Copyright 2004 by Texbard

For disclaimers, see Chapter 1

Chapter 5

They pitched the tent in the last hour of sunlight, finding a secluded site reached by a narrow footpath off the main South Rim Trail.  It was on a bluff, surrounded by trees on three sides, with an unrestricted view of a vast vista on the south side that was clear well into Mexico.  They were far enough around to the southeast that they couldn't see the sun setting, although they could observe the changing colors of the sky, which gradually turned from pale blue, to gorgeous burnt orange and fiery red.  As the sun dropped, so did the temperature, and both women shed shorts for long leggings and fleece tops, before they made camp.

It was a tiny tent, designed specifically for backpacking, and was barely wide enough for the two sleeping bags, even when they were zipped together.  Kennedy made quick work of emptying all food products and toiletries from their backpacks, storing them in the thick iron bear box that was bolted into cement several yards from the tent.  The packs themselves she stowed in the small vestibule at the front of the tent, after taking out the miniature backpacking stove.

No bigger than a teapot, the butane stove had two parts, the fuel vessel, and a folding burner that clamped onto the top.  She placed their one cooking pot on the burner and emptied a packet of freeze-dried vegetarian chili inside, mixing it with the appropriate amount of water from one of their water bottles.  She lit the stove and stood, arranging the few logs in the eating area so they were close to the stove.  No campfires were allowed in the park -- the dry climate, the trees, and fires were a recipe for disaster.

She turned the flame down low and moved near the edge of the bluff, where Carson stood, her eyes closed, drinking in the remaining warmth of the sun.  "Hey."  She wrapped her arms around her from behind, kissing her on the side of her neck.  "Gorgeous, huh?"

"Yeah."  Carson opened her eyes, blinking at the bright display of color.  "It's amazing. Almost unreal."

"Desert dust helps give the light that rich color."  She relaxed, feeling Carson's arms against her own, squeezing her closer.  "Dinner's on -- should be ready in about 15 minutes or so."

"I can smell the spices.  Smells good."  Carson sniffed the air.  "Ooo.  And pine.  Lord it's just about perfect here.  Think the park would let us build a cabin right on this spot?"

"Um, that would be a 'no'."  Kennedy smiled.  "Nice thought, though.  That would sure be a nice sight to see every night."

They stood in silence, until it was dusky, and the sounds of night creatures began to replace those of the day.  Somewhere off in the trees, an owl hooted, and a light wind rustled the leaves overhead.  Something slivered through the brush at the edge of the campsite, scaring up something else, which skittered off in the opposite direction.  Way off in the distance, a lone coyote howled, and was quickly joined by its companions in an impromptu song to the rising moon.

They returned to the logs and sat near the stove, taking turns stirring the chili until it bubbled, just a little.  Kennedy removed it from the burner and turned off the stove, before she took up their community spork -- their one eating utensil.  She dished up a bite of the chili and blew on it, then offered it over to Carson, who sniffed it and took it cautiously into her mouth.  Her eyes closed in appreciation.  "Mmmmm.  Good.  More, please."  She opened her mouth in expectation, and received a quick kiss in response.  "Ooo.  More of that too, please."

Kennedy laughed and took a bite herself, before offering her lover more chili.  "I'll give you all of the latter you want."

"Dessert."  Carson winked, and they continued to take turns eating from the pan until the chili was gone.  "That was quite tasty."  She smacked her lips and patted her belly, leaning back against the log and stretching lazily.  It was peaceful there, and she was pleasantly tired, glad to have gotten some much-needed exercise in such a beautiful place.  Her back and shoulders ached slightly, and her feet were weary, but overall, she felt good.

"Yeah.  Freeze-dried food just keeps improving.  Come a long way from the stuff the army used to eat."  Kennedy rinsed out the pan, carefully wiping it clean, before she filled it again and turned on the stove.  "We can have some hot chocolate.  I brought the packets that have the little marshmallows mixed in with the instant chocolate."

"Cool.  I'll go get it."  Carson trotted over to the bear box, working the bear-proof latch and fishing around in the fanny pack of food that they had detached from one of the backpacks.  Soon they were curled up against one of the logs, legs stretched out as they snuggled together, drinking chocolate from two tin camping mugs, and looking up at the stars.

"Big dipper."  Kennedy pointed up over the treetops.  "And there's the little one."

"And the North Star."  Carson pointed along with her.  "Lot more stars here, even, than what we see out on the lake."

"Yeah.  Too much light there, even all that way outside Austin."  Kennedy sipped at her chocolate, enjoying the warmth of the beverage sliding down her throat, and the warmth of Carson's body snuggled up against her.  "Might get down in the 40's tonight.  Maybe even the 30's."

"I've got you to keep me warm."  Carson finished off her chocolate, and almost swiped her upper lip, laughing in surprise instead when Kennedy reached over and did it for her, following up with a light brush of her lips.  "You sure you got it all?"

"Maybe not," Kennedy smiled and gulped down the rest of her own drink, before she tossed the mug aside and circled Carson with both arms, tilting her back against the log, before giving her lips a more serious and thorough exploration.  "Mmmm."  She stretched out a little more, draping one leg across her lover's legs, feeling their bodies begin to move together. 

She lowered the zipper on Carson's fleece top and slipped one hand inside, stroking the thin silk long underwear top she had on underneath, and feeling Carson's ribs expand suddenly at the contact, along with the warm puff of air against her own neck.  The material was soft and smooth, and she explored further, feeling a nipple harden against her fingertips.  Her own heartbeat picked up in response, and she left Carson's lips, nibbling down her neck to her pulse point, nipping at it and tracing the curve of her collarbone with her tongue.

"More," Carson whispered, as Kennedy's hand dropped down, tugging the silk free from her waistband, and finding warm skin.  Her other hand followed, lifting the silk most of the way up, and she slid down, teasing her lover with her lips, starting at her navel ring and working her way up to first one breast and then the other.  Carson gasped, arching into her, her hands, combing back through Kennedy's hair.  "Oh, god."  She hissed at the sensual contact, frantically seeking more, as she tried to wrap herself around her taller partner, feeling Kennedy's hips beginning to rock against her.

Kennedy came up for air, her breathing erratic, and she cradled Carson's face, kissing her forehead and then her lips, getting lost in another long kiss.  Slowly, she pulled back, smiling at the pale light spilling across lover's face.  "Why don't you go get undressed and crawl into the sleeping bag, while I clean up these mugs and secure the bear box for the night?"

"Best idea you've had since the hot chocolate."  Carson kissed her again and felt Kennedy pull her to her feet.  "Hurry."  She ran her hand up Kennedy's stomach, ending at the side of one breast, then sauntered to the tent and disappeared inside.

"Whew!"  Kennedy threw her head back and looked up at the blanket of stars, feeling her pulse race.  She drew in a long deep breath and shook her head to clear it, and knelt down, using as little of their precious water as possible to rinse the mugs.  She looked all around the area where they had eaten, searching with her flashlight, making sure there was nothing left out to tempt any bears or other hungry creatures.  Once the box was securely closed, she gave the site one last once-over, then swaggered over to the tent, feeling the heat at the thought of what was inside.

"Carson?"  She unzipped the mesh inner door and crawled inside, turning and zipping closed the outer vestibule, then the middle solid nylon closure, and then re-zipped the mesh door.  "Carson?"  She crept the short distance across the narrow space and tilted her head, listening.  Heavy breathing greeted her ears.  "I'll be damned."  She smiled, and quickly divested herself of her own clothing.

She slipped into the sleeping bag, zipping them both inside it.  Curling against Carson's back, she braced herself on her forearm, while she leaned over.  They had unzipped the solid top of the tent, clipping it back and leaving only the mesh top between them and the stars overhead.  In the faint light, it was clear that Carson was fast asleep, a victim of several miles of hiking and a full stomach, exhaustion winning out to lust.  "Guess we don't make love every night after all," Kennedy whispered.  She bent down and kissed Carson on the cheek, then lay down, pulling her tightly against her.  "Sweet dreams, love."

She lay back down and closed her eyes, sighing in utter contentment at the sensation of their naked bodies pressed together.  Carson mumbled in her sleep, a happy little sound escaping her lips as her hand unconsciously found Kennedy's against her stomach, and covered it.  Unexpected joy welled up inside, and Kennedy blinked a few times at the sudden sting of tears in her eyes.  It was all out of proportion to the simple gesture, and she blinked again, burying her face into Carson's hair and inhaling her sweet scent.  It was a perfect moment, and she lay awake for a while, unwilling to surrender it over to sleep.


The moon rose, shining down into the little glade and dusting the tent in silvery light.  A whispering breeze made music with the leaves overhead, and rustled through the undergrowth, sending small dried bits of debris tumbling across the open campsite.  At the edge of the trees, a large furry creature snuffled the air, sorting out the various scents wafting on the wind.  The human scent was more than familiar, and the odd smell of the nylon tent.  Butane odor lingered near some logs, and that always gave hope of leftover tidbits.

The animal lumbered into the clearing, nose twitching, lips slightly parted, releasing heavy breaths that occasionally morphed into snorty curious growly sounds.  Long claws rasped across the dirt and rocks, and heavy paws trampled leaves and grass underfoot.  He thoroughly searched the area where they had shared dinner, knocking aside logs and smelling teasing hints of food, but finding none.  Inside the tent, Kennedy awoke, blinking into the darkness, sensing something was amiss.  She sat up and cocked her head to one side, closing her eyes and concentrating.

There.  A congested heavy breathing sound gave it away, and she smiled a little, just as the first rattle of the bear box reached her ears.  Carson stirred and rolled over, opening her eyes as she realized Kennedy was sitting up.  "What's wrong?"  She sat up.

"Shhhhh."  Kennedy raised a finger to her lips.  "Bear," she whispered directly into her lover's ear.  Carson's eyes grew wide as saucers, but she remained silent.  Another rattle sounded across the clearing, along with a frustrated growl, and Kennedy found herself with a lap full of lover.  She stifled a laugh, and hugged Carson instead.  "It's okay."  The words were almost inaudible.  "Stay put."

She quietly removed Carson from her lap, and slithered to the front of the tent.  Inch by inch, she opened the mesh door and the outer door, and crept forward into the cramped vestibule, where she opened it just enough to peek outside.  Painted in moonlight was the biggest black bear she'd ever seen.  He was wrestling with the iron bear box, which was now making a constant metal clanking noise.  Both big paws braced the sides of the box, and he was butting it with his head, howling out his frustration.  She shook with silent chuckles, and motioned Carson forward.

Cautiously, Carson joined her and looked out, ducking her head under Kennedy's arm.  She felt safe there, and sat back on her heels, watching the show.  The moon dusted his thick coat with bluish highlights, and glinted off sharp canines whenever he growled.  Finally, utterly thwarted in his mission, he stood on his hind legs, let out a ferocious growl, and dropped back down to all-fours, before ambling out of the clearing away from the bluff, toward the footpath that led to the main trail.

After several silent minutes, Kennedy re-zipped the tent doors, and they crawled back into the sleeping bag.  "Is he gone?"  Carson whispered, clinging to Kennedy in a face-to-face death grip.

"Yeah."  She reached up and untied the rolled back tent roof, snapping it into place.  "Just in case he comes back and decides to check us out."  She settled back down, automatically taking Carson into her arms again.  They cuddled together quietly, as her hands stroked slowly up and down a smooth soft back, calming her slightly-dazed lover.  "You okay?"

"Yeah."  Carson snuggled up tighter.  "I've never seen one quite so close up.  He was a big guy, wasn't he?"

"Biggest I've seen."  She continued rubbing her lover's back, one hand sliding up and massaging the base of Carson's neck.  "Need to report him to the base tomorrow, just so folks can be made aware.  Typical bear behavior though -- he looked for food, found nothing, and moved on.  Harmless as long as he's not provoked.

"Oh my gosh."  Carson grew still.  "I faced that bear completely naked. I can't believe I did that."

Kennedy burst out laughing.  "Sweetheart, if he'd come after us, clothing wouldn't have stopped him."

"Yeah, but if I'm going to die by bear attack, I'd like to be found with my clothes on."  She gave in to her own laughter, as Kennedy lightly ran her fingertips up both sides, in a  half-tickling, half-sensual motion.  It felt good, and she returned the touches, as their legs tangled together and their lips met for a lengthy exchange.  "I fell asleep on you, didn't I?"  She buried her face into warm musky-scented skin, nuzzling and kissing a few spots in the process. "Sorry about that."

"Yeah, but that's okay."  Kennedy rolled them over until they were spooning tightly.  "We were both pretty wiped out.  It … it was really nice, holding you while you slept."  She tightened her grip, pressing her stomach against Carson's back.

Carson reached down, grasping a hand and lifting it.  She kissed the knuckles several times, before she tucked it between her breasts, curling her own hand over it.  "This feels right, doesn't it?" 

Soft kisses at the nape of her neck were her answer.  "Nothing has ever felt more right," Kennedy whispered.  There was so much more to be said, but she wasn't sure she wanted to say it in the middle of the night in a sleeping bag in the woods.  Instead, she curled around her lover, feeling both of them breathing, and her own heart beating in her chest.  Beneath her fist, Carson's heart beat along with her, and she closed her eyes, as they fell into dreamless sleep.

As minutes and hours passed, the moon moved across the sky, giving way to the darkest hours of the night.  Carson stirred in her sleep, missing a warm presence at her back.  She wriggled around slightly and woke up, turning to find Kennedy sitting up again.  She opened her mouth to speak and a warm hand closed firmly over it.   Kennedy shook her head severely, but made no noise at all.  She slowly reached over, and placed another firm hand on Carson's body, pressing her down, indicating she wanted her to stay still.

Carson's eyes opened wide in mute question, but she complied, lying there, waiting.  While one hand remained on Carson's mouth, Kennedy reached into her own lap with her other, drawing up her Glock so Carson could see it.  She felt the puff of air against her palm as Carson gasped silently in comprehension.  Kennedy gestured with her head toward the front of the tent, and slowly removed her hand, drawing it up and absently stroking Carson's head.

Adrenaline pumped rapidly through Carson's system, her skin prickling as she felt a sheen of sweat on her face.  Outside, she could just make out a faint shuffling sound, a crunch of rock and the snap of a twig.  She fought the desire to hyperventilate, and shivered violently.  Closing her eyes, she concentrated on Kennedy's continued touch to her head, and her hand inched along inside the sleeping bag until she found her lover's leg.  Her hand clamped down over a strong thigh, and the hand at her head moved down, cupping her cheek for a moment before it began combing through her hair again.

The shuffling noise drew closer, slow measured footsteps coming toward the tent.  Whatever it was, it was no lumbering bear.  She wanted to scream, and thought her heart was going to explode. Something nudged her foot through the wall of the tent, and it took everything in her not to jump away from whatever was out there.  The steps commenced again, moving around toward the front of the tent.

Carson was shaking continually now, though she still made no sound.  They heard the snick as the zipper on the vestibule door was grasped and slowly pulled around.  Kennedy's hand left Carson's head, and she lifted the Glock, holding it up and aiming, waiting quietly.  She prayed for two things.  That the invader would go away, and that whatever happened next, Carson wouldn’t scream.

She was about to open her mouth to warn the intruder, when suddenly, the roar of their bear friend reverberated across the campsite, along with heavy charging steps.  After the roar came a scream from outside the tent, a man's terrified yell, followed by the sound of running feet.  Kennedy lowered the gun and released a heavy trembling breath.  Carson remained unmoving and silent next to her, her nails digging into Kennedy's leg.  They waited in complete stillness for an eternity, until a few night creatures began to stir, indicating the campsite was once again safe.

"Wait here," Kennedy whispered.  She crawled across the sleeping bag, slowly unzipping the first two tent doors, her heart leaping into her throat when she discovered the vestibule door completely open.  She poked her head out and peered around cautiously.  Only trees, darkness and stars greeted her vision, and she zipped the door closed, stacking their backpacks on top of each other in front of it, so that anyone trying to enter would have to knock them over to get to them.

She got halfway back across their bedding before Carson sat up, tumbling against her.  "Shhhhhh."  She held her, feeling her shaking in her arms.  "He's gone now."

"He … he … tou … tou …touched m … my foot!"  Carson shook harder, too terrified even to cry, as the adrenaline continued to race around her system with nowhere to go.  She couldn't get enough breath, and felt dizzy, gulping at air that seemed to provide no oxygen.  "I c … c… can't breathe," she choked out.  "Kennedy?"  She clutched at her lover, her chest heaving.

Kennedy fumbled around, trying to find something, anything, settling on the thin pillowcase that covered the small camping pillow Carson had insisted she needed.  "Here, sweetheart, breathe into this for a minute.  You're breathing too much."  She cupped one hand around the opening and held it to Carson's face, holding her with her other arm as Carson doubled over.

Gradually, her breathing returned to normal, and she curled up in Kennedy's embrace.  "Sorry," she gasped, shaking violently before tears took over.

"I gotcha."  Kennedy kissed the top of her head, rubbing her back and arms.  "It's alright, sweetheart.  Everything's gonna be alright."

"How did you know he was out there?"  Carson sniffled.  "How did you know it was a man?"

"Smelled cigarette smoke at first, before I heard his footsteps," Kennedy looked down, making sure the gun was still within reach.  "Bears may be getting smarter, but they're not that advanced, just yet.  Would defeat the message if Smokey the Bear was puffing away on the side."

This finally earned her a nervous chuckle.  "Guess that bear saved us, huh?"  She sniffled again, unwilling to leave her protective nest.

"Assuming the bear didn't get him, the bear saved that guy's ass," Kennedy snarled.  "'Cause I would have shot him if he'd made it past that first entrance."

Carson considered that for a silent moment, realizing Kennedy was also covered in sweat.  "Come on."  She held up the edge of a light camping blanket that covered the top of the sleeping bags.   She blotted at her lover's skin and then her own, before she reached over, lifting the folded back sleeping bag.  "Let's get back under there.  It's mighty chilly out here."

"Yeah."  Kennedy felt the cold night air for the first time.  "Guess it is.

They crawled back into the bag, clinging to each other for a long while, trading comforting touches and simply gazing at one another, grounding each other with their eyes.  Kennedy reached outside the bag, moving the Glock to just above her head.  "Go on, get some sleep."  She kissed Carson lightly on the lips.  "I'll keep watch for a while."

"Like I could sleep at a time like this," Carson snorted.  "Lord, my body is so tired, but my brain is mush moving at ninety miles an hour.  I can't think but can't stop thinking."  She shivered again.  "I kind of remembered something, for a minute there, that I hadn't remembered before now." She hesitated, unsure if she wanted to press forward.  "Least I think it was a real memory.  Made me think about when I woke up in that hotel room and called you … when Nick kidnapped me … I was so scared.  Made me feel like that again.  I think …"  She began to cry again.

"Oh, Carson."  Kennedy held her close, rocking her slightly.  "I'm so sorry."  Her own memories came flooding back and she cursed inwardly.  Cursed Nick and cursed whoever had brought those memories back -- it was the one thing she'd been glad of, that Carson had little memory of the kidnapping, and now, it seemed even that was taken away.  Then she cursed herself, realizing she needed to keep focused on any sound outside the tent, rather than drowning in her own anger.

"Come on now, get some sleep.  Please, for me?"  She rolled onto her back, as Carson plastered herself against her, tucking into her embrace and burying her face into her shoulder.  "He's gone.  I don't think he'll be back, given that bear is still out there.  We'll be okay."

"Promise?"  Carson's eyelids felt heavy, and she closed them deciding to rest them for just a moment.  She was completely drained, and felt limp as spaghetti.

"Promise."  One hand drifted back and forth across Carson's back, feeling her gradually surrender to sleep.  "Promise," Kennedy whispered fiercely into the darkness.  She settled back into the sleeping bag, fully alert and listening.


The barest hint of gray pre-dawn light fell across two sleepy figures sitting on the edge of the bluff, wrapped up together in a blanket, awaiting the rising sun.  Carson sipped at her coffee and hot chocolate mixture, while Kennedy took her chocolate straight up.  After the middle of the night excitement, Carson had slept fitfully and Kennedy hardly at all.  Kennedy's muscles ached from jerking awake at least a dozen times, and her neck was stiff.  She dreaded carrying the pack, and wondered if they could bypass the climb up Casa Grande and go directly on to Pine Canyon after they reported both the bear and their intruder at the basin.

"Kennedy?"  Carson turned a bit in the blanket.  "You said Pine Canyon is beautiful, right?"

"Yeah."  She shifted, trying to find her energy.  She felt a bit out of sorts, unsure of where the negative emotions were coming from.  "It is."

"And you said Emory Peak is higher than Casa Grande."  Carson cupped her mug in both hands, inhaling the fragrant steam.

"Uh-huh."  Blue eyes twinkled with sudden energy, as she guessed where the conversation was headed.  "That's true."

"What if we skip Casa Grande and go directly to Pine Canyon?  Take it easy today?"  She took another sip of the coffee, sighing as it warmed her and she felt her brain cells begin to kick into gear.

"I think I love you."  Kennedy smiled warmly, tilting her head and kissing her lover's cheek.  "And I think that's a great idea.  And it'll give us more time to enjoy the surprise I wanna show you in the canyon."

"Can’t wait," Carson returned the kiss.  "Ooo."  She gazed across the wide-open space before them.  "Oh my god, that's gorgeous."

Pink and purple sun rays fanned across the sky overhead, while below them were billowing clouds, puffed up like pale coral-tinted cotton balls, completely obscuring the ground below.  The sky gradually lightened from navy to royal, to bright pale blue, as the sun burst over the horizon, popping through the clouds.  The valley below was covered in ground fog, but there, up on their private bluff, the clouds provided a rare sight, and they both reveled in it.

"Looks like you could just launch yourself out there and land on them, doesn't it?"  Kennedy set her mug down and grabbed the edges of the blanket, wrapping it around both of them and pulling Carson back against her.

"Yeah, all nice and soft."  She turned, tilting her head up and sharing a kiss.  They were both already dressed for hiking, and their packs were ready to go, after a pre-dawn meal of instant oatmeal.  "So we go report the bad guy and then go enjoy the canyon?"

"That's the plan, Stan."  Kennedy helped her up and they stood for a long moment in a warm hug inside the blanket, neither woman inclined to move too quickly.  "One surprise for today, and another one for tomorrow."

"Oh, I can't wait!"  Carson did a happy little shimmy against her, laughing as Kennedy growled in her ear and nipped at it for good measure.  "Hey."  Gray eyes grew serious, and she reached up, touching Kennedy's face.  "You were pretty brave last night.  I don't know what I would've done if you weren't there.  I don't know how you managed to keep your cool.  I was ready to freak and run."

"Had to keep my cool."  She looked down, focusing on a bit of lint on the blanket draping Carson's shoulder.  "Too much was at stake."

"Oh.  Um …" Carson blushed, a faint hint of pink at her cheeks, as she understood her meaning.  Her heart was full to overflowing, but her tongue felt thick and awkward, as if she couldn't form words to express what she felt.  "Guess all that discipline you have paid off, huh?"

Long fingers tilted her chin up and their eyes met.  A gentle thumb brushed across the side of her face and Carson swallowed in reflex.  "My entire world was in that tent," Kennedy whispered, her blue eyes catching the sunlight, a fiercely protective spark that reached out, warming Carson all over.

"You …"  Carson hugged her tightly, closing her eyes and absorbing the closeness.  "You make me feel so much …" she released a trembling sigh, feeling the hug returned two-fold.  "Sometimes I can't …"

"Is it too much?"  The hesitation behind the question was evident, as Kennedy braced herself in the event she was told to back off, to give her space, to give her time to think --all the things she'd heard before the move to Austin, and in the weeks since they'd lived together.  Maybe she'd misread the signals.  Maybe she was fooling herself to think that this was more than just a little bit of fun for Carson.  And it was fun, wasn't it?  They enjoyed so many of the same things, and laughed together often, and things in the bedroom were incredible.  Maybe that was enough.  Maybe 'I love you' didn't carry the same weight with Carson as it did with her.  Maybe … "If it is, I can … just tell me, Carson.  I don't want to smother you.  I …"  A thumb brushed gently across her lips, silencing her.

"No.  It's not too much."  Carson searched startled blue eyes, watching them soften in understanding.  "Not anymore."  She balled up a fist, pressing it against Kennedy's chest.  "What I was trying to say is, I feel so much with you, and sometimes I can't seem to tell you what I'm feeling.  Does that make sense?"

"Perfect sense."  Her own voice sounded far away, overshadowed by the rush of blood in her ears, a relieved sensation flooding her system.  "Sometimes I feel the same way."  They hugged again, both women sighing in unison.  And sometimes, she reflected, words weren't necessary.  The urge to talk it out, to settle things once and for all, would win out soon enough, making at least a few well-chosen words necessary.  That was no longer such a frightening prospect.  Maybe, just maybe, she already knew what the answer would be.



The hike back around the rim and out wasn't as bad as anticipated, given their lack of sleep,  especially the last half, which was downhill nearly all the way.  They arrived at the Basin a while after it opened, and reported the bear and the man to the ranger at the front desk.  Her interest piqued immediately.  "Big ol' black bear?" 

"Yeah, huge one." Kennedy held her arms out as she described him.  "Came around once looking for food, and came around again just in the nick of time."

"We've known about him for a while now.  Comes into camps and hunts for food, and usually leaves after only a little while."  The ranger grabbed a photo off a bulletin board.

"Oh, that could definitely be him."  Carson took the picture and held it in the light.

"Yeah, no real problems with him before last night."  The ranger took the photo from her.  "He attacked a man last night -- guy managed to get up a tree before too much damage was done, at least we think it was this bear, but now I'm wondering if it's the same guy who tried to get in your tent, who was attacked.  Did you see him?  Been a few others down here earlier this morning reporting some guy nosing around the campsites on the South Rim last night."  She chewed on the end of a pen while she flipped through some documents in a manila folder.  "This him?"  She held up a Polaroid, handing it over for their inspection.

"Don't know.  I never actually saw him, just heard him walking around."  Kennedy studied the photo -- a tall thin man with thick unruly dark blonde hair, and large blue blood-shot eyes.  He appeared dazed in the photo, and she noted the telltale signs of someone high out of their mind.  "Who's he?"

"Here."  The ranger, Sue per her badge, slid another photo across the counter.  "Here's his back."

"Ouch."  Carson peered at the photo along with her lover, and winced in sympathy. His shirt was pulled down and bloodied, revealing a set of long stitched-up slashes that ran from his right shoulder diagonally across his back to just above his left hip.  "From our bear?"  She hazarded a guess.

"Yeah.  Came stumbling in here around 3:00 a.m., half out of his mind.  'Course he was higher than a kite, but he'd lost a bit of blood too.  Was muttering about a bear attack.  We hauled him in to Marathon to have him sewed up at the hospital there, then sent him to the county jail until the drugs wore off -- not sure what he was on -- the sheriff was still waiting for the lab work, last time we checked."  She tucked the folder back under the counter.  "Local guy, sort of -- Sam Greene per his ID.  Lives up in Fort Stockton.  Can't find any record of him being registered to camp in the park, though.  We figure he got high and drove down here and just started hiking around in the dark like a damned fool."

"Hmmmm."  Kennedy looked at his face more closely.  She knew a lot of people in the towns surrounding Alpine, but this particular face wasn't familiar.  "This one just doesn't ring a bell."  She handed the photo back to the ranger.  "Dunno.  Like I said, I didn't see him, but he sure gave us a scare.  Looks like he got off lucky, all things considered.  Say, did y'all take any cigarettes off him?"

"Yeah." Sue opened a drawer under the counter.  "Matter of fact, we did.  He was packing this too.  Forgot to give all his effects to the sheriff when we transferred him over to the county."  She placed a large Bowie knife on the counter, along with a half-full pack of cigarettes and a truck-stop logo lighter with a hula girl that lit up in naughty places when it was flicked on.

"Benson & Hedges Menthols."  Kennedy sniffed at the pack.  "That's him, most likely.  Used to smoke those myself.  Kinda tough to forget that scent -- little smoother, spicier, and heavier than Marlboro's and such."

"Good nose."  Sue pulled the folder out, jotting a few more notes in her growing report.  "Wish we could take you up there for a line-up, but since you didn't actually see him …" She smiled.  "Seems pretty clear, though, between the cigarettes and the bear attack you described, it's almost certain he's our suspect.  You mind giving the sheriff a statement in a few days, after y'all finish up here?  Not urgent or anything, but he'd probably be glad to wrap this one up."

"Sure.  No problem."  She turned to Carson.  "Shall we?"

Carson stood in place, here focus turned inward.  "What will he be charged with?"

"Not much, given what we have to go by."  Sue's long red hair was in a braid, and she tugged at it absently while she spoke.  "With no positive ID, we can't get him for trespassing on the campsites.  No reports of anything stolen or him actually hurting anyone, at least not so far.  He wasn't carrying any drugs on him.  Most likely he'll be charged with disorderly conduct and public intoxication.  Slap on the wrist when all is said and done."

"Guess that bear probably punished him pretty good though, huh?"  Carson nibbled her lower lip, and felt Kennedy's presence close at her back.

"Oh, yeah." Sue snickered.  "Serves him right, too.  Idiot.  He'll definitely be scarred for life from those claw gashes.  Some of 'em were pretty deep too, so he'll be feeling it for a while as well."

"Good."  Both Kennedy and Sue blinked at the harshness in Carson's voice.

"We'll report back to you in a few days, Sue."  Kennedy grasped Carson's shoulder, guiding her toward the door and out into the sunlight.  "You okay?"  She could feel the tension radiating from her lover.

"Yeah.  Just."  Carson kicked a rock savagely, watching it bounce across the parking lot and land in the tall grass next to it.  "It's stupid.  Let's get going."

"You thinking about Nick again?"  She folded her arms across her chest.  Looking down at the ground for a moment before she looked back up at Carson.  Overhead, a red-tailed hawk soared, circling lazily way up above them, before it drifted away and out of sight over Casa Grande.

"I hate thinking about him."  The harsh tone returned, and gray eyes narrowed in anger.  "Sometimes I wish he was dead."  She looked away, her voice going quiet.  "Is that wrong?"

"If it is, then I'm wrong too."  Kennedy moved closer.  "Because more than once I've wished I'd aimed for his heart instead of his shoulders, when I shot him."

"What would you have done last night?"  Gray eyes searched blue, looking for affirmation.

"Warned him I had a gun."  She dug the toe of her hiking boot into the sandy ground.  "And if he'd kept coming, I'd have blown his head off."  She reached out with a trembling hand, squeezing Carson's as they twined their fingers.  "Come on, let's get going.  I've still got that surprise to show you."

They made their way back to the parked truck where they'd left their packs, quickly trading out a few items of clothing for others.  In short order they were headed through Panther Pass and entered the peaceful tranquility of Pine Canyon, leaving sobering thoughts behind.  The day stretched out before them, beautiful and inviting, and Kennedy was determined no idiot thugs were going to ruin what promised to be a perfect day.


They made leisurely time traversing the Lost Mine Trail, the first trail leading through Pine Canyon.  Just off trail, sometimes heard and sometimes seen, was a babbling brook, fuller than usual after the recent rains.  It added an extra layer of peacefulness to the early morning hike, its musical sound blending with an abundance of twittering birds.  Technically per maps, the Lost Mine Trail ended abruptly and a trek through the woods was required to reach Pine Canyon Trail, but so many campers had made the hike, that a faint path was visible at the end of Lost Mine.

"First part of the surprise, coming up in about thirty more minutes."  Kennedy smiled, turning back toward Carson, who was a few feet behind her on the very narrow path.  Off through the trees, they caught an occasional glimpse of Lost Mine Peak -- at 7,535 feet, it was taller than Casa Grande, but shorter than Emory by almost 300 feet.  The area they were in was heavily wooded, and much more secluded than the more well-traveled trails from the previous day.

"First part?"  Carson hustled until she was as close as she could get without bumping into Kennedy.  "There's more than one surprise today?"

"Yeah."  A self-satisfied grin flashed back at her.  "I just remembered a really cool place we may be able to camp tonight, if you're feeling adventurous."

"Honey, no offense, but if tonight brings any more adventure than last night, I'll be ready to go check into the nearest hotel."  She thought about that for a moment, and hooked one finger through a utility strap dangling from the bottom of Kennedy's pack.  "Well, we might finish at least one adventure that we didn't last night, but other than that, I'd liked to actually sleep tonight."

"Oh, I think we can arrange for both of those, although I don't always have control over things like bears."  She stepped carefully onto a log, checking the other side for hidden snakes before she stepped over.  "Clear."

Carson did a little jump over the log behind her, crunching in some leaves on landing, and frightening a large lizard, who ran up the nearest tree, his neck puffing in and out as he breathed out his fear.  "Oh."  She stopped to study it.  It was green, with a bit of pale yellow stripe down its side, and beady black eyes.  "Sorry little guy, didn't mean to stir things up."  She glanced ahead, where Kennedy had already made several yards on her, and turned, trudging on.  "Hey, thought we were taking it easy today."

The taller woman slowed down, waiting for her lover to catch up.  "I keep forgetting about these long legs."

"Funny, there are days I can't stop thinking about them."  Carson batted her eyelashes, pleased at the blush her comment produced.

They pressed on, enjoying the sun and shadows that painted the path in interesting chunky stripes, and a light breeze, that held the temperature at a pleasant level, neither hot nor cold.  The clouds had burned off again, just like the day before, and the sky was crystal clear blue.  They'd applied liberal coats of sunscreen to their arms, legs, and faces, and every now and then Carson caught a whiff of Kennedy's skin, mixed with coconut.  It made her mouth water.

It was amazing, this physical attraction they shared.  She knew the driving force behind it was a strong bond of love -- love they were still learning to express on several levels, but that pure animal attraction never ceased to catch her by surprise.  Truth be told, she had worried for a while that maybe they were focused too much on that aspect of their relationship, but they had taken the time to become friends before they ever took that last big leap.  She smiled, though, remembering just how hard it had been to wait on a few occasions.  Now, she was glad they had.  When they did come together, it was an expression of love.  Not that lust didn't have its place, but given past experience, lust without love was unsatisfying in the end, she'd learned, and usually died a quick death.

This … her eyes fell on those long strong brown legs, watching the muscles shift as Kennedy walked.  'Walking' really wasn't a good description for it.  When Kennedy moved, she swaggered -- a smooth, sexy, confident stride that did more than just cover ground.  Those legs conquered their territory.  Mmmmm.  She shook her head.  They'd sure conquered her a few times.

No, this was something that just kept growing stronger with each passing day.  She'd not experienced this level of desire in the past, with anyone.  It had taken a while to not be embarrassed by just how powerful it was at times.  She'd be reading, or puttering around the house, or sitting at her computer, and Kennedy would catch her eye, and Boom -- she wanted her so badly there was nothing to do but satisfy that need.

But not all their touching was sexual in nature, and that, she acknowledged, was re-assuring.  They touched each other quite often, just while talking, or curled up on the couch reading the paper together, and especially at night as they fell asleep talking.  After they'd gotten her things moved in, Kennedy, especially, had seemed to need the affirmation of tactile contact.  It was a way for her to make sure Carson was there, and alive, and okay, in the aftermath of her kidnapping.  Carson was more than willing to indulge that, allowing her lover to cuddle up with her whenever she needed to, and now it had just become habit, to make physical contact with each other often, even if it was nothing more than one of them propping a foot in the other one's lap while one played on a laptop and the other napped or read a book.

It was nice, and something she'd come to realize she didn't want to live without.  She looked up, to find Kennedy standing in the middle of the path, hands on her hips, staring at her.  "What?"

"Just wondering where you'd gone off to."  She chuckled.  "I called your name like four times.  We need to hike off trail here and down to the creek.  What were you thinking about, anyway?"

Carson opened her mouth, and then closed it.  A sheepish smile tugged at her lips.  What to say?  She glanced down a bit, her eyes lingering at thigh level.  "Your legs."

"Still?"  Kennedy tossed her arms up in mock exasperation.

"You started it."  Carson closed the distance, reaching out and touching one of the legs in question.

"I can finish it too," she waggled her eyebrows, moving closer and draping her forearms on Carson's shoulders.  She teased her with her eyes for a moment, allowing her gaze to drift from her head down to t-shirt covered curves, and back up to a perfectly-shaped mouth.  Slowly, she ducked her head, meeting those lips in a willing exchange, and for a while, the birds, and the brook, and the wind faded away.  She purred, deepening the kiss as she felt Carson's fingertips trailing along the sides of her legs, just below the hem of her shorts.  "Come on, before I forget something important, like my name."  She pulled back, taking Carson's hand and leading her off trail through the trees, down a gentle slope toward the water.

Carson realized the trickling swishing sound of the water had given way to something more pounding and steady and she gasped as they reached the creek and hiked around a bend to behold a breath-taking sight. "Oh.  Wow."  A waterfall, at least 200 feet high, tumbled from between two high bluffs, crashing into a pool that spread out, joining the creek further down past the bluffs.  It was narrow, and the sun sparkled off it, painting dancing rainbows in the spray below.  "So this is why you told me to wear my swimsuit underneath today?"

"Yep."  Kennedy looked around, spotting what she had hoped was still there -- a large flat rock in the sun on the falls side, about two feet off the ground and just big enough for two people to sunbathe on.  "Water is a tad cold this time of year, though, so it might be good enough just to get some sun for a while."

"No way."  Carson followed her over a log bridge to the other side and to the rock, where they divested themselves of their packs.  Carson made quick work of stripping off boots, socks, shorts, and t-shirt as well.  "This may be the closest thing I get to a bath for two more days.  I'm gonna get in there for a few minutes at least, just to get clean."

"Alright, but you've been warned."  Long fingers fumbled at her own clothing, her eyes distracted by her partner's cute muscular form, clad in a tiny navy blue bikini -- it amounted to four triangles of material held together with string, and spaghetti straps that tied around her neck.  Kennedy was wearing a more athletic purple bikini -- with a high-cut bottom and a racer-back top that pretty much amounted to a sports bra.

She shook her head and forced herself to turn long enough to fold their clothes and set them at the edge of the rock.   Next, she pulled out the camping blanket, making a softer place to lie in the sun, and spread it over the rock, placing their hiking boots at each corner to keep it from blowing up.  Lunch would consist of sandwiches and apples they'd picked up in the shop next to the ranger station, a nice break from trail mix and protein bars.

"Yeeoowwww!"  Carson shrieked as she entered the water.  It was icy, so cold it made her feet hurt.  Okay.  She looked down and groaned.  She'd made it in up to her ankles.  I can do this.  She gritted her teeth and quickly waded in deeper, until the water was up to the tops of her thighs.  "Oh … my … lord.  It's cold!"  She yelled to the smirking figure sitting on the rock.

"Told ya."  Kennedy stretched out, extending one leg and leaning back on her elbows, enjoying the show. 

"Alright, but you just remember that tonight when I'm all nice and clean, and you're not."  Carson splashed some water in her direction.  "If you join me we can get clean together."

"I can take a sponge bath without actually getting in," Kennedy retorted.  "And without freezing my ass off."

"Fine."  Carson turned her back on her, walking a little further in.  She was beginning to get used to the temperature.  Either that, or she was simply growing numb.  She looked down at her swimsuit top and a wicked grin appeared on her face.  "I'll just bathe here all alone," she called over her shoulder.  She reached up and untied her top, slowly removing it with her back turned.  She bunched it up in her fist and looked back over her shoulder again, grinning when she realized she had Kennedy's undivided attention.  She turned, just long enough to fling the top onto the bank, and then turned her back again.  "Have it your way," her voice lilted over toward the rock.

Blue eyes fell first on the bit of navy material that had landed a few feet away, and then on the muscular back and the nice rounded suit-covered curves below it.  She groaned.  "I am so whipped," she spoke aloud, for the benefit of a small nearby rabbit.  "Lord, I am such a dog, come to think of it."  She pushed herself off the rock, smiling when she realized Carson knew she was coming in, but wasn't going to turn around.  She removed her own top and braced herself as she entered the water, oblivious to the cold liquid, intent on one goal.

She stopped just short of her lover, close enough to touch her with her hands, without closing the distance.  Her hands landed on Carson's shoulders, and she moved a little closer, almost touching, and leaned over, her lips brushing against a soft earlobe.  "You are pure evil."  She ran her hands down solid arms and around to a flat stomach, finally allowing their bodies to touch.

Carson gasped in surprise as two hardened nipples pressed against her skin, just above her shoulder blades.  She tilted her head up, and back, just as Kennedy's hands came up, closing over her breasts and cupping them, holding them in her palms.  She closed her eyes, resting her head back against Kennedy's shoulder, opening her mouth as hungry lips sought her out, and Kennedy's hands began to move, teasing her, before they slid down again, turning her around and grasping her hips, lifting her up until she was wrapped around the impossibly long body.

Kennedy held her close, breathing in her scent, feeling the combination of warm sun, Carson's even warmer body, and the cold water washing around them.  She pulled back, her eyes sparkling with mischief, and laughed, as she quickly took them into deeper, much colder water.  Freezing, as a matter of fact, but it felt good to play, and the outrage on Carson's face was worth being completely covered in goose bumps.

"Owwwww!"  Carson beat at her back in reflex.  "I'm evil?  Oh, I think you're the evil one, Miz Nacona.  Oh, lord, but that's cold."  They were in to their armpits, much nearer the falls, cold water rushing all around them.

"You said you wanted to get clean."  Kennedy's eyes twinkled in feigned innocence.  She held Carson securely.  "Take a breath, sweetheart."  With that, she dunked them both under, coming back up as Carson shrieked in her ear.

"Put me down!"  She kicked at Kennedy's behind with her heels, her legs still wrapped around her.

"You sure about that?"  Kennedy chuckled, letting go and watching Carson drop in, the water coming up to just under her nose.  Gray eyes popped open in surprise, then narrowed, and she could just make out the wicked grin below the surface of the water.  "Uh-oh."  Too late, she yelped, as lips and teeth closed around a very sensitive body part, nipping at her.  "Hey!  You bit my nipple!"  She knew it was just a little nip, something Carson had done several times in the past, but the cold water heightened the sensation, a half-pleasurable, half-painful experience.  She couldn't decide if she should put a stop to it, or beg for more.

Laughing, Carson made the decision for her, and  launched herself out of the water and back into her arms, wrapping around her again, her weight settling around Kennedy's hips.  Both women were rapidly forgetting about the cold.  "Sometimes my height is just right."  She sought out her lover's lips again, spending a goodly amount of time exploring them, until they finally admitted it really was freezing, and decided to leave the water in favor of the warm sunny rock back on shore.

A while later, after lunch, they were both stretched out on the rock, Carson using a sweatshirt for a pillow, and Kennedy using Carson's stomach.  They'd put their tops back on, as sunburn on some body parts just wasn't much fun, and were enjoying an afternoon's respite of complete lethargy.  They'd both dozed on and off, allowing the warm sun to soak into their bones, and darken tans that still lingered from summer.

Carson was awake after a pleasant nap, but quite unwilling to move.  One arm was draped across Kennedy's stomach, and she absently combed the fingers of her other hand through the dark hair spilling across her own chest and stomach.  She could feel the lungs under her arm rising and falling in deep even breaths, and occasionally Kennedy's eyelids fluttered, chasing dreams.  "Good girl," she praised her sleeping lover.  "No more nightmares allowed, you hear me?"

Kennedy stirred a little, smacking her lips in her sleep, before she settled back down, folding her hands across her stomach, and Carson's arm, pinning it in place.  Carson smiled, her eyes drifting lovingly over the curves and angles of the long body.  Nearby, a couple of Blue jays picked at their leftover sandwich crusts, fussing at each other and stealing the same tidbit back and forth several times, before one of them got the upper hand and flew away, up into the trees with his prize.  Her eyes followed him, and she sighed, drawing in the scent of pine, the canyon's namesake.

She couldn't remember the last time she'd felt so peaceful.  It was a balm to her soul, the solitude, the sun, the constant pattering of the falls, and the close presence of her lover.  Even Kennedy's steady breathing and heartbeat served to lull her into deeper contentment, and slowly her own eyes blinked closed, as she indulged in another nap.

Napping turned to dreaming, and she found herself floating on the clouds from sunrise.  She felt total serenity there --  a weightless, happy sensation, and the sun warmed her skin all over.  She tried swimming in the clouds, bouncing along, when suddenly, one of them folded over her and little cloud fingers reached out, tickling her stomach.  She giggled and swatted at them, but they only moved to another spot.  She laughed some more, and gasped as one of the clouds kissed her lower belly, and then licked it, before it wrapped around her navel stud, giving it a tug.  "Hey!"

Her eyes popped open and she sat partway up, spying a guilty face bent over her belly.  "You."  She swatted at the dark head, which turned and nibbled its way up her midline.

"Couldn't resist.  Been watching you sleep in this bit of scrap you call a swimsuit."  Kennedy continued on her quest toward her lips.  "I was good for thirty whole minutes before I caved in."

 "In that case, you're forgiven."  She returned the kiss at a leisurely pace.  "Besides, that was a nice way to wake up."  She studied violet-blue eyes and a face that was even darker than usual.  "You got some sun." A finger trailed across Kennedy's chest.  "I like this purple suit.  Looks really nice with your skin and eyes.  Would make a nice picture."

"Thanks."  Kennedy smiled and ducked her head at the compliment.  "I haven't worn this one for you yet, have I?"

"Nope."  Carson fished around in her nearby pack.  "How many swimsuits do you have, anyway?"

"Not sure."  Kennedy curled up on her side, propping her head on an upraised hand.  "A good dozen.  I'm on the lake a lot in the summer, and I like to swim for exercise sometimes, so … um … Carson, what are you doing?"

A click of a shutter, and Carson sat up, crossing her legs.  "Taking your picture, 'cause you're so freaking gorgeous."  Another snap.  "Please.  I haven't taken many photos of you."

"No, you haven't."  Kennedy eyed the fancy digital camera and nodded in approval.  "Nice.  I didn't even know you had that."  She stretched out, indulging her lover in a few saucy poses.  The sun felt good, she was rested, and it wasn't much further to their camping spot.  They could take their time getting there.  She pursed her lips inward in thought, realizing they hadn't seen another person since early morning.  "You want something a little more artsy?"

"Like wha ….oh.   Yeah.  That works."  Her stomach clenched in reflex as Kennedy removed her top, and then her bottoms, and stretched out fully on the rock, stomach down, her arms crossed in front of her and her chin resting on her folded hands.  The dip of  her lower back and the curve of her backside, followed by long lean legs,  provided a visual feast for the camera, not to mention the photographer.  She listened while Carson took a few shots of her in profile, then turned her head, laying her cheek down on her arms and facing her lover.

"How's that?"  She flashed a smile, noting the flush to Carson's face.  Her own skin was starting to heat up, and she suspected it was more than just the changing angle of the sun.

"Really nice," she answered softly, moving a little closer.  "Can … can I?"  She crawled up on the rock.  "Roll over on your back for me."

Kennedy complied, allowing her hair to fan out above her head.  She crossed her arms over her chest, looking up as Carson straddled her hips, camera still trained on her.  She smiled for a few shots, then allowed her eyes to speak for her, her expression one of unmistakable desire.

It was tough to concentrate while being consumed by those eyes.  "Can you … just …"  Carson reached down, grasping her arms and unfolding them.  Kennedy continued to gaze into her eyes, as one arm stretched out in a leisurely curve over her head, and she covered a breast with one hand, exposing the other for the lens.  "Beautiful," Carson breathed out, snapping a few more shots, and resisting the urge to reach out and touch all that tempting flesh.

"That thing have a timer?"  Kennedy reached down, untying the bathing suit strings at Carson's hips.

"Um …"  Long fingers tickled up her thighs.   "Did you ask me something?"  The camera was taken from her hands and Kennedy pulled her forward, kissing her while she untied her top and tossed it aside.

"Can you set the camera on timer?"  She nibbled an earlobe, feeling warm breath against her neck.

"Oh, yeah, you mean you want …. Us?"  She glanced from the camera to their partially-joined bodies.

"Yeah, just a nice little shot of us curled up together."  Kennedy patted her bare behind.

"Okay, let me …" she got up, the swimsuit bottom falling the rest of the way away before Kennedy discretely scooped it up and tossed it to join its top.  Looking around, Carson propped the camera up on one of their backpacks and knelt down, focusing it back on the rock where Kennedy had curled up on her side, drawing Carson in on sheer magnetism.  She hurried back over to the rock and curled up in the curve of the long body, almost forgetting for a moment what they were doing.  She crooked her leg to keep from exposing too much of her lower body, and Kennedy wrapped a long arm around her, covering her breasts.

"Nice," Kennedy whispered, as they gazed into the lens and heard the snap.  "One more?"

"Sure."  Carson slid out of her embrace and trotted over, re-setting the timer.  She re-joined her lover and resumed their spooning position.

Kennedy grinned and slid her knee between Carson's legs from behind, and cupped a breast with one hand, leaving one exposed.  She cradled Carson's head back a little and kissed her, just as they heard the snap of the timer.  "No more pictures."  She nibbled at the back of Carson's neck, teasing her breast with one hand, until she heard a low moan of pleasure.  "Roll on your stomach for me, please?"  She sucked a sensitive earlobe and licked at the soft skin behind it.  "Please?"

Carson shivered in anticipation at the request, and complied, stretching out and resting her forehead against her folded arms.  Strong hands massaged her back, and she moaned again.  "God, that feels good."  Her eyes closed reflexively, enjoying the touch, a combination of relaxing kneading and light teasing traces of Kennedy's fingertips.

"You have the most beautiful back,"  Kennedy bent over, her lips following her fingers in a lazy path down Carson's back.  Her fingers trailed lower, scratching lightly over her ass, followed by those lips, kissing delicately at tender baby-soft skin.

It was the most erotic experience of her life, sending an instant jolt of desire between her legs.  "Oh, sweet Jesus."  Carson bit her lower lip.  A gentle hand lifted her hips, placing her folded sweatshirt beneath her lower belly, exposing her and increasing her desire.  "Oh, yeah."  Long fingers teased her inner thighs, urging one leg up into a bent position.

"Is this okay?"  Carson nodded in mute pleasure, and Kennedy continued with the light stroking, as she kissed her way back up the smooth muscular back, nuzzling her face into the crook of Carson's neck, as she stretched out beside her.  The stroking became much more intimate, and Carson turned her head, welcoming a long soulful kiss.

Kennedy felt her lover's body reacting, and heard the little whimpers coming from the back of her throat, and she rolled over, pressing against Carson's side and nibbling at her back, her fingers seeking out the source of her pleasure, playing her lover until Carson cried out, her hips rolling up against her until Kennedy sought out her lips once more, pulling her into her arms and kissing her soundly, rubbing her back in circles until she finally came back down.

Carson panted against her, seeking contact everywhere, her hands wandering as she  nibbled at her chest and then moved lower, smiling as Kennedy's lungs puffed out in surprise.  Carson rolled to her back, bringing Kennedy with her and sliding her knee between her legs.  Her hands trailed slowly up Kennedy's thighs and braced her hips, guiding her, feeling all that sinewy power over her as Kennedy sought her own release, grinding against Carson's upper thigh.  Carson reached up, squeezing a breast while her other hand continued to guide her, feeling strong hips rocking against her.  "Giddy up cowgirl," she laughed lightly as her hands slipped around to Kennedy's backside, squeezing her ass.  Judging by the unguarded pleasure on her face, she was very close, and she pressed into her lover, matching her rhythm, speaking in low sultry tones until Kennedy finally cried out, collapsing into her embrace and burying her face into Carson's shoulder.

"Wow," she breathed weakly.  "I don't think I can move."  She rolled to her side, pulling Carson to her and kissing her for a long while, as their hands stroked up and down each other's backs.

"I think we scared off the wildlife," Carson joked.  She crawled up against her lover, feeling a light kiss to her head.  Against her ear, Kennedy's heartbeat was starting to slow, and she rubbed her belly, feeling her breathing return to normal.

A giddy laugh escaped Kennedy's lips, and she wrapped a hand around the back of Carson's head, combing her fingers through short wavy locks.  "Whoa."  Her body was still twitching a little bit from time to time, and she felt pleasantly discombobulated.  "I think I lost most of my brain cells."

"Is that good?"  Carson returned the touches, brushing dark hair out of blue eyes.

"That, sweetheart, was some mighty fine mind-blowing sex."  She touched the tip of her nose.  "Or at least that is the more polite term for it."  She drew in a long breath and released it in a huff.  "God that felt good."  She wriggled all over, the energy still swirling around inside.

Carson looked rather pleased with herself, her hands still wandering lazily against her skin.  "Yeah, it did."  She cocked her head to one side.  "What's the impolite term for it?"

"That you fmphhhhh my brains out."  She nipped at the firm hand that clamped over her mouth.

"Shhhhhh.  Never mind."  Carson cautiously held her hand near full lips, just in case.  "I do not need to hear I did that to you.  It might make my head explode.   I'm a good girl."

"You sure were."  Kennedy flashed a sexy grin at her.  "Does that bother you?"

"No."  She snuggled up feeling a strong arm pulling her close.  "I'm just not used to anyone getting that kind of pleasure from me."  She trailed a fingertip up Kennedy's cleavage.  "Lots of times in the past, it wouldn't have mattered much what other body was involved."

"I made you feel that way?"  Kennedy started to sit up, but was firmly pushed back down.

"No.  Oh, no no no."  Carson quickly kissed her in reassurance.  "The last guy I dated.  He … it just was kind of icky sometimes."

"Sweetheart, I'm sorry."  Kennedy hugged her tightly.  "You wanna talk about it?"

"Not right now."  Carson nuzzled her skin, inhaling her scent and imprinting it in her mind.  "I just shared something really fantastic with you, and I don't want to ruin it. Sometime I will, though."  She sighed inwardly.  How could she explain it to Kennedy, anyway?  That someone could make you feel completely ugly and totally destroy your self-confidence, while they were supposed to be making love to you?  Hell, she mused.  Knowing Kennedy, she'd probably go hunt him down and kick his ass.  She smiled, deciding that might not be such a bad thing.

"Alright."  Kennedy frowned, picturing ways to torture whoever had made Carson feel 'icky' during love-making.  Drawing and quartering seemed like a good choice.  The frown deepened and her mind wandered along those lines, until she felt a gentle touch to her face.  "Huh?"

"Honey, you growled."  Carson smoothed a hand across her brow.  "You okay?

"Yeah, I'm fine."  She found a smile.  "Sorry.  I got distracted."  She glanced down along their still-naked bodies.  "What do you say we take another quick dunk in the water, and go find a spot to camp in before we get some really embarrassing sunburn?"

"Good idea."  Carson patted her hip and rose up, stretching lazily.

A short while later they crossed the bridge for the last half of their hike.


Continued in Chapter 6

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