green.

"Take a deep breath, Jonesy," I said solicitously, patting him on the arm.

He smiled at me weakly and sat white-knuckled, his knees bouncing up and down, all the way to the gate.

We picked up our bags, got a cart, and headed out to a small hangar on the side of the airport.

Bill Coker, the owner of SeaAir is a good friend of mine. He keeps my bike for me when I go out of town. His son drives my luggage to the airport and checks it in when I leave and then drives it out to my house when I return. That leaves me free to ride Gracie, a 1977 Honda Gold Wing GL1000 that I bought in a Ebay auction. She's got an aftermarket Vetter Windjammer SS Fairing, Amco saddlebags and tail trunk, a dual touring saddle and fog lights. She's jammin and my favorite mode of transportation.

It took me a while to convince Jonesy to hop on the back of Gracie. I tried to get him to leave his backpack and laptop with the luggage, but there was no talking him out of them. So off we went, Jonesy, his backpack and his laptop squeezed on the back and holding on for dear life. I drove Gracie full throttle through the winding roads that led to my cabin. I pulled to a stop in front of it and stood straddling the bike.

"Let go, Jonesy," I had to scream. "We're here."

I was sure he was sitting there with his eyes closed and hoped to hell he hadn't peed
on the seat.

Jonesy lifted his leg over the bike and promptly fell flat on his face.

"Hey, are you okay?" I asked.

"Slipped on the gravel," he responded as he stood back up. I could see his legs were quivering.

"Come on, man, let's get you inside and settled."

He followed me up the steps and into the cabin. I decided to give the kid a break and let him relax a little. I led him to a small guest bedroom off the kitchen, showed him where the bathroom was, and left him to his own devices. I grabbed a beer from the fridge and then went out on the front porch and sat in a rocker, losing myself in the sight, smell, and sounds of the woods. I was home and I was in heaven.

I decided to try and reach Rick, my crew manager. I figured I'd pawn Jonesy off on him for a couple of days. Rick knows everything there is to know about our operation. He is a diehard
environmentalist and wouldn't let us get by with anything he thought would be harmful to the environment. Rick and I are kindred souls with mutual respect born of years of working side by side in the field.

I was happy when Rick answered on the first ring. I told him everything that had gone on in Bellingham (well, almost everything) and asked him to take Jonesy under his wing, give him free rein, and answer any questions he had. I knew I had nothing to worry about. Our operation is top notch and Rick is a great ambassador for Family Oil. Rick readily agreed to the new assignment and said he'd pick Jonesy up first thing in the morning.

Just as I was hanging up the phone, Jonesy ambled out onto the porch and sat in one of the other rockers. He looked a little better than when we first arrived.

I took the last swig of my beer and got up to get another. "Want one?" I asked, waving my bottle at Jonesy.

"Sure," he said as he leaned back in the rocker and began to rock.

When I returned with the beers, Jonesy had fallen fast asleep. I sat listening to the sounds of the forest. It sounded like a welcome home symphony to my ears. Dusk was beginning to fall as I
finished the last of the beers. With so much stress and lack of sleep, I was getting a little buzz on. I woke Jonesy. "Hey man, you'd better get up and come inside."

He grunted as he woke, then stood and stumbled into the house behind me.

"I think I'll turn in," I said. "Why don't you do the same? I'm gonna have one of my men pick you up around 5:30 tomorrow morning and you can spend the day with him."

Jonesy nodded in the affirmative and headed off to bed.

It had been one hell of a long week. Shit, it had been one hell of a long day. Although it was not my usual practice, I decided I'd better wear some pajamas to bed just in case. Out here you never know when a bear or a coon will come banging around in the night. I knew if that happened, the city boy would be crashing through my door. Luckily, it was a quiet night and we both got a good night's sleep.

Rick showed up promptly at 5:30 a.m. I was already up and had banged around the kitchen pretty loudly until I heard Jonesy stirring. I invited Rick in while we waited for Jonesy and then
waved them both off with cups of coffee in their hands.

The day couldn't have gone better. I got through all the paperwork I had been neglecting. I got the survey reports for the southern quadrant and they were highly promising. 'Things are looking up,' I thought.

The phone rang and I almost ignored it, but my sister's voice rang in my subconscious berating me for never answering my phone. I picked the phone up on the third ring. "Daniels here."

"Brooke? Brooke, is that you?"

"Yeah, Sara, it's me. What's wrong?"

"Have you seen the news?"

"What news?" My heart was pounding. Sara sounded distraught, and I was sure we were under attack.

"Oh Christ! Turn on the damn TV to national news."

I grabbed the remote and flicked on the TV. Standing at the bottom of one of the tallest trees in our preserve was a CON reporter. It just so happened that the tree was in an area where we were going to have to cut a path to give our equipment access.

"This is Katherine Norton, CON News, reporting from Beaver Falls." The story was already over and I still didn't know what was going on. Then the camera panned up the tree to a platform that hadn't been there when I left for Bellingham. The camera zoomed and a hand waved over the side of the platform. I couldn't see who was attached to the hand but as the camera zoomed closer, I caught a glimpse of dark red hair.

`Dana?' I thought. `Oh, no, you wouldn't!'

I muted the TV and heard Sara yelling. "Did you see it? Did you see it?"

I blew as much air out of my lungs as I could and then inhaled deeply. "Yes, Sara, I saw it."

"Well, is it that little bitch you laid? Is that the little bitch you got out of jail? The one you dropped the charges against?" No doubt about it, Sara was absolutely fried.

"Yes, Sara, I do believe that is who it is," I said calmly, adding fuel to the fire.

"Well get her out of that goddamned tree!" She slammed down the phone.


Part 3

I sat there in a daze. I had no idea in hell how I would get Dana to come down out of the tree … unless. A plan started to form in my mind. I called Rick and told him to keep Jonesy away from all media and occupied somewhere on the other side of the preserve for the next two days. Then I called Bill Coker. Next, I packed a box, tied it on the back of Gracie and set off down the road to the airport.

When I got to the airport, Bill had a copter ready and waiting. "Are you sure you want to do this?" He asked.

"No, but I can't think of anything else. I have to talk some sense into that woman, and I have to get her out of that tree."

Beaver Falls is a small town. Everyone volunteers to handle a variety of jobs … firefighter, EMT, even policing duties. It just so happens that Bill Coker handles water rescue, and I am a volunteer with the water rescue team. Thank god for the water rescue training. I hoped it would turn out to be the answer to this dilemma.

I untied the box from Gracie and headed for the copter. I pushed the box in and climbed in beside it, giving the Bill the thumbs up as I strapped myself in. We took off and flew over the forest to the spot where Dana sat in the tree. Bill hovered while I looked out the side. I could see Dana sitting there in her little lean-to. She appeared to have some stuff up there with her … blankets, a radio … I wasn't sure what all she had, but it looked like she was prepared for a pretty long stay.

Bill backed off and circled round as I pulled on a helmet and an orange jumpsuit, stepped into the harness, and hooked myself on. I picked up the box and said, "OK, let's do it!"

Bill circled back and hovered once again as I let myself over the side and Bill's son lowered me down on a winch until I was hanging just off the platform, staring in at a very surprised Dana.

"Good afternoon," I said nonchalantly. "Are you up for some company?" I hung there swaying a little in the breeze, the box getting heavier and heavier in my arms.

Dana didn't say anything. She just stared at me.

Then I realized what was wrong. She was scared to death. 'Advantage Brooke,' I thought.

The platform was pretty damn large and well anchored to the tree. It looked sturdy and I was sure it would quite easily hold both our weights and the things I had brought. It was a really good design, and I was impressed at the ingenuity of the people behind this. I wondered how the hell they managed to construct it and get it up there, but there was time enough to learn about that later. I just had to get on the damn thing.

"Dana. Give me a hand here," I ordered in the voice of a drill sergeant. I held out the box, and she shuffled a little closer to the edge. I saw then that she was tethered to the tree.

"Come on, Dana, I need your help," I said and breathed a sigh of relief when she reached out and grabbed the box.

"That's great. Now, please, put it down at the back of the platform and pull me in. I don't think I can hang here much longer."

Dana took the box to the back of the platform and returned to the edge. She teetered a little and jumped back, then came out toward me again.

"Just grab my legs as I swing into you and pull me in. You can do it!" I encouraged.

Again, she followed my directions. I breathed another sigh of relief as my feet hit the platform and she grabbed me around the waist, hanging on for all she was worth. When I was steady on my feet, I unsnapped the hook and waived Bill off. I was home free.

"So," I said, giving her my most rakish look. "What brings you here?"

"Please get away from the edge," she said with a tremor in her voice. She moved to the back of the platform and I followed her.

We were both breathing heavily as we sat down next to each other with our backs to the tree.

"Wanna tell me about it?"

"No," she answered.

Well, at least I had her talking. That was a start. "Look, Dana, I'd like to try to fix this. Tell me what I can do."

She seemed lost in thought but finally responded. "You can stop drilling. And you can give my grandfather back his land."

"Dana, the drilling is not going to stop. If you'll give me a chance, I'll prove to you that we are not hurting the environment or anything else. Just come on down out of this tree and let me show you."

She shook her head slowly. "I don't believe you. I'm not as gullible as my grandfather."

That was the second time she mentioned her grandfather and I wondered what was really bothering her - the drilling or something about her grandfather, and how were the two connected? "What about your grandfather, Dana?"

"Family Petroleum stole his land, and I want it back!" she said angrily.

"Dana, I don't know what you're talking about. What land?"

She pointed out to the distance. "That land. See that cabin over there? That was his. And all the land surrounding it. And you sons of a bitch stole it from him."

"You mean Hank Jacob's place?"

"That's right! Hank Jacobs! My grandfather!"

Now it was all falling into place. Dana's protest was probably less about the environment and more about the cabin and the property that surrounded it … my cabin, my property. Family Petroleum had nothing to do with that portion of the land. I had purchased it fair and square from Old Man Jacobs long before Family Petroleum bought up any of the other property.

"Dana, we need to talk. Really. There are some things you don't know."

"I know everything I need to know."

"No, you don't. Now shut up and listen!"

"No, you shut up Daniels! This is my tree."

"Well actually, Dana, it's my tree, but let's not quibble over technicalities."

The tree began to rock and we watched as Dana's radio sailed off the edge of the platform. I grabbed my box with one arm and Dana with the other.

"What's going on?" She screamed.

I peeked over the side. "Oh, don't worry. It's just a bear."

"A bear? Oh my God, bears climb trees!" She snuggled in closer to me and held on for dear life. I don't know what she thought I could do if the damn bear climbed the tree, but I was flattered that she thought I could do it.

"Bears certainly do climb trees. And they eat redheads for breakfast," I joked.

"That's not funny, Daniels."

I peeked over the side again. The bear had apparently found a honey pot and was enjoying a good meal.

"The bear's not coming up here, Dana."

"How can you be so sure?"

"Because he's eating some honey, and when he's had his fill, he'll amble off. Now quit being a scaredy cat."

Dana slid away from me. "I'm not a scaredy cat," she declared.

"Are too."

"Am not."

This continued for several seconds until the tension was finally broken and we looked at each other and smiled.

"You can't stay up here," Dana said. "This is my protest."

"Sure I can," I replied. "You're my protestor … and you're sitting in my tree."

She mulled that over for a while but said nothing. Finally, curiosity got the better of her.

"What's in the box?"


"What sort of supplies?"

I pulled the top open and removed a smaller box.

"Dana Barkley," I announced. "I hereby challenge you to a duel."

"A duel? Are you nuts?"

"Probably. Do you accept?"

"I don't know. What sort of duel?"

I opened the smaller box with a flourish and pulled out a Scrabble set.

"If I win, you climb down with me," I said.

"And if I win?"

"I'll climb down alone."

"That won't stop the drilling or get my grandfather back his land. You're going to have to sweeten the pot."

I reached in the box and pulled out an air mattress. "How about I let you have this mattress?

"Nice try."

I sucked in a breath. Never play poker with a poker player. Dana was holding her own pretty darn well.

"All right, Dana. If you beat me, and that's a big "if", I'll consider deeding you the land and the cabin … but only if you listen to the story of how I got it and if you truly believe I acquired it unfairly. And there's a caveat."


"When you finally come down out of this tree, you spend one week at the cabin with me no matter who wins. No strings. We just talk, and you let me show you exactly what it is that we do here. If you'll give me a chance, I think I can change your mind about what a horrible person I am and what a horrible company Family Petroleum is. Deal?"

She gave me a self-satisfied smile and held out her hand. "Deal."

I stood, removed the orange jumpsuit, and then reached into the box and took out my own tether. I slipped it around the tree and tied myself to it. Then I unpacked most of the contents of the box - a couple of bottles of water, a small radio, a small hammer and some nails, a cell phone, two blankets, a light tarp, a lantern, and some energy bars. Next, I popped the air mattress and watched it inflate.

While all this was going on, Dana sat on the other side of the platform against the tree watching me. I settled in on the mattress, set the Scrabble board on the floor between us, and pulled out a score pad and some pencils.

"Ready?" I asked.

"Ready," she replied as she turned to sit cross-legged facing me. "But before we start, two more rules."

"What rules?"

"Best two out of three, and we only play one game per day."

I could tell she wasn't going to budge and spending three days with her didn't seem too bad, even if it was in a tree.

"Deal," I agreed. "You first."

Dana picked the first tile. An "E." I picked up an "M." We both drew our tiles, and she went first.


"I hope you aren't referring to me," I teased as I marked down her score.

"If the foo shits."

I watched a smile crinkle at the corner of her lips. 'This might not be too bad after all,' I thought.

I pondered the board and my letters. I had an "s" which meant that I could add it to the end of her word while forming my own and get credit for both words.

'Watch out, Dana,' I thought smugly, you're up against the wordsmith.


I laid my tiles down on the board, placing the "s" at the end of "epigone". I grinned smugly ... lots of points, plus I got to count Dana's word as well.

Dana sat there thinking a moment. "I challenge," she said tentatively.

"You don't want to do that, Dana," I warned her.

She stared at me for a moment and I put on my best "I'm bluffing" face. That reeled her in.

"Yes, I do. I challenge!" she insisted.

I pulled out the dictionary and turned to the appropriate page. "Muzjik." I read. "Noun. A Russian peasant, especially prior to 1917." I handed the dictionary to her.

She read the words, looked up with an aggravated expression, and then looked back down to re-read it as if she couldn't believe her eyes. The next time she glanced at me I was sure it was with a little more respect.

Dana stared at her tiles and then gathered some up and prepared to place her next word.

"You forgot something," I smirked.

"What?" She seemed confused.

"Uh, Uh," I said, tapping her hand.


"You know the rules, Dana. You lose your turn."

She knew I was right and reluctantly put her tiles back in the rack.

I could tell from the look on her face that she had just declared all out war.

'Bring it on, girl,' I thought.


The day went by quickly, and it appeared we were evenly matched. Our scores never varied more than a point or two. This 'playing' was turning out to be more work than I really expected.

We snacked a bit and sipped water - I out of my bottle, Dana from a small cooler. It was amazing the pre-planning that had gone into this little protest. Dana seemed prepared for most contingencies and would have done quite well without the things I brought. I wondered briefly what she planned to do for food until I saw her pull a packet from her stash and realized she had a bag full of survivor rations. I wasn't too worried because I knew I was going to beat the pants off her (Tut. Tut. Get your mind out of the gutter), and I'd have her off the tree in two days.

We would stop now and then to stretch and pee in the bucket Dana had on a pulley attached to the side of the platform. She'd pull it up, we'd pee, and she'd lower it down - not the prettiest or most comfortable of sights, but it worked. The throng of reporters down below was getting thicker, and I had a passing desire to empty the bucket over their heads. The sound of Sara's voice screaming in my subconscious - 'public relations disaster' - was the only thing that held me back.

I won the first game … by only one point I'm ashamed to admit. It appeared that beating the pants off Dana wasn't going to be that easy after all.

Dana looked disappointed but determined. "Tomorrow's another day, Daniels," she groused as I picked up the tiles and placed everything back in the box.

I stood, stretched, and walked around the platform as best I could in that small space. I knew if I was sore after sitting on my air mattress, Dana's callipygous butt must be absolutely numb from sitting on the hard wood. I wondered briefly if she'd like me to rub it for her but put that notion aside quickly. That was pleasure; this was business. I had to find a way to get her out of the damned tree. The thought that I could lose the next game was not a comfortable one.

I finally lay down on the mattress, my hands behind my head, and watched Dana as she took her turn stretching and prancing around the platform. Yes, I said "prancing." You only have to see Dana walk to realize that she prances. She doesn't just walk; she struts, head held high, perky breasts poking out, a bend at the waist, rounded butt held just so. It's an amazing sight.

Even forty feet up in the air, I wanted to put my hands around that waist, lower her to the ground and make mad passionate love for hours. See, I told you I had a healthy libido…. mixed with a sick mind …but then, Dana is no mannequin. She is the real McCoy, or Barkley if you will. I'd touched and tasted her once and, no matter what they say in books or the movies, once is definitely not enough.

I was watching Dana, and Dana was looking towards me, when I saw her put her fingers to her lips and then point in my direction. 'Oh my god, she's throwing me a kiss,' I thought, pleased that she must be having the same erotic thoughts as I was. I grinned broadly and threw a kiss back at her.

She shook her head and repeated the motion, finger to lips, then pointing back at me.

I nodded my head and threw a kiss back at her.

Dana gave me a look that had 'STUPID' written all over it. This time she didn't touch her lips, she just pointed at me, jabbing her fingers in the air.

"What?" I finally muttered.

"Shhhh," she said and then made a twirling motion with her fingers, pointing in a direction over my right shoulder.

Sometimes I am pretty dense, but I finally got it. I turned my head, looked behind me, and saw a hand sliding across the platform floor, nudging a microphone under the air mattress. One of those piss ant reporters had climbed the damn tree and was trying to bug us.

I nodded at Dana and put my fingers to my lips. Smart girl … she knew immediately what I meant by the gesture. I reached into my box and pulled out a pistol.

"Excuse me, sir," I said as sweetly as possible. "Would you like an interview?"

A mop of hair preceded two bulging eyes that rose up over the edge of the platform. When the rest of the head was high enough so that I could see him and he could see me, I pointed the pistol squarely between those eyes and smiled.

"Get the hell off my tree," I said firmly, praying he wouldn't fall off. I could just see the civil suit arising out of that one.

His eyes had a look of terror in them, and I knew I had made my point.

I grabbed the microphone before he could get it back and handed it to Dana.

"Give me my mike," he yelled angrily and then he continued a little more contritely. "Please. That's a twelve hundred dollar piece of equipment. The station will kill me."

"Not if I kill you first," I replied, handing the mike to Dana.

"Bucket, Dana," I said.

She looked at me quizzically and then understanding dawned. Of course, bucket! She walked over the side of the platform, hauled the bucket up, and dropped the microphone into the yellow liquid.

"Your mike will meet you at the bottom," I said, staring the reporter straight in the eyes.

"You're fucking crazy, lady!" he screamed. "Fucking crazy."

"I'm not the one who climbed this tree after me," I shouted with a self-satisfied grin. "Now move it!"

I heard him scrambling down the footholds that had been nailed to the tree and felt the tree swaying as he made a rapid descent.

(Are you wondering why I didn't use the footholds to climb the tree myself? Well, for one thing, it might have alerted Dana; for another, I couldn't have carried the box and climbed the tree at the same time; and for a third, wasn't my descent from the helicopter a little more dramatic? Uh huh, I thought so.)

When I turned back to look at Dana, she was staring at me horrified.

"Dana, are you all right?" I asked, not realizing I was now pointing the gun directly at her.

"Put it down, Brooke," she said quietly.

"Put what down? Oh, this?" I asked, looking at the pistol. I laid the pistol down on the air mattress and Dana came over and sat down on the platform in front of me.

"What were you going to do, Brooke, threaten to shoot me if I wouldn't come out of the tree?"

She was truly concerned.

I grabbed her wrist with one hand, picked up the gun with the other, aimed it into the distance and fired. "Pop."

Her eyes widened with fright and then crinkled with amusement. "A cap gun?"

"To scare the night critters if necessary," I said. "Though I didn't have human critters in mind when I brought it."

"You're sick, Daniels, sick," she laughed.

"I know," I replied with a big grin. "So what's next on the agenda?"

"I have no idea. I'm just playing this by ear."

Now if you could see Dana's ears you would understand why the next thought that crossed my mind was. 'God, how I would love to play with those ears.' Instead, I said. "Why don't we try to get some rest? I'm exhausted, and I suspect you are too."

She nodded. I think the situation was really taking a toll on her but she was not about to admit it.

I could hear the noises below getting louder. The other reporters were probably commiserating with their colleague while secretly gloating that he hadn't beaten them to a scoop. There were other sounds that I couldn't quite place and I leaned out over the edge to get a better look. What I saw really pissed me off. The idiots were setting up a couple of those big kleig lights like those that you see in Hollywood movies. 'If you think you're gonna shine those things up at me all night, you're nuts,' I thought as I picked up my cell phone.

"Sheriff," I said when the man at the other end answered. "Brooke Daniels here. I need you to remove some trespassers from my land."

"Brooke, it's the press," he replied.

"Yes, and this is private property. I want them off!"

"Brooke that could be a public relations disaster."

'What is this guy, Sara's clone?' I thought.

"At this point, I don't give a flying leap about public relations, Bill," I responded. "I'm forty feet up in the air, and I want to try to get a good night's sleep."

"OK, buddy," Bill replied. "Consider it done."

(I know, you're wondering again. Yes, Bill Coker, my SeaAir friend, volunteers as Sheriff. Small world.)

"Ya sure you don't want me to climb up and arrest the redhead while I'm there?"

"I have that all under control, Bill."

Bill laughed. "I'll just bet you do."

"Shut up and do your job," I replied with a chuckle in my voice.

"I'm on my way."

"Now, where were we?" I asked, turning to Dana.

There was nothing but silence and I smiled as I saw her fast asleep on top of her sleeping bag. Too much fresh air can exhaust a girl.

I leaned back on the air mattress and turned on my side so that I could watch her sleep. She looked so sweet that it was hard to believe she had caused all this trouble. A stray red curl lay against her temple and fell over her eye and down her cheek. I reached over to brush the curl away, and she reached up to cover my hand with hers. I waited for a moment before slipping my hand gently from beneath hers, hoping not to awaken her. She made a little sound, the kind someone makes when half way between sleeping and waking. It was an odd sound but it resonated throughout me. God, what this girl could do to me, even in her sleep!

I reached in the box, took out a blanket and covered her, and then kissed her softly on the cheek.

"Good night, Dana," I whispered, and then I rolled over on my back and lay there waiting for the night and sleep to come.


I don't remember dozing, but I must have. I do remember feeling a finger poking me in the arm, gently at first and then with greater insistence. "What? " I grumbled.

"What's that?" Dana whispered.



There was enough moonlight for me to see Dana's finger pointing to something just below our feet. There, staring out of the dark, were two large eyes looking directly at me and Dana. Suddenly, a deep 'hoot" filled the air sending Dana into my waiting arms.

Now you'd think a woman who is an adjunct professor and pretty respectable tree percher would know that a little thing with big eyes that goes 'hoot' in the night is probably an owl. I'm betting she did and that her actions were just an excuse to get to the exact place where she was now so firmly ensconced. I decided to play along with her little charade.

"Shhh," I whispered in her ear as I rolled her off me and sat up. I reached slowly for the cap pistol and with deadeye aim, I scared the shit out of the poor little owl who didn't waste any time flying quickly out of our nest.

I put the gun back in the box and turned to Dana. "You didn't have to be that dramatic, you know. You could have just crawled in with me. I wouldn't have objected."

Dana snorted. Now I know snort does not bring a particularly desirable image to one's mind, but Dana's snort is rather endearing. Picture two full, ripe lips pursed together in a kiss, puffing little spurts of air out so that the lips vibrate a bit. Yummy.

"So what do you say I stay here?" she asked.

Now it was my turn to snort, but I behaved myself.

"I say OK." I held my arms out and Dana settled into them. Nice.


"Mmm. Hmmm."

She spoke so sweetly that I was certain the night was going to turn into something much more pleasurable than errant reporters, cap guns, and terrified owls. And I was right.

The silence of the night was interrupted by the sounds of a bullhorn. "Attention! Attention! This is Sheriff Bill Coker. You are trespassing on private property. You have ten minutes to clear the area of yourselves and all your equipment by order of the Magistrate. Failure to clear the area and you will spend the night in jail compliments of Beaver Falls."
I heard the angry shouts of the reporters, but Bill didn't back down and one by one they and their equipment left.

'Alone at last,' I thought. I yelled down to Bill. "Thanks, Sheriff."

"That's OK, Ms. Daniels," he replied with all the formality of his office.

I knew the 'Ms.' was for the benefit of the departing reporters. Any other time he would have just said 'Daniels.'

Dana and I settled back down on the air mattress, and I thanked the goddesses that she stayed in my arms.

We lay there contentedly for a few minutes enjoying the peace and quiet that finally surrounded us.

"Where were we?" I eventually asked.

"I was just about to …"

My heart did a little dance; I was sure I knew what was coming next.

Dana's words were interrupted by a flash of light and a masculine voice. "Good evening, girls. You ordered?"

"Bill, what the hell are you doing?" I was noticeably perturbed.

"Now is that any way to greet an old friend who has just done you a big favor?"

I could smell a very familiar smell and grinned broadly. "Beee-illl," I said, stretching his name out to two syllables. "You didn't."

"Ah, but I did."

By this time, Dana was sitting up and had slid to the end of the air mattress.

"That's not …." Dana sang happily.

"But it is. Will this thing hold us all? May I come in?"

I nodded my head and Bill climbed up over the edge and sat down next to me on the air mattress.

I reached behind him and removed the two large boxes strapped to his back. I laid the boxes on the air mattress between Dana and us and then opened one. It was a little bit worse for the wear considering the way it had been strapped to his back but there was no mistaking what the boxes contained.

"Double cheese or pepperoni?" I asked.

"Cheese, please," Dana replied.

"Hoot," said the owl who had taken up residence in the next tree over.

"Pepperoni," said Bill.


Bill stayed with us for an hour or so, laughing and joking before heading back down the footholds to safe ground. Before he left, he handed me another cell phone. "Give me yours. It probably needs charging. I'll bring it back tomorrow."

I was touched by Bill's thoughtfulness and thanked him profusely for everything.

"Aw, that's what friends are for," he said. "By the way, any idea how long you gals will be up here? They say there's a storm front moving through in the next day or two."

I looked at Dana. "Not too long I hope. Of course, we can always climb down now. What do you say, Dana?"

"The duel's not over," she responded.

"Duel?" Bill asked, with concern.

"Just a family joke, Bill. Don't fret," I reassured him. "You go on down. I think we'll be here one or two more days. Hopefully no more than that."

Dana said nothing.

Bill let himself over the edge and started down the footholds on the tree. "Call me if you need anything, Daniels." And then he was gone.

By now, I was exhausted and I knew Dana was too. Still, I had hope that the evening might be a little more interesting. I held out my arms again, inviting her in. And in she came, snuggling against me, one hand on my thigh. God, could things get any better than this? (Well sure they could … but not tonight.)

And so, Dana and I went to sleep. I don't know what she dreamt, and I'm not telling you what I dreamt. Just let your imaginations run rampant and you'll probably get it right all on your own.


Part 5

I awoke to Dana stretching against me. God, I could get used to that sensation quite easily.
I nuzzled my chin in her hair to let her know that I was awake.

"Morning," she muffled into my left breast, eliciting a tickling sensation that traveled a little further south.


I was disappointed when she stood up. My body felt like it had lost a necessary appendage. She looked so cute with her thick red hair flaring out all over the place and her still sleepy eyes squinting in the morning sun. She pulled up the bucket, and I turned away to give her as much privacy as possible under the circumstances. In a short time I followed her lead.

We each brushed our teeth over a small basin and emptied the water over the edge of the platform. I could almost feel the roots of the tree reaching out to drink it in. It hadn't rained in several weeks and the storm which was predicted would bring welcome relief to the local flora and fauna.

"So what's on the agenda for today?" I asked.

Dana didn't flinch. "Well, we need to houseclean. You're a little sloppy, you know."

I was about to protest but one look around and I had to concede she was right. Her side of the platform was perfectly organized and neat. My side, on the other hand, was taken up by the air mattress and all the things I had taken from the box I brought. I started picking up my mess and putting it back in the box.

When I was done, I looked at Dana with a self-satisfied grin. "Well?"


"Just better?"

"Are you always like that?"

"Like what?"

"Like that."

"Like that what?"

"Jesus, Brooke, you are maddening. Do you always answer a question with a question or have to have the last word?"




"Brooke, give it up."

"Give what up?"

"Brooke! If we're going to live together, you are going to have to cut that out."

That was the perfect point at which to shut my mouth. I mean, she said 'live together' … 'if we're going to live together'! I heard the words and was mentally stunned. I hadn't really thought about living together … sleeping together - definitely, but living together? My mind was not that far ahead until she said the words. Now all I could think about was living with her, having her with me every day, having her cuddle against me every night. I liked the thought. And so I shut up.

Dana reached over and took the radio out of my box, placing it on her side of the platform. She turned it on to a light classics station. Next, she took a journal out of her box and began writing.

'Well, two can play this game,' I thought. I reached in the box and took out a book, turning my back to Dana.

We stayed like that for over an hour, each engrossed in her own thing. I felt Dana slide closer to me and moved just enough to prevent her from seeing over my shoulder. Finally, I heard a quiet voice.

"What are you reading?"

I didn't answer, pretending to be absorbed in my book.

Dana cleared her throat. "What are you reading?"

"An anthology."

She waited, expecting me to say more but I decided to lead her on a bit. Finally, she asked, "What anthology?"

"Just a little light reading."

"What kind of light reading?"

"Lesbian erotica," I replied.


I could almost feel her blushing.

I held up the book so she could see it over my shoulder - Choose the Right Word: A Modern Guide to Synonyms and Related Words, S. I. Hayakawa.

"You have got to be kidding," she said, laughing. "You're a real nerd."

"I prefer geek," I answered seriously but said nothing more.

Finally, when my silence and her curiosity got the better of her, she spoke.



"Brooke. Are you mad at me?" She sounded a little worried. It was sweet.

"No, Dana," I said. "I am just trying to let you have the last word."

"Well stop it. I really prefer we go back to the way we were earlier."



"OK," I said, rolling over on my back and laying the book down. I held my arms out, waiting.

"Not that far back."

"How far back, Dana?"

"Far enough back so that we are at least looking at and talking to each other, Brooke."

"Ah." I sat up and looked Dana straight in the eye. "So what would you like to talk about?"

"Tell me about my grandfather's land."

"Nope. That is not a topic for discussion in this tree. I promise … when we get down, you and I will have a long talk and I will tell you everything."

Dana looked disappointed but didn't push it.

"Are you hungry?"

Before I could answer, my stomach growled loudly, shocking us both and breaking the tension.

"I guess that answers my question," she said. "I'll cook."

She reached into her box and pulled out two survival food packages, added a little water to them, and then shook them up and handed one to me.

"Ready egg mix - instant," I read on my package. I pulled two fruit granola bars from my box and handed one to Dana. "Have a slice of toast."

We ate our breakfast between sips of water to wash it all down. Actually, it tasted better than it should have. I think it was the company.

After breakfast, we went back to ignoring each other. The light classics station that Dana had on the radio interrupted its music with a special announcement.

"A severe thunder storm watch is now in effect in the Beaver Falls and surrounding area until 5 p.m. today. Stay tuned for further updates."

I was really concerned. I knew what such storms could be like and I knew how dangerous it was for us to remain in the tree during a storm. If lightning were to strike, we would be dead in a heartbeat.

"Dana, if there's a thunderstorm, we can't stay here," I told her.

"You can do what you want, Brooke, but I'm not leaving."

"Don't be a fool."

"Brooke, I'm staying in the tree until I get what I want."

'You'll never get everything that you want no matter how long you sit in this tree,' I thought, but I knew better than to comment. I had seen Dana's fear of the bear and the owl; I was fairly certain that if thunder and lightning were to occur, Dana would change her mind about coming down out of the tree, if only temporarily. I was hoping against hope that if I got her on solid ground, I could convince her to stay out of the tree. If not, I knew I would be climbing back up with her.

I quickly changed the subject and the morning flew by as we discussed our favorite sports events (mine, women's basketball or beach volleyball; hers golf - which to me is like watching grass grow). I learned that our tastes in music are fairly similar, and we both love to dance (mental note: take Dana dancing after we get out of the tree). The morning passed quickly as we talked. We were comfortable with each other again, seeming more like old friends than new lovers. But the heat was still there - she knew it and I knew it, but we both avoided that subject.

We had a quick lunch of more survival rations, and I set up the Scrabble board while Dana picked up the little bags and other small pieces of trash that had accumulated. It was time for the battle to begin once again!

Instead of placing the Scrabble board on the floor of the platform where Dana would have to once again sit on the hard wood, I turned the mattress sideways and placed it on the air mattress. By turning the mattress sideways, both Dana and I could lean against the tree.

As I was sitting there, I began to formulate a plan. I've been told that I have a devious mind, but I never realized just how devious until we began playing the second game of our three-game Scrabble battle.

We drew tiles again and this time I went first. Luckily, I had just the right tiles to begin my assault. I placed the tiles slowly.


Dana took it in stride as she studied her tiles. Finally, she constructed her word, using the "m" in my word.


I smiled. With the new tiles I drew and the "f" of family, I was able to make a word, which surely would give her a clue as to how I planned to play this game.


Dana gave a little giggle and stared at her tiles. She got it. Still, she played for the points.


She had to use a blank tile as a "z" but she made the word.

My turn.


And so it went all afternoon. I actually outscored Dana for most of the game and was well ahead when we drew our final tiles. Dana's degree was in English. I had a background in math. Anyone who plays scrabble seriously knows that it's a game of mathematical probabilities. You can take all the English classes you'd like and read all the Victorian novels that you want, but none of that will prepare you to play an expert game of Scrabble.

'There's no way you're going to catch up this time, Dana,' I thought as I looked at the score. It would take Dana a minimum of 310 points in one play to tie me and 311 points to win. No way! We were going to get off this goddamned tree today.

Dana sat and stared at her rack, and stared at her rack, and stared at her rack.

"Cede?" I asked confidently.

She continued to stare and finally, with the look of a killer on her face, she strategically placed her tiles.


It was my turn to stare, and stare, and stare. Dana had placed her tiles so that the C and T were placed on Triple Word Score squares. The Z fell on the Double Letter Score. And, she used no blanks. Her score was 3 + 1 + 1 + (10 x 2) + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 29 X 9 = 261 + 50 = 311 points.

She beat me. By one damn point. We were tied one game each, and we were staying together in the tree for another night.

"What did you say your major was?" I groused.

"English, why?"

"No reason."

"I minored in math, though," she added.


Tomorrow was another game, and I knew that it was definitely not going to be an easy one.

I packed the Scrabble Board away and pulled a paperback from the box. This time it really was an anthology of lesbian erotica. Might as well get some pleasure out of all this.

Dana lay down on her side next to me with her head near my thigh. "Think I'll take a nap," she said.

I patted her head indulgently and started reading the anthology. Hot is not the word for the book I was reading. If capsaicin is what makes habaneras hot, this book was pure capsaicin. There I was sitting in a tree, turned on by words on a page, with a beautiful redhead breathing against my thigh. I closed the book and slid down next to Dana.

It was sweet torture lying next to her. I wanted so badly for her to wake up. I wanted us to be in the bed in my cabin, making love until we were so exhausted we couldn't stand. I lay there, aching, swollen, and more frustrated than I had ever been in my life when Dana's arm slid across my leg and her fingers began to play against my inner thigh almost but not quite reaching the one spot that would give me release. 'She's asleep,' I thought and then I heard her voice whisper five words I hadn't been expecting to hear.

"Brooke, make love to me."

I was beyond ready. I undressed her slowly, worshipping her as I went. I was in no hurry. I removed my own clothes and placed them neatly next to hers. There is something unbelievably erotic about being butt naked, forty feet up in the air, with a beautiful, sensuous woman in your arms. I lifted myself up over her and lowered myself gently upon her pressing into her swollen clit, rotating my hips slowly. She began undulating under me, lifting herself higher, pressing against me with all her strength. Her breath was coming in rapid gasps and her fingers raked my back. "Jesus, Dana," I croaked, "I want you so much."

The words were no sooner out than I felt it -- at first heavy rain, and then a little sting and then a hard slam against me. The noise was deafening. Bang. Bang. Bang. I thought we were being shot at. And then I saw them scattered around us and on the platform floor. Little white, pea-sized, hard, cold pieces of ice. I rose up and knelt over Dana, protecting her with my body as I reached in the box, grabbed the tarp, and pulled it over us.

"What's going on?" she shouted over the din of the falling hail.

"We're in hail hell," I answered, gritting my teeth against the pain of the onslaught.

The rain and hail stopped as suddenly as it had begun. And so did we. I collapsed on my stomach next to Dana and gritted my teeth. My skin still stung.

Dana sat up next to me and pulled off the tarp. "Jesus," I heard her whisper. She leaned in and kissed me gently on the back. "Let me see what I can find in the first aid kit," she said.

I heard her rifling through the first aid kit and then felt her sit back down next to me on the air mattress. Very gently she began to massage something on my back. In a few minutes the stinging subsided and I was able to enjoy the soothing feel of her small hands moving up and down my skin. Her touch was hypnotic, and I felt myself drifting off. I fought it. I wanted to finish what we had started but the goddesses had other plans.

"Go to sleep, Brooke," I heard Dana murmur. "I'll be back with you as soon as I get this hail cleaned up."

The last thought I remember having before joining Morpheus was 'Dana.' I never felt her climb back on the mattress with me nor did I feel her silky flesh pressed against mine. I slept, oblivious of everything but the erotic dreams of Dana that once again filled my head.


Part 6

I awakened horny as the devil. (I know … hard to believe.) My back and butt hurt but not too badly. My left breast had a hand kneading the hell out of it. A naked redhead was plastered against me, her right breast blanketing mine, her right leg slung across me, and her soft breath tickling my skin. Ohhhhh. Mama said there'd be days like this, days like this, my mama said! Well, actually, my mama never did say anything like that but she should have.

I lay there enjoying the contrasting sensations when my cell phone rang, startling me from my reverie and Dana from her sleep. I grabbed the phone and in my usual cordial manner screamed: "Go away!"


Shit. Not again. "Yes, Sara. And how the hell did you get this number?"

"Bill called me. So, what's happening? All the news coverage has stopped. Have you gotten that woman out of the damned tree, yet?"

"I'm working on it, Sara, I'm working on it," I sighed.

Just then Dana moaned.

"What was that?"

"What was what?"

"That moan?"

"Oh, that. Just the tree creaking, Sara."

Dana giggled.

"That was not a creaking tree, Brooke."

"No? It must have been the radio, then."

"Oh. OK." She didn't really sound convinced but she continued anyway. "Listen Brooke, you really do have to try to talk some sense into that woman. I've been putting my fingers in the dike for two days trying to stem the tide of bad publicity. We're really taking a hit here."

I fought to hold back my laughter. I had been trying to stick my fingers in the dyke for two days and life was not cooperating.

"It's under control, Sara. When this is all over, I promise you the situation will be turned around. In fact, I think things will be immeasurably better."

By this time, Dana was wide awake and sliding a hand down my body and in between my legs with dogged determination. I felt her fingers slip in between my lips and gasped slightly as she began to stroke me.

"Brooke, are you there?" Sara asked. "Are you all right? What's that noise?"

As I listened to Sara, I looked at Dana, who had propped herself up and was staring straight at me with a look of hunger in her eyes that only increased the intensity of the fire I was feeling. I hurled the phone out over the platform into empty space and vaguely heard Sara yelling, "Brooke! Brooke!" as the phone began its descent.

Then I surrendered. I just lay there enjoying Dana's every touch. There is nothing like sex in the morning, nothing.

Have I told you about Dana's lips? How full and ripe they are? I watched her lower her head to my breast and felt her lips caress it, her tongue flicking against my already hardened nipple. She nursed in the same rhythm as her fingers stroked, and it was ecstasy. I felt my orgasm rise, seeming to move in slowly, from a distance, an almost ethereal event, washing over me with unbelievable intensity. It began soft and sweet and then rocked me hard. "Oh, Jesus, Dana," I moaned, grabbing a handful of her hair and pulling her mouth off my breast and up to meet my mouth, our tongues barely touching at just the moment my orgasm reached its crescendo and Dana slipped her fingers inside.

I had no strength left to move as Dana removed her lips from mine and placed her head on my shoulder, her mouth against my neck. She began to softly suckle there and I felt a tickle move along nerve endings from my neck all the way to the spot where her fingers were trapped inside me. The sensation made my muscles contract even more strongly, and I knew another orgasm was only seconds away. I relaxed into the feeling, and felt Dana moving more deeply inside. I wasn't sure I really wanted off this platform, not if my mornings were going to be like this.

The second orgasm hit me just as the sound of a branch breaking rose in the morning air. I heard a whistle. Yankee Doodle Dandy. 'Shit! Bill's favorite song.' I stuck my fist in my mouth to muffle the sounds I knew would carry through the forest air.

Dana heard the whistle, too, and pulled from me quickly, her eyes full of disappointment. She grabbed her clothes and threw me mine just as we felt the tree begin to sway as Bill ascended.

"Morning, ladies," Bill said with a smile as his head appeared above the platform's edge. "Have you killed each other yet?"

'You should only know, Buddy,' I thought, wondering if he was so dense that he couldn't see the satisfaction mixed with frustration that was plastered all over my face.

"Nope, but the day's not over," I answered.

Bill handed over the cell phone that he had taken the day before to recharge for me.

"If you want to give me the other phone, I'll take that back to recharge," he said.

Dana and I looked at each other and burst out laughing.

"What?" Bill asked, totally clueless.

"Uh. There's been a little accident. I'm afraid it fell overboard. It's somewhere down below."

"Oh, shit, my wife will kill me. Mine was on the blink and I brought you hers."

"Sorry, Bill," I said. "I'll replace it for her just as soon as I get down from here. Apologize for me and tell her I'll get her the picture phone she's been wanting."

"Thanks, Brooke. That ought to cool her jets." Bill handed me my recharged phone. "Listen. I've got some bad news."

My heart began to race. "What's wrong?"

The look on his face made me certain someone had died. "Those reporters got a high priced attorney to fly in. The Judge is going to let them come back here as long as they stay 50 feet from the bottom of the tree."

The disappointment I felt must have been obvious on my face.

"Sorry, Brooke, but I did the best I could."

"I know you did, Bill. Don't worry about it. Things will work out."

"Well, I'll stake a man or two down there to make sure they keep their distance, but it's the best I can do."

"We'll be coming down before long, anyway. Don't worry about it."

Dana raised an eyebrow.

I knew I would be coming down out of the tree, but the results of this day's game would determine whether or not Dana would be coming with me. And the race was just too close to call.


Bill climbed back down and Dana and I were once again alone. I was sitting with my back to the tree and Dana was at the end of the mattress. I spread my legs out and motioned to Dana. She moved up to straddle my lap, kneeling with her legs on either side of my thighs, facing me.

We kissed softly and then with more urgency. Dana had had her way with me, and come hell or high water, I was going to have my turn before those pesky reporters returned.

I urged Dana off my lap and onto her back, reaching up to unbutton her blouse. I slid my hand beneath the cloth and began to stroke one of her breasts, using my fingers to draw soft concentric circles on her skin and around her nipple until I felt it harden under my touch. I leaned forward, taking her breast in my mouth. God, she felt so good against my tongue. I reached under her breast, pushing it up to give it more fullness in my mouth, and began to suckle.

Dana started to moan softly, pressing herself tighter against me as I reached down and unbuttoned her shorts, slipping a hand between the denim and her skin. I cupped her mound, sliding one finger in between her folds and, when she arched up to meet my hand, I slipped two fingers into her and pressed against her swollen clitoris with the pad of my thumb. She moved against my hand, slowly at first, and then with more abandon. My wrist began to cramp and I wanted to tear the shorts from her, but before I could move she arched still higher, forcing my fingers more deeply inside. I muffled her cries with my mouth, afraid that the press might already be arriving. Her body shuddered and she closed her legs like a pair of scissors, trapping my hand between her legs and my fingers inside. I rode the wave with her until her body collapsed against the mattress.

She didn't say she loved me. I didn't say I loved her. It was much too early for that but, god help us, the words were percolating just below the surface and we both knew that that was the road we were traveling on at breakneck speed.


We lay in each other's arms not saying a word. Our differences regarding what my company did and about the land I had bought from her grandfather remained in the air between us despite the feelings we were developing for each other. There was still much to settle, and I prayed it could be done without driving Dana from my life forever.

I knew it wouldn't be long before the press would be clamoring at the base of the tree … well, fifty feet from the base of the tree but still too close. An idea began to germinate in my mind.



"Look, the press will be here soon."

"I know." Her tone was a mixture of pleasure and disappointment. On the one hand, they were necessary to publicize her cause; on the other hand they were an unwelcome intrusion into our privacy.

"I think I know a way to get rid of them, but I need your cooperation."

"I need them," she said. "I need them to keep the story out there." It pleased me to hear a tinge of regret in her voice.

"I know you do, Dana, and what I have in mind will probably get rid of them and accomplish what you want at the same time."

By the look on her face I knew I had piqued her interest, and then I told her my plan. She agreed readily, and I picked up my phone to call Rick and Bill. I got the details worked out with them and then pulled the Scrabble set out of the box and set it up for our final round of play.

Dana looked as if she didn't want to continue the contest. I knew I didn't, but it had to be done. I reached for a tile and so did Dana. I lost the draw again and she went first.


Just as anticipated, it was another close match. Dana played me point for point and even got back at me when I made the mistake of challenging a word she had played. I liked that about Dana. She didn't try to impress me, she was just Dana, fighting with all she had, never giving an inch, but gracious in victory or defeat. I hoped that would hold when this was all over. In fact, I was counting on it.

We were down to our last tiles. Dana had two, I had three, and it was my turn to play.

And then we heard it, the sound of Bill's helicopter overhead as it flew in and hovered over the tree. A squeaking sound let us know that the winch was lowering something. I carefully shifted the board and the racks to the side, and Dana and I stood up and walked to the edge of the platform just as a dangling body with very frightened eyes came to a halt mid-air in front of us.

"Hi, Jonesy," I said as I reached out to pull the quaking reporter onto the platform.

Jonesy was clutching his laptop to his chest, and he was pale as a ghost. The bruises around his two black eyes had faded and now looked more like a yellow tattoo. He didn't say a word.

I held onto Jonesy until he was steady on his feet. With great difficulty, I was eventually able to pry the laptop from his death grip and hand it to Dana. I unhooked the harness and convinced Jonesy to step out of it and then tied my own tether around him and led him to the back of the platform where his legs finally gave out under him.

"Have a drink, Jonesy," I said, handing him a bottle of water.

He gulped it down as if it were fine liquor.

"Let us know when you're ready," I said somberly.

It took a few minutes for Jonesy to settle down and let his professionalism take over, but I have to give the guy credit, he had more moxy than I thought.

We set up the laptop and Jonesy removed a digicam and some other small pieces of equipment from his backpack.

"OK. Let's do it," I said when he was finally ready.

Dana was already sitting across from Jonesy, and I took a place next to her.

We weren't sure if we could hookup but the goddesses were with us that day and everything, including the laptop, worked fine.

Jonesy did one hell of an interview, patching in and feeding it back to a local television station as well as to his newspaper. The kid was becoming a hero in the media, as much a part of the story as the teller of it. The interview lasted almost two hours, and the questions were insightful and not at all biased. The kid did his job well. The time passed quickly, and I think we were all a little disappointed when we heard the helicopter returning and Jonesy wrapped it up.

We helped him pack his gear and got him ready for his next ascent. We all hugged, and I helped Jonesy get strapped back into the harness which had been lowered from the copter.

"See ya back at the cabin, tomorrow, Jonesy," I shouted over the loud noise of the rotors.

Jonesy gave a thumbs up as he was reeled back up. We watched Bill's son pull Jonesy in through the open copter door, and we continued watching until they flew out of sight.

Dana and I could hear the jeers and catcalls from down below. The reporters were really pissed that someone else had gotten "their" scoop, some unknown who was not even a part of their clique. I knew I was going to have to do some fence-mending when I got down. You never know when you might need the press as much as they need you, but right now I just didn't give a damn about them. All I could think about was the task at hand.

I set the Scrabble board back on the mattress and Dana and I took our racks and resumed our seats.

"Your turn," Dana said.

"I know." I sat there pondering my tiles. There was an open "a" on the board. I could use all three of my tiles to spell Moyawhich is mud poured out from volcanoes during eruptions. I had counted the tiles as we went. I knew exactly what Dana had, and I knew, too, that Moyawould give me the win and get Dana out of the tree, provided she kept her end of the bargain.

Or, I could just place the 'm' and make the word 'am,' which would give Dana the win and I would be climbing down alone.

I sat there contemplating my next move. My heart was warring with my common sense, and for the first time in my life I was not sure what to do. And then, with sudden clarity, I understood that there was only one thing I could do. I smiled at Dana and reached for my tiles.


Part 7

I contemplated my tiles and, in the deep recesses of my mind, I heard my sister, Sara, insisting that I go for the kill.

In another corner of my mind, I heard my friend, Kerry, saying that when my head is telling me to win and my heart is telling me to lose, I should listen to my head. I mean that would be logical, wouldn't it? After all, that would accomplish the goal of getting us both down out of the tree. What's the point in losing? Ah, what is the point indeed.

I carefully placed the "a" and watched a victorious smile light Dana's face.

Dana pulled her tiles from the rack, placed them slowly, one-by-one, and then looked at me triumphantly.

"Congratulations," I said, reaching out to shake her hand. "I'll be out of here just as soon as I can get Bill to pick me up."

I started to push the tiles off the board into the Scrabble box.

Dana reached over and grabbed my tile rack before I could stop her. She sat staring at the two tiles still remaining.

"Why?" she asked.

"Because. This is important to you," I answered. "Fuck the rest of it. It will all work out the way it's supposed to anyway."

I knew I had stolen the sweet taste of victory from her, but I had given her something else - the gift of knowing just exactly how much she had come to mean to me.

I called Bill and told him to pick me up. Dana and I sat on the mattress waiting for his arrival. I sat leaning against the tree. Dana sat between my splayed legs leaning back against me. I had my arms around her, resting lightly against her body.

"When this is over, can we …" Her words hung in the air as the sound of the copter reached our ears.

"I don't know, Dana," I said honestly. "Maybe we can try if you ever come down out of this damn tree."

She turned her head and tipped her lips up to me. I brushed them lightly with mine and slid out from behind her. I reached in the box and pulled out the orange jumpsuit and helmet and put them on.

"I'll leave the rest of this stuff for you. Keep the phone. I'll have Bill keep you supplied with a charged phone," I said as I walked to the edge of the platform to wait for the harness to be lowered. "You have my number. Call me if you need anything."

"Thank you," Dana replied softly. She remained sitting on the mattress, watching me with sad eyes. I wasn't sure but I thought I saw tears in them; I know there were tears in mine.

When the harness came down, I hooked myself into it and stepped off the platform. I could hear the squeak of the winch as Bill's son reeled me up. I didn't even look down as the helicopter lifted away.


"You OK, Daniels?" Bill yelled over his shoulder.

"Just fine," I yelled back as I slumped down in my seat. Life was getting too damned complicated.

The flight back to the SeaAir hangar took less than five minutes and pretty soon I was back on the ground.

'OK, let's get this over with,' I thought to myself as I dialed Sara's number.


"Brooke? Where are you?"

"Standing in the office at SeaAir at the moment."

"Thank God! Is that woman with you? "

"No, she's not, Sara."

"Well, where the hell is she? Don't tell me …"

"She's still in the tree, Sara, and as far as I'm concerned she can stay there as long as she'd like. I'm done with it. Leave her alone!"

"But, Brooke …"

I cut her off mid-sentence. "I don't want to hear it, Sara. Go back to work. I'll handle the public relations from here. Maybe we can salvage something out of this. Did you see the interview?"

"With that goofy looking kid reporter? Yes, I did. Actually, it wasn't bad, Brooke. And it sounded like he knew his stuff."

"I've had him with Rick for a couple of days. I can't promise but I think we'll get a fair shake from Jones and his paper."

"Well that's something. You sure you don't want me to send someone out to cut the tree down?" Sara followed that with an evil laugh.

"You may look clean, but you laugh dirty, Sara," I joked.

"Just remember - I can play dirty, too, Brooke."

"Please, Sara. Just give it a little more time. For me?"

"Two weeks, Brooke. That's it. Then I'm sending in some big guns to take care of the redhead."

"Her name is Dana."

"Right. Look, I'll talk to you later, Brooke. She's got two weeks and then all bets are off."
Sara slammed the phone down.

I knew my sister. She considered any attack on Family Petroleum a personal attack on her. She would be a pit bull until she got Dana down from the tree and exacted her retribution.


"I'll call you later," I shouted to Bill as I walked out to the hangar and pulled the tarp off Gracie. I'd never been so happy to see a machine in my life. I put on my helmet, wheeled her out of the hangar, climbed on, started her up, and headed for home. Riding Gracie is my number one stress reliever, and as usual I ran her full out.

Rick's truck was in the driveway when I pulled up to the cabin. I was exhausted, physically and emotionally, and I really didn't want to have to deal with anyone else, but I knew I had no choice.

I opened the door and found Rick and Jonesy sitting at the table playing cards and nursing a couple of Corona's.

"Hi, Ms. Daniels," Jonesy said.

"Hey, boss." Rick looked up and gave me a big grin. "Take a load off. Let me get you a beer."

"Not right now, Rick. All I want is a hot shower, some clean clothes, and a good night's sleep."

I headed for the bedroom, stripped off my clothes, and hopped into the shower. It was heaven. The only thing that could have made it better would have been the presence of a certain redhead. I scrubbed my body and my hair vigorously and then toweled off with a large Turkish towel. I threw on a robe, cinched it around my waist, and headed for the kitchen. I knew the guys would be there but I was just too tired to give a damn.

I padded into the kitchen and was surprised to see it neat and empty. I looked out the kitchen window and saw that Rick's truck was gone. Then I noticed the note sitting in front of the coffee pot. Jonesy's coming home with me, I read. Give me a call tomorrow, and I'll bring him back.

'May the goddess bless you, Rick,' I thought.

I had a light snack and then shuffled back to my bedroom and flopped on the bed in my usual state of undress. I lay there staring up at the beams overhead; they were large, well-hewn timber that I knew had been cut by old man Jacobs himself when he built the cabin. Then I noticed something I had never seen before. In the corner of one of the beams were gouged marks. I stood on the bed and reached up to run my fingers across the gouges … 'Dana' they spelled out. Hank Jacobs must have carved the letters with his pocketknife when he set the beams.

'How ironic,' I thought. 'She's been here, in this room with me, ever since I bought the place.' Somehow that thought brought me solace.

I lay back down on the bed and promptly fell into a deep, but not dreamless, sleep. When I awakened, it was almost 7 p.m. It was still light outside, and I was hungry. I threw on some clothes and searched through the kitchen for something to eat, finally settling on a cheese omelet and a cup of coffee.

I was sitting on the porch, eating and listening to the forest sounds when I heard a truck driving up the gravel road.

'Now what?' I was irritated that my solitude was about to be broken until I saw the truck. It was Bill's so I knew it would either be him or his son. I took my dishes into the house, put them in the sink, and then went back outside to greet my visitor. I saw Bill get out and come around the side of the truck.

"Hey, Daniels," he called as he walked up to the porch steps.

"Hey, Bill. What can I do for you?"

"We've got a full house over our way. Just wondering if you could put a guest up for one night."

My first instinct was to say no. I was happy to be alone. But Bill and his wife had been more than gracious to me ever since I moved to Beaver Falls, and the least I could do was handle their overflow for one night.

"Sure, Bill, no problem," I said.

He waved at the truck, motioning his passenger to get out. I watched as the door opened and a small redhead slipped from the seat. She stood there hesitating, until I opened my arms and invited her in. She didn't run; she walked slowly, purposefully, into my arms.

"Guess you won't be needing me any longer," Bill teased as he walked back toward the truck.

"We'll call you if we need you, Bill," I said, grinning widely.

Dana settled herself under my right arm and cuddled against my side. We stood together on the porch, waving Bill off. When his taillights were no longer visible, I looked down at Dana.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because you won," she replied. "And because I keep my word."

"How ….?"

"I called Bill. He and his son pulled me out." Dana gave me a little smile. "Pretty brave, huh?"

"Yeah, pretty brave, Dana," I said, my mind replaying the picture of the terrified woman standing at the edge of the platform trying to pull me in when I was lowered down from the copter.

"It's not over, Brooke."

"What's not over?"

"Any of it. You have one week to convince me you're right."

"Piece of cake," I said confidently. 'I hope,' I thought as I turned and led Dana into the cabin.

I showed Dana where the shower was and gave her some fresh clothes. When I heard the shower beating down, I picked up my portable phone, stepped out onto the porch, and dialed my sister.

"Sara? The redhead is out of the goddamned tree," I gloated when she answered.

I hung up the phone before Sara could respond, turned off the ringer, and stepped back into the cabin wondering if the games were over or if they had only just begun.


FIN (Or is it?)

(Slow Dancin') Swayin' To The Music - Performed by: Johnny Rivers - Composed by: Jack Tempchin - ©1975

Mama Said - Performed by The Shirelles - Composed by: Luther Dixon/Willie Denson

Return to the Academy