Mary wiped her palms on her jeans before urging her horse around the bend. She knew once around the clump of trees she would be easily seen from the women’s barracks and didn’t want to be caught being nervous as a schoolgirl on her first date. The officer was doing her best not to allow her hopes to run away with her. This was merely a ride together. With Sara. In spite of the cool air Mary felt a trickle of sweat along her neck.
As her horse cleared the low-hanging trees Mary looked towards the building, wondering if Sara was waiting outdoors or inside. In fact, the colonel never thought to ask if she needed to bring another mount along for the date. Mary cursed under her breath and scanned the milling people for the tiny woman.
Then she spotted Sara, sitting on one of the crudely crafted benches just outside the long house. The women waved to one another as Sara stood and waited for Mary to dismount.
“Hi,” both women said shyly. Neither spoke for a minute then Mary took a deep breath and asked Sara if she had a horse to ride or did she wish to ride together on her mare. To Mary’s pleasure the petite woman glanced at the docile mare and said they’d share.
Mary helped Sara onto the tall horse then swung up behind her companion. Once settled she told Sara to go ahead and take the reins.
“I’ve never ridden a horse before,” Sara stuttered out.
“You haven’t? Well, this is a good time to get a lesson.” She placed her hands on top of Sara’s and explained how to hold the reins, her mouth inches from the smaller woman’s ear. It was all she could do not to bury her face into the soft tresses and begin nuzzling the baby-soft neck.
Sara managed to get the horse moving and asked Mary which way. The older woman pointed upstream, away from both the colony and the Embassy. The smaller woman headed up the incline and realized she was sliding back against Mary. She stiffened, already too aware of the woman’s heat pressed against her.
“Relax. I only bite if invited,” the officer murmured huskily.
Sara felt the deep tones shimmy clear down to her toes, causing her legs to tighten around the horse and jerk the reins suddenly. The startled horse sidestepped, unsure what was going on with her riders.
“Whoa there, no scaring the beasties, love.”
Mary placed one palm against Sara’s midriff while her other hand settled over Sara’s chilled one, urging her to relax. The mare felt the difference and continued on.
“See? Nice and gentle. Horses are very, very sensitive. They can almost read your mind by touch and how you sit. You only need to guide them, not force them.” Mary wasn’t aware of her own physical actions as she spoke softly into Sara’s ear. Her thumb was rubbing lightly along the smaller woman’s torso while her hand covered the hand holding the reins.
“Now feel the way the horse moves between your legs? The way she tightens and sways with each step?” Sara nodded but she was having trouble concentrating on the words.
“The horse can tell just as much about you as you can about her. The way your legs grip her, the way your body moves in tandem with her gait. Once you are used to her the two of you move together like lov--, um, dancers.” Mary felt her cheeks redden, all too aware of where her thoughts were lingering.
Sara cleared her throat. “Mary?”
“You are in serious danger of being thrown to the ground and being ravished.”
Mary paused, torn between telling Sara to go for it and realizing she had been seducing the younger woman subconsciously. It was hardly fair to use their obvious chemistry to get her own way.
Mary let out a heavy sigh and ran her hands along the smaller woman’s upper arms. “I’m sorry. Riding together was really pushing our luck. All I’ve been dreaming about since I met you was having you in my arms. But what I want and what you’re ready for are two different things. I’ll behave, I promise.”
Sara relaxed. Sara might have had little experience with dating but knew the two of them shot off sparks whenever they got near one another. She knew it would have been far too easy for Mary to seduce her. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know it would be mind-blowing between them but it would be the end of everything between them. Sara needed to know deep down that Mary wanted her for her, not sex.
As the smaller woman relaxed, she leaned back against the colonel’s sturdy frame, not realizing she did so.
Mary and Sara entered the communal building for dinner. They rest of their date had been on a friendlier note, with both women talking a lot more. The couple was greeted by the councilors who waved them over.
Jenny asked them to sit. She was leaning forward and had a huge grin on her face.
Mary saw the look and wondered what was going on. “What’s up?”
“Did you read those papers I gave you?”
“About marriages on Mother Earth? Yeah, why?”
“Cierra and JP are finally going to make it official between them. Cierra asked JP to marry her last year but they never got around to having a ceremony.”
“So, when is the big day?” Mary asked as she sprinkled salt onto her meal.
“What? Wait, they can’t just up and get married like that. People will want to attend!”
“Exactly. They want this to be just among people here in the colony. Cierra doesn’t want global attention drawn to it.”
“A lot of feelings will be hurt. Look at Michael Davies. He’s been good to them.”
Jenny sighed. “Let me talk to them. If it threatens to turn into a circus they might elope!”
The blonde stood up, returning about an hour later. Mary hadn’t moved from her spot although Sara had gone to her quarters to sleep. The officer had sat there fidgeting, thinking about barging in on the royal couple and begging if need be.
“Well?” she asked quickly.
“Okay, they will delay taking their vows. Cierra will pass on the invitation to the President, the Vice President, and their wives through you. They’ll delay it only until the fifteenth. Cierra would also like you to contact Jim, Mabel, Laura and Kelly. They should get the chance to attend as well. Can you do that?”
Mary grinned. “Anything. Just don’t let me turn in a report saying the couple married without notice!” she said with relief. They discussed the rest of the details. It was going to be frantic to shift appointments and make arrangements but Mary was certain that both men and their wives would attend unless there was an emergency. The United States and their allies didn’t want to risk offending the Queen, not when they want so many favors of her.
Cierra sat in the military helicopter, watching the eastern sky. She had already taken her four friends to Mother Earth and was now waiting for the Air Force One to land. The Secret Service had chosen this out of the way and small municipal airport rather than the international one in San Francisco. No one wanted to risk the lives of the President and his Vice President by driving him to the Embassy so they came up with this plan.
Cierra heard the radio sputter and announce that the plane was a few minutes away. The shaman focused her eyes on the horizon, wondering if she could see the aircraft. In the distance she thought she could see a speck in the sky. The large plane drew closer, circling once then approaching the landing strip assigned to them. The pilot was indeed skilled. The airport runway had been barely long enough to handle landing a plane as large as the 747.
The security party aboard the helicopter went to their stations while the pilot got the rotors in motion. The cement tarmac had already been marked for their return in three days. The matching site on Mother Earth would be paint bombed as they left the ground and a transmitter would be planted in the ground.
Air Force One taxied up the runway and stopped a short distance from the waiting helicopter. The service men escorted the six occupants from the plane and helped them board the noisy presidential transport. The interior became crowded and Cierra was glad that only two of the secret service would be coming along. The rest would remain behind to protect the location and plane.
“Ready?” Cierra asked of everyone. Michael, who was already experienced at jumping, looked relaxed. The others fidgeted but nodded. Cierra placed her palms on the interior of the helicopter and jumped home.
The occupants looked around at the change of scenery, taking in the wilderness around them. They were barely aware of the transmitter being thrust into the ground and the paint being splattered on the ground. The rotors were spinning faster, making conversation difficult. Cierra could tell the men were trying to introduce their wives but only heard bits and pieces. She smiled graciously and shook hands with everyone, careful to keep her psychic walls up.
The helicopter begin rising, the Marine pilot using his instruments to head for the colony. He was tickled pink that he was able to be the pilot even though he had been sworn to secrecy. He had been a last minute replacement when the other pilot had developed an inner ear infection that caused dizziness. Even so it would be something to tell the grandkids one day.
One of the men Cierra didn’t recognize pulled out an expensive camera, giving away that he was the photographer. He aimed the lens downward excitedly, causing everyone to look in the same direction. Below the helicopter was a herd of mastodons. They were the first that Cierra had even seen in the nineteen months she had been on Mother Earth. The large animals were startled by the sound of the machine and scattered in several directions.
As the animals left their view, everyone sat back once more. Cierra looked up and looked at the man who had to be the tattoo artist. He certainly didn’t fit the image she had in her mind. Not a single tattoo was showing on his skin plus he was clean-shaven with a stylish short haircut. Then it dawned on her that he was gay. He was much too pretty to be a straight tattoo artist. Her eyes met his. He grinned and winked.
Cierra winked back and looked out the windows of the huge transport helicopter. She knew they were sightseeing since the trip would have normally taken only about ten minutes. She didn’t say anything since circling around wouldn’t hurt anything.
About thirty minutes later the Black Hawk landed near the Embassy. (At 64 ft long it was too large to land in the courtyard) and the military personnel from the Embassy approached to escort the Presidential party inside.
Michael King, the ambassador, approached the men also, greeting them warmly then the wives.
Cierra was about to head back to the colony when the Vice President asked her to join them inside. She smiled at Michael and took his offered arm.
“We brought along a few surprises and want you to see them,” he mentioned, pointing to the totes being carried into the building.
“You didn’t have to bring anything but yourselves,” she protested.
“But we wanted to. How often do we get the chance to watch a royal wedding?”
Cierra groaned. “I knew we should have eloped.”
He tut-tutted and told her it wouldn’t be that bad. Cierra heard one of the crates tinkle like glass bottles when it was placed on the floor. She looked at him and shook her finger.
“Did you bring aspirin along too?”
Michael assumed an innocent look and asked if she wanted to see the clothing they brought along.
He chuckled at her expression. “I hope you wear the designer gown by Randolph. He sewed exactly 101 buttons on the dress.”
“Why so many?”
Michael laughed naughtily. “To delay the wedding night. The damned buttons are tiny.”
“Why me?” she groaned and followed the Vice president to the parlor.
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