As promised, here's a bonus story about a lesbian cop, published long ago and posted more recently on the Royal Academy of Bards, so many of you may have seen it already.
Late afternoon sunlight filtered through the hemlock branches. An hour ago it had blazed over the water-sculpted granite, and radiant heat still penetrated into places I had thought would never be warm again. My body adjusted to the stone's smooth contours and felt, for a while at least, at peace.
Something moved among the trees on the bank above. I kept my eyes closed, trying to block out everything but the ripple of water and the scent of spruce and balsam. Far below, where the stream leapt downward in the series of falls and slides known as Diana's Baths, there were swarms of vacationers, but they seldom climbed up as far as this gentler sweep of stone and pool. I'd hoped, foolishly, for solitude.
Someone stood there, watching. Move on, damnit, I thought, hating the unfamiliar sense of vulnerability, the suppressed jerk of my hand toward a gun that wasn't there. Maybe the Lieutenant was right. Maybe I really wasn't ready to get back into uniform.
Maybe I was hallucinating being watched.
I sat up abruptly. A hemlock branch twitched, and through its feathery needles a pair of bright eyes met my challenge. A child, I thought, glimpsing tousled russet curls and a face like a mischievous kitten. Then she moved into clearer view, and I got a good look at a body that could have held its own on one of those TV beach shows. So, for that matter, could her bikini.
She looked me over just as frankly. "Hi there," she said throatily. "I think I've got myself lost."
Eye candy or not, I resented the intrusion. "Well, there's upstream, and there's downstream. Take your pick."
"They both sound so good, I can't decide!" Her glance moved deliberately from my face over my body down to the long, semi-healed scar running from mid-thigh up under my cut-off jeans. The scar didn't seem to startle her a bit. I began to suspect a plot.
It's not that unusual for women to come on to me when I'm in uniform, and I've taken advantage of their fantasies a time or two, but I was in civvies, and this was way over the top. She was so blatantly acting out a scene that I was more amused than anything else. Well, maybe not anything else. It had been a long time. A definite tingle was building where it counted most, and my nipples threatened to assert themselves through my gray tank top. I pulled on the sweatshirt I'd been using as a pillow. The New Hampshire State Police logo on the front didn't seem to surprise her, either.
I looked downhill. "Hey, Dunbar," I called to the head poking around a mossy boulder, "who's your little friend?"
"How's it going, Josie?" Jimmy Dunbar emerged from concealment. "I'd've introduced you, but you cruised right on by without so much as a nod for an old friend."
"Sorry," I said. "Been a bit preoccupied lately."
"So I heard. You okay?" He looked toward my injured leg and then met my eyes with genuine concern. Aside from his taste in practical jokes, Jimmy's not a bad sort, and we've been friends since summers in our teens when we cleared trails and packed supplies up to the Appalachian Mountain Club huts.
"Can't complain," I said shortly. "A couple of weeks of enforced R&R and then I'll be back on the job. What are you up to these days?" I should have known better than to come where I'd be recognized. The newspapers had made the hostage case into a big deal.
"He's building sets at the playhouse," the sex kitten chimed in, clearly tired of being ignored by everything but the mosquitoes. In that outfit, she was damned lucky black fly season was over. "We open with 'Oklahoma' tomorrow night. I could get you a ticket if you'd like." She picked her way carefully down the bank, gripping bushes and gnarled, exposed tree roots. Any bits of previously covered anatomy revealed themselves as she bent and stretched. I was willing to bet her breasts owed nothing to silicone.
It might not have been entirely gallantry that prompted me to help her down the last, steepest bit, but when she tried to cling I spun her around and set her on her feet at a safe distance.
"This is Katzi Burns. She plays 'just a girl who can't say no.'" Jimmy sang the last part. Instead of grabbing the line and running with it, as I expected, she shot him a fierce look.
"I should've had the lead! But at least I can have a little fun with this role. I'm so sick of doing 'wholesome' I could puke!"
"That's what you get," Jimmy said unfeelingly, "for starting your career playing Daddy Warbuck's little 'Annie'."
She yowled and took a swipe at him, and, while I figured he deserved a good clawing, my peace-keeper instincts kicked in. "So Katzi," I said, with a hand on her elbow, "what kind of parts would you rather play?" Then it hit me. "Holy shit! 'Annie'? How long ago?"
She turned that feral kitten snarl on me. The flare of anger in her amber eyes attracted me a lot more than the bimbo act. "Long enough! I'm legal! You wanna see my driver's license?"
I grinned and looked her scanty outfit over appreciatively. "You bet, if you've got it on you somewhere."
Her scowl cleared. "You could search me," she teased.
I just patted her cute round butt and turned to Jimmy. "I hope you two have some clothes stashed somewhere. As soon as the sun gets a little lower the mosquitoes will be fierce. I don't much care what they do to your scaly hide, but it would be a shame to let Katzi get sucked dry just before opening night. The bites would be kind of a challenge for the make-up department, too."
"What time is it, anyway?" Katzi asked, with a stricken look.
"Close to five," I told her.
"Oh damn! I'm screwed!" She slid and lurched down the hill toward where they'd left their clothes and towels. Jimmy and I followed, ready to
pick up the pieces if her fashionable sandals skidded on the loose layers of leaves and needles.
"So what the hell is that all about?" I asked Jimmy. "I may be on the injured list, but I can still manage to do my own hunting."
"Hey, little Katzi takes hunting to a whole new level. She's only been hanging out with me because she wants to meet you, and I said I'd heard you were back in the Valley. She clipped your picture out of the paper. Lord only knows what she does with it!"
I swatted him, on general principles, and wondered why I didn't just go back to communing with nature. Then I watched Katzi's sleek legs do a good job of keeping up with our longer ones on the trail out to the road, and reflected that nature's blessings are many and wondrous, and definitely not limited to rocks and trees. Being alone in the mountains had always healed my spirit, but surging hormones might well spur the healing process of the flesh.
At the road, without saying a word, I held open the passenger door on my truck. Katzi scrambled right in. Amazingly, she had the sense to keep quiet during the short drive into North Conway, while I considered my next move. If I was going to make one.
She darted a glance or two at me, almost shyly, then looked off toward Cathedral and White Horse Ledges looming to the west. It occurred to me that her vamp act might require an audience, even if it was only Jimmy. An encouraging thought.
We crossed the Saco River, easing our way through the sun-burned kayakers and rafters reclaiming their cars at the bridge. I let the tension build until we were waiting at the traffic light just before the turnoff into the Mount Washington Valley Playhouse.
"Do they give you any time off for dinner?" I asked casually.
"Just an hour," she said hopefully. "Seven to eight, and then we do the final run-through."
"Want me to bring a picnic?"
Her face lit with genuine pleasure. "That would be great! I can't eat much just before two straight hours of dancing and singing, but if I don't eat anything I'll keel over by the second act."
When she'd disappeared into the theater I considered my options, then drove north to Jackson Village, where the men are golfers, the women are skiers, and every view is above average. "Fine dining" isn't something I think much about, but I have contacts at a four-star inn there. When I was a kid I used to forage wild mushrooms for the chef, who built a good part of his reputation on his creative use of them, especially the golden, earthy chanterelles. My half-French, half-Abenaki grandmother had taught me where to find them along trails and stream banks back when I could barely walk.
My welcome at the inn was so warm as to be embarrassing. They even had one of the damned newspaper clippings posted in the kitchen. I was a few minutes late getting back to the theater, and Katzi was outside, in costume, managing to be outrageously provocative in a demure calico dress for the benefit of the photographer taking publicity shots.
Publicity! I nearly turned the truck around. Then Katzi saw me, and came running, a look of unstaged happiness replacing the vamping she'd been doing for the camera. I got out to open her door.
The photographer followed, of course. I vaguely recognized him from high school. "Hey, Jo Benoit!" he called. "How about a shot with Katzi?"
"Hey, Ted. Sorry, no time." I gave Katzi a brief hug to let her know that being seen with her wasn't the problem. She'd already resumed her knock-em-dead stage smile, but she was perceptive enough to feel the tension in my body.
"That's right," she said. "I'm starving. We'd better get going." She waved to the photographer, who got a shot of the truck anyway as we pulled away.
"I'd planned to drive up the Cathedral Ledge road," I told her. "Great views, but I'm not sure there's time."
"Up there?" She looked uneasily at the domed cliff looming above the valley and the Moat Range rising beyond. "Well...I think I'd rather look at it from down here anyway."
"Does that mean I can't talk you into going rock climbing?" I teased. It was probably just as well that we didn't have much in common. I wasn't looking for a soul mate.
"There isn't much you couldn't talk me into, but that would be a hard sell." Her little grin managed just the right amount of seductive charm. I hadn't noticed before quite how deliciously shaped her mouth was. "They mentioned in the paper that you were a rock climber."
"Can't we just give all that a rest?" I said, maybe a little harshly. If she was going to press for juicy details, it was all over, right now.
"Sure," she said quickly. "But if there's any other way I could dangle from ropes, completely at your mercy...."
"Not and still have time for dinner," I said, relaxing. The usual tell-me-about-yourself-before-I-explore-your-underwear routine seemed refreshingly unnecessary. Although I was, in fact, beginning to feel some real interest in getting to know her.
We parked in the pine woods at the foot of the cliff, where we ate duck salad with mango, asparagus-chanterelle tarts, and French rolls still warm from the oven.
"Wow!" she said, when the food was gone. "That was incredible!" She glanced at me sidelong with a mischievous quirk of her lips. "But I'll bet you hear that from girls all the time." That impish mouth demanded a kiss, which I provided, in full view of the last climbers of the day trudging past to their cars with their cables and hardware.
There'd have been more to see than kissing if I hadn't guaranteed to get her back by eight. It was hard to pull away from the insistent sweetness of her mouth. Her arms around my neck and her breasts pressed against me didn't make it any easier. I peeled her off and started the engine. "Better save some adrenaline for the play," I admonished as I pulled onto the road.
"You'd be amazed how fast I can get recharged," she said hopefully.
"Behave yourself now, and I might let you amaze me later," I told her sternly.
"Yes, Sir!" She subsided against the backrest, letting one hand rest not-quite-accidentally on my thigh, carefully avoiding the dull red scar. When a pleasant tingle spread to the injured flesh it became a throb that under other circumstances might have been pain. She felt me tense.
"Does it still hurt?" She took her hand away. I reached out and pulled it back.
"Once in a while." There was far deeper pain I needed to confront, but at the moment I couldn't imagine any finer medicine than Katzi's exuberant sensuality.
"I could kiss it and make it feel better," she suggested wickedly.
Oh, yeah. Much, much better. "Right, and I could get pulled over by the local guys for erratic driving. Tabloid heaven."
"What made you decide to be a cop, anyway?"
"Well, I got as far as a semester into law school and realized I belonged on the front lines instead of in an office. Plus I couldn't afford any more. I'm still paying off student loans."
"I don't suppose all that many girls fantasize about lawyers, anyway," she teased.
It had never bothered me before to be the subject of fantasy, but this time, oddly enough, it stung. "Look, I'd better warn you that I don't have my uniform with me, and even if I did, it doesn't get used as a prop for a scene." I may not keep my gear as trim as I should, but I have respect for what it represents. "And besides..." something I hadn't realized myself until just then, but had better get out in the open... "there are some kinds of games I'm just not going to feel like playing for a while yet." A stab of pain shot through my leg into my guts. I could see my best uniform pants, sliced open from knee to crotch, soaked with more blood than could ever be washed out.
"That's okay," she said quickly. "It's what's underneath that turns me on." She slid a finger under the edge of my cutoffs, revealing a more dramatic section of my wound. "Oh, Jeez! Did you ever think about getting hurt?"
"You don't let yourself think about it," I said brusquely, and changed the subject. "Look, there's a full moon rising. I'll take you for a moonlight ride when rehearsal's over, if you'd like." We pulled up in front of the playhouse.
"Will you throw in sunrise, too?"
I leaned in for a quick taste. "Can't stop the earth from turning," I said against her soft cheek, and nibbled from her earlobe down to her tender throat. It was just as well that her calico costume had such a high, modest neckline.
When she'd gone I sat there for a minute, hardly noticing the people strolling along the village sidewalk. Then I headed north, up Pinkham Notch, needing to center myself in the mountains.
The peaks loomed dark against a backdrop of moon-gilded clouds; Madison, Adams, Jefferson, and, crowning the range, Mount Washington. I'd never needed more to be up there, on the slopes above treeline, looking down on a world made tranquil by distance. Or, even better, looking down when clouds filled the valleys with a sea of billowing silver and the stars above seem closer and more real than the shrouded earth. Best of all would be to watch the dawn, when the still air is cold, and clear, and nothing exists except stone, and space, and the coming of light over the edge of the world.
My eyes followed the contours of the mountains, my hands almost feeling their harsh ridges and swooping ravines. Then the thought of Katzi's softer curves and sweet valleys beckoned me with increasing urgency. I didn't want solitude, after all, at least not right now. I drove back down the winding highway feeling as though I had wings. Just a quick fling, I warned myself, a little summer diversion with someone who'll head back to New York or wherever soon enough. That's all you want. That's all she wants. Nobody gets hurt.
Katzi smelled of sweat, excitement, and greasepaint, although she'd scrubbed most of that off her face. She was close to exhaustion, too, but tried to hide it. I got out and helped her into the truck, patting her tight jeans where they were molded to her heart-shaped ass. I've never understood how some girls wear them so tight, especially in the crotch--you'd think they'd get sore if they had any pussy lips worth mentioning. I said so as I drove, and Katzi laughed and perked up.
"You wanna check 'em out?"
"A fine idea." I swung into the official "scenic overlook" just north of town. The moon and mountains would have been breathtaking if I hadn't had more intimate scenery on my mind.
Katzi raised her hips while I unzipped her pants and worked them just far enough down to get my hand where it wanted to go. Her pussy lips were full and moist and clinging. "Just fine," I said against her mouth, working my thumb toward her clit. That was just fine, too, and getting finer. "Nice preview."
"God, Jo, don't stop there!" She hauled her shirt up, and then her satin bra; I held my breath, until, at the magic moment when her breasts surged free of confinement, something lurched hot and low inside me . Her nipples were hard, and rosy even in the white moonlight.
"You guarantee you're rechargeable?"
"Yes, dammit!" She wriggled and thrust against my hand.
"You sure?" My other hand stroked across her breasts, flicking one nipple and then the other. "The night is young yet."
"So...ah!...so am I!" she gasped, and stuck her tongue out at me. I wanted to grab that impudent bit of flesh in my teeth, wanted to yank her jeans the rest of the way off and chew every part of her impudent, tender body, but my leg wasn't up to the calisthenics necessary to accomplish all that in the cramped space of the truck cab. I rolled one of her nipples in the angle between my index and middle fingers, and worked her pussy in hard circles, meeting her accelerating thrusts, until the truck rocked and she yelled so loud it would have echoed from the cliffs across the valley if the windows hadn't been closed. Which, of course, meant steamed-up windows to clear before I could drive on.
By the time we reached my cabin Katzi seemed to be asleep, head nestled against my shoulder. It was far up a dirt road along a branch of the Saco River, entirely surrounded by National Forest. There must have been a story behind how my grandmother managed to keep title to the land, but I'd never thought to ask until it was too late. I have a place farther south, too, where I'm stationed, but the cabin has always been the center of my world. I grinned inwardly, thinking that I'd come back here to lick my wounds, but found something much more worth licking.
When the truck stopped, Katzi raised her head. "Just a minute, Kitten," I said , and got out to open the padlock on the chain across the driveway. The building was still hidden in the trees.
"Rowr," she said in a distinctly feline tone when I climbed back in. Sleep was fading from her eyes. "Can't you see my fur sparking?" She ran her fingers through her short curls.
"Does that mean you're recharging?" I asked.
"Stick a finger in my socket and see!"
So, of course, I did, once I'd lit an oil lamp in the cabin so I could see her delectable skin as I tasted it.
And that was only the beginning. Katzi wanted to go places she'd never been, feel places she'd never felt. "I don't need lube!" she said when I grabbed the tube. "Just feel how incredibly wet I am!"
"You're gushing like a river at spring thaw," I agreed, flexing my gloved fist, "but we do it my way this time."
"Yes, Sir!" She spread her legs. I stroked her gently for a moment, and she arched her hips, showing me glimpses of pink as tender and lovely as the lady-slippers that bloom along the river trail in spring. I bent and touched my tongue to her glistening sweetness. But tenderness wasn't what Katzi wanted just then.
"Fuck me hard, Jo, please!" she said. "I want it all!"
"You'll get as much as I want you to have ," I said. "You'll just have to trust me."
Two fingers into her tight, clinging cunt, I knew it was going to be a gradual process, and it was, compounded by her amazing capacity for multiple orgasms. "I'm sorry," she panted, after the first spasms gripped my hand. "But I really...in just a minute...I really do want more!"
"Don't apologize," I murmured against the luscious flesh of her belly. "Take everything you can get." My own cunt was throbbing; I wanted desperately to grind against her thigh, but my wound was threatening to flare into serious pain, and I didn't want any distraction from the joys of fucking Katzi.
Twelve minutes and three orgasms later her moans were fierce and low and my whole fist was moving gently in her depths. Hard pumping could wait for another session. Half an hour later, as she slept in exhaustion, I watched the rise and fall of her breasts for a long time before drifting off with my face pressed against her warmth.
We didn't manage to see sunrise, but the morning light was still fresh and clear when I went down to the river and waded into the deepest part. The cold water tumbling down from the mountains could always sweep away sweat, doubt, confusion. Then I sat in the sun on my favorite high boulder and tried to clear my mind of everything but the intense blue of the sky.
"You look like one of those paintings," Katzi said, coming to stand below me. "You know, the ones with girls sitting on rocks with mountains and waterfalls and stuff."
"Maxfield Parrish?" I asked, without turning.
"That's the guy. You look like what I wish he would have painted, instead of all those cute fluffy girls."
"You'd have fit right in," I said, "but I always wondered how they were supposed to have got up onto those jagged mountains with bare feet." I wriggled my own river sandals, the only clothing I was wearing.
She looked at my feet, then my legs; I steeled myself not to clamp my naked thighs together, and let her look.
"Oh, Jo," she cried, aghast at the full extent of my wound. "Did he cut you that way on purpose?"
I couldn't bottle up the anger, the guilt, forever. "Yeah. Probably. His wife had been going to leave him for a woman, but luckily the papers didn't get hold of that tidbit. We could've charged him with a hate crime, I suppose, from the names he called me, but there wasn't any point. Even if he'd lived."
Her hand was on my thigh, and she could feel me shaking. "You had to do it, Jo, it was self defense, and who knows what else he'd have done to them?"
I remembered the woman's screams, and the child's terrified cries. I remembered climbing the back of the building, finding foot and finger holds on ledges and chinks in the bricks, while my partner watched the front; remembered the shatter of glass as I dove through the window, and the flash of the knife as I wrestled with him. I hadn't been able to climb with my gun drawn, and then it was too late. Most of all I remembered the crumpling of his larynx under my hand.
"There had to be another way," I muttered. "If...maybe if I had been different, gentler, softer somehow, I could've talked him around. That poor little kid had been through enough, without having to see all that."
"But the mother lived, didn't she? My God, Jo, how can you kick yourself? I know it must have been awful, but..." She stood on tiptoe and lay her head against my side, and I bent to hide my face in her soft curls. Then she worked her lips gently downward toward the scar. "Let me, please..."
I began to tremble in a different way. I wasn't sure I could bear to be touched. She looked up at me with such tenderness in her eyes that suddenly I couldn't bear not to be touched, not just by her hands and mouth but by some indefinable flame of life in her that warmed something in me deeper than the flesh.
I leaned back with my arms braced against the rock and let my thighs spread farther apart, let Katzi's mouth move up, and up, toward where I needed it most. She reached her arms around my waist and pressed her lips and tongue against me so softly, gently, that I felt no pain, only a tantalizing stimulation I thought would drive me crazy. I tried to pull her head closer, harder--maybe I was healed enough!-- but she resisted. "Trust me," she murmured, and I had to, even had to let her hear me whimper and moan. She kept on and on, driving me closer and closer to the brink of a great void, like hurtling on skis toward the headwall of Tuckerman's Ravine--and then I plunged over in an avalanche of fierce joy.
Much later in the day I kissed her, told her when I'd pick her up, and watched her hurry into the playhouse. I really was healed enough, I realized, to go back on duty. Why rush it, though? I could still taste her, still feel her body against mine. Her scent still clung to me; I hoped that something of her would always cling to me. I couldn't quite handle wondering about the future, but for now, I was going to savor every moment of the present with the healing force of nature that was Katzi.