By Colleen

This is an alternate uber story. The physical descriptions of the two lead characters may remind you of two others we all know and love, but all characters in the story are from my own imagination. This story is an original work and is copyrighted by the author. It cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copyright 2010.

This story depicts a loving relationship between two consenting, adult women and contains scenes of intimacy, but nothing too explicit. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something else.

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Steam rose from the hot liquid resting in a colorful ceramic mug. A light wind made the tendrils dance above the sweet concoction and the chocolaty aroma waft skyward. A bright sun sent down its rays, but they barely affected the cold temperature of the air. But it was winter in the mountains; it was supposed to be cold. You couldn't walk a few feet without your boots landing on white powder. But it was winter in the mountains; there was supposed to be snow. There was noise and bustle all around the busy area, but it was that subtle movement of steam that had a pair of emerald eyes entranced. Her thoughts, however, were turned deeply inward, in reflection and meditation. She had come on this vacation to mark an anniversary of sorts. It had been a little more than a year since the shocking news came to her. Months of changes, losses and unease had followed. But on that year ago date, she had received the most important gain anyone could ever hope to. Her emotions had run the range from denial to elation and just about everything in between. And she just now felt like she was settling into her new life. She once again felt centered and encouraged about the future and what waited for her there.

A book was clasped loosely in her chilled hands. It was opened to page fifteen, but very few words of the novel had actually been read since the book was picked up an hour before. It was an exciting story, but at this particular time, her mind had slipped onto other subjects. And she allowed the mental detour, hoping these particular musings would be put to rest for the remainder of the trip.

Snowflakes, too many to even consider putting in numbers, covered just about every surface in sight, except the two dozen or so tables and chairs on the raised, wooden deck. Most of those seats were occupied by people joyously conversing or enjoying various mid-afternoon treats. Many others hurriedly traveled back and forth over the nearby, white ground, moving up hill, downhill or heading into the surrounding woods, all happily engaging in fun, winter activities.

“May I share your table?”

The green eyed woman was drawn from her unintentional contemplation at the sound of the unknown voice. “I'm sorry?”

The tall woman indicated the vacant chair. “May I? Everything else is taken.”

The seated woman smiled amiably. “Yes, of course. I didn't even realize the crowd had grown.” She set the book aside and reached out a friendly hand. “I'm Cameron Daily.”

The other woman returned the smile, but pointed out a slight problem. “Sorry, I can't return the shake.” She pulled up the sleeve on her right arm, revealing a cast that kept her arm bent at a precise angle for healing. “Payton Mitchell,” she introduced.

Cameron grimaced in sympathy. “Ohhh, did you do that here?”

Payton's dark head shook. “No, this happened on the job. I'm just taking some time off while it mends.”

A pair of yellow brows wrinkled in puzzlement. “So, of course you came to a ski lodge when you aren't able to ski.”

Payton chuckled, that not being the first time it had been pointed out to her. “There are other reasons to come here.” She held up her mug of buttered rum. “Delicious drinks, the cozy clothes, sitting in front of a blazing fire…” she paused, looking off toward the snow covered mountain. But her ice blue eyes returned to her new friend's face before naming her final reason. “…enjoying the beautiful sights.”

Cameron knew the woman was flirting, but she certainly wasn't above enjoying the flattery. “Well, I certainly have to agree with you…on all counts,” she stated coyly, correctly returning the sentiment. Payton hide a small grin behind her red mug, but her twinkling gaze never left the beautiful blonde's face. “But,” Cameron continued, “I certainly couldn't come all the way here if I couldn't ski. It would be too tempting. The call of the mountain is too strong.”

“Understandable. But I'm certainly glad I chose this place and time,” Payton mumbled behind her mug. But a glance across the table brought an extra bit of color to her already reddened cheeks. Judging by the expression on Cameron's face, she'd been caught in more flirtatious musings. “Have you been on the slopes today?” Payton asked, moving the conversation along.

“I just arrived yesterday. But I had a great run this morning and I'll probably take another later today. The weather is perfect.” Cameron vigorously rubbed her hands together then wrapped them around her warm cup. “And so is the mountain. We don't get snow back home, so I try to visit some snowy place at least once a year.”

“Where is home?” Payton asked.

“ San Francisco .”

The dark head nodded in appreciation. “Nice place.”

“Have you been there?” Cameron asked.

Payton's eyes quickly took on the gleam of a memory and she formed a tiny, hidden smile. “Once, in college,” she answered, brightly. “I went with a group of friends. We did all the usual touristy stuff. But I'm sure if you live there you know some of the hidden treasures that most visitors miss.”

Cameron chuckled and admitted, “One or two. Where do you call home?”

“Currently, St. Louis . But I was born in Washington . State.” She threw that in because most people jumped straight to DC. “It's a long story how I ended up in the Midwest , but I like it there.”

“You're no stranger to snow then,” Cameron said.

“No. But snow in the big city is just dingy, messy and troublesome. But as I said, it's beautiful here.”

Both sipped more of their respective beverages as they continued the conversation. But they eventually got distracted as a small fleet of snowmobiles raced by, their riders yelling their unashamed happiness. Cameron laughed out loud and declared, “That does look like fun.”

Payton sat up in her chair. “Well, I'm game if you are.”

The blonde head turned back. “What?”

“The snowmobiles. I obviously can't steer very well, but I'd be a great passenger.”

The green eyes popped and the words faltered. “I…I don't…I never thought about actually…”

Payton was taken aback by the other woman's flustered reaction. She had thought the idea was innocent enough. “I guess I shouldn't have suggested that since we just met,” she said. Noticing Cameron nervously checking her watch, Payton asked, “Am I keeping you from something?” A sudden thought came to her. “I bet you're going to the Valentine's Snow Ball tonight. I'm sorry…I'll just…go now.” Payton stood and started to leave.

Cameron's head was spinning. She wasn't quite sure why she was resisting this charming woman. She came on this vacation to have fun. “Wait please!” she called. Payton had just moved a few steps away and she sat back down cautiously, waiting for the other woman to organize her thoughts. “It just surprised me a little,” Cameron confessed. “I'm not going to the dance,” she explained, her green eyes drifting away momentarily. “I have no reason,” she added, somewhat sadly. But a diminutive smile then returned. “I think we could try the snowmobiles…but how about tomorrow?”

Payton considered it for only a second, successfully containing her excitement. “I think that sounds like a good idea. I'll call and rent one for… one o'clock .”

Cameron nodded positively. “I'll be ready.”

“Good. Well, I have a phone call to make. I'll see you tomorrow.”


* * *


Cameron hit the bottom of the slope and skidded to a stop, the white fluff blowing up around her in an animated flurry. She was exhilarated after the thrilling ride down the mountain. Cameron never really minded being alone, and had taken many vacations as a single. And she had always managed to have fun. But just because that was a fact, didn't mean it always had to be that way. She started thinking about the next day, a snowmobile and a certain interesting lady. Now that she had time to process it, Cameron realized that was probably something she wouldn't have done alone, but now she was actually looking forward to the experience. Or maybe I'm looking forward to the company. Cameron smiled and removed her skis so she could head back to the lodge.


* * *


Payton Mitchell sat alone in her room, surfing the web for inconsequential things. She had come inside to get warm after her fortunate afternoon meeting. Snacking on peanuts as a video downloaded, she jotted down a few notes on things she wanted to research later. Every once in a while she would gaze out the huge window beside her, marveling at the sheer grandeur of her surroundings. She had spoken the truth when she said that she truly appreciated nature. Her thoughts also turned to Cameron Dailey. She had fibbed earlier when she had approached the cute blonde. There had been a couple of available chairs around the corner of the building, but she had been instantly drawn to Cameron and wanted to meet her. And Payton was not disappointed in the least. In the short time they had talked, she found that Cameron had a good sense of humor, but perhaps seemed a bit shy at times, but endearingly so. Payton sensed her intelligence and her integrity, and longed to know more. She wasn't quite sure how well they would get to know each other riding on a noisy, speeding machine, but she hoped it was just a beginning. But then again, Payton feared she had moved too fast. Payton Mitchell was generally a confident woman, but interacting with women she was attracted to was the one area of her life where she tended to second guess herself.

The phone rang and Payton reached across the table to answer it. “Hello.”

“Hi, this is Cameron…from earlier.”

“Yes,” Payton answered lamely. She's calling to cancel, she thought sadly. “Uh, hello.”

“You know, I realized that if I'm going to have someone with at least one good arm wrapped around me while we're racing across the snow, I'd like to know a little more about them. Are you free for dinner tonight?”

Payton breathed a mental sigh of relief. “Well, since I'm going to trust someone not to run us into a snowy ditch, I think that's a fine idea. And I just happened to be free.”

“Wonderful,” Cameron said. “It shouldn't be too busy in the main dining room since a lot of the guests will be over at the dance, how about meeting at eight o'clock ?”

“Sounds great. See you then.”


* * *


Payton, being just a little anxious, arrived at the lodge's dining room almost ten minutes early. She sat at the bar, but just had water, preferring to wait and have some wine with dinner. She had donned her best duds, a pair of black dress pants and a deep burgundy blouse, topped off with a steel gray, short jacket. It felt a little restrictive over her cast, but she wanted to look her best. She knew it wasn't a crime to want to impress Cameron, but she certainly didn't want to appear desperate. Which she wasn't. Over the previous years Payton had only dated casually. Her one and only serious relationship had been over ten years ago and that had ended…badly. Since then, Payton had concentrated on her career.

She looked up just in time to see Cameron step into the room. The blonde had on an elegant navy blue dress, one that she had purchased that very afternoon at a boutique in the lodge. She hadn't brought along anything, but ski clothes, jeans and sweaters. She certainly hadn't intended on going on a date, but if she was, then she was going to look the part. Cameron caught the wave from the stunning woman at the bar. I guess she wants that too.


Payton walked over with a pleasant expression on her face. “Hi,” she stated simply. She wasn't sure why, but suddenly she felt a little shy. But she did manage a compliment. “You look very nice.”

Cameron's cheeks pinked up above her brilliant smile, but she couldn't blame it on the cold, because at the moment she was feeling very warm. “Thank you. So do you.”

Payton nodded her thanks just before the hostess stepped up to show them to their seats. Cameron had been able to reserve a table near the immense stone fireplace, remembering Payton's comment earlier that day. After ordering their meals, and remembering that they were trying to become more familiar, Cameron asked about the tall woman's job and her injury.

“My partner and I had just been assigned to a murder case. We were on the scene questioning eye witnesses, and a couple of them didn't take it very well. They took of in different directions. I was chasing a sixteen year old kid, turned out to be a runaway. I didn't think he was guilty, so I wasn't going to draw my weapon. But he might have had important information, and as it turned he did, so I wasn't going to let him get away. It had been raining heavily about an hour earlier and he ran across a really muddy yard. He slipped, I tackled him, he grabbed a log and landed a swing. But my partner arrived and restrained him, before he could do it again. That was a week ago. I'll be on desk duty for a while when I get back.”

“So, I'm dining with Detective Payton Mitchell,” Cameron said, an amazed glint in her eye.

Payton gave a modest nod. “It's just a title. A lot of officers work as hard as I do to solve crimes.”

“I'm sure they do, but I think being a detective takes a certain, skill set: the intelligence to discover difficult, even hidden clues, compassion in questioning innocent and vulnerable victims and witnesses, and the resolve, yet restraint to deal with the vilest of criminals.”

Slightly uncomfortable under the verbal spotlight, Payton cleared her throat and took a drink of her water. “I strive to match that description,” she said humbly, “but I'm sure I fail in some areas.”

The blonde countered back. “If you didn't, you wouldn't be human. But I still think it takes someone…special…like you…to do what you do. And I thank you.” Cameron moved on to a new subject “So what do you do when you're not working?”

This was something Payton didn't mind talking about, even if she didn't have a lot to say. “I'm usually playing with my dog, being an amateur movie critic and I volunteer at the local children's hospital, that's about it.

“What kind of dog do you have?”

“Jaden is a mostly black German Shepherd. I've had him just about a year. He failed canine officer training. They said he just wasn't aggressive enough, and they were right, he's a big teddy bear. He takes up half the bed at night, and he even has a special blanket he pulls over his body.”

Cameron laughed at the mental picture. “He sounds like a bit of a clown. I have a pair of Dachshunds. There's nothing in the world that compares to another living thing giving you total, unconditional love.” Payton agreed with a little grin as Cameron continued her thought. “I would swear that Ruby and Opal actually smile every time I come home.” She hurriedly set down her half empty wine glass, shook her fingers and rubbed her hands together vigorously.

“Are you cold?” Payton asked with a concerned tone.

“Oh no…it's just something that happens now and then. Do you have any sisters or brothers?”

Payton accepted the not so smooth change of subject, without question. “One of each,” she answered easily. “Both younger. My brother is a Marine, currently stationed in Southern California . He's married and has three children, all under the age of six. Amy is a research scientist, working on new cancer treatments. She's getting married later this year.”

“Sounds like you have a wonderful family,” Cameron said. “I bet your parents are very proud.”

“I guess you'd have to ask them,” Payton suggested. “We've been a pretty rowdy bunch at times. But I know I'm proud of my family.”

Cameron's face glowed. “Me too. And you want to talk about a rowdy bunch. I have two full sisters, a half brother and sister from my mother's second marriage and two more half sisters and a step brother from my Dad's second marriage. Christmas at my house was nothing short of total chaos. We all get along fine, but add in half a dozen children, two more dogs, a talking parrot and a hamster, and there was never a quiet moment…unless every breathing creature was asleep at the same time. And that didn't happen very often.” Cameron grinned at the recent memories. “But we had a great time.” She took the last bite of her pie and drank the last of her coffee, when her eyes landed on the clock on the wall. “Wow, we've been here almost two hours. You are very easy to talk to Payton. But I didn't realize it was so late. I need to get some sleep; it's been a busy day.”

“Yeah, I'm kinda tired myself,” Payton said. “Thanks for inviting me Cameron. I'm glad we're getting to know each other better. Are we still going for that ride tomorrow?” she asked hopefully.

Cameron's green eyes sparkled brightly. “You bet!” She reached out and took Payton's unencumbered hand. “I'm looking forward to it.”

Payton enjoyed the simple touch. “Good. I'll meet you in the lobby at 11:45 and we can grab a quick lunch before we go.”


* * *


The sleek, black snowmobile raced across the snowy field. Both riders smiled behind the safety shields of their dark helmets as Cameron guided them along the appointed trail. They had been out for about forty five minutes and were due back at the lodge in the same amount of time. But they were determined to pack in as much fun as possible in the brief span. In spite of the frigid wind blowing directly into them, they remained fairly warm thanks to the special suits and boots they had also rented.

The vehicle bounced over the banks of white and turned into the woods, slowing as the driver dodged trees, some standing and some felled. The woods soon became thicker with evergreens, becoming almost impenetrable. The diminished light from the gray clouds above was darkened more by the dense, deep green boughs hanging overhead. The heavy white blanket across the ground suddenly became shadowed and claustrophobic. The deeper they went, the air felt moody and thick. Cameron finally cut the engine, lifted the plastic in front of her face and pulled down the fabric mask from her mouth. She looked all around, her vision now completely cleared of the bits of snow that had blown onto the shield. “I'm sure we got off the trail,” she said with a slight nervous edge. “I'm sorry.”

Payton exposed her face. “There's no need to be sorry,” she assured.

“But I must have missed a sign,” Cameron said.

“Well, I missed it too.” Payton looked behind them. The wind had carried the powder back across their tracks, obscuring their trail. “Let's backtrack as much as possible, we're bound to run into a cross country skier or other snowmobiles.”

Cameron chuckled in the face of peril. “I hope you don't mean that literally.”

Payton laughed at the joke. “Of course not. A delay like that would cost me another hour's rental fee,” she teased. Trying to keep the mood light was important, she knew. Panic would only make things worse. They were by no means in danger, but caution and concentration was prudent from that moment on.

Cameron turned them around and slowly guided them back in the general direction from where they came…at least she hoped so. Payton had left her face shield up so she could confer with the driver and offer some words of encouragement. At least the wind was at their back now, so it wasn't too painful. There was plenty of time before darkness would begin to fall, but the heavy clouds would hasten its arrival. Cameron had to make a wide turn around a tightly compacted stand of trees. The vehicle then hit a bump, something solid under the snow, giving them quite a jolt. The machine stayed upright, but the engine cut off. “Are you okay?” Payton asked. After a positive nod, they took the opportunity to reanalyze the situation, hoping the mechanical beast beneath them would start again. Payton knew her companion was growing more nervous by the minute, so she gave her some confidence. “We're going to be fine Cameron. We didn't go all that far from the lodge. All we have to do is keep a close eye out for signs, man made or natural.” Cameron nodded again and hit the starter, but nothing happened. “It's okay,” Payton said. “Try it again.” The gloved hand shook and the individual fingers wiggled before it made the motion. This time the engine came to life. Payton held out a thumbs up and then pointed in the direction they needed to go.

They traveled another fifteen minutes when Payton's keen eyes spotted it. “There!”

Cameron zeroed in and finally saw it too, the trail sign far off in the distance. She revved the engines and headed back to civilization.


* * *


They arrived back at the resort, just thirty minutes late. Payton explained the delay, and was ready to pay the extra fee when she was told there would be no charge at all. The man explained that one of the trail markers had been knocked down early that morning, but due to some bad communication, Cameron and Payton had been allowed on the path before the sign was fixed. Since there had been no real harm done, neither woman held any malice toward the company.

Changing out of the heavy suit, Cameron met back up with Payton outside of the ski shop. She pointed toward the end of the long corridor. “How about getting a drink at the bar, my treat?”

Payton agreed. “Sounds good. After that little adventure, I'm hungry again. How about a mid-afternoon snack, my treat?”

“Sounds good,” Cameron repeated.

Both ordered a hearty ale to go with the cheese stuffed mushrooms and toasted bread. The warm food satisfied the munchies and the beer settled any last bit of the tattered nerves Cameron had suffered. “Were you scared at all, at the prospect of being lost in the woods?” she asked with calm curiosity.

“Not scared,” Payton drawled. “A little concerned. I've actually taken a wilderness survival course. I would've known what to do and what not to do, as long as the land cooperated.” Payton leaned forward, casually resting her crossed arms on the table. “Besides it might not have been all that bad. I had some food and water. We could have found a nice deep cave to wait for a rescue. I also had a thermal blanket in my pack. We could have shared that…and some body heat.”

Cameron mirrored the taller woman's posture, determined to match her intimate banter. She flashed her dazzling green eyes. “I can think of other, more comfortable and more pleasurable reasons to share body heat.”

“Oh, me too, me too.” Payton downed the last of her beer, the heat from their flirting, along with the alcohol nearly melting her insides. They both then had a good laugh at their own actions, momentarily easing the increasing sexual tension. Payton had another mushroom while Cameron opted for another drink. “I really do enjoy spending time with you,” Payton said sincerely. “I'm glad we met. Would it sound too pushy if I suggested we do something again tomorrow…between your ski runs of course? I don't want to interfere with your fun.”

Cameron smiled happily. “I can't think of anything else I'd rather do than spend time with you…except ski of course.”

Payton laughed, enjoying the blonde's casual sense of humor. “I haven't quite figured out what we'll do just yet,” she admitted. “But I promise to make it fun.”

“I have every confidence that you will. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to send some emails, check on the weather forecast for tomorrow and do some souvenir shopping. Call me tonight and let me know about tomorrow.”

“I will.” Payton smiled, watching her friend walk away, admiring the way the tight ski pants highlighted the shapely hips and legs. Cameron was a totally beautiful woman and Payton enjoyed their flirting. But although she was very physically attracted to Cameron, Payton wasn't quite sure if they should actually have sex. She certainly wasn't leading a celibate lifestyle, but there was something different in this attraction, something that one…or even two nights of purely physical release wouldn't honor. She had known the woman just over twenty four hours, and it puzzled her how her feelings could be anything deeper than friendship or lust. But somehow it was happening. But what future could they have, living in different states?


* * *


Cameron stepped out into the lovely, sunny, cold day. She slipped the dark green, wool hat over her blonde head and pulled on the matching gloves, wiggling her fingers inside the confinement. Her coat was already buttoned up to her chin and a scarf was tucked under the coat's collar. She had just finished a very light lunch, which Payton had suggested during her early morning phone call, and was waiting for her new companion to arrive. Cameron walked over to the end of the large deck and leaned on the railing, watching the skiers racing down the hill in the distance. She had decided not to make any runs today, preferring to devote her time to Payton. She was excited to see what the police detective had planned. Cameron had her own idea for the evening meal.

A body moved in and took a spot next to Cameron on the railing. “Are you watching the ski bunnies?”

Cameron smiled. “Just the one over there with four legs, big ears and a fluffy tail.” She turned to the taller woman. “Where are we going, and more importantly how are we getting there? Because if you are going to say the word snowmobile, I think I'll hunt down a dog sled and a team.”

Payton displayed a grin and took Cameron's hand. “No Huskies necessary,” she guaranteed. “Come with me Mademoiselle.” She guided them down the stairs and onto the lengthy path that encircled the huge lodge. “Where are we going?” Cameron asked again.

“After some research, I found out about a little town called Hawks Creek. It's about eight miles away.”

“Are we walking all the way there?” the blonde asked as they kept moving.

Payton chuckled. “Are you always so impatient?”

“Only when I'm with someone so mysterious.”

“I happen to think that's one of my most charming qualities, besides it helps in my line of work. Ahh, here we are. I thought we'd let someone else do the driving today.”

Cameron took in the mode of transportation, and her insides warmed at the ambiance of romance surrounding it. She gave Payton a little cuddle. “This is great!”

“Oh, it's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you.” Payton sang the line from the song as she helped Cameron step up into the all white, one horse powered vehicle. The couple quickly nestled onto the comfortable, cushioned seat and Payton tucked a heavy, black and red patterned blanket over their legs.

“Very cozy,” Cameron murmured. “I think this going to be a fun day.” With a signal from the detective, the driver snapped the thick leather reins and they were off on their journey.

The pair chatted and snapped pictures of the winter scenery as the big, black steed trotted along at an even pace, pulling the sleigh across the snow. “I think we could have used some hot chocolate,” Cameron said as she shivered just a bit.

“Hold that thought,” Payton told her. “I'm almost positive we'll be able to find some where we're going. In the meantime…” The detective shifted her free arm around the smaller woman's shoulder, pulling them closer together. “Is this one of those pleasurable ways to share body heat?” she whispered.

Cameron turned, gazed at the pretty face and smiled softly. “Definitely, one of them,” she said as she leaned forward. She placed a single and very gentle kiss on Payton's lips. When they parted, their eyes held for another moment, but nothing was said. One kiss was enough to know. One kiss. But knowledge might be more painful then ignorance this time.

They quietly enjoyed the rest of the ride through the silent wonderland. But the noise began to pick up as they neared more signs of this remote civilization. The sleigh began to pass quaint farm houses with dogs romping in the fenced yards and children playing in the snow. A wagon filled with reveling adults pulled up behind the sleigh and another one fell in line behind them. Cameron puzzled over this, but as the mini caravan turned onto the main street, she realized what the hustle was all about, and where Payton had chosen for them to spend the day. A large banner was stretched across the narrow street, from lamppost to lamppost. It read, 1 st Annual Chocolate Festival.

Cameron laughed. “You're kidding me. How did you find out about this?” she asked as the sleigh came to a stop curbside.

Payton climbed down and told the driver to return in four hours. She turned back to her friend. “I figured if we spend more than four hours eating chocolate, we'll go into a sugar coma and that would really ruin our fun.” They began walking down the crowded sidewalk, passing antique and art shops, clothing and handmade jewelry boutiques, and of course several bakeries. Chocolate vendors had set up booths in a blocked off area of the street, providing free samples for the visitors. “A waitress back at the lodge told me yesterday afternoon after you left,” Payton explained. “You look like…” she stopped herself abruptly, “let me rephrase that, you seem like someone who would enjoy a good chocolate now and then. I thought it sounded like fun, not to mention delicious.”

Cameron gave her a wry grin. “Well, I'm certainly glad you rephrased that. But you are correct.”

Payton chuckled. “Good. Let's start at the hot chocolate stand.”

With drinks in hand, they snagged an empty bench and watched the passing crowd as the sweet beverages warmed their insides. They formed a plan of action to taste as many of the chocolate morsels as possible, while pacing themselves accordingly to prevent over crowded tummies.

So as the afternoon inched away, they snacked on exotic, chocolate bits and shopped for special treasures. They laughed and talked. They touched and sampled more pleasant kisses. They formed an unnamed and unspoken bond, even though their attachment was to be short lived. Each had arrived separately and each would leave...separately.

So every second together was cherished, as were the delightful memories they would soon become.


* * *


Payton threw several pillows onto the floor and submerged into the soft nest as Cameron stoked the fire before them. The blonde soon joined her, and Payton poured both of them more wine. After the entertaining afternoon of sampling chocolates, they returned to the lodge, and Payton had immediately gone to her room to freshen up. At Cameron's invitation, she had come to the blonde's room for a late dinner. They were now enjoying a relaxing evening.

“I had such a fun day,” Cameron confessed.

Payton crossed her jean covered legs at the ankle and wiggled her toes inside her comfortable socks. “I'm glad, especially since that is the objective of a vacation.”

“But being with you made it more fun,” Cameron revealed.

Payton smiled affectionately. “I'm glad again. And I had fun too.” She kissed Cameron, keeping the motion slow and intimate, but not overtly sexual. Soft music played in the background, adding to the perfectly romantic setting. But there was an understood limit to their activities.

The kiss ended with each taking a shaky breath. “Happy Birthday to me,” Cameron mumbled.

Payton adopted a pleasingly surprised expression. “You didn't mention it was your birthday.”

Cameron nodded. “I came on this trip to celebrate my first birthday.”

Payton's blue eyes widened. “Well, I don't need my detective skills to know that you are slightly older than one, for which I am very grateful. Is there a story to go with that declaration?”

The blonde nodded again. “A complicated and life changing one.”

Payton ran a comforting hand down Cameron's arm. “I would like to hear it…if you want to share. If not, I understand.”

Cameron finished the last of her red wine and filled her glass again. “It was a difficult time,” she admitted. “A lot of dreadful things happened, almost all at once.”

“Does it have something to do with the tremors in your hands?” Payton asked.

A tiny smile shaped Cameron's lips. “Yes, Detective Mitchell, it does. But that part comes near the end of the story.”

Payton deflected the light hearted sarcasm, her face twisting in a slight grimace. “Sorry. It's a career hazard. I notice a lot of tiny details, like the way your eyes change shades with your emotions. When you smile they become a golden green, flickering like candlelight.” She raised the back of Cameron's hand to her lips, placing a kiss on the smooth surface.

Cameron watched the lovely action, feeling a delicious little flutter inside. “Well, Ms. Mitchell, you certainly have a way with words. Are you sure I should shake this wonderful moment with my tragic tale?”

Payton kept a gentle hold on the hand. “If it's about you,” she said, “I want to know.”

Cameron took another sip of her wine and then a deep breath. She sat back, her gaze moving toward the fire, seeing the memories within the flames. “About fifteen months ago,” she said. “I went to my doctor for some annoying, but I thought harmless symptoms. He ran the usual assortment of tests and I got the results about a week later. I had been diagnosed with a very rare, fast progressing…and very fatal disease.”

Stunned by the revelation, Payton's breath hitched. Obviously, everything turned out okay , she thought, calming herself. She was anxious to hear the rest, but mutely let her companion continue at her own pace.

“I was in a relationship at the time; we lived together at my place. After the diagnosis, Kate and I went home and cried for a day. She continually professed her great love for me.” Cameron chuckled humorlessly. “And she praised me for being brave.” Another heavy breath left Cameron's lungs, a reaction to the depressing memory. “About a week later,” she continued, “Kate read the literature that I had brought home and she vividly learned just how ill and incapacitated I was going to become before the end. The next afternoon, without shedding a tear, she told me that she couldn't handle what was going to happen…to me. And she left.”

“I'm sorry,” Payton said consolingly. “She sounds like real bi… I hate that she hurt you, especially with what you were going through. I can't imagine the betrayal you felt.” She watched the melancholy flash across Cameron's face, but eagerly asked, “What happened with your health?”

“The weeks went on and every time I went to the doctor, he was amazed that the symptoms weren't progressing. After this continued for a while, he ordered another round of tests.” Cameron stopped and met Payton's anticipatory stare. “The first lab had made a mistake. Instead of a fatal disease, I had a simple vitamin deficiency. That was last year at this time. So I consider this my second, first birthday.”

Payton hugged her friend, suddenly overcome by a powerful emotion. “God, I'm so glad you're here. And I'm glad you let me hang around. Now we can really celebrate your…rebirth.”

“I am very grateful to be here too. But I didn't come away totally unscathed. I was taking some very powerful medications for an illness I didn't have. It left me with some nerve damage…mostly to my hands. That's the reason for the tremors. It's irreversible.” Cameron smiled courageously. “But I can live with it. Unfortunately, it made one final change in my life…my career. I was a surgical nurse, and very happy with that. But suddenly I couldn't do that any more. I was given a substantial settlement from the lab that had made the error, but I needed to do something else. I still needed to be useful, especially with what had happened. So, instead of dealing with the sometimes stressful and hectic atmosphere of a hospital, I became a traveling, private nurse. I have a set number of patients that I visit every day. It mostly calls for taking vitals and administering medications, things I can handle at a slow pace. But because of that I have met some very special people.”

“It sounds like a very fulfilling job,” Payton said.

“It is. I learned quickly that it may be very different than being in the operating room, but it's no less important.”

Payton relayed more tales from her long career in law enforcement, including her fascinating year with the vice unit. A particular yarn from those days had both of them laughing so intensely they were in tears. Cameron was anxious to hear more, but the clock chimed the lateness of the night. “I'll tell you more next time,” Payton promised. “Wait until you hear about the raid on the amateur porn maker and what he was doing with a pogo stick.” So many graphic images suddenly popped into Cameron's head. Payton saw the imagination machine churning, but wanted to bring the attention back to her. A solid kiss did the job. “Come on, walk me out.”

The couple stood by the door to Cameron's room, saying goodnight. “Thank you for sharing your past with me,” Payton whispered as she carefully pulled Cameron in for a hug. “Are you skiing in the morning?”

“Yeah, especially since I didn't get to go today.”

“Bummer.” That put a rise in Cameron's golden brow. Payton looked properly chagrinned. “Sorry. I know that sounded selfish, but after hearing your story, it just reminds me how short life can really be. And we are here only a few more days.”

They hung on to each other, just enjoying the contact for a few more silent minutes. “I've got an idea,” Cameron finally said. “Did you happen to bring a bathing suit?”

“A bating suit, to a ski lodge, where it's thirty degrees outside. Ahh no.”

“Well, I don't know if you saw what's just outside my back door.” Cameron tipped her head in the direction.

It was dark out at the moment and Payton couldn't see a thing, but she used her amazing powers of observation and recollection. It suddenly registered. “Oh, you mean that obscenely decedent looking hot tub for two.”

“That's the one. If you can scrounge up a suit…and we can keep your injured arm out of the water, perhaps we can enjoy a hot soak tomorrow evening.”

Payton looked down with half lidded eyes and a sly smile. “Do I really need a suit?”

Cameron ran her fingertips down Payton's sweater covered arm. “Yes, you do.” A faint blush graced Cameron's cheeks. “I am quite modest and we've only known each other three days.”

Payton nodded and smiled affectionately. “That's a trait to be admired, especially now days. I was just joking. I do feel the same. But since that does sound like a wonderful idea, I will see what I can do about finding a suit…or at least something to improvise.”

“Good.” Cameron gave her a couple of easy kisses, not letting the simmering physical response take control. She was glad Payton seemed to be doing the same. “Mmmm, that's nice.”

“Very,” Payton agreed. After giving her one final, soft peck, she pulled away. “I'll talk to you tomorrow. Good night.”


* * *


Cameron spent the next morning and early afternoon gliding downhill on her skis, indulging in nature's winter loveliness. A smile continually covered her wind chafed face as she swiftly descended the mountain. The motivation driving that smile came from two important sources. First she was indulging in one of her favorite leisure activities. Coming in a very close second…and maybe even beginning to surpass it, was the attractive and charismatic companion Cameron had been spending time with in the past days. Her happy endorphins were doing double duty. She tried hard not to think of the time in the near future when they would be parting ways.

Payton found it difficult to find something to fill her long, lonely day. Lonely day? She thought oddly. I came here alone on this vacation. What would I have done if I had never met Cameron? Payton pondered that thought practically all morning. She finally reached the only conclusion possible. I can think of things to do…I just don't want to do them without Cameron. She finally resigned herself to reading, but definitely stayed away from anything romantic.


* * *


Hazy puffs of steam ascended into the dark, chilled night. The warmed water bubbled lightly as the couple lazed about in its liquid embrace. The clear sky above revealed hundreds of brilliant points, twinkling a visual serenade. Under the moon's subdued spotlight, Cameron sipped from her crystal flute, savoring the bubbly vintage and the vision of beauty locked in her gaze.

Payton had shown up at Cameron's door precisely at eight o' clock. She had a smile on her face, a nylon bag in one hand and a bottle of champagne in the other. “Nice night for a soak,” she said as she stepped inside the dimly lit room. She handed Cameron the bottle. “I thought this would be a nice addition for this evening's pleasure.” Cameron said nothing, but accepted the beverage with an amused glint. She was already wearing a plush purple robe and Payton could only imagine what its removal would reveal. But she didn't have long to wait. The blonde directed her to the bathroom to change, and she soon returned to find Cameron standing at the back door with two full glasses and a small bowl filled with a few chocolate morsels. Nodding toward the vessel, Cameron informed her that she had purchased some extra candies the day before. “Sounds good to me,” Payton said as they went through the doorway and onto the patio. The whir of the jets was the only sound to break the otherwise silent night. The snow had been cleared away, piled into a low bluff, corralling the tub, a single chair and a small table. On the table, several colorful candles shimmered, their aroma mingling nicely with the scent of the nearby evergreens. Dividing walls allowed for some privacy without making the area seem claustrophobic.

Cameron set the food aside and reached for the tie on her robe. “Is it possible to take this off and get under that water in two seconds and do it gracefully?”

Payton chuckled. “Probably not. And we should get in one at a time. I don't want to accidently knock you out with this thing,” she said, indicating her cast. “You first my dear.” Payton glanced, but didn't ogle as the blonde disrobed and stepped over the side of the small tub. She definitely wasn't disappointed at the sight of the firm body wrapped snuggly in a single piece suit in turquoise and tan.

In return, the green eyes took a good peek at the tall, lean woman with a week and half's worth of leg. Payton had managed to find a solid black suit, sold in one of the lodge's shops, promoting the express purpose of hot tubbing. “Oh, this is heaven,” the detective murmured peacefully.

“Do you have one at home?” Cameron asked as her hands gently splashed under the surface.

“No. I've thought about it before, but just never got around to getting one. You seem to be quite familiar with the joys, though.”

“Oh yes. With the new year last and my renewed life, I indulged in a few luxuries.”


* * *


They had been in the tub for almost half an hour. Minutes earlier, Cameron had turned back the temperature of the water, keeping them warm without poaching. Payton had her casted arm resting on the tub's rim, but her complete attention was aimed at the gorgeous, blonde sitting across from her. With just a simple move, she could touch satin skin, caress feminine shapes and kiss the luscious lips. And she wanted all of that. But her brain advised caution. Cameron was too special to be solely an object of lust. The urges battled within as Payton shifted her body, hoping the pressure of the jets of water would relax her tensions. But then she looked up and saw the same struggle in those emerald eyes.

A few anxious minutes later, Payton finally made the decision for both of them. “Please come over here,” she urged softly.

Cameron deliberated. She knew…maybe even hoped that the pull of their attraction would lead to this. But still there was that bit of reluctance to allow the natural progression of intimate pleasures.

But the temptations grew stronger by the second.

There wasn't room to sit side by side, so Cameron moved onto the only space available. Perching onto Payton's lap, a hand cupped her face and their lips came together in gentle motions, appreciating the soft flesh that tasted sweet and tangy. The chaste kisses of before had merely been a spark for the present flame. Cameron kept her hands resting on Payton's shoulders, not wanting to encourage the passions to escalate. But it felt so good. Letting her body react to the wonderful sensations, Cameron relaxed into the touches, subconsciously asking for more. But the emotions still clashed inside, brain and body each wanting command.

Payton deepened the kisses in answer to the invitation. Her free hand moved from Cameron's face, down her arm and onto the smaller woman's side. She squeezed without tickling, her thumb tracing the path of the ribs beneath. A few more, exhilarated heartbeats and her hand slid upward, almost reaching the fleshy prize, while her mouth drifted down, heading for the same thing.

The blonde head tossed back and a soft moan left Cameron's parted lips. Her breathing increased and her hand moved to cup the back of Payton's head. Water gurgled around their connected bodies and cold wind ruffled hair, dark and light as the kisses and touches continued. It was a moment in time. A near perfect moment. That time when the mind and the heart have to make a decision.

Payton reached the top of Cameron's breast and she ran her tongue just under the suit's low cut top. The material receded a little lower, almost exposing… “Stop!” Cameron suddenly pleaded, having made the choice. “I'm sorry. We can't.” She pulled back to seek out Payton's eyes. “As much as I enjoyed what you were doing, this just isn't right for me, not this soon,” she added. “We're leaving…”

“I know,” Payton whispered within a breath. She understood the decision, and even agreed with it. “It's okay Cameron. We won't do anything more.” They moved their hands to less intimate areas, but still held on to each other as they calmed their racing hormones. Payton's expression mellowed and her intense eyes softened. “Just please don't ask me to stop kissing you,” she said. “You are the most beautiful woman I have ever known. That's not a line to get you into to bed; that's not my style. But that is how I feel.” She placed another soft kiss on the luscious lips. “Let's just be together, here and now. Enjoying what we can, while we can.”

Cameron agreed with a sad nod. She put her head on Payton's shoulder and they remained that way, regretting what wasn't to be. “Let's go in now,” Cameron said, after more minutes had passed.

“Should I go?” Payton asked tentatively.

Cameron stroked the contours of Payton's face. “No. I just want to get a little more comfortable.” She promised the kisses to come with a preview.


* * *


Dried, redressed and sitting on the sofa, Cameron and Payton cuddled in front of the fire, hypnotically gazing at the swaying, orange flames. “I'm sorry,” Cameron said.

Payton took a hand and casually rubbed her thumb across its surface. “Never be sorry for being true to yourself Cameron. It's a fact that we have to return home in a few days. I really do agree that we shouldn't sleep together. That would only make leaving you even worse. This time with you has been very special. I'll never forget you.”

Cameron brushed her fingers through the soft, midnight locks surrounding Payton's face. “I feel the same,” she whispered emotionally. Cameron studied the detective's eyes, so full of blue brilliance, the slender structure of her nose, the high planes of her cheeks and the delectable shape of her lips, so full an so sexy. “You are so beautiful Payton. Please kiss me.”

Payton smiled as she moved closer, not saying a word, just granting a wish. The kisses continued by the light of the fire, never expanding in passion, but sending a pair of hearts soaring. They parted slightly, taking in a breath and a delightful whiff of each other, distinguishing, shampoo, cologne and nature.

Cameron cradled the lovely face in her hand. “Would you stay here tonight?” she asked quietly. “I want to know what it's like to sleep in your arms. I want that precious memory.”

Payton leaned in to the touch, her eyes slipping shut in a captivating trance. “I would love that,” she said with a pleasing lilt. The blue reappeared and she kissed the palm of Cameron's hand. “But it's still a bit early for me,” she added. “Until we get sleepy, let's just stay right here.”

Cameron snuggled in under Payton's arm, a lazy smile on her face. She sighed happily, enjoying the warmth of the detective's presence. Over an hour later, when Payton began hearing the little blonde's yawns, she suggested it was time to turn in.

Cameron changed for bed and did a quick check of the weather forecast, while Payton went to her room to get something to sleep in. When the detective returned, they slipped under the covers, no discomfort or awkwardness plaguing their thoughts. Payton wrapped an arm around Cameron's shoulder as she had promised.

“I won't be able to ski tomorrow; it's supposed to be heavy snow all day,” Cameron said, not a hint of dejection in her voice.

“Well then, we could spend the entire day together.”

“We could,” Cameron agreed. “And we should.”

Payton chuckled happily at Cameron's quick acceptance. The sad mood that had appeared to drape over the nurse earlier had now dissipated. “We'll figure out what to do tomorrow,” the detective suggested.

“Mmmmm. Goodnight Payton.”

“Goodnight Cameron.”

Still not really sleepy, Payton stared at the ceiling, her head full of thoughts and her heart aching, knowing the loneliness waiting for her at home. And there was only one person she knew could relieve that feeling. But more than that yearning, Payton wanted to give. She wanted to give of her heart and her soul.

But then her mind would snap right back to the same obstacle. They lived so far apart. She couldn't hop in the car and drive to Cameron's house. She couldn't even take a plane to California that often; her job wouldn't allow that, and it would be very expensive. That wouldn't be enough anyway. She was really beginning to curse her broken arm. If that hadn't happened, she wouldn't have come to the mountains and wouldn't have met Cameron Daily. But those musings didn't help the problem at all. Do I have to go back home and miss her, and be miserable? Will time erase the pain I know I'll feel?

But was there an answer to all of her questions or a solution to the unfortunate situation?

Payton glanced at the window as a few early snowflakes began to fall. She closed her eyes and hoped for good dreams.


* * *


Cameron laughed as Payton flipped another yellow kernel into the air, opening her mouth in anticipation of catching the popped corn. The woman already had four stubborn, pale pieces decorating her dark hair. Make that five.

Cameron chose a morsel from the big bowl between them and lifted it to Payton's lips. “Let me help you out detective.” She slipped the piece between the visible pearly teeth, which then gently capture her fingertip. After giving the flesh a quick lick, Payton released the digit and flashed a blue wink. They then exchanged just enough kisses to clear the salt from each other's lips. And then with duel smiles they returned to watching the movie playing on the television.

They had already shared breakfast in bed, delighting in Belgian waffles with fresh whipped cream and fruit. Payton had prearranged the order the night before. Cameron had called for a masseuse at ten o'clock that morning, and she and Payton took turns under the professional fingers. And their own fingers and toes received pampering after lunch, as Cameron's next call was for manicures and pedicures. While Payton did not cultivate long nails, she did like to look neat and presentable in her job. The pedicure had been a brand new experience, but one she surprisingly enjoyed.

They had both resolved not to dwell on the sadness of their parting, but to concentrate on the friendship they had built and the happiness that had brought them. And it seemed to be working as they had settled in to watch a movie, a comedy to be precise, using their freshly renewed fingers to snack on popcorn.

One more movie had taken them late into the afternoon. The gray clouds outside were still releasing snow, adding to the beauty, but preventing any outdoor activity. Feeling the need for some exercise after the lazy day, Payton suggested a trip to the resort's gym. So they took a slow walk to the far side of the building, and after reaching the workout area, had a little faster paced jaunt on a pair of treadmills.

Separating briefly to shower after the workout, Payton then returned to Cameron's suite just as room service was being delivered. Having been given the key card, Payton let herself and the food into the room. Hearing that the blonde was still taking care of things in the bathroom, Payton set about preparing for dinner. Igniting a fire, lowering the lights, turning on some moody music and adding candles to the table, Payton stood back and admired the atmosphere of the room. This was to be their last night together and she wanted to be sure it was very special for both of them.

“I'm back Cameron,” Payton announced, so she wouldn't startle her friend.

“Be right out.” Cameron ran a comb through her hair one final time and applied some perfume and a light coat of lip color. Smiling sadly at her reflection, Cameron took a breath and stepped away. Walking past the bed and through the door, she stopped suddenly at the sight before her. “Oh my,” she exclaimed softly. Payton stepped up and presented her with a snow white rose. “Thank you,” Cameron said. “It's all beautiful.”

Payton placed a kiss on Cameron's cheek. “You are beautiful. Shall we eat?” Feeling particularly gallant, Payton held her chair and poured the wine before taking her seat.

“Are you always such a romantic?” Cameron asked.

“I don't know. But this time I felt…especially inspired.” Payton watched as the candle flame highlighted the emerald green of Cameron's eyes. And like the matching gemstone pierced by a ray of sun, they exploded into a thousand sparks of grace and radiant beauty. Within the blinding moment, Payton saw a dream, a wish…or the future. She wasn't sure. But it was glorious. A breath forcibly left her chest, and the sensation nearly knocked her from the chair. I can't let this end. I can't be without her. I need that inspiration now. She sipped her wine, trying to calm her agitated heartbeat.

“Don't you like the food?” Cameron asked, when she noticed that her friend wasn't eating.

Payton smiled at the elegant enchantment of her companion, and at her own astonishing responses. “Oh no, the food is fine. You made great choices. I just got caught up in…a thought.”

“A good thought I hope.”

Still smiling, Payton promised, “I think it will be.”

Cameron didn't ask for any clarification on the baffling answer. She just returned the smile and established a new topic that carried them easily through the rest of the meal.

After a sinful dessert, the ladies retired to what had become a favorite spot, sitting before the colorful and aromatic fire. A comfortable quiet filled the moments, broken only by the occasional pop of the fire or an anonymous sigh. Their lips met a few times and some chaste touches ensued. But as the minutes slipped away, the somber mood couldn't be avoided. You can't stop a heart from feeling.

Payton finally set her empty glass aside. “I hate to bring this day to an end,” she said, her voice raw and tired. “But I have a few things to finish before…tomorrow.”

Cameron nodded quickly and nervously. She wanted to remain strong and not let the emotion control her. “I understand. You will stop by…before…you…”

“I will.” Payton clasped her hand and led her to the door. They stopped and turned face to face, although Payton had to look down slightly, because of her greater height. But the nurse wasn't looking at her, so Payton lifted the drooping chin. The green eyes were hazy, but willpower was halting the falling tears. Payton brushed away a few blonde strands and leaned down, placing three, explicitly tender kisses on Cameron's tinted lips. Cameron pulled her into a secure embrace, but didn't utter a sound. Payton fought the urge to stay there the rest of the night…or the rest of her life. But she had to leave. At that time, leaving was far more important then staying. She slipped silently into the hall, pulling the door closed behind her.

Cameron returned to the sofa, remaining there until the flames died to embers. The need to cry had long abated by the time she stomped to the bedroom. Anger had replaced the sadness. But the depressing thing was she didn't know what she was most angry about. She wasn't mad at Payton, of that she was positive. She finally decided that fate had handed her an imperfect situation. Fate had once again torn a hole in her heart.


* * *


There was a knock on Cameron's door just after ten the next morning. Knowing who it was, she forced a smile before answering.

Payton was standing there wearing a very casual grin. “Hi,” she greeted. The detective had a small bag slung over one shoulder and another larger one in her hand. She carried a square box tied with a ribbon in the other. “I've already checked out; can I put these in here?” she asked brightly.

“Yeah,” Cameron said, backing away into the room. Her invalid happiness had died off when she met those captivating denim eyes. Payton's joviality hadn't even registered in Cameron's weary mind.

The tall woman followed, stopping right behind her, and placing a hand upon the blonde's shoulder. “Cameron?” The nurse turned around mutely. “I have two surprises for you,” Payton said, handing her the box. “Open this first.”

Cameron pulled off the red ribbon, dropping it unceremoniously to the floor. Lifting the lid, she reached inside and pulled out her gift. The glass and wood object felt solid in her hand as she turned it over and back again. The white specks inside the snow globe swirled and drifted down over the mini evergreen forest, settling into an ordered mass.

Payton touched the glass dome with a fingertip. “I thought this would always be a reminder of where we met. Not that I'll ever forget.”

Cameron clutched the precious gift to her chest and the tears finally broke free. She ran into the bedroom, leaving a bewildered Payton behind.

“Cameron?” Payton called as she followed her fleeing friend. She found the blonde sitting on the window seat overlooking a similar image to the one inside the glass globe. Cameron sobbed in silence as Payton approached slowly, finally sliding onto the cushioned bench, facing her. “I didn't mean to make you cry,” Payton said.

Cameron leaned towards Payton until their foreheads were touching. “I didn't come here expecting to have a vacation fling,” she confessed quietly. “And I certainly didn't come here expecting to fall in love.”

“Did you?” Payton asked hopefully.

“I think so.” But the answer came after a heartbroken sigh.

“Me too.”

Cameron pulled back, carefully setting her present on the window sill. “But I can't have a long distance relationship,” she claimed dejectedly. “We live in two different states, over two thousand miles apart. It would drive me crazy not being close to you. Talking on the phone, seeing each other once or twice a month, if we're lucky, it just wouldn't work. A relationship can't grow that way.”

“Well I…”

“I know what you're going to say, but love is not always enough.”

“I think…”

“Please don't make this any hard…” Payton moved, suddenly planting a heated kiss on Cameron's lips. It was more intense and more meaningful than anything they had experienced before. Pulling back, Payton wicked away the falling tears. “I needed to make you hush so I can have my say. You are right. I need to be able to see you when I talk to you. I need to be able to look in your eyes when you laugh. And we certainly can't do this in an email.” They shared another, more serene, but no less loving kiss. It sill left them breathless. “We definitely need to be in the same city,” Payton, reiterated.

“But I can't move,” Cameron stated. “I have patients who rely on me. I have relationships with them. I can't leave permanently!” The stress she was feeling suddenly triggered a reaction in her damaged hands and they shook, uncontrollably. “Damn!”

Payton cradled the trembling hands, placing them palm to palm and covering them with her own until the shaking eased. “It's okay baby,” she soothed, “it's okay.” Payton waited until their eyes had a strong connection before continuing. “I would never suggest that you move away from your obligations. But I did some checking last night and there is a good possibility that I can get on with the SFPD.”

Cameron was definitely stunned by the enormous suggestion. A puff of air left her mouth instead of the words she should have said. Then a bout of guilt draped over her soul. I can't be this selfish. “You want to change your whole life for me?” she asked incredulously. “That's not… You can't disrupt everything you know. You have obligations too.”

“ Cam , I spent most of the night, last night thinking very hard about this…about everything. I'll be doing the same job, a house is just a house, and I'll bring my dog with me. I do have a few friends that I will keep in contact with. But they would probably be the first to encourage me to do this because I've been alone too long. And I have been. I don't want to be alone anymore.”

“Oh God no, I don't want you to be alone!” After a pause, Cameron disclosed, “I don't want to be alone either.”

“I know. So yes, I would change my current life in order to give us a chance at a lifetime of happiness. I don't have any particular ties to St. Louis . A move like this is a bit of a challenge, but I have always thrived on a challenge. That's why I went into law enforcement.” Payton laughed a little. “And my parents will be thrilled to have me closer to home; I can get up to see them more often.” She grinned. “And I'd love to take my new girlfriend with me.”

Cameron's tense face relaxed a bit. She looked down where her right hand still rested in Payton's gentle grasp. “Why haven't you moved closer to them before now?” she asked.

“Honestly, I never had a good reason to want to move. But I have a wonderful reason now. I am content with my life, but not happy. You make me happy. But the thought of never seeing you again is more painful than anything I've ever felt before.”

The golden brows were still furrowed as the conflicting thoughts and desires raced around inside her head. But the anguished expression on her face confirmed that she felt the same. “But…I… I don't want you to ever regret changing everything you know.”

“The only thing I would ever regret is not giving us the chance we deserve. Now, if I'm moving too fast, we don't have to talk commitment. We'll just continue dating, getting to know each other even better. But yes, we can only do that if we are in the same city. Don't you want us to have a chance?”

“Of course I do,” Cam said with quiet power.

“Then the only thing that will stop me is if you honestly don't want me…to move nearer to you. If you don't think it's a good idea, then you are going to have to look in my eyes and tell me that.”

The misty green of her stare never wavered as the anxious breaths left two bodies. “I don't think I could let you…” One beat. Two beats. “…out of my heart or out of my life. Please move to San Francisco .”

Payton's warm and dazzling smile nearly melted the snow outside the window as she pulled Cameron into a crushing embrace. “I love you Cameron Daily. And I intend to be in your heart forever.”

Cameron suddenly remembered the luggage sitting in the other room. “You're not going to leave me now, are you?” she asked anxiously.

Payton released the embrace and tipped her head. “If you're willing to share that big old bed with me again tonight, I'll make a phone call and change my plane ticket.”

Cameron reached into the pocket of her pants and handed over her cell phone. Payton thanked her with a kiss and eagerly made that call.

Once they had calmed down, more kisses were savored and the snuggling followed. Only parting to seek nourishment, they spent the rest of the time making plans for Payton's move. One of Cam 's best friends was a real estate agent, and she figured finding a suitable abode for the police detective would be no problem. Payton did calculate that it would take her at least a month to make all the arrangements with her personal and professional life. That would include a short visit to go house hunting, but the rest of the time they knew their phone bills would sky rocket. But the loss of a little extra cash was a sacrifice they were both willing to make.

Early evening rolled around and Payton called for dinner. She then turned to say something to Cameron, but found herself alone in the room. She went into the bedroom and found the blonde back on the bench, starring at the snow globe and its twirling insides. Payton moved onto the seat behind Cameron and wrapped her arms around her. She began lightly kissing her neck. After the affectionate nibbles, Payton landed her chin onto Cameron's shoulder. Together they watched the snow drop from the twilight sky, a few pieces landing on the window pane. Each speck of frozen lace was visible for only a second. But if you looked closely enough, it only took a second to find the beauty. That's a second to be seized and savored. And if you are extremely lucky, you can stretch that second into a lifetime.

“I think you are a lot like a snowflake,” Payton whispered in the nearby ear.

Cameron swiped away a happy tear. “You mean all wet and mushy.”

Payton chuckled. “I was thinking of something a little more flattering. You are beautiful. Unique. Delicate. Something to be admired.”

Cameron accepted the lovely compliment, giving the arms around her a little squeeze. “Actually, you are kind of like a snowflake too,” she said after a bit of study.

“How so?” Payton asked as she nipped an earlobe.

“You are charismatic, a little mysterious and your eyes sparkle like a field of snowflakes basking under a winter's sun.”

“Are you sure you're not a poet?” Payton asked.

Cameron turned inside the circle of arms. “I'm sure.” She smiled. “You are just a stunning inspiration.” They kissed. “And I am inspired to love you for the rest of my life.”

The End

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