Kayla sat in the chair at the table that passed for Josh’s desk and looked around in the late-morning light as some of his music blasted and thumped through the old building around her. He’d told her to grab whatever music that she wanted from his CDs and his laptop for her MP3 player and she was sifting through his Counting Crows CDs at the moment, looking for a tune that he’d played in the truck the other day. She smiled when she found it and a second later “American Girls” was on.

She’d asked him why he liked that one, and he’d replied that she would find that he liked songs because he liked them , mostly, and that there was almost never a tendency toward songs that “meant something” to him, though it did happen now and then.

She sat forward as she browsed suddenly. He must have had everything that ZZ-Top had ever recorded. Other than their top 40 hits, she’d never really given them a listen, so she switched CDs and sat back with her finger on the song selector of the player and sipped her coffee for a few minutes. Browsing his MP3s, she found that he’d put everything there as well, and in another few minutes, she found a few things that she hurried to copy onto her player. When she was done for the moment, she sat back as “Tramp” came from the speakers and she enjoyed the slower, slightly hypnotic tempo for a moment and then she got up to dance a little to it. Daisy looked up at her, but didn’t seem interested enough to want to get up.

She looked out through the dirty windows of the shed. She was all alone on the ranch, mostly. After breakfast, Rose had taken Jilly to spend most of the day with Consuella and Margarita’s kids at Margarita’s place. Daisy was lying on the floor there beside her and Josh was out on the old four-wheeler that he’d found in another shed the week before. Rose told him to go ahead and see if it was usable, since she hadn’t thought of it after Sam had passed on and Josh had it running in no time. He was off fixing some of the fence in a far-off corner of the ranch.

She looked around herself some more and had to smile. A little over a week ago, they’d almost been at each other’s throats. Now she found him there in her mind quite often. She saw an open pack of Canadian cigarettes on the desk next to a framed photo and she bent down a little to look at the picture.

It was an old family shot, taken when Josh was a teenager. Since the scar there looked much as she knew it, she judged that he must have been sixteen or so. His family looked like really nice people in the way that all people look when they’re forced to hold still for one of these things. The photo was taken outside and she could see snow everywhere in the background. Kayla thought that Josh’s mother was a lovely woman, and his father looked somewhat like him and had most of Josh’s build, but he was in a suit, so there wasn’t that much more about him to tell by. But there was another individual there in that picture, a man, and Kayla knew almost with dead certainty then that Josh had a brother.

He looked to be somewhat older, obviously, and he was in uniform with a beret on his head. Kayla looked closely and shook her head in a bit of wonder. Whoever this was, he looked a lot closer to how Josh looked now, though she guessed that he might have been about a decade younger than Josh at the time. She smiled to herself and then at his mother. The woman obviously knew how to build great-looking sons…

She stared at Josh. He had long hair then, and it was something to see him like this. It almost made her want to laugh a little. Depending on the position that she was in and how she held her head, her own dark red hair was long enough for her to feel it as it brushed against her ass. She couldn’t see it from the angle of this frontal shot, but she had a pretty strong notion that his hair had been just as long then or very near to it. Kayla grinned as she reached of the pack.

She lit one of his cigarettes and stared at the picture some more, wondering about the lives of all of them.

She took another draw on the smoke and looked at it for a second. It tasted like a cigarette, but it was different, blander somehow. She smiled at that as she remembered when she’d asked him about it a couple of days before. He’d joked that it was a reflection of his people. She told him that she didn’t know, but the one that she knew tended to be full of crap now and then.

Not far from the photo, she saw his wallet sitting next to his passports. He carried his current one and several older and expired ones as well. She felt the urge, and even though she was confident that if she’d asked, he’d have told her to go on ahead and look through it if she wanted to, she didn’t touch the wallet. She hadn’t asked, and that was that. But those passports, …

Josh had told her that until a little after 9/11, Americans and Canadians had shared the longest undefended border in the world and that both could pass fairly freely back and forth without much fuss, but that now they needed passports. That made her a little sad somehow as she picked up the thin booklets and in another few minutes, she knew where he had been.

She saw the dates, and guessed at the visits to the United States to visit Rose and Sam. It was the other places that came to her eye — Cambodia, Bosnia several times, East Timor, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Haiti twice, Afghanistan three times, she noted as she wondered to herself. Kayla wanted to make a joke to herself that at least he hadn’t been to Bangkok, Thailand, but she knew that he hadn’t been in any of those far-off places for fun.

She was about to put the little pile back when she noticed the thin envelope of photos from a photo-developing outlet that had lain under the passports. It was a little old and worn. She was very careful as she removed the group of photos. She couldn’t guess about most of the people in the shots and what Josh’s relationship with them might have been, but she saw him in a few and she smiled.

He was wearing combat fatigues in most of them, though the coloring changed now and then. In some of the older ones, it was just a drab green. In a few others, there was a sort of green camouflage theme, and in the newer ones, it was a desert mottling. It was the same for the weapons that she saw in a few of the pictures. In the older ones, there was a rifle that she had no idea about, but in the newer ones, he looked to have much the same rifle as American troops used. Most of the shots showed no weapons at all. He just looked to be caught goofing in a moment while he worked at something else.

The odd thing to her was that in almost every shot, he was wearing what looked to be the same dark red beret. It looked as though it could have been edited in to every picture, though she knew that it wasn’t the case. In a couple, there was a floppy hat there on his head. When she’d been through the pile, she replaced them in the envelope and put it back where it had been and went back to selecting music files from his laptop.

As she browsed, she thought about looking around at the other files there, but she decided against it. He probably wouldn’t have an issue with it if she did, but she already felt as though she’d been snooping enough in his life, well for now, anyway. They had an agreement. What had been in their lives was past. It would always be there, and they’d agreed that the past wasn’t the focus so much as the present was, since they’d decided to try to forge something of a future for themselves out of all of this somehow if they could, and that was more than enough for Kayla.

The wading pool from the supply store sat in the yard, looking something like a strange oddity. It was brightly-colored, but it was surrounded by slat fencing. Josh had joked at how the guy at the place had stared at him, since Josh had no other way to describe it when he’d asked for “snow fence”. He explained that the stuff was used where he came from to line roads with so that blowing snow didn’t pile up so much on the road itself, but the man did get the idea and had something like that.

The fence was to keep Daisy out of the pool, though both Jillian and Daisy took the installation of it to be something of a personal affront. Rose had shrugged and said that it was that way or no way at all, so Jillian had accepted it. Josh had found some patio lanterns and the thing looked really weird after that, but Kayla had agreed that in the evening, it could look pretty festive.

Kayla had filled it right before breakfast and she now waited for it to warm up a little from the sun. She had a plan for today that she hadn’t told anyone about. She smiled to herself as she finished the cigarette and put it out in the ashtray. She unplugged her player and shut everything down to walk back to the bunkhouse.

She decided that she wanted to browse his music some more a little later, and she now wanted to buy some of the ZZ-Top CDs for herself. She liked the convenience of MP3s, but the file compression took a lot of the range away, and her ears were good enough to really notice it. In a few minutes back in the bunkhouse, she’s burned a CD to at least listen to in the car — or on her old CD player by the “pool”, she smirked.

It took her a long minute when push came right down to shove, but a half-hour later, Kayla walked out of the house wearing her sunglasses, her old Stetson, and her little bikini — the first one that she’d worn in so long. She carried a towel, a cold can of Diet Coke, and a novel that she’d bought and never got far into. Since she was beginning to believe in the possibility that such a thing as a romance might actually be able to exist now, she couldn’t see why it couldn’t happen in the pages of a book either. Once she’d slathered on some sunscreen and settled herself comfortably, she decided that it might not be a South Pacific island, but it wasn’t bad.

That was how Josh found her an hour later.

Kayla heard him coming and thought a few things over as she watched him park the four-wheeler and get off. For her, time seemed to move into a sort of slow-motion mode as she watched him. He pulled his T-shirt over his head and looked at it a little sadly before putting his old cowboy hat back on his head.

The work of the morning had soaked the shirt through and it also wore a little of the dirt of the job as well. He was sweating buckets and he wanted a drink of water, and after that, all that he wanted was a cup of coffee and maybe a cigarette, though he decided that the last thing wasn’t really a limiting factor since he had to walk all the way to the shed to get one. He began to walk toward the house.

Kayla knew that he likely hadn’t seen her yet, so she watched him in a bit of awe. It didn’t matter to her one little bit that they’d been with each other as much as they could manage it over the past few days, and if they weren’t in each other’s arms, they were just together, often with Jilly doing whatever it was that they did. Every time that she looked at Joshua — even if he sat cross-legged on the floor playing with Jilly and her PlayStation, she always had the same thought come to her sooner or later.

She smirked as she admitted it to herself while she watched him walk nearer in the midday heat.

It was mostly sooner.

She could see the sweat that he’d worn under his shirt glisten just a little, even though the sunlight had already begun its struggle to dry it while his body made more to cool him. The way that his body moved as he walked could drive her just a little insane, she admitted. Joshua was over a hundred feet away, and she could already feel the changes in her body beginning.

This wasn’t the pleasant secluded beach in her dream, but that didn’t matter and Josh wasn’t the only one with a target acquisition system. Like every woman alive, Kayla had her own built right in for times such as this, for the right man, and if this one wasn’t the right man, …

She was amazed at him and how much she loved and wanted him right here and now. He wasn’t even aware of her and he was just walking, she knew, but it still all came down to the one feeling to Kayla and she just whispered it to herself.

“Mother of God, …”

She watched as he took the wet shirt, wiped his face, and tried to wipe some of the new sweat from his chest. Her eyes followed the motion and she saw the way that the tendons in his arm rippled as he did it, and how his pectoral muscles gave and bounced just a little as they came right back after he’d wiped them just as he’d taken another step.

If he did that again, she was sure that she’d scream.

Kayla smiled to herself and decided that beach or no beach, this was close enough. She quickly selected a song that she’d heard just a minute before. She’d liked it enough to have listened to it three times now. She wondered how far down inside herself she would have to reach for the motions, but she decided that for this one man — the one that she must surely have been born for, the way it seemed to her right then — she thought that she could manage this easily.

The song was from a concert. She found it and cranked the old CD player, hoping that the distortion wasn’t too bad as she turned it to face in Josh’s direction.

Josh looked ahead when he heard a sound that seemed pretty incongruous in this place — the sound of a concert crowd cheering. He stared in the direction of the snow fence as Kayla stood up and walked to get out of the little enclosure after quickly putting on a pair of straw-colored, wide-heeled pumps that she’d need for this.

The beat had begun as she stepped away into the open and began to strut toward him in time to the rhythm. He couldn’t believe it and his jaw dropped open slowly.

Kayla wearing a bikini. What the hell …?

The intro stopped and Kayla’s arms went up as she threw her hips into the four rapid crescendos. She started walking again as the song resumed with a slow guitar riff.

His poor old sopping wet T-shirt fell forgotten from his fingers into the dust.

She danced and strutted nearer with a smile that faded and was replaced with a wanton sort of look, stopping once to grind her hips downward as though she was doing a pole dance. At the bottom of the move, she recognized a line that she’d liked and mouthed the words that she could remember to herself as she danced.

“Quit my job, I’m a lazy slob

Never lift a finger ‘cept for my heartthrob.

I’m a sinpusher, hangin’ on the DL…”

The four crescendos came again and she threw herself deeper into the tune by hitting every one.

When she’d tossed her long mane in the middle of standing up again, she smiled just a little at him and her hands reached up behind her.

She maintained her connection to the rhythm with her motions and one of her feet rocked sideways just a little in the dirt to do it so that to him, her body pulsed a little as he stared with a growing smile. She picked up on a line that she knew and mouthed the words again.

“I just want a little bit no, I guess I want it all.”

The chorus came again, but Kayla just mouthed the words to the refrain by the band.

“Down low…

How low can you go?”

The top was off in an instant as the guitar lead began and Kayla brought her empty hand up to rub one of her breasts seductively and she pursed her lips into a sweet little kiss to let him know that this was all just for him as she turned and pranced away to the music.

Twenty feet farther, and she reached for the ties on her bikini bottom and in one motion, it was gone as though it had just disappeared as she ground down again, her hips undulating back and forth as he caught sight of her fingers between her legs as she beckoned him just once before running her fingers along her groove.

‘Now that’, he thought to himself, ‘is the true meaning of naked splendour.’

Kayla hadn’t planned on it, but she was really into the thing now, so she bent as far forward as she could to clasp her ankle for an instant so that he could see what she had for him there between her legs and she was on her way back up before her hair had found the dirt. But in the middle of that, Kayla felt some pride in herself for really the first time in all of the times that she’d danced, because she could see that he was following her.

Well that was good, she thought, because this time, she meant it.

She tried to remember how the solo ended as she danced. It came to her just in time to fall to her knees and bob in time to the music as though she was in the coital act with an unseen partner below her, tossing her hair back as she mimicked what she wanted from Josh.

She rotated her hips in a long corkscrew path as she rose to strut away a little more during the final verse, but she stopped to writhe before him for the final chorus, thrusting her hips at a line of it.

“I’m a sinpusher, hangin’ on the DL –push, push, push.”

She danced off toward the shed doors, a little disappointed that she was leaving the music behind her. When the last set of those crescendos came to her once more, she sank down, throwing her hips hard at every one, four times until she was squatting as the band held the last note.

When the song was over and the audience on the audio track cheered, Kayla turned and giggled at Josh before she ran into the shed and up the stairs to the loft.

He found her kneeling on his bed with her head on his pillow and her hand holding out a condom from where she reached back between her legs. He struggled with his pants as her voice came to him plaintively, begging him to hurry.

Josh admired her beauty as they settled into a slow rhythm, moving blissfully for a long while. Kayla sighed and asked him if he’d liked to see her dancing for him.

“Uh-huh, “he said, “thank you so much for that, Kayla. That was really special.”

“It was for me too, ” she smiled back at him, “I never focused on anyone’s face when I used to do that. I’d look right through them every time, but I sure liked seeing you watching me, and I loved doing that for you.”

He idly traced the outlines of the orchids that he could reach, and Kayla didn’t mind, she actually liked his appreciation of them. Her orgasms came to her quickly in succession in the heat of the loft. She cried out each time to let him know, and he pressed himself to her as hard as he could to help her. She hummed in between them almost continually. Josh loved it, but he couldn’t remember hearing his own name quite so often before.

Josh suggested that they change positions, and she gladly complied. They began on their sides, but it wasn’t long before she rolled them onto her back.

“Before you ask me where that came from, I had some dreams the other night.”

He stopped to listen to her, moving very slowly a little at a time, so that he could listen to what she was saying, and also just to hear it when she groaned a little. He loved to run his hands over the front of her softly, just above the point of triggering Kayla’s ticklishness. It had taken a few tries, but she found that she enjoyed it now. She called it teasing her. He always smiled impishly and said that he was only being polite and appreciative.

“I saw us on a beach someplace and at the start of it, I was wearing a bikini. We went to the cantina the next day and I found my bikini hanging behind the change-room door. It fit me and it was even on sale, so ,…”

“Thank you for buying it, “Josh smiled, “it looks so good on you.”

She thanked him and said, “And I also had a dream about a fantasy of mine, but I’ll tell it to you later, because I think that you’re the one.”

“I’m the one?” he asked, not getting it.

“Uh-huh, “she said as she began to urge him to go harder, “Later, Josh, … I’ll tell you, … later. It means a lot to me to even say it, and if you’re, …”

The rest was forgotten and lost in his kisses. He didn’t know shit about her dream or her fantasy, though he hoped that she’d tell it better later. All that he knew was that she’d said that he might be the one. That was all that he needed to hear for now.

When their urgency wouldn’t let them go on much longer, he took her shoulders in his hands from beneath her, and began to pound into her, and she rocked to match his thrusts, grunting loudly. Joshua needed his climax very badly by then, so he shifted his grip, suddenly planted his knees, and lifted her bodily from the bed. Kayla hung on and tried to envelop his body as if that were possible. He thanked somebody — he wasn’t really sure who a moment later — that they fit like this so that he could pull this off. He held her tightly and leaned back as the rush of it hit him.

Josh groaned loudly as he came, holding her a little past upright and worrying a little about the possibility of a leg cramp, and Kayla cried out with her cheek against his jaw as she came with him, shuddering violently. She’d never done this before and the shock of how he’d been able to lift her like this and how it felt had tossed her right off the table as far as where she’d been before. She was just thrown fast forward into a fast-rising climax that surprised her.

They held this position as he emptied himself into the condom. Kayla had tried to keep herself a bit elevated in his grasp once she found that in this position he was actually touching her cervix. But at the end she found that she didn’t care for the last strokes if she moved herself differently just a bit because he wasn’t trying to pound into her like this. As she tried to savor the feeling, she closed her mouth on the muscles of his throat lightly, savoring how primeval this felt to her. When they were like this, she was becoming more and more certain that they’d been made for each other. She’d never fit this well with anyone on any level.

She was amazed at his upper body strength when he lowered her gently, and settled his weight on her carefully. He kissed the top of her head, and shushed her, whispering, “Quiet honey, you’ll wake the neighbors.”

The absurdity of his remark caused Kayla to laugh, and Josh groaned in discomfort as he found himself ejected rather forcefully and he rolled off her carefully to try to quickly find some space for himself as he removed the condom.

She apologized, “Sorry, but you sounded so funny when you said that.”

“It’s ok,” Josh said with a groan.

“I was in here this morning, looking for music,” Kayla said, “That’s how I came up with music to dance for you to.”

Josh nodded with a smile, “I liked your choice.”

“I didn’t really mean to, but I found a few things that I’d like to ask you about.”

Josh looked perturbed, “We’re not going over the polar bear episodes again, are we?”

“No,” Kayla smiled, “and we’re going to leave the drunken cougar episodes alone as well.”

“Oh, thank God,” he looked much happier as he heaved a sigh of relief. “So what’s up then?”

“I found a family photo,” Kayla smiled, “your hair was as long as mine. I think the whole barbarian look could work for you.” She kissed Joshua softly.

Josh nodded, “That was taken not long after the bandages from the last operation for my burn came off. Before that, there was still a bit of a hamburger look. You won’t find any of me when I was younger than that, other than a very few that were taken from my good side.”

“I dunno,” she said, “I think that maybe I like the left side a little better,” Kayla said as she slid her hand over his chest for a moment and continued after she began to speak. “Well, I’m only half-kidding about the Barbarian thing. You could grow your hair and make a living as a romance cover model.”

“Uh-huh, a right-side only model and an old one at that, ” he snorted his disagreement quietly and then he stretched with his arm over his head. Kayla didn’t want to tickle him, so she stroked her palm over his pecs once before allowing her hand to slide over the edge of his ribcage to glide down the deep slope to his navel.

“Who was the other man in the uniform?”

Josh grinned, “That’s my brother Cale. He lives in a little town north of Toronto. We don’t see each other very much these days, so when we get together, there’s usually some involvement by the local constabulary that has to do with broken windows, revelry, drunken brawling, and a night in jail. It’s an expensive hobby, so we don’t do it very much anymore.”

He turned his head to face her, “I think you’d like him.”

Kayla laughed and nodded, “How much older than you is he?”

“Nine years, almost,” Josh sighed, “Hey, wait a minute; you’re not interested in him, are you? God, I hate it when he steals girls from me.”

She laughed, “I’m not interested in him, I was just –”

“Oh sure,” Josh smiled, failing to look serious, “you lead me on, and even dance naked for me, all the while, you’re trying to get to my brother. Well, you’re out of luck. I don’t have his new number. He got all pissed at me for throwing his last phone into a pond, and he won’t give me his number now. I can tell he’s serious about it, because he never calls me on it so that I can’t see his number.”

“I’m almost afraid to ask,” she smiled, “but why did you throw his phone?”

“I’m not certain now,” Josh replied, “but I must have had a good reason, I’m pretty sure. I wouldn’t just do anything like that. Christ, I’d need to be blind drunk to do something like that.”

Kayla was finding that she felt a little nervous about what might have been a hint, so she chose her question carefully. “How um,… how often do you get drunk, Josh?”

“Other than when Cale and I get together, I never get drunk. It’s been, I dunno, five years, I think. Tell me, do you think I might have a problem?” He was able to hold the serious expression for only a minute before Kayla’s stare wore him down and he laughed.

“I’m beginning to think that you don’t have a drinking problem,” she said with a smirk, “I think you have a problem with your brother.”

“Well, I wouldn’t even have that, if he wasn’t so pissy about letting me use his phone.”

Josh’s eyes lit up. “Now I remember. I hadn’t seen him in a couple of years and we were sitting in a bar having a drink and catching up. His phone kept going off every few minutes, so I asked if I could borrow it and the idiot actually gave it to me. Anyway, I was just going to shut the damn thing off when it rang again in my hand and I answered it.

The next thing I knew, some woman was on the line shrieking at me and calling me all sorts of evil things. It took me a while to get her to the point where I could even get a word in edgewise. She settled down as soon as she figured out that I wasn’t Cale and then she went straight into asking me if I was single and what I looked like. Anyway, I spoke to her very calmly and suggested that she find just a little soothing pleasure to help her to improve her outlook on things, that’s all.”

Kayla found herself chuckling and she just had to know now.

“Well,” Josh said, “it was a bit out of character for me, I’ll grant you, but I was there with my brother, you know? Anyway, I didn’t really think through what I’d suggested. It turns out that what I said is anatomically impossible for a single human to do without some sort of stick or something like that and I guess that she didn’t really understand my accent or something. She seemed to be having difficulty believing me when I told her emphatically that it would help her.”

“Josh, “Kayla chuckled, “you don’t have an accent.”

“Well not NOW,” he said, “but I’d been drinking. So when I tried to give her detailed instructions, she just yelled louder at me, and I noticed that her voice over the phone was just ruining the ambiance of the bar and everything, so I went outside and threw the phone far enough so that nobody would be disturbed.”

He shrugged, “I kind of muffed my throw and it went into the pond. Well, I was a little drunk, and, ….”

Kayla had to hear the end of this now. “And what?”

He shrugged again, “And how was I to know that it was his ex-wife? It was an honest mistake, I mean, anyone might have done the same thing. If I’d have known who she was, it would have been way different, and Cale wouldn’t have gotten upset with me. Well maybe not AS upset as he got, anyway, when I told him that I felt very sorry that he’d had to wake up to something that sounded like a really nasal-sounding chainsaw every morning.”

Josh looked up at the ceiling for a moment and sighed as Kayla laughed into his pillow, “I probably should have stopped before I said that she’d always been a self-entitled and really sour foul-mouthed bitch who spent his child support payments trying to find herself another paycheck like him for when the money ran out. That was when he hit me.

He heard Kayla as her laughter began again. “Oh God,” she whimpered into the pillow, “I think I have to pee.”

But Joshua went straight on. “Well, how was I to know that he was still in love with her? He didn’t tell me that he’d just spent six months trying to get back with her, did he? If she hadn’t kept calling him to give him hell over something, Cale might have gotten a chance to tell me that. I’d have known who it was then and told her myself. I’ve never had problem telling her where to go. Apparently, after that, she knew where to stick it too, so I think she owes me.”

Kayla’s face hit his pillow again and he could just make out her shrieking laughter.

He sighed again, “And then this idiot hit me for hitting his windshield with the phone, if you can imagine it. It probably wouldn’t have gone into the pond at all if the guy had just parked somewhere else. But Cale straightened him out right quick and decked him with one shot.”

Kayla was almost sobbing when she lifted her head, “Uh, why, Josh?”

He stared at her a little mystified. “Well for hitting me, of course. It’s a really bad idea to try to come between Cale and I when we’re scrapping. Shit, even Dad left us alone to work it out once we grew up some. So then Cale went back to hitting me and the next thing I knew, the cops were there. We had a bit of a talk while we were handcuffed in the back of the cruiser and he told me that I was right, but I just should have shut the phone off and I agreed with him. He got a new phone, but he called her from a payphone to tell her what he should have told her years before.

It took two years, but now Cale and I exchange best wishes to each other at Christmas via email, so I think he’s coming around a little.”

Kayla was on her side holding her ribs for a few minutes. It was a long while before the images playing through her mind would allow her to catch her breath and wipe her eyes. Josh looked over at her there next to him and found himself falling in love with her all over again.

“I think you’re right,” she said finally as she got a little of her breath back, “I’d probably like him.”

“See.” Josh smiled and nodded, “I knew it.”

“I found your passports,” she said quietly a few minutes later. “Why do you carry the old ones?”

He shrugged, “I don’t need to. I just keep them all together so that I can carry my life history in one hand. I think they want you to turn the old ones in now, but hey, it’s my life. They can go get their own lives.”

Kayla looked at him for a few minutes. Her eyes went from his face to several of his features and scars. “What did you do in those places?”

He sounded a little distant when he finally spoke. “Different places, different missions. Some were as an observer for UN operations, like to make sure that the parties were really doing what they’d said that they would. It’s a little like trying to keep two kids who were fighting apart in a schoolyard after they’ve promised to stop thumping on each other, but you know that if you look away, it’ll just start all over again.

Other times, it was peacekeeping. Same thing, but we’re there armed to make sure of it. The last few times, it was combat and I’d rather leave all of them in those little books right now, if you don’t mind too much, Kayla. I have trouble thinking about all of that while I’m this close to someone I love in a place like this. I need more time between what’s here and what was there, and some of it I can’t really talk about anyway.”

He looked at her and smiled a little, “I’m not trying to be evasive or anything. If you want, I’ll tell you the unit that I was in and you can look up the public side of the missions on the net. I’ll write down the address for the regiment’s website for you, or you can just look it up in my bookmarks if you want.”

“I never thought about it much before,” she said smiling, “but you looked pretty good in a uniform. Not the fancy ones so much as the regular ones in most of the pictures that I saw.”

“I never felt really comfortable in a dress uniform,” he nodded, “it’s too hard making sure that you haven’t got anything messed up. I just always preferred work dress or combats, so I could just roll up my sleeves and get to work with a lot less fuss.”

They moved toward each other and stayed there, kissing and embracing each other for a time. He whispered in her ear, “Tell me about your fantasy, Kayla.”

She didn’t answer right away, as she enjoyed the moment. After a while, she said simply, “Lions.”

“Lions?” he asked.

“Yes. I once saw a photograph that I found to be very moving. It was of two lions making love. There was so much strength and power evident in their lovemaking that it touched me somehow. They both appeared to be roaring, for all I know they might just have been panting, but it looked so good to me, Josh. They were the rulers of their land, and she was the queen, and the king was driving them both in pleasure. It’s a mental image that always gets me wet just thinking about it. I often imagine myself as that lioness, being serviced by my king, and feeling so regal and powerful.”

“That’s a pretty powerful image, “Josh said, “But honey, didn’t we just do that?”

Kayla smiled. “Yes and no.”

“Ok, I’m confused.” Josh replied.

Kayla grinned, “The ‘yes’ part to my answer, is that YES, we’ve made love in the equivalent human position, which I love. But women are not lionesses. That position requires me to have my face lowered, closer to the dirt, if you get what I’m saying with respect to my lion image. Both are submissive to their males, but the human position is less noble to me, though I do love it. It just doesn’t fit with my lion idea. So NO, we didn’t just do that. I want my head to be higher than that position allows when I’m kneeling, that’s all.”

Josh nodded and thought a bit, and said “Kayla honey, It’s been a long morning, and I checked half my IQ back out there in the dust when I saw you take your bikini off. I think I forgot it to pick it back up.”

Kayla sighed as she went on, while Josh played very delicately with her clitoris. She was amazed that he could do that without it feeling too much to be pleasurable, but she stopped his hand so that she could say everything.

She whispered, “You’ll have to bear with me for a little while longer, Josh. My fantasy is also a bit of a dream for me. I think you’re the one, but it’s way too early for us to even talk about the whole thing. Once I do tell you, you’ll understand why, and then it will be up to you, really.”

The swell of him in her hand told her that the thought of it was at least somewhat interesting to him. He pressed harder on her as well. “Come on, Kayla, it’s me. Say it so that I can understand, and I’ll help you no matter what it is. If I’m so special to you, then tell me.”

Kayla thought about it and nodded, “You’re right. I just feel really self-conscious trying to tell you. The place is as important to me as the guy — you. And all of it relates to the act, which is that I’d like to try it in a different place with you, but it has to be within the context of the other things. I want to feel like that lioness that I saw. I guess you could call this a nutty Kayla alert, but it’s important to me in a few ways. I’ve never done that for real before with anyone, though I’ve always had the thought of it. So if we do this, I soppose that I’m offering you a different virginity and a place to actually leave your semen inside me, at least until the pills begin to work.

There’s more to it in terms of why it’s important to me,” she said, kissing him for a moment, “It’s the act, in that place — since it must be outside, and since I want to feel like the queen of all that I survey — and I don’t just mean from here to your desk,” she smiled. “I’d like some sort of vista, if it’s possible.”

She looked at Josh, and she could see that he was thinking about it.

“There’s more,” she said cautiously.

He rolled onto his back, pulling her onto him. “Holy cow,” he said, “More,… Go on, honey. I need to know what I need to do for you.”

Kayla looked at him and swallowed hard, wondering if this was anywhere near the time to mention this. But then, she supposed, none of the rest of the way that this had gone between them had been anything like what she’d ever had an idea about. They’d seemed to just land on the track with the gas pedal mashed down and away that went.

“As it stands, Joshua,” she said quietly, “we can go in a few different directions, the way that we are here. It’s still not too late to change course. We can even get all the way to the ‘M’ word like this without much effort, I don’t know for sure. Ask me the right way and at the right time, and I’ll agree, I know that I would, if that’s what you wanted from me, and you do your best for Jilly and me.”

Josh looked at her and knew what she was saying. He drew a breath, “Go on.”

“I guess that I’m saying that if you agree to do this with me in the right place, and the right way, well, as crazy as it might sound, that — to me — is like saying the same thing, only without a ring. What I’m saying is that I’ll for damn sure mean it if we do that, and I can’t see myself doing that with anyone else, so if we like it, we’ll do that more, but the first time, …”

She looked away, blinking a little, but turning back to him quickly, “You’d better mean it if you agree because I’ll be saying forever if we do that. The ring can come before then or not long after, but right then, to me, it’ll be just as important as the stand-up thing, and maybe more. I’ve had this fantasy for a long time. I knew even then that if I had somebody like that for me, then that man was the one — I just never saw his face until the other night when I dreamed of it.” He noticed that Kayla looked just a little upset.

“And yes,” she said, regretting it all now, “I know it’s a stupid idea.”

Kayla began to pull away and lift herself off him, but she couldn’t.

“I’ll let you up if that’s really what you want in just a minute, Kayla,” Josh said. “I’m leaning toward this in a big way, but you can’t forget the million other things here.”

Kayla began to struggle, since her interpretation of the way that he’d begun told her that she’d been an idiot in telling him something that she carried so deeply.

“Just hear me out,” he said, “and then you can kill me, or knee me in the pills or go and cry and feel stupid. But that’s not what I need from you right now.”

“Oh, yeah? ” she said through her teeth from the effort as she fought against him, “tell me your last wish then.”

“I want to marry you,” he said quietly. He’d have said it a little louder if it weren’t for the long gray clouds on the horizon of his mind.

Kayla struggled on for another half-second before she froze. The signs of her fight in her face disappeared and she stared into Joshua’s eyes.

Kayla was almost afraid to blink, “Did you just say, …”

“Yes,” he said, “I did, but I have a big problem. Half of my problem is the dump-truck full of issues that we’ve got with vacations, jobs, tiny little details like our different nationalities, what Rosie is going to do with this place, and that sort of thing. And the other half of my problem is a girl that I’m in love with who still has both a blindingly fast reaction reflex and the desire that she maintains to kill me with some sort of regularity.”

September 2018
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